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By Mary Chang
on Monday, 11th November 2013 at 4:00 pm
Two of the Leeds band the Dunwells recently performed for Songs from the Shed, who describes themselves as specialising “in hand made acoustic video sessions filmed in a garden shed”. Where this was filmed wasn’t exactly a garden shed – it was instead taken at the Karamel Club in Wood Green, a small multi-purpose theatre/arts venue part of the Chocolate Factory arts centre in North London – but this is a lovely performance of the band playing their song ‘Light Up the Skies’. Watch it below.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 8th November 2013 at 4:00 pm
The Honey Ants – the duo made up of John Grimsey and Rebecca Hamer – appeared at the Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell, London, last month. And we’re pleased to bring you this performance of ‘See You Again’ from the show. Filmed in dreamy sepia tones, this one’s a keeper. Watch it below.
Header photo by Jen Carey
New Zealand pop veteran Neil Finn has released the video for ‘Divebomber’, the lead single from his forthcoming solo album ‘Dizzy Heights’, following a live webcast of a rehearsal session for the new songs. The rehearsal featured Finn on piano and acoustic guitar, accompanied by a full orchestra, and also contained an audience participation element, with Finn answering questions submitted in real time via Twitter and Facebook. If you missed the live Webcast, it is now archived at Finn’s Web site and can be viewed here.
In the webcast, Finn remarked that several of the songs on ‘Dizzy Heights’ include large arrangements with either orchestra or full band, revealing the expansive direction of the new material. “I didn’t want to make it a solo record in a stripped back singer-songwriter sort of way,” he says, explaining his collaboration on the record with co-producer Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev, The Flaming Lips, Tame Impala) and fellow New Zealand musicians Connan Mockasin and Sean Donnelly (SJD).
Though he is best known for the catchy pop tunes of Crowded House, Finn has always seemed to take inspiration for his songwriting from unexpected sources, particularly in his solo material. ‘Divebomber’ was inspired by a 1941 film of the same name, which received an Oscar nomination for its vibrant cinematography. Finn’s ‘Divebomber’ video is less boldly graphic, instead using video footage from a beach vacation in Greece overlaid by diffuse aerial cloud imagery to match the discordant, unsettled tone of the musical setting. But the track’s soaring strings, marching percussion and breathy vocals reflect the heroic and tragic nature of the film’s plot line, as well as the bravery and risk involved in Finn’s recent songwriting ventures. As the song’s lyrics state, ‘There’s only one way down’, and with ‘Divebomber’, Finn has taken a headlong plunge into uncharted territory.
‘Dizzy Heights’ will be released on 10 February 2014 via Lester Records / Kobalt Label Services. Watch the video for ‘Divebomber’ below. Finn will be playing a one-off show at St. James’ Church in London on 27 November but the gig is already sold out.
Before we go any further, let’s get one thing straight: tonight, Marc Martel *was* Freddie Mercury. He moved like him, sang like him; even, to my eyes, *looked* like him. And that simple point is what elevates The Queen Extravaganza way above a run-of-the-mill covers outfit – the band are superb, note-perfect, but Martel is a spellbinding performer, perfectly at ease with the enormous task he has been given, and through subtle body language cues and a world-class voice, astonishingly evocative of Mercury himself. The second coming of Freddie is secretly what all Queen fans pine for, and the Queen Extravaganza is surely as close as anyone could hope to just that.
The band come with the blessing of Brian May and particularly Roger Taylor, who masterminded putting the band together; a risky business, when one thinks about it – the extensive Queen back catalogue is deeply revered by millions of fans worldwide, and the disaster of a subpar band ruining it doesn’t bear thinking about. But Taylor has performed his due diligence well, and picked a great band, often musicians from relative obscurity. Take guitarist Brian Gresh, who was working as a mechanical engineer before being picked – he’s capable of reproducing May’s virtuoso guitar lines note-for-note; thankfully the Extravaganza has come along to give him an outlet for his talents. Sadly, tonight he didn’t perform one of his famous spectacular backflips, but surely he will at some point on the tour.
The band strike a perfect note of humble reverence for the Queen material – every now and again Martel explains a bit about why the next song has been chosen, and what significance that particular piece has for the young performers, but mostly they let the music do the talking. Martel admits that Wayne’s World was his introduction to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, before launching into an extraordinary rendition of that very piece, ably assisted with the famous Queen “heads” on the video screens behind. Just to attempt that most famous and ambitious of Queen songs deserves respect, and when it becomes clear that not only is this an attempt but a version of such passion and skill worthy of the original band themselves… well, it’s enough to bring a tear to the eye.
No phase of Queen’s career is off-limits tonight. There’s the cod-vaudeville of ‘Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon’, a quick spin through the almost-thrash metal of ‘Stone Cold Crazy’ (kudos to drummer Tyler Warren for taking vocal duties on that one); ‘Love Of My Life’ is as beautiful and fragile as a Fabergé egg, and 80s synth-rock anthem ‘Radio Gaga’ gives everyone an excuse to practise their overhead handclaps. The final dénouement brings out the big guns – Queen could do pomp and circumstance like nobody else, a fact not lost on the Extravaganza. I’m sure the reader can imagine for themselves the sort of songs that might climax a Queen show, and they’re all present and correct tonight, in a crescendo of noise, power and emotion that few bands could emulate. For anyone who didn’t see Queen the first time round, or did see them and want to remind themselves how great they were – The Queen Extravaganza will not disappoint. They’ve got a kind of magic.
See Martin’s full set of photos from the night in all their high-res glory on his Flickr.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 1st November 2013 at 4:00 pm
The Flaming Lips recently released their cover version of Tame Impala‘s ‘Elephant’. It wouldn’t be the Flaming Lips without something a little off-kilter about the performance, and Wayne Coyne delivers in that respect by flapping the edges of a giant silver disc around his ears like a fly’s wings. It has to be seen to be believed. Watch it below.
If you’d like to compare this version with the original, head this way to watch Tame Impala’s promo as this previous Video of the Moment.
‘Champagne Supernova’ rang out from inside the faux regency portcullis that frames the stage at London’s faithful Brixton Academy. The crowd, clearly hyped, were eager to catch up with their own palatable rebel just weeks before the release of his latest album, hopeful of the chance to garner any loosely disguised teasers. What was once part of the raw appeal of Jake Bugg – his stripped back appraisal of urban life in often decaying provincial centres – has become a brand on the back of the astronomical success of his debut LP. This was one of the first opportunities for his most loyal UK fans to learn whether he would stay true to his roots.
Oasis’s seminal track gave way to the haunted tones of Robert Johnson’s ‘Crossroads’ reverberating around the cavernous hall as Bugg and his band coolly took to the stage with all the fanfare of a band practice on a rainy Tuesday. The sense of compulsion that is at the heart of the Johnson “I sold my soul to play the blues” legend (a misplaced attribution meant for his predecessor Tommy Johnson – one for all you bluesos) was also evident in this 21st century journeyman, who has delved to depths beyond his years since the tender age of 12 – even if it could have been done using a more subtle, less worn cliché.
Not the kind to require total self-reinvention on each release, opening track ‘There’s a Beast and We All Feed It’ was a neat little teaser from his eagerly anticipated second album ‘Shangri La’ that suggested his vantage point has remained the same, even if his horizons have changed. His blissful incoherence already stood in stark contrast to the bubblegum autotune of so many of his contemporaries.
The stage layout was simple, with drummer Jack Atherton shifted off to the right and a scaled back lighting rig hidden behind a sheet adorned in Bugg’s now universal half vinyl logo. Beams like truck headlamps erupted through the darkness for ‘Troubled Town’, an infectious single release from his eponymous debut album that details the apathy of the British recession in his native Nottingham.
The first chords of ‘Seen it All’ – a song that perhaps best characterised his initial shift from promising protégé to dominant chart force – pulled the crowd up by their vocal chords for a rousing recollection of urban hijinks with a Bob Dylan esque narrative and soaring choral line.
‘Simple as This’ was the first of the night’s mellower tracks, and although it’s hard to dispute Bugg’s sincerity, it’s fair to say that he seemed to find it more difficult to connect fully with an audience that were more overtly distracted than, say, Arctic Monkeys to The Verve within three tracks.
Aside from activating the advertising node of all fans of slightly watery mainstream ale in the room, ‘Country Song’ provided relief in demanding total attention from a crowd that had hitherto drifted in and out. Such a unified moment caused the song to echo off the vast ceiling, even if the “old rusty guitar” of which he sings is sounding a little more clinical these days.
Despite its meeker approach, the crowd remained fixed throughout ‘Pine Trees’ and on into ‘Song About Love’ (get your laughing gear around that in a thick Midlander accent!); a number that showed real versatility and rose to a lofty, magnificent summit. Such a view became the perfect intro to the image rich ‘Slide’, another acoustic wander that beautifully expresses Bugg’s vocal range and joy in isolation.
The daydream was shattered as the rest of the band returned for the mildly psychedelic vibrato of ‘Green Man’, which passed in a customary two minute thirty blur into the swinging “you take the wheel” blues rock of ‘Kingpin’ – one of the standout tracks from Bugg’s upcoming album. ‘Taste It’, with an intro that resembled Johnny Cash’s cover of Soundgarden’s ‘Rusty Cage’, had the seated circle on their feet in appreciation, whilst the skiffle sound of ‘Slumville Sunrise’ spoke of separation from nostalgia and alienation in a pacey, amped mould. The final track of the set proper, ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’, was a manic first finale with an up-tempo beat and slicing solo, with Bugg himself exhibiting an unmistakeable tonal inflection worthy of Alex Turner.
Again, Bugg instigated a major dynamic change to the set as he returned for the pastoral grief of ‘Broken’. The audience would repay his self-effacing admission of outsider tendencies with their most interactive response yet, united in voice and a point of view that they could not have put so eloquently. With slide guitar and a gospel sounding chorus, this is also one of Bugg’s clearest indications of musical malleability.
The subtle juxtaposition at the heart of Neil Young’s ‘Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)’ might have been best covered by Bugg mid-set, as the audience grew antsy for their personal favourites to be shoehorned into the closing minutes of the set. However, the concept of placing oneself outside the archetypal established or contemporary musical circle – the idea that forms the fulcrum of Young’s original – is undoubtedly one that chimes with Bugg.
It was right to give the final slot of the night to a track that potentially played the biggest role in elevating this young troubadour to his current height. Coming after two such touchingly personal numbers, there was an element of “putting a brave face on” throughout ‘Lightning Bolt’ that rendered it stock compared to his performances a couple of years ago. But, with its jangling chords and country fried vocal melody, it was a chance to take stock with a bass and drum breakdown, even though the majority of the crowd were behaving more like frontmen by now than the song’s own architect.
At this stage of his career, it seems fairer to label any criticism of the band more as growing pains than a precursor to survival in the musical wilderness. Yet again, Jake Bugg possessed one compelling feature that granted him brevity; that it was evident he’d still have writing those same songs, even if no one had ever listened.