Monday, 7 December 2009

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Upstairs at the Garage, 07/12/09

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart headlined as part of the the NME Radar tour- a bi-annual showcase of bands tipped for success by aforementioned music magazine, from which The Killers and La Roux were apparently plucked from obscurity.

As with their performance last week at the ICA, they were fun to watch and it's always great to see their songs performed live with such meaningful emotion and energy, (although it's a shame they don't have more material to perform!) Towards the end of the evening, Kip noted that their fans at the front had brilliant taste in tshirts, most notably pointing out a Britney Spears Tour t-shirt, while Peggy invited everyone to her upcoming DJ Set at The Lexington.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

AC30 Reverence Festival, ICA, 28/11/09

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart performed as part of the AC30 label's 3-day Reverence Festival- a celebration of radiantly fuzzy guitars, huge walls of noise and shimmering waves of feedback. Unfortunately I couldn't get tickets to the first night (Friday) where early shoegazers Chapterhouse were revisting their material, but this evening more than made up for it. The Brooklyn-based quartet quickly delved into their sweet, short and blissful pop tunes which combined with the frenetic swirling lights to create a hazy, dreamy and enchanted night. They mentioned that they've now played more in London then their home town, and will continue to do so, with two more upcoming London dates before the end of 2009 in honour of their latest EP release, the brilliant Higher Than The Stars.
The support acts were well chosen, both providing hazy guitar-led tracks. Ringo Deathstarr, despite their strange name, make beautiful music- wavy, cascading surges of distortion overlaid with soothing dual vocals and glistening riffs. Hailing from Brazil but based in London, The Tamborines provided overwhelmingly loud psychedelica, describe themselves a 'fuzz rock band' and although only a 3-piece, had a definite stage presence.

Friday, 20 November 2009

The Decemberists, The Coronet, 19/11/09

Portland, Oregon - Thank you for so many amazing bands/musicians: M Ward, The Thermals, Viva Voce, Elliott Smith...and The Decemberists. They played two sets, starting with the complete Hazards of Love, their theatrical rock opera album, assisted by the impressive Becky Stark (of Lavender Diamond) and Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond). Standout tracks included 'The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid', 'The Rake's Song' and 'Won't Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)' - the latter with it's intense drumming, playful piano and fevered riffs.
After a small break, they returned to play some of their older material, such as the punchy 'Billy Liar', the bouncy '16 Military Wives' and the anthemic 'O Valencia'. The five-piece concluded with 'The Mariner's Revenge Song', complete with inflatable killer whale- to which the crowd had to scream as if they were being eaten alive by a real one.
I think the night can be summed up by the fact that by the end even the serious looking security were smiling and engaged with the witty and masterful songs of Colin Meloy.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Monsters of Folk, The Troxy, 17/11/2009

An energetic set, to say the least, they played 33 songs, including MOF album tracks along with each of their individual band/solo material. M Ward's tracks, particularly 'Vincent O'Brien' and 'To Save Me' were a lot heavier live and worked well in the larger venue, which Jim James described as the decadent 1920s meets the 1980s (in reference to the art deco theatre's Miami Vice colour scheme). Conor played several earlier Bright Eyes tracks, such as We Are Nowhere And It's Now, Kathy with a K, At The Bottom of Everything and Another Travelin' Song, so I was very pleased. I've only listened to one My Morning Jacket album (Z), and I was really happy to have heard more of Jim James' work.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Flaming Lips, The Troxy, 11/11/2009

As Wayne himself put it, I haven't smiled as much at a gig in a long time, perhaps since I first saw them play (just before radiohead) at Glastonbury, now 6 years ago (I feel old as I typed that)! The new material (Evil, Convinced of the Hex) had a trance-like feel, which played off against the more poppy hits such as 'Yoshimi', 'The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song' and 'Do You Realize?". He thanked the UK for the start of the Lip's mainstream success back in the late 1990s and was thankful to play in a weird art deco bingo hall, and was impressed with the gusto of the venue's former patrons- older bingo players who quit the place, when the smoking ban was introduced. I had completely forgotten the band got fans to go on stage with them and dressed up them in surreal outfits. I remember at Glastonbury they had giant sun costumes which instead of just fans, apparently had other bands in, a member of Radiohead was rumoured (probably unlikely!), as were some actors, on this night they looked like they were having the time of their lives.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Willy Mason, St Giles-in-the-Fields, 14/10/09

Despite having not graced UK shores since 2007 (when I last saw him perform at Glastonbury (, the atmosphere at Willy Mason’s performance was as if he’d never left. While he did helm the gig, he also regularly invited his friends, fellow musicians, and family to take to the stage to perform tracks; his fellow performers all sitting on stage-side pews, casually filling in the backing vocals on each other’s songs. This, coupled with Willy’s naturally sincere demeanour gave the event a campfire sing-a-along feel, which the audience was honoured to be privy to. I'm now a complete convert for gigs in churches!

For the last two songs before the encore all of his fellow musicians (and mother) joined him singing the apt 'I don't know how to say goodbye'.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Au Revoir Simone, Union Chapel, 02/10/09

The perfect finish to a brilliant Friday night lineup, it was great to see them again even though I caught them relatively recently at Indietracks. As before, they were so grateful to play in the venue, with both Heather and Annie referring to their Catholic upbringings while Erika just thought the church was so beautiful. Great performance, which has since has made me go back and revisit the bird of music, as I'd not really listened to it that much in the past.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Charlotte Hatherley, Borderline, 22/09/09

The former songstress and guitarist from Ash, as well as the touring guitarist for Brighton-based Bat for Lashes, has been quite busy recently. However, she's also managed to get around to recording her own third LP, titled New Worlds; the debut single is White. Her guitar playing is amazing to watch, along with her dream-like vocals and catchy guitar-pop tunes. It was a fiery, intense performance, mainly dominated by her new material, although she also played fan favourites such as Wounded Sky, Kim Wilde and Summer.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Wilco, The Troxy, 25/08/09

Despite owning all seven of their albums, I'd sadly never seen this Chicago-based band live before! It was strange sitting down for the gig in a weird art deco cinema, but the performance was blew me away, and the songs were so much better (if possible) live, with extra riffs, and improvisation galore all neatly meshed together by such a cohesive group of sincere musicians.

The band were so sweet- as it was lead singer Jeff's birthday they got him a cake and fired party poppers all around him towards the end.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

St Vincent Live Review, Hoxton Bar & Kitchen 21/04/09

It was definitely a fitting, early London summer evening for the surreal, dreaming soundscapes of Annie Clark, better known as St Vincent. She was here to promote her newest, yet unreleased album, Actor. While it may have been leaked online, and obviously had been heard by much of the audience, Annie was surprisingly sincere, pointing out how the audience seemed to know all of her new songs, and yet hadn't had to opportunity to purchase them.

The new album aside, much of the setlist drew from her debut, Marry Me (brilliantly named after a repeated phrase from the alarmingly underrated comedy – Arrested Development), which she played notably differently from the original recordings. The title track of the album, with its slower-paced, tuneful, piano-led, light-hearted musings on matrimony, got a good reaction from the attendees, particularly the line ‘Let’s do what Mary and Joseph did/Without the kid’, to which she insightfully interjected ‘that line does go down well…except in the bible belt’.

This instance was one of the many exchanges with the Hoxton crowd, and Annie maintained an overall relaxed demeanour, and even when regularly switching and altering pedals, she was laid back and engaged with the audience. While her sense of humour can never be in doubt given the inspiration for her first album’s title, she was comfortable joking with the fans. She gave her thanks for their clapping to the beat of ‘Your Lips Are Red’, while commenting that she bet they didn’t realise the song was five minutes before they committed to providing the rhythm section!

The louder, heavier (surprisingly so for St Vincent) songs were infused with the most energy, with 'Landmines', 'Black Rainbow', 'Your Lips are Red' and 'Marrow' all lighting up the stage. Annie even referenced this rockier segment - ‘while we’re on the rock train…we’ll go here’, drawing attention to the four/three track stream of heavy riffs on her Fender Jaguar. The final destination of this ‘rock train’- ‘Your Lips are Red’, was a particular highlight, with Annie riffing on her Jaguar as she interchanged between two mics (one a vintage Shure antique cased Coppertone), alternating between personas as she switched between the different styles of vocals.

The new songs worked well, and although slightly more cinematic and theatrical (most likely the result of many of them being originally conceived as film scores), they connected and combined well with her debut album. We were subject to an impressive performance, with great stage presence, which easily made up for the lack of a backing band. Annie was relaxed, enjoyed playing and was technically excellent. Her connection to the fans helped bolster the summer atmosphere and she definately worked off the positive crowd.