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.

Nick Mulvey Live Review

I was meant to meet with my brother, sister and a mutual friend for a couple of drinks and a meal. Instead, a couple of match going, battle-hardened Scousers joined me and the party for a sloshing 7-8 pints and a live performance from Nick Mulvey at Shepards Bush Empire. On a fucking Tuesday night.

I was just about to go home for a sensible night in when my brother asked me to come to the gig and despite the fact that Nick Mulvey isn’t the type of musician I would usually go and watch, he has a few solid tunes to his name and a gig is a gig at the end of the day.

Mulvey is a London lad himself but spent time in Cuba studying music and art before immersing himself in different West and Central African styles.

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There wasn’t a beat missed all night as fan favourites, ‘Unconditional’, ‘Myela’ and ‘Fever to the Form’ were joined by ‘Infinite Trees’, ‘Transform your Game’ and ‘Mountain to Move’, all solid crowd pleasers.

However, the best moment of the night didn’t actually come from the stage. It came from a lad standing about 3 people behind me…

After finishing a song, Mulvey looked into the audience, wearing his beanie and a puppy dog look on his face that hadn’t shifted from kick off….

“Listen guys” he started, “There is some really bad stuff going on in the world right now and we just need to look after each other, we need to care, we need to love. Peace is what we need and that is what this next song is all about, I want you to feel that.”

The crowd went silent for the briefest of moments when, clear as a fog horn, a hero shrouded in darkness, projected across the whole room;

“I don’t know anything about that type of thing, I just work in the Asda and like beer.”

The none-stop Instagram Live streaming crowd didn’t like that, but I think they got even more wound up as I was almost screaming in laughter.

I literally got told to “Shut up” by some dead-eyed 20-year-old girl which only made it funnier…

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Anyway, I enjoyed the music and we kept drinking for another hour or so before I decided to head home for the night, tired, drunk and in no shape for the rest of the week.

 

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)