Nights Out

Roddy Woomble

Where: 
Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath, Birmingham
When: 
15.4.14
Comment: 
Love his 1st solo LP, but hadn't kept up in the interim, so a tad uncertain what would unfold. I knew the venue, tho', thinking it would be suitably intimate and confessional. A Steve Tye provided support, abetted by a Jane Norman, together unfolding a mash of early John Martyn styles, but with Tracey Thorn instead of Bev. To watch, I feel. Then Mr Woomble shambled downstairs, with a bassist, acoustic guitarist and a jolly, smiling girl on fiddle and piano. No McCusker then, but I needn't have been upset, as she soon showed herself to be the star of the show, singing and beaming, as she took her violin to places unheard and unexpected, adding syncopation and synchrony to the melodies elsewhere. Mr W's burr of a voice and his buddycanyouspareadime chic was a little slow to warm, but once he hit tracks from his1st, the willing audience relaxed. An old Idlewild, a trad are and some John Prine broke the run of his slow pacers, with a fab set of tunes from fiddle and guitar after the break.
The audience: 
Cramped! 90 souls crushed on odd seats in the corner, middle and sides of a fairly poky wee room. Ages between 20s and 60s, largely familiar with his repertoire. Certainly the smallest room Roddy claimed ever to have played. Or practised in.
Food & drink: 
As a cafe it had actually closed for the night, bar it's bar, but it is virtually co-terminous with Fletchers Bar, next door, which is typical Kings Heath quirky. Food looked OK, but I drank (Doombar) only, having had a tiptop solo curry next door.
It made me think: 
Dunno what money the promoter makes, let alone the performers, but venues of this size are to be cherished. Jackie Leven, Clive Gregson, Iain Matthews have all played here, and it is ideal for a performer who likes to chat. Mr W didn't. Never mind.

Merzbow / Gustafsson / Pandi Trio

Where: 
Oval Space, Hackney
When: 
14th April 2014
Comment: 
Merzbow is prolific both as a solo artist and a keen collaborator, having released well over 300 albums. For tonight's gig he was performing as part of the Merzbow/Gustafsson/Pandi Trio. As the MGP Trio get down to the serious business of immanentising the eschaton with a solid 40 minutes of aural apocalypse, a huge electric storm of white noise slowly evolves as a continuous piece. The thunderous thrash drumming, shrieking electronics, subtle saxophone and looping feedback are all-enveloping - it feels like standing in a howling gale. Having your ears sandpapered by an avant-noise jet engine doesn't sound like much fun but it really is. Like Napalm Death but without the tunes, the blistering attack is literally stunning. The addition of a late-set single note sax solo against the tortured electronics was both a clarion call and a warning. A fantastic gig and an experience that I'd recommend. I left exhilarated and exhausted.
The audience: 
Youngish Hackney crowd. Suprisingly for 'difficult music', the gig was sold out and the place was packed. Oval Space is a great warehouse-style venue - excellent sound and lighting, sports hall sized, with a warren of rooms off the main space,
Food & drink: 
Lovely pub for food nearby (The Sebright Arms) and cans from the venue's bars.
It made me think: 
A serious, intense (and yes, enjoyable) experience. Like standing in the brain of a giant panicked metal alien.

Petulant Frenzy

Where: 
Lewisham Hotel Sydney Australia
When: 
Sunday April 14
Comment: 
"We play Zappa and we mean it" it says on their website. And they do, both - play it and mean it. I've seen this band many times over the years and they're great. They're not all musical virtuosi like FZ's bands were, but then they don't get 3 months paid rehearsal for a six month tour either. This lineup featured a new drummer, and in deference to him having to learn a whole repertoire the band in an act of generous democracy decided to learn an entirely new bunch of songs to keep him company. They kicked off with 'Florentine Pogen" and it was tight as. It's a big ensemble - 2 guitars, keyboard, percussion (mallets), bassoon, 2 saxes, trumpet, bass and drums. Plus the lead singer who is excellent. They even played a couple of tunes I didn't recognise. Or couldn't remember. Could've done without The Torture Never Stops but loved Wind Up Working In A Gas Station. More in comments
The audience: 
Lots of grey old folks like me, plenty of "younger people", 20s - 50s, and surprising number of women which was good
Food & drink: 
Pub Asain available, but I'd eaten a jolly nice paprika beef casserole before going out so I had a couple of glasses of Taylors 2013 Chardonnay @13. Cheaper options were available. It's a grungy inner-west pub after all.
It made me think: 
Once I would have had the time and energy to actually play in a band like that. I don't now, but I am so happy there are people that do.

Beefheart's Magic Band / Grandmothers of Invention

Where: 
Corner Hotel , Melbourne ,Australia
When: 
Frida April 11,2014
Comment: 
One was carrying the torch for the artist and his music , the other appeared to be milking his legacy. The core of the Grandmothers of Invention are sax player Bunk Gardner and keyboardist Don Preston from 60's early 70's Zappa. An awkward silence after the announcement sapping any energy is eventually followed by an execrable version of Call Any Vegetable. Don's singing makes Frank sound like Pavarotti.The stage patter is so lame and awkward you wonder whether they are chronically jet lagged, which they could be, as this is the first gig before they head to Byron.David Parlatto on bass is good as is young guitarist Max Kutner but overall this was lame. On the last song, Peaches en Regalia, Buck could only just play the notes. The Magic Band on the other hand were hot. Former drummer and musical transcriber for D.V.V. John Drumbo French sounds remarkably like Beefheart. Probably some processor to get that deep Howling Wolf type voice. See comments for more
The audience: 
Nerdy old audience with the curious young. 90% male.
Food & drink: 
Parma and a pot at the pub.
It made me think: 
Thank God for the annual Easter Byron blues fest as we'd never get to see this sort of band without it subsiding the whole tour.

David Sedaris

Where: 
Birmingham Town Hall
When: 
05/04/2014
Comment: 
I've been a huge fan of David Sedaris for about a decade, so this was always going to feel more like a victory lap than a question of "will I / won't I enjoy this?" It still surpassed my expectations though - only one of the 10 or so stories was familiar to me, the rest were pieces that he's working on right now. The stories covered topics as diverse as cows giving birth, trips with his gay partner to conservative Middle East countries, a rant on people who insist on pronouncing foreign places they've visited in the native tongue (eg Paris as 'Paree'), and how his genitals might sound if they could talk. An all too brief Q&A rounded things off - I'd have loved to have got a book signed afterwards, but judging by the queue, I'd have been waiting past midnight :-(
The audience: 
Literary audience so very well behaved. Older than your typical gig audience, polite applause, but not afraid to laugh heartily at some very ribald anecdotes (the type you'll never hear Sedaris read on the radio).
Food & drink: 
Pre-performance sandwich at Starbucks. I don't need to tell you what Starbucks is like.
It made me think: 
If you've not yet read or listened to David Sedaris, now's the time to dive in - the funniest writer working today by some distance.

Lloyd Cole

Where: 
The Queen's Hall, Edinburgh
When: 
5 April 2014
Comment: 
I've been a fan since Rattlesnakes and checked in over the years but this was - to my surprise - the first time I've seen him live. Let me get this out of the way first - he looks irritatingly well for a man of 53. By which I mean better than me. The full head of hair helps. The bastard. Anyway, the gig itself. He came across exactly as I've always imagined he would, with an easy, self-deprecating charm. He was solo, which no doubt made a not-quite full Queen's Hall a paying proposition. The twangier parts of his back-catalogue were difficult to pull off on acoustic and he is not a top notch guitarist (and does not pretend to be). Some worked very well - Jennifer - others less so - Rattlesnakes. And yet, overall, it was brilliant, despite that limitation - and for two reasons. Firstly, the voice. It is a thing of wonder, as smooth and honeyed - if not more so - as in the mid-80s. Secondly, the songs. What a fantastic back catalogue to choose from - and he choose well.
The audience: 
Mainly couples of a certain age. One audience member - I'm guessing her name is Jennifer - made a spirited attempt to jump about during that song. Good on her. We were told not to clap along, as we were no good at it. I wish more people did that.
Food & drink: 
Over-priced glass of Merlot for me. Smuggled in ginger beer for Mrs Cakes.
It made me think: 
Somewhere in Mr Cole's attic is the audio equivalent of Dorian Gray's portrait. It sounds like Tom Waits covering Norwegian death metal.
FauxGeordie's picture

Elbow Academy Newcastle

Where: 
Newcastle Academy
When: 
31st March 2014
Comment: 
This confirmed to me all the things that I love about this band and also many of the things that I fear for them. I hope they have much success and they are clearly on the side of the good guys. And this really was a great gig & great fun. Live - they clearly thrive on the backchat, drunkeness, bad behaviour, enthusiasm and stroppiness of a Toon audience. The Academy is great too because although the sound isn't great it can't get out and it keeps the atmosphere in. Jupp's determined drumming & the gut impact of the rhythm section genuinely lifts them out of 'plod rock' - it was frequently loud, exciting and always convivial and very funny. Lots of 'new' BUT - too many gentle ruminations on growing old with your mates that sounded like they started from a rehearsal jam, too many new songs that have extended codas with lots of repetition for the hard of thinking, too many 'anthems', no songs at all from the first three albums. In a bigger stadium it could be a bit formless.
The audience: 
Teens and students up to cranky old gits. Before the gig the touts moaned to me about lack of enthusiasm and imminent penury but I reckon if they do this again (and Elbow obviously love the venue and audience) the touts will be happy again,
Food & drink: 
Academy beer at pub-ish prices. Ate at home thanks, home made chips, some cold lamb from Lancashire (excellent farm shop near Dalton you must try it), peas, I didn't bother with ketchup mind. Thinking back I should have had some of that relish.
It made me think: 
This is a good band who are clearly the sort of people you'd want to love. Their wider audience is turning into the sort of massively indebted yuppies who take rueful selfies at festivals while the smell of £12 craft burgers wafts over them. Shame.

The Cure

Where: 
Albert Hall, London
When: 
28 March 2014
Comment: 
The last Cure album I bought was Disintegration, over a quarter of a century ago, so I’m hardly a devoted fan, unlike those who’d flown in especially for this gig from places such as Osaka and Sydney. With well over 40 songs in the three and a half hour set, that had a curfew-busting finish of 11.15, there was potential for the show to drag if you weren’t a committed Goth. However, aside from a lull at the beginning of the first encore, Bob and the band managed to keep the energy levels high and entrance the non-believers, like myself. Crowd pleasers abounded: Just Like Heaven – check; Love Cats – check; Friday I’m In Love – check. Finishing with Boys Don’t Cry, 10:15 Saturday Night and Killing An Arab I wandered off into the night a very happy punter. Now where did I put that lipstick and eyeliner?
The audience: 
Some Robert Smith lookalikes and a surprising number of middle aged men who answered in the affirmative when asked if they had put on their nail varnish especially for the gig.
Food & drink: 
A pre-gig cheese and onion pasty at Paddington station followed by an eye watering £30 for a round of five drinks at the venue.
It made me think: 
What does Mr Smith wear at home? How did Simon Gallup become such a devotee of Reading FC that he feels the need to drape one of their flags over his amp?

The Scottish band

Where: 
Symphony Hall, Brum
When: 
30.3.14.
Comment: 
I know, I know, but they were fabulous. Really. I was a big fan 30 odd years ago, when, give or take Dick Gaughan, they were the only trailblazers for scots music around. And, being of hebridean stock, they often sang in the gaelic, which meant I could play their LPs to my ma. In truth, I haven't listened for a fair old while, but I thought I ought to. So, 2 sets, each an hour or so, no support, with a well-synced filmic backdrop. Bagpipe guitars, anthemic bombast, dry ice: what's not to love? I didn't recognise many of the songs and, let's be fair, they are all the same one. But what a one. And they played a skyestorm, Malcolm Jones in particular, fleshing out the bare bones with eloquent, melodic soloing, counterpointed by the driving bass and swathed keys, dual percussion kicking out the reels. A neat semi-unplugged section opened the 2nd half, accordion heaven, and the realisation that Bruce Guthro is their 3rd best singer. Then crescending all the way to Loch Lomond. What joy!
The audience: 
Seemed to know all the words. Never seen the Symph so solidly partisan, sizeable numbers on their feet throughout. Knocking on, as is usual, with way more T shirts than should be seen on the over 50s. The merch stand sold loads. And loads. Not to me.
Food & drink: 
Shock horror! Plassy glasses now allowed in the auditorium, meaning i didn't have to rush my fizzy bass. Followed by a decent beer and a morrisons sandwich in the Post Office Vaults. (A pub, not the down where the drunkards roll it sounds.)
It made me think: 
Rory McDonald must have been about 5 at the beginning of the bands 40 years, looking scarcely into his own 40s. Unfortunately, try as I might, frontman Guthro immediately brought the image of a slightly less portly Eamonn Holmes to mind. That stuck.

Bobby Keys - being Keef's drug buddy comes at a cost

Where: 
Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne
When: 
Thursday 27 March 2014
Comment: 
Legendary sax player who with Jim Price provided the wonderful brass for the Stones during the great 70s era. Lots of Stones fans including a big contingent of Argentinians salvaging something from the canned Stones tour.I'd kinda hoped for some extended southern funk instrumentals but what we got were all the hits he'd played on.The Wanderer,Whatever Gets You Through The Night, Delta Lady, The Letter, sax showcases Harlem Nocturne and Soul Serenade plus the Stones stuff.He explained I'm playing this stuff because they're the ones I can remember.He mumbles and forgets what he is saying with the only lucidity being the sax playing. I reckon if you saw the Stones the solos would be identical. He really hasn't got the brain cells left to improvise much but classics like Can't You Hear Me Knocking were superb.Jeff Beck lookalike Dan Baird leads the show and does a pretty fair job of it. Actually the Georgia Satellites stuff was when the band lifted.
The audience: 
late fifties Stones crowd.
Food & drink: 
Awful, was in a rush ,bucket of chips and 2 beers.
It made me think: 
If he could finish a sentence there would have been some interesting anecdotes.

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