Sunday, November 25, 2018

US GIRLS (London Islington Assembly Hall, 22/11/18)

US Girls as a duo with backing track = fine, I guess. US Girls as an 8-piece pop juggernaut = pretty exceptional. Meghan Remy has some songwriting chops, that's for sure.
IDRIS ACKAMOOR & THE PYRAMIDS (London Dome, 20/11/18)

A mesmerising, eclectic and elatory set from the veteran Afro-futurists. I particularly enjoyed the bit where the band dedicated a song to Native American tribes, and some drunk lady who was clearly from Romford kept on shouting "MY PEOPLE! MY PEOPLE!" and I really struggled to stifle my giggles.
TRICOT (London Scala, 18/11/18)

Not the most frenzied Tricot set I've ever witnessed (no-one jumped on anyone else's kit, and I didn't nearly get hit in the face by a bass), but probably the most musically accomplished. One of the best things math-rock ever produced.
SAX RUINS (London Cafe Oto, 18/11/18)

Dazzling rhythmic chaos from the scintillating Japanese sax-and-drums duo. Time signatures are for losers.
TOKYO CHUTEI IKI (London St John on Bethnal Green, 18/11/18)

A 10-piece baritone sax ensemble playing a lunchtime set at a dilapidated but stately church in Bethnal Green. Can't go wrong, really.
!!! (London Bush Hall, 15/11/18)

After delivering the most outright fun gig of 2017, the dance-punk legends effortlessly repeated the feat at Bush Hall, with a performance where half the audience ended up on-stage, whilst Nic Offer spend half the set off of it.
THE FIRE! ORCHESTRA (London Dome, 14/11/18)

A breathtaking evening of "Swedish misunderstandings" from the magnificent Fire! Orchestra. I swear Mariam from Wildbirds and Peacedrums hasn't aged a bit over the last decade...
MAJUTSU NO NIWA (London Cafe Oto, 12/11/18)

Classic Tokyo psych-rock. A bit "meat-and-potatoes" for my tastes, to be honest, with a focus on bludgeoning riffs rather than blissful cosmic freak-outs.
CHILLY GONZALES (London Rough Trade East, 12/11/18)

Chilly might be a big deal nowadays, but he stills likes to bring things down to Brick Lane "for those who can't afford his proper shows" every so often. Half musical theory lecture, half non-genre-conforming recital, he's one-of-a-kind and really rather marvelous.
THE DECEMBERISTS (Leeds Academy, 10/11/18)

Murders most foul, accordions, choreographed singalongs and giant whales. Yup, it's a Decemberists show, and yup, it was bloody good.
CRACK CLOUD (London Moth Club, 09/11/18)

Looking for a jerkier, more concentrated Nervous Conditions featuring a guy who looks like a 2nd-tier anime villain? An intimidating group of straight-edge former addicts who fuse razor-sharp post-punk with math-rock and African rhythms? The best goddamn new band I've seen this year? If so, I'd get yourself to a Crack Cloud gig RIGHT NOW.
NEKO CASE (London Barbican, 08/11/18)

An impressively polished set of alt-country from the brilliantly unpretentious, politically ferocious Ms. Case. It's not a genre I'm particularly attuned to, but the two hour set went by in a blink of an eye.
ZOLA JESUS (London Omeara, 05/11/18)


Review: HERE
CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH (London Electric Ballroom, 26/10/18)

The transformation of Alec Ounsworth from "deer-in-a-headlights" dullard to accomplished frontman remains one of the more unanticipated but welcome developments of my gigging career, and although "Some Loud Thunder" was never my favourite CYHSY album, this show perfectly encapsulated the off-kilter brilliance and electrifying vitality that made the mid-Noughties indie-rock scene so exciting. Satan Said Dance indeed...
PALM (London Moth Club, 25/10/18)

So "1am at ATP" I could almost smell those rancid Butlins hotdogs. Scintillating, time-signature-dodging jams that reminded me at various times of Animal Collective, Deerhoof, Battles and Dirty Projectors.
ELEANOR FRIEDBERGER (London Oslo, 24/10/18)

A charming set, as ever, from the former Fiery Furnaces frontlady, whose distinctive vocals and ear for melody elevates her above your typical singer-songwriter.
MEW (London Barbican, 20/10/18)

The anthemic Danes have never quite clicked for me, and there were times during this "Frengers" anniversary show where my attention certainly wavered, but "Comforting Sounds" with string quartet was honestly worth the price of admission alone.
URBAN SOUND (London King's Place, 19/10/18)

A eclectic, accomplished and thoroughly excellent performance from this East Asian quartet, fusing classical, Korean folk, jazz and avant-garde influences. Would be perfect at Cafe Oto, just sayin'.
GWENNO (London Islington Assembly Hall, 18/10/18)

Review: HERE
BO NINGEN (London Moth Club, 17/10/18)

Long-haired Japanese psych-rock onslaught: Round 16. Not the best I've seen them (the limited dimensions of the Moth Club stage restrained their more exuberant antics), but there's no such thing as a bad Bo Ningen gig. Really liked Grimm Grimm - formerly of Screaming Tea Party - in support as well, not least because of the two well-judged and poignant Umez covers. The Pharmakon knock-offs Naked...not so much.
CHAI (London Rough Trade East, 11/10/18)

Am I sufficiently kawaii to join this band? Y/N
OKKERVIL RIVER (London Koko, 10/10/18)

 First saw Okkervil River 13 years ago, and it appears Will Sheff still hasn't captured the whole "hitting notes" thing. Nonetheless, their vibrant, punchy folk-rock never fails to revitalise, and "Unless It Kicks" remains one of the greatest alt-rock anthems of our times.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

SSING SSING (London Purcell Room, 02/10/18)

Checked out these cross-dressing Korean glam-rockers purely because their write-up in the K-Music Festival program intrigued me, and they ended up putting on one of the most delightfully effervescent sets I've seen this year. Not sure the Purcell Room has ever been witness to so much pogoing...
LET'S EAT GRANDMA (London Heaven, 27/09/18)

There's no denying the remarkable talent of the teenage duo ("Donnie Darko" is one of the musical highlights of 2018), and they seem more confident on stage than ever, but muffled sound and an audience of chatterers and pervs meant this performance never quite clicked.
YNDI HALDA (London Omeara, 22/09/18)

90 minutes, 5 songs - why yes, this was an Yndi Halda gig. Due to various technical and logistical mishaps, their "acoustic" set ended up being almost entirely electric, but when you've got post-rock this majestic, who really cares?

Saturday, September 22, 2018

BLACK COUNTRY NEW ROAD (London Social, 19/09/18)

It was entirely right that Nervous Conditions, the most thrilling new British band of our era, decided to call it a day after their lead singer was accused of sexual impropriety. But I'm also glad the non-tainted members were granted another chance to unleash their uncompromising genre-warping cacophony upon the world. With Connor's departure, the snarling Mark E Smith-ian menace of their original incarnation has given way to a more instrumental approach, but their surreal, brutal brilliance remains intact.
DIONNE WARWICK (London Royal Albert Hall, 18/09/18)

Whilst it was undoubtedly an honour to witness a genuine soul legend perform some of the greatest songs ever written, muffled sound, the most obnoxious audience members in Christendom and a medley structure that traded depth for eclecticism resulted in an ultimately underwhelming experience. "Walk On By" was dispatched with almost unseemly haste, and only "A House Is Not A Home" was afforded enough breathing space to hit on the emotional level.
BELAKO (London Lexington, 17/09/18)

Didn't know much about this Power-Pop-Post-Punk outfit from the Basque Country beforehand, but with a verve and vitality that's half Savages, half Slotface, the Bilbao four-piece deserve to be a hell of a lot bigger.
MITSKI (London Rough Trade East, 17/09/18)

Mitski Miyawaki has long been on my "to-see" list, and this passionate solo acoustic set at Rough Trade, both raw and bewitching beautiful, showcased exactly why she's our Best American Girl.
WHY? (London Electric Ballroom, 15/09/18)

"Alopecia" is one of my all-time favourite albums, so to hear it performed live in full was a rather emotional experience. Even the often taciturn Yoni Wolf seemed taken aback by the force of several hundred people singing "yours is a funeral I'd fly to from anywhere" in harmonically uneven unison, and the reworked arrangement of "By Torpedo Or Crohn's" almost brought a tear to these cynical, embittered eyes. Sublime.
MASS GOTHIC (London Sebright Arms, 12/09/18)

It's a shame Mass Gothic didn't emerge thirteen or so years ago as they would have been huge, but their vibrant, well-crafted indie-rock still gets these old heartstrings a-stir.
JANELLE MONAE (London Roundhouse, 11/09/18)

The obvious heir to Michael Jackson and Prince, Janelle Monae may as yet lack the 5-star catalogue that'd propel her to superstar status, but her all-singing, all-dancing, and commendably #woke show is one of the most impressive all-round performances London has seen in a very long time. Truly the Electric Lady.
QUJAKU (London Lexington, 09/09/18)

Few things make me happier than Japanese bands that sound like the Apocalypse and Qujaku could have annihilated galaxies. Definitely the loudest gig I've been to at The Lexington and without a doubt one of the best.
TITUS ANDRONICUS (London St Pancras Old Church, 06/09/18)

Review: HERE
ST VINCENT (London Cadogan Hall, 04/09/18)

After feeling slightly detached from the stylistic and conceptual bells and whistles of the last two tours, it was such a delight to see Annie Clark play this stripped-down, piano-and-vox show with no 'quirky' monologues, no slow falls down stairs, and no pre-recorded backing tracks. A tremendous evening.
END OF THE ROAD FESTIVAL (Larmer Tree Gardens, 30/08/18-02/09/18)

My fifth weekend at Larmer Tree, and one of the best yet. My top ten highlights:

- Feist's gimmick-free, effortlessly charismatic tour de force on Sunday night
- Vampire Weekend's surprisingly accomplished feel-good headline set
- The ferocious guitar shreddage of the ever-underrated Screaming Females
- Mulatu Astatke's sublime early-evening Ethio-jazz
- The eardrum-annihilating closing collaboration between Snapped Ankles and AK/DK
- Patrick Stickles' raw, but passion-fuelled Velvet Underground medley
- Ezra Furman being Ezra Furman
- Lucy Dacus' late-night cover of "Dancing In The Dark"
- The elatory Sudanese grooves of The Scorpios
- Haley Heynderickx's low-key, mesmerising charm
KING AYISOBA (London Cafe Oto, 28/08/18)

A heady dose of spell-binding Ghanaian rhythms from the critically-acclaimed kologo master.
LIGHTNING BOLT (London Black Heart, 26/08/18)

Is there a band more aptly named than Lightning Bolt? The noise-rock duo may have hit their mid-Forties, but their relentless racket still feels like a full-body shock to the system.
LIZZO (London Islington Academy, 24/08/18)

Move over Lizzie, Lizzo's our true Queen now.
THE SUN RA ARKESTRA (London Union Chapel, 16/08/18)

Marshall Allen is now 94 years of age, and yet seems more sprightly than ever. How the hell does that work? Needless to say, this was the best display of Afro-futuristic free-jazz space wizardry I've seen yet, as hypnotically groovy as the eighth ring of Saturn.
THE LEMON TWIGS (London Lexington, 15/08/18)

Review: HERE
JENNY LEWIS (London Koko, 14/08/18)

Review: HERE
CONFIDENCE MAN (London Scala, 08/08/18)

It's difficult to nail pastiche without coming across as overly arch and knowing, but Confidence Man's impeccably earnest send-up of cheesy 90's Euro-dance is an unqualified success, not least because they've got the catchy-as-hell pop bangers to back up the ludicrous costume changes and dance routines. C.O.O.L indeed.
THE FLAMING LIPS (Cambridge Junction, 23/07/18)

I didn't think it would be possible for Wayne Coyne to carry off the full Flaming Lips experience, incorporating confetti cannons, luminescent unicorns, a 10ft inflatable pink robot and roughly 52 billion giant balloons, in an 800 capacity venue. I was extremely happy to be proved wrong.
KALEIDOSCOPE FESTIVAL (London Alexandra Palace, 21/07/18)

All Points East might have had all the razzmatazz, but Kaleidoscope definitely had the soul. Located on Alexandra Hill, providing a magnificent view of the city below, it undoubtedly had some teething problems (exhausting their food and beer by 8pm, equipment cutting out during Ghostpoet), but the musical quality was unimpeachable, the atmosphere relaxed and pleasant, and the ridiculous technicolour extravaganza of The Flaming Lips completely exhilarating.
ROY AYERS (London Jazz Cafe, 06/07/18)

Everybody loves the sunshine, but everyone loves the vibraphone legend even more, even if his voice is pretty shot these days. A brief but compelling jazz-funk odyssey.
MARTHA REEVES AND THE VANDELLAS (London Brixton Blues Kitchen, 04/07/18)

It's not often you get to witness a bona fide Motown legend for £2 above a hipster-orientated burger restaurant, but it's something I wished happened more often. Of course her voice isn't what it used to be, and the other Vandellas looked like they were perpetually chewing a barrelful of wasps when they weren't singing, but the sheer joie de vivre of their performance really captured what made the Detroit sound so utterly timeless. One of the surprise highlights of the year.
EELS (London Brixton Academy, 02/07/18)

Over the last twelve years we've been treated to Eels "with Strings", "Gospel-y Garage" Eels, "Minimalist Acoustic" Eels, "Rock Powerhouse" Eels and "Baroque" Eels, and tonight continues Mark "E" Everett's constant reinvention of his material with what might be dubbed the "Double Denim" era. Bringing a certain country-rockin' spin to a career-spanning setlist, it might not be the most innovative or emotionally striking twist they've taken, but everyone looked like they were having so much fun I doubt anyone cared.

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.