Archive for the ‘ MUSIC ’ Category


PJ Harvey

Marching onto the stage against a minimalist but effective backdrop with stark lighting a lone, slight female figure amongst a ten piece male band, PJ Harvey stands holding a big saxophone and in possession of an even bigger voice intones the opening number Chain Of Keys.
From this atmospheric opener she proceeds to launch in and out of last year’s’ The Hope Six Demolition Project’ album interspersed with favourites from her impressive back catalogue.
An imperious Ministry of Self Defence follows the subtle opener and ramps the ante up and we are off on a journey which brings in a percussive and pulsing The Wheel, the melancholy of Ether and White Chalk, the crunching 50 ft Queenie, the murky blues of To Bring You My Love, the political Words That Maketh Murder and This Glorious Land then rounds it all off with a dreamy, persuasive River Anacostia before returning for an encore.
Fronting the ten piece band Harvey cuts a diminutive and ethereal figure shrouded in black feathers. The band themselves are faultless and provide an excellent soundscape for her to paint her songs onto. Make no mistake this is as much theatre as it is a rock concert.
Focussing solely on her performance Harvey only speaks once during this one hour forty minute show and only then to introduce the band, including the ever-present John Parrish and long time collaborator Mick Harvey.
The music speaks for itself however and last night proved that she is one of our great musical icons whose talent is overwhelming and can never be under exaggerated. Never afraid to take a left turn in her musical ambitions-2008’s White Chalk is proof of this- the fact she is able to bring such diverse musical styles and turn them into a cohesive whole shows a breadth of vision most artists can only ever dream about.
Definitely a Festival highlight, it was excellent in its execution and profoundly moving in its conclusions. As the last notes died away I felt privileged to have been part of something so special.


The Filthy Tongues / Boots For Dancing
Edinburgh receives a bad rep in terms of live music these days which is due to lack of decent venues, council noise restrictions and apathy on behalf of the punters rather than a shortage of any decent music. This gig however brought the cognoscenti of the Edinburgh scene into the spotlight- as much as a spotlight as is possible in the impossibly dark Liquid Rooms- and anyone who has ever been anyone was in attendance for this gig pairing local legends Boots for Dancing and the newly vitalised Filthy Tongues together in an immaculate pairing.
Unfortunately I missed the opening band Birdhead which is unfortunate as I have been meaning to catch them for some time now.
However from the moment Boots for Dancing hit the stage I was completely captivated. A tight as a gnat’s twat rhythm section in Russell Burn and Colin Whitson perfectly complemented the sublime guitar work of Mike Barclay and ‘Dancing’ Dave Carson’s front-man duties. A too short but perfect set consisting of a mere five songs : Parachute, Hesitate, Ride On, Midnight Moses and Oh Bop/ Boots. It was almost over too soon but still it perfectly whetted appetites for The Filthy Tongues.
A stunning new album to promote- ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ which if you haven’t heard yet then I strongly urge you to do so- the band opened with a storming instrumental that was a statement of intent; this band is on fire and you are about to be scorched in their flames!
Drawing heavily on the new album including the title track, ‘Long Time Dead’ and an emotional ‘Holy Brothers’ their set also included a brooding and menacing version of The Stooges’ ‘Sick of You’ The Mackenzie’s ‘The Rattler’ a rousing and arousing ‘Amsterdam’ and perennial crowd favourite ‘Goodwill City’.
Musically the set was faultless with frontman Martin Metcalfe, bassist Finn Wilson and Derek Kelly providing the core nucleus alongside three other musicians drafted in providing seasoning and colour. Metcalfe in particular proved he is as strong a performer as he ever was and his voice is in finer form than ever.
Definitely a gig highlight of this year- and music has been excellent in this turbulent and tumultuous year of loss and frightening change- it saw an audience united in the fact they were seeing something really rather special.
Goodwill City indeed!


One More Time With Feeling- Nick Cave

‘You’re a cold mist rolling off the sea’ is just one poignant line in ‘Jesus Alone’, the new single by Nick Cave, a song in which heartache drips from every word and sorrow permeates every musical nuance to create an intense work of tragic beauty which leaves his contemporaries floundering at the starting line. It is also however how this Andrew Dominik film, capturing Cave as he records and prepares his new album ‘The Skeleton Tree’,makes us feel as a distinct chill permeates proceedings and envelopes you throughout following the death of his fifteen year old son Arthur last year in tragic circumstances.
It is impossible to separate this film and accompanying album from the context of Cave’s personal grief as it seems to be some part of his artistic grieving process and in complete contrast to his previous film, 20,000 Days On Earth, which was essentially a contrived vanity project as it captures him unguarded and raw; deep in tumult and trying to make sense of the chaos constantly in his head.
At one point he gives possibly the most concise description of loss I have ever heard when he compares it to being like an elastic band which stretches and allows you to move a forward a certain distance only to suddenly pull you right back to the centre of the heartache forcing you to try to move forward all over again.
I can’t imagine anyone seeing this film would not be aware of the tragedy that lies at its core and in the scenes his wife, former model Susie Bick, and Arthur’s twin brother Earl appear it becomes clear that is this is very much a family pulling together to try to deal with a situation no family should ever have to go through. A scene where Susie holds a painting the five year old Arthur had done of the very place he died ten years later is not only heartbreaking but also eerily prescient.
The music is, of course, stunning. I doubt if a record has ever been recorded with its audience knowing so much about the tragic circumstances which surround its genesis. Certainly Cave, looking like a ‘ragged monument’, has confronted his situation head on and this lies in line with the uncompromising stance of his whole career only this time it comes from emotions and situations he no longer has any handle on.
A totally compelling, riveting and emotionally raw film ‘One More Time with Feeling’ deals with emotions we will all have to deal with or have already dealt with at some point in our lives and captures that disconnected, dislocated feeling true sorrow generates. It is a film which will certainly stay with you for sometime after as anyone ever affected by loss can truly relate to its central theme.


Anohni-The Playhouse, Edinburgh
Having already released one of the best albums of the year, Hopelessness, and what also must rate as one of the most cohesive and affecting protest albums of all time Anohni delivers a live show of unparalleled strength, beauty and inventiveness.
Drawing heavily on her New York performance art background and connections, the Hopelessness live outing brings new intrigues and intelligence to rock as theater and in the process creates a live show unlike any other.
Opening with a twenty minute film of Naomi Campbell- admittedly an incongruous choice to promote a performance which centres around the un-justness of the world; a spoilt supermodel who demands diamonds as payment and hits assistants with mobile phones- dancing in a cavernous bunker clad only in a bikini, heels and a hat which resembles the crown of the Statue of Liberty accompanied by a soundtrack which sounded like a crashing wave synthesised with white noise.
Obviously timed to test the audience’s patience, it was only during the last two minutes that a restless edginess set in and people started to talk amongst themselves, they were soon silenced as the instantly recognisable voice of Anohni broke through from out of the darkness and gave a stunning rendition of Hopelessness.
It wasn’t until the second number 4 Degrees that she made her way onto the stage and then all that could be seen was a series of black silhouettes clad in what resembled a burqa crossed with a beekeeper’s outfit.
Obviously never comfortable in the spotlight- her uneasiness was apparent when I saw her before in her previous incarnation of Antony- this is as much of Anohni as will be seen throughout this performance, instead a series of women on a huge screen at the back of the stage mouth the lyrics in perfect synchronicity. It is a highly effective way of getting the lyrics across and their faces bear the pain of the emotional content in the songs. Anohni herself makes only the briefest of appearances on the screen thus letting others present the lyrics for her.
When she does move across the stage it is minimal but highly effective; during the bleak attack of ‘Obama’ she strides back and forward like John Merrick, the Elephant Man, in the David Lynch film.
The music itself is faultlessly performed by Daniel Lopatin and Hudson Mohawke creating banks of sound from either side of the stage to great effect. None of her old repertoire or recordings are aired in this show and there is neither a cello or piano in sight or within earshot; this is a whole new phase of Anohni’s career and one she obviously wishes to stand on its own very impressive merits.
It is a totally innovative show crackling with inventiveness- it does adopt a theme and stick with it but it is an extremely effective theme-and modernity. Definitely one to beat as far as live music goes as it gives the whole genre a brand new context and perspective.


Brian Wilson- Pet Sounds Edinburgh Usher Hall May 26 2016
A grey, miserable and rain-soaked Thursday night in late May in Edinburgh could not be further removed from the sun drenched rays of California and the sunshine harmonies and celestial melodies of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. However the two came together for an evening where the main architect of the classic album ‘Pet Sounds’-which has its 50th anniversary next month- performed his acclaimed masterpiece in its entirety on a tour he has claimed is the last time he will perform it in this way and possibly at the age of 73 and in frail health will likely be his last major tour.
It is hard top believe now considering its exalted status as one of the all time great albums that ‘Pet Sounds’ was largely ignored on its original release baffling the public with its darker themes of heartache and loss as opposed to the happy-go-lucky surfer sounds their audience thought would last forever on a never-ending cycle of fun, fun ,fun!
However time has revealed an album of infinite depth and it stands tall amongst the game changing works of The Beatles and Bob Dylan-‘Revolver’ and ‘Blonde on Blonde’ respectively- also from the extremely fertile year of 1966.
To whet our appetites though Wilson and his band ran through an extremely palatable selection of some of his greatest hits opening with Heroes and Villains and including California Girls, Do It Again, In My Room, Don’t Worry Baby and numerous others. It became obvious quite early on that Wilson’s once angelic voice has been ravaged somewhat by time but the son of fellow founder Beach Boy Al Jardine- also Wilson’s right hand man on stage- Matthew Jardine more than adequately handled the higher notes allowing the songs to soar to the expected and unexpected heights.
The second half though was what most of the audience were here for and the euphoric opening lines of Wouldn’t It Be Nice opened the set to rapturous applause and something approaching reverence. Don’t Cry Put Your Head On My Shoulder, God Only Knows and I Guess I Wasn’t Made for These Times were standouts but in truth every song hit the spot with Wilson making no changes to the original arrangements. I mean after all why would he when they were already impeccable?
The album delivered to anticipated expectations Wilson and his band left the stage but there was no way Edinburgh was going to let him leave the city boundaries without delivering Good Vibrations and he didn’t disappoint by coming back on and launching into this slice of celestial, space age pop perfection that sounds as weird, beautiful and unlike anything else ever as it probably did in 1967.
After this with the audience in his hand he shifted things up a few notches even more with Fun, Fun, Fun, Barbra Ann, Surfin’ USA and a Help Me Rhonda which just about lifted the beautifully gilded roof of the Usher Hall into a different orbit.
By the end of the night all thoughts of the rain outside had dissipated and the smiles apparent on just about every audience member created enough sunshine vibes to make up for the lack of compatible summer weather to marry to the music. In the end the sheer vibrancy of the night , quality of the music and being in the presence of a living legend- in a year when so many heroes and icons have passed- more than made up for any shortcomings the weather failed to deliver. Joyous is the only word to describe the evening!


PJ Harvey-The Hope Demolition Project
This is Polly Harvey’s first album since 2011’s universally acclaimed ‘Let England Shake’ and whilst sonically it uses the templates of that album and extends them-a jazz tinged saxophone is added to the elements- she also draws on the melodic capacity of ‘Stories From the City , Stories From the Sea’ and the muddy blues swap of ‘To Bring You My Love’ all of which rate as her most successful works both artistically and commercially.
However what the new opus lacks is the cohesion of ‘Let England Shake’, the immediacy of ‘Stories form the City…’ or the slinky sparseness of ‘To Bring You My Love’ and emerges as flawed rather than captivating.
Despite this it does warrant repeated listenings which reveal depths which are not apparent on the first few hearings.
The idea to use a journalistic approach to the lyrics is also a gamble which doesn’t always pay off and as such they often sound clunky and forced. The clumsily titled ‘Near the Memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln’ is a clear case in point as it is hardly a title to roll off the tongue and into the memory bank.
The album’s two lead off tracks ‘The Wheel’ and ‘The Community of Hope’ helped to raise expectations and it turns out they are the two strongest works here.
The latter is oddly out of place as the album’s opener as it is storming straightforward rocker which feels like it rushes to a premature conclusion and is all over too soon and feels slightly unfinished and truncated because of this.
The song is already controversial with a Washington Post reporter claiming that Harvey quoted her verbatim as she acted as a tour guide on the less savoury sites of DC although the line ‘The school just looks like a shithole’ will probably resonate in several Edinburgh households at the moment with seventeen schools across the capital being closed due to the PFI debacle.
The second number the T.Rex inflected ‘Ministry of Defence’ would have made a more convincing and dramatic opener with its stop-start riffing and well spaced pauses. ‘A Line in the Sand’ could have slotted into her last work unnoticed but it is still a gorgeous track. Likewise ‘Chain of Keys’ and ‘Medicinals’ have a marching tempo to them which also continue her last album’s themes and more and more it becomes apparent that musically this is one of Harvey’s great works—‘The Orange Monkey’ is hauntingly beautiful’- it is the lyrics which let her down at every juncture never lodging themselves in your brain.
Often it feels more like the outpourings of a self appointed war correspondent and observer than one of our greatest lyricists. Journalism and rock music do not always make comfortable bedfellows as this album makes clear.
The last two tracks however manage to draw the listener back in. The aforementioned single ‘The Wheel’ is given the time to find itself that was denied ‘The Community of Hope’ with handclaps, riffing horns and guitars all conspiring to create a stormer of a song based on Harvey’s observations of children in disappearing on a fairground ride interspersed with her memories of similar children in Kosovo disappearing due to ethnic cleansing.
‘Dollar Dollar’ also takes its time getting to where it wants to get to and is all the better for it and makes a beautiful closer to an unsettling work which despite its best intentions hasn’t quite fulfilled expectations.
‘The Hope Demolition Project’ is ultimately a frustrating experience rather than a satisfying one. On one hand the melodies and musical structure are among Harvey’s best but she has chosen to marry it to lyrical themes which are admirable but dispassionate and therefore ultimately unrewarding. Not Harvey’s best album but still a long way from being her worst.


During August Edinburgh usually gives up its streets, theatres, bars and restaurants to Fringe and Festival goers and the locals spend most of the month feeling frustrated and sidelined. However there is usually one night where this hospitality is secondary to their own pleasures instigated by an event that feels like it is more for them than the tourists.
Last night that night for August 2015 was provided by the Sparks/Franz Ferdinand hybrid, or more succinctly FFS, at the Festival Theatre where the denizens of Edinburgh congregated en masse for a totally mind-blowing concert of legendary proportions which everyone attending will remember forever.
From the opening chords of ‘Johnny Delusional’ it was clear that this was going to be a concert like no other. Two of rock music’s great front-men, Russell Mael and Alex Kapranos, sharing a stage and vocal duties is a nigh on impossible task to pull off. However FFS not only managed it they made it seem like it was the most natural thing in the world.
As if this wasn’t enough of a charisma overload, Ron Mael and Nick McCarthy are charismatic secondary visual foils in their own right; Ron’s manic stare and detached aloofness has served him well since his Top Of The Pops debut in 1974 whilst McCarthy has his own means of keeping an audience entertained without ever detracting or trying to upstage from the front-men or relapsing into the legs splayed, hair shaking contrived and clichéd routine so many other guitarists mistakenly think is de rigueur.
The solid rhythm section of the exuberant Paul Thomson and the reluctant, limelight shunning Bob Hardy keep the whole thing centred and provide a backbone with flourishes where necessary.
The set list was also faultless. Obviously drawing on the FFS album, new favourites such as ‘Man Without a Tan’, ‘Little Guy From the Suburbs’, ‘Call Girl’, ‘Things I Won’t Get’, ‘The Power Couple’ and ‘Piss Off’ sat more than comfortably alongside Franz favourites such as ‘Take Me Out’. ‘Michael’, ‘Do You Want To’ and Sparks classics like ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us’-wherein Russell proved his voice is still everything it once was- and ‘When Do I Get to Sing My Way’.
Highlight of the whole night though had to be an absolutely raucously storming version of ‘Number One Song in Heaven’ which saw the crowd explode, the roof almost lift off the theatre and Ron leave his keyboards to dance along.
An impressive set was followed by an equally impressive encore which concluded with ‘Collaborations Don’t Work’ despite having just proved that they do.
I doubt that anyone who was in the Festival Theatre will see a better gig than that this year. The sound was flawless; the material excellent; the performances could not be bettered; the fun that everyone-crowd and performers- was having was totally immeasurable. If you weren’t there then FFS what were you thinking?