>and it’s LIVE!

>Tomorrow I am going to see the brilliant band The National at Brixton Academy. What is especially exciting about the gig is at the time of being offered the ticket I liked rather than loved The National, yet as I’ve listened to them loads since I have fallen head over heels for them. It promises to be a terrific gig and I might even grace the blog with a review. I have been lucky enough over the years to see countless gigs – the prime time being whilst studying at University in Leeds. I thought it might be apt if I add to the Five series with five artists who are fantastic live. These were certainly not my favourite artists at the time of viewing – in most cases far from it – yet they each massively impressed me and fast became essential parts of my collection.

Picture the scene. Leeds Festival 2006. If I’m honest I wasn’t that fussed about many of the bands on show and was kicking my heels waiting for The Raconteurs. By mid afternoon I was feeling the effects of the previous night/morning as the brief adrenalin rush of laughing at the lead singer of The Hair’s ridiculous expressions had worn off. So for reasons of not being arsed to move more than anything I hung around to watch Feeder. Now I used to really like Feeder – Comfort in Sound being a hugely underrated album – but had moved on and upon seeing them a few years ago in a support role I had been far from impressed. Enter the band, who reeled off hit after fantastic hit, playing with supreme enthusiasm that infected the whole crowd and awoke everyone from their slumber. By the finale of Just a Day as you looked around the crowd previously weary and tired faces were a sea of beaming smiles and bouncing. A notoriously difficult slot became a triumph.

A grainy video of that very song…

The Dears
No Cities Left was for me the finest album of 2003. So it was with great anticipation and excitement that the Canadian band came to my Uni city of Leeds to play the humble Cockpit. By the time I saw The Dears in February 2005 I had already seen many, many gigs at The Cockpit of varying quality. Quite frankly though I have a great deal of affection for it, as a venue it is pretty rubbish. The acoustics have never been good and clarity of sound is often lost. You can appreciate therefore that although excited I was not expecting much of a show – how wrong I was. The Dears made most of the previous bands I had seen at the venue appear unimaginative and lazy as they transformed a mediocre venue into an atmospheric wall of sound and vision. The light show, smoke and compelling stage presence of all members of the band brought a new quality to the music and it stands alone as the most impressive gig I saw in Leeds during my time there.

The Killers
One of the great melancholic experiences of life is connecting with an artist only for the rest of the population to steal them away from you. It leads to the nauseating ‘I liked them before they went commercial’ attitude of which I confess to having lapsed into at times in my younger days. Massive success of a band can at times mean you lose that emotional bond you once shared – Arctic Monkeys and Kings of Leon are recent examples. Like a reluctant mother they fly the nest and never seem the same. On the flip side, it can be tremendously thrilling to see a band you first saw show raw potential climb the ladder to gain huge success without compromising their style. Pleasingly the latter scenario describes my experience of The Killers. I dragged my best mate along to see this band who I had heard a single track from late night on Radio 1 and we witnessed an exhilarating performance in a small venue. We both suspected this band were going places and so it turned out when just a year later we saw them steal the audience away from home favourites Franz Ferdinand at T in the Park in 2004. The coup de grace though was to see them just two years after seeing them in a small venue in Leeds play second on the bill with a triumphant set at Glastonbury. It was spectacular to see such a rise yet still feel that same electricity that I felt when I saw them for the first time. On a side note, this was also the last song at my wedding so it ranks pretty highly on the nostalgia scale. Enjoy!

Stevie Wonder

Guns N Roses
My final choice is a classic example of how anticipation and atmosphere can actually contribute to a performance. It would be ridiculous to claim that Guns N Roses of 2002 were anything close to the heady days of Slash in the late eighties. However for a group of lads from Kendal to actually see Axel Rose performing Guns N Roses songs live was something we never, ever expected. Even on the day itself the expectation was that they wouldn’t show and as we waited over an hour after The Prodigy it seemed that we would be disappointed. Even when the shady intro video came up still a further twenty minutes passed with nothing happening and spirits fell. The moment captured below when the intro to Welcome to the Jungle comes on and Axel emerges is the single most exciting moment I have ever experienced at a gig. The release of pure, unbridled joy as the realisation dawned that we were actually seeing Axel Rose singing Appetite for Destruction was almost too much to believe. On reflection they were most likely nowhere near their peak musically but it certainly didn’t matter that wet night in a field in Leeds.

That’s your lot. I’d love to know your own memories of great live moments.

Published in: on 28/11/2010 at 12:46 pm  Comments (4)  

>Mangan speaking

>Right only a short one today motivated by guilt over last week’s drought. I’m back at work before too long (boo!) so the pace will slow somewhat although I really will update regularly so don’t lose faith!

Today’s review is inspired by the wonderful Fuel Friends Blog who brought this artist to my attention. I’m streaming the album from here for this review but if I like it I’ll definitely be buying it. So far I’ve heard part of one song on Heather’s blog but will now have a listen to the entire album and let you know what I think. Really excited about this!

Nice, nice, very nice by Dan Mangan

The immediate thoughts when you listening to the start of the album opener ‘Road Regrets’ is Springsteen. This has been an exciting feeling I’ve had on many occasions but so often it fails to sustain or falls into Boss parody. In fairness sometimes it really does work; Sam’s Town by the Killers and Gaslight Anthem spring to mind. However in this case the Springsteen influence though continuing through the track does not overpower it and the song structure does not mimic that of Bruce which is a positive step. I wonder if Mangan is playing a game of spot the influence as the opening bars of Robots is pure Kinks yet to Mangan’s credit he again keeps this influence as an undercurrent rather than an overpowering element. Robots has a really enjoyable Sea Shanty feel which as a fan of Picaresque really works for me. It is a real clap your hands and stomp your feet moment and it is unfortunate Mangan hadn’t received recognition earlier as this style would have been extremely well received at this summer’s festivals given the rapturous response enjoyed by Mumford & Sons. I really like how the old fashioned music marries with the lyrical content of the need to maintain feeling in our gadget ridden world. There is a striking and endearing earthy quality to Mangan’s voice which provides a depth of sound whilst maintaining clear intonation allowing every lyric to be heard. As someone who enjoys uncovering the meaning of songs this is refreshing. An affectation Managan employs is disrupting or pausing the rhythm of the melody to integrate his vocal pattern. Those who enjoy Damien Rice and/or Bon Iver will be familiar with this technique. Overused this would fast become irritating but he manages to keep it just on the right side of endearing although he does push it close on the delightful Indie Queens Are Waiting. Some of these songs have that brilliant quality of feeling like you have loved them for years and I found myself happily singing along to Sold by the end of the three minutes; when you consider this is the first time I have heard the track it really speaks volumes about Mangan’s ability to craft an instantly memorable song. Probably my favourite track of the album is Et Les Mots Croisés; an absolutely charming ode to the miserable tales of heartbreak beloved by singer/songwriters the world over and lapped up by the likes of me. The first verse says it all:

I don’t want to be a pioneer
A singer sings a sad song when he’s sad
But honey all these years I’ve been upset
I’ve slowly turned the kind of blue that keeps your jeans dry

Now I don’t need to reinvent the wheel
The singer needs to feel like he’s been had
It’s all so sad
It’s all so sad

This isn’t genre bending, era defining music; it doesn’t need to be. This is a collection of classically simple songs beautifully written. There is filler here as with most albums but considering the high expectations I placed on this album based on one track it has delivered on every level. Thanks so much to Heather Browne for the tip and please check out this album for yourself.

Seven and a half out of ten.