The National Live Review

Ditching the usual arena size venue for the intimate and perfectly tight Hammersmith Apollo, The National raised the roof in West London last night and closed out their three-night extravaganza in style.

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-29 at 15.54.44The Ohio based band, formed in 1999, have been on the road for a very long time and were in fact the very first band I watched live in London in 2013. The group delivered an outstanding performance at Alexandra Palace four years ago, however, last night demonstrated that The National are still getting better after 18 years in the game and have added even more to their performance since I was first introduced to them on stage.

 

Utilising a dazzling array of visuals to accompany the set, a trance fell upon the crowd as ‘Nobody Else Will Be There’ kicked off proceedings.

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-29 at 15.54.43Filled with longing, regret, want and a hell of a lot of melancholy, you would think a sombre mood would perpetuate the atmosphere of a live National show, but nothing could be further from the truth.

‘You said we’re not so tied together, what did you mean? Meet me in the stairwell in a second, for a glass of gin…..’

The first words arrived and I was instantly plugged in. For me, A huge part of The National’s success is due to the resonance of their music, because somehow, everyone knows what it feels like for somebody they care about, to say they just don’t care as much.

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-29 at 15.54.42Every song is full of little moments like this and it is hard not to relate to what front man, Matt Berninger, recites in his deep velvet voice.

‘Guilty Party’ paints a painful picture but it is the very fact that Berninger is able to articulate such a scene with deference that provides an almost cathartic release for anyone who knows what he is talking about.

‘I say your name, I say I’m sorry, I know it’s not working, I’m no holiday, It’s nobody’s fault, no guilty party, we just got nothing, nothing left to say.’

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-29 at 15.54.42 (1)‘England’, ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’, ‘Day I Die’ and ‘I Need My Girl’ were all soaked up and sung along to with gusto. ‘Fake Empire’ was the 19th song played and the band said their goodbyes but that was never going to be it.

After a few minutes of howling, clapping and whistling, the Cincinnati six reappeared and delivered the encore that everyone wanted, though it began with something entirely new and specifically prepared for the London show, A cover of Queen’s ‘I Want To Break Fee’.

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-29 at 15.54.39 (1)Personally, I value a band making that kind of effort to make one specific show different from another. The National are in the middle of a wold wide tour and the temptation would be to play the exact same playlist every night, however, based off their previous two shows in London in the two evening before, each set was different, meaning everyone got their own individual experience.

‘Mr November’ and ‘Terrible Love’ are brilliantly hard and loud songs which still contain powerful sentiments but it was the final song of the night which got hairs standing.

The opening notes of ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’ began but the microphone was turned out, immediately towards the crowd and so began the song.

Leave your home
Change your name
Live alone
Eat your cake

Vanderlyle, crybaby, cry
Though the waters are risin’
Still no surprisin’ you
Vanderlyle, crybaby, cry
Man its all been forgiven
Swans are a swimmin’
I’ll explain everything to the geeks

After the full rendition and several repeats of the chorus, it was all over.

A brilliant performance with the perfect ending, what more could you want.

LCD Soundsystem Live Review

Throw; Talking Heads, Bowie, a couple of members of Kraftwerke, U2, New Order, Vangelis and a healthy dollop of disco and you might get something close to LCD Soundsystem, who delivered one of the most; complete, awe inspiring, jaw dropping, dance infused performances I have ever seen at Alexandra Palace on Saturday night.

The New York group are veterans of stunning performances as their show at Madison Square Gardens, meant to be the last ever, had people in tears in 2013. 

Despite releasing their excellent new album a few weeks ago, only a couple of songs were played as a set of their best songs from across the LCD discography.

It is hard to find a group which is so strong lyrically, has riffs to die for and hooks which could catch killer whales, but that is why Soundsystem are revered so highly.

‘I Can Change’ came after ‘Us v Them’ opened proceedings and immediately, the 7,000 or so were plugged directly into the LCD mainframe. ‘You Wanted a Hit’ is the type of song every artist wished they could write and ‘Tonight’, one of the new songs, is impossible not to move to.

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For once, Ally Pally seemed too small to contain the crackling energy erupting from the stage all night. Instead it bulged as the Victorian venue pulsated with pure energy and light beams reflected from the mirrored ball, cutting through darkness and into the minds of the baying mass.

The lighting alone was a thing of beauty as the electronic orchestra, made up of three drum kits and a whole host of equipment I have never seen before, got covered with soft pink and blue as if a different coloured sunrise was bringing up the rear.

‘New York I Love You’ is the type of song anybody who has lived in a megacity can relate to as the conflict between being infatuated with inner city life and being ground down by the invisible forces at play, are borne out. It was one of the final songs but the volume was only getting louder until ‘All My Friends’ triggered an all-out assault on the senses of those lucky enough to be present.

As front man, James Murphey, blasted out the final chorus ‘Where are your friends tonight’ I thought that, despit the fact that I had literally lost my friends, it was alright because strangers starting grabbing each other and absolute joy broke out in North London. Space seems to open up in the crowd and bouncing on feet turned into full dance routines as the question; ‘Where are my friends Tonight?’ was answered. They were everywhere for everyone.

Warpaint Live Review

This is what live music is meant to be.

Warpaint, the four-piece group from LA, delivered a fiery performance in the heart of London last night and I’m still taking it in.

The air crackled with energy from the moment the band appeared on stage and, in the courtyard of Somerset House, their music reverberated around the inner walls of the arena to create sonic delirium for a mad 90-minute show.

On a belly full of rose and pimms, wearing my Sunday best, I had come straight from Wimbledon and was bouncing around with cream chinos and a completely unbuttoned shirt from the off, hardly punk rock, but I had no choice and I didn’t care if anyone thought I was a Tory.

Warpaint released their most recent album last year and it is a seriously powerful piece of work to have been produced by a band which has come so close to falling apart so many times.

There is a depth to the Warpaint sound which is hauntingly addictive yet impossible to quantify. Electric Punk? Fuck I don’t know, making up terms to describe a sound is what the professionals do, so I’ll leave it to them.

‘Love is to Die’ is soaked with pain and rage yet it is beautifully melodic and rhythmic  while ‘Whiteout’ questions the importance of truth with harmonies to die for.

After 16 songs, London was whipped into a balmy frenzy and by the time ‘New Song’ blasted into us, fever pitch was reached.

Arms stretched and twisted into the sky as smoke hurricaned around the stage, Warpaint looked like masters of the universe at that moment and everyone felt it.

This was a performance delivered by a band at the height of their powers and a band which is doing what nobody else is.

At no point would I dare say Warpaint are the best girl band around right now because that would not be true.

They are one of the best bands around right now, full stop.

I have seen far too many articles talking specifically about girl bands, comparing them, listing the top five groups around.

It’s far too simple to say Warpaint are a heavier version of Haim just because they are all women.

Fuck that.

They’re musicians first and that is all anybody should care about.

Being women isn’t important and stuffing a load of them together is pigeon-holing.

Warpaint are Warpaint, that’s it.

They’re not successful because of their sex, they can attract a crowd of thousands on a Monday night because they kill it on stage and in the studio.

The set was ripped through and nobody wanted to leave when things finally ended, despite my cries of ‘please god I need more’.

The set list was scrunched up and thrown to the crowd and, despite feeling like I was going to explode, the paper sailed into my hand unchallenged.

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A swell of beautiful women suddenly formed around me to get a photo of the paper, one of whom joined me in stumbling into London’s twilight, dreaming of Los Angeles and Warpaints return.

Next time I won’t look like such a posh bastard.

Maccabees Live Review

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14 years ago, The Maccabees decided to throw everything they had into the music industry.

In the time that has passed, the London based band have toured the world, released four studio albums and lapped up international plaudits.

Nights of unparalleled ecstasy, days of lazy joy, fights over songs, girls and moments of perfect harmony will have punctuated the last decade and a half but finally, on Saturday night, it all came to an end.

But what an end it was.

Setting up in Alexandra Palace on their final evening of three in London, The Maccabees delivered a performance which felt like it was 14 years in the making.

There were no part time fans, nobody along for a nice evening of watching from the back and sitting down, this was a night for it all to come out for artist and disciple. Thrashing limbs into guitars, ‘Wall of Arms’ was blasted into the masses waving in the sticky air.

‘Latchmere, ‘X-Ray, ‘Precious Time’ and ‘Lego’ followed as emotions began to build as a slow realisation hit the crowd, this would be the last time they would hear these songs live.

But this was a celebration, not a eulogy and nothing epitomised the ruckus   better when ‘Something Like Happiness’ was played while confetti cannons showered Ally Pally in the chaos.

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That was the ‘final’ song of the set and upon being told, boo’s cascaded forwards, only for Orlando to tellingly say, ‘you know how this works guys,’ as they left for a minute or two before reappearing for one final encore.

Joined by Jamie T for ‘Marks to Prove It’, things got off to an incredible beginning of the end.

When ‘Toothpaste Kisses’ began, there didn’t seem to be a single person in that cavenous room who wasn’t grabbing hold of someone else, savoring the chance to simultaneously be serenaded while serenading right back.

‘I’ll be yours and you’ll be….’

The madness of ‘Pelican’  and crescendo of lingering choruses from ‘Something like Happiness’ came back around to end the sweat soaked night.

What a pleasure it was to see a band go out at the height of their powers, this wasn’t an 80’s ensamble rehashing their classics, decades after being relevant, this was a group right at their peak, giving a performance of a lifetime to a young crowd full of alcohol and drugs and joy.

What a perfect way to call it a day.

Mac DeMarco Live Review

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Mac Demarco brought his unique psychedelic rock to London on Wednesday night and treated the Brixton crowd to new material intertwined with the best songs from his previous albums.

The Canadian combines a range of styles to produce his lazy summer tunes and has enjoyed a metronomic rise since his first tour in 2009 under the name Makeout Videotape.

Having developed something of a madman and clownish reputation, DeMarco has flown the top of the indie pop pile and clearly enjoyed the acclaim poured onto him by London millennials crowded into Brixton Academy.

That being said, the show never really got going until 20 minutes as the slower love songs from his upcoming album ‘This Old Dog’ got stage time up top. Maybe it was down to the fact that I had been drinking for eight consecutive days and had spent Tuesday (The day before the gig) swinging forty feet above the ground in a wet Delamere forest, but there seemed to be a lack of energy in the crowd as well as the songs away from his bigger hits (Salad Days, Chamber of Reflection, My Kind of Woman and Viceroy).

The truth is that too many tunes sound the same and I found myself listing badly halfway through the show, tellingly, the loudest noise from the crowd came when chants of ‘Corbyn! Corbyn! Corbyn!’ cascaded up to the stage after some coxing from the front man.

However, DeMarco finished strongly, screaming and wriggling around on stage topless.

Undoubtedly entertaining, Mac DeMarco delivered a strong performance which will undoubtedly get bigger and more diverse as time goes on. As the show was also the biggest the group had ever performed in the UK, it is understandable that the performance wasn’t quite attuned for such a large arena. The other members of the band were literally frozen in place for the entire night and it felt like Mac had to make up for their lack of energy, something which will hopefully change in future performances.

It will be interesting to see how Mac Demarco’s sound evolves as the Canuck has found a successful cord to strike with a youthful audience, however, the longer I watched the more DeMarco sounded like a repurposed version of the Go-Betweens with a lick of Steely Dan….

The buck-toothed hippy was certainly good fun though and will undoubtedly attract thousands of revelers while on the festival circuit this summer, which his honeysuckle indie rock, will be perfectly suited for.

 

Kraftwerk – Publikation

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It’s 2013 and I have come straight from my graduation ceremony to Latitude Festival.

I’m standing in a field with 30,000 people wearing 3D glasses and four men appear on stage wearing, what looks like wet suits, they stand in front of a their own individual podiums and the lights go down.

This is Kraftwert and it is the first time I have ever seen or heard anything of the German band. The show begins and for the rest of the evening I’m in a trance.

‘What the hell is going on’, I remember thinking.

A spectacular visual show plays behind the four Germans as their stripped techno booms out across the Norfolk countryside. The atmosphere is unlike anything I have ever felt as songs like ‘Autobahn’ and ‘The Robots’ are greeted by the crowd like some of the greatest hits from a Beatles gig.

Watch a clip from the show by clicking here to see what I mean…..

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Back then, I had no idea the impact the group had made on music since the 70’s or the cultural phenomenon they were, nor their story. That was until I picked up ‘Kraftwerk – Publikation’, the biography written by David Buckley. A book which has shone a light on the inner workings of a group which, as I now recognise, is one that has been responsible for revolutionising music as we know it today.

Kraftwerk are shown to be the godfathers of techno music as they precede the likes of Giorgio Moroder, who many believe is the man to have invented the genre. The breakdown of the musical style created by the Germans is incredibly interesting as Buckley frames it expertly within the social and technological environment of post war Europe.

It is also nice knowing that the book was written by a fellow Scouser and Liverpool fan, how do I know he is scouse and a Liverpool fan you may ask? Only a devout red would manage to talk about The boot room, a place where Bill Shankly and other staff would discuss tactics at Anfield, in comparison to the legendary Kling Klang studio where many of the greatest songs where manufactured by Kraftwerk. A cheeky mention of the Peter Crouch robot dance didn’t escape my attention either….shameless.

Anyway, the book demonstrates how Kraftwerk emerged onto the music scene in the 1970’s as outsiders who were ‘anti-music’  only to become a group which the likes of David Bowie and The Jackson 5 were desperate to work with.

It was because of a style which had never been seen before. Kraftwerk made electronic music before electronic music even existed as a form. The group made music with nothing but synthesisers and samples of electronically edited sounds of the world itself, such as passing trains or a car engine.

Do me a favour, have this song playing in the background while you read the rest of the article and you’ll get what I’m talking about. (You might even recognise part of the melody…)

Listen to ‘Computer Love’ by clicking here

Though the band are seen as revolutionary now, this was not the case in the 70’s and 80’s.

But it wasn’t just the way the music was made, it was the subject matter as well. Songs focusing radiation, nuclear danger, computers and robots. It was a far cry from sex, drugs and rock and roll….

Buckley expertly captures how the rest of the world perceived the band at the time. Cold and robotic, making music without conventional instruments and harbingers of an end to music. The four German horsemen of the musical apocalypse.

This was due to the fact that the music world believed that ‘real music’ was made with guitars and songs stuck to the same ridged pattern.

But the end of music never came. Instead of death, new life radiated throughout the sonic universe.

From the moment Kraftwerk began making music, they sparked a mutation within the industry which grew and spread amongst the ‘cock rockers’ who had ruled for so long. Similar to introducing a new animal into a foreign ecosystem, Kraftwerk began transforming the very fabric of the environment which had lacked innovation for so long.

“All great things must first wear terrifying and monstrous masks in order to inscribe themselves on the hearts of humanity” – Friedrich Nietzsche quoted by Buckley.

Kraftwerk went against every convention when making music and performing, which is what makes their art so appealing. They copied no one and where true innovators, declining offers to work with some of the most influential musicians of all time, in order to preserve the authenticity of their own sound.

At certain points in the book, upon learning that Kraftwerk turned down so many chances to work with other musicians, I felt that the group had a certain level of arrogance.

However when I considered the following point, I could see why the Germans were so devout.

Would Picasso have ever invited Salvador Dali to draw all over his own paintings? Would Van Gogh have invited Pollock to cover his work in splashes of green?

No.

These artists had a style which was uncompromised, it was their art, their vision and I believe that Kraftwerk saw their own work in the same way.

Who knows, if they had worked with others, would their music remain so potent, so recognisable, so undeniably Kraftwerk?

Buckley’s biography captures the importance of the band exceptionally well, however, the story is not simply one of their artistic output, it is also one fraught with tension, legal battles, life threatening accidents, social history and the evolution of music as a whole from the 1970’s to the 2000’s.

An obsession with bike riding, clashes with producers and a whole host of other vital parts of the Kraftwerk story are covered, but I would suggest reading the book instead of an amateurs summary to get the whole picture….

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The story of Kraftwerk is as compelling as any in the music industry because of how divisive, revolutionary and important the group have been over the past forty years.

David Buckley delivers an outstanding piece of work which is incredibly educational in its documentation of the band, its impact on culture and all of the conflicts which eventually broke the original group apart.

Personally, I have learned an incredible amount and my perception of what music can be and what it should be has changed.

For any music fan, I would argue that Buckley’s biography is essential reading. Not only for Kraftwerk’s personal story, but for the wider influence they had in changing the entire sphere of music.

Music would be very different today had Kraftwerk not existed which is why I now understand the stunned reaction thousands had on that summers evening in Norfolk four years ago.

Dream Wife Live Review

I have just been to see the very first Dream Wife headline show and battery acid is running through my veins….

It’s 23:37 and I have just stepped back into my flat, after a full day of work and belly full of beer, you might think I want to go to bed. Fuck that.

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I have just been to see the very first Dream Wife headline show and battery acid is running through my veins.

The punk rock four piece have just introduced themselves to London in a furious cacophony of pure performance.

The band hasn’t even released a full album, yet every single one of their songs was met with absolute delerium from the crowd at The Dome in Tufnell park.

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The four piece looked like they enjoyed one of their best nights and they deserve it. It has been a long time since I have seen a group enjoy themselves so much on stage.

Lead vocalist Rakel Mjoll screamed “I am not my body, I am somebody” during the chorus of ‘Somebody’, words which echo an objection to being objectified.

But that didn’t stop every single member of the frenzy, falling in love with the Scandi punk chick.

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During one song, our heroine spent the entire time hitched onto the shoulders of her friends in the middle of the pit, not missing a beat in the chaos.

Flanked by bassist Bella Podpadec and lead guitarist Alice Go, Dream Wife produced one of the most enjoyable live shows I have seen for a long time.

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The new wave of punk rock bands which are predominantly made up of woman is something I am incredibly happy about. In the past year I haven’t been able to stop listening to the likes of Hinds, Bleached, Warpaint and Deap Valley, bands which I have seen live and been blown away by. Dream Wife couldn’t be fresher on the scene, yet they are undoubtedly part of a movement which is taking the music industry by storm.

My favourite song of the night was FUU (Fuck U Up) The track sounds great on record but listening to it being played live make you feel like ripping the head of a grizzly bear and rampaging through the night.

Check out the full track by clicking here. 

I have absolutely no doubt that Dream Wife will enjoy a metronomic rise over the next year with the release of their new album and soon to be announced UK tour. (I fucking hope they announce a UK tour)

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I spotted quite a few people in the crowd who were clearly alone (as I was) probably unable to convince friends to come out to watch an unheard band on a miserable Thursday night, however, it’s fair to say that every single person in attendance tonight will be dragging everybody they can to the next Dream Wife show, make sure you’re along for the ride…

Support acts

I feel like a prick….

I can’t remember the name of the first of the two bands to support Dream Wife.

I say that because I really fucking enjoyed their set and how mad it was….

At eight, the lights went down and out stepped the four-piece, and a lead singer who stunned me.

Wearing neon green tights, a purple dress, denim jacket, with a face full of white make up  and wicked red eyebrows, the singer looked incredible armed with a guitar bedazzled with glitter

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The group flew through 7-8 songs of punk pop which was thoroughly enjoyed by the whole audience. However, it wasn’t until the last piece that things got going. Climbing down in the crowd and slamming down the mic stand, the finale came to a head as the glitter fucked guitar was covered in lighter fluid and lit aflame while being hoisted into the air by the lead singer. Fucking good start.

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King Nun

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I only know the name of the second support act because they are listed on the internet as the act playing on the night (apologies green tighted pyromaniac)

King Nun played hard and fast, seemingly channeling Blur and Nirvana at certain points. Bouncing around the stage and delivering stellar riffs, I couldn’t believe my luck in getting two complimentary and individual acts in the build-up to the main act.

King Nun whipped up the north London venue and thoroughly impressed during their set which comprised of a strong line up of songs.

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Overall, for £8 fucking quid, I could not have had a better night of entertainment in London. I enjoyed every act and was left wanting more.

(I usually object to people filming live acts on their phones but I thought I had better capture some of the show to share with you beautiful people who have made it all the way through)

Dream Wife – Video 

(All photos taken and owned by Curious Jeorge)