We’re going to leave all that behind now and focus on Astley’s current activities, which include promoting his newest album ’50’, the age he is this year. Last month as part of a series of American dates, Astley and his band performed at the Ace Theatre at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. Sadly, his spring 2017 UK tour in March and April is all but sold out. However, luckily for us, this performance of single ‘Pray With Me’ was filmed at the show for posterity, and it’s clear Astley’s voice is in fine form, even after all these years. Watch it below.
Less than a month ago, I reviewed American producer and songwriter Butch Walker‘s outstanding new album ‘Stay Gold’, and my lasting impression of the record was that these yearning, high energy anthems would better suited to live performance than the relative constraints of a studio recording. Based on that impression, I trekked westward last weekend to Los Angeles, to catch Walker live at the relatively unknown Teragram Ballroom. Though this was the penultimate show on Walker’s current tour, his enthusiasm and energy were in full force, and the audience in his adopted hometown were equally excited to see him grace this stage.
Walker’s support act on the night, The Wind and the Wave, are a country-rock duo from Austin, Texas, comprising guitarist Dwight Baker and singer/songwriter Patty Lynn. They released their first album ‘From the Wreckage’ back in 2014, and their second LP ‘Happiness is Not a Place’ (produced, perhaps not coincidentally, by Butch Walker) is due out on the 28th of October. Naturally, their opening set was somewhat abbreviated and focused on the new songs, touching only briefly on a pair of older tracks, ‘My Mama Said Be Careful Where You Lay Your Head’ and ‘This House is a Hotel’. But their energy and charisma on stage seemed to grow exponentially as they went along, and they made their own strong impression with both the title track from ‘Happiness is Not a Place’ and more recent single ‘Grand Canyon’.
The music on the PA system between sets, laced with throwback television theme tunes from the 1980s including ‘Magnum, P.I.’ and ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’, seemed designed to set a retrospective mood for the headline show. Indeed, Butch Walker’s new album ‘Stay Gold’ has a decided undercurrent of nostalgia in the aggressive pulse of its songs, and he constructed his entire set list on the night around a theme of reminiscence and reflection.
Walker and his band took the stage and opened their set by tearing through the first four tracks from ‘Stay Gold’ at breakneck pace, starting with the title track and proceeding in order through ‘East Coast Girl’, ‘Wilder in the Heart’ and ‘Ludlow Expectations’. For my money, this opening sequence was the most effective part of the show, partly because these were the songs I was personally most familiar with, but also because Walker and his colleagues proved my own initial hypothesis correct, and in a most emphatic fashion.
The Wind and the Wave’s Patty Lynn made the first cameo appearance of the evening when she returned to the stage to duet with Walker on ‘Descending’, the next track in the ‘Stay Gold’ sequence. Walker took a seat at the piano for this song, giving Lynn center stage, and though their voices blended nicely together, it was the raw emotion in Walker’s delivery that came across as singularly captivating.
From that point forward, Walker dived deeper into his catalogue of older favourites, much to the delight of his diehard fans. The smouldering vocal quality of ‘Descending’ carried over into an intensely sensual performance of standout track ‘Bed on Fire’, from previous album ‘Afraid of Ghosts’. Striking a lighter note, Walker then thrilled the “California girls” in the crowd with his spur-of-the-moment geographical adjustments to the lyrics of ‘Closest Thing to You I’m Gonna Find’, from 2011 album ‘The Spade’.
Walker introduced his next cameo guest simply as “Jake Sinclair of the Black Widows”. The Black Widows, for those not already in the know, were Walker’s band from a few years back, with whom he released two albums, ‘I Liked it Better When You Had No Heart’ (2010) and ‘The Spade’. Sinclair did play in the band and garnered production credits on both albums, but they might not be his greatest claim to fame—he’s worked more recently with Weezer, Panic! at the Disco, and Fall Out Boy. On this night, though, he and Walker fit comfortably back into their old groove, performing the humorously self-deprecating (and surprisingly pop-oriented) ‘Synthesizers’. Sinclair seemed mildly surprised and greatly amused when Walker segued briefly into ‘Come On, Eileen’ by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, asking aloud, “Are you really still doing this schtick?” But Walker’s high spirits were undeterred by his protégé’s momentary insolence, and his audience, familiar with the routine and roaring with laughter, were more than happy to play along.
Walker and his talented entourage of backing musicians touched on two other covers late in their set, a vocally harmonised version of Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer of ’69’ and a fleeting allusion to The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’. But the real showstopper of the night was a final cameo by Walker’s young son James. James is apparently a regular fixture at his dad’s gigs, and though he appeared to be a bit sleepy, he showed no signs of stage fright as he regaled us with a song and a joke of his own. (Q: Which pencil won the art contest? A: It was a draw!)
Walker and his band didn’t break for a formal encore at the end of the show, playing straight through ‘The 3 Kids in Brooklyn’ and ‘Hot Girls in Good Moods’ before leaving the stage. But Walker did indulge himself in a final solo appearance, holding forth on the virtue of times and places past, especially the fading tradition of browsing through brick-and-mortar music stores. He made the rather unusual choice of leaving us on a pensive note with ’Stay Gold’ track ‘Record Store’, but then again, by that point, he’d already established a memorable and lasting impression.
By Mary Chang on Wednesday, 3rd February 2016 at 4:00 pm
Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats released their self-titled debut album last summer (Carrie reviewed it here and it’s already garnering the Denver-based musician and his band a lot of attention. Most recently, Britney Spears herself last week posted some video onto her Instagram of the salacious dancing she did in nothing but her underwear to ‘Son of a Bitch’, which sparked this hilarious parody from Rateliff himself. Now we’ve got live videos from the group, so if you’re having a hohum first week of February like we are, you’ll enjoy this.
Last month, the band played a show at the El Rey in Los Angeles. That’s where these performances of ‘I Need Never Get Old’ and the aforementioned ‘S.O.B.’ were filmed. Watch them below. For all of TGTF’s coverage of Nathaniel Rateliff as a solo artist as well as with his band the Night Sweats, go here.
By Mary Chang on Wednesday, 12th November 2014 at 4:00 pm
Glass Animals have spent quite a bit of their time this year touring over here in America, with a sixth visit scheduled in December to include holiday shows in Columbus, Ohio; Portland; and Kansas City. During their visit to Los Angeles in October 2014 where they played two sold out shows at the famed Troubadour, they managed to fit in the filming of this live performance of their hit single ‘Gooey’ at Capitol Studios into their busy touring schedule.
While their style of music as shown with debut album ‘Zaba’ lends itself to a more colourful, celebratory atmosphere, this black and white presentation allows one to better focus on and appreciate the contributions of each of the four principals; for one, you can actually hear bassist Edmund Irwin-Singer’s backing vocals on this video. Watch the performance below. Below it, I’ve also embedded a lyric video the band have released this week, just in case you’re still thinking Dave Bayley is singing “ride my little Pooh bear” and to stop you from embarrassing yourself at the next karaoke night, crooning, “you just wanna know those peanut butter thighs”. We try and be helpful here at TGTF…
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.
By Mary Chang on Tuesday, 25th September 2012 at 4:00 pm
Here is Miike Snow‘s promo video for ‘Pretender’, off their 2012 album ‘Happy to You’. The premise is a good one; if you’re going to be at a music festival, why not shoot footage of your time there so you can take it and turn it into a music video? I don’t think you really need a storyline, but the YouTube description says this: “The video finds their friend Jean Noel experiencing his first festival and learning all about the culture that surrounds.” And it was filmed while this mate of theirs was bumbling around the Hard Summer Music Festival in Los Angeles the first weekend of August. Watch it below.