Monday, March 24, 2014

HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT (London Shepherd's Bush Empire, 21/03/14)



















The last time I saw Half Man Half Biscuit was at a Christmas show in 2006, where they pointedly didn't play "All I Want For Xmas Is a Dukla Prague Away Kit". This, of course, was profoundly upsetting and led to a life long phobia of defunct Central European football teams. Tonight, however, finally rectified that. Not only did they perform the world's best paean to Subbueto, but they immediately preceded it with "Vatican Broadside" (the best sub-30 second song by anyone ever) and "Joy Division Oven Gloves" ("DANCE! DANCE! DANCE! DANCE!"). Add in a bit of "Fuckin' Hell, It's Fred Titmus", "National Shite Day" "A Country Practice", "Bob Wilson, Anchorman", "Running Order Squabble Fest" and a myriad other shining examples of Nigel Blackwell's peerless wit, and you've got a gig that somehow transcended the Empire's frankly shoddy sound.
LAIBACH (London Village Underground, 12/03/14)



Review: HERE
JOHN GRANT (London Roundhouse, 09/03/14) 



Review: HERE

(Photo: Burak Cingi/The Line of Best Fit)

Thursday, March 06, 2014

MUTUAL BENEFIT (London St John-on-Bethnal Green Church, 04/03/14)



Review: HERE

(Photo: Danny Dorsa)

Sunday, March 02, 2014

WILD BEASTS (Kingston New Slang, 27/02/14)

  Wild Beasts may be one of the country's most critically acclaimed bands, but even they lose some of their lustre within a student nightclub with floors the consistency of treacle. Meh.
HAIKU SALUT (London Kings Place, 21/02/14)

 
A lovely, if brief set of orchestral folk from the Derbyshire trio, falling halfway between the glitchy beauty of múm and the whimsical charm of early Yann Tiersen. These ladies deserve to go far.
ST VINCENT (London Shepherd's Bush Empire, 20/02/14)



Annie Clark certainly picked up a few tips from David Byrne during the "Love This Giant" tour. She still has a "less is more" mentality as to the musical aspect of her shows, eschewing big ensembles for two synth-players and a drummer, but this performance was a hell of a lot more theatrical than anything she's done before. Most of it works excellently- the dual shimmying, the guitar shredding atop a ziggurat- but there are moments the artifice wears a bit thin, not least the stilted, scripted, faux-insightful "banter". But she played "Krokodil". And "Cruel". And "Marrow". And "Surgeon" (god, I love that guitar tone). And "Cheerleader." And "Prince Johnny." And a gloriously apocalyptic "Your Lips Are Red" to round things off. So that's all OK then.
EZRA FURMAN (London Sebright Arms, 19/02/14)



Ezra Furman is Bruce Springsteen reincarnated into the body of a nebbish, shrill-voiced youth. Ezra Furman is a guy who produces quality, old-school rock 'n roll singalongs with unseemly ease. Ezra Furman is the kind of performer who can get away with three covers in a set ("Please Mr Postman", "Train In Vain" and "Hungry Heart") without making the punters feel like we're getting ripped off. Ezra Furman is bloody awesome.
JENNY WILSON (London Lexington, 17/02/14) 



It's pretty easy to tell Jenny Wilson once collaborated with The Knife. Her glacial, industrial Swedish pop bears a lot of similarity with that of the siblings Dreijer, and although she doesn't have anything in her catalogue to match "Heartbearts" or "We Share Our Mother's Health" she's also, thankfully, a lot less pretentious. Very enjoyable.

Friday, February 07, 2014

PRINCE (London Electric Ballroom, 05/02/14)



Yeah, I saw The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known As Prince in an 800 capacity venue. It was pretty sweet. Perhaps a bit too geared towards the newer classic rock stuff rather than his trademark funk for my liking, but goddamn, that man sure can play a guitar. And all for £10 too!

(Photo: Associated Press/3RDEYEGIRL NPG Records)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

THE HIDDEN CAMERAS (London Bush Hall, 29/01/14)



The Hidden Cameras are a lot tamer than they used to be (no men clad in lycra bodysuits gyrating around a crucifix atop a church altar this time), but Canada's premier "gay church folksters" still know how to put on a bloody enjoyable show. It's nice to have them back.
MOONFACE (London Elgar Room, 27/01/14)



















No, it's not Sunset Rubdown, but Spencer Krug's beautiful, elegiac solo piano performance was yet another triumph from one of the greatest musicians in the world today. He's ditched the virgin ghost snakes of old to sing about love and stuff, but he's still got an ear for an expressive, eccentric turn of phrase, and there's still hints of the piano-crashing mania of old. Not sure if it's better than the work he did with Siinai, but one can't fault the guy for refusing to remain tied to the past.
MOGWAI (London Royal Festival Hall, 25/01/14)


Mogwai have always been a band I've always felt I should like more than I actually do, but tonight went some way to rectifying that. I still think they're a bit too post-rock by numbers for my tastes (especially as I tend to be more attracted to the orchestral end of the genre), but "Mogwai Fear Satan", with that mid-song eruption of eardrum-shredding guitar noise definitely stands alongside "Acid Police" and "Untitled 8" as songs that would justify the tinnitus I'm almost guaranteed to get in later life.
SON LUX (London Lexington, 23/01/14)



Wow. How to describe this gig and do it justice? Son Lux's "Lanterns" is a good album and all, but the live performance cranked things up five-hundred-fold, adding so many elements and twists and eccentricities that weren't there before. It's a show that flitted between haunting, echoey balladry and full on barrages of Boredoms-esque noise rock, a show that was cerebral yet also dancey, a show that on paper was the epitome of Pitchfork hipsterism, yet also delivered substance to back up the style. Given I was expecting a guy droning over pre-recorded backing tracks, the fact I witnessed one of the greatest live introductions to a band since perhaps Battles or Wildbirds and Peacedrums was a truly thrilling experience, and one that I would recommend to anyone who likes having their minds blown.
BOBAN I MARKO MARKOVIC ORKESTRA (London Scala, 19/01/14)



As much as I love Boban and Marko Markovic, I think a full set of their Balkan brass brilliance is too much for me. Their festival and brass battle sets in past years were incredibly focused, getting the mix of traditional Eastern European dance tunes and more modern, technically challenging pieces absolutely spot-on, but there were long stretches tonight that were just a bit self-indulgent. Fantastic at times, but it wasn't a patch on the Barbican performance last year.
STEPHEN MALKMUS AND THE JICKS (London Kentish Town Forum, 16/01/14)



Review: HERE

(Photo: Wumni Onibudo/The Line Of Best Fit)
TEETH OF THE SEA (London Electrowerkz, 11/01/14) 








Imagine every film set in a 80's style sci-fi dystopia, distil them into musical form, and you've basically got Teeth of the Sea. Not as sonically brutal as their Electric Ballroom show (the small room muffled some of the subtleties of their sound), but not too shabby a start to the 2014 gig calendar, especially with a setlist bookended by the mighty electro/instrumental/post-rock assaults of "Reaper" and "Responder". Support band Evil Blizzard also truly lived up their name; no wonder Mark E Smith loves them, they're what the inside of his head would look like during a particularly bad trip.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

THE BEST LIVE ACTS OF TWO THOUSAND AND THIRTEEN



One of the best years for gigs I ever did see. Here's a top 50.

50. CHIC- London Hyde Park
Not even a full-scale meltdown of Hyde Park's speaker systems halfway through the set could blunt the primal funkiness of Nile Rodgers' back catalogue. A seriously amazing selection of disco classics from one of the coolest dudes in music.

49. RETRO STEFSON- Latitude Festival, Henham Park
Their cheesy take on 90's dance music may be difficult to handle on record, but the infectiously fun Icelandic septet certainly know how to get a festival audience moving (to the left! to the right! now spin around!)

48. ELEANOR FRIEDBERGER- London Bush Hall
Dare I say it, but I think I prefer Eleanor's solo venture to the admirably eccentric, but painfully uneven Fiery Furnaces. That rapid half-spoken, half-sung delivery is still there, but the more straightforward songwriting style allows her melodies to breathe.

47. STARFUCKER- London Hoxton Bar & Kitchen 
Starfucker AKA Pyramid AKA PYRAMIDDD AKA STRFKR haven't quite lived up to their early promise, but the day-glo electronic brilliance of "Boy Toy" and "Medicine" is still capable of making me dance like a loon.

46. SINEAD O’CONNOR- London LSO St Luke's 
Sinead O' Connor's career has often been over-shadowed by off-stage controversies, but this beautifully intimate performance revealed an artist finally at peace with herself. Utterly without ego, humorous, passionate and still blessed with an incredible voice, it was an honour to see her in such strong form. Plus, you can't really beat "Nothing Compares 2 U" in a church, can you?

45. DESAPARECIDOS- London Electric Ballroom 
Short, sweet and a hell of a lot of fun. And man, Conor Oberst should really swap the "whiny emo" shtick for "incomprehensible shoutiness" more often.

44. GOAT- London Electric Ballroom 
Tribal rhythms and mighty riffs from pseudo-mystical Swedes with the best costumes this side of a Lordi show. Shame about the surplus of “oh-look-at-me-I'm-too-cool-to-express-any-emotion-but-disdain” hipsters, though- it really dampened the atmosphere.

43. ANAMANAGUCHI- London Garage 
Chiptune odysseys! 3D pixel art projections! Magical light tubes! Neon rainbow bass strings! Anamanaguchi's first ever London gig was as much as a blast as one could hope for, even though the venue was, as the kids would put it, “hot as balls.”

42. CALEXICO- Latitude Festival, Henham Park 
If there's one constant in this world, it's that you can't go wrong with a bit of Calexico, even though their Mariachi-infused Americana inevitably compels middle-class people to dance with what they consider "Latin fervour".

41. THAO AND THE GET DOWN STAY DOWN- London Dalston Victoria 
Thao Nguyen's bouncy, country-tinged indie-pop is twee, far from innovative and even slightly grating on record, but her exuberant live performances are always super-fun.



40. THE OCTOPUS PROJECT- London Garage 
God knows why it took 5 years for The Octopus Project to return to Britain after their stellar Madame JoJo's show, but their blissful electro-instrumentals, blistering drumming and theremin rockouts continue to mark them as one of the most underrated American bands of recent years.

39. OWEN PALLETT- London Village Underground
Village Underground’s a stuffy, oppressive place in mid-summer, and certainly not the place for an evening of looped violin and arch vocals, but The Artist Formerly Known As Final Fantasy manfully soldiered on despite the sauna-like temperatures. Some promising works-in-progress were interspersed among old favourites, but once again, "Lewis Takes Off His Shirt" stood head and shoulders over everything else.

38. ICHI- End of the Road Festival, Larmer Park Gardens 
 Certainly the quirkiest live act I've seen this year, this Japanese mad scientist crafts short ditties about the animal kingdom using the most eclectic array of instruments, home-made devices and props I've ever seen. It's a bit of a novelty, but the incredible, child-like imagination at the heart of it all elevated it far above the ten-a-penny acoustic guitar strummers End of the Road is typically plagued with.

37. JENS LEKMAN- End of the Road Festival, Larmer Park Gardens 
Jens Martin Lekman, writer of witty, lush and melancholic love songs, playing a sunset slot on the closing day of Britain's best music festival? Of course it was going to be good (although I'm still pissed off he didn't play "A Postcard for Nina").

36. BRITISH SEA POWER- London 100 Club
Trust BSP not to do things by the books. The album launch of "Machineries of Joy" perfectly reflected their oddball reputation, incorporating mad Scotch poets, pub quizzes on the Thames, Bulgarian choirs singing "The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round", communist ping-pong and a marauding polar bear. But at the end of the day, it's the music that matters, and a taut, ferocious set proved there's substance to back up the style.



35. THE JEFFREY LEWIS & PETER STAMPFEL BAND- London Brixton Windmill
Everybody's favourite Brooklynite anti-folk artist/comic book author joined forces with the wonderfully eccentric 74-year old ex-hippy Peter Stampfel, with predictably enjoyable results. Particularly enjoyed the cuts from their new album (top track: “Do You Know Who I Am, I'm Fucking Snooki”) although the highlight was, as always, Jeff's gloriously rendered flipboard “movies” (not suitable for under-18's or people averse to bird-on-nerd sexual proclivities.)

34. MUM- Latitude Festival, Henham Park 
Bewitching fairy music from Iceland's third-greatest musical export, who have ditched the instrumental whimsy of the last few years for the glitchy electronica of old. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

33. DEAP VALLY- End of the Road Festival, Larmer Park Gardens 
Sometimes all you need is a bit of good-old fashioned rock 'n roll, and that's exactly what Californian ladies Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards deliver. Imagine Two Gallants with shorter shorts, and more into Iron Maiden than Muddy Waters, and you're pretty much there.

32. GOGOL BORDELLO- London Brixton Academy 
All hail the Gypsy Punks! Five years and five days since I last saw them, and they're still as energetic as ever, although the days of drum-surfing (for them) and pogoing for two hours straight (for me) are long gone. Still never seen a song that matches "Start Wearing Purple" for getting the whole of a 2000-capacity venue to jump in unison.

31. THE POLYPHONIC SPREE- London Village Underground 
The white robes have given way to tie-dyed garments, the confetti cannons have gone, and there's only(!) fourteen of them now, but almost nine years since I first saw them, The Polyphonic Spree still can't be beat for sheer arm-waving, singing-from-the-top-of-your-lungs euphoria. The closing cover of "Lithium", where Tim DeLaughter descended in the audience to initiate a venue-wide moshpit has to be one of the greatest gig moments that venue has ever seen.

 
30. SHUGO TOKUMARU- London Hoxton Bar & Kitchen 
On first impression, you wouldn’t necessarily expect Shugo Tokumaru to be a particularly performer; he comes across as shy, perhaps a bit of a daydreamer. But with his two friends in tow, he creates a sound as beautiful as it is quirky; a exuberantly melodic broadside of classic pop songwriting somewhere between the Beatles and Mercury Rev, combined with that slightly off-kilter eccentricity Japanese bands tend to do so well.

29. CHARLES BRADLEY AND HIS EXTRAORDINAIRES- Latitude Festival, Henham Park
Having spent a period living on the street before supplementing menial day jobs with a side-career as a James Brown impersonator, Charles Bradley was discovered by the boss of Daptone Records who encouraged him to forge a solo career. This proved to be mutually beneficial for him and music lovers everywhere, as his passionate, old-school soul, evocative of early-70′s Stax or Marvin Gaye, is as good as most of the stuff that actually came from that era.

28. CAT POWER- Latitude Festival, Henham Park
Cat Power at the Forum in 2007 was one of the most disappointing shows I've ever attended. Cat Power at Henham Park in 2013 was one of the most moving. Chan Marshall's still an exceptionally nervy performer, biting her nails, pacing up and down the stage, forcing her guitarist to jam for minutes on end so she could smoke a cigarette to calm herself. But when she overcomes her shyness, there are few that can match her for heart-wrenching intensity - especially on a stunningly bleak, distorted rearrangement of "The Greatest", which sent shivers down my spine like nothing else I've seen this year.

27. THE STONE ROSES- London Finsbury Park 
Yeah, Ian Brown couldn't hit a note if his life depended on it; yeah,“The Second Coming” is depressingly uneven; yeah, there is a distinct air of “aggressive neanderthalism” that surrounds a proportion of their fanbase, but this show really underlined that beneath all the bullshit and swagger, when the Stone Roses hit the mark, they hit it good. To hear "I Am The Resurrection" live is something I've wanted to experience for a very long time, and it didn't disappoint despite Brown's tunelessness- over the singing of 35,000 fans, you could barely hear him anyway.

26. KISHI BASHI- London Lexington 
Owen Pallett, Andrew Bird, step aside - a new contender for King of the Violin Loopers has appeared. K. Ishibashi's fiddle playing might not be quite as technically astounding as his more established peers, but his vibrant mix of orchestral pop, beatboxing and improv is a lot more fun.



















25. RAY DAVIES- London Hyde Park 
Ray Davies' voice may be pretty much busted at this point, but let's face it- hearing the greatest hits of the Kinks for free (including “Waterloo Sunset” at sunset) was always going to be an incredible experience regardless of the great man's inability to carry a tune.

24. THE KNIFE- London Roundhouse 
Jumped-up karaoke with shiny costumes it may have been, but when you're faced with the full might of “Silent Shout” blasting at a gazillion decibels with SPINNING RAINBOW LASERS encompassing their entirety of your vision, it's possible to forgive The Knife pretty much anything.

23. MARTHA WAINWRIGHT- London Union Chapel 
I generally greet the sight of an acoustic guitar-wielding singer-songwriter with the same sense of nausea induced by George Osborne, but there’s something about Martha Wainwright that far transcends the earnest guff peddled by many of her peers. Her take on the elegiac ‘Proserpina,’ written by her late mother Kate McGarrigle almost induced some surreptitious tear-wiping on my part, as did a beautifully rendered Edith Piaf cover, but the highlight had to be when she brought on her 3 year old son Arcangelo to be whatever the folk-rock analogue of a hypeman is. Talent really isn't lacking in that family.

22. TITUS ANDRONICUS- Leeds Brudenell Social Club 
Patrick Stickles sans beard may be a perplexing notion, but thankfully his clean-shavenness has not shorn him of his ability to shout a lot. Despite largely focusing on the so-so “Local Business”, this show remained an absolute riot thanks to the Pogues-y vitality of the band, the fervent enthusiasm of their fanbase, and the fact that Stickles is a crazy-eyed madman. Oh, and the fact they played "Battle of Hampton Roads", which is the best "sing along until your vocal chords are raw" song of this generation.

21. TEETH OF THE SEA- London Electric Ballroom 
Another sign that the British music scene is finally making amends for all the bullshit it's unleashed over the last few years, Teeth of the Sea were one of the most exciting live bands I discovered in 2013. Shame about the...unfortunate facial fair, but any band that fuses electronica, krautrock, noise, trumpets, post-rock and a fuckload of other influences into a post-apocalyptic amalgam of awesome is alright by me.



20. PARENTHETICAL GIRLS- London Lexington 
Always assumed Parenthetical Girls would be prissy, reserved live performers. After seeing Zac Pennington strut round the stage, off the stage, on the sound deck and on top of the bar like a camp American Jarvis Cocker, I guess I was wrong. Amazing.

19. KRAFTWERK- Latitude Festival, Henham Park 
Spacing out to motorik beats and eye-popping 3D visuals is pretty difficult whilst surrounded by boozed-up lads shouting, rather optimistically, about their prospects of imminent sexual congress, but despite the low calibre of the audience, it was still a thrill to experience the progenitors of krautrock in the (cold, robotic) flesh.

18. FRANZ FERDINAND- London Dalston Victoria 
The best proponents of mid-Noughties British indie-rock, playing a mixture of their greatest hits and new material, in the back room of a pub in Dalston? Better than a kick in the nuts, I guess.

17. MELT YOURSELF DOWN- Latitude Festival, Henham Park 
Kushal Gaya’s other band Zun Zun Egui tore Latitude a new one back in 2012, and this year, this unstoppable force of nature once again screamed, hollered, whooped, clambered, pogoed and generally blew the socks off everyone in attendance in conjunction with his new act, a glorious jazz/funk/punk/noise barrage somewhere between Ponytail and Sun Ra.

16. THE NATIONAL- London Roundhouse 
I'm not entirely sure why this performance clicked with me in a way so many of the National's other recent performances didn't, but the fact is they played "Mr November" and "Abel" and "Apartment Story" and "Available" with some nifty visuals and flawless acoustics, and that's just fine by me.



















15. BO NINGEN- London 100 Club 
A scintillating onslaught of ear-melting psychedelica from the long-haired paragons of MAXIMAL ROCKNESS. It's great to see them finally gain some recognition after years toiling round the East London pub circuit, and hopefully their more nuanced recent material will maintain their gradual ascent to stardom and/or Valhalla.

14. YEAH YEAH YEAHS- Latitude Festival, Henham Park 
Karen O is one of my favourite frontwoman in indie rock, and on the strength of this imperious performance, she beats almost all the men too. All the hits, all the energy, all the time.

13. AXES- London Garage 
An absolutely stonking mix of Deerhoof, Ponytail, Battles and old school math-rock, which, as anyone who knows my musical tastes will know, basically constitutes my dream band. Best support band I've seen in years, and one I hope to hear much more from in the future.

12. CHROME HOOF- London Lexington 
Chrome Hoof are basically GOAT meets Melt Yourself Down with shinier costumes, more techno-psychedelic-prog-rock-voodoo-space-jazz freakouts and funky multi-coloured lasers. And bloody fantastic they are too.

11. EFTERKLANG- London Lexington
Efterklang's orchestral shows have been great an' all, but it's such a pleasure to see them again as a proper band, playing their little Danish hearts out in a venue ten times smaller than they're accustomed to these days. Plus, they've now acquired the services of the wonderful Katinka Fogh Vindelev, whose angelic syncopated harmonies elevate already great songs into something really rather special. One of the loveliest and most enthusiastic bands around.



















10. EELS- End Of The Road Festival, Larmer Park Gardens 
Every Eels show I've been to has been pretty different. The first was a sophisticated affair with a string ensemble. The second was all garage-rock revival, with Mark "E" Everett clad in aviator goggles and "My Beloved Monster" basically reworked as Lulu's "Shout". The third was stripped down and minimalistic. The fourth, and most recent, was balls-to-the-wall rock 'n roll - and, by some distance, the most enjoyable. I mean, not only did he play badass versions of "Cancer For The Cure" and "Mr E's Beautiful Blues/My Beloved Monster", but there was a motherfuckin' double rainbow too. Brilliant.



















9. CHILLY GONZALES- London Cadogan Hall 
Part recital, part lecture on musical theory, all masterclass in showmanship, Chilly Gonzales proved that solo piano performances can be technically dazzling, innovative, educational and a hell of a lot of fun all at the same time. It's hard to sum up all the genius moments of this show – the understated but clever visuals, the hilarious moments of audience participation, his fascinating and deeply-informed talks on subjects like the emotional appeal of arpeggios (referencing Frere Jacques, Glenn Miller and Daft Punk). But the greatest thing about it was that it all served to augment, rather than distract from, his own musical genius.



















8. BOBBY WOMACK- Latitude Festival, Henham Park 
Latitude's Sunday lunchtime slot always attracts the best calibre of artistes (Joanna Newsom, Thom Yorke, Lang Lang), and the legendary Bobby Womack may have been the best of them all with a curfew-busting blitz through his five decade career. "Across 110th Street" was always going to be a highlight, but it was "Deep River", with some frankly incredible showboating from backing singer Altrinna Grayson that really stole the show.



7. PATTI SMITH- London Shepherd's Bush Empire 
I’m not a religious man by temperament, but if Patti Smith decided to start her own church, I’d join it faster than you could say “L. Ron Hubbard.” Sixty six years old, and still rallying against the injustices of the world with the searing passion of a fire-and-brimstone preacher, the “Godmother of Punk” remains both relevant and riveting in an era where many of her peers churn out the hits with the joie de vivre of Adrian Chiles reading a phonebook. With the ferocity of Nick Cave at his most demonic, ranting like some godforsaken harbinger of the end-times, she tore into ‘Land’ with an frightening and mesmerising intensity, before seguing into the cathartically euphoric ‘Gloria’ to close her set. A truly stunning display of musicianship and stage presence, and one that perfectly encapsulated this most iconic, inspirational and incredible of talents.




6. BOBAN I MARKO MARKOVIC ORCHESTRA- London Barbican 
All that really needs to be said about this phenomenal brass-off between the Serbian Boban I Marko Marko Markovic Orkestra and the Mexican Banda Estrellas de Sinaloa de Gérman Lizarraga is that it inspired a typically staid and highbrow Barbican audience not only to initiate a conga line around the venue, but also to launch two full-on stage invasions.



5. DAVID BYRNE & ST. VINCENT- London Roundhouse 
The brass! The choreography! The St Vincent shimmy! And most importantly- the songs! I always knew the Byrne/Clark combo would deliver, but I never suspected it would be that theatrical, that full of unexpected delights, that goddamn brilliant. Seriously, "Marrow" followed by "This Must Be The Place"?! "Cruel" followed by "Road To Nowhere"?! Almost too much good music for a single show, methinks.



















4. DAN DEACON- London Village Underground
The "human tunnel" stretched halfway around Shoreditch, the Village Underground was illuminated by the light of several hundred bespoke smartphone apps, happy couples and the recently heartbroken were pitted against each other in the arena of dance, and "Snookered"->"USA: Parts I-IV" was basically like one of those Deep South religious revivals, except all the fat people were wearing "Unknown Pleasures" T-shirts rather than stetsons. Dan Deacon: you are the best.



















3. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN- London Wembley Stadium 
I'd ignored Springsteen for years due to a firmly-held disdain for "Born In the USA", but this three hour plus tour de force was one of the most epic performances of my life. His tricks and gimmicks may be well practised (the placards, the back-to-back runthrough of an entire album, the getting a child up to sing on stage) but they're so effective they feel spontaneous, and the 31-song setlist, incorporating "Hungry Heart", "Born To Run", "Dancing In The Dark", "Thunder Road" and the whole of "Darkness on the Edge of Town" put pretty much every other single live act I've ever seen to shame. Guess I now understand why they call him the "Boss".



2. SIGUR ROS- End of the Road Festival, Larmer Park Gardens 
For a band who completely divorce themselves from their audience, Sigur Ros sure put on an incredible headline show. Their Latitude performance of 2008 was one of my top 3 of all time, and this was almost in the same league. Listening to "Saeglopur" whilst gazing at a starlit sky was utterly magical, the run of "Varud", "Hoppipolla" and "Olsen Olsen" nearly made me cry tears of joy, and naturally, there was "Untitled 8" to basically lay waste to all other live music ever. Sublime.


1. ARCADE FIRE- London Roundhouse
After going off them during the Suburbs tour, Arcade Fire once again reminded me why they were the band that made me fall in love with gigs in the first place. The mariachi band playing 80's hits, the venetian masks, the face painting and choreography lessons were all great touches, but the reason that this is my show of the year is that Arcade Fire, at their best, remain one of the most electrifying live bands in the world. "Reflektor", "Normal Person" and "Here Is The Night Time" are superb new additions to the canon, but it was the magnificent closing double-whammy of "Crown of Love" and "Haiti", with a thousand costumed and be-suited fans singing along at the top of their lungs, that sealed this show's immortal status for me. Shame that there wasn't time for "Wake Up" or "Tunnels", but eh, what can you do?

Photo Credits:
Burak Cingi/The Line Of Best Fit (Patti Smith)


(And if anyone cares, and I'd seek help if you do, here's my best of 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012)

HOLY HOLY (London Lexington, 20/12/13)



It may be a god-awful small affair for the girl with the mousey hair, but for this rotund pissant, this tribute to 1969-1973 era Bowie, incorporating the one surviving member of the Spiders From Mars, Spandau Ballet's sax player, the pianist from Kilburn and the High Roads and pretty much all of Mick Ronson's female relatives was bloody good fun. Perhaps I'll never get to see the Thin White Duke in the flesh, but getting to hear the intro to “Five Years” drummed by Woody Woodmansey himself was a fair enough substitute.
GOGOL BORDELLO (London Brixton Academy, 13/12/13)


Despite a few personnel changes, gyspy-punk mentalists Gogol Bordello haven't changed a jot in the five years and five days since I last saw them. Eugene Hutz is still completely unhinged, the audience is still full of shirtless dreadlocked hippies, and “Start Wearing Purple” is still the only song that can get 100% of a given audience pogoing in unison. Very enjoyable, albeit a bit too frantic at times for an old geezer like myself.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

THAO NGUYEN AND THE GET DOWN STAY DOWN (London Dalston Victoria, 29/11/13) 

 

There are some bands that don't grab you on record, but are always damn good value live. Thao and the Get Down Stay Down are one of them. Their bouncy, country-tinged indie-pop is twee and far from innovative, but their performances are so exuberant they could make Norman Tebbit dance approvingly.
SIGUR ROS (London Wembley Arena, 21/11/13)





Well, that was far more awesome than I expected it to be. Wembley Arena is a big ol' aircraft hangar of a venue and that doesn't normally make for a particularly enjoyable musical experience, but man, if Sigur Ros didn't completely nail it tonight. Crystal clear sound, a strong setlist (albeit one that didn't feature Olsen Olsen) and spectacular lightning that incorporated truly judicious levels of lasers and strobe. And of course, there was Untitled 8, which could have sundered the heavens in the midst of its monumental cacophony. Almost as good as their End of The Road performance, which is really saying something.