Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – The Etihad Stadium, Manchester 25th May 2016

May 29, 2016


In 1981 Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band toured Europe, with 16 dates in the UK, in support of The River, which had been released the previous October.
Now, thirty years later, they’re back playing 4 UK dates following the release last December of The Ties That Bind, a four CD/three DVD collection that puts together a remastered version of the original album, a version of the planned single album and 22 outtakes and alternative versions.

The show starts at 7.50 pm, as I scramble to my seat following traffic hold ups and a ticket mix up. It ends 3 hours 15 minutes later. As with every Springsteen show I’ve seen I would have been happy for it to have been longer! The E Street Band, cut back to the core line up plus a violinist, are tremendous musicians and bass player Garry W Tallent gets my vote as the coolest man in rock. Everyone should see Bruce Springsteen at least once in their lives.

Set List: Atlantic City; Murder Incorporated; Badlands; The Ties That Bind; Sherry Darling; Two Hearts; No Surrender; Santa Claus Is Coming To Town; Hungry Heart; Out in the Street; Darkness on the Edge of Town; Crush on You; You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch); I Wanna Marry You; The River; Point Blank; Johnny 99; Darlington County; Working on the Highway; The Promised Land; Waitin’ on a Sunny Day; Because the Night; The Rising; Thunder Road

Encore: Backstreets; Born to Run; Glory Days; Dancing in the Dark; Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out; Shout; Bobby Jean; This Hard Land

Manic Street Preachers – Leeds Arena, 20th May 2016

May 22, 2016

ManicsIt’s 20 years since Everything Must Go was released and to mark the fact the Manics are touring and playing the album in its entirety. Tonight’s show happens to be on the anniversary of the actual release date.

In my view there’s a real problem with playing whole album shows and that is that choosing the running order for an album is completely different to selecting a live set. I think, with that caveat, the first part of the show worked reasonably well, despite a slight impression that the band weren’t entirely convinced!
The second half was excellent and I was pleased to hear NatWest Barclays Midlands Lloyds, from Generation Terrorists, particularly as I’d been listening to it earlier in the day. A standout was the cover of Fear Factory‘s Feels Like Heaven. It was also interesting to hear Nicky Wire reminiscing about playing the Duchess Of York pub/venue back in 1991.

I don’t like arena shows but sometimes what choice do you have if you want to see somone? As arenas go Leeds is the best I’ve been to.

Set list:
Part One: Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool PierA Design for LifeKevin CarterEnola/AloneEverything Must GoSmall Black Flowers That Grow in the SkyThe Girl Who Wanted to Be GodRemovablesAustraliaInteriors (Song for Willem de Kooning)Further AwayNo Surface All Feeling
Part Two: Ocean SprayRaindrops Keep Fallin’ on My HeadMotorcycle EmptinessWalk Me to the BridgeYour Love Alone Is Not EnoughNat West-Barclays-Midlands-LloydsYou Stole the Sun From My HeartRoses in the HospitalShow Me the Wonder(Feels Like) HeavenYou Love Us;
If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next

Father John Misty – Leeds Academy, 11th May 2016

May 15, 2016

Father John Misty 11052016 (2)Anyone who went along to see Father John Misty expecting to see a continuation of his work with Fleet Foxes would have been largely disappointed. The two albums released under this name by Josh Tillman, Fear Fun and I Love You, Honeybear,  have their acoustic/folk moments but the songs played live with a six piece band become full on rockers. The songs gain quite a bit from the change but I find Tilman’s performance, described by The Guardian as “Jim Morrison’s head on Jarvis Cockers’s body”, disconcerting. It’s as though he wants to be a rock god but hasn’t quite worked out how yet. It’ll be worth seeing what progress he’s made next time he tours.

Equally interesting were the support, Texan band Khruangbin, who play largely instrumentals, only the final song has vocals. The sound is a strange mix of psychedelia and funk. I’m really looking forward to seeing them again so I can decide if I like them or not!

Father John Misty Set List: Everyman Needs A CompanionHollywood Forever Cemetery SingsWhen You’re Smiling And Astride MeOnly Son of the LadiesmanTee Pees 1-12Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty CrowFuntimes In BabylonNancy From Now OnChateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins)I’m Writing A NovelNow I’m Learning To Love The WarBored In The USAHoly ShitTrue AffectionThis is Sally HatchetI Love You, Honeybear.
Encore: I Went To The Store One DayCloserThe Ideal Husband

The Long Ryders – The Wardrobe, Leeds 6th May 2016

May 10, 2016

Long RydersNot many groups can claim  to have created a musical genre but The Long Ryders could stake a claim for inventing Alt-Country, along with Jason And The Scorchers. Their influence can be heard in the sound of The Jayhawks and Uncle Tupelo as well as many others.

I first saw them on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1985 when they performed Looking For Lewis And Clark and Lights Of Downtown, two songs that are still among my favourites. They originally split up in 1987, having released 3 albums, and despite occasional reunions I’ve never had the opportunity to see them.

Now they’ve released a box set, Final Wild Songs, composed of all the material from their three full-length albums, their one EP, various demos and rarities, and a previously unavailable 15-song performance from a Benelux radio appearance in March 1985. A tour to support it includes a show in Leeds so I’m finally going to get to see them.

They start their 20 song setlist with Run Dusty Run and end it 80 minutes later with Looking For Lewis And Clark. The audience, me included, absolutely love it. Alt-Country at it’s best and if they never tour again, which seems likely, then at least I got to see them before they went.

You can see those Old Grey Whistle Test performances here and here.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Leeds Arena, 27th April 2016

May 1, 2016

Noel GallagherI saw Oasis back in 2000, headlining the Leeds Festival and I though they were good. Not the best band I’ve ever seen but worth seeing.

As the whole world knows the Gallagher boys couldn’t work together so Noel called it a day in 2009. Following that acrimonious split the rest of Oasis re-grouped as Beady Eye, released two so-so albums (Different Gear, Still Speeding in 2011, and BE in 2013) before calling it a day in 2014.

Noel’s solo career has taken a much better turn. Two decent albums (Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds in 2011 and Chasing Yesterday in 2015, both topping the charts) and sell out tours. On which topic, the Arena is sold out tonight. The support act is Super Furry Animals but I didn’t rush to see them as I was distinctly unimpressed last time I saw them.

It seems to me that Noel Gallagher is a very shrewd man. He knows that Liam is a Rock singer and that he isn’t, so he doesn’t try. Instead he performs slow and mid tempo songs, including the 10 Oasis songs he performs among the 21 strong set list.

He knows how to write a tune and he has a band that can play them. That makes for an enjoyable show.

What’s not so enjoyable is the behaviour of many of the audience. These beer fuelled Liam look a-likes are embarrassing and a little threatening. It’s as though they’ve read a manual on how to behave at a rock show.

Anyway, let’s try and end on a positive note. Here, for my money, is Noel’s finest post-Oasis song.

Set list: Everybody’s On The RunLock All The DoorsIn The Heat Of The MomentRivermanFade AwayThe Death Of You And MeYou Know We Can’t Go BackChampagne SupernovaBallad Of The Mighty ITalk TonightD’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman?The MexicanHalf The World AwayListen UpIf I Had A Gun…Digsy’s DinnerThe Masterplan.

Encore: Wonderwall(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record MachineAKA… What A Life!Don’t Look Back In Anger.

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott – Leeds Arena, 19 March 2016

March 28, 2016

Heaton & AbbottAfter 31 years of releasing records, many of them hits or fan favourites, it must be difficult putting together a set list. If you’re Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, wanting to persuade the concert goer who only knows The Beautiful South or, at the older end of the demographic The Housemartins, to listen to the two excellent albums you’ve released since getting together as a duo in 2013 it must be even harder.

Tonight only a quarter of the setlist is from the period after The Beautiful South – one song from What Have We Become, eight from Wisdom, Laughter And Lines and nothing at all from Heaton’s three solo albums. I think that’s a shame because that means not hearing a lot of good songs.

Having said that the audience are treated to some lesser known Housemartin and Beautiful South tracks – Heaton says he hasn’t played Anxious for 29 years!

A great show then, excellent songs played by a first class band, what more could you want?

Support is from Trudy, a young three piece who have clearly never played to an audience of this size before. They hold their own and the tracks on their Soundcloud page are worth a listen.

Setlist: Wives 1, 2 & 3; Pretenders to the Throne; (Man Is) The Biggest Bitch of All; Have Fun; The Horse And Groom; Five Get Over Excited; Prettiest Eyes; Sundial In the Shade; The Queen of Soho; Old Red Eyes Is Back; I Don’t See Them; Anxious; Rotterdam (Or Anywhere); I’ll Sail This Ship Alone; The Austerity of Love; Good as Gold (Stupid as Mud): D.I.Y.; Happy Hour; Perfect 10; Caravan of Love.
Encore: A Little Time; Don’t Marry Her.
Encore 2: Heatongrad; You Keep It All In.


Blood River by Tim Butcher

March 27, 2016

Blood RiverBlood River tells the story of Tim Butcher’s attempt to recreate the journey of the Victorian explorer Henry Stanley to track the Congo river from Lake Tanganyika to the Atlantic.

While it is an excellent travel book, a genre I don’t generally read, it is much more than that. He examines the history of Belgian colonisation and relates it to the current inability of the post independence Congolese to create a functioning and cohesive state.

The casual violence and endemic corruption are genuinely shocking.

This book is an essential read for anyone interested in the legacy of colonialism and is highly recommended.