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Live Review: McBusted at Newcastle Metro Radio Arena – 28th April 2014

 
By on Friday, 2nd May 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

It was on Friday, January 14th, 2005 that English pop rockers Busted officially split. The announcement was made during a press conference in London, which came just days after Charlie Simpson revealed he was pursuing his new band, Fightstar. Almost 9 later, in 2013, it was announced that McFly and Busted would form the ultimate supergroup, without Simpson. Named McBusted (though I’d have preferred BustFly), the six-piece band revealed details on a UK arena tour, which they would embark on the following year.

Fast forward to Monday, April 28th, 2014 and, following a successful 3-day run at London’s O2 Arena, the McBusted tour arrived in the Metro Radio Arena, where a sell-out crowd highly anticipated the first of the supergroup’s two Newcastle dates. As the house lights faded and the sound of screaming fans echoed inside, the iconic press conference was projected on to screens at either side of the stage. This was followed by newly shot scenes that acted as an almost parody of the 1985 film ‘Back to the Future’, in which James Bourne and Matt Willis travel forward in time to join McFly as the newly-formed McBusted.

Arriving on stage in a DeLorean, the iconic car from the ‘Back to the Future’ films, James and Matt were greeted to the loudest screams of the night so far, which got even louder as Tom Fletcher, Danny Jones, Harry Judd and Dougie Poynter of McFly also made an appearance. Before the screams had died out, the ever-so-familiar riff of the Busted classic ‘Air Hostess’ started playing as the excited onlookers went wild. As the supergroup performed further Busted hits ‘You Said No’, ‘Britney’ and ‘Who’s David’, the synergy between the two bands was beginning to show and, quite surprisingly, felt perfectly natural. Jones brilliantly replicated the gravelly tones of Charlie Simpson, while Bourne and Willis regularly took the lead vocals on a number of McFly’s hits.

The lively concert continued as they performed the first McFly hits of the night (‘5 Colours In Her Hair’ and ‘Obviously’). However, this soon changed as McBusted also showed their softer, more emotional side. As Bourne took to the front of the stage by himself, the audience swayed their phones and lighters, bellowing out the words to ‘Sleeping with the Light On’. It was an unforgettable sight that brought the opening section of the show to a fantastic conclusion.

The second section began with a video clip containing a fake news report showing members of the band dressed as farmers and hillbillies discussing a UFO sighting. Meanwhile, the supergroup were descending from the roof of the Metro Radio Arena on a circular spaceship, landing just above the mixing desk located in the centre of the venue. The position of the second stage allowed the band to be more interactive with the audience, as they joked about the appearance of Cheryl Cole and Ant and Dec at their gig. This was followed by ‘Star Girl’, ‘Nerdy’ and ‘Room on the 3rd Floor’, all of which were well received by the concertgoers.

McBusted returned to the main stage following another brief clip to perform ‘Thunderbirds Are Go’ – written specifically for the 2004 film ‘Thunderbirds’. This was preceded with a cover of The Jackson Five’s ‘I Want You Back’, which seemed like an odd inclusion considering the two bands have a staggering 27 UK top ten hit singles between them. Nevertheless, McBusted were soon back on track with ‘Shine a Light’ and ‘What I Go to School For’, which saw the introduction of giant inflatable balls to the crowd.

It was during this stint that McBusted really showed their sense of humour, which had featured throughout the gig. Poynter and Willis participated in a game of “Penis” (in which they took it in turns to see who could shout “penis” the loudest) and Jones attempted a Geordie accent, which was quickly ridiculed by his fellow bandmates. The humour reinforced the synergy between the two bands and provided light relief from the hugely dynamic setlist.

As the venue descended into darkness once more, a clip of Fletcher’s wedding speech (which, incidentally has received over 13 million views on YouTube) played out on the screens, accompanied by comical comments from Bourne and Willis. The clip came to an abrupt end as McBusted returned to the stage to perform, yup, you guessed it, ‘Crashed the Wedding’. Even during the set’s climax, which finished with ‘All About You’ and ‘Year 3000’, the band demonstrated the same energy and stamina they showed at the beginning of the concert.

As the supergroup left the stage, the onlookers left the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle with huge smiles on their faces. The set list was perfect, the group’s energy was astounding and the music was incredible. McBusted provided the ultimate pop experience that won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

 

Secret Sofar Sounds Manchester show – 29th April 2014

 
By on Thursday, 1st May 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

After having attended my first Sofar Sounds show during SXSW 2014 in Austin in March (Carrie’s review and my photos this way), I was eager and raring to go for another one. I thought it was unlikely that there would be one in England while I was over on holiday, but it turned out there was one in Manchester on one of my free nights in the North West town. The whole point of Sofar Sounds is to provide a homey environment – literally: it’s usually done in someone’s home – where music lovers can be introduced to acts they’re likely never have heard of.

In this particular case, it made sense that our host for the evening owned a flat in the Northern Quarter, the hub of culture and all things things cool in Manchester. Cool, however, is probably the wrong word to use to describe the actual temperature in the flat, as Manchester was undergoing an unusual series of sunny, hot for April days, which were fine by me but made a room full of 80 or so people crammed in to watch bands a little stifling.

The first act of the night was Paris born but current Winchester native Josh Savage, accompanied by Jack Williams on guitar and backing vocals. Imagine my surprise when I looked on Twitter to find he was already following me! This kind of gig atmosphere benefits the artists who have good stage presence and can engage the audience between songs, either by speaking to their emotions or making them laugh. Savage has an EP out now that includes both studio and live at for BBC Introducing versions of the song ‘Your Lips’. Now, as you readers know, I tend to get quite emotional in my reviews when a song or artist touches me deeply, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a song with the title ‘Your Lips’ is about longing for someone.

A highlight of Savage’s set was the song ‘Lost in Paris’, which he prefaced by encouraging the audience that if you were ever feeling lost in their life, the way forward is to embark on a journey and live in a new, unfamiliar city, because that’s where you will find yourself. Another highlight was ‘Quatre Épines’; sung entirely in French, it allowed Savage to indulge in the language of his upbringing, managed to bring an unexpected element of romantic and also simultaneously made me wonder if Carrie would have a similar reaction to Savage live as she did with Glass Animals at SXSW. Basically, if you like Ben Howard, curly-haired guys and guys that sing in French, Savage is a no-brainer. I think Howard should be worried about his territory right now.

The next three bands were booked for the same Sofar show to take advantage of the fact that they’d all come over from Wales to do a tour of Café Nerros across Britain together. As an idea for a tour, I thought it was fantastic: three solo artists each unique to each other but also providing each other moral support as they get more experience gigging and spreading the word about their music. The first of the three was Sion Russell Jones, a ginger singer/songwriter from Cardiff who clearly has a good handle on humour. When he came out to play, he reminded me of a kid I went to elementary school with.

The best touchstone I can think of to describe Jones is Simon and Garfunkel; should you seek out his latest album ‘Lost No More’ released in March and listen to ‘Best of Me’, you will hear on record that his vocals are as rich as that of Paul and Art’s decades ago. The last track he played, ‘And Suddenly’, was an ode to the carefree atmosphere of Sunday lunch, including mentions of his mum carving the roast, details of the salad and gravy and being hung over. As we were all seated, the jaunty, fun song begged for seated / chair dancing. Watch a filmed live version of Jones performing the song back in 2010 for Welsh telly below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yD9sWALOuRw[/youtube]

Third act up and second Welsh act was Kizzy, who held the distinction of being the youngest performer of the night. Having just turned 18 a week prior to the gig in Manchester, the bilingual artist in an amazing multi-coloured headwrap sang in a soulful, almost jazzy way of growing up (you see, she’s quite thoughtful and wise beyond her years) and love lost, such as the beauty that is ‘The Starling’, a single that has already gotten BBC 6music and Radio Wales airplay. After looking over her Web site, even if I couldn’t understand the words, I’m kind of disappointed she didn’t sing any songs in Welsh. She did, however, incorporate her heritage in the song called ‘Love Lost Game’, giving us a history lesson, as it was based on an old love story between Siwan (Princess Joan of Wales) and her relationship with the Welsh Prince Llywelyn the Great, Lord of Snowdon.

Sera, the third and final Welsh act of the night, is a singer and guitar and piano-playing artist. Think the piano playing of Sara Bareilles crossed with Joni Mitchell’s songbird twang and guitar playing, with a pinch of the more animated and upbeat vocals of Amanda Palmer (‘Coin Operated Boy’ like), and you’re nearly there. The way to stand out these days if you’re a female singer/songwriter is to be unique, and I don’t think I know any other women who play those two instruments and have such a special voice that I hope comes across as a compliment, but the only word I can come up with that makes sense is ‘precious’. She began with the track ‘Fireworks’, which thankfully sounds nothing like the Katy Perry song of the same name. It reminded me a lot of Van Susans’ ‘Glow’, using the imagery of sparks and chemistry to describe the search for true love.

The fifth and final band of the night was four-piece local Manchester band Thugs on Wolves. The wife of the bass player assured me that despite their aggro sounding moniker, they were not a metal band. (Phew. Somehow I didn’t think a metal band would fit into a Sofar lineup anyhow.) No, they weren’t anywhere near as scary as their band name would seem to suggest. They turned out to be the best band to close the night out with, because not only were they funny with their banter, they also proceeded to give us a foot-stomping, knee-slappingly good time with their music, as in their tune ‘The Laugh of the Jackdaw’, which I’d say was the song of the night. Check out some free tracks from them from this MP3(s) of the Day feature we ran yesterday.

Their lead singer is James Marsden’s doppelganger, but as soon as he opens his mouth, you can hear he’s clearly got folk vocal singing chops. They’re Mumford and Sons but less farm boy and don’t wear tweed waistcoats; they’re Noah and the Whale but certainly not American-sounding (second phew of the night); they’re Fleet Foxes but more like when Fleet Foxes were actually good and not beloved by hipsters. Definitely worth further investigation, as are the other acts appearing this night. Cheers Sofar Sounds Manchester, for such a memorable evening of music!

 

Live Review: School of Language at Manchester Deaf Institute – 28th April 2014

 
By on Wednesday, 30th April 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

Editor’s note: as our head photographer Martin was at the School of Language show in Newcastle earlier this month, I invite to view his photos in his review here as well.

There’s something very special about seeing a gig in Manchester. Monday night also happened to be a very special night in Manchester for David Brewis, usually better known as the drumming half of Field Music but on this particular evening, the frontman and the centre of attention under the name of his solo project School of Language. Having released his second album ‘Old Fears’ earlier this month (see my review of the excellent album here), he’d played a string of dates in the UK, but it all led up to this final show in ol’ Manc.

The local Field Music and David Brewis fan stalwarts were all there, contributing to a celebratory atmosphere as they made their presence known with some hooting and hollering I’ve not otherwise experienced at shows in this town. Before it all started though, there were some questionable characters in navy blue jumpsuits and hats going on and offstage, moving gear round, which I thought was a bit strange. However, upon closer examination, I recognised Jaff Craig, bass player of Futureheads, who would be on synth duties, as well as both Brewis brothers. Ha!

As latest single and first song of the set ‘Dress Up’ would seem to dictate, Brewis scrubs up nice for the live performance, with slicked back hair and a suit jacket that he himself questioned on its ongoing freshness (or lack thereof) as the tour went on. Also not commonly seen at the kind of gigs I usually go to: the man was also wearing corduroy trousers, which may or may not have contributed to the overall grooviness of the set. (I think the last band whose swinging corduroy made a mark on popular music were the Beatles.) Either way though, there was a definite sense of occasion and the feeling this wasn’t going to be just any rock show. And it really wasn’t. Throughout, Brewis made jokes that when he took off his guitar in favour of taking the microphone alone, it didn’t necessarily mean that a ballad was next, though in some cases, such as the rhythmically surprising ‘Suits Us Better’, which sees Brewis essentially coolly beat-boxing into his mike before he breaks out his falsetto, and the slower paced ‘Keep Your Water’ from 2008’s ‘Sea to Shore’, no apologies were needed.

Despite the interloping of a few tracks from his first School of Language album, this was largely an ‘Old Fears’ affair, as it should be. I was expecting the masterpiece that is ‘Between the Suburbs’ to be exhilarating live, and it didn’t disappoint; neither did album opener ‘Distance Between’, seemingly the apex of funk, or hymn slash rock number ‘Moment of Doubt’. My absolute favourite track on the new album, ‘A Smile Cracks’, is arguably the LP’s most Field Music-y moment, and live, its brilliance on display with its bass line guaranteed to force your body to throw shapes, super cool guitar lines and yes, David Brewis-delivered white boy soulful vocals. Yowza.

While Brewis’ appearance was slick, appearances aside, the take home message of a School of Language gig to the industry is this: it’s still possible to make original, intriguing, intelligent and unforgettable music. Cheers, David.

After the cut: the School of Language set list.
Continue reading Live Review: School of Language at Manchester Deaf Institute – 28th April 2014

 

Live Review: Join Me in the Pines at Dublin Unitarian Church – 11th April 2014

 
By on Tuesday, 29th April 2014 at 2:30 pm
 

Ireland’s favourite (indie) sons Bell X1 have always been the creative sort. Their music has ranged from pop/rock to electronic and back, with lyrics that have always been fanciful, cutting, witty and poignant. But what do they do to keep themselves busy in the lull between albums, touring, recording and writing? After all, the band have been hurtling through albums and tours apace with both studio works, ‘Chop Chop’ and a live acoustic offering ‘Field Recordings’, as well as successful tours to back them both up. Someone must need a break by now.

Clearly it’s not Dave Geraghty. The multi-instrumentalist (truly, the last Bell X1 tour had him playing drums, keyboard and guitar in turn) has energised his solo career, rebranding it with the enchanting moniker Join Me in the Pines. More often than not, I am relegated to covering shows on the East Coast of America, but in a blinding stroke of luck during my holiday in Ireland, Join Me in the Pines was giving a very special performance in a small church in Dublin. Not one to miss such a special opportunity, I hastened down to Stephen’s Green to be serenaded by Geraghty with barely 200 chosen few for this rare treat. Frankly, I was in awe to be in such a lovely setting, hearing new and old Geraghty solo works and to be doing it all in his homeland. Indeed, Geraghty himself greeted me afterwards with, “we don’t often see you on *this* side!”

The inaugural showing of the newly minted Join Me in the Pines did not disappoint me as a long-time fan of Geraghty’s solo work. Hearing older tunes like ‘Tuesday’s Feet’ and ‘Ragdoll’ mixed with a couple of Bell X1 tunes kept the set going. As a band, Geraghty has added the vocal and musical skills of both Danielle Harrison and Fiona Melady to the mix. This blend was wonderful, as their voices had the music floating through the church and filling the nave. But that wasn’t all. There were more musicians to crowd the tiny stage. Singer/songwriter Tiger Cooke joined Geraghty for ‘Wear Out Your Name’, Claire Finglass duetted with him on ‘Back Seat’ and Patrick Daly on violin and Frank Tate on mandolin popped on and off stage to round out the sound. Geraghty even did a Prince cover on ukulele. If that doesn’t show levity and versatility, then nothing ever will.

Of the new songs, ‘Joy is a Lion’ stands out, and rightly so since it is the first single. But ‘Golden Guilt’ is close behind. Despite the fact that I have seen Geraghty sing a half a dozen times with Bell X1, it’s easy to forget how lovely and delicate his voice is when his bandmate Paul Noonan is most often centre stage. I was lucky to be able to finally experience his solo show, and rumour has it that the new album should ready for release in August. There are a couple more shows scattered about Ireland the rest of the summer, so keep your eyes open.

After the cut: the set list
Continue reading Live Review: Join Me in the Pines at Dublin Unitarian Church – 11th April 2014

 

Live Gig Video: High Hazels perform acoustic version of ‘Summer Rain’ for Amazing Radio

 
By on Monday, 28th April 2014 at 4:00 pm
 

Sheffield’s High Hazels are currently on tour in the UK. They stopped in Newcastle 2 weeks ago for a session and interview with Amazing Radio, including recording this acoustic version of ‘Summer Rain’, the lead single off their excellent ‘In the Half Light’ released earlier this month. (Read my review of the EP here.) Watch the gorgeousness below.

Catch them live this week supporting the Crookes at Brighton Hope tonight (28 April) and London Camden Dingwalls tomorrow (29 April).

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aGDX8on7i8[/youtube]

 

Live Review: The Orielles at Manchester Deaf Institute – 26th April 2014

 
By on Monday, 28th April 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

It always amazes me when I’m in a venue in a major city in the UK and how many local people turn up for a gig, even if they may not know the band who’s playing that night. Even though when I arrived early in the evening at the Manchester Deaf Institute there were only a few people about, by headline set time, the place was nicely packed for the main attraction, the Orielles. We’ve written about the band a fair bit on TGTF now, them having wowed our Martin at Sound City 2013 last year. This, however, was my first chance to see them up close and personal.

The Halifax band were celebrating the release of their upcoming single ‘Entity’, which I fell in love with upon first listen. If you recall, they used to be called The Oreoh!s and in my interview with them backstage earlier in the evening, I asked them about this changeover. What became almost immediately apparent to me watching them Saturday night is that even though they released their debut EP ‘Sunny Daze and Sleepless Nights’ just last year, they’ve already moved on quickly to another place in terms of sound. (This probably explains why none of the songs from ‘Sunny Daze and Sleepless Nights’ weren’t played?) Not only that, but they sound incredible live.

The songs from the trio’s ‘Hindering Waves’ EP, which was released in February on the band’s own Cacti Recordings, all appeared on the Manchester set list. Henry Wade’s guitar playing shone brightly on EP tracks ‘Old Stuff / New Stuff’ and ‘Karma Trip’; as I play (bass) guitar myself, there’s really nothing better than watching a fellow guitarist wail on his instrument, hair flying all over the place, having the time of his life.

While the video for ‘Entity’ was filmed in Blackpool, you get a much better taste of the seaside watching the band perform live. The surf pop sound that was only gently evident on their debut EP comes through much louder and clearer now, with the band indulging themselves in the live setting with what can only be best described as thoroughly enjoyable, noodley, extended jammy intros and outros, all framed by drummer Sid Hand-Halford’s punchy, driving rhythms. The band were all business Saturday night, with minimal banter between songs by singer and bassist Esme Hand-Halford, whose vocals throughout the night were suitably dreamy to suit the mood. EP cut ‘Sugar Tastes Like Salt’ closed out the night, displaying the band’s bass heavier, funkier side.

When I was interviewing the band backstage earlier in the evening, they asked me not to ask how old each of them were, and I respected their wishes. While they may be young, truth be told (no pun intended), actually knowing how old they are actually would potentially give you the false impression that they’re not good at their craft. Which would be a major mistake. The two most important things about bands that some people seem to forget are talent and how well the members of the band gel as a unit. Having been a band for a while now and having that almost bordering on telepathic understanding and tightness that allows them to write songs quickly (they’ve told me some of them have come about in as short of a time span as 30 minutes), it’s become eminently clear just how talented the Orielles are. Where will they go from here? Nowhere but up.

 
 
 

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We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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