Monday, August 12, 2019

Glass Ceilings, Myriam Adams, La Dharma, Crymson - Hare & Hounds - Aug 11/'19

Glass Ceilings were a split gender four piece. The bassist was business like in her playing while the guitarist happily played his parts. I wish the singer had shown some more pizzazz or stepped up the vocals that were audible but could have used some oomph. Their music is great and I enjoyed the 8 or so song set though it didn't feel like it brought anything more than is already on record. All in all I wouldn't go out of my way to catch them again, at least not until there's new music released.

Miriam Adams - A bunch of kids but sounded pretty sharp and the music popped. Singer definitely had a presence and though I only caught the final two songs it was enough to make me wish I'd arrived earlier. For the closer they tried to get the crowd jumping and to be fair it kind of worked out, even if supplemented strongly with friends and family. 

La Dharma - This four piece make some really slick, slightly synthy, pop rock with their shoegaze guitar but rock elements otherwise, stemming in part from their intense drummer. Fronted by a guy that could probably do a decent 1975 karaoke, who also tickled some keys, they went through about 7 proper tunes that everyone seemed to enjoy, in as laid back way. Highlights were Sirens and Need Me to Know You early from the EP, but their "most dance" tune, Perfume, was also a treat and Devil was a perfect way to close out. 

Crymson - Four lads playing some reasonably straightforward pop rock. Nothing super compelling recorded from what I had heard and the live show started off with me wondering if I'd be bored too. Once their gimmicky outfits - a sailor shirt and baby sailor hat, sunglasses drummer etc. wore off after 30 seconds it was time for the music to fill the room. Granted it didn't smash expectations but I didn't leave and the second last song featured some standout drumming, nicely interspersed with the guitar work. The last songwas catchy enough to get the crowd moving so they did alright. 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Laura Veirs - St Pauls Church - Feb 8, '19

Sam Amidon
The opener, Sam, varied his guitar playing throughout to cover a few different genres between folk, indie and traditional. Quite skilled and professional he was a match for Laura who he would have up on stage with him nearer to the end of his set. 

Laura Veirs
Laura came on to the cheers of the church crowd. Commenting on the pulpit, layered in candles, she made the space her own. Her guitar playing is understated and appears effortless even when she is bending it to her whim while mixing music from her catalogue. I'll admit I only gave her latest album a proper go based on my love for the Case/Lang/Veirs disc from a few years ago but fortunately she played a healthy selection from each of these and the other cuts were in no way lacking either. Swapping between acoustic and electric the show seemed to fly by, as we were entranced by her musical prowess. Repaying the favour she brought Sam back up on stage to join her again partway through and he stuck around for awhile. Although they were a good fit I may have preferred solo Veirs to the duo. Either way it was a beautiful show in both setting and show.

Vistas, Circa Waves - Institute - April 23, '19

As promised the Edinburgh buzz band of the moment, Vistas, took to the stage with the 4 of them at a combined age under 70. The kids in the crowd about the same vintage were pumped up and before the end of song one were pushing back to start a pit. Perhaps not yet commanding the stage with swagger they at least looked comfortable up there and properly played their instruments to boot. The drummer seemed to be taking his job very seriously and it paid off while the singer was just as good with his electric axe as the mic, chatting Birmingham up a little too. Guitar and bass to the sides diligently did their jobs while everyone ate it up. To be honest, the first half of the set was above average but not necessarily standout, however by the time they hit their groove it got real good. Calm was the highlight for me, both recorded and live now, though Retrospect and closer, Tigerblood, were also done real well. By the time they're done with their autumn headline tour I'm sure they'll be fully set and ready to take on the world.

TNC - The Night Cafe
The four lads had the crowd pushing around from the get go, but it was one of those kind of shows as between sets felt like a club night at Snobs with the chanting along and jumping up and down. I'd be fine with it but the activity didn't match the music. It was fairly straight tempo rock, sang with a decent voice that wasn't as Liverpudlian as their banter. The singer and drummer chatted a little, mostly drumming up sales for their upcoming headline tour and merch. The penultimate song had all the womenfolk singing along "you're addicted to me" while the finale brought the tempo up slightly for people to bop around to again.

Circa Waves

This might be the type of showmanship that the guys from Vista could draw inspiration from. The four members came on stage with swagger - I mean you've got to when you have enough strobe lights to brighten a coal mine and five cannons spewing pyrotechnics meters into the air. Musically I would hope that Vistas will take their strong start and surpass the offerings from these fellas - not that CW are bad with their upbeat indie rock but there are higher heights to hit. Time Won't Change Me went over well with me, while most anything else went down with the hyperactive young crowd. I'll admit that I sheltered just under the overhang to avoid dripping beer and too much of the constant swell that consumed most of the dance floor. That wasn't even when the band tried to split the audience to have them collapse on each other as a singalong hit. The set closer was Fire that Burns, appropriately using orange strobes and a spray of sparks as background. Despite one of the quietest, most lacklustre encore breaks (grumble, grumble, entitled generation..) Circa Waves came back for a couple anyhow, of course. Sticking with the literal they played Goodbye - not sure if it's a normal phenomenon for half the crowd to get on the shoulders of the other half to sway along to this ballad. As true finale they asked the seated upper deck (of a near sellout) to stand up and singalong as they fired up the pyro again.

Rufus Wainwright - Symphony Hall - April 22, '19

Rachel Eckroth opened from behind a slew of boards. Primarily a keyboardist she also built the songs on the fly through loops, drum tracks and vocoder. Her voice wasn't bad and neither were the songs but there also wasn't much to set her apart. I ended up closing my eyes to take in a chunk of the set and it worked just swell.

Rufus Wainwright
The band assembled on stage before Rufus' silhouette, top hat and all, fell onto the giant projection that backed the stage. In a striped suit he took to centre stage surrounded by a drummer (wearing giant over-ear protection), a bass player, two keyboardists including Rachel, and an older gentleman with white hair (dyed red and black like a crow had bloodied it by diving into him) who was the musical director for the show and excellent guitarist to boot. That booming voice filled the giant symphony hall with his signature sound as they played through a good selection of songs from his debut and others from the catalogue. Between the man and the ego he bantered about all the times he'd played this room and told interesting stories about his mother Kate McGarrigle, as well as Leonard Cohen (though not before Hallelujah, I will note). A highlight had to be telling the story of playing Joni Mitchell's 75th birthday party before launching into stand-out of the night, Both Ways, which he funnily lamented he didn't actually play for her because Seal stole that honour. He sang this after removing his jacket to reveal a dazzling and sparkly sleeveless golden shirt. "Pretty good for 45," he quipped. Seemingly part of the act now Rufus gave off a holy (or holier than thou?) presence, built up by having his tech not only bring his guitars when changing but also plugging them in for him. 

Following the intermission he came back in a similar manner but with the projection, the top hat and the jacket changed. The opener of Poses was the song I was here to see more than any other and he nailed Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk. Unfortunately for me it was all kinds downhill from there as the life of the set was lost as they stuck to the Poses track list and, good as it is, I'm not intimately familiar and it stagnated. Even the ridiculously large jacket made of a million jewels which he needed help taking off and replacing with a similarly adorned black one that covered the entire piano didn't spice it up that much. Following another hour plus in the second set alone they wrapped Poses and the set opened up again. A near standing ovation greeted his first departure though not all joined in. The entire band returned for one or two, including his version of Across the Universe which awkwardly saw a handful of fans (?) standing on stage with a candle but they failed to wave it when appropriate despite Rufus' prompting. It was a nice ending, no Hallelujah, but provoked another ovation perhaps larger than the first and the grand master left for good.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

SWMRS, Destroy Boys - Institute - Mar 11, 2019

SWMRS have carved out a niche for themselves in the under-18 crowd. A strong mixed-sex crowd showed up downstairs at the Institute (some lugging their parents along to stand, roped-off, at the back). From the get-go these four fellas had the crowd eating out of their hands, despite the somewhat straightforward banter although I did like after an individual cheer for each of the openers they said "and now the most important cheer... for your moms!" It was good clean fun with a giant swell of a pit going for pretty much the entire night that cleared those of us not feeling as into it to the sidelines or back beside the sound booth while the rest moshed about. Picking from only two albums the hour long set-list consisted of pretty much everything, though my favourite moment was probably the Bloc Party cover of Helicopter that really proved their chops to me in how tight they were. Earlier in the set they were not very impressive musically but it may have just been the sound, with the vocals lost deep in the mix. For the most part it was upbeat and rocking, new tracks including the title from last month's Berkeley's On Fire hit their mark, though they did mix in their brooding Miley Cyrus loving tune later on, and the chilled first album closer, Lose It. I won't pretend to know all their songs but they probably hit their high point on the third from last when I expected them to call it. Seeing as they didn't encore I could pretend that this was their set closer and the next two which didn't match quite the intensity were the encore. All in all they were pretty good but I may just leave them for the kids next time and stay home with the record.

Zuzu definitely pushed the punk out of the room with some more straightforward songs. I'm not even sure how to classify it as despite her decent vocals the music was rather blasé. Her speaking voice on the other hand.. I couldn't make sense of it. She claims to be from Liverpool but that didn't sound like any Scouse I've heard before. Is she putting it on? Am I that sheltered? 

Destroy Boys are a bunch of girls out to destroy the male dominated punk rock world. Maybe not destroy it but show that they definitely deserve their own place in it. Every one of them demonstrated their way around their instrument and as a whole they write a solid rock song. With long hair and tees they played their way through an entirely too short set and had the kids in the audience moshing along (not that this was too hard, but still). I'd keep an eye out as they seem like their just at the start of a fruitful career.

Big Character were up first once we got through the queue of teenagers out on the sidewalk. There was very little to set these guys apart from much of anything else.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Art Brut - Hare and Hounds - Feb 15, 2019

Art Brut
I knew it was going to be a good set when they opened with Formed a Band which to me is their signature sound even over a decade later. By song two Eddie Argos was already off on a tangent with a meandering story about being in the Van Gogh (which he repeatedly pronounced Van Goff, and as he is reportedly a big fan perhaps we're all saying it wrong?) museum in Amsterdam that ended with him licking a painting and being escorted from the premises through a security exit. Throughout the telling of the story he had to repeatedly ask for "Softer, Art Brut!" and I found it endearing that he referred to his band by their name all night. The story truly ended with My Little Brother which reassured me after the five minute banter after only song one that it would still be a good show. Perhaps their timing will improve as this was the kickoff show of the tour and judging by Eddie's verbosity he was obviously excited to be back out on the road. Some of these ramblings spoke of chats with his mother trying to convince them to get the new album out because 'yelling music' is back in. "'Have you heard Sleaford Mods?' Yeah, Ma. I've heard Sleaford Mods. 'Have you heard Idles?' Yes, Ma. I love Idles."

Following this they broke out a couple from the new, refreshingly strong album, Wham! Bam! Pow! Let's Rock Out! including She Kissed Me (and it felt like a hit) and I Hope You're Very Happy Together, and far as I was concerned their bases were now covered. It carried on with good humour and good music that entertained all, even my non-familiar, non-gig-going mate. Partway through Eddie asked the crowd for suggestions and once he heard what he was waiting for he said "Put away your setlists, Art Brut, we're gonna do Emily Kane!" At which point a cheeky audience member shouted out "Get over it!" much to everyone's amusement. After a few others from the inner albums that weren't too familiar to me but still sounded alright we came towards an end. With an early Friday night curfew they were aware of the time and forwent their finale for an 8-minute rendition of Modern Art that saw Eddie out in the crowd telling stories and getting laughs. Everyone seemed to be beaming on the way out as a band very much known for its yesteryear had put on a very good time today.

Luke Wright
Luke Wright burst onto the stage with energy and enthusiasm, quick to get things underway before he lost the crowd. Nearly apologising for being a spoken word artist at a music gig his wit and self-deprecating humour shone through but it was the poetry that really hit home. Modern, political (left), British and sharp he hit on the modern experience with jabs that came so quick that people were silent and straining to pick up on each one. A take-down of a British celebrity that I'm unaware of that utilised only one vowel throughout the entire piece was as ridiculous and impressive as that concept sounds. Luke confided that he had tried to open for Art Brut many years earlier and had been bottled off the stage but on this evening with perhaps a more mature crowd he had us rapt.

Exotic Pets
A local three-piece, Exotic Pets played some rocking indie music. It was rather straightforward but that wasn't a bad thing. The finale changed pace slightly but they still did not stray into overly memorable material.

Friday, January 4, 2019

The Burning Hell - Sunflower Lounge - Dec 13, 2015

Starting as the truly duet show that was advertised Mathias and his partner, Ariel, treated us to "love songs" fresh from their Don't Believe the Hyperreal album. With Mathias on acoustic and Ariel on clarinet, both lending their complementary voices, it was instantly engaging even only having heard the new songs once the night before. Following these they did break out some classic Burning Hell tunes, eschewing a set list and instead taking requests from the intimate and engaged audience. This brought a variety of songs to the stage but with a catalog like his it's hard to go wrong. Old World was played, and Amateur Rapper in finale. I hadn't shouted out during the first call but now was my chance as in the small room we cheered them back for a one song encore - "Florida!" Sure enough they complied with "possibly the first Burning Hell song" and had us sing love along. Beautiful.