Friday, 31 December 2010

Text Of Festival (7)

Here's some pics and videos to go with the sprawling gig history...

Genesis at Knebworth 1978
My first gig in a field! Only £5.50!! It didn't rain!!!

A slideshow....

Reading Festival 1978
My first three day festival...three nights in a Vauxhall Viva! It still didn't rain!!

See that scrawny young lad with the beer can in the centre of the pic walking from left to right?.... I do believe that's yours truly!

...and here's video evidence of Steve Hillage onstage with cartoon punks Sham '69....

Ultravox! doing Slow Motion - great band.

Penetration - Life's A Gamble. I had a thing for Pauline Murray - anyone remember that great album by Pauline Murray & The Invisible Girls?...wonder what became of her?

Reading Festival 1979
We had a tent this time. It rained, but only a bit...

Cheap Trick - I Want You To Want Me. They were good fun...

Very little video footage other than Cheap Trick can be found, but here's a pic of a youthful looking Cure from the same festival.

Boys don't cry...

...and Peter Gabriel

Still in Rael guise

Reading Festival 1980
This was my last Reading Fest for some time as from here on in it became a hard rock/metal festival, attracting some right tossers both on stage and in the audience.

Here's the truly execrable White Spirit in action. Note the daft poses of the guitarist. I dare you to watch more than a minute!

....and in the audience, some tossers throwing cans

Rory Gallagher and last minute additions Slade apart, who were both great, I would rather have chewed my own arm off...

More next time..

Friday, 24 December 2010

Deep Purple - Burn

This is part of an occasional series of reviews of old albums that played a significant part in my formative years of musical appreciation.

What is rightly regarded as the classic Deep Purple line up fell apart in 1973 after a constant round of management propelled touring recording and touring again proved too much for Ian Gillan and Roger Glover who both quit that year. Their replacements were Glenn Hughes from funked up blues rockers Trapeze, and an unknown blues wailer from the North East of England, one David Coverdale. With this line up in place they had recorded and released Burn by February 1974, a year in which I was a mere 14 and this was my introduction to the "Purps", as they were known.

Although I was later to agree with the majority that the "MkII" line up of Blackmore/Lord/Gillan/Glover/Paice was indeed the best line up of the band, Burn still holds a special place in my aural vista. If you get past the fact that Coverdale was little more than a Percy clone, you have to admit that as a singer he had a better range than Gillan, and although he couldn't match Gillan in the blood-curdling scream department, he still had a good powerful bluesy voice. Glenn Hughes contributes a lot to this album, getting co-writing credits on five of the eight songs, and his funky style is all over songs like Might Just Take Your Life, the barrelhouse funky What's Going On Here, Lay Down Stay Down. Even on Sail Away which is credited to Blackmore & Coverdale, the funky swagger of the backline sounds like it comes from Stevie Wonder on downers, and has Hughes all over it.
The only conventional "Purps" sounding song is the storming opener and title track, which I reckon stands alongside any of their more uptempo MKII efforts. Showpiece song on the album is the seven minute blues Mistreated where Blackmore gets to show his blues chops, and you can almost hear the glove being thrown down to Jimmy Page! Co-written by Blackmore & Coverdale the singer puts in a fine shout too.

A varied if atypical Purps album that still sounds good to these old lugholes, and is well worth investigating. This line up only lasted until Blackmore left in 1975 and produced one more LP at the end of 1974, Stormbringer, which is not a patch on this album.

4 out of 5

Saturday, 18 December 2010

A small but eclectic year

I always like to think that I have fairly catholic taste when it comes to music, and a perusal of the CDs I have bought in 2010 hopefully shows just that :

Brian Eno & David Byrne - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

The Fall - This Nation's Saving Grace

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

Frogg Café - Bateless Edge

Midlake - The Courage Of Others

Joni Mitchell - Mingus

My Brother The Wind - Twilight In The Crystal Cabinet

Neu! - 75

The Pineapple Thief - Someone Here Is Missing

The Pineapple Thief - 3000 Days

The Pineapple Thief - Someone Here Is Live (download only)

French TV - I Forgive You My Unhappiness (download)

Soft Machine - Six/Seven

Soft Machine - BBC Radio 1971 - 1974

Talk Talk - Spirit Of Eden

Scott Walker - Boy Child - The best of 1967-1970

Robert Wyatt - Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard

Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans

Peter Gabriel - Scratch My Back

Scott Walker - In Five Easy Pieces

simakDialog - Demi Masa

Blow Up Hollywood - Fake (a freebie! Thanks Steve M)

Amplifier - The Octopus

Robert Wyatt - "….for the ghosts within"

Mercury Rev - The Peel Sessions

Deep Purple - Burn (remastered)

Hawkwind - In Search Of Space (remastered)

Fromuz - Seventh Story

A small but eclectic selection I hope you agree!

The last three are still in transit but will hopefully arrive before 31st December!

Season's Greetings - Roger T

RIP Don Van Vliet. A true maverick who will be sorely missed.

Words are not enough, so here's the man in action, starting with an interview on Letterman....

Sure 'Nuff'N Yes I Do

Ice Cream For Crow

Bug Eyed Beans From Venus

Upon The My Oh My (preceded by Mark Ellen & David Hepworth reminiscing on The Old Grey Whistle Test)

With the Magic Band in Belgium 1969....low fi, but fascinating!

Bat Chain Puller

Click Clack

There will never be another quite like him....

Saturday, 11 December 2010

The Pineapple Thief - Someone Here Is Live

This is a great live album from a band that deserve success after a long time "paying their dues". For the princely sum of £8 (320 kbps mp3, or £10 for the FLAC version - see end of review for link) you can obtain nearly 2 hours of music recorded live with no overdubs from the band's European Tour in October 2010. A bargain!

Showcasing their Someone Here Is Missing album from earlier in the year, the album also includes many highlights mainly from the more recent part of their career. Some of the songs here are extended versions of the originals, and as such give one a good idea of the band's live dynamic.

Some nice wah guitar features in Tightly Wound, So We Row veers into space rock territory, the 14 and 1/2 minute Too Much To Lose is a lesson in building and releasing musical tension, 3000 Days has a great almost Zeppelin-like coda with some fine guitar thrashing from Bruce. Wake Up The Dead is the song that comes in for the dreaded Radiohead comparison in other reviews on sites like Prog Archives, but ignore that and take it on its own pulse-beat driving merits and it will have you jumping round the room. A great song to put on while getting ready to hit the town methinks...I was young once you know!

Unfairly compared elsewhere to Muse & Radiohead, The Pineapple Thief have over many years developed their own distinctive sound, and those who think otherwise are maybe blinded by their own prejudices. The only similarity to Muse and Radiohead is the sharing of a modern post rock sound, but The Pineapple Thief's songs stand on their own. This band lack the overblown pomposity of Muse, and they write more melodic material than Radiohead, a band that often fail to live up to their ambitions in my opinion.

A mighty fine post-rock tour de force, for someone unfamiliar with this band this is as good a place to start as any, and I highly recommend it.

More info here

4 out of 5

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Blow Up Hollywood - Fake

A recent rediscovery for me are this nigh on un-categorisable and enigmatic band from New York. Fronted by Steve Messina (voice/guitar), ably assisted by Thad DeBrock (guitars, processing), Dave Eggar (cello) and Daniel Mintseris (keyboards), the band give no information on personnel on their album covers, and very little on their website, the info here comes from

They revel in their anonymity, are not easily pigeonholed and have produced a highly varied body of work since 2002. The band have gone from orchestral minimalism to ambient to prog, and have even tackled the dreaded concept album.

This, their second album, was released in 2004, and is a lovingly produced musical journey through love and loss. Fake it certainly is not. Haunting, melancholic and uplifting by turns, there are ten songs on the album, five with vocals, five instrumentals. A simple but effective musical motif runs through the album like lettering in a stick of rock (rock candy for our American friends), reappearing for the final time on the last track DMK, the oddest of the instrumentals featuring what sounds like backwards keyboards. Buried in the middle of the album is the gorgeous love song Oceans, which you can easily imagine being played in a stadium sized venue, audience with lighters aloft. My only gripe is that the wonderful slide (or bottleneck) guitar break is not long enough - maybe they extend it in a live setting? The title track has another highly personal lyric presumably from Steve, the song starts with a late Floydian sounding acoustic, and builds into a highly atmospheric and climatic coda.

Much as I hate making comparisons, I concede that for newcomers to a band it can be helpful, so here goes. The obvious influence is late period Floyd, but with a slightly less proggy edge. Believe it or not I could well imagine Robbie Williams singing the title track - stop laughing at the back, I mean it in a totally positive way!

Judge their consummate songcraft for yourself at . Oceans isn't on the MySpace site, but White Walls from this album is.

An album for an introspective mood, with some lovely songs. Largely unknown outside of the USA, this band deserve to be heard. Buy Fake (and their other CDs and goodies) here  cheaper than Amazon!

4 out of 5

***Thanks to Steve for the CD***

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Merry Xmas Everybody!

...or not if you loathe reality shows, especially the lowest bland denominator X Factor. This showbiz behemoth has dominated Xmas music sales for what seems like forever with it's soulless tat. That strange beast the General Public, who watch this show in their millions and then buy the trash it churns out can't be all wrong can they? YES THEY CAN. I've just watched the Robert Plant Electric Prom that was broadcast on BBC4 last week. Now over 60 and exuding a calm authority coupled with an ongoing enthusiasm for searching out new ways to present some classic old countryfied material, with the odd Led Zeppelin classic thrown in for good measure, this guy has something that X Factor contestants will never have unless they have already "paid their dues" or if they go on to forge an extremely unlikely 40 odd year career in music - soul. Call it mojo, feeling, spirituality, it's something a game show contestant whose only experience in music is squawking along to the latest R&B (new meaning - to me The Stones are R&B, not Rhianna (sic) and her ilk) hit in front of the bathroom mirror before being plucked from deserved obscurity by the dreadful Mr Cowell and his cohorts will never have. It's also something that seems entirely absent in Cowell's persona, which is just as well, for how could he live with this shite otherwise?

I may come across as a snob, if so, tough. Most people who claim to like music have zero idea of what actually constitutes the artform in the first place. Right I'll stop ranting now. This year there are a number of campaigns for alternative Xmas no.1's to whatever tosh is churned out by X Factor, and these are some top picks:

Wagner Carrilho - song to be decided

A Facebook campaign is underway to get a Brazilian former PE teacher with a horrendous mullet, who is a contestant on this year's XF, but awful in a tuneless and leery Working Man's Club way, to win the damned thing, thereby getting him a contract and Xmas record release on Cowell's label. This would undoubtedly annoy Cowell no end, as it would usurp his plan to get this year's pretty boy/girl combo to the top slot, so it has to be approved! Wagner has allegedly said "the show stinks like a set up", so he's not as daft as his haircut might suggest.

John Cage - 4'33''

The Situationists and indeed my fave - the idea of having over four minutes of silence at No.1 for Xmas is full of delicious irony, and not just as a poke in the eye for XF. The Facebook campaign goes under the name Cage Against The Machine, no doubt in honour of the successful ruse from last year when Cowell was suitably humbled by being told "F*ck You I won't Do What You Tell Me". Marvellous!

The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl - Fairytale of New York

In honour of the tenth anniversary of MacColl's untimely and sad demise. A pretty straight campaign this one, but you can't argue with one of the best Xmas No.1s ever (or No.2 depending on which chart you believe) making a return.

The Trashmen - Surfin' Bird

The original 60s garage rock'n'roll classic, brought to prominence via the cartoon Family Guy. My first contact with this song was The Ramones' version from 1978, but this is better. Definitely the feelgood choice.

The Macc Ladds - Sweaty Betty

Has no chance, but is very funny in an unreconstructed fashion - the lyrics have to be seen to be believed! Not for the faint hearted.

Also ran....

The Wombles - A Wombling Merry Christmas Why?

Not a Facebook campaign, but in the running...

The Yeo Valley milk advert rap

According to right wing leave-your-brain-at-the-door rag, The Daily Mail, this in with a chance. Again, why? Bloody awful, but if it keeps Cowell's mits off the No.1 spot, all the better...

Bah, Humbug

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Amplifier - Insider

I want to like this band, I really do. You see, my best mate raves about them and I like to support struggling bands, so I've just pre-ordered their forthcoming labour of love The Octopus, which comes with 70 page book all made without the help of a record label no less. You have to admire ambition like that, and at £30 I'm hoping it's an improvement on their previous full album, Insider, released in 2006.

In preparation for receiving this mighty work, I thought I would give their sophomore effort Insider a spin. This is an album I've often overlooked in favour of their more immediate self titled debut. The three piece make a good fist of wall of noise guitar rock with the odd sound effect thrown in for good measure. The problem I have with this is a distinct lack of light and shade and a lack of dynamics which leads to it all sounding a bit samey from about halfway in. There was only one modern(ish) three piece guitar/bass/drums band who managed to keep my attention  for the length of an entire album and that was Sugar, who understood a thing or two about writing a melody and creating a dynamic structure that kept you on the edge of your seat.

However, I don't want to create too much of a downer, as taken individually there is some good stuff on this album, it's just I find it hard work as a whole entity. The opening instrumental Gustav's Arrival is a feisty rifferrama that would not be out of place on a Metallica album. The title track is the best song on the album for me, and lyrically we are seeing a theme develop. Everything is not as it appears, or so we are led to believe. By the time we get to R.I.P. we are told that "only luck keeps us out of the coffin" - well it might if we were all steeplejacks, but this one then veers off into sci-fi territory, as do a lot of songs on this album. Nothing wrong with that, but I think driving force Sel Balamir (guitar/vocals/lyrics) would be better placed writing lyrics that actually have some anchor in the real world. Some of the lyrics on here make no sense at all "o Fortuna" being the maddest of the lot. In places, lyrically at least, they are in danger of turning into Muse, which although good for their bank balances is not something I want to contemplate. I think Sel reads too many comics!* Musically they are close to becoming heavy metal in places, another development I'm not too sure about. Strange Seas Of Thought is a highlight, with a recurring guitar motif woven cleverly into the fabric of the song. The lyrics are not bad either, even if a bit sub-Hawkwind. Elysian Gold brings us back to planet Earth with a hard rock love song no less. Oort is another driving instrumental, thank goodness, as with a title like that, who knows what universe the lyrics would head for!

In conclusion, not a bad album per sé, more a collection of some very good and some less good rock songs. Legend has it that bands suffer from "difficult third album" syndrome, but hopefully Amplifier are through that stage with their second album. I reckon I should have reviewed their much better debut instead!

* I've been told since that Sel does not read comics! He has a strange mind in that case.....

Go here to read about their much anticipated soon come epic, and hopefully not "difficult third album", The Octopus:

..and go here to pre-order The Octopus:
3 out of 5

Thursday, 4 November 2010

No-Man - Together We're Stranger

This is No-Man's fifth album originally released in 2003. No-Man is a collaboration between vocalist and lyricist Tim Bowness, and Steven Wilson, or "The Hardest Working Man In Showbiz" and this album is a collection of minimalist near ambient and sometimes avant-garde soundscapes over songs that drift along in a dreamy but never unfocused way.

Tim's lyrics are heartfelt paeans to the break up of a relationship as the title track suggests, and melancholy memories in the gorgeous ten minute Photographs In Black And White, amongst other introspective and abstract delights. His voice breathily wanders in and out of the guitar and soundscapes ambient mix, and a harmonium is in there too....and a clarinet...lovely.

If I were to compare Tim's voice with anyone, it would have to be David Cassidy - I kid you not! He has the same range and breathy style. The comparison is purely in a sonic sense, as there any similarity ends.

Reference points include The Blue Nile, and, well not much else really, as it's pretty unique, and No-Man are waaay more productive than the Scottish band, having released six full length albums as well as numerous EPs, DVDs etc in their eighteen year existence, and along with more well known names such as Talk Talk and David Sylvian have helped invent post-rock as we know it. I suppose if Nick Drake had been around in the 21st century, he may well have sounded like this, it's that good.

The curious and the uninitiated are drawn to this long running two man collaboration probably because of Steven Wilson's involvement. Those who have a desire to search out something different will soon be beguiled, but those who are expecting any of Wilson's rock influence, and are not open to other forms of music, or have a simply short attention span will doubtless be disappointed and wander off. It's their loss.

Together We're Stranger is a delight, and I recommend it highly.

4 out of 5.

Note: In 2009 the album was reissued as a 2 disc set including a 5:1 surround sound mix.

A career spanning double cd was released in 2006, taking its title from a song on Together We're Stranger, and is a great starting point for the curious:


Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Van Der Graaf - The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome

Van Der Graaf Generator slipped mostly under the radar when I was into prog the first time round, but in the last 20 years or so they have risen to No.1 spot in my list of all time prog acts. This album was the last of the second phase of the band, released in 1977. They would not release another studio album until the third reunion in 2005. Having burnt themselves out physically and creatively by 1972 the first stable line-up split. They reformed in 1975 to release three albums in eighteen months with the same line up. Hugh Banton (customised organs & keyboards & bass pedals) then left again, swiftly followed by David Jackson (saxes, flutes). This prompted frontman Peter Hammill to radically alter the sound and direction of the band, recruiting Nic Potter (bass) who had briefly been in the band at the beginning, Graham Smith (violin), and taking up the guitar himself to become the sonic focal point of the band, and dropping "Generator" from the name to give fans an inkling that this was not what had gone before. This gave the band a more urgent and immediate sound which fitted surprisingly well with the soon to be booming new wave scene.

The Quiet Zone... is the album that most fans flick past when they want to play some VDGG, but it is deserving of more attention in my opinion. Try the twisting funky bass of The Habit Of The Broken Heart, the urgent insistence of Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever (Running)...ELO on amphetamines. Hammill was never one for easy song titles! Lyrical themes are as ever, bad relationships, lost love, the meaning of life, and on Chemical World, a bit of environmental concern thrown in for good measure.

Most folk know of a certain John Lydon's affection for VDGG, but another new wave band who most certainly must have been hugely influenced were Magazine. You can trace Howard Devoto's songwriting style back to Hammill, and Barry Adamson's sinuous bass lines took their template from Nic Potter's performances on this album.

Not their best album, but view it as a different band and it's well worth a listen.

3 out of 5

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Text Of Festival (6)

First one missed off from last time due to losing the will to live...I'll try harder this time!

Gig no.239 - 27/01/07 - John Cale - Roadmender, Northampton
Exuding the studied menace of a man who has lived most of his life somewhere in the underbelly of left field performance art, Mr Cale enters stage right and launches into his version of Heartbreak Hotel, which if you've never heard it, skewers the original with a six inch switchblade and then tramples on the corpse. Wonderful!
By the second song the heat from the overhead lights was melting his subtle make up, which began to run from his hairline like a new wound. It fitted perfectly, along with his personal aide who stood with his back to the stage at the front staring threateningly at anyone he considered was "looking at my pint" in an unwelcome fashion. High camp but cool with it.
As well as promoting songs from his latest offering, the rather good Black Acetate, he delved deep into his back catalogue and came up with Gun, Paris 1919 were two i can recall, along with a couple of Velvets numbers. A sort of menacing Brian Eno with a Welsh accent. Fear Is A Man's Best Friend indeed.

Gig no.243 - 25/10/07 - Rick Wakeman - Derngate Theatre, Northampton
Billed as "An Evening With.." a big part of the audience, us included, were no doubt there on the back of Mr W's Grumpy Old Man persona. It works well on tv but tonight his tales of middle aged intransigence were no more than prosaic. The music was a mixture of kitsch classical and a kind of Mr Entertainer Plays Piano that Bill Bailey does so much better.
We left at the interval.

Gig no.245 - 15/02/08 - The Mekons - The Musician, Leicester
The best gig I'd been to for ages in my current small venue of choice. They serve real ale! The Mekons have a small but loyal following, and over the years they have continued to develop their unique brand of UK folk-protest-punk music, and still manage to turn out deft pieces of political criticism in their lyrics without ever coming across as hackneyed or trite.

Nice'n'blurry does it...
Jon Langford & Sally Timms share the spotlight with an ease that comes from working together for thirty years, and their comic banter is worth the entry fee alone. See if you can find Ghosts Of American Astronauts in Spotify and be enthralled by its ethereal beauty.
A great night.

Gig no.251 - 16/10/08 - Elbow - De Montfort Hall, Leicester
I picked up on this influential post-rock band the album before the Mercury Music Prize winning Seldom Seen Kid. I bought Leaders Of The Free World after reading glowing reviews, and at first I thought Guy Garvey sounded like a more introspective Peter Gabriel. I've since learned that he based his songwriting style on Gabriel having been a big Genesis fan.
The marvellous Seldom Seen Kid is a pinnacle of post-rock writing that the band will find hard to top and it justly deserves all the accolades it received.
This gig was on the tour immediately after the band had lifted the Mercury Music Prize the previous month, and was a triumphal performance powered by the joy of having made it after more than ten years on the fringes. They were very slick; in fact maybe too slick. You could have closed your eyes and you may as well have been at home listening to the album. Still a good gig though. Garvey seemed genuinely humbled by his success, and does not seem to possess much of an ego, which is no bad thing.
Where this band go from here is anyone's guess, but I hope the next album, apparently provisionally titled Lippy Kid, is not simply Seldom Seen Kid Mk2.

Gig no.258 - 27/11/09 - Martin Stephenson - The Music Garden, Milton Keynes
With his band The Daintees, Stephenson produced some great songs in the eighties and onwards, and their gentle homespun folksy influences are what he trades on today. He also is a really good storyteller, and this evening sat at a table in a cabaret style setting, with a meal thrown in for good measure was just perfect. Ably assisted by long time musical partner Helen McCookerybook, he fed us tales of whimsy and homespun philosophy, in a Geordie accent! Wonderful.

Gig no.259 - 05/12/09 - The Pineapple Thief - The Musician, Leicester
I've been blowing this band's trumpet for a while now. I think they should be big, as you can tell from my review of their last album Someone Here Is Missing ( ).
This was a blinding gig about three months before that album was released and featured a few songs from it, although at the time they were obviously previously unheard. Their brand of indie-prog crossover music went down a storm that night, and I hope one day to see them do a Porcupine Tree and end up playing prestigious venues.
Ones that (almost) got away

Back in my metal gig going days I had the pleasure to witness Judas Priest at the good 'ol De Montfort in February 1978. At the time Rob Halford in full gay biker attire (if only the audience of greasers had known that then!) would make his entrance (ahem) by riding a Harley Davidson from the wings to the centre of the stage. This particular time the bike wouldn't start, so he sang the first verse of the opening number astride the bike in the wings, and some roadies pushed him on stage during a guitar solo. Another Spinal Tap moment witnessed! Later in the same tour (I think) he managed to ride the thing straight off the edge of the stage into the orchestra pit, breaking a leg. Twat.

Reading Festival - either 1978, 79 or 80 - I can't remember, I was drunk, or something! It was very hot. We were all sitting down on the scorched earth getting the benefit of some UV rays. There was a real dodgy geezer wandering around selling scrumpy in gallon plastic containers. I didn't have much common sense then, and neither did my mates, so we bought one. Several hours later having demolished most of the scrumpy as my mates thought it was shite (they were probably right), I have an understandable urgent need to pee, and for a verrry lonnnng time. I attempt to stand up and promptly fall over. Repeat the attempt a couple of times, same result. It was a weird sensation being sober from the waist up but completely pished waist down. My mates had to carry me out of the crowd to the "facilities" where they propped me up against a fence post while I emptied my bladder which was, and still is, the size of a small planet. It seemed to go on forever. When I had at long last finished, I was pissed from the waist up, but my legs now worked after a fashion, so I managed to weave my way back into the fray largely unassisted. My mates micky taking was countered by my new bragging rights as chief piss artist, both in the literal and metaphorical sense!

Dedications, grovelling...Thanks must be given to the many headed beastie that was and is "The Driver", without whom etc etc....

Thanks to the bands, all 439 of them…..

Nominations for Best Band Name – Jimmy The Hoover, Holy Shit, Root Boy Slim & The Sex Change Band…..

1. 10000 Maniacs
2. 13 Frightened Girls
3. 32120
4. 4 Non Blondes
5. 4ft Fingers
6. 8th Storey Window
7. A House
8. After The Fire
9. Age Of Chance
10. AIIZ
11. Albert King Blues Band
12. All Grown Up
13. Allan Holdsworth
14. Altered Images
15. Amplifier
16. Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe
17. Angelwitch
18. Arthur Lee & Love
19. Astronaut
20. Aswad
21. Atlanta Rhythm Section
22. Automatics
23. Bad Company
24. Badlads
25. Bauhaus
26. Beautiful People
27. Bellowhead
28. Belly
29. Benjamin Zephaniah
30. Bethnal
31. Bhundu Boys
32. Biff Bang Pow
33. Big Audio Dynamite
34. Bill Wyman & The Rhythm Kings
35. Billy “The Kid” Emerson
36. Billy Bragg
37. Bite The Pillow
38. Bivouac
39. Black Grape
40. Black Slate
41. Black Uhuru
42. Blancmange
43. Blazer Blazer
44. Blue Oyster Cult
45. Bob Geldof
46. Boomtown Rats
47. Bow Wow Wow
48. Bram Tchaikovsky
49. Brand X
50. Brave Captain
51. Broken Home
52. Budgie
53. Buzzcocks
54. Caravan
55. Cardigans
56. Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine
57. Chas & Dave
58. Cheap Trick
59. Chelsea
60. Chris Barber Band
61. Chuck Berry
62. Climax Blues Band
63. Dave Edmund’s Rockpile
64. David Bowie
65. David Gray
66. Deep Throat
67. Def Leppard
68. Dennis O’Brien
69. Devo
70. Dexy’s Midnight Runners
71. Diesel Park West
72. Discharge
73. Dizzy Heights
74. Doctor & The Medics
75. Dodgy
76. Dogg’n Tank
77. Doll By Doll
78. Dolly Mixtures
79. Dr Feelgood
80. Dub War
81. Dubstar
82. Easy Prey
83. Eat
84. Eels
85. Elbow
86. Elvis Costello & The Attractions
87. English Assassin
88. Evan Dando
89. Fairport Convention
90. Famous Names
91. Felt
92. Fields Of The Nephilim
93. Figuera
94. Filthy Dukes
95. Fingerprintz
96. Fischer Z
97. Flicks
98. Focus
99. Foreigner
100. Frank Zappa
101. Frankie Goes To Hollywood
102. Frankie Miller
103. Fun Boy Three
104. Garbage
105. Gary Glitter
106. Generation X
107. Genesis
108. Ghost Dance
109. Ginger Baker Band
110. Girl
111. Girlschool
112. Goodbye Mr McKenzie
113. Grand Prix
114. Graphite
115. Green Day
116. Green On Red
117. Greenhouse
118. Greg Kihn Band
119. Groundhogs
120. Gruppo Sportivo
121. Happy Mondays
122. Hatfield & The North
123. Hawklords
124. Hawkwind
125. Head Of David
126. Headskaters
127. Helions (Brian James' band after The Damned)
128. Here & Now
129. Holy Shit
130. Huge Big Massive
131. Hugh Masekela
132. Hunter Ronson Band
133. Ian Dury & The Music Students
134. Ian Gillan Band
135. Ian Hunter
136. Ian McCulloch
137. Ian McNabb
138. Icehouse
139. Iggy & The Stooges
140. Iggy Pop
141. Inner Circle
142. Iron Maiden
143. Jackie Leven
144. James
145. Japan
146. Jayne Aire & The Belvederes
147. Jefferson Starship
148. Jenny Darren
149. Jerry Dammers
150. Jerry Dammers & The Spatial AKA Arkestra
151. Jimmy The Hoover
152. Joe Jackson
153. Joe Siegel
154. Joe Strummer
155. Joe Strummer & The Latino Rockabilly War
156. John Cale
157. John Cooper Clarke
158. John Mayall
159. John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett
160. John Wesley Harding
161. Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers
162. Jona Lewie
163. Jose Gonzalez
164. Judas Priest
165. Julian Cope
166. King Crimson
167. Kingfish
168. Kiss
169. Kraftwerk
170. Krokus
171. Kula Shaker
172. Led Zeppelin
173. Left Hand Drive
174. Lene Lovich
175. Les Negresse Vertes
176. Lightning Raiders
177. Lindisfarne
178. Living End
179. Lloyd Cole & The Commotions
180. Lo-fidelity Allstars
181. Lone Ranger
182. Lone Star
183. Lou Reed
184. Magazine
185. Magnolia Siege
186. Magnum
187. Mahogany Rush
188. Man
189. Manic Street Preachers
190. Marseilles
191. Martin Stephenson & The Daintees
192. Massive Attack
193. McKitty
194. Mekons
195. Melissa Etheridge
196. Mercury Rev
197. Mickey Jupp
198. Microdisney
199. Misty In Roots
200. Molly Hatchet
201. Moondogs
202. More
203. Motorhead
204. Muddy Waters
205. My Bloody Valentine
206. Mythra
207. Nazareth
208. Neil Young
209. New Hearts
210. New Model Army
211. Next
212. Nine Below Zero
213. Nutz
214. One Style
215. Orbital
216. Outfit
217. Pacific Eardrum
218. Page & Plant
219. Pat Travers Band
220. Patti Smith Group
221. Paul Inder
222. Paul Weller
223. Pearl Jam
224. Penetration
225. Peter Case
226. Peter Gabriel
227. Peter Green
228. Philip Rambow
229. Porcupine Tree
230. Primal Scream
231. Priory Of Brion
232. Pulp
233. Punishment Of Luxury
234. Puppy Love Bomb
235. Quartz
236. Rachel Sweet
237. Racing Cars
238. Radio Stars
239. Rainbow
240. Randy California
241. Red Alert
242. Red Noise
243. REM
244. Rich Kids
245. Rick Wakeman
246. Riff Raff (Billy Bragg's pre-solo punk band)
247. Rikki Cool & The Icebergs
248. Robert Palmer
249. Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians
250. Rocket 88 (Charlie Watt's boogie band)
251. Root Boy Slim & The Sex Change Band
252. Rory Gallagher
253. Rose Of Avalanche
254. Roy Harper
255. Run DMC
256. Sam Browne
257. Samson
258. Sarah Vaughan
259. Saxon
260. Scorpions
261. Screech Rock
262. Screens
263. Secret Machines
264. Seth Lakeman
265. Shack
266. Sham 69
267. Simple Minds
268. Supergrass
269. Skua
270. Skunks
271. Slade
272. Something Happened
273. Southside Johnny & The Asbury Dukes
274. Space
275. Spear Of Destiny
276. Special FX
277. Speed’O’Meters
278. Spirit
279. Squeeze
280. Status Quo
281. Steve Gibbons Band
282. Steve Hackett
283. Steve Hillage
284. Stiff Little Fingers
285. Stops
286. Straits
287. Strife
288. Studio Morocco
289. Style Council
290. Suede
291. Sugar
292. Superchunk
293. Suzanne Vega
294. Sweet Leaf
295. Tank
296. Teenage Fanclub
297. Telephone
298. Television
299. Terra Nova
300. That Petrol Emotion
301. The Adverts
302. The Albion Band
303. The Alchemysts
304. The Australian Doors
305. The Australian Pink Floyd
306. The Beat
307. The Beloved
308. The Bevis Frond
309. The Bishops
310. The Blue Aeroplanes
311. The Business
312. The Charlatans
313. The Christians
314. The Clash
315. The Cobbers
316. The Counting House
317. The Cowboy Junkies
318. The Cranberries
319. The Cure
320. The Daintees
321. The Damned
322. The Defendants
323. The Derreros
324. The Fall
325. The Filberts
326. The Flaming Lips
327. The Flys
328. The Godfathers
329. The Heart Throbs
330. The Hives
331. The Hothouse Flowers
332. The House Of Love
333. The Icicle Works
334. The Innocents
335. The J Geils Band
336. The Jack Rubies
337. The Jags
338. The Jam
339. The Jazz Butcher
340. The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy
341. The Jilted Brides
342. The Jolt
343. The Journey
344. The La’s
345. The Love Ambassadeux
346. The Lucky Bishops
347. The Lurkers
348. The Mars Volta
349. The Members
350. The Men They Couldn’t Hang
351. The Meteors
352. The Milltown Brothers
353. The Motors
354. The Movies
355. The New Commander Cody Band
356. The Night
357. The Numatics
358. The O1 Band
359. The One
360. The Pineapple Thief
361. The Pirates
362. The Pixies
363. The Pogues
364. The Police
365. The Primitives
366. The Proclaimers
367. The Promise
368. The Questions
369. The Ramones
370. The Records
371. The Rhythm Sisters
372. The Rolling Stones
373. The Ruts
374. The Screaming Blue Messiahs
375. The Skids
376. The Slits
377. The Smiths
378. The Sneaks
379. The Softies
380. The Soup Dragons
381. The Stone Roses
382. The Stranglers
383. The Strawbs
384. The Strokes
385. The Sugarcubes
386. The Three Johns
387. The Tourists
388. The Tubes
389. The Undertones
390. The Venus Fly Trap
391. The Verve
392. The Waterboys
393. The Wedding Present
394. The White
395. The Wolfgang Press
396. The Wonderstuff
397. The Woodentops
398. Thomas Dolby
399. Time Machine
400. Todd Rundgren & Utopia
401. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
402. Tom Robinson Band
403. Tom Verlaine
404. Tools
405. Trans Global Underground
406. Travis
407. Trevor Rabin
408. Trimmer & Jenkins
409. TV Personalities
410. Twist
411. Tygers Of Pan Tang
412. U2
413. UFO
414. Ultravox!
415. Underneath What?
416. Van Der Graaf Generator
417. Vardis
418. Vaughan Toulouse
419. Vic Goddard & The Subway Sect
420. Voice Of The Beehive
421. Wayne County & The Electric Chairs
422. Weapon Of Peace
423. Whirlwind
424. White Spirit
425. Whitesnake
426. Wild Horses
427. Wilko Johnson’s Solid Senders
428. Wishbone Ash
429. Wishing Stones
430. Witchfynde
431. Wizzard
432. World Party
433. Wreckless Eric
434. XTC
435. Yargo
436. Yazoo
437. Yeah Jazz!
438. Yes
439. Zaine Griff

I know I saw The Pale Fountains, but for whatever reason they did not get listed, so there’s probably other omissions too!

Regrets – Pointless regretting not seeing bands who were at their prime before one was old enough, but two I regret not getting to see when I was old enough are the Peter Gabriel led Genesis, and Be Bop Deluxe.

On the other hand, I’ve never seen Muse or Coldplay or Keane, and long may it continue!

That's all folks. Thank you and goodnight.

Thank Gawd for that!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Text Of Festival (5)

Last week I said this would be the last it won't, there's too much to cram in....

Gig no.181 - 21/01/93 - Man - Princess Charlotte, Leicester
When I was in seminary school, a man put forth the proposition....hang on I'm getting confused here......
Waaay back in the early 70s my best mate had a cousin who was five or six years older than us and occasionally he used to play us the latest waxings of the time. One of his favourite bands was the Welsh hippy space rockers Man. In 1973 they had one third of the live double album Greasy Truckers (a review - The main part of their contribution was the side long (that's 20 minutes to those of you too young to recall slabs of black vinyl) psych guitar overload masterpiece that was Spunk Rock. Still one of my all time fave bits of music.
Anyway, this gig was the one and only time I got to see the band, and this line up contained three of the original five members. Sadly Mickey Jones who was one half of the twin guitar attack along with Deke Leonard is no longer with us, but that night they showed they still had the chops. And they played Spunk Rock! Far out maaan.

Gig no.199 - 23rd to 25th June 1995 - Glastonbury Festival
June 1995 was the last time I ventured down to Pilton to witness what was then still the best festival vibe in the country. Nowadays I reckon it's got too big, and worse than that has become part of the Hooray Henry summer scene along with Royal Ascot, Henley, and all that other nose in the air shite. They've even had a Royal visit! Next year's festival sold out in 4 hours and the tickets were a mere £195 and that does not include booking fees, p&p etc. There are nowadays dozens of much smaller more friendly festivals to choose from. Ok, you might not get the likes of Muse, Coldplay etc, turning up, but is that any great loss?
The '95 festival was a snip at £65 and the line up included The Cure, Massive Attack, Oasis - 'scuse me while I block my ears - I think we saw Massive Attack while the lumpen Manc proles took centre stage, Portishead, Black Crowes, Jeff Buckley (astonishing voice), Page & Plant and loads of others. Highlights were The Verve's modern stoner rock, Pulp who were great entertainment and as last minute replacements for The Stone Roses quickly won over what could have been a hostile crowd. The highlight of the weekend for me was a stunning set by Orbital as the sun was setting. Out There Somewhere was just perfect for the scene.
And it didn't rain!

Gig no.204 - 28/10/96 - Pearl Jam - Wembley Arena
A big disappointment from a band that made no concessions to vast soulless space that is Wembley Arena. They had no stage set to speak of, minimal lighting, and frontman Eddie Vedder had absolutely no stage presence. I suppose they were making a misguided attempt to stay true to their plaid shirt new punk roots, but it backfired badly. The whole thing was dispirited and a big let let down. I still reckon the Alive is one of the best rock anthems ever though.

There follows a fallow period - I decided to knuckle down at work, and became a mini property baron into the bargain. Bad timing meant it didn't make me rich, but that's another story. In 1997 I attended two gigs, none (!) in 1998, and only one in 1999.

Gig no.208 - 30/01/2000 - The Bevis Frond - The Standard, Walthamstow 
In the latter two years of the eighties and early nineties I got into The Frond, as the aficionados called them, in a big way. I've got nigh on twenty albums by the band, who were basically psychedelic veteran Nick Saloman (wah & fuzz guitar, vocals, songs) and a revolving door of sidemen centred on Bari Watts (gtr) & Ric Gunther (drums). This music pub in deepest London was their home patch and this was a mini festival featuring other psych bands on Saloman's Woronzow label. Their second album 1987's Inner Marshland is a buried treasure and if you're at all into furious guitar based psych wigouts but with good songwriting thrown in, it's a must.
The Frond eventually arrived on stage around midnight and played for nearly two hours. A sleazy psychedelic stew was dished up by the lads and the small but devoted audience of old hippies and freaks lapped it up. We didn't get home until about 3 in the morning, totally knackered.

Gig no.209 - 16/02/00 - Yes - Nottingham Royal Concert Hall
The one and only time I've seen the Starship Troopers, although I suppose you could count Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe as being Yes in all but name. This gig featured the amazing talents of Igor Koroshev on keyboards while Rick Wakeman took one of his many sabbaticals from the band. A fine musical evening.
What made this memorable was the weather. The journey up to Nottingham was unremarkable - the night was cold but nothing extreme for February in our sceptered isle. When we left the venue it was as we had arrived, still cold but dry. We spied a welcoming hostelry on the outskirts of the city and decided to stop for a pint. When we left the pub about half an hour later it was snowing hard, and already about six inches had settled. As we journeyed south on the M1 it had turned into a blizzard, to the point where we had to leave the motorway because Phill simply could not see where he was going. By the time we had driven a further 20 or so miles south the snow had stopped, and by the time we got home not a flake was to be seen on the ground! British weather, doncha just love it?

Gig no.223 - 15/02/04 - Arthur Lee & Love - Roadmender, Northampton
My home town was lucky enough to be graced with the presence of Arthur Lee on his UK tour of 2004. The "Love" of the title were actually an L.A. psych band who had been backing Lee since 1995. Lee, an other-worldly figure who for six years up to 2001 had been in prison for firearms offences, cut a strange but remarkably together figure on stage, led the band through all the classics. An honour to have seen the man before his untimely death in 2006.

Gig no.229 - 9/07/05 - Van Der Graaf Generator - De Montfort Hall, Leicester
Probably my favourite prog band, and one of few bands of that era who were actually "progressive" in the true meaning of the word, reformed in 2005 with the classic line up. Peter Hammill is one of the most intellectually demanding songwriters these shores have ever produced, and with a new album to promote, they mixed new songs with old classics like Lemmings, Sleepwalkers, The Undercover Man. Brilliant!
Type "Nutter Alert" into Spotify for an example of a skewed pop song. If you like that, delve deeper!

Gig no. 232 - 30/11/05 - The Mars Volta - Nottingham Rock City
Of recent gigs, the worst I've been to. This band's first album, 2003's De-Loused In The Comatorium is something of a nu-prog classic, but the law of diminishing returns seems to have set in for the most part ever since. I still thought they would be worth seeing though. I need not have bothered. Never in my 36 years of gig going had I seen such a bunch of self-absorbed pretentiousness at work, disappearing up their own fretboards. Not once in 2 hours did any band member acknowledge the audience. To make matters worse we were harangued by a very drunk bloke probably in his mid twenties who kept asking my companion Phil W "What are two old fogies like you doing at a gig like this?" Despite Phil's attempts to offer perfectly reasonable explanations the guy was having none of it. When he started on me I told him to fuck off, and, amazingly, he did!
All in all a horrible night. 

There follows a few visits to Nottingham's Rescue Rooms, a tiny cramped sweaty pit of a place that makes Northampton's Roadmender look like The Albert Hall. I've been to some dives in my time but this place takes the award for Worst Venue.

Gig no.237 - 13/11/06 - The Flaming Lips - Hammersmith Apollo
I used to love this band. From quirky beginnings their career trajectory is similar to REM in that by 2006 they were HUGE having crossed into the mainstream with what is still their best album The Soft Bulletin. Following albums have slowly faded from view sadly. Still, I was looking forward to this gig no end.
First surprise was where we were sat, up in the gods. A word of warning - if you suffer from vertigo, don't get circle tickets at the Hammersmith Apollo. It feels like there's a vertical drop in front of your feet. Two thousand feet down were the band on stage with their usual accompanying dancing eyeballs and other weird costumes. The music was fine, but after virtually every song mainman Wayne Coyne wibbles on like a 60's hippy acid casualty about how we should love each other and how the world is a pea green boat or somesuch. Heard once or twice this fine, but after a dozen times you wanna gaffa tape his twee mouth.
I was offered the chance to see them again on the next tour, but wisely turned it down!

Gig no.242 - 24/10/07 - Shack - Barfly, Birmingham
In the 80s I was into the marvellous Pale Fountains (got to see them once, too) who made dreamy pop songs backed by sweeping soundscapes and whimsical strumming. They were lead by Michael Head, and after they split up he formed Shack with his brother John. This was the second time I saw this band who craft the most wonderful pop songs written by the Head brothers. A more appropriate surname is not feasible for these two, at least one of which has gone through heroin addiction. You'd think their songs would be sleaze fests along the lines of Jesus & Mary Chain, but not a bit of it. Classic Byrds influenced shoegazy pop is their bag, and great stuff it is. Time for A Cup Of Tea...

.....back next week...

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Orb featuring David Gilmour - Metallic Spheres

There are two tracks on this album. They are - A Sigh At The Gates Of Ennui, and  Soporific On The Far Edge Of Snore. Actually they're not called that at all as that would take way too much effort, maaan. The tracks are actually imaginatively monikered "The Metallic Side" & "The Spheres Side", which must've taken some time to think up.
What do you get when a band famous for their innovations in ambient dub music some 20 years ago meet up with their hero, the least adventurous guitarist in the annals of prog? Answer - wibble to the nth degree. Firstly I should point out that this album is billed as The Orb featuring David Gilmour, not the other way round, so don't expect a Pink Floyd guitar wig out every five minutes. Dave's noodlings never get out of first gear and are no more than the kind of thing he used to do in the ambient bit of Echoes, plain dull. In fact anyone who has ever mastered two chords and has access to an array of effects pedals and sound manipulation software could have done this.
After a while of it's nigh on half an hour I expected the music on the first track to fade into a rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone viz-a-viz Fearless from Meddle. Actually that would have been quite funny.
After all these years the rhythm programs used by Dr Alex Paterson still rely heavily on repetitive Thump-Thump-Thump on the beat, which after 10 minutes gets very wearing. Sprinkled amongst the soundscapes are the trademark twitterings and warblings of Paterson's fauna from space, which is pleasant enough I suppose. 
I don't think I'll be playing this again in a hurry.

2 out of 5

But on the other hand.....

Imagine lying on a deserted beach under the hot sun*, pina colada** in hand, as you drift away on a never ending wave of psychedelic ambience washing across your consciousness via the mp3 player. This album is the perfect companion for chilling out. David Gilmour's swathes of gentle ambient noodling drift in and out of Alex Paterson's cosmic soundscapes like flocks of starlings swooping across an azure sky....pure bliss.

* or, in a hammock on a hot day, or alone at night in a darkened room - ** or, rum'n'coke, jazz cigarette, you get the picture..

4 out of 5

Take your pick!

If you're tempted to buy this, the double cd version below features a simulation of surround sound but in normal two channel stereo on the second cd, which sounds rather good on headphones I'm told.

Footnote - the royalties from this album are apparently all going to Gary McKinnon, the Brit the US wants to put on trial for hacking into the Pentagon's computer system, hence the repeated refrains throughout the album for "Justice" and "Freedom".

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Text Of Festival (4)

Last week there was a cock-up in the list reading department. That teaser about Gig no. 121 - sorry folks, I meant Gig no.180 - same band same venue, but 6 years later! Do we get to it this time??

Gig no.131 - 24/04/88 - Thomas Dolby - Roadmender, Northampton
Left field synth pop from the oddly coiffured Mr Dolby, slightly Germanic in places, strangely strange but oddly normal. Mr Dolby's support act was the R&B (old and proper meaning of the term) wailing of Sam Browne. An odd combination of acts that worked surprisingly well.

Gig no.136 - 11/05/88 - The Sugarcubes - Leicester University
The band that gave the world Bjork. As I remember it the band had two main vocalists, Ms Godmundsdottir (hope that's right) and a shouty bloke who didn't so much sing as give Icelandic Tourettes stylee exclamations aided by amplification. They were very entertaining.

Apparently on 19/06/87 we went to Milton Keynes Bowl for The Amnesty International Festival Of Youth. Headlined by The Damned, with support from Big Audio Dynamite, Bhundu Boys, Joe Strummer, and others. It sounds like a great bill, but unfortunately it's one of those 80s moments I have no memory of whatsoever! It probably rained. Or not.

Gig no.141 - 1/08/88 - 10000 Maniacs - Town & Country Club
Natalie Merchant et al perform her nu-country balladry at the famous London venue before it became a national franchise. A great gig. The thing I recall most vividly was on leaving the North Circular to enter the metropolis we drove straight over a roundabout. No, we had not been drinking or anything else, we just didn't slow down enough and had no option but to go "off road"! The driver wasn't "Simon" from earlier stories, it was "No.2" (heheh).

Gig no.145 - 28/10/88 - The House Of Love - The Guildhall, Northampton
Back in the Gothic splendour of Shoesville's central control room we saw an amazing performance by Guy Chadwick, Sir Terrence of Bickers, and, err, the other two, at their psych-pop peak. Love In A Car indeedy. I got very drunk but the fact I can actually still remember it means it must have been bonza! "Simon" fell over and I lost a shoe down the front and woke up next morning with a rather sore left foot, and I've no doubt a stonking hangover.

Gig no.154 - 6/06/89 - Lou Reed - London Palladium
The venue most famous for hosting the never ending Saturday Night At..., where Bruce Forsyth forged his early TV career in the 60s played host this night to rock'n'roll's curmudgeon-in-chief Lou Reed, here showcasing his recently released magnificent New York album, played in it's entirety followed by a greatest hits set. A consummate entertainer at the top of his game. He even said "thank you" at the end.

Gig no.164 - 16/04/90 - Nelson Mandela: An International Tribute For A Free South Africa - Wembley Stadium
Say Cheeeeeeese!

The view from Row Z
 Held two months after Mandela's release, this concert was given as a sort of international reception and featured nearly an hour of the great man himself, the first ten minutes or so of his appearance taken up by a standing ovation. Boy I'm getting a lump in the throat just writing this. Probably the most emotional concert I've been to or will ever be at for that matter. The bill seems kind of irrelevant, but amonst others, there were appearances by Neil Young,  Denzel Washington, Lou Reed, Jerry Dammers (Free Nelson Mandela - it made the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention), Lenny Henry, Peter Gabriel, Youssou N'Dour, etc. My listing includes markings out of 10 for each gig I've been to (an accountant, moi?), but against this one I've put "Beyond marking". Too right.

Gig no.179 - 20/11/92 - The House Of Love/Mercury Rev/The Cranberries - Royal Albert Hall, London
Mentioned very briefly in the first part of my gig history. A marvellous bill, topped by the mighty HoL. This would be the last of four times I saw HoL in their prime. A sorely missed band that reformed briefly but disappointingly in 2005.
What also sticks in the mind about this one is the main support act Mercury Rev, at the time an unknown quantity who were promoting their second album Boces. This was some 5 years before their breakthrough album, the stunning Deserter's Songs, and when they still had amongst their ranks the oddball lead singer David Baker. When they arrived on stage minus the singer, the song they launched into had his guttural vocals in it but where was he? Behind us there was a commotion in the crowd, and at first we thought a scrap had broken out - but no, it was Baker shoving his way through the packed standing audience in the aisles while singing at the same time. In hindsight a piece of pure showmanship, but at the time it seemed a bit unsettling, as you could tell this guy was clearly a tangerine short of a fruit salad. The volatile Baker left the band shortly after this tour and Mercury Rev pursued a slightly less avant garde direction culminating in the psych pop masterpiece that is Deserter's Songs.

Gig no.180 - 21/01/93 - Julian Cope - Cambridge Corn Exchange
Aha! Here we are then. A great gig by the psychedelic warlord Mr Julian H Cope at the height of his then burgeoning solo career. What makes this different is that most of our party were under the influence of "disco biscuits", the recreational substance de jour. It was my round, and I'm stood at the crowded bar when suddenly WOOOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSSSSHHHH..."Please stand clear of platform Roger as the approaching train will not stop and it will be travelling at 307 mph".........
I could see the barman had probably asked me what I wanted. All I could do was grin, a lot. The barman then probably told me to do one, and served someone else. I did eventually buy the round, but how long after I've no idea, as one's temporal abilities were utterly skewed out of kilter!
I do recall dancing a lot back in the gig. Those who know would count this as strange behaviour for yours truly.

Final part (thank your deity of choice) next week!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Porcupine Tree at The Royal Albert Hall, London, 14th October 2010

So, did I want to see my current favourite band at possibly the best venue in the country - a no-brainer. The tickets were acquired months ago by Phil W, and he, Phill H and moi trained it down to London full of anticipation. Phill H made it through the chronic back pain barrier to go, and he was rather glad he did. Coming at the end of a 13 month trek around the world, in promotion of their second breakthrough album The Incident, this gig came about in part I'm sure, because Steven Wilson's big buddy Mikael Akerfeldt with his band, Swedish prog metallers Opeth, had played at the same venue earlier in the year.

A rather convoluted trip from Tottenham Court Road tube station to the venue, due to signal failure problems on two different tube lines meant we took our seats in the circle just as the band were taking the stage. The Royal Albert Hall (about a mile west from Harrods, or at the southern end of Hyde Park from a tourist perspective) was built 130 years ago with a design based on Roman ampitheatres. Wherever you are sat the view is perfect, and it remains the best venue both acoustically and aesthetically in the country in my humble opinion. My only slight grouch is the usual lack of legroom, but I am 6' 2", so I'm used to it.

Postings on the band's own Facebook page had indicated that the first set would be a final complete run through of The Incident followed by a greatest hits set. That turned out to be just a teaser, as what actually transpired far exceeded our expectations. Having already seen The Incident played in its entirety last year, and still being nostalgic for their earlier more space-rock inclined sound, the way the gig turned out couldn't have been better.

So it was quite a surprise that the first set of the evening was a low key semi-acoustic affair with the four band members plus long time additional live guitarist John Wesley stage front. Steven Wilson was playing an acoustic guitar, John Wesley a semi acoustic, Richard Barbieri on electric piano, Gavin Harrison on a "Ringo" style stripped down drum kit, and the small but perfectly formed bass player Colin Edwin was dwarfed by his double bass.

The acoustic set
SW's deadpan sense of humour was aired when he introduced the final song in this set as "the closest to heavy metal we've ever got" and the band launched into a sort of street jazz version of Futile. I thought Stranger By The Minute and Pure Narcotic worked particularly well in this setting. A surprising but satisfying beginning to a three hour marathon.

After a very short break while the front of stage equipment was removed the band returned and launched straight into the rarely performed full length version of Even Less, minus John Wesley. As SW explained later they wanted to play all the older material as a four piece as it had originally been written. A stunning start! So much for The Incident being played in full. In fact we had to wait until six songs in before the first song from that album was aired, and it was the last track I Drive The Hearse, in typical perverse fashion. Immediately prior to that was a simply stunning version of my all time favourite Porcupine Tree track The Sky Moves Sideways, which I hadn't heard them play since 1995. At the end of that song the crowd gave the band a standing ovation, even the younger more metal oriented fans. SW said he felt a bit weird as when that track was new he was playing it to crowds of "a hundred" (I was one) and here they were playing it to nigh on four thousand people. After Bonnie The Cat from the bonus tracks cd of The Incident the band took another short break. We remarked on how the whole band were on top form, and clearly enjoying the experience of having "made it" and rightly so. Porcupine Tree are probably the only band I've followed live from the humblest of beginnings to the top division of the rock elite, and it's just so good to see a band you've always believed in getting their just desserts.

The Sky Moves Sideways

The Interval (not The Incident!)
We predicted that at some point the crushing riff of Occam's Razor would grace our ears, and sure enough the third set started with this followed by Blind House - two of my three favourite moments from The Incident. They then played the following tracks on The Incident up to Drawing The Line. Me and Phill H regard The Incident as a part return to form after the awfully disjointed Fear Of A Blank Planet. Strange that FOABP was the album that broke them worldwide, but maybe telling that only two of its tracks were played tonight. After Drawing The Line the band surprised everybody by taking a left turn with a sublime version of Tinto Brass, then SW retrieves his acoustic for the wonderful Time Flies, the stadium anthem in the band's canon that has replaced Even Less as the high point of their gigs. Next up are the two songs from FAOBP separated by Up The Downstair, the oldest track (along with Small Fish in the acoustic set from the same album) they would play tonight. Then, standing ovations all round as the band take their bows. The encore ended with Trains; a song that has become the end of gig crowd singalong.

A truly fabulous gig from a brilliant band!

"Always the summers are slipping away
Find me a way for making it stay"

Porcupine Tree Setlist Royal Albert Hall, London, England 2010

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Pictures used with permission

Friday, 8 October 2010

Text Of Festival (3)

More from planet noise....

Gig no.51 - 4/08/79 - Led Zeppelin at Knebworth
The first of two shows by the biggest band in the world throughout most of the 70s found us hightailing it once more to deepest Hertfordshire. We were about 50 yards from the front and part of a massive crowd of over 200000 according to Zep's behemoth of a manager, or just over 100000 according to the promoter - the resulting dispute over ticket sales eventually bankrupted the promoter. Peter Grant was not to be messed with! Whatever the actual crowd numbers it was HUGE, as was the stage. I cannot remember anything about the support bands, but according to my list I gave Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes (a poor man's Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band) 8 out of 10. However I can recall Zep belting out a storming version of Kashmir immediately followed by the proto metal-funk of Trampled Underfoot, and they played my fave song Ten Years Gone too. I also remember having to brave the "washroom facilities" during Stairway To Heaven, and not being able to relocate my mates until the end of the concert when I found the car (the pre-arranged meet point in the event of getting split up) half an hour before they did. Just proves that life was indeed possible before mobile phones. "Where are you? I'm lost"...."See you at the car then"....and we worked that out just by using common sense!
The band played another show at the same venue a week later, which turned out to be their last in the UK before the untimely but not entirely unexpected death of mad, bad and dangerous to know John Bonham, which spelled the end of the band, and indeed the end of an era.

Gig no.71 - 2/05/80 - Magazine & Bauhaus - Guildhall, Northampton
The Northampton Guildhall, then and now home of the always underwhelming Northampton Borough Council is a magnificent example of Victorian Gothic architecture, and you could not have asked for a better setting for these two bands than the its banqueting hall. High painted ceiling, vaulted stained glass windows, Bela Lugosi would have felt right at home, as did Northampton's very own goth pioneers Bauhaus. Singer Pete Murphy camped it up for all he was worth. Anywhere else and it might have been cringeworthy but here it was perfect.
Even better that they were followed by Magazine, my favourite band of that time. Having left Buzzcocks in order to follow his more art school inclined leanings Howard Devoto formed this wonderful band who were a cross between punk and, dare I say it prog rock, and Mr Devoto perfected a sort of Brian Eno with menace and more eyeliner. That's a whole load of the right boxes ticked. They were of course, awesome. Songs such as Shot By Both Sides, I Love You You Big Dummy, Permafrost, were all belted out with aplomb. Their guitarist John McGeoch left shortly after to join Siouxsie & The Banshees and Magazine were never quite the same. Sigh....

Gig no.83 - 22/06/81 - Kraftwerk - De Montfort Hall, Leicester
At the height of their fame on the Computer World tour, Kraftwerk were the torch bearers of futuristic stage sets and pioneers of the use of computers in music making. This tour had the lot, the most memorable being the song The Robots where computerised mannequins of the band actually "performed" the song, and it took a while before we knew that what we were looking at was not the actual band. Utterly mesmerising and way ahead of their time.

Gig no.90 - 25/06/82 - The Rolling Stones - Wembley Stadium
The one and only time I've seen The Strolling Bones on stage. Even back then they seemed ancient, and logically Keef should have been dead, but my initial scepticism was soon crushed by the sheer ease with which they rock'n'rolled all night long, gawd bless 'em.

There now follows a brief detour into the world of pop when I was quite easily persuaded by feminine wiles to see Dexy's Midnight Runners, Yazoo, Gary Glitter(!), and Fun Boy Three in quick succession. Can't say I remember much about any of those as my attention was elsewhere! However, I do remember getting incredibly drunk at the Gary Glitter gig and can still recall the BIGGEST HANGOVER OF ALL TIME the day after. It still hurts.

Gig no.101 - 17/10/84 - Elvis Costello & The Attractions and The Pogues - De Montfort Hall, Leicester
Here we are back in my home from home to witness a raucous set by the Irish rabble rousers originally known as Pogue Mahone, which translates as Kiss My Arse. I could not understand a word being "sung" by young Shane McGowan, but if it made me dance, it must have been good. Declan and his lads were on fine form propelled into furious angsty renditions of their hits by the singer's genuinely angry delivery. A great beery sweat drenched night.

Gig no.103 - 15/03/85 - Frankie Goes To Hollywood - De Montfort Hall, Leicester
I quite liked the Trevor Horn produced Welcome To The Pleasure Dome (hmm, must dig it out) as his prog credentials added a layer of mystique to what essentially would otherwise have been gay rock/disco crossover music! The serious music press at the time was awash with "they can't play their instruments" stories, so I was curious as to what the live experience was like. From memory I think they had a second guitarist and a second keyboard player in the wings, so maybe the critics were right. Whatever the band lacked in musicianship was made up for by Holly Johnson's innate showbiz personality - he was hilarious. I reckon he'd have made a good comedian.

Gig no.104 - 22/03/85 - The Smiths - Derngate Theatre, Northampton
A band that still manages to polarise opinion some 20 plus years after they split up, but I loved them. Ok, Morrissey even back then showed signs of being the full blown dickhead he's since become, but he definitely had something back in the day. The Derngate is a rather staid modern provincial theatre with a "no standing" policy, but as soon as the band came on everybody stood up and remained so all night. There was dancing, shouting, flowers being tossed on stage by the girls (and some boys) at the front. We were in a box above stage right and had a perfect viewpoint. Moz's intelligent but NOT depressing lyrics, married with Marr's Byrdsian guitar were a perfect combination. Thoroughly enjoyable.
And we could walk home for once!

Between gig 105 and 120 two years pass and there were none that were particularly memorable either in a good or bad way musically, but the period was noted for my companion's annoying habit of almost running out of petrol on the way home from the venues. In fact coming back from Billy Bragg at Norwich University in November 1986 he did exactly that. Leaving another mate of mine and his girlfriend with the car and after walking for miles through an industrial estate in Thetford we eventually found a garage that was open, filled up a jerrycan and traipsed back to the car. During our little ramble I took the opportunity to call Simon (probably not his real name) all the c*nts under the sun, and almost came to the point of punching the dozy f*ck! The mate and his girlfriend I referred to had never been with us to a gig and had heard my stories of his lackadaisical approach to fuel maintenance (not to mention his dangerously crap driving, but that's another story) so were not too thrilled to have their doubts confirmed, and I was mightily embarrassed. Those of you who know me will know that I am not in the least bit aggressive so you can imagine how angry I must have been to nearly deck the sod. Ah, I feel better now I've got that off my chest...

Gig no121 was probably the most bizarre experience at a concert I've had, but you'll have to wait until next week for that.....see you then!

2019, the insanity grows...

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