Archive Gig Reviews

Hello, Good Evening, Welcome, to Nothing Much

Before I started this blog i did gig reviews across facebook and forums so thought i’d collect them all together for when I’m old or older to reflect back on.

2018

Jim Bob – Shepherds Bush Empire

Was a little concerned about how this show would pan out. Going from the bombast and aural assault of a Carter show to a solo acoustic show in a biggish venue I thought might be a tough one to pull off. My fears were generally unfounded. Turned out to be night of celebration of some great Carter songs mixed in with some of Jim Bob’s under rated solo stuff. There was the occasional accompaniment on piano from Chris TT. No Fruitbat and Jim got that one out of the way early. I’m sure a few of us, including me, were secretly hoping for some kind of Carter reunion.

I sang myself hoarse and unlike the Carter shows I didn’t crowd surf but quite a few did. Not quite the sea of bodies that Sheriff Fatman would encourage at Brixton Academy but not a bad effort. I do miss the Carter shows though and although I enjoyed this it wasn’t a substitute. I can’t see myself going down to London on a regular basis to see this show as I would for Carter. It was what it was and I had a good night and Jim bob is always engaging company but the acoustic show just doesn’t quite fill the gap. Of course I’ll go and see him if he’s closer to home and I’ll continue to hope that Carter USM will once again blind and desfen me in the future.

Warrior Soul – Audio

A bit of a departure from the show above. :) I’ve always fancied going to see Warrior Soul but never got round to it until last night. I loved the Space Age Playboys album which is now over 20 years old and few other bits and pieces. Their latest album Back On The Lash is pretty good if you like Kory Clarke’s shtick. He doesn’t have the world’s best voice but it suits his kind of music brilliantly. And you have to hand it to the professionalism of the band as there were maybe around 70 people there but they played it like a sold out show in a bigger venue. I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the stuff but you kind of know what you’re getting. Most enjoyable and I even enjoyed the support act the Swamp Born Assassins who did a nice line in some hard blues based rock.

All in all not bad for £12.

Mark Thomas – Tron Theatre

This was a much different format to what Thomas usually does. Rather than just him his show was centered around a comedy club/workshop he did in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin and 2 of those from Palestine who were involved in the club made up a 3 man show. It was the usual mix of activism and humour that Thomas does so well. He seems to get himself into some bizarre situations but somehow survives tot ell the tale. Although this was a commendable idea I thought it didn’t quite work. It was all a bit too disjointed for me and it never seemed to flow like his shows normally do. The two guys from Palestine Alaa Shehada and Faisal Abu Alhayjaa were funny and good side men and although I really struggled to make out what Alaa said a lot of the time they had their genuinely funny moments. The highlight of which was probably when the 3 of them were impersonating the committee who oversaw the dress rehearsal before allowing the show to go ahead in Palestine.

Thomas as ever tackles some serious and harrowing issues with a blend of comedy and a massive dose of couldn’t give a effness. Tonight wasn’t the best I’ve seen him but you know his heart is in the right (on) place.

Brit Floyd – Concert Hall

I’m not really a tribute band kind of guy but in the last year I’ve now seen 2 Floyd tribute acts MacFloyd and now Brit Floyd and both do a fantastic job of recreating the Floyd sound. After last night Brit Floyd have the edge on MacFloyd which better visuals, stunning sound and the vocals but to be fair there isn’t that much between them. It was my brother in law who asked if i fancied this originally but I baulked at the prices which were £50 for a top price ticket. I clearly wasn’t the only one who was put off as it then came up on groupon with a 50% off offer which was more like it and it was well worth the £17.50 i eventually paid.

The lighting show was excellent with the the traditional Floyd circular screen along with lasers, mirrorballs etc. Real old school but fits the music perfectly. The vocals were spot on especially the bass player who did a fantastic version of Southampton Docks and the Final Cut. All the favourites were there plus too much latter Gilmour Floyd for my liking. Musicianship was outstanding and they recreated the songs perfectly. They had the female backing singers and the girl who did The Great Gig in the Sky section was absolutely outstanding.

As with any tribute band no matter how much you enjoy it you know it’s not the real thing and there is always an element missing but this was probably as good as it gets and I’ll definitely be back next time if the price is right. My first trip to one of Glasgow’s newer music venues and I have to say I like it.  It’s description  as the Oran Mor of the east is quite apt.  Hopefully a few more bands that I like will choose this setting for their gigs.

Michael Rother – Liquid Rooms

Two krautrock legends for the price of one with Hans Lampe on drums. Just a fantastic night for any krautrock fan who has a love of Neu. Rother’s guitar playing is sublime and Lampe’s drumming occupies a very narrow corridor but his motorik beat and style is completely mesmerising.

It’s great that some of these pioneers are now getting the recognition they deserve. I hope it’s not too long until we see them again as it was just brilliant from beginning to end. Top 5 gig contender although lot of heavyweights on the gig front this year.

The Levellers – Old Fruitmarket

The crusty grebo anarchists go acoustic. Only got a ticket for this yesterday but quite fancied it as thought their music would suit the acoustic format. It turned out to be a gig of two halves. The first 50 mins or so were a bit plodding and in places was just plain dull with a few highlights including opener Exodus which i thought was setting up the night to be a good one but it was a partial false dawn. Then when they played Julie 50 mins in it was if someone had switched a light on and from then on in it was excellent with a cracking version of Men-an-Tol which was the best of the night for me. I think the first half was down to them playing less well known songs and although it might just have been me but I found it a bit tedious until Julie. If they had stuck to the best of/greatest hits type show it would have so much better but I’m sure the diehards loved it. Although after seeing some of the diehards it’s hard to carry off the crusty/grebo look when in your 50s/60s but kudos for trying. :lol:

A qualified success but I much prefer the electric Levellers sound.

And I don’t know what it is about acoustic music but there was nearly another bout of fisticuffs :boxer: last night during the encore. Not sure what kicked it off but there was a bit of pushing and shoving before the smallest female security guard I’ve ever seen got in the middle of it and sorted them out.

Steel Panther – Academy

As lewd and as crude as ever and still great fun. Not for the faint hearted or the more prudish amongst us but Panther continue to strike the balance between parody and, I suppose, credibility. Their songs are brilliantly crafted smut fests of genius. It’s now 9 years since I first saw them and I’m as surprised as anyone they’ve stretched it this far but if they continue to write classics like Goin’ In The Backdoor, Poontang Boomerang and That’s When You came in (and Blew Me) then they can continue to put a smile on my face for many years to come. Of course we still have the classics of Asian Hooker, Death To All but Metal and Community Property, one of the greatest songs ever written, to enjoy. Their between song pastiche is sometimes hard to follow given the dodgy academy sound but they are funny guys who play their roles to the max.

Great entertainment and a good start to what is looking like a potentially vintage year for gigs already.

2017

Fish – Tolbooth, Stirling Dec 6th & ABC Dec 21st

Fish is slowly bringing his career to a close. This was initially touted as the last tour and was going to compromise the whole of the Clutching At Straws album and songs for the new album Welschmertz. Due to a combination of health issues and not getting the sessions off the ground the new album is still at the planning stage. So we got all of the brilliant Straws bookended by a mix of Fish solo stuff. Not quite in the Childhood bracket but not far behind. The Tolbooth was advertised as a warm up show and where they had been rehearsing. Always great to have a show in an intimate venue and so it proved. A few missed cues etc due to first night issues but Fish was in good form as was his band. These days he does struggle to hit some of the higher notes and had the assistance of a female backing singer to help him out. Glasgow was much more polished but i enjoyed the Stirling show more. I also bumped into the man himself after the Stirling show on my way back up from the town and he was very talkative and we discussed such issues as the effects of brexit on touring (a complete nightmare), swapped back surgery stories, the general state of the music business and talked about walking football. :lol: Always been one of my favourite artists and a bonus to meet him and have a chat.

Kevin McDermott – Admiral Bar Dec 13th

First of four gigs in 4 days. An acoustic show that saw the audience in good voice and Kev in good humour. Always a delight and next year :pray: for some new material.

Extreme – Academy Dec 14th

Over 26 years since I last saw Extreme. Not much has changed. Nuno Bettencourt is still an outstanding guitarist although the solo spots did drag a bit. Gary Cherone is still an odd front man with a great voice. They played the vomit inducing More Than Words but the rest of the Pornograffitti tracks were the show’s standouts.

Jimmy Barnes – King Tuts Dec 15th

Always been a bit of a bucketlister this one. The mid 80s albums Freight Train Heart and Working Class Man are big favourites and although I kind of lost touch with his output since then I always wanted to see him live. I’ve never seen so many people on the Tuts stage before. Nine in total including Barnes’s daughter on backing vocals and his son on drums. A most enjoyable night and although he’s supposed to be a hun he did write a song called Walk On :lol:

Mogwai – Hydro Dec 16th

Had my doubts they could pull off this size of show but they did a pretty good job on the night. The floor was busy but most of the seated area was curtained off. They also managed to make it loud enough along with a simple but effective light show. Mogwai Fear Satan as usual the highlight for me. Hopefully back to something a bit smaller next time but a qualified success.

Gun – Barrowlands

I really didn’t think I could be arsed going to this one. With a run of a 8 or more gigs in December I thought I might give this one a miss and all week I couldn’t really decide one way or another. Then an offer of a free ticket came along and that tipped the balance and I’m glad I made the effort in the end. Gun were excellent and could possibly be a top 5 gig contender and no one more surprised about that than me. You can never underestimate the power of the Barrowlands to move a gig up a notch or two and Gun themselves seemed to raise their game. We had a fair chunk of songs off the new album and they were more than passable but it was the oldies the fans really wanted to hear and Better Days, Inside Out , Don’t Say It’s Over and Steal your Fire had the Barrowlands jumping and in full voice. Unfortunately the abomination that is Word Up is still in the set but the other cover Fight For Your Right to partyyyyyyyyyyy which finished the gig was brilliant and tagged onto the end of Shame on You was a particularly strong way to finish the show

Dante is still an uncomfortable front man but he’s 10 times better than he was a few years back but i don’t think he’ll ever be a natural and relaxed in front of the mic. On the plus side his singing is much better and he now seems to remember most of the words. A work in progress. I also managed to snare a memento of the show when a drum stick came sailing in our direction and hit the floor. I was first to spot it and claimed my prize. :dadumchhh:

A surprisingly excellent night and it didn’t even cost me a penny.

Robert Plant – Perth Concert Hall

My first ever gig in Perth and what a belter. When I saw the Plant dates i really didn’t want to go to the Armadillo as it manages to suck the atmosphere out even the best of acts although going by the reviews above Plant seemed to overcome this draw back. I even was in 2 minds about going at all but an offer of a Perth ticket from remy and i quickly changed my mind. The last few Plant shows I’ve found very frustrating as Plant messed about too much with the Zep songs and always under sang and never really let rip like we all know he can. I’ve finally accepted that the last time I’ll hear Plant singing Zep as nature intended will be the gig at the O2 in 2007 :ph43r: :rocker: :rocker: once I accepted that then I just enjoyed this legend for what he is. A fantastic singer surrounded by a fantastic band. A totally enthralling night that was a mix of solo and Zep stuff and it was bloody good. Plant may be nearly 3 score and 10 but his voice is still rich and vibrant and he did occasionally step into rock god mode particularly on a brilliant What is and What Should Never be. He’s happy and comfortable enough to let his band take their moments and seems pretty much at ease with everything these days. Other Zep highlights were Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (not strictly a Zep song though) and That’s The Way. A much more enjoyable night than previous Plant shows and I should just enjoy being in the presence of greatness as we never know how long we’ll get to enjoy one of rock’ biggest legends.

Alice Cooper, the Mission, the Tubes – Hydro

Gigs all over the place last night. i was lucky enough to win tickets to this one and probably wouldn’t have bothered otherwise but glad I did.

The Tubes were ehm… interesting in a glad it was only a short set. They weren’t terrible and had a couple of moments and Fee Waybill is a bit of madman but the music just wasn’t my thing for the most part. couple of nice solos from the guitarist though. Just about worth getting in early for.

The Mission – Barrowlands 1994 was the last time i saw Hussey and co. Not sure why they fell off my radar as i was a big fan back in the day and I remember the Eskimos building human pyramids at the Barras. Was fascinating to watch. Hussey has lost none of his friction with the audience and likes to wind them up. probably more done in good humour these days but he always liked to try and rub the audience up the wrong way. Also seems to have hung onto the nucleus of the band with Adams and Hinkler still there which made for a tight set and mostly made up of Mission classics like Severina, Wastelands, and opener Tower of Strength. Even had time to throw in a Neil cover of Like a Hurricane which they did back in the day, also on neil’s 72nd birthday. An enjoyable trip back to the late 80s and might go and see them on their own next time.

Alice was the consummate professional. He may be pushing 70 but he’s rarely changed over the years much like his set. I thought it was over 30 years since I’d seen him it was in fact just 20. He’s surrounded himself with a band of young bucks with 3 guitarists including Mega Murray who replaced Orianthi. She was a whirling dervish on stage and a pretty mean guitar player. His band could have been his grandkids :lol:

You know what you get with Alice though. Guillotines, monsters, general madness and songs about having sex with the dead. Ethyl is cool in bed, she ought to be, cause ethyl’s dead. :rocker: Throughout it all Alice was the ringmaster allowing his band their moments in the spotlight. Also the big draw for the die hard Alice fans is the original living members of the Alice Copper band come on for the last 4/5 songs and despite the odd missed cue etc. gave the youngsters a run for their money. You could rhyme off pretty much most of the set straight off with I’m Eighteen, Under Your Wheels, i love the dead, billion dollar babies, No more Mr Nice Guy and set closer Schools Out with all the band members on stage but other highlights included Department of Youth and Only Women Bleed.

Alice like his contemporaries won’t go on forever but he still puts on a show that is macabre cartoon rock at its best and few if any do it better than Alice.

The Waterboys – Armadillo

A rather average and disappointing night in the company of Mike Scott and The Waterboys. It didn’t help that the venue was the Armadillo which just seems to suck the atmosphere right out of a gig but on this occasion though it wasn’t really the venues fault. With a new double album out I expected a few songs from Out of All this Blue but playing 13 songs from it out of a 20 song set was really stretching things and as a result the gig never really got going. Given the new album is at best ok with a few good songs on it this was a long haul. Starting off with 5 new songs was a real test and received a smattering of polite applause but I doubt anyone in the venue wanted to hear that many in the whole set never mind as an opening salvo. He even managed to compound this by repeating the closing refrain of Love Walks In over and over again for what seemed like forever. You could almost sense the awkwardness. Then we get to his band. Bizarrely he had 2 drummers for what reason i don’t know other than one of the drummers provided a bit extra percussion on a few songs. Ralph Salmines is more than capable of carrying out drumming duties in his own. Keyboard player Brother Paul might be the greatest keyboardist in the history of keyboardists but his over the top acts of quirkiness just annoys me even more every time I see him. Mike said that he was the guy him and Steve Wickham had been looking for all their life so we’re stuck with him for the foreseeable. His inclusion is probably partly to blame for the direction The Waterboys have taken in the last couple of years. And then we have the backing singers who could sing but Mike had them up front right beside him and their rather odd dancing and complete failure to be choreographed in any way was really distracting. Added to Brother Paul’s prancing around, the right hand side of the stage was best avoided.

But it wasn’t all bad, honest. Steve Wickham is still the fella that fiddles and he shone through the gloom, although might just have been me but I sensed he was used much more sparingly than usual and was off stage a fair bit of the show. The new is guy Bart Walker on guitar from Nashville and he was shampoo hot throwing licks out all over the place as the band jammed on a few songs. And of course there is Mike Scott, recently married and also became a dad in February who commands the whole shebang. He’s one of Scotland s most under rated song writers and artists and indeed a lot of people don’t even know he’s Scottish. He still has a great voice and tells a great story but i don’t know what he was thinking putting so many new songs in the set. He’s old and wise enough to know what his crowd want but maybe that’s why he did it to challenge us or some other muso bollocks. Anyway he’s earned the right to do whatever he likes and he’s also got plenty brownie points in the bank with me to have the odd off night.

The highlights were sadly few and far between but When Ye Go Away complete with Walker on banjo was pretty good, of the new songs, Morning Comes Around too Soon and The Connemara Fox stood out.

And to end my rant if i don’t hear Whole of the Moon and Fisherman’s Blues again live then it will be too soon. Although it did almost get a lacklustre crowd going but I’d much rather have a Red Army Blues, Pagan Place, Church Not Made with Hands or Saints and Angels in their place. I hope he drifts back towards a more acoustic guitar sound in the future but i fear the middle of the road rock stuff is here to stay for a while.

Placebo – Usher Hall

Placebo still on their 20th anniversary jaunt and were in blistering form tonight. Seen them many times but something a little extra in this performance. Brian Molko seemed in a rather good mood and although once he was a gorgeous looking androgynous man he now just looks a bit like an old man. Time hasn’t been kind to him. Still it’s all about the music and the set was littered with classic Placebo songs in Pure morning, Without you I’m nothing, Special K and real golden oldies in 36 degrees, Teenage Angst and nancy boy. The highlight for me though was a brilliant Exit Wounds from the last album Loud Like Love. They also like their strobes but they work well with their type of music. I know not everyone’s cup of tea but Placebo rarely put on anything other than a great show.

Gary Numan – ABC

This was a curiosity gig. Are Friends Electric was a guilty pleasure back in the day when i was a metal head and admitting to liking a song with synthesizers in it was blasphemy. I noticed a few years back he was playing Download and i thought it must be one of those ‘novelty’ acts that festivals sometimes go for. Then i saw highlights of the festival on Sky Arts and feck me he’d gone all industrial and it sounded quite good. So thought I’d give it a go and it didn’t disappoint. A set that was largely culled from his latest album Savage which i’d briefly listened to before the gig. It’s a damn fine album but the first song i really recognised was Down In the Park and it was one of the highlights. i did wonder how he was going to tackle the hits in cars and Are Friends Electric but he just industrialised them and they sounded great. I’ve now got a bit of catching up to do regarding his recent output but it won’t be the last time I go to see him.

Therapy? – Bannermans

In normal circumstances this would be one of the loudest gigs of the year but Therapy? are doing a relatively short acoustic tour and although i had my doubts how it would work it worked really well. The more laid back set up gave frontman Andy Cairns a platform to talk about the songs and tell stories and he is a great yarn teller. The set was a delve into some of the darkest corners of the band’s back catalogue along with some crowd favourites. Although I missed the ferocity of their usual live show it was a most enjoyable and entertaining evening in the company of one of rock’s most humble bands. They seem genuinely nice guys and although the band had some amazing highs in the early days they have known some really tough times but now seem happy they’ve returned at a certain level and appreciate what they’ve got and allows them to look at the music business from a rather cynical but hilarious viewpoint. Andy Cairns should really write a book. Highlights were Screamager where they got the crowd to do the guitar part because ‘it sounds shampoo on an acoustic’. :lol: An even more uncomfortable acoustic Diane in tribute to Grant Hart and of course set closer Die Laughing. New album has been written and recording should be finished before the end of the year so we can look forward to full on electric shows next year.

Radiohead – Trnsmt Festival, Glasgow Green

An interesting night in the company of Radiohead. The last hour was fantastic, the 90 mins before a mix of genius, self indulgent bollocks and hit and miss experimentalism. It was one off the bucket list but I’m just not a fan of the meandering jazz like path some of their songs take. At times they do genuinely sound they are all playing a completely different song from everyone else in the band. Just not my thing and parts of the show dragged a bit for me.

But when they hit the sweet spot, wow. Yorke’s voice may be an acquired taste but the boy can sing and even though he’s a miserable sounding sod some of the emotion in the vocals was spine tingling. The ‘Rain down’ refrain on Paranoid Android and the ‘I lost myself’ refrain on Karma Police truly stunning. I absolutely love The Bends album so hearing Fake Plastic Trees and the title track made it all worth while. I’d have loved more of that but I should have gone and seen them 20 years ago.

Iron Maiden – Hydro – Shinedown as support

This is how you do a metal show for a reasonable price (£65). eff you Metallica :)

This was one of those paperless ticket events and by the look of the queues outside we’d be lucky to get in for maiden never mind Shinedown but it all moved fairly quickly and we got in in time for support act Shinedown. i saw them supporting Alterbridge a few years ago and really like the the Amaryllis album, the new one not so much. What i liked about Shinedown was they played as if they were headlining not like some bands who are so grateful to be on tour with such a big band and just play and feck off. Shinedown really went for it including singer Brent Smith coming down in to the crowd to try and get everyone involved. He’s fascinating to watch. As Arsene said he’s a bit Robbie Williams in some of his actions but he’s quite engaging. Their 50 odd minute set never let up and they were an excellent warm up for Maiden. I’d have liked a few more songs from Amaryllis but small complaint.

Maiden were well just Maiden. 37 years after I saw a fresh faced young band from London supporting Priest at the Apollo Maiden really haven’t changed all that much. You know what you are going to get and they deliver what you expect and more. Set was a mix of new stuff from the Book of Souls and a long list of Maiden classics including Wrathchild, The Trooper (complete with butchers apron :arrr: ) Number of the Beast and Fear of the dark. The new songs are just epic including a brilliant The red and the Black. The stage show was pure Spinal tap complete with ever changing back drops of Eddie and of course the appearance of Eddie on stage plus the extra big Eddie appearing behind the drums. It’s complete cartoon rock nonsense and incredibly enjoyable. Dickinson still has a stunning set of pipes on him and with 3 lead guitarists you’re never far away from a solo.

It was a night for old metal heads to enjoy and also as Dickinson pointed out a large section of the crowd would not have been born when Number of the Beast came out but maybe their parents conceived them while listening to it making them Children of the Damned what a great song intro :lol: :lol:

Classic rock from a classic band

William McCarthy – The Caves, Edinburgh and Stereo, Glasgow

Took in both of Mccarthy’s shows this week. He’s the former singer of Augustines who split last year and a band I only recently fell head over heels with just as they were splitting up :doh: This was his solo tour and it was bloody excellent. Also my first ever visit to both these venues. Edinburgh was first up and i wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the solo show but it was a mix of electric and acoustic and various effects and a boom box thing. Worked really well and one thing you can never accuse him of is not putting everything into it despite him suffering some unpleasant after effects of a dodgy curry. Mostly Augustines stuff, a couple of new songs and a few covers. Loads of stories, including one how he came to be wearing a dress while he visited his brother in Folsom prison :o and even some improvising making up songs on the spot etc. Highly entertaining.

As I contribute to his patreon fund raising every month i got invited to a meet and greet before the Glasgow show. I thought it would be a bit of a soundcheck 15 mins of q&a and that would be it. An hour and 15 mins later we finally left and if the doors hadn’t have been opening he would have continued chatting to us. He is just a really nice down to earth funny and genuine guy and also a little crazy but in a good way. I told him I loved the unamplified version of The Avenue at St Lukes last year and he asked if he should he do that again? My answer of course was yes and he did :clap: :clap: and it was fantastic. The Glasgow show much more raucous than the quieter Edinburgh crowd and as he was feeling better we got a longer show as a result. Even had a fainter in the crowd. Some brilliant singalongs and laugh out loud moments. He pretty much leaves it all on stage and Glasgow will probably feature in the top 5 gigs of the year. All for £12.50. Metallica can stick their £100 show I’d rather see 8 of these.

Thunder – great old school rock and unlike many of their contemporaries their latest release is pretty good. Still it’s the classics that always get the biggest reactions. Backstreet Symphony was great, Love Walked In with old school acoustic guitar on a stand, Higher Ground still sounds great after all these years. As a casual fan i could ahve done with a few more oldies but knew the set was top heavy with new songs. Bowes really is one of rocks most under rated singers. Fantastic voice and loud and clear last night. I do find the forced crowd interaction a bit wearing after a while but it seems to be a Thunder thing. At times Bowes is like an aged aerobic instructor though :ph43r: :lol:

Cats in Space – :lol: :lol: I expected them to be some young guns with a great opportunity to show case their talents. They were about the same age as us old rockers and ticked most of the rock cliche boxes. That said some of the musical passages were quite listenable but when Jamkat said they were like a wedding band that kind of summed them up.

Tyketto ABC2

Seems like Glasgow was jumping with gigs last night. I decided against the overpriced shambling Ozzy and Sabbath although on another night I might have been tempted. Glenn Hughes was at the garage but having seen him a couple of times so wasn’t that interested. Could have popped along to the concert hall for Olivia newton John and I see above Fairport Convention were also in town. I choose Tyketto ahead of them all and I’m guessing probably the cheapest option ticketwise. You could get 4 Tykettos for a Sabbath. Tyketto are a on the lighter scale of hard rock and released their first album Don’t Come Easy back in 91 which is an album I’ve always really liked. Due to line up changes, break ups etc I’ve never got to see them live until tonight although I do have a ticket for a gig singer Danny Vaughn played but I have no recollection of the gig whatsoever. Also this gig was a re-arranged one from last year so they made me wait even longer.

Anyway tonight was one I’d been looking forward to and it didn’t disappoint. Vaughn has a cracking set of pipes on him and is an engaging and chatty front man although he does have tendency to drift into too much ‘how great a crowd’ etc. territory which can get a little wearying after a while but the crowd seemed to like it and that just encouraged him no doubt. :lol: Some great songs particularly from the first 2 albums. Standing Alone, Burning down Inside, Wings and Forever Young from the 1st album were all highlights. They played a few tracks off the new album and they were more than passable.

I’m sure Arsene will be on to tell you about the bass player and the sound which could have been louder and keyboards and guitar a bit higher in the mix but all in all no regrets about giving Sabbath and Olivia a body swerve and not a bad start to the gig going year.

2016

Jonathan Pie –The Stand

After seeing Jonathan Pie’s spoof videos online I really wanted to see how this would translate to a stand up setting and happy to report it was very, very funny. When I first saw his you tube videos I actually thought they might be genuine they were so well done. For those who don’t know, Pie is a character created by comedian Tom Walker who plays the part of a political correspondent for TV news and once he has delivered his piece to camera and is then off air he delivers some brilliant diatribes and rants about the government, their policies and the people involved.

It is biting and vicious political satire at its best. Last night’s set up had him as part of Children in Need so every so often he’d do a piece to ‘camera’ before coming back to the audience. It generally worked ok but was sometimes a little distracting as it meant he jumped about a fair bit on the topics he was talking about but only a small grumble. He did some brilliant deliveries about political correctness and freedom of speech that were funny but also gave pause for thought which is really what political satire should do. Of course the Tories came in for the majority of his attacks and to be fair quite rightly so bunch of scumbags that they are. Some of the visions he imagined involving Theresa May and chickens are best left forgotten though. Although he’s clearly left wing Labour wasn’t spared his anger either.

He even had to deal with a guy fainting and falling off his stool with a very loud thud in the closing part of the show which saw him go off stage mid rant but he returned as if nothing had happened 15 mins later. Fortunately the guy who fainted was also ok.

If you don’t know anything about Jonathan Pie I can recommend his you tube channel as a starting point.

https://www.youtube.com/user/tomwalker78

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Edinburgh Playhouse

Yet another trip through to the capital for a gig and also the first time since Neil Young 8 years ago I’ve been to the Playhouse. It’s a shame it has become the venue for ‘shows’ rather than bands as it is real old school and retains a charm few venues have these days. Tonight’s show was part of the Edinburgh Fringe programme and I’ll be returning to this venue in a few weeks to see Mogwai and hopefully my hearing will have returned.

Tonight though it was Godspeed You! Black Emperor who played their brand of post-rock, experimental rock, instrumental rock or whatever genre you want to place them in. I’m a relatively recent convert to the GYBE camp. They appeared on my radar not long after Mogwai but two bands who I wish had I had heard of a lot sooner.

Having battled traffic to get through from Glasgow I was sure I would miss the beginning of the show but luck was with me as the gig started almost as soon as I sat down. GYBE aren’t your normal band. n stage they consist of 3 guitarists, 2 bass players, 2 drummers and a violinist and they all amble onto the stage at various points of the first piece of music and create an almighty racket. GYBE play loud, very loud. They play in almost complete darkness, they have a screen behind showing films that don’t really show anything much, some footage of buildings, trains etc. they form a semi circle round the stage with no one in the middle and the guitarist in front of me was sitting down with his back to the audience, they don’t interact with the crowd apart from a half hearted farewell wave from a few members at the end as they troop off one by one, it’s odd but it works.

It’s an aural assault on your senses, their music makes you anxious, uneasy, on edge, euphoric. It’s a heady mix and you don’t get to relax at a GYBE show. The music builds and builds until at times you feel as if all 8 members are playing different tunes before it all comes back together creating a massive wall of sound before slowly dying away leaving you feeling slightly violated. Unlike most bands I go and see I couldn’t tell you the names of any of the musicians on stage or indeed any of the pieces of music they played although I did recognise the music. I think though that is part of the whole experience, at least for me. I’m sure plenty of folk know the titles and who the band are though. It’s fairly challenging music that over 1hr and 45 mins leaves you feeling quite drained.

I loved it.

It was probably the loudest gig I’ve been to this year at least it will be until Mogwai probably.

Status Quo – Ingliston Showground

Sadly an era is coming to an end for me. The Quo are hanging up their electric guitars and are due to do their final dates as an electric band at the end of this year. I believe they have some ill thought out plan to continue touring as an acoustic act which would be such a sad way to go from a band that played such great hard rock boogie in the 70s. They were my first music love and will always have a special place in my heart.

This whole situation has now been complicated somewhat by guitarist Rick Parfitt suffering a 2nd (may even be a 3rd) heart attack in May which he is now recuperating from. In the short term the band have recruited the bass player Rhino Edwards son Freddie to take over guitar duties and on this date they had brought in Irishman Richie Malone, who I believe plays in a Quo tribute band, to do the honours.

I was in two minds whether to go as Quo without Parfitt & Rossi is not Quo for me. The real Quo, imo, is the Frantic Four line up including Lancaster and Coghlan but I’ve made do with the Rossi/Parfitt line up for over 30 years and only go to hear the classic songs up to 1982. Anything after that, apart from one or two exceptions is a bit crap.

Anyway I decided seeing as I had a ticket anyway and I was a bit curious I’d go. This involved a mad dash up the road from Blackpool after an unplanned extra day on our holiday which involved a Pleasure Beach visit and then an even madder dash from home to Ingliston. I made it with 4 mins to spare.

The familiar drone heralded the band arriving on stage and regular set opener Caroline pierced the air. All the chords sounded in the right place but it wasn’t right. Not seeing Parfitt standing legs apart, his arm a blur as he thrashed out the opening chords to Caroline was just wrong, wrong, wrong. If you closed your eyes it sounded ok but watching the stage you knew someone was missing. That said I tried to enjoy it for what it was, one step away from a tribute act. They did an excellent version of Paper Plane that saw my trusty air guitar get an airing. One other downside of Parfitt being absent is we don’t get my favourite Quo song Rain but Don’t Waste My Time does get a welcome return. The middle of the show is a struggle as it usually is as we are subjected to the ‘newer songs’ which do seem to be crowd pleasers but I really don’t like them and don’t come anywhere close to the classics. And we get a drum solo, its 2016 and people are still doing drum solos. Why?

The closing run of Roll over Lay Down, Down Down, Whatever You Want and Rockin All Over the World was pretty decent before the band go off and come back and do Burning Bridges. A song that encapsulates everything that went wrong with Quo when the classic line up split. It was my cue to get a burger and head for the exit pausing just long enough to watch the band close out with Bye Bye Johnny and thinking, this might be it. The very last time I see Quo on stage 37 years after I first saw them live and my life changed forever.

Overall, for what it was it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be, the new boy did well under the circumstances. The show was kind of short though at just over 90 mins and I’d expect a bit longer for £45 although I got a ticket for £20 so can’t complain too much. I have a ticket for the Final Electrics tour in December but if Parfitt isn’t there then I don’t think I’ll go having now witnessed the Parfitless Quo. I hope he makes a full recovery and we can finish our live love affair with one final flourish and with Parfitt in his rightful place and me with my air guitar going for it one final time.

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow – Genting Arena

It seems I concur with my learned friends above :)

It’s nearly 20 years since Ritchie Blackmore hung up his trusty white strat to play medieval music. The man in black is a bit mad or if you’re being kind he’s just a little eccentric. Whatever he is he has been involved or is responsible for some of rocks greatest riffs and songs. So when he announced he was making a return to the stage to play the songs that had a major impact on my formative years in music I had to go.

So with 3 like minded old rockers we headed down to Birmingham with a sense of anticipation and probably a little trepidation. Could he still produce the goods after so many years, was his band going to be up to the job. Was he going to do a lute solo?

After a day of football, beer and some paint stripper called fireball (thanks Mike) we headed out to the NEC or Genting Arena as it’s now known. T-shirts duly purchased and seats taken we awaited the arrival of the legend. As the lights went down we were greeted with the intro music of Land of feckin hope and glory. A dirge at the best of times but in the current climate it was rubbing salt into the wound but it was replaced by the traditional intro from the Wizard of Oz. ‘Toto, I’ve a feeling were not in Kansas any more, we must be over the rainbow (Rainbow, Rainbow)’ and we were into the first classic of the night, on a night when just about every song would make classic status, Highway Star. Any fears or doubts about the band and Blackmore were soon dispelled. There were worries that instead of going for more well known musicians he surrounded himself with relative unknowns and members of his band Blackmore’s Night but the band sounded great although it was Blackmore we’d all come to see and he didn’t disappoint. He reels off some of rock greatest riffs with consummate ease and you have to remind yourself that he’s now 71. He may be using the Grecian 2000, probably some cosmetic work done and sports a ridiculous moustache but boy can he play guitar.

The man with the hardest job of the night was singer Ronnie Romero who had some big shoes to fill. We counted songs from 5 different vocalists in the set including Ronnie James Dio, Ian Gillan, David Coverdale, Graham Bonnet and Joe Lynn Turner. Some formidable singers in there but Romero did a fantastic job. He did justice and more to the classics that were rolled out and didn’t try to sound like the original singers but kept true to the feel of the songs. There were three particular highlights for me. Soldier of Fortune, Romero maybe didn’t have the deep resonance of Coverdale’s voice but this version was just as spine tingling, Child in Time was a song I first heard on Purple’s Made In Japan album over 40 years ago and was a real WTF moment, Romero proved beyond any doubt he was more than capable to take on this classic and the highlight of the evening was an incredible Stargazer where the whole band excelled and although it would have been great to see Dio up there I think he would have given Romero the seal of approval for his vocal performance.

The gig of course finished with one of rock’s greatest songs and riffs ’Smoke on the Water’ and you were left to reflect how many great songs Blackmore has contributed and then started to realise how many more he could have played that wouldn’t have been out of place in the set. It will be interesting to see if he does indeed retire once again from rock music and go back to wearing a funny hat and playing music from the 16th century or if he may have reignited a long dormant itch for playing loud rock music or if that itch has now been scratched. Whatever he does his place in the history of rock music is assured and if this is the end it was a pretty special way to say farewell.

Fish – O2 Academy, Newcastle

So this time it really is a ‘Farewell to Childhood’. I thought last December’s show at the ABC in Glasgow was going to be the final time I got to hear Misplaced Childhood in its entirety but a combination of Fish falling ill and his keyboardist breaking an arm meant rescheduled dates from the last tour threw up the opportunity of the Newcastle gig. The temptation was too much, I couldn’t say no. I was looking back through the years trying to calculate how many times I’ve heard all of Childhood live and I reckon this is either the 7 or 8th time through the Marillion and Fish years, including one that was almost a demo version before the album was released although I think it was just side 1 they played that night. I have a bootleg somewhere and a number of songs have different lyrics.

Fish was on stage sharp at 8 which nearly caught me by surprise. I was expecting an 8.30/9 start and literally got my spot as the lights went down. There are a few starters to get through before the main course. Never one to take the easy route we have Pipeline, Feast of Consequences, Family Business, The Perception of Johnny Punter dealing with diverse subjects as the Second World War, domestic abuse and Kosovo among them. It’s fair to say Fish struggled a bit with his voice. He had problems hitting the high notes and a bit of coughing and spluttering between songs pointed towards the onset of a cold. It was also a strangely subdued Newcastle audience. Maybe the opening selection of songs could have been angled more towards the better known Fish/Marillion material. I’m guessing the casual Fish fan isn’t as familiar with the solo material. I’d already heard these songs at Dalkeith and Glasgow last year and would have liked to have heard something different but I wasn’t here for those. Fish introduced the main event commenting on the shine from the follicle challenged in the crowd saying it made a great lighting effect.

We are all maybe a little older but the 30 years that have passed has not diminished the majesty of Childhood. It still sounds as great today as it did on its first listen and in many ways it sounds even better. It’s an album that means so much to so many. I was 20 when it was released and I guess I was leaving my own childhood behind although the child in me is never far away from the surface. It’s an album that, like Fish explained beforehand, holds so many memories. I’ve waxed lyrical about the album before but it is a stunning musical masterpiece and if you have never heard it what are you waiting for? There are sing-alongs a plenty and finally the Newcastle crowd found their voice. Lavender brings the goosebumps, Heart of Lothian brings the passion, Blind Curve brings the complicated hand clapping that is clearly beyond some people before we head for home with Childhoods End and White Feather. It’s all over far too soon and I’d happily have flipped it back over to side one and started again.

The band return for a rousing encore of Market Square Heroes and its mid section had some hand clappers just giving up as it all got just too difficult. We’re finally sent home with The Company ringing in our ears and the site of many portly men (and women) pirouetting like ballerinas. Maybe not quite up there with Glasgow but I’d quite happily go and hear Childhood every night if I could but all good things come to an end, a Childhoods End.

So it’s Farewell to Childhood, thanks for the great memories.

Kevin McDermott – Irvine and Admiral Bar

A couple of solo shows from Kevin over the last week. Both gigs pretty much sell outs and and Kevin rattled through some crowd pleasures and dusted off a few songs that haven’t been played for a while. He’s gearing up to go into the studio later this year and is going to go down the crowd funding route just go to get him over the line with enough money to do the record he wants to do. He’s also been talking about doing a Barrowlands show which would be with a full band later this year as well :clap: :clap:

His Glasgow gig saw a rather drunk guy stumble and fall over the monitor at the front of the stage and land in a heap at Kev’s feet. In the process he also managed to break the mike stand which Kev coped with rather well as he was left with the kind of mike stand Freddie Mercury used to use so we got an impromptu version of Radio Ga Ga while they tried to get ‘drunk man almost passed out’ off the stage and a replacement stand. The drunk man in question also released some kind of toxic gas which I even got a hint of 20 odd yards away. Kev manfully played on with eyes streaming :lol: :lol:

Despite the distractions a couple of nights of great entertainment.

2015

Fish – ABC, Glasgow

This was just magic. A sold out show and the final time I would see Misplaced Childhood get a full airing in Glasgow. Was supposed to be the last time ever but a few dates were cancelled earlier in the tour and re-arranged. I celebrated Childhood with 1,000 other fans who clearly fell in love with the album as much as I did and we sang every word and transported ourselves back in time to 1985. It was a surprisingly emotional evening and even Fish couldn’t hold back the tears at the end. I thought the Dalkeith show earlier this year was good but this being a Fish crowd just blew it away.

I’m not sure what happened to the 30 years in between but as nostalgic events go this was just brilliant. Fish may be hanging up his boots in the next few years but this night will live long in the memory.

Kevin McDermott – Clarks, Dundee

It’s a bit weird that an artist whose albums I have loved for years has now become a pal of mine. Last night I was chauffeur, photographer, recording engineer and merch salesman rolled into one 🙂 :lol:

Kev has been suffering from flu for last few weeks so I offered to do the driving so he could keep his energies for more important things like playing. Took my mini disc along to record the gig and what an excellent gig it was too. Last time we were in Clarks the night was somewhat ruined by people talking through the gig. Last night it was completely different. Little chat at all and a really good night despite Kev’s voice suffering a bit.

He very rarely performs on his own so this was a bit of a rarity. He was taking requests shouted out by the audience some of which tested his voice beyond its current capability but he made a valiant effort. Some songs played that haven’t been played live for a while. A really enjoyable, good humoured night and made the drive through blizzards on the way home more than worth it.

The Waterboys – Concert hall Nov 10th & Barras Nov 11th

Bit late with this one

These gigs highlighted the importance of venue choice. I was a bit disappointed with the Concert Hall gig and thought I was maybe experiencing some kind of post U2 gig come down. It was just an average gig overall and nowhere near the high standards The Waterboys usually set. In complete contrast the Barras show was like a different band had turned up. On reflection i think this was down to the type of show the Waterboys put on. Mike Scott is in rock out mode on this tour and there’s not an acoustic guitar to be seen. Some lengthy band jams and just general loudness. This all kind of got lost in the sitting down crowd of the Concert hall who probably wanted to stand but were too polite. The Barrowland crowd, however, were their usual raucous self and this made the 2nd night into a much more enjoyable experience. Much the same set apart from the Barras got a version of Roll Over Beethoven and an absolutely stunning cover of Purple Rain as the final encore. I’m not generally a fan of covers but sometimes songs just seem to completely suit other artists and Purple Rain is perfect for The Waterboys. I must admit I could do without Whole of the Moon and Fisherman’s Blues these days but I guess they are the crowd pleasers. Belting version of We Will Not Be Lovers and a stripped down piano/fiddle version of Don’t Bang the Drum also stood out.

If Mike Scott decides to do this 2 gig thing again, as he has in the past, he should really do a more laid back show at the Concert hall before cranking it up at the Barras.

Concert hall 6/10
Barras 8.5/10

Steve Earle and The Dukes – ABC Glasgow

Last year it was Steve and a couple of guitars at the Kelvingrove bandstand. this year he returns with the Dukes in tow and a right raucous sound they made too. Loudest and heaviest I’ve heard Steve in all the years I’ve been going to see him. For a man whose going through his 8th divorce he was in fairly chipper mood, plenty of between song chat and he’s man worth listening to when he talks. Considering he ran away from home at 14 to follow his hero Townes van Zandt, ended up in jail, had a drug and alcohol addiction that should really have killed him and 8 divorces. You could say he’s lived a life and he has many a story to tell. The gig contained a concentration of songs from his new album Terraplane which is Steve’s take on the blues. A bit hit and miss for me but sounded much better live. There was a classic run of My Old Friend the Blues, Someday, Guitar Town, Copperhead Road, and the wonderful Goodbye. As Steve introduced the latter song he talked about all the songs he had written and how sometimes it was hard to remember exactly when they were written but he remembers when he wrote Goodbye as it was the first song he wrote sober. A song that could either be saying goodbye to the drink and drugs or to one of his many wives/girlfriends, it works for both, just a fantastic song and highlight of the set for me.

The set was 31 songs long so far too many to mention by name but a couple of great covers in Hey Joe and Wild thing. The latter combined with The Revolution Starts Now brought the show to a rousing end. An excellent night in the company of one of my favourite artists. He’s up there with the great singer/songwriters of our time imho.

Public Service Broadcasting – The Quay Sessions@BBC

Bit of a bonus this one. Never got a sniff of a ticket in the ballot so posted on the band’s FB page to see if anyone had a spare and J. Willgoose, Esq the keyboardist, guitarist etc. in the band responded saying he’d put us on guest list. Result. :clap: :clap: The Quay sessions is a weekly radio show hosted by Edith bowman who did introductions and a short interview with the two bands on. The other band was Adam Holmes and the Embers who were very listenable and the singer did a nice line in deadpan humour.

PSB were second on and were without their usual visual devices that add to the music but it didn’t really matter the music stands up perfectly well without the visuals. About an hours worth of material pulled from both albums. Highlight for me was The Other Side, an incredibly atmospheric piece based on Apollo 8, the first mission that flew round the back of the moon and losing contact with Mission control. You get the whole drama from the original voice tapes. You almost feel like cheering when contact is again established. We of course got the classic Spitfire and Everest. The latter with the addition of a brass section. We certainly got our money’s worth and looking forward to seeing the full show in Edinburgh in November.

Fish – Midstock Festival, Dalkeith Country Park

It’s always special to hear one of your favourite albums played in its entirety but there was a little bit extra this time as Fish is a Dalkeith boy and a lot of the Misplaced Childhood album was written around his experiences of living in the area. he even used to walk around the very park he was playing to write some of the album. You could tell he was absolutely bursting with pride at playing in his hometown.

Arriving on stage he started with Pipeline from the album Suits a rather odd opener but it showed off many facets of a multi talented band. Once it was finished it was onto the main event 50 mins of one of my favourite ever albums and 50 mins where I was transported back in time to 1985 when the album came out. Fish and I both had hair then and were probably a few pounds lighter but it took me back to those brilliant barrowlands gigs. Childhood just doesn’t have any weak parts. Even Kayleigh in the context of the album sounds great. There are plenty of singlaongs, synchronised hand clapping, some of it quite technical and beyond some folk. :clap: :clap: Songs about lost love, innocence of childhood, war, amongst others, as concept albums go it has a myriad of subject matter but it all blends into an absolute masterpiece for me. This tour will be the last time we’ll hear this album live and every moment has to be treasured as Fish is planning to retire from the music business next year and for me will be a huge loss. Market Square Heroes finished his set off and had the while crowd bouncing which is not bad for a mostly 50 year old or over crowd. It was a stunning performance made extra special by the setting. Pretty much guaranteed a top 5 spot in gigs of the year list.

AC/DC – Hampdump

I’d hummed and hawed about this gig since it was announced. AC/DC without Malcolm just seemed all wrong and the loss of Phil just compounded the issue. I also thought £70 odd quid for a ticket was ripping the piss a bit. Still as the gig approached I decided I’d go but try and score myself a bargain as one of the by products of the secondary ticket market is people buy tickets thinking they can make a quick profit and some do but others are left with tickets they can’t sell so off I headed with a price of £40 as my top line price. Outside I scored a ticket for £35 although it was a seated ticket but by the time I got there getting near the front would have been an impossible task.

Sadly Hampden is still a crap venue for gigs and football and in that respect it didn’t disappoint but once AC/DC hit the stage and Angus started duck walking across the stage I knew I’d made the right decision. A 60 year old man shouldn’t really be wearing a school uniform or careering around the stage but he is simply a legend and like every gig I’ve seen him he just gives it everything and more. The setlist bar three new ones and one from Black ice was just a long list of classic rock songs, Sin city, Shoot to Thrill, Hell Ain’t a bad place to be, Let there be Rock, Whole Lotta rosie, dirty Deeds etc. etc. An incredible list of great songs. The usual crap sound of hampden was there and it was sometimes hard to hear Johnson singing although his voice has seen better days so maybe not a great loss but you could hear Angus loud and clear and that was really why I decided to go. Sadly Malcolm’s dementia reminds you once again your rock heroes are not immortal and won’t live for ever but you still think they will. I thought cousin Stevie did well as a replacement but there was just something not quite there although hard to put a finger on exactly what. Same with Slade on the drums. He did a good job but again the lack of the classic Phil back beat just took a little gloss off the show.

Angus was, well just Angus. There’s no one quite like him and there never will be another Angus and it was sad to think this will probably be the final time I get to see him play live. I really can’t see AC/DC doing another tour unless they head out on some farewell shows but somehow that doesn’t quite seem the AC/DC way. Angus and AC/DC played such a massive part in my formative music years and they may not be quite the force of old but they still kick most other bands well into touch. Watching Angus strut around that stage was an absolute pleasure and almost a privilege, might even have been worth £70.

Not the best I’ve ever seen them, i put that down to the loss of 2 major personnel, but if that is their swan song then not a bad effort. Will probably be writing this kind of review in another 4/5 years time.

Faith No More – O2 Academy

Bit of a mixed bag for me. Concert was a bit like their albums, they’ve never done a killer album but have some killer songs. Gig was much the same when on their game on songs like Epic, Last Cup of Sorrow, Midlife crises and the outstanding and best song of the night Ashes to Ashes :rocker: :rocker: they’re untouchable but these moments were, for me, to few and far between. FNM have always lived on planet quirky and it was funny watching the stage take shape during the cross over after the support band. All the amps and monitors were covered in white with on the the black drum kit remaining untouched then suddenly a seemingly never ending flow of flower boxes appeared and were placed along the front of the stage, along the speakers and in front of the drum kit, all very bizarre. The gig started off well with the opening motherf****r which allowed everyone to feel a little rebellious and dangerous while screaming motherf****r at the top of their voice. I’m much more of fan of the melodic side of FNM and tonight there was too much shouty stuff for me. Singer Patton prowled the stage like a caged tiger and snarled into the mike a lot but it was all a bit of show.

It’s been 22 years since I last saw Faith No More and i would go and see them again as when they hit the sweet spot they are great and just about worth hanging on in on the dodgy bits, especially that cover abomination of Easy that is feckin rank. Some of the new stuff stood up well but I’d love to have heard, From out of Nowhere, Falling to Pieces, A Small Victory and Every things ruinerd in the set.

Therapy? – Oran Mor

An outstanding show from Therapy? and takes them to the top of gig of the year list so far. I always loved the Troublegum album but the course they took after that wasn’t for me but after last year’s show where they played Troublegum in full my interest was re-ignited and their new album Disquiet also heads my album of the year list so far. Tonight’s set was mostly made up from those 2 albums. It wasn’t a night for worrying about talkers as it was loud, very loud. A ferocious 90 mins that had little let up. Andy Cairns is a bit of a mad staring loon and his lyrics are clearly from a deranged mind but he produces some brilliant riffs. You can’t go far wrong with songs like Die Laughing, Nowhere and Joy Division cover Isolation. The new stuff stands up really well and is in the vein of the Troublegum album with Tides, Torment, Sorrow, Misery, Strife and the quite magnificent Deathstimate outstanding.

A small hot and sweaty club gig with ear drum bursting perfect sound and brilliant songs were all the ingredients required for a top gig. A most excellent night.

Status Quo, Aquostic – Concert Hall

The first time I’ve ever been apprehensive going to a gig. Quo playing acoustic is so wrong on so many levels that I’d almost talked myself into not enjoying this before even getting there. I’d seen the Roundhouse show, I’d listened to the CD and just thought, naw this isn’t right. Despite all that I still had to go to see them. A stone’s throw from where the mighty Quo strode the Apollo stage and the scene of my first gig nearly 36 years ago and here we were all sitting down looking at a stage full of chairs, acoustic guitars, an accordion, a string and percussion section. Seriously WTF?

And then they came on. All 16 of them :rubeyes: and off we went with the majority of songs from the golden era of Quo in the 70s and you know what, I really enjoyed it despite all my misgivings. I got to hear Quo songs live that i would never have otherwise heard. The crowd were really into it and being so close to the action in the second row I could see the band and in particular Rossi and Parfitt looked to be really enjoying it and it rubbed off. As a one off tour and something completely removed from the usual Quo it worked. I wouldn’t want it replacing the normal Quo shows but in its own way it was a most enjoyable evening. Songs you think wouldn’t work acoustically came over really well like, Paper Plane, Rain and surprisingly Mystery Song. Songs i was hearing live for the first and probably last time included Claudie, Reason for Living, and It’s Better now and All the reasons. Marguerita time and burning bridges are still crap electric or acoustic though and other like Caroline and Down down didn’t quite suit the acoustic treatment but overall it was entertaining and really not what i was expecting at all.

Now if they can just get the Frantic Four to grace our presence again I’ll be an even happier bunny,

The Airborne Toxic Event – Garage

Last time I saw TATE it involved a mad dash in the car from ognor Regis to Brighton, train to London, Subway to Shepherds Bush picking up a half price ticket outside and getting into the venue 5 mins before band came on. A lightly less frenetic journey this time to a venue that seems to feature rarely on my gig schedule these days for some reason. Anyway to the band themselves, I say this every time but still a mystery to me why TATE aren’t bigger they have excellent songs, some big sing-along choruses and an engaging frontman in Mikel Jollett and just generally a tight little band. Anyway for selfish reasons i’m glad they aren’t playing bigger venues. They are here promoting their excellent new album Dope Machines of which about half gets an airing. The rest of the set is made up from the first album and All At Once with only one song from previous album Such Hot Blood. They don’t really mess about much and it’s a high energy 85 mins or so, which is my only complaint that it was a bit on the short side. May have something to do with the Garage’s curfew time. I was told on the way in they would be on at 8.15 but didn’t come onstage until 8.30. Particular highlights included opener Wrong, Gasoline, Wishing Well and the still brilliant Sometime Around Midnight.

Kevin McDermott & Robbie McIntosh – Village Inn, East Kilbride/The Darroch, Gourock

Two grand theatres of rock n roll were the venues for a couple of dates for Kevin and Robbie. Both similar in size and both above the main bar and sadly both full of people who just talk, all the feckin time. Particularly in The Darroch as it cost a £10 to get in and you could drink to 1am so folk seemed to do that and weren’t bothered who was playing. Very annoying and frustrating for those of us there to see Kevin and Robbie. Despite this though they put on a couple of good shows with kev on good form and Robbie bringing his virtuoso guitar playing. he even did a couple of solo songs to highlight his craft. Was speaking to him afterwards and he’s in big demand. Plays with Tom Jones when he tours, was heading off to do something with mark Knopfler, backing Thea Gilmour on her tour and a few other things on the go. He was of course the original guitarist on the great Mother Nature’s Kitchen album before Marco joined KMO. Sets were pretty much the same both nights with the MNK and Bedazzled making up most of the set with only Icarus landing and Jenny Lynd coming from outside those two.

Hopefully Kev gets back in the studio and gets cracking with a new album and gets the band back doing dates sooner rather than later. An enjoyable 2 nights though despite the talkers.

Gun – Barrowlands

An unexpectedly excellent gig. I had bought a ticket for a friend’s birthday and decided to go as well after the King Tut shows last year. I did the Tut shows because the first two Gun albums are great albums and tonight was a run through of Taking On The World along with songs from new album Frantic and few others along the way. Dante is no mark Rankin but I think it’s time to put that one in the past as tonight Dante while still a bit rough round the edges for a front man seems to be gaining confidence and singing better. he does have a bit of an annoying habit of letting the crowd sing a lot of the words but other than that he is coping much better with the old stuff and the songs from the new album sounded surprisingly strong and clearly he’s much more at home singing those ones.

I could have done without Word Up which for me is where it all started to go a bit breests up for them even though they are the only Scottish band to win an MTV award. Which they got for best cover for that song. i remember Dante telling the story at the Tuts shows and i found it hard to believe so I’m willing to be corrected on that but he seemed to be pretty sure.

There was also a great reception from the crowd and a lot of love for the band which made for an extra special evening. The kind of atmosphere you wouldn’t have got at a show outside of Glasgow.

The nights highlight was final song Shame on You but Better Days, Inside Out were also up there. One complaint was it was advertised as playing Taking On the World but they didn’t play all of it but i guess having a new album out they wanted to give those an airing and i think they played about 6 new songs.

It really was a much better show than I was expecting and I think I’ve become a convert to the new Gun.

To top it all off I found a new Gun t-shiirt on the floor on the way out and it was my size

Placebo O2 Academy

Placebo have always flown under the radar a bit. Tell most people you’re going to see Placebo and 90% of them will probably say who? Despite this here they are playing 3 Scottish dates in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. Not many bands of their size will do that these days. They’ve always been a band who are slightly dark and menacing and their music demands strobes and lots of them and that is what we got with lots of nice colour flashing backgrounds as well. Have to say the band were on excellent form last night. Having checked to see what the setlist was like i knew they were leaning heavily on latest album Loud Like Love, which i initially was disappointed with but has since grown on me, and the Meds album for some reason. There was barely a nod to anything before that with only one track from each of their first three albums which was a pity as the crowd particularly loved Special K. Live the band are now augmented on stage by three supporting musicians who share guitar and keyboard duties and really fill the sound out and what an excellent sound it was. one of the best I’ve heard at the much maligned academy.

Overall it was a pretty much a show of in your face of loud guitars and flashing lights from the off to the end which suits me just fine. Next year is Placebo’s 20th anniversary and they promise some celebrations. It would be great to hear Teenage Angst back in the set again with some other old favourites.

 

 

Advertisements

James – Nothing But Love

Albert Hall Manchester, Monday December 18th, 2017.

It’s taken me a while to finally get round to reviewing the James benefit gig for the ‘We Love Manchester Emergency Fund’.  Enough time for the euphoria of the evening to subside and a chance to look back on what was, without doubt, my gig of the year.

I had thought I wasn’t going to get my James fix this year.  I’d looked at Newcastle and then Hope and Glory in Liverpool but just couldn’t make them work.  Thank feck I missed the shambles of the latter. When they announced the intimate Manchester show I’d been given one last chance.  Just the small problem of getting a ticket as thousands attempted to snap up the much sought after briefs. Fortunately the good karma ticket god was in a generous mood and I managed to bag one after wearing out the F5 key on my keyboard.  Ticket buying for these type of shows is way too stressful.

Fast forward 6 weeks or so and after a stop/start journey down from Glasgow I join a lengthy queue that snakes round the Albert Hall in Manchester.  There is a real sense of expectation in the air as we slowly filter into the venue itself.  My first visit to this particular venue and although I’d heard good things about it I was blown away.  What a stunning venue.  An old converted church complete with stained glass windows organ pipes behind an unusually high stage with a balcony curling round the sides adding to the intimate setting.  It seemed the perfect fit for an intimate James show.

During the day in the lead up to the show various rumours were flying around about who the special guest was going to be.  Liam Gallagher was the front runner for a while before The Slow Readers Club emerged as the worst kept secret of the day.  Given their friendship with James it wasn’t a big surprise and at 7pm three of the band strolled on stage and started the evening off with a 6 song acoustic set.  I’m not really a fan but I quite enjoyed their slot and it set the evening up nicely.

It was then time for James to arrive on stage for their first set of the evening and in typical James style they don’t take the easy option.  The band has talked about doing a few gigs where they would do an improvised show and allow the audience to see how they they create the music that they do.  So with the assistance of a drum machine Tim, Saul, Jim, Mark and halfway through joined by Andy basically jammed for about 6 or 7 minutes.  Whether anything comes from what they did who knows and it was interesting to see them just play along with no real structure but a full show of it might be pushing it.  I’d still go though and kudos for attempting to do it in front of a live audience.

The band are then joined on stage by a string quartet from the Joe Duddell Orchestra who provided the Orchestra of the Swan and choir for the Evening with James tour in 2011.  No one’s really sure what song the quartet are playing until Tim sings the opening lines to Seven and immediately the audience are in full voice and the evening really begins in earnest.

Tim informs us that the new album is done and we are treated to the first of two new songs in the shape of Mask and along with the other new song that closes this short set, Many Faces, it’s clear the quality of the recent creative flow is showing no signs of dipping.  The first deep cut of the evening is Hello from the Millionaires album and getting a rare outing.  Sadly some folk can’t keep their mouths shut and the chatter in the room is quite noticeable and something which Tim comments on.  It seems to be a trend these days where some gig goers think their conversation is more important than listening to the band or at least letting others listen to them.  A complete lack of respect for gig goer and band alike.

Tim’s introduction to the next song is one of the few times the reason this gig is taking place is mentioned.  He explains that this song helped a lot of people in the aftermath of the attack which took place only a few minutes from this venue.  Sit Down tonight takes on a new meaning and is just a stunning rendition with the addition of the strings and Tim under sings the song giving it more power and resonance with the crowd carrying the powerful emotion along.   All terrorist attacks are deplorable but the attacks on the Bataclan and the MEN Arena take on a special significance to those of us who attend a lot of gigs.  The bottom line is you can’t let these cowards win and stop going to gigs.  Tonight, Sit Down was a song of defiance.

With the second new song completing the short set it was then time for James Allan of Glasvegas.  All I’ll say it was a rather odd set from Allan and maybe in hindsight it wasn’t really the setting for his kind of solo show.  It just didn’t work and had a lot of quizzical looks in the audience.

After a short break the full James ensemble take the stage and their set was the usual James eclectic mix of hits, well known album tracks and some deep cuts.

Opener, To My Surprise, has the audience in full voice as they sing along to the ‘Born an asshole’ chorus before the Indian holler that sets off Born of Frustration which has Andy Diagram out amongst the crowd on the balcony.  James move the show up a gear or two with the dance beat of Curse Curse and Booth makes his first move to the audience as he moves along the front row being held up as he sings before lying on top of the crowd near the end but not quite crowd surfing.

As is James style just as the crowd get going they bring it all back as Play Dead from Whiplash gets a bit of a makeover .  It’s a surprise inclusion but it works brilliantly as does the slower version of How Was It For You that follows it.

The band are in full flow now with another Whiplash song, Tomorrow, giving the crowd the chance to jump around as the venue’s temperature starts to soar.  Interrogation gives us all a chance to catch our breath before the coupling of Moving On and Lost A Friend provide a moment of reflection and real emotion.

Attention then sees Ron Yeadon, who is playing his last gig with the band, get his moment in the spotlight as he trades vocals with Booth before Booth then takes his life in his hands as he goes walkabout during set closer Come Home.  Some of his clambouring around the balcony had fans’ hearts in their mouths but it all added to the event and he made it back to the stage in one piece as the band left the stage with the crowd demanding more.

We didn’t have to wait long as Saul, Jim, Tim and Adrian on cello returned to give us a stripped back version of She’s A Star that they’ve adopted for recent shows.  Adrian’s versatility is shown as he swaps cello for mandolin for Nothing But Love and we know a special night is coming to a close but not before we get one last chance to make ourselves hoarse with the last song of the evening, Sometimes.   It’s the moment band and audience become one for a few minutes as the crowd take up the song’s chorus as the band end the song and sing it back to the band who stand watching from the stage with huge smiles on their faces before picking up the beat again and bringing the night to a thunderous conclusion.  The videos below show Sometimes from different viewpoints.  It was a fantastic end to a brilliant evening

Like a good meal James always leave you wanting more and with a new album on its way and the expected tour dates more is what we’ll get.  I can’t wait.

A special thanks to Andy Petrou and Kristian Williams for giving me permission to use their fantastic videos which capture a unique evening perfectly.  You should check out their video channels on youtube as you’ll get the whole show from different perspectives along with other videos from various gigs.

Andy’s channel is Andrew Petrou

Kristian’s channels is Gigs (KrisLW)

So Long And Thanks For All The Riffs

rick-fag

Rick Parfitt 1948- 2016

I’ve tried several times over the last few weeks to write a tribute piece to Rick Parfitt since his death on December 24th.   Given the significant influence he had on my younger years I didn’t want his passing to go by without comment but I found it very hard to write something that gets across exactly what you want to say without sounding cliched and straying into banal platitudes. Hopefully this does the great man justice.

One of the greatest pleasures in my life was the moment at the start of a Quo show when the intro music, known as ‘The Drone’, started the band walked on stage and Rick Parfitt strapped on his white telecaster, took up his position usually just in front of the amps, legs apart and there was just a split second before he started to thrash out the opening chords to Caroline.  That moment never failed to get the hairs on my arms standing to attention and was the prelude to me strapping on my air guitar and into full on head banging mode.  Ask anyone who has been with me to a Quo show.  You didn’t really want to stand beside me when a Quo classic was on as I entered my own little world, lost in the power of the music.

rick

I learned of Parfitt’s death as I was coming out of the cinema on Xmas Eve, I checked my phone and saw the news headline ‘Rick Parfitt, Quo guitarist, dead at 68’.  My heart sank and I just stopped in my tracks not quite believing what I was reading.  Luckily my wife and son had gone to the bathroom and didn’t see that I had become quite emotional and I had some time to try and compose myself.  It’s kind of weird that the death of someone you never met can have such an effect on you but Rick Parfitt was quite simply my first rock star hero and has been for nearly 40 years.  Of all the icons who died in 2016 this was the one I felt the most.

Parfitt’s hero status was gained or rather confirmed back in May 1979 when as a young naïve 14-year-old I rolled up to the Glasgow Apollo to see the mighty Quo for my first ever gig.  All thanks to the son of one of my mum’s friends who had procured a pair of freebie tickets because he worked at the hotel Quo were staying in.  How he persuaded my parents to let me go I’ll never know but eternal gratitude.  The Apollo itself smelt terrible, its décor was horrific, the bouncers were big and scary and the stage was 15ft high.  I totally fell in love.

585f06b189ae5_7982

Quo were phenomenal and simply blew me away.  It was the classic Frantic Four line up and it was rock music at its rawest and I came out of the show desperate for more Quo, live music and was the reason that over 37 years later I’ve been to nearly 800 live gigs including nearly 60 Quo shows.

That night it was also the 30th birthday of Francis Rossi and if memory serves Parfitt was wearing a white Bauer t-shirt with blue stars on it (This may have been a later tour).  With his long blonde hair, he looked every inch the rock god and I just loved the way he played guitar with such a ferocity and intensity.  I never ever lost that awe of seeing Parfitt play and where possible I always tried to make sure I was at his side of the stage at any Quo show.

94166086

The odd thing is since the 80s I’ve always had this strange love/hate relationship with Quo.  I absolutely love the music they produced during the 70s and up to around 82/83 but when the Frantic Four line up gradually split up leaving Rossi and Parfitt to play under the Quo banner the recorded output thereafter left a lot to be desired as their music became, to me, a watered down version of what made them great.  Despite that I still went to see them live to hear the classics and watch Parfitt play guitar.

sfa008002298

When the Frantic Four line up got back together in 2013 to do a short run of dates I was in absolute dreamland and did 5 nights in a week, 2 in Glasgow and 3 in London.  I never thought I’d get to see that line up play again and it was the icing on the cake that they decided to do it again a year later in 2014.  Although this time after a back op I was restricted to 2 Glasgow shows and even then medical advice thought it maybe wasn’t the best idea but nothing was going to stop me and I even managed to get out my seat for a few songs.  It’s quite difficult headbanging sitting down.  I had planned on doing another 4 shows or more until the surgery intervened.  Seeing the four together again after so many years was enough to bring a tear to a glass eye.  Parfitt himself seemed to particularly enjoy these shows as this was the music Quo were meant to play.  He was always a rocker at heart and these shows seemed to re-vitalise him as Quo dusted off some classics not heard for many a year.

All in all it is probably remarkable that Parfitt kept playing live for so long after quadruple by-pass surgery in 1997, a throat cancer scare in 2005 and 3 heart attacks over the years which would probably have seen most people retire and take it easy. On reflection the fact that he was still able to get up on stage and perform the way he did was quite a feat.  He put everything into a show and is up there beside Malcolm Young as one of the greatest ever rhythm rock guitarists.  I’d say he was the best but then I might be slightly biased.

status-quo-live-bob-young-archive

When I heard he’d had his 3rd heart attack in June last year I just knew then that I had seen my last Quo show with Parfitt and at that point I just hoped he’d recover enough to live a long and happy life.  Optimistically I wished he’d maybe recover enough to do the shows in December so we could say our farewells but it wasn’t to be.  I did go and see Quo with stand in guitarist Ritchie Malone in July as I had already bought tickets but it wasn’t the same and with Rick not in his rightful place it was felt all kinds of wrong.  I left the venue thinking that I had seen Quo for the last time.  I even had a front row ticket for their December Glasgow show that I ended up getting a refund after it was confirmed Parfitt wasn’t going to play.  I did head down on the night to see if I could pick up a mega cheap ticket as I reckoned it was probably the best Quo tribute act going but it wasn’t to be and I’m glad as it was a few days later Rick left us and I would have felt in some daft way that I’d cheated on him.

In the end Rick’s love of the rock n roll lifestyle finally caught up with him but what a life he lived and the adage ‘It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years’ should probably be applied in his case.  He lived large parts of his life to excess and lived the rock n roll dream but like many others have found there is a price to be paid at the other end.

rick_28

With the news after his death that Parfitt had plans to write a book with a supporting Q&A tour to promote it and also record with former Quo colleagues Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan he clearly had a lot to look forward to but sadly none of these plans will now come to fruition.

Fortunately, I’ve still got the records to remember Rick by and they’ve been getting a fair old blasting in the last few weeks. Parfitt was responsible for some of my favourite ever songs such as Rain, 45 Hundred Times, Mystery Song, Big Fat Mama among many others, but nothing will replace the sight of Parfitt in full flight live on stage.  That simple pleasure now consigned to the memory banks, DVDs and you tube videos.

rick-avatar

Richard John Parfitt, you rocked my world and life will never be quite the same again.  Thanks for the music and the memories.

That’s How You Exit Stage Left

2016-10-27-19-49-39

Augustines – St Lukes Oct 27th 2016

My first trip to one of Glasgow’s newer music venues and I have to say I like it.  It’s description  as the Oran Mor of the east is quite apt.  Hopefully a few more bands that I like will choose this setting for their gigs.

Sadly it was also to be the first and last time I will see Augustines.  They have decided to call it a day after three excellent albums citing financial reasons in the current music business climate.  It’s an absolute travesty after witnessing one of the best concerts I’ve seen this year.  How a band this good can’t make a living doing the thing they do best is quite disheartening.  I have to admit the band put on a show that took me completely by surprise.  I had no idea they were this brilliant in concert and left me kicking myself that I hadn’t been to see them before.  If I’d known it was going to be this good I’d have gone to the Liquid Rooms show in Edinburgh the night before as well.  If I win the lottery this weekend I’ll be at Liverpool.

I wasn’t aware of Augustines until Cruel City, from their self titled 2nd album, which was on a CD sampler that came with Classic Rock magazine.  It usually takes something special on these discs for me to notice and this song did just that so I checked out the album and although I liked it at the time I now absolutely love it must have played it 20 times this week alone).  I added them to the ‘bands to see live’ list and when I saw they were doing their final tour I had to see them.

I really wasn’t quite sure what to expect but as the lights went down you could sense the atmosphere change and the out pouring of affection and devotion as the band sauntered onto the stage was a real moment between the band and its fans. I almost felt as if I’d gatecrashed someone else’s party.  There was a feeling of celebration in the air and everyone was there to enjoy the band one final time.

2016-10-27-20-10-56

I remember one of the main things that struck me about the band when I first started listening to them was the singer’s voice.  A voice full of passion, depth and emotion that just reached inside you the way that only music can.  Live though his voice is just incredible, singer, guitarist and frontman Billy McCarthy stood at the front of the stage without a microphone and sang The Avenue without the aid of any amplification.  It was just breathtaking and hairs on the back of the neck stood to attention and not for the last time during the show.  I was just stunned, I wasn’t expecting this and at that moment I realised we were in for a special night.  They had set the bar pretty high after one song and it rarely dipped below that level over the next 2 hours.

The highlights were many.  The set comprised mainly of the first two albums with almost all the songs from both played.  The sound was excellent and the between song banter from McCarthy was entertaining.  He’s an engaging frontman and careered around the stage in between singing and must have lost a fair few lbs as the venue was sweltering.  The band seemed genuinely taken aback by the crowd reaction and were clearly feeling the emotions as they are now only a few dates away from it all coming to an end.

2016-10-27-21-04-56

If I had to pick out the moments it would be the beautiful Walkabout with the piano intro before the guitar and drums slowly come in and make it a completely different beast before it dissolves away to finish like it started with only the piano,  the emotion charged Now You Are Free, McCarthy coming out and doing Weary Eyes and Landmine solo at the start of the encores and the final song Cruel City which had a sea of hands raised as if in thanks at the chorus and if they didn’t already have me by then, which they did, I was a fully fledged Augustines fan after that.

2016-10-27-21-27-07

They are not a one man band either.  McCarthy may be the main focus but it’s tight trio and occasionally a four piece.  Drummer Rob Allan plays a perfect accompanying beat, Eric Sanderson switches between instruments and also got the crowd to do some communal meditative breathing exercise, it was that kind of night.  For the majority of the night they were also joined by a trumpet player whose name I didn’t catch.  Far from being a bit part player he seemed as much a part of the band as anyone.

I left the venue on a high of the post gig buzz but it was tinged with sadness and regret as well. Sadness that a band this good can’t make a living doing what they do best.  Regret that I never got a chance to enjoy this band live before.  But if you are going to give it up then you may as well go out in style and Augustines did this and then some.

2016-10-27-21-58-33

As I made my way home I joined a train full of Justin Bieber fans and it reminded me how fickle and unfair the music business is.  Before I get into a full music snob rant I accept there is a place for the manufactured pop rubbish like Bieber but in an ideal world there should be a place for Augustines as well.  There are enough crap bands we can do without losing the good ones.

Some videos from this tour below.

Week 20: Bruce Springsteen

cover

Born In The USA

It’s probably one of my more bizarre associations but Springsteen’s Born in the USA album always reminds me of our first family VHS video recorder.  It wasn’t our first video recorder though.  People remember the video format battle being between VHS and Betamax but there was a third format that if it had been a little or probably a lot more reliable could have been a contender.  This was back in the day where most people rented their TVs and video recorders from the likes of Radio Rentals.  TVs weren’t that reliable so it paid to just rent and call out an engineer when it stopped working which in my memory it did on a regular basis.  It also allowed you to keep up with the changing technology like getting a remote control.

For some reason Radio Rentals were pushing a different video format backed by Phillips and Grundig called the V2000.  The big advantage this format had over its rivals was the ability to record on both sides of the tape like a standard music cassette which doubled the capacity and allowed a recording time of 6 or 8 hours depending on the size of the tape.  At that point VHS could only do 3.   This was before VHS brought out machines which could do something called long play which meant you could get 6 hours on a 3 hour tape which they did by slowing down the recording speed.  They also eventually brought out 4 hour tapes that could record 8 hours using long play.

v2000

So the big selling point for the V2000, pictured above, was the increased capacity available which was all well and good but the machines were completely unreliable and I think over the time we had them it was away getting fixed more than it worked which was a shame as the quality of picture was far superior to VHS.  My dad is a big film buff so he saw the advantage of all that increased capacity but eventually he gave in and got the much more reliable VHS which by this time had the option of long play and that finally sold it so my dad and it was cheerio to the V2000.

And the whole point of that story is this conversion to VHS coincided with the release of the Born In The USA album and Springsteen getting plenty of TV time including one particular programme, an Old Grey Whistle Test Special about the album which included some live footage and that, my friends, became the very first thing I recorded on the our new VHS video machine.  I think I still have the tape somewhere.

usa2

I have to admit I’m mainly a Springsteen tourist although a little bit more than just a greatest hits type of fan.  He is one of those artists you can throw yourself into but despite being a huge admirer of him I’ve never immersed myself fully in his music unlike some of my friends who know the rarest of tracks and can pinpoint how rare a live outing for any of his songs are.  I just don’t have the time and dedication for that kind of devotion given my other musical obsessions but I can’t  help but admire it.

Springsteen has an aura and authenticity that surrounds him that so many of the current music acts whose manufactured personas would crumble under any kind of detailed scrutiny,  would die for.  Springsteen like all the great singer/songwriters of our time can tell a story from the viewpoint of the protagonist and its this ability that has gained such a massive and dedicated fan base over the years. People understand and feel his lyrics on a day to day basis.  He understands the fight of the common man because he is one despite his undoubted riches and accompanying fame and fortune.  He has somehow managed to continue to understand the trials and tribulations and the hardship that people go through on a daily basis.

13835_2

Oddly, despite BITUSA being his most successful album it is probably the most divisive among the Springsteen community.  This was the album that propelled him from arenas to stadiums and I guess many Springsteen fans felt they had lost him to the masses at that point. Possibly a bit of a selfish stance to take but one I can sympathise with as many bands I’ve loved have been swallowed up by the success of reaching the arena or stadium circuit and have become shadows of the band I originally fell in love with.  To Springsteen’s credit he still has the ability to this day to release some very good albums although occasionally a bit of quality control wouldn’t go amiss, much like Neil Young.  Sometimes less is more.

BITUSA though is for me just a great album that was right place, right time. It was packed full of immediately accessible and memorable songs. Lyrics that meant something and told stories so many could relate to. It was a time when America was looking at itself in a different way. The Cold War with the USSR was coming to an end as glasnost and Gorbachev changed the Iron Curtain forever.  America was trying to come to terms with the fall out of the Vietnam war, Reagan politics was devastating small and large American towns as communities who were reliant on one large business to supply employment had to watch as these businesses closed down or moved away and left behind shattered towns some of which have never recovered.

Legendary rock star and icon Bruce Springsteen performs during his "Born in the U.S.A." tour in Philadelphia

Springsteen touched the zeitgeist perfectly on this album as a similar scenario was taking place in the UK as Thatcher’s all out attack on the unions and the working man in the UK was also taking place. Whole mining communities were left devastated along with steel workers, car builders and anyone else who had stood up to the destruction being wrought across the land as Thatcher pursued policies designed to break the spirit of the proud working man. Springsteen’s lyrics easily crossed continents and communities.

We had the title track that dealt with Vietnam and a damning commentary on those who were left to deal with the aftermath in a country that preferred to forget the war took place and the shameful way their veterans were treated.  Bizarrely many US politicians have used this song as some kind of patriotic rallying call and clearly have never read or understood the lyrics or are completely lacking in irony.

Familiar Springsteen subjects like road songs (Darlington County), nostalgia (My Hometown, Glory Days) and of course boy meets girl (Dancing in the Dark, Bobby Jean) litter an album that produced seven hit singles from the albums twelve tracks.

bruce-springsteen-1984-billboard-1548

The album also came out when MTV was making the music video the must have accompaniment for any single release.  This saw Dancing in the Dark doing the unthinkable and rivalling Born to Run as his most famous song. The video also famously had Friends star Courtney Cox in pre Friends days joining Springsteen on stage.  With so many singles released Springsteen was on regular rotation on the video channels and this all added to the subsequent rise in popularity and the inevitable stadium tours.

Despite this massive popularity though Springsteen has always come across as a very down to earth normal guy given his fame.  No doubt some of this is part of his PR persona but this is a difficult act to portray for any length of time.  He seems to me the kind of guy you would happily go for a pint with and just talk about normal every day things.

brucespringsteen_84

His live shows are justifiably legendary clocking in at 3 hours plus and the energy and passion shown by Springsteen and his E Street band would shame bands half their age. It took me until Dublin in 2003 before I witnessed him live with another 4 shows since then including a memorable evening at Hyde Park in 2009 when my wife was around 6 months pregnant so going down the front wasn’t an option so we got ourselves a blanket and sat in front of one of the big screens and got a close up view of proceedings.  This is normally something I absolutely hate massive outdoor shows for but on this day it was just perfect.  A beautiful sunny evening, a great crowd, a few beers and Bruce providing the soundtrack. I’ll never forget the brilliant rendition of Racing in the Streets which silenced a massive Hyde Park crowd.  I also saw close up the love Springsteen had for the ‘Big Man’, Clarence Clemons who clearly wasn’t in the best of health.  Springsteen shows haven’t been quite the same since he left us.  It was just a great show by a great performer surrounded by a great band.

I have many pals and also my doctor who are massive Springsteen fans and who travel all over the place to see him. My doc goes to Australia, the US and mainland Europe to see his idol.  I usually forget why I’m there as we chat about music for most of the time.  My old friend Craig, who will get many mentions in these blogs as he was my main accomplice in discovering new music, his particular obsession was collecting Bruce bootlegs which at the last count numbered over 400 and I thought I was bad with over 200 Pearl Jam bootlegs.  Later in life I met one of a number of Paul Smiths I now know who is also a huge fan and I asked him to give me his view on the album that split a fan base.

Over to Paul.

I first heard Bruce Springsteen when I worked in Listen Records in Cambridge St, Glasgow. An American lad , who was backpacking round Europe, worked alongside me for a while, and played The Wild, The Innocent and The E St Shuffle one day, telling anyone who’d listen that this guy Bruce was “Awesome”, It didn’t really leave a mark on me at the time, as I was still hooked on the Bowie/Roxy thing. The next time I heard Bruce, Johnny Walker was playing the single Born to Run on Radio 1. He played it twice in a row. I was completely hooked. I bought the Born to Run album on release day, and have been a fanatic Bruce fan since.

Born in the USA was a game changer.

Bruce had returned from the highly successful 1981 River Tour of Europe with his eyes opened to the outsiders view of the USA, through the experiences of being in Europe and his own reading, which included The History of The United States of America.

He settled into his rented house in Colt’s Neck, New Jersey to write about his experiences and his feelings about his homeland. He also wanted to demo his new songs so that he could save studio time when the Band started to record. The sessions were extensive, and the untouched four track demos became the stark, genre defining Nebraska album. The songs recorded, but not used for Nebraska, included Born in the USA, which was the only new song that was improved when the band recorded it. Many of the E Streeters say it was their greatest moment in the studio, and the very first take would ultimately surface as the title track of Bruce’s next record.

Born in the USA was a huge rock record. It benefited massively from the rise of MTV and the recent invention of CD. The lead single , Dancing in the Dark, became an enormous radio/tv hit, with it’s cheesy video putting Bruce in the public eye like never before.

This didn’t sit all that well with the old , hardcore fans, and as the BITUSA album spawned 7 top 10 singles Stateside , and dance re-mixes by Arthur Baker of Cover Me and Dancing in the Dark compounded the feeling that Bruce had “sold out”.
The World tour which followed moved Bruce from Arenas to Stadiums overnight, with the attendant hangers-on, and the general consensus was that we had lost Bruce to the masses.

The songs on BITUSA told a different story though, and even President Reagan was able to mis-interpret the title songs savage attack on the post Vietnam USA , and used the somewhat jingoistic chorus as a rallying call to Republicans. Bruce, to his credit, didn’t miss, and onstage said ” I hear the President was listening to my records. I guess it wasn’t this one” before launching into Johnny 99 from Nebraska.

Born in the USA became an easy target for long term fans, as it elevated Bruce to worldwide superstardom, and seemingly stole the real Bruce in the process. Songs that were left off the finished record, including masterpieces like Murder Inc, Frankie and This Hard Land became undergound fan favourites, while the more obvious hit list of Dancing in the Dark, Cover Me, Bobby Jean, My Hometown and BITUSA itself became ubiquitous radio fodder.

In hindsight, and with over 30 years distance between , BITUSA was a defining record in Bruce’s canon. He shied away from the publicity in its wake, and became the writer/performer we have witnessed over the years that followed. Most fans learned to live with the impact, and would now acknowledge the BITUSA album as something of a classic.

Seems Paul and I have similar thoughts on the BITUSA period and how it affected Bruce and his fans. Many thanks to Paul for contributing his thoughts.

I doubt there are many who will read this who aren’t familiar with a lot of the songs from BITUSA but I’ve put in my top 5 below for your listening pleasure.

Cheesey video alert.

See you on week 21.

Loud, Very Very Loud

Poster 2

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Edinburgh Playhouse August 10th 2016

Yet another trip through to Edinburgh for a gig and also the first time since Neil Young 8 years ago I’ve been to the Playhouse.  It’s a shame it has become the venue for ‘shows’ rather than bands as it is real old school and retains a charm few venues have these days.  Tonight’s show was part of the Edinburgh Fringe programme and I’ll be returning to this venue in a few weeks to see Mogwai and hopefully my hearing will have returned.

Tonight though it was Godspeed You! Black Emperor who played their brand of post-rock, experimental rock, instrumental rock or whatever genre you want to place them in.  I’m a relatively recent convert to the GYBE camp.  They appeared on my radar not long after Mogwai but two bands who I wish had I had heard of a lot sooner.

band 1

Having battled traffic to get through from Glasgow I was sure I would miss the beginning of the show but luck was with me as the gig started almost as soon as I sat down.  GYBE aren’t your normal band. On stage they consist of 3 guitarists, 2 bass players, 2 drummers and a violinist and they all amble onto the stage at various points of the first piece of music and create an almighty racket.  GYBE play loud, very loud.  They play in almost complete darkness, they have a screen behind showing films that don’t really show anything much, some footage of buildings, trains etc. they form a semi circle round the stage with no one in the middle and the guitarist in front of me was sitting down with his back to the audience, they don’t interact with the crowd apart from a half hearted farewell wave from a few members at the end as they troop off one by one, it’s odd but it works.

band 2

It’s an aural assault on your senses, their music makes you anxious, uneasy, on edge, euphoric.  It’s a heady mix and you don’t get to relax at a GYBE show. The music builds and builds until at times you feel as if all 8 members are playing different tunes before it all comes back together creating a massive wall of sound before slowly dying away leaving you feeling slightly violated.  Unlike most bands I go and see I couldn’t tell you the names of any of the musicians on stage or indeed any of the pieces of music they played although I did recognise the music.  I think though that is part of the whole experience, at least for me.  I’m sure plenty of folk know the titles and who the band are though.  It’s fairly challenging music that over 1hr and 45 mins leaves you feeling quite drained.

I loved it.

It was probably the loudest gig I’ve been to this year at least it will be until Mogwai probably.

Poster

Week 19: Steve Earle

Guitar town cover exit o cover

Guitar Town/Exit O

I can vividly recall the very first time I heard Steve Earle, although on first listen I thought it might be John ‘Cougar’ Mellencamp.  I was in Lost Chord, a famous 2nd hand record shop in Glasgow’s West End, Park Road to be exact.  This was the proverbial oasis for a record buyer and many a gem I picked up there after hours of flicking through the albums.  When you came across something you really wanted your pulse quickened and you couldn’t wait to get home and and play it.

My friend Craig and I had a routine that involved visiting Listen/Joe Bloggs in Union St,  23rd Precinct in Bath St, underground to Kelvinbridge for Lost Chord then a walk over to Byres Road to visit Lost in Music in De Courcy’s Arcade and Echo in Byres Road itself.  We also occasionally included the Record Exchange that had a shop at the bottom of Oswald St and another in Shawlands but it was always a bit on the expensive side for our pockets.  Other record shops came and went and we included those while we also occasionally visited Futureshock a book store that specialised in fantasy and sci-fi books, comics etc.  I was an avid reader of the fantasy genre in those days but grew out of them as I got older.

Sadly I think only Lost Chord still exists now although it has passed through a few owners and last time I was in I only stayed a few mins.  I remember the original owner who I think was called Gordon, or at least the guy who owned it when we first went in,  had a son with cerebral palsy and he sold the shop and his house and was going to move to Budapest so he could take his son to the Peto Institute which at the time was leading the way in teaching children with this condition.  Never heard if he actually did go or not but he was a really nice guy and introduced me to a lot of new music.

The aforementioned record shops all contributed to both our growing record collections and in later years added to our cd collections.  In a world before the Internet trying to find that elusive or rare album took a bit of leg work and good old fashioned luck.  The record shops like HMV who only carried new stock didn’t cater for the back catalogues of lesser known artists so 2nd hand record shops could be potential gold mines and each visit would usually unearth a curio that would lead to tape decks being utilised unless we could find two copies. Whoever found the album had first dibs unless the made the school boy error of putting it back when undecided if they were buying it or not.

steve 1

I didn’t buy the Steve Earle album on first listen though but my interest was piqued and on a return a week later the same album was playing, which may have been a coincidence or a clever ploy by the owner, but this time, even though I still thought it was Mr Mellencamp, I purchased Guitar Town without hesitation.    A decision I’ve never ever regretted.  The added bonus as it turned out was that the album was a year old and his 2nd album, Exit-O was also out and it soon was also added to the collection. Two great albums discovered just by browsing in a record shop. Not the first or last time this happened it has to be said.

These two albums are country rock at its finest.  Country music in general isn’t a genre I listen to but Earle brought an anger and realism to the music that was missing in most of the mainstream country music that seemed to have the most contrived and almost laughable lyrics.  Earle was, as one of his song titles declared, An Angry Young Man.  He snarled and spat out his lyrics and his road songs told of the loneliness of being on the road and trying to make it while leaving his family behind.  He also does what all the great singer/songwriters do and tell a great story from someone else’s perspective.  Many of his songs are about the forgotten small town America where the industries and companies that provided employment for a whole town have long since departed or closed down and there was nothing to replace those lost jobs.  He can paint a vivid picture of a depressing and heartbreaking landscape of hopelessness of the America that has largely been forgotten about.

steve 2

To me these albums are companion albums that are the perfect starting point to explore Steve Earle further.  It’s hard to not listen to one album without putting on the other straight after.  Almost 30 years since first hearing Steve I’m still a huge fan and have seen him live over 20 times with both his band or solo acoustic.  Rarely has he failed to deliver a thought provoking show and is as angry today as he was all those years ago.

He’s a man who has lived a life and then some.  Married 7 times, including the same women twice, is currently separated from wife number 7, has 3 children, did some jail time and is a recovering heroin addict who quite frankly really should have been another rock n roll casualty but somehow he pulled himself back from the abyss and has now been on the straight and narrow for about 20 years.  I can highly recommend the book Hardcore Troubadour which tells the story of Steve’s highs and lows and is an excellent story of his life although it can be rather harrowing at times.

steve 4

He’s never scared to tackle political issues in his songs or even as an activist.  He has campaigned all his life for justice be it for farmers, death row in mates, he’s a vocal opponent of the death penalty.  He’s also made the odd TV appearance including a role in the Treme the story about New Orleans in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina and the struggles that were taking place.  He also appeared in the Wire among other TV shows.

After these two albums Steve left his country roots behind and moved more into being a rock artist with albums The Hard Way and Copperhead Road with the latter’s title track bringing him his most successful moment.  Like all the great singer/songwriters though he can switch between electric and acoustic without pausing for breath.  The last couple of times I’ve seen him once was with a full band and before that he was on his own where he didn’t even have any road crew or personnel with him and all he carried was a mandolin and a guitar around with him from gig to gig.  He really is one of the last of a dying breed of true road artists.

steve 3

In my opinion Earle is up there with Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan as one of the greatest singer/songwriters of his generation.  He may not have had the success of those mentioned but his songs more than deserve to be acclaimed alongside those of his contemporaries.

Guitar Town

Exit O

See you on week 20.