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By Mary Chang
on Monday, 27th April 2015 at 2:00 pm
It’s always nice to see a band you’ve been supporting since their humble beginnings, when barely anyone knew they were, playing to a massive and loudly and vocally supportive crowd in your hometown. This is exactly what happened last Thursday night when Kodaline came to Washington for their third visit to our city, playing at their largest venue in DC to date, the venerated 9:30 Club. Their opener for their current North American campaign is Gavin James, who I saw play before Kodaline Friday at the Great Escape 2013 at an afternoon showcase at Audio (now reopened and rebranded as Patterns), sponsored by Music from Ireland.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure how Gavin James was going to go down with American crowds, seeing that he’s not exactly a household name here like Kodaline is. However, I should have just gone off what transpired when Snow Patrol made the fateful decision to bring their new friend Ed Sheeran on their spring North American tour in 2012. (We all know what happened after that…) Based on the screams of delight that nearly rivalled those received by Kodaline themselves, I’d reckon James has a very good shot of doing well here in the States. His heartfelt, tear-jerky songwriting and soaring voice were well received by the overwhelming female audience, as was his self-deprecating humour. He apologised for his Irish accent, “You probably won’t understand what I say. I’m like an Irish leprechaun Speedy Gonzales.”
Though Speedy wears a cute yellow sombrero, he’s got nothing on Gavin James. In set opener ‘For You’, he channelled the abject loneliness within an ending relationship. A childhood flame is remembered fondly in ‘Remember Me’, and James displays the full emotion of remembering what seemed like a perfect love when young and innocent when the track is performed live. For ‘Coming Home’, he enlisted crowd assistance for additional voices, which punters were only too eager to provide. The ginger singer/songwriter also took the chance of taking his guitar into the crowd on the floor at 9:30 to play a song; mobile phones from seemingly all over snapped photos and shot video of James performing, further endearing him to the punters. All in all, it was an excellent and memorable debut in Washington for an artist from abroad.
Generally, I don’t agree with bands touring a new album straight after its release. It doesn’t give fans enough time to sit and listen to the album carefully, which leads the sing-alongs (if you’re a sing-along type of band, anyway) to fall flat. Why purposely give yourself an uphill battle? Kodaline’s spring 2015 North American tour did exactly this, starting over the pond here the week ‘Coming Up for Air’ (my review here) dropped on our continent, but I guess the argument could be made that for the February release of the UK version, British fans were only given a week to learn the new album before that tour started too.
The reason I bring this up: while the deafening reception to the songs off their 2013 debut ‘In a Perfect World’ (my review here) made total sense, only the early singles from ‘Coming Up for Air’ has similar but surely less manic responses, which is a shame because I actually liked the second album better than their first, and its songs deserved a better response. New album track ‘Ready’, which would have been my choice of single over ‘The One’, kickstarted their energetic set, but one has to wonder if it had been placed further down the set list, would it really have gotten the same response? To be fair, ‘The One’ has personal significance to the band, with frontman Steve Garrigan explaining dryly that it was dedicated to their married friend Phil and Fiona, whose wedding they attended and “forgot” to bring a wedding present to, so they were ‘forced’ to come up with a song for the occasion.
‘Unclear’, which on record is punctuated by a beautiful children’s choir, didn’t have the same impact live without it; conversely, the brasher, guitar squealing ‘Play the Game’, imploring us to “dream bigger!”, is tailor made for a larger-scale production Kodaline are overseeing on this tour, which is seeing them play venues at least 2 times bigger than their last tour in winter 2014, during which they played our U Street Music Hall. And about the production values: with a pretty spectacular light display onstage, you can see how if the Irish band play their cards right, they’re set up to play and wow crowds at stadiums. As the t-shirt hanging above the merch table reads, “I’m ready for it all”, Kodaline seem poised to do just that.
However, somewhat disappointingly to me, it was left to the hits from ‘In a Perfect World’ to really send fans into a frenzy. ‘High Hopes’, with Garrigan stood not sat in front of his piano, was so well received, punters’ voices singing in the club in unison so loudly, half the time Garrigan didn’t need to sing the lead vocal. Predictably, ‘All I Want’ ended the night on a high note, but in an interesting turn of events, Garrigan invited Gavin James back onstage to share lead vocal duties on the song, thus introducing a nice change from the live version we’ve come to know after the last 2 years. Time will tell how well ‘Coming Up for Air’ will age compared to ‘In a Perfect World’, but at the moment, their live performance hits all the right notes for their devoted fan base.
After the cut: Kodaline’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Kodaline with Gavin James at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 23rd April 2015
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 21st April 2015 at 4:00 pm
Mali-born band Songhoy Blues‘ arresting performances at SXSW 2015, including the Transgressive Records showcase Carrie covered on the Tuesday night of the festival, kept punters spellbound and with good reason. If you’re still in need of convincing, the band have released a new live performance video of them playing ‘Soubour’, a new single that is released on the 11th of May on Transgressive.
It also just so happens that the band appeared on Later…with Jools Holland recently, and you can also watch their performance from the telly below as well.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 20th April 2015 at 4:00 pm
Legendary Mancunian band James have released a new performance video of their second single ‘Curse Curse’ from current album ‘La Petit Mort’, released in 2014. The band describe it being done semi-acoustically – that is, there is a laptop and the guitar looked amped up…oh wait… – but it’s part of their Living Room Sessions, which adds that intimate feel you certainly won’t get seeing James in a far bigger venue. Watch it below.
For those that prefer to spend their evenings running into each other at full speed, this Wednesday the Academy in Newcastle upon Tyne obliged by hosting, a trio of acts purveying the heavier side of rock, perfect for moshing to. Telford’s Hyena were up first, a quartet of young chaps promoting their recent release ‘Mental Home’, which conjures up all sorts of pleasant memories of discovering the delights of Queens of the Stone age. They’ve also put a nice waltz in the middle. Well worth checking out.
TGTF was ostensibly here to have a listen to heavy rock duo Dolomite Minor, who first came to my attention as doing the rounds of all the big urban music festivals last year, but who I failed to see at any point on their travels. Tonight’s performance sees them a little, shall we say, under-motivated, duck-toed singer and guitarist Joe Grimshaw wanly peering out between curtains whilst spidery fingers pluck away on his guitar. Their live presentation does them no favours, really: on record they sound enormous, chromatic riffing and robotic vocals combining with a massive drum sound to great effect. But, like seeing the workings of a magic trick, watching the two young chaps of Dolomite Minor deliver their music dilutes its power somewhat. There’s little in the way of movement or audience interaction – at one point, after asking how everyone’s doing and getting only a few half-hearted whoops in reply, Grimshaw’s retort is “same as last night,” which seems unnecessarily churlish.
Presentational challenges aside, Dolomite Minor do have some good tunes, particularly if you’re a fan of the flattened fifth: in ‘Talk Like An Aztec’, guitars in various states of distress revolve around said interval, ‘Let Me Go’ takes a ’50s rock ‘n’ roll swagger and adds the requisite crunching riffs underneath a slap-backed vocal, and ‘When I’m Dead’ adds more than a hint of psych-drone which is an interesting direction that the group could explore further. The band do thaw out a bit towards the end of the set, so that ‘Watch Yourself’ ends up a thrilling multi-movement romp with a fine climax. If these guys could loosen up a bit, look like they’re enjoying themselves, and get the crowd going a bit more, they could be a big draw.
Loosening up is something that Turbowolf are experts at. Frontman Chris Georgiadis (the word “singer” simply doesn’t do justice to his talents) is expert at getting the crowd onside right from the moment he steps onstage to whoops of delight. “Onside” is the right word because he spends plenty of time on the wrong side of the barriers, interacting with the mosh pit, inviting lucky punters to sing into the microphone: most people know the songs word-for-word, if not note-for-note, and they’re not afraid to show it.
Musically, Turbowolf are all about big, swinging riffs, twisted lead parts and Georgiadis’ turned-up-to-11 vocals, often played at breakneck speed. The crowd are exhorted to mosh and do that weird, pulsating, crash-into-each-other dance that brings so much pleasure to young men. A memorable, often surreal performance, which would work fantastically well on a festival stage – Turbowolf are to be found at The Great Escape, 2000 Trees, and Kendal Calling over the summer.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 16th April 2015 at 4:00 pm
I get this incredibly happy feeling when I see a UK band I’ve been following for a long time finally get the attention they deserve on this side of the pond. London-based Life in Film have been soldiering on for the last few years, having caught the eye of those fashion hounds at Burberry as early as 2010, leading me to write this Bands to Watch on them the following year. Well, ladies and gents, I am here to tell you graft does pay off, as Life in Film are now gearing up for the release of their Stephen Street-produced debut album ‘Here It Comes’ the 4th of May on ECC Records (the American release follows on the 5th on +1 Records). Now everyone – I’m telling you everyone, from Consequence of Sound to Teen Vogue, from Nylon to Pigeons and Planes – want to talk to them, and I just want to say…well, I was tipping this band way before all of you!
Ahead of the album’s release, Germany-based Berlin Sessions had the foresight to videotape the band playing these stripped back acoustic versions of ‘Get Better’, ‘Alleyway’ and ‘The Idiot’, which all appear on ‘Here It Comes’. If you happen to live in North America, you can catch them as the main support for Liverpool’s Wombats on their tour of our continent starting next Tuesday in Toronto. I’d recommend you catch them now while you still can. Catch all our past coverage on Life in Film here.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 15th April 2015 at 4:00 pm
If you’re looking for something fantastic to get you over the midweek slump, we’ve got you covered. American band Eels just released yesterday a special 2-disc CD, 3-cisc clear purple vinyl and a DVD, the band’s third, ‘Live at Royal Albert Hall’. You can watch the whole gig below as filmed on the 30th of June 2014, courtesy of our friends at Baeblemusic. To watch the whole presentation in its full-sized glory, watch it at Baeblemusic’s Web site.
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