March 2012

March 27, 2012

6 March – I’m not familiar with Laura Marling, despite her being very popular with the media, but my friend has a spare ticket so I agree to go along and see her at the Leeds O2 Academy.
The audience clearly love her but, while she’s not unpleasant, I find her unremarkable. To my ears she sounds too much like other female singers, particular Joni Mitchell, and I feel she needs to forge a more distinctive style.
One  thing she does do with which I agree whole heartedly, she refuses to play an encore. She says they are an affectation and she’s right.

18 March – As our belated Christmas present from Laura and Brian the GLW and I join them to see The Civil Wars at Leeds Metropolitan University. The show has been moved from the original venue The Wardrobe due to ticket demand and with good reason. The place is packed!
Their sound is just their gorgeous harmonies,underpinned by John Paul White’s guitar. They are fine songwriters and perform most of their debut album Barton Hollow. In addition they perform excellent covers of Portishead’s Sour Times, Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, slowed down to a soulful shuffle, and Leonards Cohen’s Dance Me to The End Of Love.
There are echoes of other Americana artists, particularly Chatham County Line, but unlike Laura Marling they bring something of themselves.

August 2010

November 8, 2010

The 31 August is my birthday and wedding anniversary and so my GLW agrees that we can make a trip to Sheffield to see Simone Felice.

The Rude Shipyard in Sheffield is an interesting venue, a first floor room above a cafe in a converted end-terrace house. So it’s small. Very small. The capacity is around forty people and, as we’ve got there early, we’re near the front and no more than about six feet away from Simone. It’s a rare opportunity to see such a talented performer in such intimate surroundings.

A collection of The Duke & The King tracks, one or two Felice Brothers songs and fine covers of the Neil Young classic Helpless, Tom Waits Ol’ 55 and a snatch of Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty.

An excellent show, a sense of which can be gained from the live CD Live From A Lonely Place available from his website.

Kris Kristofferson – Manchester, 31 July 2010

August 24, 2010

Kris Kristofferson is a legend and tonight he’s playing The Bridgewater Hall. As a songwriter he’s written some classics; Help Me Make It Through The Night, Me And Bobby McGee, Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down, Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again) and For The Good Times. And the audience love him so why do I leave feeling disappointed?

Well, I enjoyed the classics as well as anyone but the rest of the evening is strangely lacking. The show is one paced and, frankly, in my view the voice has gone! At 74 and after almost a lifetime in music and films Kris must have a fund of stories second to none, so why not share them and inject some pace?

All in all, a disappointment.

The Handsome Family – Leeds, 28 July 2010

August 24, 2010

The Handsome Family are a band I’ve always thought I should like so when they play at The Hyde Picture House, promoted by the excellent Hee-Haw Sessions, I decide to take the plunge.

We’re promised a number of short films by Guy Madden as the ‘support’. Somehow someone manages to put the wrong film on and we have to sit through an interminable work that is stopped half way through so that we can actually see The Handsome Family. My only comment is that I won’t be rushing to a cinema anytime soon to see any more of Mr Madden’s work.

Brett and Rennie Sparks are playing as a duo tonight. Brett plays guitar and conjures up rhythms from a laptop while Rennie variously plays bass and banjo. I wish I’d been familiar with their songs but two stood out, Weightless Again and The Giant Of Illinois. After the show I bought their new CD, Scattered, a collection of outtakes and tracks recorded for compilations, which I heartily recommend if only for their version of Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.

I’ll certainly try to catch them when they return to Leeds.

Midlake – Sheffield, 29 June 2010

July 14, 2010

I’ve wanted to see Midlake since I heard The Trials Of Van Occupanther. Now they’re following their Glastonbury performance with three U.K. dates so I’m seizing my chance to see them at The Leadmill despite only arriving back from Italy on the the morning of the show.

What makes the show even more appealing is the appearance as support act of John Grant. He has a CD out, called ‘Queen of Denmark’, that is, even this early in the year, shaping up to be my album of 2010. His songs have great tunes with sardonic lyrics that examine failing relationships. Tonight he performs a thirty minutes set comprising songs from the album. They’re all excellent but the one that sticks in my head is Sigourney Weaver. I’m looking forward to seeing him again and hopefully soon.

Midlake are all I hoped they would be! The seven piece ease themselves into the show, steadily grab hold of the audience and don’t let go until they leave the stage 90 minutes later. An amalgam of many styles, from baroque folk to Americana via Southern Californian soft rock, they’re the first band I remember seeing playing flutes since I saw Jethro Tull in 1971! Tracks played include Van Occupanther, Roscoe and The Courage of Others.

Midlake obviously love playing live and it was well worth the wait to finally see them.

Supergrass – Manchester, 9 June 2010

July 14, 2010

Of the bands that emerged from Britpop Supergrass were the one who were constantly underrated by a media that regularly praised their no more talented peers. Now they’ve decided to call it a day after 17 years and they are playing a four date farewell tour. Tonight’s show in Manchester is the second.

They have, however, had a stroke of genius. As sales of their recordings appear to have fallen,despite an amazing consistency of quality, they have decided to highlight their albums in reverse order. This means that early in their two-hour set, 2002’s Grace begins a run of terrific tunes that demonstrates their ability to deliver classic singles. The sell out crowd goes mad to Moving, Pumping On Your Stereo and Richard III. They finish with songs from 1995’s I Should Coco, including Lenny Alright and Caught By The Fuzz. The one problem with the show is the way in which they leave the stage between albums, which prevents the show building up momentum. But this is a minor quibble given the great performance and superb material.

So, thanks for the memories Gaz, Danny, Mick and Rob. How long will it take for us to realise what we’ve lost?