Sunday, October 07, 2018

SSING SSING (London Purcell Room, 02/09/18)

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.
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.