Cage the Elephant EP review

Cage the elephant are back with a four track EP following the release of their new single ‘Ready to Let Go’.

The Kentucky band last released an album in 2015, but will be returning to the road with new album ‘Social Cues’ due for release on April 19th.

The EP starts with ‘Goodbye’, a track so far from what you would expect from the Southern State chaos rockers, that you’ll check whether you put the wrong song on.

It’s a powerful start none the less.

All my life I read between the lines

Held on too tight, you know I tried

But in the end it left me paralyzed

It’s alright, goodbye, goodbye

Seems like yesterday, I was a child

Just a ripple in the folds of time

I wish you well, I want to see you smile

It’s alright, goodbye

Goodbye

It’s the sort of song you can’t help but stop and pay attention to, there is no working on a spreadsheet or scheduling social media posts, you just listen.

There’s a swell of orchestral strings throughout and its a stirring piece of music which pulls you back into your own memory of when said goodbye to someone for the last time.

‘Ready to Let Go’ is a return to what most would expect from Cage;

Don’t you worry, baby, no sense trying to change it

I’ma strike these matches, never had control

I’m ready to let go, no, was I fooling myself?

I’ma spread these ashes, never had control

I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready to let go

It’s an immediate response to ‘Goodbye’, as if to say, ‘I’m over it’

‘Night Running’ is instantly reminiscent of The Specials and ‘Ghost Town’ while ‘House of Glass’ is one of the tracks which will get people throwing themselves around and their beers everywhere during live shows, as typical screeching guitars return for another quintessential body blowing three minutes. 

It’s a promising collection of tracks which work well together, hopefully the full album still has some heavy hitters left in the tank. 

Listen to the full EP on Spotify by clicking here, which will open the App automatically.

Anna Calvi Live Review

There isn’t a lot left to be said about Anna Calvi, her new album ‘Hunter’ or her live performances, because almost every single online and print music publication in the country has lost their collective shit over how good the new material and shows are.

There isn’t a lot left to be said about Anna Calvi, her new album ‘Hunter’ or her live performances, because almost every single online and print music publication in the country has lost their collective shit over how good the new material and shows are.

The Manchester Ritz played host on Monday evening and despite the show taking place on the second most unsociable night of the week, the venue was full when Calvi appeared out of the red mist on stage.

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Opening with Rider To the Sea, the first track on her debut album, Calvi demonstrated her outrageous skills as a guitarist as her fingers moved at lightning speed, ripping into the strings without missing a beat.

No lyrics, no other instruments used, just raw ability.

‘Here I am.’

The rest of the set included tracks from all three albums, all of which were delivered with astonishingly big vocals from such a diminutive individual.

The depth and range of Calvi’s thunderously powerful voice can only be appreciated when seeing her live, though it comes through in all of her albums, it’s hard to grasp how formidable and soft it really is.

Something which became more and more obvious as the show went on, was that Calvi is a natural born superstar, and there is no glass ceiling she won’t obliterate as her sound evolves.

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All of the top music outlets were all over the release of ‘Hunter’ and her European tour, which concludes in four months, highlights the popularity and demand for Calvi.

In Manchester, her performance was full of swagger, purpose and dripped with electric energy, commanding every second of her time on stage. It’s no wonder every major city for hundreds and hundreds of miles around wants her.

(Aside)

The only observation I have about the evening outside of the music, was the makeup of the crowd.

Standing right at the front and a few feet from stage, I was expecting to be shoulder with a load of  fiery Mancunians in their mid-20’s, being pushed and shoved left, right, forwards and back, I was expecting to have a full pint poured all over my white shirt and my feet stamped all over by inexplicably tall people who only ever seem to exist at gigs.

But none of that happened, it was awful.

90% of the people at the show were my dad’s age, which isn’t a problem because I literally bought a ticket for my dad and went with him, I was just expecting a few more young people throwing their weight around and I think Calvi would too, so get yourself along to one of her shows if you’re still eligible for a young persons rail card.

Listen to Hunter on Spotify here.

See Anna Calvi Tour Dates here.

Arcade Fire Live Review

The lights went down and Wembley was plunged into darkness as a mixture of Vangelis and Beethoven filled the compact arena until all went silent and the voice of a boxing commentator boomed through the PA system;

Annnnnnnnnnddddd in the red cornerrrrrr’

‘All the way from Montreal, Canada, Arrrrcaaadddeeeee Fireeeeeeeeeee’

The stadium-sized screens were suddenly filled with images of the group moving through thousands of standing fans akin to a prize boxer entering a title fight.

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The spectacle was about to begin.

Climbing through the ropes which surrounded the stage / boxing ring, instruments were hoisted and ‘Everything Now’ introduced London to Arcade Fire for the third and final time in a week.

The stage was in fact styled as a boxing ring, complete with a rotating centerpiece on which two drum kits sat, allowing a pure 360 performance.

The following show was nothing short of spectacular as the stage, completely encircled by standing fans, exploded with life, dance moves and a stunning light show.

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For a band to perform so many songs about death, desperation, creature comforts and attempted suicide, it can be surreal experience to watch live, as it is almost impossible not to dance and belt out choruses, but that is what makes Arcade Fire such a phenomenal group.

It’s serious stuff that they tackle; consumerism, the need for affirmation, depression, apathy as well as intensely personal issues;

“Assisted suicide
She dreams about dying all the time
She told me she came so close
Filled up the bathtub and put on our first record”

…..

“Saying God, make me famous
If you can’t just make it painless
Just make it painless
It’s not painless
She was a friend of mine, a friend of mine
And we’re not nameless, oh”

These lines come from ‘Creature Comfort’, a track on the ‘Everything Now’ album and if you hadn’t heard the song, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a sobering song but in fact, it is one of the catchiest  Arcade Fire have released.

Wes Anderson shares the alchamistic quality in dealing with dark subject matter in his films which are joyful, endlessly fun, colourful and funny, but beneath it all, the theme of death is consistently referred to and explored through suicidal characters and others who lose their lives.

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Art is created in response to pain, love, hate and every nuanced human emotion there is.

It’s a therapeutic method of approaching the hardest things to approach, but Arcade Fire, like Anderson, turn it into something else, something for people to actually enjoy while simultaneously connecting with the material emotionally. 

“So can you understand

Why I want a daughter while I’m still young?

I want to hold her hand

And show her some beauty before this

damage is done”

Personally, this is what sets Arcade Fire apart.

Approaching personal conflicts as well as wider societal issues with songs that can get thousands bouncing.

As a spectacle, there are few who can put on a better show than Arcade Fire.

From start to finish, their performance on Friday was stupendous and their final song, ‘Wake Up’, lit up Wembely just as it has consistently capped off their performances for the past 15 years.

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Featuring guest appearances from Florence and the Machine as well as Boy George, who performed ‘Chameleon’, the night took on a celebratory atmosphere for the final act and it would have been hard to find a single person who wasn’t smiling and laughing at the pure joy of it all.

Arcade Fire, they make the people happy.

Gorillaz Live Review

It took me ten hours to get to Birmingham from London on Saturday to see Gorillaz but despite the travel trouble, it was worth the wait.

The show was an overload of audio-visual splendour as ‘M1 A1’ kicked off proceedings and set the tone for the rest of the night at the Birmingham Arena.

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A combination of songs from the entire Gorillaz discography whipped the midlands up as ‘19-2000’, ‘Superfast Jellyfish’, ‘On Melancholy Hill’ and ‘Dirty Harry’ brought the party to town.

De La Soul, Vince Staples and the incredibly talented Bootie Brown, joined Alburn on stage to deliver some serious party punch to the night and as ‘Punk’, ‘Stylo’ and ‘Feel Good Inc’ closed out the set, delirious fever pitch was reached. Otherworldly animations flew around on the overwhelming digital screens behind the performers throughout, combining with the music to deliver a one of a kind show.

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It is easy for a performance to get lost in a large arena but nothing could be further from the truth for Gorillaz, who filled the space with pure energy, light and power from start to finish.

‘Hong Kong’, ‘Kids with Guns’, ‘Clint Eastwood’, ‘Don’t get lost in Heaven’ and Demon Days’ made up the encore and completed a phenomenal show which will live long in the memory.

Nova Twins Live Review

 

Nova Twins are a three piece afro punk band made up of lead guitarist/vocalist Amy Love, bassist Georgia South and drummer Tim Nugent, who I was invited to watch during their first ever London headline show.

Stepping out onto stage at Camden Assembly on Thursday night, it was immediately clear that I was in for one hell of a ride. Love appeared completely possessed and belted through a riotous set without giving anyone a moments rest, not that anyone wanted one anyway.

‘Hitlist’, ‘Bassline Bitch’, ‘Drums’, ‘Wave’ and ‘Twitch’ are all songs featured on the 2017 EP and were all hammered into the North London rabble who soaked up every scream and screeching riff with joy.

This was loud, fast, fuck you music, which dragged me right into the middle of the thrashing crowd and didn’t let go until I had been thoroughly used. Not that I have ever seen Lauren Hill perform but I was reminded of her watching Love and South deliver so much aggression on stage. Thier particular brand of punk is alchemistic in its infusion with rap and electronica as highlighted by the robotronic vocals delivered through one of the two microphones used by Amy Love.

The final song of the night arrived after a fire infused 45, Love unleashed, jumping off stage and throwing herself into the pit before being hoisted into the air with yours truly going full Patrick Swayze.

And then it was over and the exorcism was complete, the devil had been released and the floor was finally given a second to rest after a thorough pummelling by the none stop bouncing crowd.

Raucous thanks were given by the Assembly and returned by the Twins whos snarling faces turned to smiles as friends grabbed them from one side of the stage to pass on their jubilation.

Two days after Nova Twins, I’m going to see Gorillaz perform their millionth headline show at the Birmingham Arena for thousands. I’m sure it will be excellent, but will I have as much fun as I did in Camden? Will I be able to hoist Damon Alburn six feet into the air while he screams pure punk into a fire filled cauldron of unbound energy?

Unlikely….And this is the point that I’m trying to make;

At a certain point, a barrier is put in between a crowd and a band and very slowly, the gap gets bigger until it turns into a 5-meter space filled with miserable looking beef heads.

So go and see Nova Twins while you can still have beer spat all over you from Amy Love, go and see them while all of their friends are still at the side of the stage to grab them when they’re finished, go and see them while they are still mingling with everyone before and after their show, because it might not be long before the stage is much bigger and you have a serious fight on your hands to party with the Nova Twins.

Sofar Sounds Live Review

Sofar Sounds is an international organisation set up by two east London lads a few years ago. The premise is simple, use peoples houses and flats as the venue and invite artists to perform for a small group of 40ish people who don’t know who the performers are until they start playing.

The mystery is undoubtedly part of the appeal as you really can get anything and I have plenty of friends who have come back with positive reviews.

On Friday, I went along to the newly opened Poplar Union, in the heart of East London, to find out if it was worth going to a gig without knowing if any of the acts would actually be any good…

The Union was comfortable and dressed appropriately for an intimate gig though the lack of seating meant that the audience had to sit on the hard wooden floor for the duration, something I avoided by grabbing a chair from which I could lord over everyone like a primary school teacher at school assembly.

Anyway, first up was LISKA an Irish vocalist accompanied by a keyboard player.

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The bleach blonde bobbed girl had a great voice and caught me off guard with how well she hit each note as her velvety songs, which sounded like they could have been heard from the back of a New Orleans blues bar in 1957, filled the room.

The only complaint I would have about LISKA is that it didn’t feel like she ever moved out of second gear and the songs she performed were restricting. It would have been nice to hear something quicker, something a little more upbeat than the 5-6 tunes about lost love and longing.

Next up was a London based poet named of Jack Miguel.

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Miguel addressed the small gathering and talked about the context of his work before launching into his performance.

Personally, I think this is a must for a poet delivering on stage. The trouble with poetry is that you need to fully understand the ideas, thoughts and motivations of the creator to really grasp what they are talking about, there is no music to enjoy if you don’t get the lyrics, all of the focus is on the meaning of what is being said so if you have no idea what that is, you miss out on the good stuff.

Miguel introduced his work as having a strong focus on masculinity and went on to deliver several thought provoking pieces which I could enjoy thanks to his intro.

Listening to poetry of this nature, with the incandescing lights of Canary Warf blazing in the windows behind the performer, was interesting to say the least as that particular part of London is inexorably linked to macho culture and masculinity which undoubtedly added an interesting slant of the whole scene.

Jacob and Goliath were the final performers of the night and the stinker that I had been afraid of finally arrived…

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Hailing from West London, one on acoustic guitar and one on a box (literally). The pair opened with a dead ringer for a Mumford and Sons song and I was immediately annoyed.

Another 5 country songs of this ilk followed and continued to irritate, as a sound which died a definite death 4 years ago, was forced into my objecting ears.

I’m all for giving it a go and chasing the dream, but seriously, if you don’t have an understanding of where music is right now and what the trends are, you’re not going to get far. Music evolves just like fashion, film, art, TV, business, social media, bloody everything, and if you don’t offer something new, you’re going nowhere. That isn’t me being harsh, it’s the truth.

As a whole though, I enjoyed the evening. The tickets were also free and I was allowed to bring my own beers to drink while the evening played out so I would definitely recommend going to a Sofar gig as long as you understand that you’ll probably get one bad egg in three….

Nick Mulvey Live Review

I was meant to meet with my brother, sister and a mutual friend for a couple of drinks and a meal. Instead, a couple of match going, battle-hardened Scousers joined me and the party for a sloshing 7-8 pints and a live performance from Nick Mulvey at Shepards Bush Empire. On a fucking Tuesday night.

I was just about to go home for a sensible night in when my brother asked me to come to the gig and despite the fact that Nick Mulvey isn’t the type of musician I would usually go and watch, he has a few solid tunes to his name and a gig is a gig at the end of the day.

Mulvey is a London lad himself but spent time in Cuba studying music and art before immersing himself in different West and Central African styles.

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There wasn’t a beat missed all night as fan favourites, ‘Unconditional’, ‘Myela’ and ‘Fever to the Form’ were joined by ‘Infinite Trees’, ‘Transform your Game’ and ‘Mountain to Move’, all solid crowd pleasers.

However, the best moment of the night didn’t actually come from the stage. It came from a lad standing about 3 people behind me…

After finishing a song, Mulvey looked into the audience, wearing his beanie and a puppy dog look on his face that hadn’t shifted from kick off….

“Listen guys” he started, “There is some really bad stuff going on in the world right now and we just need to look after each other, we need to care, we need to love. Peace is what we need and that is what this next song is all about, I want you to feel that.”

The crowd went silent for the briefest of moments when, clear as a fog horn, a hero shrouded in darkness, projected across the whole room;

“I don’t know anything about that type of thing, I just work in the Asda and like beer.”

The none-stop Instagram Live streaming crowd didn’t like that, but I think they got even more wound up as I was almost screaming in laughter.

I literally got told to “Shut up” by some dead-eyed 20-year-old girl which only made it funnier…

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Anyway, I enjoyed the music and we kept drinking for another hour or so before I decided to head home for the night, tired, drunk and in no shape for the rest of the week.

 

The National Live Review

Ditching the usual arena size venue for the intimate and perfectly tight Hammersmith Apollo, The National raised the roof in West London last night and closed out their three-night extravaganza in style.

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-29 at 15.54.44The Ohio based band, formed in 1999, have been on the road for a very long time and were in fact the very first band I watched live in London in 2013. The group delivered an outstanding performance at Alexandra Palace four years ago, however, last night demonstrated that The National are still getting better after 18 years in the game and have added even more to their performance since I was first introduced to them on stage.

 

Utilising a dazzling array of visuals to accompany the set, a trance fell upon the crowd as ‘Nobody Else Will Be There’ kicked off proceedings.

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-29 at 15.54.43Filled with longing, regret, want and a hell of a lot of melancholy, you would think a sombre mood would perpetuate the atmosphere of a live National show, but nothing could be further from the truth.

‘You said we’re not so tied together, what did you mean? Meet me in the stairwell in a second, for a glass of gin…..’

The first words arrived and I was instantly plugged in. For me, A huge part of The National’s success is due to the resonance of their music, because somehow, everyone knows what it feels like for somebody they care about, to say they just don’t care as much.

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-29 at 15.54.42Every song is full of little moments like this and it is hard not to relate to what front man, Matt Berninger, recites in his deep velvet voice.

‘Guilty Party’ paints a painful picture but it is the very fact that Berninger is able to articulate such a scene with deference that provides an almost cathartic release for anyone who knows what he is talking about.

‘I say your name, I say I’m sorry, I know it’s not working, I’m no holiday, It’s nobody’s fault, no guilty party, we just got nothing, nothing left to say.’

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-29 at 15.54.42 (1)‘England’, ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’, ‘Day I Die’ and ‘I Need My Girl’ were all soaked up and sung along to with gusto. ‘Fake Empire’ was the 19th song played and the band said their goodbyes but that was never going to be it.

After a few minutes of howling, clapping and whistling, the Cincinnati six reappeared and delivered the encore that everyone wanted, though it began with something entirely new and specifically prepared for the London show, A cover of Queen’s ‘I Want To Break Fee’.

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-29 at 15.54.39 (1)Personally, I value a band making that kind of effort to make one specific show different from another. The National are in the middle of a wold wide tour and the temptation would be to play the exact same playlist every night, however, based off their previous two shows in London in the two evening before, each set was different, meaning everyone got their own individual experience.

‘Mr November’ and ‘Terrible Love’ are brilliantly hard and loud songs which still contain powerful sentiments but it was the final song of the night which got hairs standing.

The opening notes of ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’ began but the microphone was turned out, immediately towards the crowd and so began the song.

Leave your home
Change your name
Live alone
Eat your cake

Vanderlyle, crybaby, cry
Though the waters are risin’
Still no surprisin’ you
Vanderlyle, crybaby, cry
Man its all been forgiven
Swans are a swimmin’
I’ll explain everything to the geeks

After the full rendition and several repeats of the chorus, it was all over.

A brilliant performance with the perfect ending, what more could you want.

LCD Soundsystem Live Review

Throw; Talking Heads, Bowie, a couple of members of Kraftwerke, U2, New Order, Vangelis and a healthy dollop of disco and you might get something close to LCD Soundsystem, who delivered one of the most; complete, awe inspiring, jaw dropping, dance infused performances I have ever seen at Alexandra Palace on Saturday night.

The New York group are veterans of stunning performances as their show at Madison Square Gardens, meant to be the last ever, had people in tears in 2013. 

Despite releasing their excellent new album a few weeks ago, only a couple of songs were played as a set of their best songs from across the LCD discography.

It is hard to find a group which is so strong lyrically, has riffs to die for and hooks which could catch killer whales, but that is why Soundsystem are revered so highly.

‘I Can Change’ came after ‘Us v Them’ opened proceedings and immediately, the 7,000 or so were plugged directly into the LCD mainframe. ‘You Wanted a Hit’ is the type of song every artist wished they could write and ‘Tonight’, one of the new songs, is impossible not to move to.

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For once, Ally Pally seemed too small to contain the crackling energy erupting from the stage all night. Instead it bulged as the Victorian venue pulsated with pure energy and light beams reflected from the mirrored ball, cutting through darkness and into the minds of the baying mass.

The lighting alone was a thing of beauty as the electronic orchestra, made up of three drum kits and a whole host of equipment I have never seen before, got covered with soft pink and blue as if a different coloured sunrise was bringing up the rear.

‘New York I Love You’ is the type of song anybody who has lived in a megacity can relate to as the conflict between being infatuated with inner city life and being ground down by the invisible forces at play, are borne out. It was one of the final songs but the volume was only getting louder until ‘All My Friends’ triggered an all-out assault on the senses of those lucky enough to be present.

As front man, James Murphey, blasted out the final chorus ‘Where are your friends tonight’ I thought that, despit the fact that I had literally lost my friends, it was alright because strangers starting grabbing each other and absolute joy broke out in North London. Space seems to open up in the crowd and bouncing on feet turned into full dance routines as the question; ‘Where are my friends Tonight?’ was answered. They were everywhere for everyone.

Warpaint Live Review

This is what live music is meant to be.

Warpaint, the four-piece group from LA, delivered a fiery performance in the heart of London last night and I’m still taking it in.

The air crackled with energy from the moment the band appeared on stage and, in the courtyard of Somerset House, their music reverberated around the inner walls of the arena to create sonic delirium for a mad 90-minute show.

On a belly full of rose and pimms, wearing my Sunday best, I had come straight from Wimbledon and was bouncing around with cream chinos and a completely unbuttoned shirt from the off, hardly punk rock, but I had no choice and I didn’t care if anyone thought I was a Tory.

Warpaint released their most recent album last year and it is a seriously powerful piece of work to have been produced by a band which has come so close to falling apart so many times.

There is a depth to the Warpaint sound which is hauntingly addictive yet impossible to quantify. Electric Punk? Fuck I don’t know, making up terms to describe a sound is what the professionals do, so I’ll leave it to them.

‘Love is to Die’ is soaked with pain and rage yet it is beautifully melodic and rhythmic  while ‘Whiteout’ questions the importance of truth with harmonies to die for.

After 16 songs, London was whipped into a balmy frenzy and by the time ‘New Song’ blasted into us, fever pitch was reached.

Arms stretched and twisted into the sky as smoke hurricaned around the stage, Warpaint looked like masters of the universe at that moment and everyone felt it.

This was a performance delivered by a band at the height of their powers and a band which is doing what nobody else is.

At no point would I dare say Warpaint are the best girl band around right now because that would not be true.

They are one of the best bands around right now, full stop.

I have seen far too many articles talking specifically about girl bands, comparing them, listing the top five groups around.

It’s far too simple to say Warpaint are a heavier version of Haim just because they are all women.

Fuck that.

They’re musicians first and that is all anybody should care about.

Being women isn’t important and stuffing a load of them together is pigeon-holing.

Warpaint are Warpaint, that’s it.

They’re not successful because of their sex, they can attract a crowd of thousands on a Monday night because they kill it on stage and in the studio.

The set was ripped through and nobody wanted to leave when things finally ended, despite my cries of ‘please god I need more’.

The set list was scrunched up and thrown to the crowd and, despite feeling like I was going to explode, the paper sailed into my hand unchallenged.

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A swell of beautiful women suddenly formed around me to get a photo of the paper, one of whom joined me in stumbling into London’s twilight, dreaming of Los Angeles and Warpaints return.

Next time I won’t look like such a posh bastard.