Archive for the ‘ MUSIC ’ Category

NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS- GLASGOW HYDRO

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- Glasgow, SSE Hydro

This gig was already shrouded in controversy due to Cave agreeing to play in Tel Aviv. He is not alone in this however as Radiohead, The Pretenders and of course the King of Controversy, Morrissey have all played there recently and although it is expected that some of those listed can be a little-shall we say- misguided in their principles and beliefs at times Nick Cave always seemed, to me at least, to be navigated by a moral compass which lent itself to the right thing.
I did deliberate over whether to go or not but being a huge fan of Cave I eventually succumbed.
Quite a lot has changed in the two and a half years since I last saw Cave what with personal tragedy striking him in the most horrendous way and the trajectory of his profile with the general public increasing not only because of said tragedy, which featured heavily in the mainstream press, but also the inclusion of his music in the hit show Peaky Blinders which introduced him to a whole new audience.
This transference to the mainstream was abundantly clear from the size of the venue he appeared in last night and the gulf between this cavernous arena and the sweaty club I first saw him in is immeasurable.
Opening with a trio of songs from last year’s Skeleton Tree opus – The Anthrocene, Jesus Alone and Magneto- proved from the outset that Cave and his amazing band are more than adept at taking intimate songs of darkness and mournful fragility to such a vast audience and space. The sound was amazing- it lost a little of its customary warmth but that was more to where we were positioned than any lack of musical skill- and after this low key start creating a mood he was off into Higgs Boson’s Blues swiftly followed by a threatening From her to Eternity and a rumbling Tupelo.
This was followed by a riveting Jubilee Street, a mesmerising Ship Song and a beautiful Into My Arms.
The latter however was when I first noticed the change in Cave’s approach to his audience – a few uncharacteristically witty asides had preceded this- when he held his microphone out to the audience and let them sing the final chorus. It was a very moving and tender moment but it had the feel of Gothic Karaoke about it.
Things swiftly got back on track though and drawing from his impressive back catalogue we were entreated to such delights as an atmospheric Red Right Hand, the white knuckle ride of The Mercy Seat, a transcendent Distant Sky before finishing with Skeleton Tree.
Then we were into the encores!
This is where things started to go a bit wrong for me personally…
Starting with a powerful Weeping Song things were fine until Cave decided to attempt some sort of Iggy messianic, idolatory pose and disappeared into the crowd only to reappear again in the midst of them on a platform. Decidedly shaky on his legs he went into his preacher man role – I have seen him do this many times before successfully and convincingly- and within seconds he was surrounded by his adulating and adoring public who couldn’t believe their luck and did what is now expected of such situations and pulled out their phones and started snapping and filming away. Meanwhile the band played on as Cave played up to this and seemed to be enjoying it.
Things didn’t improve much for the next song Stagger Lee where making his way back to the stage he invited several of the locals with him so the rest of us were treated to the sight of rhythmically challenged wannabe’s crowding out the stage area and any tension of the song was lost amidst the mayhem. The closing number, Push the Sky Away, saw Cave back down amongst the audience again and once again an amazing song lost much of its impact due to the cheap theatrics.
I am not sure why Cave has chosen to pursue this Robbie Williams as Redcoat routine but whilst it is good to see him having fun- if anyone deserves fun after the tragedy he has suffered then it is him- but for me personally it cheapened the music by turning it into Karaoke and diminishing its mystique. I am sure for those who were close to their idol it was a great moment but the problem with vast arenas such as this is if you only play to one small section then inevitably you lose the interest and support of others.
Perhaps this is what we can expect from Cave from now on- next step Las Vegas maybe?- and certainly if anyone deserves recognition and success for his music then it is him. Up until the encore I admit his performance was flawless but despite this I felt a little bit of him was lost last night and I only hope he manages to find it again.

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PJ HARVEY

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

The Filthy Tongues / Boots For Dancing
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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

One More Time With Feeling- Nick Cave
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‘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 -HOPELESSNESS, THE PLAYHOUSE EDINBURGH

Anohni-The Playhouse, Edinburgh
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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

Brian Wilson- Pet Sounds Edinburgh Usher Hall May 26 2016
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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

PJ Harvey-The Hope Demolition Project
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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.