Category Archives: Gigs

Last minute Fratellis… and now that I've recovered from Sunday night….

A chance look at the Birmingham Academy gig listings yesterday afternoon showed that the sold out Fratellis gig last night I’d forgotten about was no longer sold out…

It’s been a while since I’ve been to two gigs in as many days and the Fratellis had a lot to live up to (have a look at my previous post).  So what was it like?

I’ve come away a little disappointed.  I certainly wouldn’t call the Fratellis one of my favourite artists (as I would Portishead), neither would I have said that they were bad but they simply lacked the quality songs I was expecting.  The new album sounds disappointing as did some of the tracks from their debut.  Moreover, they didn’t sound better live: I would have got more listening to the record at the pub.

I should also say something about the crowd: there were plenty of people at the Academy who wouldn’t look out of place at a football match and some of the crowd singing wasn’t much better.  And that sums up the band all to well: some good singles but they’ll need to release a lot of material before they’ve got a really good live set, yet they seem to attract a huge following that I believe is a little undeserved.

Going back to Sunday, the crowd couldn’t have been much different.  Under 30s were definitely in the minority and there were plenty of older hippy people watching Portishead: not that there weren’t any older people at the Fratellis, but there was the usual mix of fashionistas and people who wouldn’t look out of place in Skins, a demographic in the minority on Sunday.

Perhaps I’m just getting old but I’m able to reinforce my opinion that most bands that have launched careers in the last few years simply aren’t as good yet are able to gain huge followings.  Admittedly being in the mosh pit for Chelsea Dagger was special but the final 4 minutes didn’t make up for what was a rather disappointing gig.

As for Portishead on Sunday…. well I can’t decide whether it is the best live performance I’ve seen but it’s certainly up there.

The crowd reaction was also rather telling… after every Portishead track, it felt as though the band were being given a standing ovation just for being there (not surprising being their first your in eleven years).  And last night?  Far more screaming but the applause didn’t last as long.  More notable was the number of people at the back who thought that talking through the entire set was fine, which really annoys me: surely the point of seeing live music is to actually listen to it?

Which also brings me back to Sunday: Portishead have a very different sound so this comparisson is a little unfair but during one of their quieter songs people weren’t afraid to show their distaste at people talking… made me feel like I was back in school as a five year old!

So was it worth it?  I suppose it was, especially for something so last minute (I bought my tickets at 4pm with the doors opening just 3 hours later) but only for the one time and I doubt I’l bother seeing the Fratellis live again, an opinion I hadn’t expected to reach.

All of this makes me wonder whether it’s worth seeing other newer bands like the Kooks, the Klaxons… from past experiences of Razorlight and the Killers, both are far better on record than they are live and I can now include the Fratellis in the same group.  Something tells me that my mass/mainstream gig days are somewhat numbered…

Portishead in Wolverhampton

I’ve just got home after seeing Portishead play at the Wolves Civic. To cut a long story short, it was quite simply one of the best gigs I’ve been to… if not the best ever: unsurprising for a band who haven’t done a tour of any kind for 11 years and have only played a handful of gigs in the last few years (as in one hand is enough to count them).

There was a good balance between new and old material, and considering that the new album (Third) is very different to their previous two albums, it still worked, even if it is perhaps a more mainstream sound (certainly within the Trip-Hop genre, Smoke City come to mind).

A slight disappointment was Wandering Star, certainly more emotional than the album version but the stripped down live version didn’t work for me. And I struggle to forgive the band not playing Strangers, my favourite track. But Cowboys (one of the few tracks from the 2nd album played), Glory Box, Numb, Roads and Sour Times more than made up for that, completely different live and simply astounding music to listen to.

Overall though it was nothing short of special and a band that I’d recommend to anyone if you get the chance to see them live… though I advise a few drinks before they take to the stage (at least enough to make you tipsy!).

Hopefully we won’t have to wait quite as long for the forth album!

THIRD Portishead album

It’s been a long time coming too… not quite so long a wait for me but even so it’s still been a long enough wait.

I first heard Portishead sometime around 2001 or 2002, through a car ad that featured one of their tracks (Numb from Dummy as it turned out).  Since then I’ve immersed myself in the genre of Trip-Hop and now own more than 35 hours worth of music that fits my loose definition of the genre…

But I always wondered whether there would be a third Portishead album, especially after I started a Trip-Hop radio show on BurnFM.com in 2005. In the three years I ran the show (under various names) there’s been at least one major release from the major exponents of the genre and I’ve managed to see most of the bands that define the genre of Trip-Hop: specifically Massive Attack, Zero 7 and Kosheen.

Back in 2005, Portishead announced that they were writing a third album, after countless forum postings suggesting it would happen. I tried (and failed) to get tickets for the Tsunami benefit concert in Bristol… but now I’ve got tickets to see them on April 13th in Wolverhampton.

As for the album… it’s released on April 28th, eleven years since their second album, the self-titled Portishead (I’m not counting the live CD from 1998) I’ve heard a few tracks, certainly a different sound but clearly based on the old foundations… can’t wait for next Sunday!

SFA OK!

Time for another post on the bands I’ve seen recently.

Since my last post on the artists I’ve seen live, I’ve managed to see Groove Armada, Underworld, I’m From Barcelona and the Super Furry Animals.

Starting with the 1st, I’m from Barcelona were brilliant. Along with the Kazoo orchestra (they were selling them along with the usual merchandise), they clearly do balloons and confetti far better than the Flaming Lips have ever managed. And the music was really good too!

Underworld and Groove Armada were both brilliant (though the Armada did abuse the bass far too much) and the new material for both bands really held up against the songs that everyone knows. Underworld pulled off a masterstroke by ending with Jumbo, possibly my favourite ever song (and a set that lasted over 2 hours the only occasion that’s happened since the very first band I saw, Blur in 1999). And I left Groove Armada having seen a light show far superior to the Chemical Brothers best efforts.

But nothing compares to a Super Furry Animals gig. This, being the seventh time I’ve seen them play live in seven years, meant that there were unlikely to be any surprises…

… how wrong I was to think that! Along with playing a Welsh language track in Birmingham (a rarity), they also ended with the final track from their 1999 Guerilla LP. It certainly ended as a very different concert to those that I’m used to and the new album (now I’ve listened to it fully) is much better than the last two releases.

Sadly though, they have probably reached the peak of their career. I’ve seen them three times in the Birmingham Academy and on every occasion it has been far from full (probably half the full capacity last month). And it really annoys me that new bands are breaking through and are receiving more recognition for work that is, in my opinion, lacking the flair and inventiveness of all these four bands (of which only I’m from Barcelona formed this millennium, which leaves me thinking that the 90’s was a superior decade for music). Clearly, people aren’t as prepared to experiment with the music they listen to as I thought, though I’d like to be proven wrong.

Kosheen & some music ramblings of the electro variety

Wednesday night I made the small trek to the Academy 2 to see Kosheen in Birmingham.

Kosheen are one of the few bands I define as Trip-Hop (downtempo Electronic), though it was obvious that there were plenty of Drum & Bass aficionados there.  So it was a gig I’d been awaiting with anticipation: it’s rare for a band to combine what are now my two favourite genres of music.

Tellingly they played fewer tracks from the 2nd album  (The single “All In My Head” and album track “Wish” were the only ones I remember), with the majority from the new album and their debut.  Which made me very happy: there’s little about Kokopelli to get excited about, in my opinion it’s a typical indie album with little of interest.

Which is why the tracks from Resist stand out: it’s the perfect blend of Drum & Bass saturated with the subtle Trip-Hop vibes that define the Bristol sound that has been the mainstay of my radio shows for the last 12 months on BurnFM.com

The big surprise is that the entire room were dancing to the big tracks: “Hide U” was bizarrely played half way through the set (the obvious encore track) and “Catch” showed that the majority of the crowd were there for the D&B.

However their new material takes the band in a different direction: in my opinion it’s the direction that is Electro-Indie.  It worked very well (perhaps not as well as Cansei De Ser Sexy have managed, who made the genre their own) but it’s still a distinctive sound.

Which is why Kosheen are a unique band and should be one to see at least once; if only for Sian Evans and her dancing which carries the performance to a higher level. To me it appeared the male band members would have been happier if they could have disappeared into darkness and just made the music.  Not that it mattered as Sian was certainly making the most of the stage and her presence made it seem like she was dancing for all the people on stage.  So in terms of the performance it would make sense to have said “Sian Evans with Kosheen (aka the backing band),” as that was the impression I was left with.  But it’s easy to disregard the actual music, which was fantastic when it came from the debut and future albums: you can find out when the album is released in June or the next tour in the Autumn.

Will I see Kosheen again: probably but not without good reason.  They were, until last night, one of the few bands I wanted to see and hadn’t. 

Which is shown by my gig wall, the place where I keep all the ticket stubs from gigs I’ve been to (they go back to 2004).  The last five before Kosheen (most recent first) are Faithless, Massive Attack, Basement Jaxx (with support from CSS), Primal Scream (supported by The View) and Lordi.  That says more about my music taste than the music I’ve bought. 

So what of the previous gigs? Lordi were surprisingly impressive (as was the old male horde of headbangers) but their support (Turisas, who are apparetly “folk-metal”) stole the show with the “violin solo” which was an impressive use of amplification and skill to turn violin into guitar.  The reason I went: simply because I could, they won Eurovision (which I will be watching Saturday) and the tickets were fairly cheap. And yes, they did wear the masks.

Primal Scream were good at the time in November but I now think of it as an OK gig: their older songs were fantastic but was lacking the extravagance that the other bands I’ve mentioned have in abundance.

Which is why Basement Jaxx (and CSS), Massive Attack and Faithless showed stand out. I’ve already covered Faithless and my opinion of the Basement Jaxx gig is pretty much the same (combining Fedde Le Grand and Bodyroc midway through the set was by far the highlight, with the costme changes being a close second)  And I can say the same about Massive Attack, near perfection with the performance and a very different sound to the albums.

Which was the problem with Kosheen; it did sound as though they were rying to duplicate the album sound, which they did.  But it therefore lacked the spark of a live performance, which is why I’ll probably wait until after the next album is released before I see them again.

As for my music tastes… they certainly have changed in four years since I left school.  The majority of indie albums have been really poor.

There’s also the fact that the average age at all six gigs I’ve mentioned was well above 30, which makes for a nicer experience.  And buying tickets from eBay isn’t bad either, especially considering that I’ve not paid more than £5 over face value for a pair of tickets.  Which I can’t say about bands like the Artic Monkeys or Maximo Park; swarms of teenagers paying over the odds for tickets means that I won’t be making any effort to see them and wil instead be saving my money for Global Gathering!

Faithless at the NIA

So after a quick purchase on eBay last week I went to the NIA last Wednesday to see Faithless.

Things got interesting immediately when I found 4 random people getting lost. Having pointed them to the door I ended up spending the night with them.  They had come up from London with the plan of going to Broad Street afterwards then sleeping at New Street until the 1st train back… rather them than me!

As it turned out I ended up going to Snobs.

Back to the topic – once again Faithless produced a fantastic set (this being the 4th Faithless gig I’ve seen in 2 1/2 years).  There were some obvious songs that weren’t played, mainly Miss U Less, See U More and there were 4 songs that were proper mixes of 2 Faithless songs (the best being Machines R Us and Emergency).  Predictably they ended with Salvea Mea, probably the best song to close a dance set with.

As always Insomnia was played as the 2nd song and got the crowd moving.

It has to be said though that their new album (To All New Arrivals) isn’t their best work and some of the songs didn’t work well live so it wasn’t the best Faithless concert I’ve seen.  But they’re still worth seeing at least once if you can afford the £25 ticket price.

So another fantastic night, proven by my legs being numb from the knees down for the majority of last Thursday, not helped by the severe hangover inflicted by Snobs vodka.

 Roll on the next one!