Thursday, 21 April 2022

Stereo MCs - Sub89, Reading - 20th April 2022

Getting to this gig proved to be an endurance event in itself.

It was moved twice due to COVID restrictions and then the second rearranged date clashed with another event I was going to and I got a refund.

However, when that event itself was cancelled, I quickly rebooked and was off to see the Stereo MCs at Sub89 in Reading on an April Wednesday evening.

It had been a while since I'd been to Sub89 and it seems parking in Reading has got ever more restricted, while the one-way system has become ever more confusing (I'm not convinced I didn't go down a Bus, Cycle and Pedestrian only road at one point, but the sign had enough conditional text to please a reader of a Jack Reacher novel and I thought it said it was only restricted until 7PM!) - Eventually I managed to stop, literally, going in circles and found the Broad Street Mall car park and arrived at Sub89 about 8:40.

Judging from the number of people and the empty floor in front of the stage, it didn't look as though there had been a support act, but it's possible I'd missed one!

I bought a beer and waited, expecting the Stereo MCs to appear a little after 9, but, to zero fanfare or flashing lights, they appeared at 9 sharp.

Initially, there was just the two singers on stage, Rob Birch and a woman. Behind the scenes I could see a couple of people working electronic equipment and the sound was clearly coming primarily from there.

The set started well, moving through Fade Away (the updated setlist says, I'd forgotten, but it was performed at some point) into Everything, Black Gold and Sketch before surprising me by including Connected early on (surely their best known song and most bands would have saved it for the finale or maybe the encore).


Sorry about the sound again, but you'll get a feeling

Being, primarily, a 90s band, I was surrounded by people about 10 years younger than me and it was quite entertaining to see the different style of dancing that that decade featured. I'm pretty sure many of those around me had been regulars at raves in their time. An attractive grey haired woman danced energetically just in front of me, while some middle-aged-spread men waved their arms in the air.

What, though, had always set the Stereo MCs apart for me, was their sound, they were distinctive, catchy, rhytmical and clever and that was all here to enjoy.

At some point, a percussionist joined the singers, I'm not sure when, which added a more organic sound to the performance.

Some other lesser known, but familiar to me and the audience, tracks followed before Step It Up, Ground Level, Running and Deep Down and Dirty rounded out the main set in fine form.

The stage was, as usual at Sub89, minimalist, but that probably focussed the audience on the performance.

As a stage act, Rob B and his fellow vocalist, weren't showy, but exuded a charisma I'd found lacking in the Bastille gig I'd attended recently.

They had a presence all the big video screens and arena venue performance lacked in that. Maybe they'd have struggled at the BIC as well, but in the intimate confines of Sub89, they had the audience from the start and never let go.

Rob's vocals are, of course, more spoken than sung, but the woman (I feel bad for not knowing her name!) had a great voice and the combination was both familiar and pleasing to the ear, with a good sound balance.

The encore featured two songs I don't recall and the setlist didn't identify, although I'm sure I knew one.

They actually came back from that for a second encore where they performed a great version of Creation.

I had been looking forward to seeing the Stereo MCs live, had been disappointed to have had to cancel, but finally I was delighted to have seen them live, it was an enjoyable, involving and captivating gig - Go see them, if you get the chance!

Setlist:
Fade Away
A38 Vibes
Everything
Black Gold
Sketch
Connected
On 33
Lost in Music
Elevate My Mind
(Unknown)
Step It Up
Ground Level
Running
Deep Down & Dirty
Encore:
(Unknown)
(Unknown)
Encore 2:
Creation

Friday, 8 April 2022

Wet Leg - Pryzm, Kingston - 7th April 2022

Party Music for Sad People

Wet Leg are a band (maybe) fronted by a tall brunette and a more dimunitive blonde (Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers) from that hotbed of musical creativity, the Isle Of Wight.

Both play guitar and produce a quirky, Indie sound that they described in one interview as "Party Music for Sad People".

Having watched some videos on Youtube, I found them interesting enough to see if they were playing anywhere local.

There's a lot of hype around about them, so I feared they may already be lining up big venues, rather than the small ones I prefer, when I came across an offer to buy their CD and see them live in Kingston Upon Thames (a leisurely 30 minutes out of rush hour for me).

The combined price was just £15, so I suspected I wasn't getting a full on gig, but that was fine for the money.

The album was (is, I'm writing this on the day) released on April 8th, so the (two as it turned out) live sets were the day before at Pryzm, which is a nightclub in Kingston Upon Thames.

I arrived in Kingston and parked in one of Bentalls car parks, still not really knowing how long I'd need to be there, but the car park shut at 10:30 and the ticket said that Wet Leg would be on stage at 6:30PM, so I figured 4 hours would be plenty.

When I got to the venue, there was a long queue stretching down the street, so I did the sensible thing and crossed the road and had a 50p half in the Wetherspoons!

I was just finishing my drink when I saw the doors open and the queue start to move.

Once inside we went upstairs to a medium sized room, entering on one level with stairs down to the dance floor and stage. There was another balcony level above, but I'm not sure if it was accessed from the entrance or from above. I'd guess there 300 or so people inside by the time the band came on stage at around 7:45.

The audience was mainly young, Kingston is a University town, but I wasn't the only one with grey hair in the audience and there was a tiny lad with his mum and grandparents in some seats (most were standing), probably not yet 10.

The band came on from the side, their equipment setup for the set.

In the end, they played for about 45 minutes, more than I expected actually.

I have to say, from where I stood on the entrance level, the sound wasn't great, with the singer's vocals (The brunette leads mostly) often hard to distinguish over the instruments, but it was possible to distinguish the songs I knew from those I didn't and the overall feeling of a strong, powerful sound was definitely enjoyable.

The vocal delivery is not particularly melodic, more a spoken one, at one point I was reminded of the Flying Lizard's "Money" performance from long ago, although the band are more energetic than that.

As most people there had purchased a combined CD/Ticket, I think it's fair to say most weren't there to be critical, but as the performance went on, the band seemed to grow in confidence and the audience warmed up.

Songs like "Ur Mum", "Wet Dream", "Oh No" and the finale, "Chaise Longue" were obviously recognised by more people and received the best reception, but generally the band were entertaining and enjoyable.

Apparently there was another set with doors opening at 8:30, so it was relatively short but it had been an enjoyable set and very good value! Perhaps more bands should do 45 minute sets for more affordable prices?

Wet Leg are rather the band of the moment and, if I'm honest, I'm not sure they're not a little faddish, but I enjoyed the gig and am eagerly awaiting the postman with my copy of their CD!

If I'm proved wrong and they've got a long career ahead of them, I certainly won't be unhappy!

Edited to Add : The CD arrived and I have say there are some excellent, varied tracks (listening to 'Loving You' right now, very different and great vocals, so Rhian can really sing! Check out this video for even more proof) on there, so maybe (hopefully) there's a long term future for Wet Leg!

Setlist:
Being in Love
Wet Dream
Supermarket
Too Late Now
Obvious
Oh No
Ur Mum
It's Not Fun
Angelica
Chaise Longue
I got this from Setlist.fm, but I recall 'Wet Dream' being later in the set. Tracklist seems about right, though

Friday, 1 April 2022

Bastille - Bournemouth International Centre - 31st March 2022

Maybe it was just me, or maybe it was them...

Over the last year or so, I've come to enjoy the music of Bastille, so I thought I'd go and see them live.

The nearest venue (outside London) was the Bournemouth International Centre, which is about an hour away, so not too bad (and quicker than going to many venues in London).

In terms of timing, all the ticket said was 'Doors 18:30', which seemed incredibly early, so I arrived about 7:15 and could hear music from the hall and it turned out a support act, The Native, were already playing.

They were a group of lads from, I think, Plymouth, playing Indy style music. For a support act, I thought they were pretty good. The sound balance wasn't too terrible (as it so often is) and their set was enjoyable. Definitely a good start.

There was another drum kit on stage with the word 'Dylan' on and after a short while a young woman with a guitar appeared and a young man sat behind the drum kit.

They started playing and another woman, a blonde, appeared and started singing.

The singer introduced herself as the 'Dylan' in question and their set was equally enjoyable, being quite a rock style set, including a cover of Guns N Roses' 'Paradise City', with a hint of Taylor Swift.

I'm probably just getting old, but it was refreshing to see a young female performer doing something other than RnB and she was pretty good - I hope she goes far.

Once again, for a support act, pretty enjoyable.

About 40 minutes passed and the lights went down again, to be replaced with a huge video display at the back of the stage and Bastille appeared.

Throughout the set the songs were interspersed and introduced by voiceovers (much as tracks do on their albums) and animated videos on the screen, which also showed live video from the gig at times.

I knew a lot of the songs and most of the audience around me in the first hour, when I stood close to the front, were clearly diehard fans (One bloke next to me sang every word of every song at the top of his voice, drowning out Dan much of the time, hence I moved!).

However, while it would be an exageration to say I didn't enjoy the gig, it all felt a little flat much of the time.

The band, aside from Dan, were mainly static, poorly lit and seemed relatively uninvolved. It was noticeable, too that, other than the two backing vocalists, no-one was introduced.

Dan himself skipped from side to side of the stage a lot, sometimes went up to the back of the stage and stood in front of the screen and sometimes reclined on what looked like a psychiatrist's couch, but while he talked to the audience from time to time, he wasn't very charismatic as a front man, in my view.

He also, by his own admission, seemed to be struggling vocally. At times he clearly wasn't hitting notes, showing his frustration, and after about half the set commented that he'd almost lost his voice.

Most of the audience, though, didn't seem to notice or care and cheered every song, bounced up and down to the faster tracks and regularly broke into co-ordinated clapping.

The highlights were the hits, of course, and they ended the main set with their best know, Pompeii, with its 'Eh-eh-oh, eh-oh' chant, following a lively cover of 'Rythmn of the Night'.

The lights didn't go up after that and the audience soon broke into a repeated 'Eh-eh-oh, eh-oh' chant and they were soon back for the obligatory encore.

This was a ballad and the lively 'Shut Off The Lights' to round out.

I like Bastille's music, although you could argue they're a bit Coldplay-ish, but if I'm honest, seeing them live didn't seem to add anything.

Maybe I was tired or just not in the right mindset to fully enjoy a gig that evening or maybe they were struggling to hit top form as they started their tour, but it won't rank as a favourite gig, although I certainly didn't feel it was bad as such.

The support acts had been good and it was good to hear my favourite tracks played live, but I don't imagine I'll go and see them live again.

I suspect, though, that a lot of the audience felt differently, certainly many seemed to be having a great time.

Set List :
Stay Awake?
Distorted Light Beam
Things We Lost in the Fire(New version)
Laura Palmer
Oblivion
Those Nights
Quarter Past Midnight
Back to the Future
Plug In…
WHAT YOU GONNA DO??? (Extended intro)
survivin'
Good Grief
Give Me the Future
Grip(Seeb & Bastille cover) (Stripped)
No Bad Days
Happier(Marshmello & Bastille cover)
Run Into Trouble (Live debut, New Song)
Of the Night
Future Holds
Pompeii

Encore:
Hope for the Future
Shut Off the Lights

Saturday, 19 February 2022

London Calling (Clash Tribute) - Boileroom, Guildford - Februrary 18th, 2022

Could a tribute band do service to 'The Only Band That Matter'?

This was a weird one, I saw the lead singer of 'London Calling' on the TV quiz, Pointless, and bought a ticket while the programme was airing.

I'm a bit suspicious (maybe the right word is snobby?) about 'tribute' bands, but sadly The Clash couldn't reform if they wanted to and, heh, the ticket was a tenner and a few miles from home, hardly a loss.

I arrived about 8 and, despite the tail end of Storm Eunice bringing down trees left and right, there were already a fair number of people there, maybe being a Friday helped, but they continued to arrive as the evening progressed and, while not as busy as I've ever seen it, it was certainly a good crowd by the time the main act arrived.

Before that, as I arrived in fact, there was a support act whose name escapes me now, but were described (as I recall) as a 'contemporary Punk band, with influences old and new', but to be honest, to my ear, they sounded for the most part dreadful. The 'singer' and lead guitarist, too, acted liked hackneyed Punk stereotypes and what little I could determine of the lyrics fell into the same category.

A woman on a guitar (bass, maybe, I didn't pay a lot of attention for long) was suitably distracted and refused to get involved in the posturing of the others, while the drummer actually sounded fairly good at times.

Perhaps, though, it's just as well I've forgotten their name.

London Calling turned out to do a final instrument check for a bit and then disappeared for another 15 minutes, reappearing around 9:15 dressed as The Clash.

There was a definite sense of expectation in the crowd, a good mix of students and old Clash fans, like myself.

I'd ended up right in the front, but figured I may move back if things got too rowdy, but despite a bit of OAP'ing (Old Aged Pogoing) to one or two of the earlier Clash tracks, the crowd was mainly enthusiastic, but relatively calm.

Forgive the terrible audio on the video clips.

Sadly, I can't find a setlist online, but the set featured a range of tracks, from early ones like Tommy Gun, Complete Control and Jennie Jones, through Capital Radio and I Fought The Law, tracks from London Calling, like Clampdown, London Calling, Guns of Brixton, Train In Vain, Wrong 'Em Boyo and Rudie Can't Fail, Police On My Back from Sandinista (the only track from that album, I think) to Combat Rock tracks, Should I Stay and Rock The Casbah, the latter of which, with White Riot, formed the encore.

So, to the 'only questions that matters', were they any good?

Well, yes, not bad at all.

Never having seen any other Clash tribute acts, I can't say how they compare, but most importantly, they certainly convey the energy and excitement of the Clash tracks live well.

I was especially impressed with the guitarist (playing the Mick Jones role) who seemed pretty accomplished to my uneducated ear, but everyone in the audience seemed to be having a good time (with the possible exception of one man a couple down from me, who never smiled once, even eliciting a comment from 'Joe' to that effect) from beginning to end and it's very much an ensemble performance.

You're never going to see The Clash live again and even if you could, who knows if they'd still be any good these days, so why not go and enjoy their songs live with 'London Calling'?