Sunday, August 27, 2017

TRICOT (London Bush Hall, 25/08/17)

Premium Japanese math-rock from a band who come second only to Otoboke Beaver for sheer, unadulterated on-stage energy. An absolute joy.
NERVOUS CONDITIONS (London Old Blue Last, 24/08/17)

If you locked a bunch of teens in a room with only the more avant-garde records of the late 1970's as entertainment, you might eventually get a band that sound like Nervous Conditions (you'd probably get put on some sort of list too, but that's beside the point). Abrasive, intense, groovy and shot through with sinister swagger, I can't help but feel they're karma's way of compensating for Ed Sheeran and his thrice-cursed ilk.
DAMO SUZUKI (London Moth Club, 11/08/17)

Review: HERE
HOLY FUCK (London Jazz Cafe, 09/08/17)

I still don't know who Allen is, or why he's so lovely, but the Canadian electro-rock wizards' pulsating, pulverising aural onslaught presumably wiped him out some time ago.
SILVER APPLES (London Oslo, 03/08/17)

When I'm 80 years old, I want to be as cool as Simeon Coxe. Not only did he help pioneer the fusion of electronics and pop music back in the mid-60's, but he's still unleashing cosmic beats that sound like the future today.
FEIST (London Shepherd's Bush Empire, 28/07/17)

It's a shame "1234" proved such an albatross around Leslie Feist's neck, for as catchy as that ubiquitous exemplar of mid-Noughties twee inarguably is, it tends to overshadow the fact that the rest of her work was considerably more interesting (see also: Chairlift). Her new album "Pleasure", for example, is sparse, moody and abrasive, yet works magnificently in a live setting- who needs bubblegum choruses when you've got righteous guitar shreddage and Jarvis Cocker? Add in some carefully curated earlier numbers (and a unplanned rendition of "Secret Heart"), and you've got a show that'll linger in the memory even longer than that damn song.
A TRIBUTE TO SCOTT WALKER (London Royal Albert Hall, 25/07/17)

Of course nothing could ever come close to seeing the actual Scott Walker perform his songs live on stage, but Jarvis Cocker, Susanne Sundfor, John Grant and Richard Hawley give it a damn good shot. There's definitely an argument that Sundfor aside, the assembled talent play it too safe to capture the essence of what made Walker so unique, but Jarvis' general loucheness and Grant's unmistakable tenor went some way to compensate.
SONGHOY BLUES (London Somerset House, 16/07/17)

Mesmeric desert blues from the new generation of Malian musicians, who balance political stridency with a great sense of fun. The perfect way to spend a warm summer's night.
MERCURY REV (London Barbican, 14/07/17)

It's bewildering to think no-one had the idea to combine Mercury Rev's baroque dream-pop with an orchestra before, but needless to say, it's a marriage made in musical heaven. Jonathan Donahue looks like he's on Cloud 9 throughout, the arrangements are uniformly lush, and they even carry off an entirely straight-faced "When You Wish Upon A Star" without coming across as majorly self-indulgent. Truly enchanting.
EZRA FURMAN (London Barbican, 13/07/17)

"The kid taking over the opera house" is how our queer Jewish hero describes himself tonight, and this one-off Barbican performance certainly proves a very different experience to the scrappy, euphoric rock 'n roll sermons he normally delivers. There's new and very old songs rendered acoustically, there's poetry, there's Leonard Cohen covers, there's collaborations with Du Blonde, there's a weird "Jazz Club" interlude, but most of all, there's Ezra, proving that even outside his comfort zone, he remains one of our generation's most compelling performers.
THE KILLERS (London Hyde Park, 08/07/17)

Review: HERE
ARCADE FIRE (Manchester Castlefield Bowl, 06/07/17)

Not going to lie, the setlist was not really to my taste ("Intervention" is emphatically not my jam), but a second-tier Arcade Fire show is still better than almost every else out there. Plus, they ended with an a capella "Love Will Tear Us Apart", which was surprisingly well-judged for the band who wrote, recorded and released "Chemistry".
ARCADE FIRE (London York Hall, 04/07/17)

"Everything Now" might see Arcade Fire hitting the maligned "80's Bowie" section of their career, but whilst Win Butler's lyrics contain more tired cliches than a Tory press conference, their live prowess remains manifestly undimmed. Indeed, blessed with a perfectly constructed setlist and the most passionate performance I've seen from them since the "Funeral" era, this intimate in-the-round set was genuinely one of the most exhilarating gigs this seasoned old bastard has ever had the pleasure of experiencing. So glad to see that the band who made me fall in love with live music all those years ago still have the power to give me goosebumps. <3
GREEN DAY (London Hyde Park, 01/07/17)

Billie Joe Armstrong may be slowly morphing into Liza Minnelli as his age skews closer to "pension" than "teen", but Green Day remain one of the slickest, most unabashedly crowd-pleasing live outfits this side of Springsteen. Lots of hits, lots of nostalgia, lots of fun.
KRAFTWERK (London Royal Albert Hall, 22/06/17)

IMPORT Kraftwerk
DEF Show:
     Visuals = 3D, Eye-Popping
     Performers = 4
     IF x < 3:
          SING "FAHREN"
          x += 1
AVALANCHES (London Forum, 21/06/17)

Review: HERE
ANNA VON HAUSSWOLF (Birmingham Town Hall, 16/06/17)

The Arch-Deaconess of Drone on a fuck-off giant organ- a (literal) pipe dream come true, at least in theory. The reality was a little less transcendent, with less-than-perfect sound and a running time best described as "brief", but she still sounded commendably like Armageddon incarnate.
MELT-BANANA (London Garage, 15/06/17)

Melt-Banana may have lost half their members, but they still sound like 500 Pokemon angrily having a seizure. Uncompromising, in the best possible way.
WHY? (London Village Underground, 13/06/17)

One of the most infuriatingly un-Googleable bands in existence make a triumphant return to London, ditching the white-boy hip-hip of late-noughties classic "Alopecia" for straight-laced indie-rock but remaining as compelling a live experience as ever. Even though I hadn't seen them in years, there's is a gig I would get the Tube to from anywhere...
YOUNG FATHERS (London Royal Festival Hall, 09/06/17)

Review: HERE
SHUGO TOKUMARU (London Oslo, 07/06/17)

Ukuleles, feline hand-puppets and a Ghiblisworth of whimsy. On paper, a Shugo Tokumaru show sounds like an twee overdose-in-waiting, but his inventively charming popcraft, eclectic array of instruments and ever-enthusiastic backing band prove a thoroughly winning combination.

Sunday, June 04, 2017


In a world where we tolerate artists with names like "Cabbage" and "Rat Boy", checking out Le Tout Puissant ("All Powerful") Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou could almost be seen as a sacred duty. The fact that the veteran Beninese afro-funk collective live up to their impressive name confirms that to be the case. A joyous brew of voudou rhythms, Fela Kuti-esque jams, Latino influences and even a touch of James Brown, they're a band that would go down a treat on the summer festival circuit.
OOIOO (London Kamio, 30/05/17)

Between the relentless sonic experimentation with Boredoms and her never-ending war against the Pink Robots, Yoshimi P-We must be pretty damn busy so it's great that she's found time in her hectic schedule to bring OOIOO over for a rare UK show. Their sound is pretty hard to pin down, but "Tricot's unhinged aunts" may give a taste of what to expect.
RAW POWER FESTIVAL (London Tufnell Park Dome, 26/05/17-28/05/17)

I'm far too old for the prospect of sitting in a muddy field sipping piss-weak lager to seem appealing in the slightest, which means that most musical festivals are now functionally off limits to me. Therefore Raw Power, which takes place in a nice air-conditioned venue in a well-located part of London is a bloody godsend. That Anthony and co. successfully pull out stellar line-ups year after year is the cherry on the cake, with the likes of Qujaku (a heavier, more operatic Bo Ningen), Afrirampo (kawaii avant-garde J-rock), Shitwife (synth-and-drum uber-party!) and Za! (anarchic Catalan duo) all delivering sets that'd put big name Glasto headliners to shame. If you like your music loud and experimental, there's few weekenders than can touch this right now.
BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE (London Brixton Academy, 24/05/17)

Review: HERE

Monday, May 22, 2017

JEREMY GARA (London Birthdays, 20/05/17)

Those expecting arena-filling anthemics and hurdy-gurdy interludes may have been disappointed by the Arcade Fire drummer's solo set. But for those with more adventurous musical tastes may have enjoyed the ambient/noise electronics on offer here.
PHILIP GLASS AND LAURIE ANDERSON (London Barbican, 17/05/17)

A mostly excellent, occasionally super-pretentious collaboration between two avant-garde legends, more memorable for the latter's wry, incisive monologues than the Glass-by-numbers accompaniment.
KISHI BASHI (London Oslo, 14/05/17)

Kaoru Ishibashi may lack the technical razzle-dazzle of some of his other loop-pedalling violinist peers, but he's definitely the best showman of them all. His acoustic encore with Tall Tall Trees in the middle of the venue was delightful, and the rest of the set weren't too shabby either.
TOUMANI DIABATE (London Barbican, 13/05/17)

Thirty years ago, a young kora player from Mali met up with some flamenco artists from Spain in a bar in London. Despite the language barriers, they ended up jamming and so was born the project that became known as "Songhai". In truth, I've never been into the Spanish guitar thing that much, but the glistening majesty of the kora added an element of magic to proceedings, though I wish the Malian influence had crept in a little more prominently at times.
THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS (London Electric Ballroom, 09/05/17)

I've said this time and time again, but the New Pornos are the platonic ideal for no-nonsense "play the hits" indie bands. They don't have an over-awing stage presence or state-of-the-art visuals, but what they do have is a formidable back catalogue, verve, and a lot of musical talent- and at the end of the day, what else do you really need?
OTOBOKE BEAVER (London Bethnal Green Working Men's Club, 05/05/17)

Pretty much the same deal as Monday, but with even more crowd-surfing. OTOBOKE BEAVER, WE (STILL) LOVE YOU.
JOHN GRANT (London Union Chapel, 02/05/17)

An emotional, stripped-down fundraiser for a friend fallen on hard times, this was John Grant at his rawest- no orchestras, no Kylie Minogue, just his songwriting and the occasional spine-tingling guest spot from Mara Carlyle. Beautiful.
OTOBOKE BEAVER (London 100 Club, 01/05/17)

OTOBOKE BEAVER, WE LOVE YOU! A most welcome return for the effervescent garage rock dervishes from Kyoto, whose frantic, white-knuckle show culminated in guitarist Yoshi using yours truly as a platform for the first of four separate crowd surfs.
CHILLY GONZALES (London Barbican, 29/04/17)

I rarely listen to his recorded stuff, but there's few live artistes more downright entertaining than the man they call "Chilly" Gonzales, whose melding of recital, musical theory lecture and comic revue reached a new peak with "The Young-Ish Person's Guide To The Orchestra." I mean, I can't think of many other orchestral performances that successfully incorporate "Champagne Supernova", a Britney Spears/Psycho soundtrack mashup, Iron Maiden riffs, Dr Dre and the entire London Symphony Orchestra performing jumping jacks...but then again, I am somewhat of a philistine.
TV GIRL (London Kamio, 26/04/17)

It's all pretty cheesy, and their live set up is more reliant on backing tracks than it could have been, but TV Girl's zeitgeisty, retro-synth hooks hit the spot more irresistibly than they have any right to.
PHARMAKON (London Electrowerkz, 25/04/17)

The noise a Fox news anchor hears when Obama opens his mouth. Marginally less apocalyptic without the percussive sheets of metal, Sadako-esque prowling and self-immolating speakers that so memorably featured at her Dome show, but even so, few can top Margaret Chardiet for raw-throated, eardrum-pulverising intensity.
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO (London Lexington, 24/04/17)

It cannot be denied that "The Boy Least Likely To" experience is a fundamentally twee one. There's glockenspiels and guiros, and multi-coloured balloons, and irrepressibly upbeat melodies that wouldn't seem out of place in a "Mr Tumble" feature. But whilst many bands of that ilk ultimately become cloying, these guys have retained their charm over years thanks to their low-key cynicism, excellent musicianship and an awareness that gimmickry is no substitute for a good tune. Lovely stuff.
COLIN STETSON (London Jazz Cafe, 23/04/17)

Yet another dose of saxophone-centric witchcraft from one of the most astounding avant-garde musicians to emerge this decade. Many breath. Much textures. WOW.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

THE CAN PROJECT (London Barbican, 08/04/17)

Shame ol' Jaki couldn't make it (RIP), but despite slightly muddy sound up in the Gods, this 50th anniversary tribute to perhaps the greatest practitioners of Krautrock - featuring the electrifying presence of original vocalist Malcolm Mooney- was an inventive, ear-pounding, motorik treat.
GRANDADDY (Brighton Concorde 2, 01/04/17)

Ol' Grumpykins Lytle was pissed off with the venue, and there were a few around me who'd had a little too much Pimms in the sunshine, but Grandaddy's superlative lo-fi indie-rock was well worth the trek from the Big Smoke.
GOLDFRAPP (London Roundhouse, 27/03/17)

Alison Goldfrapp has historically alternated between high-energy albums and more sedate releases (and tours), and whilst I'm certain I've enjoyed seeing either incarnation, I'm not going to deny that seeing Goldfrapp in full "vamp disco" mode was a pretty invigorating experience. Minimalist set-up, maximally effective.
TONY ALLEN (London Forum, 24/03/17)

The Crown Prince of Afrobeat, now in his mid-Seventies, is always worth checking out, but even he couldn't quite transcend the sheer, unyielding awfulness that is the Kentish Town Forum on a Friday night.
MANUEL GOTTSCHING (London Barbican, 22/03/17)

There are few musicians out there that can claim to be influential in two completely disparate genres, but Manuel Gottsching has over his five-decade career proved to be instrumental in the development of both psychedelic rock (via his group Ash Ra Tempel) and techno, via his spontaneously improvised 1984 work "E2 E4". Tonight's performance showcased both aspects, with varying success- "E2 E4" was mesmerising in a soporific, minimalist way, but the psych jamming wasn't as far-out as it should have been, perhaps due to last-minute withdrawal of Ariel Pink.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

CAT POWER (London Islington Assembly Hall, 12/03/17)

Two hours of two-chord balladry gets a bit tiresome even when paired with Chan Marshall's exquisitely smoky, fragile vocals, but it's good to see her in a relatively happy place.
EFTERKLANG (London Barbican, 09/03/17)

Well, this was certainly far less awful than the Knife's stab at opera, even if the breathtaking operatic talent and the ambition of the arrangements were sometimes undermined by pretentious, nonsensical lyrics. A mixed bag, albeit one with more impressive moments than not.
THIS IS NOT THIS HEAT (London Barbican, 04/03/17)

One of the weirder, more challenging bands to emerge from 70's London, This Heat sounded way ahead of their time forty years ago, and they still do in 2017. Uncompromisingly unique.
TEI SHI (London Moth Club, 01/03/17)

Not even the hordes of chattering industry fucks could ruin a commanding performance from the up-and-coming Argentinian talent, whose headline song"Bassically" is legitimately one the most accomplished bangers this decade has had to offer.
THE DEARS (London Village Underground, 28/02/17)

It's strange, the dourly romantic husband-and-wife duo of Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak were one of the very first members of the mid-Noughties Canadian hype train, yet they somehow ended up forgotten in the rush. Which is a damn shame, as tonight's "pleasure/pain" set alternating new songs with old favourites was the most riveting indie-rock shows I've seen in yonks.
THE DIVINE COMEDY (London Palladium, 21/02/17)

The Divine Comedy were the first band I ever went to see on my own back in 2004, so it was nice to finally catch up with them again thirteen years later (let's forget the time they were bloody awful in '06). In truth, my taste for grandoise, knowing orchestral pop has diminished in the intervening years, but there's no denying Neil Hannon is a master at what he does and that this was a thoroughly excellent way to spend an evening.
SLØTFACE (London Kamio, 17/02/17)

It might seem like I only listen to avant-garde jazz and Inuit throat singers these days, but I'll always have a soft spot for super-energetic Nordic pop-punk, especially when the choruses are as catchy as those crafted by the Band Formerly Formerly Known As Slutface.