Sunday, July 01, 2018

MY BLOODY VALENTINE (London Royal Festival, 23/06/18)

MONO (London Queen Elizabeth Hall, 22/06/18)

The sixth and (by far) the best show I've seen from the exquisite Japanese post-rockers. The closing run of Halcyon/Ashes In The Snow/Everlasting Light was so uncompromisingly epic it genuinely made me emosh.
YAMANTAKA//SONIC TITAN (London Electrowerkz, 20/06/18)

Noh-inspired Canadian psych-rockers with a glorious sense of theatre and unstinting commitment to the heaviest of grooves. Shame that so few people turned up, but that certainly didn't deter them from putting on a memorable show.
DAVID BYRNE (London Hammersmith Apollo, 19/06/18)

Davie B's show at the Royal Festival Hall in 2009 remains one of the most remarkable live performances I've ever seen (Eno in a tutu!), but somehow, he's managed to up his game even further. A minimalist set-up with maximum results which placed the focus on his multi-talented entourage rather than fancy stage-craft, it's a show that marries glorious invention, marvelous choreography and some of the best songs of the last 40 years with an unmatched, unpretentious sense of fun. Incredible.
DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE (London Royal Festival Hall, 18/06/18)

Ben Gibbard and his coterie of emos were the last ever band I saw as a student (apart from Goldie Lookin' Chain at Grad Ball), so it's always a nicely nostalgic experience to catch them live. Sound man wasn't exactly on the ball, and the new stuff was as unmemorable as most of their post-Narrow Stairs work, but I'll never tire of the stately brilliance of "Transatlanticism".
PORTALS FESTIVAL (London Dome, 17/06/18)

Yndi Halda's stunning cinematic epics, Big Lad's uncompromising electro-percussive cacophonies, Axes' superior math-rock and Valerian Swing's crazy Italianosity- Portals may be Raw Power without the eclecticism, but it's still a most satisfactory way to spend a Sunday evening.
JAMBINAI (London Purcell Rooms, 16/06/18)

Magnificently epic metal-tinged post-rock centered around traditional Korean instruments. One of the more obscure selections for Robert Smith's Meltdown, but almost certainly one of the best.
ROSTAM (London Scala, 14/06/18)

Review: HERE
BARDO POND (London 100 Club, 06/06/18)

Gravity-warping shoegaze from the veterans of the US alternative scene. They're a tad one-note, but at least that note is exceptionally loud.
ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO (London Jazz Cafe, 04/06/18)

With their hippin' and the hoppin' and the bippin' and the boppin', the kids don't know what the JAZZ is all about. Roscoe Mitchell does however, and his avant-garde saxophone playing remains one of the most virtuoso sights I've ever witnessed.
ALL POINTS EAST: NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS (London Victoria Park, 03/06/18)

Bo Ningen. Nadine Shah. Courtney Barnett. Patti Smith. Nick Cave. Do I need to say more?
BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE (Birmingham Academy, 31/05/18)

If this truly is, as Kevin Drew intimated, Broken Social Scene's last European tour, at least they left us on a high note. The show may have only been two-thirds full and half of them had lost their voices, but they nonetheless delivered two straight hours of premium Canadian indie-rock. Park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me...
CONFIDENCE MAN (London Village Underground, 30/05/18)

A post-detox Die Antwoord, a lightning-sharp pastiche of 90's Euro-pop, a simultaneously ironic yet strangely honest celebration of sex and music and fun. Confidence Man are all these things, but most of all, they're the most straight-down enjoyable new live act of 2018.
TRACEYANNE AND DANNY (London Rough Trade East, 30/05/18)

Wistful Scottish pop that's almost indistinguishable from Camera Obscura, but let's be honest- that's not exactly a bad thing.
ALL POINTS EAST: BJORK (London Victoria Park, 27/05/18)

Still not that much of a fan of Elton John Misty, but the Eldritch Queen of Icelandic was bewitching, even if her setlist veered distinctly towards "Cafe Oto" rather than "festival bangers". Plus, she managed to steer away a literal thunderstorm, which is pretty cool by anyone's book.
ALL POINTS EAST: LCD SOUNDSYSTEM (London Victoria Park, 25/05/18)

Tunelessly bellowed "All My Friends" during a rather downbeat LCDSS set, got Karen O'd right in the face, was sugar-rushed by the ever-peppy Superorganism and threw inappropriate shapes to the formidable Confidence Man. An impressive statement of intent from the latest addition to London's festival calendar.
SPARKS (London Kentish Town Forum, 24/05/18)

Enter the Maelstrom! It's pretty astonishing Ron and Russell have successfully committed to their idiosyncratic brand of pop music for 50 straight years now without sacrificing a jot of their integrity, but not nearly as astounding as the fact that half a century into their career, they might well be at the top of their game. An absolute joy from start to finish.
CAR SEAT HEADREST (London Roundhouse, 23/05/18)

Will Toledo will never be the world's most confident frontman, but at least he's shifted his persona from "deer in the headlights" to "reluctant dad asked to do some DIY". It's amazing to watch the extremely youthful audience shout every word back at him, especially during the dynamic, thoroughly engaging first half, but I couldn't help feel things tapered off a bit towards the end.
OLAFUR ARNALDS (London Royal Albert Hall, 14/05/18)

Review: HERE
EX-EYE (London Milton Court, 13/05/18)

Sax-o-mo to the max-i-mo from Colin Stetson and his ferociously cacophonous metal cohorts. A true force of nature.
ANNA BURCH (London Old Blue Last, 09/05/18)

A competent if unspectacular set from the up-and-coming Detroit songwriter. "Tea-Soaked Letter" is quite the tune though.

Monday, May 07, 2018

JIMMY WEBB (London Roundhouse, 04/05/18)

In truth, Jimmy Webb is a far better raconteur than singer, but dude wrote "Wichita Lineman" so gets a pass for pretty much anything.
KAMASI WASHINGTON (London Roundhouse, 02/05/18)

It's hard to quantify what my "favourite gig" ever would be given I've seen so damn many, but Kamasi Washington at the Roundhouse would be a solid contender. No gimmicks, no fancy light-shows, just 100 minutes of absolutely transcendent, funk-infused jazz courtesy of some of the tightest musicians in the world (including the mighty Shabaka Hutchings making a cameo appearance on "Truth"). The kind of show that knocks the wind out of you and leaves you speechless, because what could you possibly say in the face of such brilliance?
ANNA MEREDITH (London Royal Festival Hall, 28/04/18)

The irrepressible Scottish musical alchemist once again struck gold with an orchestrally-backed rendition of her album "Varmints" so acoustically dense, it pushed the structural integrity of the Southbank to breaking point. Brilliantly bonkers.
A HAWK AND A HACKSAW (London Cafe Oto, 25/04/18)

Balkan folk, Persian santurs and a big fuck-off drum. What else could a man want?
NATALIE PRASS (London Bush Hall, 23/04/18)

The alt-country superstar-in-waiting has shifted from her comfort zone to embrace the funk, and I am totally on board with that.
OTOBOKE BEAVER (London Scala, 19/04/18)

OTOBOKE BEAVER WE LOVE YOU. And perhaps there's a contingent of balding 50-year old punks who love you a bit *too* much, but nonetheless neither they, or the over-zealous security, could detract from the frenzied whirlwind of garage-rock energy that the Kyoto quartet effortlessly whip up. Stunning.
HOLLY MIRANDA (London The Islington, 18/04/18)

After eight years of waiting, I finally got to catch the highly underrated musician in London, and though on a personal level it was a bit disappointing that she's consigned most of her older work to the setlist graveyard, her latest material is more than strong enough to carry the show.
MIDORI TAKADA (London Union Chapel, 17/04/18)

Part minimalist percussion set, part avant-garde theatre, part Buddhist ritual- Midori Takada's mesmerising performances draw heavily on traditional Japanese aesthetics, yet incorporate African and American modernist elements to create something compelling and unique. A true one-off.
ARCADE FIRE (London Wembley Arena, 11/04/18 - 13/04/18)

It may have seemed like Arcade Fire were down for the count after the much-maligned "Everything Now", but the critical mauling seems to have given the Canadians a most astonishing second wind. The boxing ring staging, the phenomenal lighting, and litany of guest starts (Chrissie Hynde! Jarvis Cocker! Florence! Boy George) proved they can pull off an arena show as well as any band in the world, but it was their unfailing energy and passion that once again reminded me why they were the band that triggered my addiction to live music in the first place. Utterly sublime.
PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND (London Islington Assembly Hall, 10/04/18)

A sincere pleasure to experience a genuine slice of New Orleans in Islington, not least because they brought over living legend Charlie Gabriel (now 85 years old) to lend a little more saxo-mo-phone to their effervescently groovy proceedings. Nice!
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG (London Village Underground, 29/03/18)

Review: HERE
DAPHNE & CELESTE (London Boston Music Room, 27/03/18)

I ain't got no alibi: I bought tickets to see Daphne and Celeste with actual, real money and it was quite a lot of fun - in an endearing naff sort of way. New material with wonk-pop maestro Max Tundra is inexplicably decent (even if they struggle to replicate it live) and of course, you can't deny the intellectual and compositional genius of "Ooh, Stick You".
WILL SHEFF (London Slaughtered Lamb, 26/03/18)

Neither flu nor lost luggage nor a lack of guitar pedals could stay Will Sheff from his duty to energetically if imprecisely croon Okkervil River songs in a Satanically-themed pub in Islington, and thank Baal for that as it was pretty delightful.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

FEVER RAY (London Troxy, 20/03/18)

Karin Dreijer may have built a reputation as an unknowable ice-queen, but tonight's show, reflecting her embrace of queer polyamory, is at turns intense, raunchy, dynamic and political- and most of all, a hell of a lot of fun. Plus, that bit where everyone bellowed *that* line from "To The Moon And Back" in unison was hilarious.
ANNA VON HAUSSWOLFF (London Dome, 12/03/18)

There's acts that sound like the Apocalypse, and then there's Anna Von Hausswolff. Having shifted gothwards from Kate Bush to "Dark Elf Sigur Ros", her set was so relentlessly intense, it may well have distorted space-time.
THE HOLD STEADY (London Electric Ballroom, 09/03/18)

A raucous, exultant and extremely sweaty set of almost Springsteenian proportions, the Hold Steady no longer have anything left to prove, except that they're still the best goddamn bar-band in the whole damn world.
SUPERORGANISM (London Oval Space, 08/03/18)

The East London-based collective are essentially MGMT/Architecture In Helsinki for the Snapchat generation, but their ramshackle, technicolour aesthetic (both visually and aurally) proves a winning, winsome prospect.
GWENNO (London Rough Trade East, 05/03/18)

What better way to spend St Piran's Day by singing along to a Cornish-language indie-pop ditty about cheese, and the acquisition thereof? Gwenno's melding of traditional Celtic tongues with 21st century synths may sound gimmicky on paper, but it's all pretty "bryntin" as she might say.
AURORA (London Hoxton Hall, 27/02/18)

Thing I love most about Norway's most exciting export is that her elvish eccentricity isn't an act- in between soaring gothic balladry, she holds court about her constantly runny nose, or reveals a vein of unexpectedly dark humour. Of course, her electifying stage presence and stunning talent contributes to the charm somewhat, especially on triumphant set closer "Conqueror".
FRANZ FERDINAND (London Brixton Academy, 24/02/18)

The Mid-Noughties British indie-rock scene is often (and fairly) remembered as the musical equivalent of a Smirnoff Ice, but I still have a lot of time for the angular riffs and synchronised starjumps of Franz Ferdinard, whose first album tracks sound as fresh as they ever did.
SON LUX (London Scala, 20/02/18)

Subtle, sensuous and sophisticated, Son Lux are one of the most technically dazzling live acts of our generation, and although I've seen the band on even more formidable form, tonight still regularly sent shivers down our collective spines.
THE GO! TEAM (London Electric Ballroom, 15/02/18)

The Go! Team's kaleidoscopic, "kids-TV-show-through-a-vintage-filter" schtick could well have gone stale a long time ago, but the effervescent glee that permeates every part of the enterprise is simply impossible to resist. Wonderful.
JEN CLOHER (London Dome, 13/02/18)

Courtney Barnett's other half may not quite rival her for lo-fi wryness, but Jen Cloher's no-nonsense alt-rock balladry stands tall on its own charismatic merits.
THIS IS NOT THIS HEAT (London Cafe Oto, 10/02/18)

Review: HERE
EZRA FURMAN (London Lexington, 07/02/18)

Retro-revivalism is out, socially-charged alt-rock concerning fugitive angels is in - but regardless of the tenor of his current mode of being, Ezra Furman remains one of the most incisive, dynamic and downright superb singer-songwriters of our era.
MICHAEL ROTHER (London Jazz Cafe, 06/02/18)

Mesmerising motorik soundscapes from the Krautrock veteran, whose enchanting guitar tones stave off monotony far longer than science should allow.
LIIMA (London Oslo, 02/02/18)

Not sure I'll ever love neo-Efterklang quite as much as the ethereal original, but the joy Casper, Rasmus and Mads bring to a room by their mere presence is a remarkable and beautiful thing.
OUMOU SANGARE (London Roundhouse, 31/01/18)

Review: HERE
AK/DK (London Birthdays, 24/01/18)

Holy Fuck's nerdy transatlantic cousins. Synths and drums and a whole load of awesome.