Category Archives: Live

Live: Zola Jesus. Toynbee Studios, London. 26/9/11. 9/10.

Zola Jesus, the alter ego of Nika Roza Danilova, returns to London to celebrate the release of her highly acclaimed new album Conatus. With the term ‘conatus’ being a reference to personal enhancement, Danilova recently stated: “I really appreciate artists that constantly evolve and challenge themselves.” Whether her audience tonight feel the same way, remains to be seen.

First of all, Breton take to the stage, standing unassumingly before an artistic visual accompaniment.  It’s easy to see why even the band themselves find it difficult to describe what it is they do. Veering off into many different tangents throughout their 30-minute set, Breton create a wall of sound, blending together hip-hop, electronica and spiky, irresistible riffs. There’s no stage presence to talk about here, but it’s a wonderful showcase of undoubtedly great things to come.

After the most bizarre of intervals, with the likes of the Pink Panther theme tune and Soulja Boy being played over and over again, Zola Jesus creeps onto the dimly lit stage, backed by three shadowy figures. Dressed in a white cloak and with her face covered by a shock of bright white hair, she stalks the stage like a woman possessed.

Opening with ‘Avalanche’, propelled by crashing drums and eerie synths, Danilova demonstrates the majesty of her vocal prowess. There’s a real emotional power to her voice – there would be similarities to Florence & The Machine, if Florence realised that she didn’t have to shout all the bloody time.  Musically and lyrically though, the two are polar opposites.  The dark atmosphere that hangs heavy tonight is most evident as Danilova falls to her knees during a spellbinding performance of ‘Collapse.’ The intense melancholy is somewhat unsettling, but it’s a moment of real beauty and emotional honesty.

Although this evening is all about the new album, some old favourites are unleashed. In particular, ‘Night’, which would have been a massive hit if we lived in a just and fair world, reveals itself to be an affecting and grand highlight of the set.

The arrival of Conatus suggested growth, and there’s plenty in abundance with ‘Ixode’, a new song led by an impulsive electronic beat, which sees Danilova chanting to herself, as though she is summoning evil spirits and begging them to dance throughout the night. Lead single ‘Vessel’ then provides the thrilling climax to the evening as she explodes in a fit of fury and joins in with the propulsive, chaotic drumming.  It’s a frightening, captivating conclusion to a stunning and mesmerising performance.

Returning to the stage for a gorgeous encore of ‘Run Me Out’, Danilova’s extraordinary vocal delivery seems almost too powerful, almost inhuman for someone of her fragile and miniscule frame. With nothing left to give, she then stalks off stage to rapturous applause. Into the end of the night.

From Craig Jones

Sucking Lemons.

Live: Stagecoach. Northampton Labour Club. 8.5/10.

Back to the legendary Labour Club in Northampton I go, to see a bands highly expressive sound and quality confined to the relatively small yet comforting boundaries of the Labour Club. Stagecoach, who brought skimpy red shorts and aluminous headbands are in the midst of a UK tour, having already approached some of the lesser known locations across the country before stationing themselves in Northampton to play to a respectably sized crowd.

Arriving in position in an informal manner, opener ‘Hieroglyphics’ immediately drew a positive response from the crowd initiating an energetic atmosphere which was to be maintained throughout their entire set.  The entire band delivered a visual treat for the crowd with Tom Lewis transporting his mic and mandolin to the centre of the dance floor to shed some sweat in amongst the crowd. Whilst it was all fun and games, the guy was positively stacked from head to toe – almost essential to stay clear.

Recently released single ‘Jonah Lomu’ was unleashed shortly after its brother on the double A side ‘Tony Hawk’, which seemed the pinnacle of the night; as a steady group of hardcore’s congregated once more for a dance as close as they could possibly get to the stage without actually stepping foot on it.But it was treats like these that came natural to the band due to the nature of the cosy venue. Again, later we saw the return of captain muscle as he paced through the audience once more, only this time to share an intimate call and response behind the bar with the barmen – priceless.

Their grunge-pop seems to be landing well of late, boasting an eclectic mix of hollering hooks and distorted guitars which sits side by side with their vigorous live performance, no doubt. But have they got it on the locker to captivate bigger cords in the near future? Only time will tell, but for the mean time expect to be singing yippee on your journey home whilst being perplexed by the energetic delivery by Stagecoach – A live treat.

8.5/10

From Richard

Sucking Lemons

Live: The Tallest Man On Earth. Shepherd’s Bush Empire. 8.5/10.

The obligatory height jokes aside, The Tallest Man On Earth does deliver a colossal performance. Kristian Mattson’s mixture of intricate plucking and on-stage vivacity have earned him widespread acclaim and it is perhaps a testament to his burgeoning popularity that he stepped out at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in front of a sold out crowd of 2,000 fans, a far cry from the paltry 350 devotees attending his London date one year previous. Continue reading

Live: The Antlers. Heaven, London. 12/5/11. 8/10.

Following on from the heartbreaking, tender songs of their previous album Hospice was never going to be an easy task for The Antlers. With tonight’s set consisting mostly of unfamiliar new material from their forthcoming album Burst Apart, tonight could have been a disaster. Fortunately, it was quite the opposite.

Continue reading

Live: Sound Of Guns/The View. Norwich Waterfront. 17/4/2011. 8.5/10.

Sound Of Guns were in town to support The View at the Norwich Waterfront, which immediately set the foundations for an epic night. For those of you unaware of Sound Of Guns, expect big riffs and even bigger anthemic rock choruses; and if for some bizarre reason you’re unaware of The View, expect them to be drunk…

A heroic sense of energy, and what seemed an effortless display, was given by front man Andrew Metcalfe as he captured  the rock n’ roll essence of delivering true front man capabilities; a performance which supplements their live sound enormously. It wasn’t however, the energetic demonstration that captured my attention on the night, it was relationship that Andrew Metcalfe shared with the audience – His ability to grasp the audience’s attention and maintain this sturdy bond with the audience throughout their set is what’s going to increase their fan base even more.

Sound of Guns certainly aren’t anything new, there’s no denying that, but that’s not what they’re about. It’s the melodic rock that’s delivered passionately, portraying a great awe of rock etiquette at their live shows which is giving this band attention.  Built around raw, catchy rock songs, it’s an outfit that will undoubtedly peruse the music scene this year.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen The View, and apparently it shows, as a smashed, yet humble fan sings “Four Jeans” in the toilets so boldly. Nonetheless, The View’s return is welcomed with open arms after the well received third record, Bread and Circuses. Only a few eyebrows were raised over some of the album’s content; what with drum machines and 60’s esque backing vocals n’ all, but a healthy (yet still not sold out) crowd awaits at the waterfront for the arrival of the Scots.

The stigma of the band being constantly drunk was weakened as they opened somewhat soberly with ‘Grace’ shortly followed by the skatty pop hit ‘Wasted Little DJ’s. Their set provoked a responsive crowd, dipping in an out of all three of their albums – ‘5 Rebecca’s’, ‘Skag Trendy’, and ‘Tragic Magic’ were tidy favourites. Even the same musical strategies were still intact as Keiren swapped instruments with front man Kyle to ring out personal favourite ‘Realisation’, and shortly after ‘Wasteland’.

Rattling through Superstar Tradesman, seeing the ‘die hards’ peak at the very front, The View then closed their set with ‘Underneath The Lights and ‘Shock Horror’ before leaving the stage with no sign of an encore.

The night closed as immensely as it started, yet slightly lacking an electric atmosphere.

The View’s set list:

Grace
Wasted Little DJ’s
5 Rebecca’s
Blondie
Girl
Realisation
Skag Trendy
Tragic Magic
Friend
Wasteland+Typical Time
Witches
Best Lasts Forever
Beautiful
Same Jeans
Sunday
Double Yellow Lines
Superstar Tradesman
Underneath The Lights
Shock Horror

8.5/10.

From Richard.

Sucking Lemons.

Live: Patrick Wolf. Birmingham Academy 2. 25/3/11. 8/10

Quite why Patrick Wolf has never managed to forge a place in the mainstream consciousness is somewhat of a mystery. The flamboyancy is there, as is the pop sensibility. If he is ever to make that crossover, one can’t help but feel that now is his time.

Striding confidently onto the stage in the kind of outfit David Bowie was wearing in the eighties, he opens with new song ‘Time Of My Life’, a triumphant statement of intent, which sees Wolf moving on from the darkness of his past. If this is a sign of what’s to come on his forthcoming album, then that long-awaited acceptance from a mainstream audience surely beckons.

Although tonight is an opportunity to showcase some new songs, old favourites such as ‘The Libertine’ and ‘To The Lighthouse’ sound as fresh and innovative as they did all those years ago.  Never one for restraint, things get a bit steamy as Wolf stalks the stage like some sort of sexual predator during ‘Tristan’ and ‘Vulture’.  When he’s in this kind of mood, there are few performers who can rival him when it comes to excitement and drama.

Following a remixed version of ‘Hard Times’ Wolf returns to the stage to explain that his silence between songs is down to illness and that he shouldn’t even be on stage tonight. The show goes on regardless, and we’re treated to a rousing encore, kicking off with new single ‘The City’, which receives one of the biggest cheers of the night. Justifiably so too – it’s an unashamed love song which is surely destined for heavy radio rotation throughout the coming weeks. An extended version of ‘The Magic Position’ follows, which is the perfect way to close an uplifting and thrilling set.

Although in the past, Patrick Wolf has been known for his dark subject matter, his outlook has changed and he is developing into one of the country’s finest live performers as a result. His forthcoming album Lupercalia has been billed as a celebration of love; tonight, he has captured that perfectly.

8/10

From Craig Jones

Live: Dry the River. Ginglik, London. 7/3/11. 8.5/10.

A gig for the original fans, in collaboration with teenage cancer trust was what occurred on Monday the 7th, in a rather peculiar venue in London. What used to be underground toilets in a park in Shepherds Bush is now a quirky little venue which plays host to mainly music and comedy gigs. This is where Dry the River scheduled their private gig for the original mailing list party.

With three bands before their stage time it was Monument Valley that impressed me the most. Simple finger picking on an electric guitar with the accompaniment of a cello, drums and one other guitar was what illustrated the intense narratives that front man Ned Younger so proudly sang out.

This is the second time I have been able to see Dry the River live, and since I last saw them, there’s no doubt that there has been some fine tuning to their live performance whether it’s been intentional or not. Everything was in place, from tight harmonies to well proportioned banter with the crowd. It’s live that they prove they have something that their most comparable ‘rivals’ Mumford and Sons don’t; the rock ethic that they so passionately drive out to their audiences is something that’s always going to be missing from M&S’s intense live sets. So long as there’s a banjo on stage, they won’t be able to match the legendary sound of an electric guitar. Also, they have tattoos to supplement their stage presence…Now that’s rock n’ roll.

They rattled through crowd favourites ‘History Book’ and ‘Bible Belt’ with some slick transitions between songs. Recent single release, ‘New Ceremony’ was received very well by the crowd which could have only increased record sales on its release date – as did ‘Family Tree’. It was the final track of the night though that gave their act even more substance than it already had. B side to the new single, ‘Lion’s Den’, is a true mark of their prolific song writing abilities, highlighting the epic crescendos that they willingly provide in the majority of their songs with ease.

A tight set that finished triumphantly was still strong enough to leave out what seem old favourites now, ‘Shaker Hymns’ and ‘Coast’. A shame that despite a healthy crowd size, the venue still lacked atmosphere.  A highly commendable outfit at the minute, and I’m still waiting for an average song from this band. Enough said.

8.5/10.

From Richard.

Sucking Lemons.

Live: PJ Harvey. Troxy, London. 27/2/11. 10/10.

Almost twenty years since she burst onto the scene with the raw energy of DryPJ Harvey has arguably made her masterpiece. Let England Shake is at times both beautiful and disturbing, something which could also be said of Harvey tonight, as she walks on stage seemingly dressed for her own funeral.

An opening double-salvo of ‘Let England Shake’ and ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’ has the already excitable audience in raptures.  Patti Smith recently claimed that ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’ is a song which makes her “happy to be alive”; the same could probably be said for everyone inside the sold-out Troxy tonight, judging by their reaction.

Things get really interesting soon after, as Harvey and her band unveil recent b-side ‘The Big Guns Called Me Back Again’. Quite why it was left off the new album will forever remain a mystery – its relentless, chugging hook is greeted with wild cheers from the audience, even though it is totally new to the large majority.

It’s clear from the outset that this is not an evening for the casual fan. If PJ Harvey had hits, you get the impression she would be reluctant to play them anyway. When she does delve into her back catalogue, it’s not the aggressive songs of her early days, but the delicate and sinister ‘The Devil’ and ‘The River’, which both sound extraordinary tonight alongside the new songs.

Throughout tonight’s set, PJ Harvey establishes herself as a compelling and fascinating performer. Although she remains detached from the audience, stood to the side of the stage and not uttering a single word, her natural charisma and eerie stage demeanour is mesmerising – never before has someone done so much with so little. Although at times she appears delighted to be on stage, there are moments where she looks absolutely frightening underneath the white light.

The evening takes a turn for the sublime late on into the set, as ‘Down By The Water’ sounds disturbing and thrilling in equal measure. ‘On Battleship Hill’, sees Harvey showcase her stunning vocal range, recalling Kate Bush at her finest. As if that wasn’t enough, a tantalising, stripped back version of ‘Big Exit’ proves to be the evening’s sing-a-long, with Harvey beaming back at the enthusiastic crowd.

A brutal version of ‘Meet Ze Monsta’ opens the encore, which is packed with more vibrancy and energy than artists half Harvey’s age could only ever dream of possessing.  With a backing band including former Bad Seed Mick Harvey and her musical soulmate, John Parish, it’s quite clear that whilst Harvey is rightly receiving the plaudits for her lyrics, she has also upped her game musically.

Leaving the stage following a hushed rendition of ‘Silence’, Harvey and her band appear truly humbled by the warmth directed towards to them. Once again, PJ Harvey has proven herself to tower head and shoulders above her peers. Whether on stage or on record, others will always follow where she leads the way.

10/10.

From Craig Jones.

Sucking Lemons.

Live: Brother. 2/10.

‘Love is a Time Machine’, apparently. This band really do know how to write lyrics. These enlightening words will unite the youth, the old, the music afficionados, Liam and Noel Gallagher. Ha ha, yeah right.

Brother haven’t exactly made their big-money-record-label insertion into the music industry easy for themselves, have they? Firstly they opted for a awful, ungoogleable name, infamously and ridiculously making bigheaded comments such as the fabulous: “If you don’t want to hear the future of music, leave now”. They then revealed their worthless, insipid lyrics (see above) and now on their first extensive UK tour they’ve picked two support bands who look and sound and exactly like them. Why should the latter matter, I hear you ask? Well, because the tonight the support play for longer than the headliners. Two hours and a half of crappy lad-rock to gear up for a bit more crappy lad-rock. Great, I can’t wait.

Locomotives play some songs whose lyrical splendour essentially revolves around the following: ‘yeah’, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’, ‘maybe, baby’ and ‘no, no, no’. They’re not completely tuneless, however, occasionally verging on catchy.

Up next is a band who make The Metros sound as splendiferous as The Beatles. The lead singer looks like a cow, all their shirt buttons are done up (they are lads, evidently) and they make atrocious music, as you probably understood. Oh yeah, I forgot to say, their name is All The Young, but I’d advise you not to look them up.

One merit of this gig is the room. It is a nice space. And by the time Brother come on stage, only two thirds full (the crowd now comprises the two support bands and around sixty or so other people here to see (and laugh?) at the world’s gobbiest buzz band.

And so, Brother come on stage. The lead singer looks about twelve, the rest of the band, a bit older. The drummer seems like a genuine guy. Launching into ‘New Year’s Day’ with utterly faux swagger, the guys bore the room from the outset. Like Locomotives, the band have a structured formula: puerile lyricism, 20 second guitar solos, bit’a cocky banter in between and an underlying aim to sound like a celestial (*ahem*) amalgam of Shed Seven’s and Toploader’s extensive back catalogues.

It’s not very good really – It’s all well and good saying that you think you’re brilliant, but underneath all that it seems even the band themselves know how bad they are. They seem to give up. They play for 30 minutes. The image of Brother from all those press stunts fades. Brother dies.

You’ve got to commend their stage show though: six members (inc. a backing singer), frequent guitar changes, a cheeky backdrop depicting children smoking. They kind of put the effort in. Sonically, however, ‘Darling Buds Of May’ is the only song which really resonates, and that’s because I’ve heard it before.

2/10.

From Huw Oliver.

Sucking Lemons.

Live: Chapel Club. The Bodega, Nottingham. 8/2/11. 7/10.

The Bodega is an intimate place. With a stage that barely rises above the floor, it’s a hall that barely surpasses the size of your archetypal living room. This gives your typical gig-goer the ideal setting to see bands without having to muscle past the larger types and struggle to catch a site of the musicians they love. Therefore I am happy to be able to see one of this years most exciting bands before they outgrow these smaller and much-loved venues.

It is the second time I’ve been to Nottingham when Chapel Club have stopped over to play. The previous occasion was the Dot to Dot festival; an event that often highlights many of the forthcoming years acclaimed bands. They packed out the Trent SU that day and only a few weeks subsequent to the release of their debut LP Palace, bring a similar mass of bodies into Nottingham’s Bodega Social Club.

‘Surfacing’ kicks things off; a steady bassline and shuddering kick and snare beat develop this monster while Lewis Bowman’s broody vocals reverberate many a joyous lyric, “bodies swinging in the sycamore tree” being a brilliantly miserable example.

Momentum is maintained as album favourite ‘White Knight Position’ screams into play with its Tokyo Police Club-esque widdly guitar squealing triumphantly. This is quickly followed by ‘Blind’ and previously released tracks ‘Roads’, ‘Bodies’ and personal highlight ‘Widows’, taken from their Wintering EP.

As we promptly reach the latter stages of the performance, the attentive members of the Bodega are once again grabbed by the scruff of the neck for a riotous rendition of ‘Five Trees’ before the encore; Bowmen commands the gaze as he gracefully decorates his vocals in amongst the raucous that his band mates orchestrate.

It’s a tough one to call with Chapel Club, for all the cynics calling out for obvious comparisons with Morrisey and the similarly gloomy White Lies they could be seen as unoriginal or uninspired, but it’s their manic punk-ish moments which give them this edginess and added intrigue. They can deliver the gloom, but can make us dance at the same time.

Setlist:

Surfacing
White Knight Position
Blind
Roads
Bodies
Widows
Fine Light
O Maybe I
Five Trees
All the Eastern Girls
Encore
The Shore
Paper Thin

7/10.

From Stew.

Sucking Lemons.