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The Big Gig Thread 2019

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    Two contrasting shows for me over the extended weekend. Friday brought The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices.. They are probably best known to pop fans from the 1980s 4AD reissue of an album of theirs. They are renowned for achieving eerie vocal effects using traditional open throat singing techniques. What we got was eighteen singers in full folk costume accompanied by a four piece band, Lisa Gerrard from Dead Can Dance and a human beatbox champion. The choirís sections were all excellent and they combined to great effect with Gerrardís richer tones. Some of the filler while they were offstage was less memorable (Balkan tinged jazz funk runs, a solo spot for the beatboxer), but it was all entertaining and greeted warmly by an enthusiastic crowd. The Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre worked well as a venue, whereas it can be a bit sterile for pop shows.

    Last night I went to see returning riot grrrl heroes Bikini Kill at Brixton Academy. Kathleen Hanna is a fantastic performer and was on great form. Musically I prefer her later bands, Le Tigre and The Julie Ruin, but this was a great run through the BK catalogue of catchy Ď90s US punk tunes. The band swapped instruments several times, more to encourage people through their lack of virtuosity than to show off. Drummer Tobi Vailís vocal spots were good and bassist Kathi Wilcox was a cool anchor. The band clearly mean a lot to many people in the audience and there was a huge amount of energy in the room.

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      Sunday is my first gig of the year, if you can call it such. We're off to see The Horne Section at RFH.

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        We saw Dwight Yoakam again last week. Second time in the past three years, and would definitely see again.

        I'll tell you, the one thing the country musicians do better than anyone is express their gratitude at people spending their hard-earned money and showing up. As the economics have shifted, live performance is their cash cow, and the country guys make sure you don't feel taken for granted. Dwight also plays a packed set, with at least 5 songs between audience chat. And he plays long; none of the checking-your-watch schtick for him.

        Hell, I even bought merch, and I never buy merch.

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          Go on WOM, what did you buy?

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            Originally posted by Sits View Post
            Go on WOM, what did you buy?
            Hat. Gotta be a hat.

            I can remember when DY was being touted as the coming man of lean 'n' mean, rhinestone-free country on Whistle Test back in the '80s.

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              Thousand Miles from Nowhere 'locomotive' t-shirt. Black with 'vintage' off-white graphics. Looks fly.

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                The Interrupters tonight,I've been looking forward to this since January and they didn't disappoint, as a band with just a couple of albums there was going to be a couple of cover versions and some talky filler but great gig, they're not playing the UK so most will miss out but well worth checking out.

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                  I don't like to give out about smaller venues,especially since there are so few of them in Dublin and they're getting fewer,but the Academy was a right pain in the arse last night.
                  They're obviously paranoid about people slipping on spilt drink and making a claim against them that they had about a dozen staff,armed with mops and paper towels wandering around the venue. As you can imagine,someone mopping the floor while a couple of hundred people are dancing is going to cause even more problems than it solves. Hopefully it's a once off.

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                    At the reformed Stooges' Festival Hall show in London, Iggy did a bit of rock'n'roll business with a beer bottle; pretending to take a swig, pouring some over his chest and finally breaking the bottle against the mike stand. A RFH staff member immediately ran onstage with a dustpan and brush and started sweeping up the shards before the song had even finished. It was quite funny, better than the plainly choreographed moves being passed off as danger and spontaneity

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                      Honeyblood on Monday were great despite drawing a small audience. A mix of 40-50 year old Indie blokes, and a load of student types. One of the good things to see in a Honeyblood audience is a noticeably high ratio of female gig goers.

                      On Tuesday, I saw an Australian quartet called Hatchie, who are doing a short stint in the UK ahead of their debut album released later this month. A decent set of dreampop songs not too dissimilar to the much missed The Sundays. Worth keeping an eye out for them if that's your bag.

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                        Originally posted by brian potter View Post
                        Honeyblood on Monday were great despite drawing a small audience. A mix of 40-50 year old Indie blokes, and a load of student types. One of the good things to see in a Honeyblood audience is a noticeably high ratio of female gig goers.
                        I was suppose to see them last week but other things got in the way - shame, I was interested in seeing (well hearing) how the expanded line up compares to the previous line ups, having seen them a few times over the years. They (or she, however you look at it) do seem to be struggling a bit commercially after looking like great indie hopes a few years back, being quite well promoted, and fairly willing to put the graft in. Not that that matters to the music but makes it hard to sustain the band when they are playing to smaller numbers. Not unique of course, a lot of indie guitar bands struggle to maintain an audience after the initial wave of attention.

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                          Oh and meanwhile, I'm due to make a day ticket visit on Sunday to Download - or "Drownload" according to the trending hashtag. We have an advance party there already, sending updates of the ground and weather conditions.

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                            Need to do a round-up of the genuinely big gigs that I have been to recently. Firstly, was the Manics in Bath for the first time in over 20 years - while they get rid of all the racism at the Colston Hall. They were doing one of the album anniversary gigs and, this year, it was "This is my truth....". The Manics go out with many more people than just the three of them nowadays but, even so, I was amazed that, with James, they had three guitarists. Of course, as it was explained to me, this is due to them recreating the whole album live for the first time and, along with "Everything Must Go", this is when they started doing much more layered albums hence the . Nicky Wire did forewarn that it was a quite introspective album so the first part of the gig would be quieter and so it was but it didn't suffer from that. Indeed, my mate, who I went to the Cardiff CIA gig with last year, much preferred this show. As is customary at these gigs, I had forgotten how many great songs there were on that album, SYMM and Back Dog being two of my favourites. After playing the album in full, they played all the 'hits' ❨including a cover of 'Umbrella'❩. I have to say that I love the Manics. They know that they are middle aged men paying the mortgage with these shows - that their younger selves would pour scorn on - but they still put a lot of effort and thought into them. Not only that but they have so many genuinely excellent songs, not least from recent albums that I really must catch up with. James remains one of the best guitarists and vocalists around and Nicky Wire has quietly turned into a very good bass player in the last decade or so although he is less energetic than he was - but aren't we all.

                            The next one up was Van Morrison one at the Bath Festival at the Rec. Not much to add to the review-ette that I did in the Dr John thread, only to say that, at the time, I thought it was the most middle class middle aged gig I had been to since one of those 'Smoked and Uncut' gigs a few years ago which was all gin and prosecco bars and organic burger stalls. However, it was to be beaten. A word on the support bands though - firstly, the Hothouse Flowers came onto to a extended jammed version of "I can see clearly now...." which was either ironic or badly planned as it pissed down all day. The fact that the singer had a white suit on suggested the latter. The support bands did do a little masterclass on what to do with your hits if they are meagre. HH started with the aforementioned cover and then played the hit at the end. Corrine Bailey Rae started the set with one of her hits and finished with the other one.

                            This week, I did a sort of double bill of differing Stereophonics related gigs. Now, straight off, I have to say that I fell out of love with the Stereos a long time ago. I loved the first album. which I thought was a sort of Welsh version of Stiff Little Fingers at their most social commentative. I liked the second album but could already see them moving into a stadium rock vibe. They lost me with the third album ‑ Black Crowes stylings aside - and then I went to a gig at the Millennium Stadium where they played all the songs in chronological order and I realised that I was losing interest as the gig went on and sort of left them there. Of course, they don't give a shit what I think, have gone from strength to strength and have an army of very very dedicated fans - like the Manics, especially in Wales.

                            While the gigs this week didn't quite win me over, they did show me that the reason they are still as successful at what they are doing is because they are very very good at what they do, even if that isn't quite up my street anymore. The first was a Kelly Jones solo show at the Forum in Bath which is a fairly intimate - for him, I expect - 1500+ theatre, indeed, the same one as the Manics played. When he came on initially just with an acoustic guitar, I noticed that there was two pianos, a percussion kit as well as a normal kit, trumpets as well as, what I assumed were, amps for a bass player and a second guitarist which seemed like a massive band for a solo show. As it was, there were only three other musicians who cleverly switched instruments to provide the necessary songs - a violin player who doubled up on piano, the drummer who also provided percussion and a second guitarist who, incredibly, also provided bass, trumpet and piano as necessary. Kelly also played bass on a song. To be honest, I am not enough of a Stereophonics fan to know which were the solo songs and which weren't and I don't think that there is a huge stylistic difference. While not being the most active of performers, Kelly is an excellent guitarist with a great voice - albeit it can be a bit same after a long set ❨this was two and a half hours❩, a very accomplished songwriter and an engaging raconteur in between songs - especially in this environment. He did a couple of interesting covers of Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night" and Tom Petty's "Stop dragging my heart around" which show where he and the Stereos place themselves nowadays. For all my reservations, I did think it was an interesting engaging night and I had 'Hurry Up and Wait" in my head for days after. I know that 'catchy' doesn't neccesarily equal good but it is a testament to something, I think. Not only that but my Sterophonics-loving friends were over the moon and gushing about the majority of songs so, again, he knows exactly what he is doing.

                            The second gig was the Barbourfest that was the Sterophonics' gig at Westonbirt Arboretum which made the Van Morrison gig look like Altamont. Actually, Bath Organic Farms didn't have a stall at the former so I may be wrong. Fortunately for us, the June monsoon stopped just before they came on but the crowd were Hunter-wellied up anyway. Aside from the slight reservations that I mentioned about me not really getting the Sterophonics anymore, my only other gripe is that the Stereophonics have quite the worst audiences going. As I say, they seem to be very very loyal and committed to the band but, upon the band - in whatever form - starting to play, they then decide to just carry on having fucking inane conversations for the majority of the gig. if they aren't doing that, they are viewing the gig almost exclusively through their smartphones ❨which, I appreciate, may be a more widespread modern phenomenon❩. Obviously, the Westonbirt gig could be seen as attracting a particular sort of event tourist but the solo Kelly gig was even worse. This is possibly due to the more intimate venue and quieter songs but, also, at that gig, there was a fight in the audience - apparently as one woman was talking too loudly and too drunken exception to being upbraided about it. To be honest, in both gigs, I could lamped a fair few gobby bastards. At least, in the full show, th band were loud enough to drown out the gossiping.


                            Anyway, back to the gig, it was, of course, a stadium rock show through and though and the Stereos are now experts at these. They did all the hits with crowd participation, drum solos and a posing walkway into the crowd. I actually realised that the Stereos remind me very much Foo Fighters - albeit with better songs on the whole. They know exactly what buttons to press to please their audience and invite in the casual listener/viewer. For me, the Stereos lack the edginess and experimentation that even the Manics still have in the same way as the Foo Fighters lack the same qualities that Queens Of The Stone Age have. However, I would be amazed if anyone went home with any complaints and, if they did, they didn't have a clue what the band were about. Of course, being super critical, I have to point out one point that rubbed me up the wrong way. The band situated themselves in a rather cramped fashion on the end of the walkway in the middle of the crowd and announced that they were going to do a couple of songs in a space "like when we used to play the pubs". As someone who still plays pubs that are that cramped, I though it was ridiculously patronising as pretty much all bands in the same position would love to have a massive stage with lights show and walkways. However, of course, I was in the minority of one as everyone around me loved it when they did it. Another point was that the Stereos nowadays have another guitarist who seems to adore Slash and does all the rock star moves and solos which was pretty funny but, to me, he wasn't anywhere near as good a guitarist as Kelly. Having said that, he did create a major visual and musical difference between the Stereos and Kelly's solo band to the relatively ignorant viewer/listener i.e. me. Anyway, they finished with "Bartender and the Thief", "Local Boy...." and "A Thousand Trees" which was a nicely nostalgic end for me. I have realised that I have been quite snippy here but, again, must reiterate that I was really in a minority with any criticism and even I was quite happy to watch them for the whole set and, again, they really are very very good at what they do. Anyway, back to the small gigs again for me....

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                              After a diddly solo gig by Americana-ish Danni Nichols on Friday, who has a superb voice live, rocked along to see Paul Weller doing one of his summer forest gigs at Bedgebury Pinetum on Sunday. The sun - and then the full moon - was out, Weller seemed happy for a change and the band blitzed through a selection of mostly older hits, including a fair few Jam & Style Council numbers. When heís in the mood he can be terrific. Whilst acknowledging I still have some mod-ish dress tendencies myself, Iím always amazed how many long-term fanatics turn up in full quadrophenia-extra kit and sporting ugly mod haircuts, despite approaching bus pass age.

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                                Saw The Orchids in Glasgow on Saturday at a small venue. Fantastic concert. Best Iíve seen in a long, long time.

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