David Gilmour – The Royal Albert Hall

Old Floyd man still has it.

London Royal Albert Hall 23/09/15


gilmour2-large

Many moons ago a work colleague of mine took pride in the fact that, not only had his father been to see a Syd Barrett-fronted Pink Floyd, but that he’d managed to get a significant section of the audience to do the conga to ‘Interstellar Overdrive’.  The thought of this happening is a funny one whichever way you look at it but especially that cataclysmic music of the outer space and inner mind was able to move an audience in a provincial town of North-Western England (where the sights and sounds of London were as alien to them as could be) to their feet and not to the exit door.  However, it’s unlikely that anyone will leave early tonight either; this is the first return of David Gilmour to this venue (and to touring itself) since 2006 and anticipation levels are pretty high amongst the punters attending to say the least.

Starting with an opening pairing of ‘5AM’ and the title track to new album Rattle That Lock, Gilmour’s distinctive laconic approach to his guitar playing is instantly evident – why play a dozen notes when you can make one note sing? His sound is instantly recognisable to even the most casual Floyd listener but by third song ‘Faces Of Stone’, there’s a slight concern that he’s going the way of other similarly ageing guitar veterans and sliding down into snoozefest territory until the “big ones” are pulled out of the bag.

No fear of that tonight though as he immediately follows it by playing a wonderful version of  Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ with ex-Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera ably assisting on acoustic too; their interplay agleam with the glory and pain of the song’s subject matter. He then introduces “a couple of pals” in the form of David Crosby and Graham Nash to sing their beatific backing vocals on ‘A Boat Lies Waiting’  – interestingly boats, sailing and the sea seem to be a common motif in Gilmour’s latter day songs, as illustrated by recent Floyd swansong release ‘The Endless River’.

‘The Blue’ allows Gilmour the use of an octave pedal, enabling him to extend the range of notes beyond the confines of the frets on his guitar yet still maintain the lyrical quality that he’s renowned for.  It’s the very definition of a soaring guitar solo and he makes it look so easy too!  Things shift up a gear with a groovesome ‘Money’ and ‘Us And Them’ back to back; the latter giving a definite tug on the heart strings and tear ducts of those who have grown up listening to ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’.

The first set is concluded with ‘High Hopes’ and, as much as it elicits similar emotions as the best of Pink Floyd it seems that, despite Gilmour’s razor-sharp guitar lines and voice doing justice to the songs, we’re to be denied the verve and innovation of early Floyd numbers. That is until the second set opens with the familiar strains of Syd Barrett penned ‘Astronomy Domine’.  Suddenly, the synapses are snapped into life and the light show is truly a wonder to behold. From the ‘Mr Screen’ backdrop come images evoking lava lamp stylings before the venue is awash with eyeball-shredding colours that dazzle and daze. Nothing short of a stroboscopic-like delight!

‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ is a fitting follow-up, featuring the tease of an intro to full effect, whilst ‘Fat Old Sun is as wonderfully soporific as ever.  However, the following series of solo songs threatens to bring back the fear of Floyd-lite territory. (’The Girl In The Yellow Dress’ in particular being a little too French café jazz-lite) until ‘Sorrow’ and it’s thunderous guitar introduction blows any such concerns away and suddenly it seems that Gilmour has rediscovered the muse, grappling and squeezing his guitar until it bends to his will.

He follows with ‘Run Like Hell’ and, again, the lights accompanying it are incandescent – the entire band wearing shades to cope – and then it happens. One solitary figure is driven to rise from his seat and stomp down the aisle of the entirely seated floor, arms aloft and willing others to join him which they promptly do until the entire audience is compelled to stand up and do the same, creating an impromptu communal headrush of joy and celebration.  

A double whammy encore of ‘Time/Breathe (Reprise)’ and a scintillating ‘Comfortably Numb’ bring the gig to a close with Gilmour’s exiting grin seeming to say – yes, he’s still got it and that he still likes giving it to ‘em too!

Marc Le Breton

Facebooktwittermail

The Monkees & The Polyphonic Spree – The Moseley Folk Festival

Our fave US ’60s TV pop stars two men down and people in white robes stun folkies and hipsters alike

Moseley Folk Festival, Moseley Park, Birmingham, 06/09/2015


9527505_orig

 

The final day of the tenth Moseley Folk Festival saw glorious, late summer weather and a spectacle of equally dazzling music – some of it definitely folk, some stretching the definition to the limit.

At the less folky end of the spectrum was that jubilant troupe of Dallas pop rockers, The Polyphonic Spree, whose numerous members filled the stage in white choir robes to share their joyous symphonic rock. This helped the sun-drenched, well-chilled crowds prepare their ears for the headlining act … The Monkees.

Now, I suppose you could argue that The Monkees’ music is so much a part of popular culture that it has become a kind of folk music. Hits like ‘Last Train to Clarkesville’, ‘Steppin’ Stone’, ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’, ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You’ and ‘I’m a Believer’ had the enraptured audience joining in. Footage from the original The Monkees TV series was projected at the back of the stage while Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork impressed us with their exuberance (not bad for a couple of septuagenarians) and their musicianship (not bad for artists who were famously said not to have played their own instruments.) Micky sang in his distinctive and still powerful voice and played some rhythm guitar, his drumming duties taken care of by Peter’s son, while Peter sang and switched between guitar and keyboards.

A kettledrum was provided for Micky to play on his ‘Randy Scouse Git (Alternate Title)’ while Peter’s songwriting and guitar skills were showcased on several numbers including his ‘For Pete’s Sake’ (which some will remember as the old end credits music from the TV show) with its message of love, peace and freedom.

Perhaps The Monkees’ songbook has passed into folk memory. A rerun of the series in the ’80s might account for some of it, as not everyone enjoying the performance in Moseley was old enough to remember the original airings but, regardless of age, everyone seemed to know all the lyrics. Micky joked, “You may know this one, but please don’t join in … it puts me off,” before launching into ‘Daydream Believer’. Of course, everybody joined in.

In an unexpected climax to the evening the numerous members of The Polyphonic Spree were invited back on stage to join in a rendition of the theme from The Monkees’ 1968 psychedelic film Head, ‘The Porpoise Song,’ with its fitting if bizarre refrain: “but the porpoise is laughing, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye …”

Tony Gillam

Facebooktwittermail

Jacco Gardner – The Louisiana, Bristol

Dutch psych whizz-kid still on the road
The Lousiana, Bristol, 16/09/2015


IMG_3498

It’s four months since Jacco Gardner’s Hynophobia was released. Some felt it was a triumphant, galvanising follow-up to his much-loved debut, A Cabinet Of Curiosities, others that it was strangled by a lack of stylistic diversity. What’s beyond doubt is that the live Jacco experience has improved enormously since your correspondent witnessed an awkward, charisma-free appearance 18 months ago.

With his band now expanded to a five-piece, Jacco is relieved of many of the keyboard duties that kept him static and disengaged on stage. Indeed, even in the dingy surroundings of The Louisiana’s tiny upstairs room, the players positively shine as they dutifully work their way through much of both albums. ‘Clear The Air’ (was it really three years ago?) appears second in the set, instantly familiarising audience and band with each other. There’s little deviation from the recorded versions throughout, until the spirit of UFO (or should that be Melkweg?) is set free on a spirited, extended freak-out at show’s end. You can see the grins broadening as the escape valves are opened.

While some of the nuances of Jacco’s dreamy baroque psychedelia may be lost in a live setting, previously undetected references emerge. For the first time I noticed shades of his Dutch forebears The Outsiders’ masterful CQ in the intricately picked guitars and muted toms, while the myriad keyboard sounds – particularly the electric harpsichord and Jacco’s beloved mini-Korg synth – evoked The Left Banke, Lothar & The Hand People and echoes of Odessey & Oracle.

It’ll be interesting to see where Jacco and his band of merry minstrels go on album number three. Some surprises would be nice.

Andy Morten

Facebooktwittermail

Pugwash – Outer Space, Hamden, USA

The Irish lads conquer America
Outer Space, Hamden, USA, 11/09/2015


 

Pugwash has been barnstorming the USA this past year bringing their brand of pop perfection to their audience. This is a band at their peak carrying on the influences of their heroes, like XTC, Jeff Lynne/ELO, Beatles and bringing it into a modern context. Performing songs from their first album right up to the new LP Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends) guitarist and lead vocalist Thomas Walsh is truly gifted with a wonderful set of pipes. You could hear a pin drop during his flawless performance of ‘Here’ from 2008’s Eleven Modern Antiquities. They sport one of the tightest rhythm sections going today with bassist/background vocalist Shaun McGee whose melodic bass lines add so much to the signature Pugwash sound. Drummer Joe Fitzgerald is just a powerhouse! A maestro pushing the band to their musical nirvana. Let’s not forget secret weapon lead guitarist/back vocals Tosh Flood who brings forth the definitive Pugwash sound with great guitar and guitar synthesizer work that is pure genius. There’s no smoke and mirrors with Pugwash! What you see is an amazing band, no guitar god attitude, posing or distracting stage effects. Everything done in the inimitable Pugwash way, playing for the love of music. At the end of the show they got off stage and mingled with the audience. Total gentlemen Pugwash deserve to be a household name so catch them NOW!! You won’t be disappointed.

Joe Sciortino

Facebooktwittermail

Dave McCabe & The Ramifications – Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, London

Ex Zuton’s new flavour
Hoxton Bar & Grill, London, 11/o9/2015


 

image

 

Since his former band The Zutons disbanded, Dave McCabe has been beavering away in deepest, darkest Liverpool working towards a new direction. From tonight’s showing, it’s clear he’s not only changed gears but switched car entirely. He’s taken a swerve towards a melange of vintage synth, bold basslines and twitchy melodies which still have that unmistakeable catchy nous that made his former band a success, but with an old-school electronica feel à la Captain Beefheart via Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express.

As the band emerge to ominous whooshing sounds over the speakers, all dressed in foreboding priest-like cowls and Tron-esque fright masks, one woman is heard to remark “I’m scared to get any closer to the stage!” McCabe follows, resplendent in a white hooded cloak with matching sunglasses, like a cult leader in waiting. Things are already getting weirder than anything he’s previously done and, starting off with initial single ‘Time And Place’, the overall “sturm und drang” comes across, wrapped in a tight head-nodding rhythm that keeps things ticking along nicely. ‘Too Damn Good’ follows – all sleek “ticka-ticka-ticka” noises reminiscent of the theme tune for ’80s TV staple Knight Rider but with a sinister edge; like the tune in your head heard when waking from a fever dream at 4am.

More tunes are played from his debut solo Church Of Miami, keeping up the long lost John Carpenter soundtrack feel. ‘Fake Emotion’ has a great jumpy and jittery feel whilst the title track is also particular highlight – all groove and talk of starting fires and burning them down – which gets the crowd moving involuntarily closer to the stage as the song’s hook locks in. Despite all this, there’s still room for a few of the former band’s tunes; ‘Why Won’t You Give Me Your Love’ fits perfectly with the new found paranoiac staccato sound and ‘You Will You Won’t’ retains a foot stomping quality that is difficult to shake off; its glam roots ring true all the more in this interpretation.

So Dave McCabe is back; no less hairy but certainly more freaky and it’s a welcome return for all those attending.

M Le Breton

Facebooktwittermail