Arcade Fire Live Review

The lights went down and Wembley was plunged into darkness as a mixture of Vangelis and Beethoven filled the compact arena until all went silent and the voice of a boxing commentator boomed through the PA system;

Annnnnnnnnnddddd in the red cornerrrrrr’

‘All the way from Montreal, Canada, Arrrrcaaadddeeeee Fireeeeeeeeeee’

The stadium-sized screens were suddenly filled with images of the group moving through thousands of standing fans akin to a prize boxer entering a title fight.

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The spectacle was about to begin.

Climbing through the ropes which surrounded the stage / boxing ring, instruments were hoisted and ‘Everything Now’ introduced London to Arcade Fire for the third and final time in a week.

The stage was in fact styled as a boxing ring, complete with a rotating centerpiece on which two drum kits sat, allowing a pure 360 performance.

The following show was nothing short of spectacular as the stage, completely encircled by standing fans, exploded with life, dance moves and a stunning light show.

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For a band to perform so many songs about death, desperation, creature comforts and attempted suicide, it can be surreal experience to watch live, as it is almost impossible not to dance and belt out choruses, but that is what makes Arcade Fire such a phenomenal group.

It’s serious stuff that they tackle; consumerism, the need for affirmation, depression, apathy as well as intensely personal issues;

“Assisted suicide
She dreams about dying all the time
She told me she came so close
Filled up the bathtub and put on our first record”

…..

“Saying God, make me famous
If you can’t just make it painless
Just make it painless
It’s not painless
She was a friend of mine, a friend of mine
And we’re not nameless, oh”

These lines come from ‘Creature Comfort’, a track on the ‘Everything Now’ album and if you hadn’t heard the song, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a sobering song but in fact, it is one of the catchiest  Arcade Fire have released.

Wes Anderson shares the alchamistic quality in dealing with dark subject matter in his films which are joyful, endlessly fun, colourful and funny, but beneath it all, the theme of death is consistently referred to and explored through suicidal characters and others who lose their lives.

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Art is created in response to pain, love, hate and every nuanced human emotion there is.

It’s a therapeutic method of approaching the hardest things to approach, but Arcade Fire, like Anderson, turn it into something else, something for people to actually enjoy while simultaneously connecting with the material emotionally. 

“So can you understand

Why I want a daughter while I’m still young?

I want to hold her hand

And show her some beauty before this

damage is done”

Personally, this is what sets Arcade Fire apart.

Approaching personal conflicts as well as wider societal issues with songs that can get thousands bouncing.

As a spectacle, there are few who can put on a better show than Arcade Fire.

From start to finish, their performance on Friday was stupendous and their final song, ‘Wake Up’, lit up Wembely just as it has consistently capped off their performances for the past 15 years.

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Featuring guest appearances from Florence and the Machine as well as Boy George, who performed ‘Chameleon’, the night took on a celebratory atmosphere for the final act and it would have been hard to find a single person who wasn’t smiling and laughing at the pure joy of it all.

Arcade Fire, they make the people happy.

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.

Film Vloggers: My top three Youtube influencers

A breakdown of three of the best Youtubers analysing film.

Before I start talking about who my favourite influencers are and why I like them so much, a little bit of info on what I actually mean by influencer….

If you don’t know what a social influencer is, go to youtube and have a quick scroll through the ‘most viewed’ section. Almost every three videos, you see one which consists of a person talking to camera about their day, fashion choices or their make up.

Influencers aren’t limited to Youtube but for this article, we’ll stick to the one social channel.

Cumulatively, they rack up billions of views on Youtube and they hold an incredible amount of power, it’s why they’re called influencers…

The likes of Alfie Deyes, Zoella, Pewdiepie, Tanya Burr and Casey Neistat hold tremendous sway over an engaged audience, something brands are acutely aware of.

However, I have very little interest in the type of content these guys are putting out. What I do enjoy, is listening and watching influencers who possess insight, knowledge, trivia and measured opinion of film specifically.

Film is an incredibly important part of our culture and is an art form which is almost unlimited in its creative potential.

Great films can stay with you for years, change your entire outlook on a certian subject and give new meaning to once unknown stories, characters and places.

I could write about the importance of film and its place in society for hours, but that is for another day.

Instead I want to talk about three Youtubers who influence and educate me each week. If you love film, you’ll get on well with these guys…

  1. Mr Sunday Movies

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I have followed Mr Sunday for a couple of years now and thoroughly enjoy his videos.

The Australian puts out a couple of videos a week as well as his weekly podcast, The Weekly Planet, a show he hosts with his mate, James and long suffering dog, whatever the hell the thing is called.

Despite the fact that Mr Sunday is in fact a goat, he manages to articulate his points very well when talking about the film industry.

Mr Sunday tends to stick to Marvel, DC, Starwars and X-Men films, while also covering TV series like ‘The Iron Fist’, delivering interesting insights on how the films were produced and the stories behind the making of the films.

It’s easy watching and his ’10 Things You Missed’ videos are always insightful, although he never sticks to ten, it could be any number of things really, he could point out that you missed your dental appointment last week and include that in the video.

Anyway, check out his channel and watch a couple of videos if you are into your superhero, Sci-Fi or action films, if you like it, make sure to subscribe, it does make a big difference to these guys.

Also………#Mulletforsuperman…

Mr Sunday Movies Youtube Channel

2. Nerdwriter1

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Nerdwriter1 is a channel I have only become familiar with over the past three months, however, his understanding of film and presentation of ideas is fantastic. His videos are excellently crafted and well written, bringing new found meaning to films which I thought I knew well. He calmly articulates his main points and comes across as an extremely passionate individual.

All of his videos are incredibly well researched and offer genuine insight into understanding the art of film. Not only does Nerdwriter review artistic films, he isn’t afraid to attack the bad ones and analyse why they went so wrong. His analysis of ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ is a great example.

However, his audience is also treated to videos which focus on single actors and specific scenes. Doing this allows an even greater analysis to take place. His video, ‘Helm’s Deep: How to film a battle’ is fantastically well made and it makes you want to watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy all over again.

Furthermore, his video, ‘Jack Nicholson: The art of anger’ is another exquisite breakdown of an incredibly interesting niche subject.

My personal favourite is a video he produced on the Wes Anderson film ‘Darjeeling Limited’. The analysis is so enriching, not because I love the movie, but  because Nerdwriter1 brought so much more to my attention, details I had never seen before.

Other videos breakdown the work of musicians like Bon Iver, artists such as Picasso and comedians such as Louis C.K. Each video as unique and captivating as the last.

View his channel linked below and enjoy for yourself.

Nerdwriter1 Youtube Channel

3. Mark Kermode

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Along with Peter Bradshaw from the Guardian, Mark Kermode is my favourite archetypal film critic. He has been applying his trade for years, well before the ‘influencer’ brigade came along.

Kermode is probably the most famous British critic as his reviews are well respected and published everywhere.

Being filmed while recording a live show for BBC Radio Five Live, Kermode and co-host Simon Mayo talk about new releases and provide a confident breakdown of each fresh film to hit theaters in the UK.

The videos are succinct and usually include a clip from the film in question, a good break from the fixed webcam which sits and points at the two presenters.

What I like most about Kermode is his lack of snobbery. I remember reading a review in Time Out on Deadpool, some 20 something bobblehead had given it a 2 out of five star rating and tore the film apart for being juvenile, stating that ‘only 15 year olds with crusty boxers’ would enjoy the film….

But what happened? Deadpool went on to be loved by worldwide audiences and has been the biggest surprise hit of the last few years.

My point is that a lot of critics seem to be afraid to admit that they enjoy a bit of toilet humour and gratuitous violence every now again, but Kermode doesn’t.

When talking about ‘Skull Island’ the latest King Kong film, he didn’t sneer and go on and on about a lack of coherent art direction, he watched the film as a member of the audience for which is was made for. This allows Kermode to appreciate the so called ‘trashy’ elements of film more than many other esteemed critics, a quality which I applaud and am grateful for.

He tries to give every film a chance and makes sure to tell his audience what he likes about films instead of just trashing everything to seem like a true film purist.

Check out the Kermode and Mayo Youtube channel here. 

If you think there are any vloggers I should follow, let me know on Twitter or in the comments below!