Saturday, August 20, 2016

EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROES (London Islington Assembly Hall, 15/08/16)

Review: HERE

Saturday, August 13, 2016

CAUGHT BY THE RIVER FESTIVAL (London Fulham Palace, 13/08/16)

Review: HERE

Sunday, July 24, 2016

RAGNAR KJARTANSSON AND FRIENDS (London Barbican, 19/07/16)

An eccentric, whimsical, and downright hilarious revue-type show courtesy of critically-acclaimed Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson. Cigars were smoked, Brecht was sung, pianos were pushed, poetry was declaimed, confetti was scattered, and musicians from The National, Sigur Ros and mùm all enthusiastically contributed to one of the most artistically satisfying, but genuinely peculiar shows I've attended this year.
CITADEL FESTIVAL (London Victoria Park, 17/07/16)

Review: HERE
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM (London Victoria Park, 16/07/16)

Five years ago, Win Butler told James Murphy to "Shut Up And Play The Hits", and tonight they took that advice to heart. In truth, LCD Soundsystem were never as tight a live unit as I'd hoped when I saw them in their heyday, but this was pretty much a flawless set, with the closing run of "New York I Love You", "Dancing Yrself Clean" and "All My Friends" leaving me buzzing for the days.
ISLAM CHIPSY (London Lloyd Park, 16/07/16)

Premium Egyptian chiptune from the engaging Islam Chipsy and his dual-drumming band "EEK".
STEVIE WONDER (London Hyde Park, 10/07/16)

The fact that Stevie Wonder took almost four hours to complete performing an album that's only ninety minutes long is both a testament to the man's dedication to riffing off a piece, and also his frustrating tendency for self-indulgence. "Songs In The Key Of Life" isn't a natural fit for a festival setting in any event, with its second half full of obscurities, but there's no arguing that when he hit the mark, as he did with "Sir Duke"->"I Wish", he and his twenty-piece backing ensemble delivered as remarkable a live music experience as I've ever experienced in well over a thousand gigs. There's no real excuse the 30 minute interlude where every one of his backing singers got their own cover song to sing, but that was all forgotten by the time "DJ Tick Tick Boom" delivered the final double-whammy of "Signed, Sealed, Deliver" and an absolutely monstrous "Superstition." A show that epitomised "from the sublime to the ridiculous", although thankfully, ultimately leaning strongly towards the former.
LIONEL RICHIE (London O2 Arena, 06/07/16)

The show was labelled as "All The Hits", and that's what we got, dammit. All very polished and predictable of course, but Richie is perhaps even more charming that you'd expect and there's no denying the likes of "Easy" or "Three Times A Lady", although I was slightly disappointed by the general lack of clay-sculpting throughout.
CAROLE KING (London Hyde Park, 03/07/16)

Well, Carole King's first show on UK soil in twenty-seven years was always going to be "an event", but man, I wasn't expecting it to be that emotional. "Tapestry" is an important album for so many people across the generational divide, and to hear that nigh-on flawless album performed in full, even if the vivacious Ms King's voice isn't quite what it used to be was a recipe for an evening of the most memorable kind. And I completely forgot she wrote "The Loco-motion" too. What an inspiration!
MASSIVE ATTACK (London Hyde Park, 01/07/16)

Young Fathers! Tricky! Tunde Adebimpe! Horace Andy (wheeled in due to a fractured leg)! A full-on bloody orchestra for "Unfinished Sympathy"! A completely off-their-tits Scouser shouting in my ear about Michael Gove being a c**t! Add in a typically scintillating set from Patti Smith and solid showings from TV On The Radio and Shura, and there's £0.00 well spent.
HAM SANDWICH (London Islington Academy 2, 29/06/16)

Winsome indie-pop from the County Meath eight-piece, who essentially serve as an enthusiastic, if not exactly innovative distillation of the mid-Noughties alternative scene.
MOONFACE AND SIINAI (London Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, 27/06/16)

Given that this is only the second show of a tour crammed in between Wolf Parade dates, Moonface (AKA Spencer Krug), backed by Finnish kraut-rockers Siinai have no right to sound this ferociously good. Krug's other bands get more critical acclaim, but one suspects this is the project closest to his own heart, and I'll fight anyone who argues that "Lay Your Cheek On Down" isn't one of the best songs he's ever written.
BURT BACHARACH (London Palladium, 25/06/16)

When an songwriter feels confident enough to dispatch songs of such calibre as "Walk On By", "I Say A Little Prayer" and "There's Always Something There To Remind Me" within the first ten minutes of their set, they're either completely deluded or something really quite special. Burt Bacharach, of course, falls in the latter category. Tonight we're treated to two hours of back-to-back, solid gold hits, from "24 Hours To Tulsa" to "Close To You", with guest spots from Marc Almond, Rick Astley and Rumer, and although Bacharach's own voice is pretty much shot these days, the fact he's so sprightly at the age of 88 is still cause for celebration. A superb retrospective for one of the best songsmiths in the history of the form.
CHIC (London Fulham Palace, 24/06/16)

There's only one cure for the post-Brexit blues, and that's Nile Rodgers playing his greatest hits (and man, there's a lot of them) in what feels like a random village fete in the middle of Fulham. Nice four-song cameo from the inimitable Alison Moyet too.
DAKHABRAKHA (London Rich Mix, 23/06/16)

Ukraine's colourful "ethno-chaos" four-piece are an curious bird, mixing traditional Slavic instrumentation with pop and even hip-hop influences, but my God, if they don't produce spectacular results. An initially restless and talkative audience are swiftly won over by their hypnotic polyrhythms and beguiling vocals, and by the end the band were compelled to wing an impromptu second encore, on account of the rapturous reception they received.
WOODS (London Boston Arms, 22/06/16)

Review: HERE
WOLF PARADE (London Scala, 14/06/16-15/06/16)

Some reunions are clearly done for the money, or sometimes to relive a long lost youth, but my most beloved Wolf Parade have returned to action reinvigorated and more potent than ever. It's hard to pick a highlight from two exceptional nights of live music, but seeing Spencer Krug's involuntary grin as the whole audience sang along to "Sons and Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts" is definitely up there. The most straight-out exhilarating gigs of 2016 so far, and indeed, some of the most enjoyable I've ever been to.
PRIMAVERA PORTO (Porto Parque de Cidade, 09/06/16-11/06/16)

Primavera Barcelona is one of the best European festivals, but like the city it resides in, it can be a bit exhausting. Primavera Porto on the other hand is a far more relaxed affair- less big names, but significantly more chilled-out (and a hell of a lot cheaper to boot). In between stuffing my face with 3 euro bifanas, I caught some memorable sets, including Sigur Ros, Battles, Destroyer, Chairlift, A.R. Kane and Floating Points, but the two absolute highlights proved to be Brian Wilson (who despite being a half-zombie these days is supported by perhaps the most accomplished backing band in existence) and Titus Andronicus, who left me physically, mentally and emotionally broken. Highly recommended.
KAMASI WASHINGTON (Lisbon Teatro Tivoli, 07/06/16)

Kamasi Washington's three hour debut is called "The Epic", and that's a pretty good summary of this masterclass in jazz awesomeness. True, the drum-battle dragged on a bit, but the West Coast Get Down's odyssey through the history of the genre - from an unabashedly sentimental cover of "Clair De Lune" to some down-and-dirty jazz-funk indebted more to Rick James than Miles Davis - was all delivered with infectious vitality and consummate skill.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (London Wembley Stadium, 05/06/16)

I paid £100 to see The Boss at Wembley, and on balance I reckon that a bargain. The closing run of Badlands->Jungleland->Born To Run->Dancing In The Dark->10th Avenue Freezeout->Shout->Bobby Jean->Thunder Road was legitimately one of the best hours of live music I have ever enjoyed in my life, and the other 155 minutes weren't bad either. Truly, one of the greatest showmen in rock 'n roll history (and a dab hand at songwriting too).
MARGINAL CONSORT (London St John's-at-Hackney Church, 02/06/16)

Marginal Consort are a four-man Japanese art collective who traditionally perform one show a year, wherein they each free-improvise their own, well "music" would be too strong a word, using a variety of home made instruments, in complete isolation to the efforts of the others. Audiences are encouraged to wander about the space, as where you stand does materially effects how you perceive the soundscape, and as utterly pretentious as the whole thing is, there's a creativity and sense of fun that made this a fascinating, and occasionally sublime experience.
COLIN STETSON AND SARAH NEUFELD (London Barbican, 31/05/16) 

I've said it time and time again, but surely Colin Stetson should have been burnt as a warlock by now? To quote a previous review of mine (as I'm a lazy bugger) "sometimes he sounds like two people playing at once. Sometimes he vocalises whilst simultaneously maintaining some heavy, rumbling drone on his baritone. Sometimes he simply sounds like the end of worlds." And Sarah 'Schroedinger's Arcade Fire member' Neufeld's violin-based compositions were pretty fantastic to boot.
RAW POWER FESTIVAL (London Tufnell Park Dome, 27/05/16-29/05/16)

Baba Yaga's Hut has long been one of London's more forward-thinking and intriguing live music promoters, and nowhere is this better exemplified in their annual three-dayer, which never fails to leave Tufnell Park a smoking crater of decimated amps, and even more decimated eardrums. The highlights: Melt-Banana's abrasive grindcore assault, Teeth of the Sea's aural dystopia, Qujaku (or as I like to call them, Faux Ningen), Orchestra of Spheres' quirky tropicana dance party, Agathe Max's Armageddon-weaving violin looping, and the mesmerising, discordant Krautrock grooves of Sex Swing.
RADIOHEAD (London Roundhouse, 26/05/16)

I'm far from a subscriber to the Cult of Thom Yorke, Mother of Dragons, but I can't deny this was a pretty accomplished performance from England's whiniest musical export. It helps that the new album has ditched some the aimless bleepy-bloop they've become enamoured with over the last 15 years for actual tunes, but the fact they managed to cram so many oldies- and decent ones- into the setlist (Talk Show Host! Exit Music! Planet Telex!) was a surprise of the most delightful variety.
JAMBINAI (London Corsica Studios, 16/05/16)

Jambinai haven't as yet been the vanguard of an emergent South Korean music scene, but their juxtaposition of post-rock and (increasingly) metal influences with traditional Korean instrumentation makes them one of the most fascinating up-and-coming new acts around.

A brief, but commendably eclectic series of scores for some obscure early Andy Warhol films, performed by Dean Wareham (minimalist guitar), Martin Rev (hard synth noise), Eleanor Friedberger (bespoke indie-folk) and Dean Wareham (dreamy shoegaze). 
IGGY POP (London Royal Albert Hall, 13/05/16)

Review: HERE
ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK (London Royal Albert Hall, 09/05/16)

So, apparently OMD have a few more songs than "Enola Gay" under their belt? The Merseyside band, by their own admission, seem to be genuinely chuffed to be headlining a sold-out Albert Hall 35 years into a career where their eccentric, before-its-time synth-pop hasn't always been appreciated, and that comes through in an impressive performance augmented with some quite phenomenal lighting. Plus, though they were only supposed to be play tracks from their first two albums they still found room to fit in a certain song named after a nuclear warhead. Which was nice.
TACOCAT (London Lexington, 07/05/16)

Bouncy, scrappy indie-pop delivered with engaging verve and anarchic charm. Perfect fare for a Saturday night.
KARA-LIS COVERDALE (London St John's-at-Hackney Church, 05/05/16)

Terrifying but hypnotic soundscapes from the intense Canadian electronic artiste.
ANDREW BIRD (London Roundhouse, 04/05/16)

Mr Bird may be living the fancy L.A. lifestyle these days, but Chicago's premier violinist/whistlemeister remains one of the most accomplished musicians around. Perhaps not enough "Armchair Apocrypha" for my liking, but he's toned down the more self-indulgent improvisational tangents for a more lively and to-the-point performance.
OTOBOKE BEAVER (London Pipeline, 03/05/16)

Round two of Osaka garage-punk insanity. Band were a bit more restrained, the audience somewhat less so. Many sweat! Much shred! So perverted white man! Wow!
JEFFREY LEWIS (DIY Space For London, 02/05/16) 

The Return Of Jack Lewis - and Champion Jim! Illustrated biographies of Alan Moore! Paeans to English breakfasts and cats on the internet! Half-Yiddish spiels concerning a man's inability to impress a pigeon! Random Faith No More covers! So, just a typical Jeffrey Lewis show. No complaints here.
OTOBOKE BEAVER (London Windmill, 01/05/16)

Four whirling, immaculately-dressed dervishes of punky, garage-rock energy, hitting the perfect mid-point between the unabashed fun-times of Shonen Knife and the explosive brilliance of Bo Ningen. When a gig ends up with one guitarist writhing and soloing on the venue floor before the other literally piles on top of her, you know it's a good 'un.

Saturday, April 30, 2016


It will forever remain the biggest regret of my gig-going career that I never saw David Bowie live, but it was pretty cool to see the entire of "Station To Station" performed by the original guitarist from that album. Bernard Fowler was an excellent choice of frontman - charismatic, talented but not too ostentatious - and the closing rendition of "Heroes" really did hit me in the feels.
MUTUAL BENEFIT (London Bush Hall, 28/04/16) 

Delicate, beguiling indie-folk courtesy of Texan Jason Lee. More stripped-down than their last UK tour, but still decidedly luscious.
EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY (London Rough Trade East, 26/04/16)

Explosions In The Sky. Playing a 150-capacity record shop. To be honest, I'm half-surprised Brick Lane is still standing.
CALEXICO (London Barbican, 25/04/16)

Review: HERE

Sunday, April 24, 2016

BOREDOMS (London Scala, 18/04/16)

It appears austerity has even avant-garde Japanese noise bands feeling the pinch, for Boredoms seem to have lost 84 members since I saw their cymbal-centric spectacular at the Barbican. But overall this was a better performance, despite an interminably slow intro involving metal poles being scrapped ad infinitum - once the drumming kicked in and Yamantaka Eye started wailing like a prophet of doom over various electronic blasts, it became as transcendentally hypnotic as their peerless Boredrums shows a few years back. Plus, there was a bit where they poured kitchenware into a speaker cone for percussive reasons, and that was kinda cool.
SHONEN KNIFE (London Dingwalls, 17/04/16)

For thirty-five years, Naoko Yamano and co. have peddled effervescent pop-punk ditties about food and animals without feeling too much need to mix up the formula, and on the evidence of tonight, they don't really need to. Their new songs are catchy as hell, their new drummer Risa is literally the most kawaii being in existence and although the sheer, unrelenting upbeatness of it all can get a bit wearing over a full hour, anyone who doesn't leave from a Shonen Knife gig with a wide grin on their face is probably Ted Cruz.
THE SUN RA ARKESTRA (London Union Chapel, 14/04/16) 

It's the third time I've seen the interplanetary jazz wizards in the space of eight months, but I just couldn't bring myself to see miss the Arkestra play in a venue as beautiful as Union Chapel. In truth, the acoustics there are better suited for solo performers than brass avant-garde jazz collectives, but as a performance it's just about the best I've seen them do with Marshall Allen as sprightly as ever at the age of ninety-two(!)
GET WELL SOON (London Lexington, 13/04/16)

The German answer to the Divine Comedy have always been inexplicably overlooked by the British music press, but more fool them, for Get Well Soon's lushly orchestrated indie-pop remains an utterly underrated delight- even if they basically ignore the first album these days.
BLACK MOUNTAIN (London Electric Ballroom, 12/04/16)

One of the occupational hazards of going to psych-rock shows is that there's always going to be a point where you think, "well this is a bit self-indulgent". To Black Mountain's credit, this point didn't arrive until a good two-thirds through their set, but nonetheless, it was a bit disappointing to see the mighty "Don't Run Our Hearts Around" culled in favour of an aimless jam that didn't even bother to sustain the monolithic riffage that had preceded it.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

LEON BRIDGES (London Brixton Academy, 08/04/16)

Unfortunately, due to illness I spent most of this one standing in the back cradling a glass of water, but there's no denying the boy's got soul (even if it's perhaps slightly too smooth for my tastes.)
THE BESNARD LAKES (London Islington Assembly Halls, 05/04/16) 

The Besnard Lakes are one of the most underrated bands of our generation, and the fact Islington Assembly Hall was only two-thirds full is a damning indictment on everyone who wasn't there. That said, although the 13-piece setup was sublime at times (especially during the intro to "Chicago Train"), the mix was off throughout, meaning their trademark wall-of-sound shoegaziness was far less potent than it deserved to be.
LIIMA (Helsinki Kuudes Linja, 31/03/16)

I'm very happy to report the Efterklang side-project ("Electroklang"?) have evolved leaps and bounds since I saw them in London last year. Back then, they were very much a band experimenting and trying to work out what exactly they wanted to achieve; now they're tighter, more focussed and more enjoyable. It's also refreshing to see a band that employ gimmickry constructively for once- a lot of their sounds come from improvised instruments, yet none of them seem indulgent or pointless. I don't think I'll ever love them as much as the 'Klang, but as successor bands go, they're not bad at all.
HARTYGA (Tallinn Vira Keskus, 30/03/16)

Of all the odd musical experiences of my life, watching a Siberian jazz/heavy rock/Tuvan throat-singing fusion band in an Estonia shopping mall has to rank pretty highly. Very enjoyable though.
CHARLES BRADLEY (London Rough Trade East, 29/03/16) 

It's not often that I'm compelled to review an in-store show, but when it's involves Charles Bradley it becomes almost a legal obligation. I've only previously seen the Screaming Eagle of Soul on festival stages or in far larger spaces like the Shepherd's Bush Empire - and even in those circumstances it's been a searingly emotional experience. So to witness him in a 150-capacity venue was I can only imagine it'd be like Arethra Franklin in her heyday, roaring songs out with such excoriating passion that it leaves everyone present slack-jawed and immobile. Plus I got a hug from the great man himself, which was pretty nifty. Definitely a night to remember.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

FIRE! (London Cafe Oto, 26/03/16)

It's been a while since the Swedish improv trio have been to these here parts (at least without their 25-piece accompanying orchestra) so it's great to have the opportunity to witness their motorik grooves and saxophone squalls in such an intimate setting. Quite impressed too by the guy who tried to start a one-man moshpit during a particularly avant-garde interlude. Truly the epitome of #yolo.
WET (London Scala, 23/03/16) 
A damp squib.