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Live Review: Ed Sheeran with Foy Vance and Rizzle Kicks at Rams Head Live, Baltimore, MD – 29th January 2013

 
By on Monday, 4th February 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

A more respectful bunch of crazies, I have never witnessed. Seriously, Ed Sheeran fans take the cake. I know U2 fans queue for days, but they have a spectacle to see. This is for a boy. And a guitar. And nothing else. Even the venue tweeted a picture of the queue that morning saying it was the earliest they had *ever* had a queue. That’s the crazy. I’ll get to the respectful later.

I’d seen the ginger play five times before, so it was for opening act Foy Vance that I made the hour and a half trek north. I had been warned about the power of his live show, but was still taken by surprise when this Belfast-born, blue-eyed bluesman ripped open my soul. And it wasn’t just me. The sea of youngsters around me embraced his every heartfelt note having never even heard his name before. “I’m in love with that Foy guy” was exclaimed quite near me at the break. So the wisdom from years of honing his craft, the pain and longing that drips through his lyrics and the emotion that tears through his raw delivery transcends age and genre. From the opening notes of ‘I’ve Got Love’ to the soaring sing along of ‘Guiding Light’, Vance won over an audience that had likely never heard of him, and further more probably never would have heard of him if Ed Sheeran hadn’t brought him along for the ride. Cheers to you Mr. Sheeran for taking the incomparable Foy Vance with you through America.

Foy Vance Baltimore

Next on the bill was Rizzle Kicks; a much more simpatico pairing with Sheeran’s style. These Brit School buds went down a treat with the crowd. With ‘Mama Do the Hump’ and ‘Down with the Trumpets’, the duo blasted the largely female crowd with their beats and moves. It didn’t hurt at all that they both sported local sports teams’ shirts – including a Baltimore Raven’s AFC Championship shirt. (The Ravens were set play in this year’s Super Bowl, just days away.) Quite popular at home, Rizzle Kicks are finding a welcoming new audience on these American shores.

Rizzle Kicks Baltimore

But back to that respectful crowd. Girls who scream and faint (yes, two of them went down that I saw) over their favorite singer are not typically known to be the respectful kind. But having seen the man play multiple times now, I am pleased to say that I am most impressed with the crowd he draws. Or perhaps they are all so in love with him that they would do anything for him – including being totally silent. Yes, a gig where the singer asked the audience not to sing along, and NO ONE did. Impressive.

Ed Sheeran Baltimore 1

So whether it was a raucous sing along like ‘Drunk’ or a delicate number like the ‘Kiss Me’ duet with Vance, everyone standing there gave it the proper treatment. Sure there was the random ‘I love you’ screamed out, but even that was less than I have seen at other gigs. The encore was particularly special consisting of deluxe album version only song ‘Gold Rush’ – complete with a nod to Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’, hidden track ‘The Parting Glass’ and Sheeran’s biggest hit ‘The A Team’.

Ed Sheeran has been on a grueling touring schedule since he broke in mid-2011. He is a talented bloke and an immense performer, I hope for more great things from him. And I honestly hope he gets a bit of a rest soon. Then again, he is only 21. Ahhhh, youth.

Ed Sheeran Baltimore 2

After the cut: the set lists.
Continue reading Live Review: Ed Sheeran with Foy Vance and Rizzle Kicks at Rams Head Live, Baltimore, MD – 29th January 2013

 

The 2013 BRIT Awards – The Nominees

 
By on Friday, 11th January 2013 at 4:37 pm
 

Is there any point to the BRITs? Granted, it gives a certain demographic of London teenager the opportunity to sting Daddy for the eye-watering £70 ticket price, no doubt getting stuffed with half-term pizza and fructose syrup before spending three hours squealing loudly at microscopic effigies of their latest tabloid-endorsed musical crushes. But beyond that, does any vestige of musical credibility remain within the unhallowed, chart-obsessed recesses of the BRIT Award psyche?

A swift perusal of the nominations, released yesterday, would indicate: maybe, actually. The usual mega-selling suspects are there: Emeli Sandé, Mumford and Sons, Robbie Williams, Olly Murs. But look a little deeper and could there just be enough respect for the breakthrough, even the underground, so that beyond the face paint and lasers, there’s a bedrock of credibility?

Step forward Richard Hawley, the most unlikely of the entire nomination list, proving that the BRITs aren’t immune to a decent bit of ‘70s-throwback guitar action and heart-on-the-sleeve balladry from a bequiffed Yorkshireman. Plan B also deserves a shout for his unflinching portrayal of council estate life in ‘Ill Manors’, which still deserves to make more of an impact than it has.

Jessie Ware gathers two nods, a fine result for her this early in her career, single-handedly making 2011’s Critic’s Choice Award for her namesake Jessie J look ever more ridiculous. The more listeners turned on to her coolly urban soul, the better. Paloma Faith is also up for two gongs – British Female Solo is fair enough, but British Album of the Year for ‘Fall to Grace’, for a collection significantly worse than her début, is deeply suspect. British Group unoriginally throws up two previous Mercury Prize winners: unlikely media darlings alt-J, and minimalist electro-songsters the xx; Muse are nominated for the ninth (and tenth) time, with Mumford and One Direction predictably making up the numbers. A rum collection, if ever there was one, and despite the disparate yet singular talents of each, hardly a state-of-the-nation statement.

The British Single category is too depressing to analyse deeply. Suffice to say a more turgid collection of middle-of-the-road dross it’s difficult to conceive. Any list containing the execrable ‘Mama Do the Hump’ by Rizzle Kicks deserves to be encased in concrete and dropped into a very deep hole. Thankfully each of the British Breakthrough nominees have something to commend them, though surely Jake Bugg is the most extraordinary of the lot; his compellingly grizzled, world-weary, yet uplifting take on vintage blues in his debut album means he should have no problem in lifting the spotted statue next month.

Ironically, there’s far less to complain about the International (read: American) nominees. Perhaps it’s because we expect the USA to do bigness well, it’s difficult to complain about someone like Bruce Springsteen being nominated, although one wonders just how much pride of place a BRIT award would take on the dashboard of his pickup truck.

As always, it’s good to see producers, the guys behind the desk who really make the music, getting their opportunity to shine, although it seems somewhat unfair that Damon Albarn should be sharing their limelight – hasn’t he had enough of it by now? If the Albarn effect can be resisted, Paul Epworth should walk away with this one, although personally I prefer listening to his sister’s output to his. And what of Amy Winehouse and The Rolling Stones, both nominated, neither deservedly? Stop it, BRITs! Pick people who are more alive!

The 2013 BRITs take place on Wednesday the 20th of February at London’s O2 Arena. TGTF will be reporting, either from the event itself, or from somewhere else in London more interesting. Watch this space.

Who should win the British Brits, I reckon?

Male Solo: Richard Hawley
Female Solo: Jessie Ware
Breakthrough: Jake Bugg
Group: One Direction
Single: Alex Clare – ‘Too Close’
Album: Plan B – ‘Ill Manors’
Live: Coldplay
Producer: Paul Epworth

Full list of nominees after the jump.
Continue reading The 2013 BRIT Awards – The Nominees

 

Jersey Live 2012 (Part 1)

 
By on Thursday, 13th September 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

Jersey Live has carved a niche for itself in the echelons of the summer festival circuit, managing to showcase enormous talent from the mainland like The Prodigy, Kasabian and Noel Gallagher. Yet it still keeps its quaintness. Nestled in the North of the small Channel Island, it’s one of the festival circuit’s hidden gems.

Saturday saw the festival kick off at around midday, and revellers could not have asked for better conditions as the Royal Jersey fairground was bathed in glorious sunshine. Today was the turn of the youngsters, with Jersey’s under 18 population out in force around the site. It was expected though, with chart regulars Rizzle Kicks, Professor Green, Devlin, Maverick Sabre and drum and bass titans Chase and Status topping the bill.

First up of note on the Main Stage was Devlin, who has been thrust back into the mainstream eye after his collaboration with ginger haired songsmith Ed Sheeran on ‘Watchtower’ and leading up to the release of his new album ‘A Moving Picture’.

His set was an unsurprisingly aggressive set full of grimy beats and lyrical spitting. The crowd of youngsters received him well, but whether that was due to the vodka they’d slipped in via a hip flask was the mystery. (5/10)

Following the rather disappointing Devlin was always going to make the next act look marginally better than normal, and that was the case for Maverick Sabre (pictured at top).

The hits were out in full show as he flew through a virtual best of his back catalogue. Youngsters and the classic festival dads joined forces in showing their admiration for Sabre. He’s definitely made an impact on the festival circuit now, but whether he can keep it up is going to be the real challenge of character for the youngster. (7/10)

The most riotous reception of the daylight hours though was reserved for Brighton-based-duo Rizzle Kicks, who invited the audience to, yes, “do the hump”. What the hump is, that is difficult to describe, but from what I gathered, it involved 16-year old girls on shoulders crying at their heroes, heroes with an obvious shelf life I might add, as their live performance was lacking heavily.

The tunes were there and the crowd were obviously enjoying the two young MCs as they bounced around the stage, but the delivery was poor all over and wasn’t helped by the overly loud backing music. Maybe I’m showing my age here? God I’m only 20. (6/10)

The night built to a crescendo as rap-pop superstar Professor Green stepped up to the plate.

Unlike the previous acts, Green delivered a spectacular set, interacting with the crowd brilliantly and marauding around the stage with a huge presence. Fan favourite ‘Read All About It’ went down brilliantly as the entire Jersey Live crowd screamed the lyrics back at the rapper.

While older tracks ‘Just Be Good to Green’ (even with its Lily Allen backing track) and ‘I Need You Tonight’ provoked a riotous reaction from the amassed Jersey Live crowd, who at this point had abandoned all other stages to converge on the Main Stage for the day’s finale.

Stay turned for part 2 of John’s Jersey Live review, to post tomorrow.

 

Evolution Weekender 2012: Day 2 Roundup

 
By on Monday, 18th June 2012 at 1:00 pm
 

Even before reaching the site, day two of Evolution feels like a more relaxed, comfortable affair. The crowds of youngsters hanging around the Sage, pre-loading on Frosty Jack before they enter the main arena where alcohol is unavailable to them on age grounds, seem pretty chilled-out. Casually ambling past the caravan that supplies comfortable seats and buckets for 14-year-olds to vomit into, the sun is sparkling off the waters of the Tyne, and one can forgive the odd pre-majority punter being escorted from the premises flanked by two burly men, being unable to walk themselves.

So – to the music. Delayed by bank holiday public transport, your correspondent is late for Spector, who are sorely missed. Nevertheless, a chance presents itself to catch up with the UMT stage: Newcastle music development service Generator’s Urban Music Training department get their own stage at Evo, and who should be up next but the winsome Amy Holford, who TGTF spoke to at Evo Emerging just a few nights before. What an excellent opportunity to work out whether she should be upgraded from a “maybe” to a “HIT!” The answer is… not yet. She is in possession of a stunningly powerful soul voice, burnished and brassy, but sadly accompanied by a somewhat less impressive clangy acoustic guitar, and material which undoubtedly means a great deal to her personally, but is unlikely to really light the blue touchpaper when it comes to making the step to a higher division, comprising as it does moans about inadequate ex-boyfriends. Given some decent backing and material, Amy will be a winner, no doubt about it.

Jessie Ware is up next on the main stage. I hope Amy saw her performance, as it proves how a decent, yet still minimalist band can showcase a lovely soulful vocal so much more effectively than a naked acoustic guitar. Ware’s electronic-urban-with-touches-of-dubstep material, such as the sumptuous ‘Running’, does suffer from unfamiliarity, but she is an endearing stage presence, and finishing off with recent single ‘110%’ is a wise if inevitable move. With impeccable credentials (collaborating with SBTRKT is never going to hurt anyone’s career), Ware is going to keep punting for the big time.

Oh, Band Of Skulls, thou heavy saviour of the day. Instead of a fanfare to announce the Queen’s longevity, BoS have brought a brace of beautiful Gretches, both of which are put to powerful use during the set of the weekend for this correspondent; ‘Sweet Sour’ catches the mood of the newly-revealed June sun, glinting off guitar hardware and polishing the dirty harmonies and unashamedly gritty riffs. Their talent is to take just the right elements of contemporary rock – power trio, female bassist, no perms – and match it with decent – nay, pop – songwriting. There’s hints of Stones, Cream, Stripes… and they’re all the better for it. Having displayed an intriguingly contemporary career path – digital-only releases, greater success as TV and advert soundtracks than as a formal chart act – BoS deserve close attention.

From the sublime to the… well, Evolution’s lineup is nothing if not eclectic. Rizzle Kicks, an urban duo from Brighton, come across as a likeable, non-sweary Odd Future, but with only two MCs. Or maybe that’s just because of the shorts. With song titles like ‘Mama Do The Hump’ they’re never going to be taken seriously, but it’s good, juvenile fun.

Onto the serious business – Noah and the Whale’s records seem to mature like fine wines with age. Tiny subtleties in lyrical content and musical delivery appear like little jewels on close inspection, and to their credit a similar level of attention to detail is paid in tonight’s performance. Clearly a deeply professional band, they go through their very deliberate motions with utmost sincerity. And the material genuinely unites the disparate crowd – there are so many well-known NatW songs it would be churlish to list them here – but after such an awkward weekend, everyone can relax and join in the simple pleasure of spelling out three short words for chorus after chorus.

Some people bought tickets for the whole weekend just to see deadmau5. His techno-wizardry is a sight to behold, his monolithic transformation of the stage as otherworldly as the permanent mouse head he wears, intermittently lit up into a disturbing rictus grin; as if Mickey were lain on a morgue slab. It’s impossible to sum up the set in terms of songs; this is effectively a live club set, and the churning crowd love it. Thankfully, there is little point in crushing to the front of the stage – Mau5’s podium is so high that a deeper viewpoint gives a better view of both him and his light show. Powerful stuff, and everyone lets off whatever steam they have left, before staggering in the vain direction of the taxi queue.

And thus with a sparkling rodent’s siren call Evolution Festival 2012 draws to a close. It’s a difficult event to strongly recommend to anyone on its merits – if you’re young enough to want to go, you’re too young to properly enjoy the music, and if you want to see the music you’re too old to enjoy the festival. A challenging sell, then, but the concept of a decent annual music event on the banks of the Tyne is such a strong one that I get the feeling that it will be around for some time to come.

Grumpy postscript, for adults only: In all seriousness, the question is – do kids get up to this sort of thing (drinking heavily, staggering around, vomiting, crying, passing out) because they are at Evolution Festival, or would they be doing it anyway on a bank holiday weekend? I don’t care what anyone of the age of 18 or over does; it’s their choice, they’re old enough to suffer the consequences of their actions. But below that age, in theory parental consent is required for this sort of thing. Do parents know what their kids are getting up to? If not, this review should enlighten them. If they do, and consent anyway… I wouldn’t say we’re lost as a society as a consequence, but it’s a pretty worrying sign nonetheless. Personally, I love to drink beer in the pub of an evening with all and sundry, and if it happens as frequently as once a week then that’s just fine by me. But even with a drinking history as long as your arm, I wouldn’t for 1 minute consider downing spirits or chugging strong cider in great quantities at lunchtime as these youngsters seem determined to do. It’s not good for one’s health, and it’s certainly not good for enjoying a bit of music. And in the end, Evolution have to apply for a licence again next year, and a bit more consideration of that fact by their customers, and the parents of their customers, would go a long way to seeing Evolution 2013 being more than just a glint in a promoter’s imagination.

 

Preview: Evolution Festival 2012

 
By on Friday, 2nd March 2012 at 9:30 am
 

Evolution Festival, held between Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead, has, appropriately enough, evolved considerably since it was first held as a free, 1-day event in 2005. Now in its eighth year, the event boasts a 2-day, two-stage line-up, held in the stunning location of the Newcastle and Gateshead quaysides. The event is no longer free, but at a mere £35 for the weekend, it represents fantastic, inflation-busting value. This year the event is held over the Sunday and Monday of the June Bank Holiday weekend 3-4 June: there surely can be no finer way to celebrate the 60th year of a monarch’s reign than going out and hearing some fantastic music with one’s fellow mankind. Here we break down the acts on the Spiller’s Wharf stage, just to prove what a delicious prospect awaits:

Sunday 3rd June
Kicking things off are the Lake Poets, the slightly confusingly-named solo project of Martin Longstaff of local favourites B>E>A>K. Amazing Radio favourites Theme Park offer intriguing ‘80s-style tunes with shades of Talking Heads. The local influence continues with Lulu James, a freshly-minted South Shields soul-step diva with huge potential; if her material stands the test she could go far. Melodic Nottingham indie five-piece Dog is Dead bring bits of summery Beach Boys vying with Arcade Fire-style bombast, which should go down well if the sun shines.

Next up are two chalk-and-cheese acts: Benjamin Francis Leftwich, limp-wristed posh-boy singer-songwriter who needs plenty of balls to win over the fickle Newcastle crowd, followed by Devlin – fresh from the streets of Dagenham, grime hits the big time with superstar MC Devlin and his hard-hitting flow. The real, undiluted deal. Good mate and collaborator with Alex Turner, Miles Kane brings his Mod-influenced solo material to Evolution. Take two measures Arctic Monkeys, add a twist of Paul Weller, and dilute to taste with the Coral. Can Kane carve a niche for himself at Evo?

Local lads and “very special guests” Maximo Park make their long-awaited comeback with new material and a new look. This set should give us a sneak preview of their new songs for 2012. And to wrap up the Sunday evening we have the one and only Dizzee Rascal: in between his own headline tour and masterminding the careers of several new urban artists via his own Dirtee Stank label, lovable urban pop scamp Dizzee is somehow finding the time to support the Red Hot Chili Peppers and play countless UK and international festivals this year, including several headline slots. This will be his third appearance at Evolution, making him the most popular act ever to grace the Evo stage. Let’s hope this festival holds as fond a place in his heart as it does for him, and that in return the audience are treated to new material from the forthcoming album on Island records. Given the Bank Holiday scheduling, chance of trance-pop anthem Holiday making an appearance? 97.6%.

Monday 4th June
Sore heads from the night before will be soothed by Mausi, Newcastle newcomers whose recent sunny single ‘Sol’ is brightening days across the land; and the Milk – party like it’s 1967 with their brand of big band soul and funk… Craig Charles, eat your heart out. Jessie Ware, urban vocalist and SBTRKT collaborator gets her own set; but with only two singles to her name, and SBTRKT with his own headline DJ set later on, what chance is there for him turning up to run some backing tracks for Ware?

In the middle of the undercard, we have widescreen synth-led bombast from hotly-tipped London quintet Spector; Luke Temple updates ’60s American pastoral psychedelia for the new millennium like a mini-Flaming Lips with Here We Go Magic, and Band Of Skulls bring some heft to a Bank Holiday Monday – sweat ‘n’ beer ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll trio BoS will leave no ears unbled. Fans of De La Soul, Arrested Development and Madness will love cheeky Brighton hip-pop chappies Rizzle Kicks… who bring us to Noah and the Whale. After an astonishingly successful 2011, NatW richly deserve to be the last band on at Evolution 2012. Their album ‘Last Night On Earth’ (#1 on editor Mary’s Top Albums of 2011) is chock full of classic songs, surely most of which will make an appearance here. Expect crowd singalongs and lighter-in-the-air moments galore.

As a finale, there’s nobody better than deadmau5 (pictured at top). His atmospheric, dubstep-influenced dance music and enormous mouse head will surely wrap up Evolution 2012 in fine style. I’m anticipating a wild light show, deep, deep bass, and a massive crowd, paying tribute to the fine music which has passed over the previous 2 days – by dancing like mad into the small hours.

Phew. Not only that, but a full, separate dedicated dance music stage with a strong drum ‘n’ bass and dubstep influence (notably DJ Fresh, Jack Beats, Shy Fx, Toddla T, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, SBTRKT), an as-yet-unreleased but undoubtedly superb Americana strand from local promoters Jumpin’ Hot Club, and not to mention the chance to see the big names of tomorrow at the Evolution Emerging shows on the preceding Friday. This is an event that any city would be proud to hold, and it stands as the jewel in the crown of the North East’s popular music diary. Get your ticket now (from the official Evolution Web site)!

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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 is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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