Thursday, 23 February 2017

Pop goes the BRITS

Little Mix on stage at the Brits

Watching the annual music celebration the Brits what was evident was how there was a distinct lack of alternative/rock acts.It was a total commercial state of affairs with most of the awards and performances going to pop acts such as little mix and one direction haven't they disbanded?The one exception was the 2 awards to david bowie and the Global Award to Adele - well deserved. Even the live performances were bland aimeless pop including little mix katy perry, robbie and ed sheeran with Bruno Mars just about hitting the spot.The only departure from this theme was mercury prize winning skepta who tried to fit as many swear words in the song before he could be beeped out. The other thing that was missing was controversy the Brits are known for the odd bit of naughtiness including the Jarvis Cocker incident when he mooned michael jackson and who can forget Madonnas dress malfunction to name a few but this time round there was a safe pair of hands in Dermot o Leary and Emma Willis who were just too clean cut for this gig.Everything was kept to script and jokes if any were kept to a minimum.In fact there was nothing that stood out even Noel Gallagher was on his best behaviour it was the complete opposite of former years when rock acts reigned supreme as in 2015 it was a good night for the Brits with Royal blood's storming performance and British band award win. Tonight this went to the 1975 who call me cynical are just regurgitating 1980s sounds whilst trying to sound modern and relevant.
Stormzy and Ed Sheeran

Of course as 2016 was the year where some prominent artists passed  this was a time to pay tribute to them,Chris martin's tribute to George Michael was wet and off key at best compared to Adele's emotional powerful performance at the Grammy's. Sure she messed up at first but what followed was stunning. Coldplays not so secret collaboration with Chainsmokers was quite ordinary as well. Am I the only one who thinks that Coldplay have lost their authenticity The British signalled how mainstream everything was with rock or alternative music taking a backseat.Kudos to Rag n Bone man who won critics choice award and best British breakthrough he is a unique talent primed for big things and it would have been great to see him perform will have to wait til Parklife for that.

Some advice to the organisers for next year the Brits need to review this years carcrash of a ceremony and add some good quality music  live peformances and not be afraid to take risks.even if they have to bring back 'Ant and Dec' to host it at least they were off the cuff not scripted

British music is all about being bold adventurous and fun thats why we love it

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Loving the Alien

A Tribute to David Bowie: 1947-2016

Those who were by the radio on Monday morning would have heard of the sad passing of one Mr David Jones aka David Bowie at age 69 from cancer.

There aren’t many artists that you can say were truly legendary but Bowie was one of them constantly defying convention and challenging societies perceptions with every release and every new persona.

The total amount of personas that Bowie took on is something that the average artist can only imagine accomplishing. From his Ziggy Stardust days which are now the stuff of legend to his thin white duke periods to his current output which was his way of coming to terms with past activities possibly.

Bowie remained a reclusive with every release never fully revealing the man behind the mask always preferring to remain a mystery to his expanding fanbase. This is what made him so alluring as an artist. At times it seemed like his reality was close to his fiction as he demonstrated during his Aladdin Sane period. He was a purveyor of current trends whilst also changing the world’s perceptions of what an artist could achieve. He appealed to all generations and spanned all musical tastes. Whatever people thought of him there’s always a song that people can identify with. How many artists can you do that with?

It might have been ‘Heroes’ from his Berlin Period or ‘Starman’ from his Glam rock period. He was an artist in the true sense of the word with some of his guises questionable but you could never say he was boring. To his credit he never sought fame like the Z Celebrities of today choosing to let his art, music and performance do the talking rather than pander to the press’s advances.

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In his later years he settled on one persona and the past two years provided some insight on his clear state of mind with last year’s ‘ A New Day’ which features ‘Where are we now?” where Bowie is in a reminiscent frame of mind coming to terms with his life and the recent ‘Blackstar’ which was seen as his most adventurous yet.
I spent some quality time with Bowie for several months during my studies for my thesis and got to know him quite intimately strangely experiencing his ups and downs in his career and his personal relationships. One of my favourite albums is Hunky Dory (see above) as a piece of work its practically faultless containing two of the best songs in 'Changes' and 'Life on Mars' which is quite bonkers lyrically but musically fantastic but it was one of the underrated songs 'Quicksand' that came into mind when hearing of his passing. Bowie sings how he is sinking into quicksand while their gorgeous strings accompany his shaking vocal. I'm everyone has their favourite track but that was mine.
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Bowie lived and breathed rock n roll and brought happiness and joy to global fanbase always leaving them wanting more. He was someone who embraced outsider status given all alienated walks of life a voice and a stage whilst also changing the face of current music trends and of course fashion.

At 69 he was gone too soon seeming to have so much more to give to the world but his legacy will continue to inspire new artists as the set off on their musical journeys.
Ziggy played guitar and he will be sorely missed by all. RIP Davey Jones.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Benjamin Clementine @ Salford Lowry 1/12/15

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In an age of dreary X Factor hopefuls and manufactured pop acts it’s always easy to forget the existence of raw talent in the music industry.

Benjamin clementine represents a refreshing alternative to the norm having been born in London-he plied his trade busking on the Metros of Paris. He was picked up and had his first big televised performance on Later. His recent win at the Mercury prize confirmed his talent as well as restoring faith in creative music in general. His acceptance speech related back to the Paris attacks which he caused him to break down and he also asked for all nominees to join him on stage.

No sooner was he announced as recipient of the prize his show tonight at the Lowry along with his other tour dates became a sellout which all explains how highly sought after a ticket for the gig tonight is.

In the compact intimate surroundings of the Quays theatre the tension is building there seems to be an air of anticipation and excitement   in the air tonight that we’re all about to witness something quite special.

A tall shadowy figure enters from stage right he sits down and places his hands delicately on the grand piano and is lit by a solitary spotlight. This is the first introduction to the prodigiously talented introvert that is Benjamin Clementine.

What is strange about his presence is not the fact that he is tall but he’s perched on a high bar stool bent over the piano which he explains later on how this came to be a regular fixture for his performances.

Once people get over his strange poise what comes next is a selection of his material from his debut album including the stunning condolences with its piano refrain and the song perfectly showcases his gorgeous soulful vocal. He is at times brash and disorderly sometimes using his voice as instrument or reverting to spoken word mid song but he is never boring.  ‘Cornerstone’ is one of his other key tracks from the album might be stunning on record but its given a new lease of life in a live setting becoming a heartbreakingly beautiful  lament to a broken home, you can feel his anguish and pain as he stretches his vocals to their limit. It could easily be his ‘Hometown Glory’  and is destined to be a classic but it doesn’t stop there because he demonstrates the extent of his songwriting talent with ‘London’ which is a sweet ode to his English upbringing along with the playful ‘Nemesis’  which no doubt is in debt to his time spent in Paris with its cabaret-esque stylings.

His songs here have a raw honest feel without the inclusion of the string flourishes on his album which astonishingly doesn’t taint the performance if anything it makes him more captivating and more breathtaking live.

Whilst he may have elements of Anthony Hegarty, Rufus Wainwright and of course the sheer vocal power and gravitas of Nina Simone where he differs is that his songwriting is very much his own and throughout his blistering set he retains complete control of his vocal even when it seems like he is losing it. He is also very softly spoken and never raises his voice and much prefers to let his music do the talking which makes him all the more alluring.

Throughout his hour and half set he speaks little only to introduce the percussionist say thanks to the audience remark about the venue and the weather. Towards the end he addresses the audience in idle chatter which encourages some hecklers to point out the fact he is on high stool and it isn’t good for his posture. He reacts brilliantly by relating the story of him finding a Bar Stool for his flat in Paris and thanks the member of the audience for their concern and carries on. It seems at one point the performance is about to descend into ridicule but with his own humour he brings it swiftly back to the music.

Finishing with Adios he says quietly ‘that’s it now’ after which he stands up which causes a rapturous applause  and a standing ovation from the crowd. He takes a bow along with his percussionist and walks quietly off stage the same way he entered leaving the crowd to ponder what a spellbinding performance this was from a unique British musical talent.




Thursday, 14 May 2015

The Maccabees @ Manchester Ritz 13.5.15

It’s unusual for a band not to preface their gig with a taster of their new material. The only new track released before this tour was the driving rocker‘Marks to Prove it’ so there is an air of uncertainty as well as excitement to see how the new material goes down live.
Prior to the Maccabees long overdue return to Manchester its time for the warm-up band Gengahr pre-listens to a few of their tracks on Soundcloud suggests that they could be a good listen. It is disappointing that the band don't live up to that promise as they fail to ignite a crowd who are awaiting something special.
Gengahr resemble a lost puppy in a mincer. There’s clearly something missing here the backing is muscular but the vocals are too twee which leads to a clear disconnection with the audience its all a bit all over the place and bar their half decent single at the end their 30 minute set is a shambles which is a shame because underneath all the mess they could have some good songs.
Thankfully they are not the main event because the Maccabees herald their arrival to the stage with all their big hitters from their excellent ‘Wall of Arms’ album each one a mass singalong blowing their warm-up act out of the water.
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What’s great about the band is they are all about the music and people joining in for a shared experience that’s what makes the Maccabees connect with their audience. In a previous that I attended on the ‘Wall of Arms’ tour they stopped the music due to a scuffle in the front and wouldn’t restart until it was resolved.

The new stuff is decent too with the Maccabees taking a more heavier and experimental approach but they have never sounded better ’Marks to Prove it’ is given a new urgency live, even the old stuff sounds fresh most bands could only dream of having this many hits and still maintain that tangible connection with their audience . It is noticeable that they have moved on from their laddish ways and seem to be appealing to a new audience.
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Their old songs see them let loose as we are all reminded of those heady days when the Maccabees were first introduced. 'Latchmere' is a highlight with its call and response and precious time while new track something like happiness is a tad starsailorish and although has a good chorus lacks a bit of personality.

They end with ‘Pelican’ which shows how far the band have come. They are no longer little tykes they have all grown up but it seems they have not forgot their roots.