A Not So silent Night
The McGarrigle Christmas at the Albert Hall
Attending the Wainwright family Christmas event at the Royal Albert Hall was a bit like opening a Christmas stocking full of old favourites and surprises. The Wainwright clan including Rufus and sister Martha, Kate and Anna McGarrigle plus partners cousins, aunts and chums like the Thompson family (sadly minus Teddy) assembled on stage with a mini orchestra in what is an annual event (last year it was at the Carnegie Hall). The choice of a London venue was probably largely due to Martha being heavily pregnant and over here doing the Piaf concerts. She has since given birth prematurely to a baby boy ’Arcangelo ’the fact of which was celebrated on stage. She said that they owed a big debt of gratitude to the NHS which prompted rapturous applause.
French and Saunders in Dickensian dress did the links between both segments of the concert. As they are now both retired as a double act this was a real treat as there may not be many more opportunities like this. Special guests were Guy Garvey from Elbow who did a Joni Mitchell anti-carol River and anger and led on Lennon’s Merry Xmas war is over which had the crowd on its feet linking arms and singing and swaying along. Boy George did a reggae version of White Christmas and we all tried to clear our heads of any possible drugs references! Rufus and Boy George also dueted on What are you doing New Year’s Eve? Rufus and Martha joined forces on Queen’s Thank God its Christmas and Martha went solo on Mary had a baby. Shouldn’t that have been Martha had a baby??? Ed Harcourt was another surprise guest joining Martha for A fairytale of New York which ended in all the family spontaneously pairing up and waltzing around the stage.
The second half seemed darker than the first and just as I was feeling that I had not had enough of a Rufus fix he came on and stunned to audience to silence with a rendition of Minuet Chrétien without microphone. He also dueted with Janis Kelly the lead Soprano in his opera on Christmas is for Kids. Being Rufus’s boyfriend is no reason to be left out so he was dragged up on stage to lead on Silent night in German and Blue Christmas. The Thompson family led by Kelly Thompson did Run Rudolf Run. Kate and Martha did A cherry tree Carol (Riverboat style). Kate on Piano talked endlessly to the audience and appeared endearingly eccentric.
All this an oh so much more****
On a miserable cold and wet December evening the last thing you want to do is leave the comfort of your living room but it was well worth it for this incredible Canadian band. Formed by members of Black Mountain the core of the band is Amber Webber and Joshua Wells joined live by, amongst others, Amber’s sister Ashley. Webber’s voice is a thing of beauty, but her extreme vibrato does take some getting used. It has great character and she has the ability to convey strong emotions, often with a sense of melancholy, to great effect. The songs that worked best live were the more simpler arrangements from the album, such as the stirring ‘History’ and the haunting ‘Never seen’. It was something of a shock when they did their only cover of the night ‘Wondering what everyone knows’. What most of us didn’t know, me included, was that the song was originally recorded by Budgie the 1970s Welsh heavy metal rockers. Although it seemed pretty clear that most of the audience were oblivious to who Budgie actually were. Is it time for a Budgie revival? Probably not. Some of the songs on the album with orchestral arrangements didn’t come across as well in the live setting. By far the best track on the album is ‘Take it home’. Live, however, it sounded almost colourless and ‘demo’ like without the strings. Perhaps one day they can perform with a full orchestra. I will definitely travel for that one. At the end of one of the songs a woman from the audience declared “Beautiful” and really that sums it up. Lightning Dust at Clwb Ifor Bach was beautiful, end of.
This was always going to be an event. It was John Cale, it was at the newly re-opened Coal Exchange and he was performing ‘Paris 1919’ in full. Add to that a sell out crowd, a 20 piece orchestra and it became one of, if not, the Welsh musical events of 2009.
The evening didn’t start very well as having taken our seats early at 7.15 pm we were told the performance wouldn’t be starting for another 90 minutes. Sitting tightly packed like sardines it did feel a bit like we had boarded a Ryan Air flight only to be told we were grounded pending clearance to leave. A minor gripe, but for future reference a support slot would have helped.
The album ‘Paris 1919’ was released in 1973 and was Cale’s take on a post WW1, Dadaist perspective of Western culture. The album featured most of Little Feat including Lowell George. It was received warmly by critics with Rolling Stone magazine going so far as to say; “as usual John Cale is several steps ahead of the times. It is up to us to catch up with him. Paris 1919 is a pop masterpiece.”
This wasn’t reflected in sales and the album has never had the recognition it deserves. So 36 years later now seems as good a time as any for us to appreciate just what a stunning album it is. Backed with 20 piece orchestra the songs sounded magnificent and if anything more melodic and impressive than on record. Hearing the songs again just makes you realise what a superb composer Cale is. The pastoral glow of ‘Child’s Christmas in Wales’ and the majestic beauty of ‘Andalucia’ are timeless. It was fascinating to watch the interplay between Cale and the musicians on stage. Presumably a lot of time effort and money went into this performance with the musicians, orchestrations and rehearsals. It was an investment that paid off big time.
After a short interval Cale returned with his band. Hearing a song like ‘Perfect’ from his last studio album ‘Black Acetate’ the sound seemed positively primitive and simplistic. However, this was the perfect counterpoint to ‘Paris 1919’. Almost like a sorbet between courses. Newer material followed which sounded fresh and very promising.
The final section of the evening saw a return of the orchestra for Cale’s adaptation of Dylan Thomas’ ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into the Night’ and a truly remarkable version of that lost classic ‘Hedda Gabler’. Suddenly a lone shout from the crowd of ‘VELVET UNDERGROUND!’ was heard. Was it a request? Was it a statement? Was it just to remind us of his history? It was met with silence and rightly so. Cale doesn’t need the legacy of the Velvets, as great as they were, to justify his place in musical history. He has forged his own path for the past 40 years and has always made music that has stretched, enthralled and at times frustrated his audience. Maybe it is only now we are beginning to realise his true worth.
This was a special night and one that will stay with me. It was too good not to share and a repeat performance in a venue such as the Festival Hall or WMC seems inevitable and more than justified.
Innerciy Pirates, Tiger Please, Hafaliadau=Equations
Blas is a new band night being run at St David’s Hall on a monthly basis. You don’t often see bands playing at this venue unless they are on the nostalgia circuit topping up their pension funds. So this is welcome addition to Cardiff’s live music scene and brings a breath of fresh air to the venue. The focus of BLAS is on local talent and giving young band’s a chance to perform widen their fan base and profile. If this night was anything to go by its going to be an eclectic mix. It seems to be early days for Hafaliadau=Equations and they need to work on their stage presence and vocals, but there is something there and it will be interesting to see how they develop over the next year or so. Next up were Tiger Please who were musically very proficient and if you like Muse they could be the new band for you. The lead’s singer’s stage banter was a bit annoying, but if this can be reigned in they could become a powerful live act. Last up were Innercity Pirates who have been around for a couple of years and have been getting some good attention in the press. Lead singer Russell Toomey is a ball of energy on stage and really engaged the audience from the start. They play a kind of fuzzed up indie disco power pop, but there is depth there and some well structured songs. I’m surprised on this showing they haven’t gone further by now - they would have gone down a storm at the SWN festival. Definitely one of my new favourite local bands. BLAS takes place again in February and is well worth going along to.
After much confusion over tickets I eventually managed to confirm that Jimmy Webb was actually visiting Roath and immediately snapped up a ticket. Opening was Romeo from the Magic Numbers which was an unexpected bonus. He gave a very listenable and accomplished rendition of old songs and some from the forthcoming Magic Numbers album. He also played with Jimmy’s Band adding to the seven musicians on stage. The line up was Jimmy Webb on piano and his three sons Chris, Justin, and Jamie on guitar and vocals plus Romeo on guitar, Glen Campbell’s son Cal on drums plus bass and slide guitar. They all seemed happy to be there for what is the opening night of their UK tour and chatted amiably with the audience. There was some banter between father and sons and a lot of interesting anecdotes about Richard Harris and others from the musical past. A short solo slot with just Jimmy talking and playing was very much welcomed Some of the songs were less familiar such as ‘Worst that could happen’, ‘P.F Sloan’, ‘If these walls could speak’ and ‘What does a woman see in a man’. There were also songs from his new album ‘Cottonwood Farm’. However, we did get all the classics: ‘Highwayman’, ‘Galveston’, ‘Wichita linesman’ and a ‘Macarthur Park’ of epic proportions to finish. The encore ‘Adios’ was a fitting farewell from all on stage. It felt quite emotional and it was a privilege to see the great man, at ease with life and gigging with his sons. A true craftsman at work
If you like finding new artists and are prepared to take a chance then SWN festival is for you. It is a hit and miss affair and at times it can feel like watching contestants in a school band contest. However, the good, excellent and at times downright brilliant far outweighs the not quite ready for public consumption. This year’s festival seemed a lot busier than last year’s and on several occasions I was unable to get into venues such as Clwb Ifor Bach as they were full to bursting. A bit frustrating but a good sign of growth.
Day one of the festival saw newsoundwales hosting an evening at the Gate Arts Centre. We couldn’t have asked for a better evening as the line up was probably our favourite of the festival. Post folk newcomers Hail! The Planes made a glorious racket and Don’t Move have a guitarist who packs so much into his playing with shifting styles its awe inspiring. Downstairs highlight was the Young Republic from Tennessee. High energy, full of control and twists and turns. One moment melodic, with majestic vocals and classical violin and the next letting rip with a barrage of distortion. The main room had the Irascibles a brand new band with some familiar faces featuring at least one member from the Young Marble Giants. Its early days but they sound like an indie power house trio to watch. Penarth’s Pete Lawrie has a major deal and you can understand why. Commercial, mellow tunes coming to a radio station near you soon. Finally we had The Wild Beasts who have travelled a long way in 2 years. Limbo Panto was good but nothing prepared us for their latest album Two Dancers which is already being hailed as one of the best albums of 2009. From the opening bars you could sense we were in the presence of greatness. The band somehow managed to reproduce the music on the album incredibly well. A sound that provides a rich foundation on which the band weave their hypnotic melodies. However, it is Hayden Thorpe that all eyes and ears are drawn to. He is charismatic and mesmerising with a voice that could calm any troubled or even wild beast. I wouldn’t be too surprised if the band are next in line to join the premier league alongside the likes of Radiohead and Coldplay in the next 18 months. Glorious.
Day two saw an evening of young acts at the Toucan Club. Ellie Makes Music seems impossibly self assured for someone who is only 15. However, she already has some fine material of her own and some inspired covers including Laura Marling. Give her a few years and a backing band and she could be down the road on the main stage at the Gate Arts Centre. Also on the bill that night was Denuo who confused me slightly as live he played some heartfelt, haunting Elliott Smith inspired songs unaccompanied that was very impressive. However, listening to his album on iTunes it sounded completely different which is a bit confusing.
Day three was spent at the newly nipped & tucked Chapter as it offered an impressive 10 hours of music. Allo Darlin kicked things off with some uplifting unpretentious indie pop. Their enthusiasm was genuinely infectious and songs such as ‘Dear Stephen Hawking’ & ‘Henry Rollins Don’t Dance’ are probably already number one in a parallel universe. Mitchell Museum were plugging their merchandise unashamedly during their set in order to get some money for the petrol back home to Glasgow. They make a racket that is a glorious controlled cacophony. Again it was great to see and hear a band genuinely enjoying making music for the sheer joy of it and hopefully getting a few quid in the process to fill up that old transit van for their homeward journey. By some bizarre programming fluke Leisure Society, one of the biggest bands at SWN, were put on in an old classroom at Chapter. This truly bizarre turn of events led to an intimate and sweaty atmosphere and without doubt it was the highlight of my festival. They are a band of consummate musicians playing some memorable tunes that will travel and last long into the future. You can see why they have already been up for an Ivor Novella award. In addition to the already classic sounding ‘Last of the Melting Snow’ & ‘A Matter of Time’ the band closed with a cover of Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’ which was pure genius. I left the classroom with a broad grin on my face – uplifting.
SWN has grown in its 3rd year to become one of the established highlight of the Welsh musical calendar and we can only start counting the days until SWN 2010 is upon us.
Having turned up at the Toucan club 10am prompt I had the honour of being the first recipient of a SWN wristband for 2009. In celebratory mood I went to the opening of the St David’s 2 centre followed by a visit to Pizza Express and a half ( or was it three quarters bottle of red wine) This all culminated very nicely on my way home with a visit to the National Museum to see The Victorian English Gentlemen’s Club. The band was set up in a circle facing inwards in one of the galleries, looking more like an installation than a band. They referenced a black and white print of a wedding party at Melrose Abbey Scotland taken by Roger Fenton as the reason for this choice of venue.
The write up next to the print refers to “Moments of stillness” Adam Taylor of the Band says their songs are “Songs after looking at a photograph” rather than inspired by same. The Band did half a dozen songs including ‘Mr Fenton’, ‘Burglars’ and the final song ‘Parrot’. This final number saw the two girls doing a bit of Jenny Hendrix rock chick stuff on knees in front of speakers. All in all it was very enjoyable and totally worked in the venue. More of the same please.
The Globe may be under threat of closure but it still remains a significant venue if you want to check out emerging artists from the local scene. This ‘Ruby Tuesday’ acoustic night showcased three female singer songwriters. Grace Hartrey, Jesse Morgan and Rachel Taylor Beales.
Grace who was first on stage is just 15 years old and hails from Dinas Powys. CD already in hand, playing a Tanglewood Guitar, influenced by the likes of Jack Johnson and Newton Faulkner and exuding a quiet confidence. She is definitely one to watch.
Second on was Jesse Morgan who played a selection of songs from her soon to be released CD with stand out songs such as ‘New York’ & ‘Angel’. She also entertained with a clever mash up of Bowie’s ‘Lets Dance’ with the more contemporary Lady Gaga tune, and followed this with Queen’s ‘I want to break free’ complete with kazoo solo in the middle. It seemed that Jess was responding to being on the bigger stage and her voice was strong and her personality shone through. Some of the lyrics are personal and on occasion political and it was an accomplished, passionate performance from an up and coming artist who deserves wider recognition
Headlining was Rachel Taylor Beales who has been gigging since 1994 and appears to have done a lot of globe trotting over the years. She is however currently resident in Cardiff and producing the third CD of her ‘Colours Trilogy’. Rachel plays with a Band which includes her partner Bill Taylor Beales who provided video images to compliment the music. Her music is difficult to categorise, but I will have a go “Quirky, dreamy, folksy, a bit experimental and almost straying into performance art.”
All in all a good evening and pleasing to see that The Globe continues to showcase emerging local talent of a high standard
It’s difficult to categorise or describe the music that this 7 piece band perform. It is an amalgam of orchestral, ambient and rock. Almost like an animated Sigur Ros. Efterklang live was quite different to their recorded output being far more visceral and at times explosive with the musicians layering complicated rhythms and melodies over dual drum kits. Material was old and new featuring songs from their most recent studio album ‘Parade’ alongside new material which if anything sounds more orthodox and accessible. The cumulative effect after an hour or so was mesmerising. The band recently signed to 4AD in the UK and has a new album out early in 2010. They will also be appearing at the Barbican in October with the Britten Sinfonia orchestra.
Alela Diane @
After several appearances at the Green Man festival Alela told the audience that the experience has left her feeling that Wales is a magical place. After this performance it would seem that this feeling of magic between Alela and Wales is reciprocal. Backed by full band featuring her father Tom Menig and current boyfriend (I think??) Tom Bevitori - who has to be the coolest bass player I have seen in years. The Gate is a slightly awkward venue in that people tend to sit around the edge leaving the main floor empty and thus creating a huge gulf between artist and audience. This caused a few problems for the excellent support act Laura Gibson. However, by the time Alela appeared the audience had grown in number and this area was sprinkled with people lounging on cushions. The set focussed mainly on songs from her recent album alongside a few new songs that sound equally good. Songs such as ‘To be Still’ and ‘Lady divine’ were simply stunning and as good if not better than the recorded versions. With an appearance on the new series of ‘Later’ and no doubt the inclusion of ‘To Be Still’ on the end of year best album lists Alela Diane is on the verge of achieving the recognition she deserves.
The festival took place over two days in Pontypridd and Porthcawl - hence the title ‘Across the Broders’. Putting on events of this nature takes a lot of work, planning, effort and presumably finance. Hats off to the organisers including ‘Gathered in Song’ for pulling it off. Gigs outside of Cardiff for anything other than Led Zep tribute bands are notoriously difficult to get a half decent turn out (Devon Sproule in Ponty earlier this year had an audience of about 30). So it was re-assuring to see the crowd out at the Grand Pavilion.
Domino recording artist Adem was a man alone on a big stage in a very large theatre and certainly managed to get the audience’s attention. There was a hushed silence which made eating my packet of quavers a tricky task without incurring the wrath of checked shirt brigade. Think Drive By Truckers meet Bill Callaghan and it might give you some idea of Jason Molina’s band Magnolia Electric Co. After Adem’s hushed tones they really cranked things up to a higher, louder level. Songs of love, pain and heartbreak with a southern fried sound that struck at the core. Headliners for the evening were ‘veterans’ Vetiver. Four albums in and over 5 years of touring have given them the ability to make their playing seem effortless. They also have a fine back catalogue to draw from and as well as recent songs such as ‘Everyday’ and ‘Rolling sea’ they also played a storming version of the Bobby Charles song ‘I must be in a good place now’ and a truly stunning version of ‘You may be blue’.
Across the Borders was a resounding success and will hopefully become an annual event maybe next year spreading across a few more borders such as the Vale of Glamorgan and Pembrokeshire?!
Support came from the Muscle Club from Cardiff who from the sound of them have clearly been influenced by the Smiths. They have an EP ‘Fragmented Ideas from young lungs’ and a 7inch “Hail Joe Hale”. They will be promoting this at Clwb Ifor Bach with Good Shoes December 3rd and are definitely worth checking out.
This was a rare treat so see an artist like Jamie T at such an intimate venue and it was packed to the rafters and the joint was jumping. It was like being in a sauna with the heat generated by a very enthusiastic fan base. Jamie has lots of energy and is a real crowd pleaser. Security seemed a little concerned when he jumped into the crowd, one or two people got on stage and the crowd surfing started. However, there was no edge to it just fans enjoying the music and singing and dancing along. He played a mixture of old and new including so some reason Lay Lady Lay. It didn’t feel like a gig simply to promote the new album Kings and Queens it was more of an event for fans who were singing along to old favourites and feeling connected to what was being delivered on stage. Dripping with sweat he gave us his all.
Peter Broderick goes down a storm at Green Man
A long time ago I was standing in a field rain dripping down my neck and I pretty much decided that standing knee-deep in mud, crowded out and queuing for food, drink and toilets was not for me. However, five years ago I decided to give it another go and it paid off big time. The Green Man Festival is just about as perfect as you can get; its in Wales, relatively small, attracts a great crowd who are there for the music not just to get shit-faced and the line up is eclectic, high quality and authentic.
The festival had many highlights over the Saturday and Sunday (I missed the first day due to a family funeral). Leisure Society went down surprisingly well on the main stage with their finely tuned melodic pop and their cover of Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’ was a real gem. Proving the festival is not just about folk music Unicorn Kid got the outdoor crowd thinking they were in a techno club with his ridiculously addictive dance beats. The Saturday night main stage belonged to Bon Iver and despite the lack of new material he has the ability to hold a large crowd with his fragile and intimate music remarkably well. Disappointment of the day was Jarvis Cocker, largely due to his inane and largely unfunny banter between songs and the fact that he was sticking to his below average solo material. You just sensed if he had dropped in one or two Pulp classics and maybe a cover or two he would have had the crowd behind him. By the end of his set a significant number had drifted away and those remaining seemed subdued and unenthusiastic. A muddy sound didn’t help his case either.
Sunday began with the Fuzzbirds, a promising band from Barry who, with a bit of work on their vocals, could be around for a while. Cardiff’s Right Hand Left Hand went down well with their looped metal beats and Rodriguez’ mellow grooves on the main stage made you wonder how someone this talented could disappear only to be found working on a building site nearly 40 years later. Standout for the final day was Amorphous Androgynous ft Alisha Sufit. Their brand of psychedelic, dance infused anthems really finished off the festival in fine form and probably should have been on the main stage.
The real stand out success of the festival was Peter Broderick, an artist we have featured before. His set in the Far Out stage was awe inspiring and seemingly effortless. His use of numerous instruments and loops can be perceived by some as ‘showing off’. However, what lies beneath it all is an absolute gift of melody and musicality. Again another artist that really deserved the main stage.
The Phantom Band
The Green Man festival has now come of age and established itself as not only the best music festival in Wales, but arguably one of the best in the UK.
New Sound Wales was pleased to attend the launch at the Globe on August 6th of the first CD by Jonathan Powell entitled “Forgive this day”. Jonathan Powell is a 22 year old singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Canton, Cardiff. He is also classically trained to play Viola and studied at the Royal Academy of Music. Work started on the album in 2008 with local producer Gethin John with whom he also set up the record company “Still Small Voice” (One of the intentions being to provide a platform for artists on the Cardiff music scene). A visit to www.myspace/jonathanpowellmusic confirms his diverse influences ranging from Elbow, Sufjan Stevens, a dash of Jeff Buckley and even Jack Johnson.
The Globe was packed for the launch with friends and fans alike. There were two sets: the first with the Band opened with the opening song on the CD “Unforgiven Days” and featured Jonathan on the Viola .Other tracks included were the single” Twilight Boy”, “Soho Stockholm” and the final track on the album “Lament on Pen y Bont” although heat in the venue made it impossible to tune the viola and so the song had to be abandoned.
The second set was acoustic with Jonathan on Guitar although he was joined by Robbie William Moore on Keyboards for two numbers. Songs included “The year that we spent playing in the snow” – a favourite of ours. He also included a new song not on the CD and ended with “Nicole”
All in all it was a very impressive debut indicating that Jonathan Powell is one to watch; an accomplished musician with serious ambition. On this showing Jonathan has indeed nothing to forgive. He begins a short tour in September/October. The Album is out now and available from Spillers and at www.stillsmallvoicemusic.com
You don’t expect much from a 17 year old first on at an acoustic evening of local talent, but Harry Franklin Williams blew the early bird audience away with his natural charm, relaxed manner. He has a fine voice and an impressive collection of songs that sound mature beyond his years. Songs such as ‘One last ticket’ are full of strong melodies and poignant lyrics. If he can keep developing at this rate then he could be a real one to watch for the future. It can’t be long before majors start sniffing around looking for an artist to develop. We were so impressed we are featuring Harry as our new artist for August.
Ruby Tuesday at the Globe are fast becoming a focus for all that is best about acoustic music in South Wales. This evening was no exception with 3 great artists and Colum Regan topping the bill – all for £3 a bargain! Originally from Cork in Ireland he has been in the UK for the last 6 years originally playing with the band New Druids. In addition to this he has worked with Keith Allen on his touring production of Glastonbury and various educational projects. Colum’s band included viola, percussion, sitar and something called a ‘goujon’. These instruments were used well and helped add colour to Regan’s powerful and passionate songs the best of which included ‘Anywhere on this road’, ‘Life is easy’ and ‘Lifeboat’. The use of a music stand for the lyrics was a bit off putting, but that aside it was a fine performance from a highly accomplished songwriter.
Music at these sort of events is a bit like doing the ubiquitous lucky dip – all good natured and you take part knowing what you end up with is not much cop, but it is for a good cause so you take part anyway. It was therefore a pleasant surprise when the music during the afternoon wasn’t half bad with some youthful enthusiasm from the likes of Los Ninos and some good no nonsense rock from the Silverbacks. However, the surprise draw in this festival’s lucky dip was Jessica Morgan. In addition to a couple of crowd pleasing cover versions, including an inspired mash up of Bowie and Lady Gaga’s ‘Let’s Dance’, it was her own compositions such as ‘New York’ and ‘So What’ that really shone. These are powerful and deeply personal songs that draw on her experience and they really connected with the crowd. Her new album is due for release soon and is worth seeking out when it appears.
A seemingly accidental amalgam of different bands and happy accidents seemed to have lead to Cakehole Presley moving from mere side project to a full blown band with a ridiculously large number of catchy memorable songs. One moment sounding like a 1940s music hall act with ‘Grab a Rock’ the next pulling at the heart strings with ‘Sweet Dreams’. A song that will move you to tears with its bittersweet, regretful lyric. Chris and Mark lead proceedings, but Cakehole Presley are a solid band and put on a blinder of a show that went down really well on this hot summer’s night at the Globe. If they don’t achieve at least the modicum of success they have worked so hard for over several decades it will be something of a tragedy.
Tonight was evidence, if you needed it, that South Wales has a thriving live music scene. Mr Hudson was sold out at the Barfly, Misty’s Big Adventure were doing there magical psychedelic pop at Buffalo and a few miles away Billy Bragg was re-awakening memories of the miners strike in Blaenavon. The Globe was host to a near capacity crowd with King Creosote and various members of the Fence Collective.
Kenny Anderson aka King Creosote has been making music in various guises for over ten years and has released 40 plus albums. Despite this he remains something of an underground hero and long may he remain so. He sings deeply emotional songs one moment which touch your soul with their honesty and melodic beauty and then follow this by singing a ludicrous and ridiculously amusing song such as ‘La di Dah’ about one man’s rather large appendage. You suspect that if this was ever released as a single it would quite possibly repeat the success of Chuck Berry’s ‘My Ding-a-ling’ but then again it would probably backfire making him a one hit wonder and haunt him ever after.
What makes King Creosote so good live is the sheer quantity and quality of his songs together with his innate ability to engender rapport with the audience. The reception he got by the end of the gig seemed something of a surprise to him, but came as no surprise to those of us who had been there. If I had been in doubt about which gig to go to tonight the decision to opt for the Globe had been the right one without a doubt.
SFA announced these gigs with very short notice to act as a warm up for their forthcoming festival dates. The purpose seems to have been threefold; a chance for the band to get warmed up playing live again, play all the songs from the new album to see which work best and finally to give their loyal fans a hometown treat.
The new songs from the excellent Dark Days/Light Years went down uniformly well and the standouts were ‘MT’, ‘White Socks/Flip Flops’ , ‘The Very Best of Neil Diamond’ and most of all ‘Cardiff in the Sun’ which worked better live than I thought. It already sounds like one of those songs that will be as impressive in 10 years time as it is today.
There were a few technical problems with feedback, but by all accounts not as much from the first night. The crowd was rewarded with the encores with a series of furry evergreens such as ‘Juxtaposed’ and the rabble rousing classic ‘The Man don’t give a Fuck’.
With a bit of fine tuning the band look set for a fabulous summer of festivals ahead of them.
Teitur is relatively new to this country mostly due to the fact that only one if his 4 albums has been released here so far. His lack of profile here may account for the modest turn out. Those of you who didn’t make it will be cursing yourselves in years to come as this was a magnificent evening with 3 varied artists each destined for longevity and recognition.
Bow are a brand new outfit fronted by Robert Bowman from Wiltshire. Major record deal in hand these shows seem to be a chance for the band to find their feet and get experience of live audiences. Their music is in the Snow Patrol, Keane territory but don’t let that put you off. Bowman is a charismatic front man and the band already has a healthy set list of emotionally charged indie pop. You’ll be seeing this band at the CIA within 2 years I suspect. Remember you (probably) read about them here first!
Sweet Baboo goes electric – kind of. On this occasion Steve was augmented by drums and some excellent double bass playing which really lifted his songs adding colour and depth. New songs from his forthcoming album sound on form with themes about being hard up and Bernadette the cat. If Joan Baez and Ivor Cutler had born a secret love child it would have been Sweet Baboo.
The final act of the evening was Teitur who began by singing solo with some heartfelt folk songs which were powerful and effective. Once the band emerged most of the material was taken from his latest album the somewhat overlooked ‘Singer’. Teitur is passionate, but in a very quiet and reserved manner. He sings about episodes from his life and these combined to give the performance a very intimate feel and you could hear a pin drop from the audience throughout. Teitur’s music is not instant and requires a bit of time and effort to be fully appreciated. I suspect given time and more exposure Teitur’s music will eventually be more widely recognised for its beauty, depth and quality.
(Set list included: You should have seen us, We still drink the same water, The girl I don’t know, Catherine the waitress, Don’t let me fall in love with you, Tokspor, Louis Louis & the Singer)
There are 10 of them and they make big noise. Massive dub beats, a drummer who switches easily from military precision to the hardest of rock, keyboards & electronics which create an ever-shifting soundscape, a brass section as mean or moody as you like and a guitarist with the bell-like clarity usually only heard on music from Africa. But, at the heart of everything, traditional Scottish instruments - bagpipes, flutes, whistles and fiddles.
It seems that the Peatbog Faeries are prepared to try anything and if it dances, they will give it a go. Traditional jigs, jazz, Afro, techno, heavy rock and even 70s disco-funk. Other ‘fusion’ groups may borrow just as freely but what makes the Faeries special is – they know what works. They can even do atmospheric when the pace needs to slow down a bit and ‘Wacko King Hako’, about a terrible13th Century Norse raid on Skye, was huge and sinister.
Review by Rob Richards
It took nearly 30 years for Dylan to play Cardiff again after his 1966 performance and since 1995 he has played here several times. One thing is clear and that is that Dylan doesn’t set out to entertain his audience or pander to the desire to hear a greatest hits show. He is after all an ‘artist’. In recent years this has lead to performances where well known songs were barely recognisable. Luckily on this occasion Dylan had a fantastic band and performed 17 songs covering the whole range of his near 50 year career.
Things kicked off in fine fashion with Dylan looking dapper dressed in Panama hat and blazer positioned at the side of the stage on keyboards with the remainder of the band facing him looking for cues and general direction. “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” was a good start with more or less in its original form and was followed by a glorious “Mr Tambourine Man”. You sensed he was in a good mood and wanted to have fun and who wouldn’t with a band of this calibre.
On record Bob’s voice has seemed gnarled and increasingly like a lion’s roar in recent years. However, on this evidence his voice isn’t shot and at times it sounded as good as it did 30 years ago.
Highlights from the set were ‘Masters of War’ reborn for 2009 with electric backing and unfortunately as relevant today as it was 40 years ago. It was also the first performance of this song in the UK on this tour so Cardiff got lucky with that one. The encore performance of “All Along the Watchtower” was more or less the Hendrix version and if the great axe man is listening in some far away place he could have no greater tribute than hearing the composer of the song performing a barnstorming performance of his arrangement of the song.
There were some low points with ‘Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum (is this the worst song he has ever written?) and at times his keyboard sounded more like Jess Yates than Al Kooper. He also failed to perform any songs from his excellent new album released the day before – only Dylan would do that! Oh and of course it was at the arena – quite possibly the worst venue in Wales.
These are minor quibbles, overall it was something of a triumph and restored some of the faith and enthusiasm you sensed some of his followers had struggled to maintain over the preceding decades.
Set list: Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, Mr Tambourine Man, Lonesome Day Blues, Under the Red Sky, Rollin & Tumbling, John Brown, Stuck Inside the Memphis Mobile Blues Again, Tangled Up In Blue, Tweedle Dee, Masters of War, Highway 61, Nettie Moore, Thunder on the Mountain, Like a Rolling Stone.
Encores – All along the Watchtower, Spirit on the Water, Blowin’ in the wind.
Support for the Rumble Strips came from Cardiff’s own Muscle Club and a solo performance by Eugene McGuinness. Muscle Club came on with a vibrant hi-energy onslaught reminiscent of Los Campesinos at their best. The band is very tight and have a good selection of catchy songs such as ‘Hail Joe Hail’ and ‘Feel don’t theorise’. They are well worth checking out.
Last time we saw Eugene McGuinness was at the 2008 SWN festival when he gave one of the performances of the weekend complete with full band. On this occasion, solo acoustic guitar in hand sandwiched between 2 loud and fast bands he didn’t get the crowd reaction he deserved. He played a small selection of songs from his recent album plus a cover of ‘Ask’ by the Smiths. It was still a great performance by one of the UK’s brightest hopes.
With a new album due in June produced by Mark Ronson the buzz around this band is growing and should see them catapulted to more widespread attention. With a sound reminiscent of peak time Dexy’s Midnight Runners the band launched into ‘London’ which you should expect to become part of your soundtrack to Summer 2009. Other new songs such as ‘Daniel’ and ‘Walk alone’ show that they have matured as songwriters.
Front man Charlie Waller is wide eyed, charismatic and provides the perfect delivery for the band’s material. Reassuringly for the band the new material went down as well as their seasoned favourites such as ‘Alarm clock’.
The virtually full Clwb Ifor Bach crowd were jumping for joy by the end and with that kind of crowd reaction they could be the surprise hit of the forthcoming festival season.
(set list: London, B.Bone, Time, Only P, Walk alone, No soul, Douglas, Motorcycle, Dem girls, Hands, Clouds, Daniel, Girls & boys)
I first saw Jimi perform at a small intimate session with about 20 people in Space Studios last year. On that occasion unplugged and accompanied only by Lucy on cello it was intense, almost uncomfortably so. On this occasion he was with the full band and what a glorious sound they make. Jimi sings with great passion and emotion, usually with his eyes closed, buried deep in the meaning of each song. If there are influences then Neil Young & Crazy Horse are in there somewhere and his spiritual home is probably somewhere on the West coast of America.
The band is tight with some great guitar interplay and the combination of cello and violin gives the sound an extra pallet to draw from. The stand out songs were the future classic ‘Queen of Denmark’, a glorious up tempo song ‘Southern down’ and ‘Burn a little brighter’.
The audience seemed to drift away slightly mid set. However, by the final songs Jimi really began to let go which brought the set to a climactic end.
A great band, fantastic singer and a fine collection of songs. With a CD due out in May I would be very surprised if Jimi Alexander & the Satellites aren’t making a name for themselves throughout the UK by the end of the year.
Alexander the Great indeed!
(Set list: Brooklyn French, Queen of Denmark, Held in my arms, Wayward soul, New York City never came, Southern down, Burn a little brighter, Baby don’t)
When Gareth Pearson appeared at the globe ‘with friends’ we thought the friends were so good they deserved their own review.
First up was the Danny & Jo Show a perfectly matched duo who show great promise. We have been unable to find out any info on the band so if you read this please get in touch.
Katlow is from Blackpool and if you can imagine the Arctic Monkeys had gender re-assignment surgery and went acoustic you kind of get what she sounds like. Highlight of her set was a nineties medley in which she managed to cram about 50 songs into 3 minutes – very impressive.
When it comes to musical exports Newport has a reputation for metal and all things high energy with the likes of Feeder. However, with the emergence of Ffred Jones and now Benjamin Squibbs it looks like Newport is beginning to produce acoustic performers of an equally high standard. His myspace describes him as a singer songwriter who writes songs about big cities, worldwide tragedies, being fed up with the American government and lost love. Probably his best song of the night was “Why so serious” during which he encouraged a mass sing along. His set also included an inspired cover of Sinead O’Connor’s “Black boys on mopeds” which reminded us all just what a great songwriter she is. It would be good to hear Benjamin perform with a band behind him in due course. Overall he is an exciting prospect and we will be featuring him as new artist of the month in April.
There are often pivotal moments in the careers of musicians which become a turning point; a seed change after which nothing is the same again. Gareth has been supporting artist such as Ray Davies, Jan Akkerman and Tommy Emmanuel for the last few years. However, this was his first headline gig in Cardiff and it became the moment his apprenticeship ended and his headline career took off. It was indeed a pivotal moment.
If you have ever tried learning guitar you watch Gareth play with a mixture of awe, wonder and envy. It is something of a miracle to me just how any human can play with such dexterity and beauty. How he has achieved this at the tender age of 20 is almost beyond comprehension.
The set included some brilliant cover versions such as Weezer’s “Buddy Holly”, MGMT’s “Time to pretend” and a truly inspired cover of “Billie Jean” in which he managed to somehow play all the key instrumental parts from the record on just one guitar. Apart from blowing us all away he also kept us entertained with witty repartee even demonstrating a moonwalk and the splits upon request. He also included some of his own compositions such as “The beauty of discipline” and “Trails of M&M’s” which already sound like standards.
This gig was a triumph and Gareth Pearson is now set to become a key player in the Welsh music scene and will no doubt inspire a generation of young guitarist in the process. A Welsh Jerry Reed for the 21st century.
The purpose of our second visit to Cardiff’s charming and intimate Globe was to witness, for the first time, Colin Blunstone singing as a solo artist with his ‘All Star’ group. I have seen Colin sing with former Zombies, Rod Argent, but I was especially keen to hear him sing solo some of those special songs from the classic early seventies LPs, One Year, Ennismore and Journey. And, as expected, the 130 mile roundtrip was very much worthwhile.
It was a thrill to hear Colin’s voice still sounding so strong and emotive as they launched into the set with Turn Your Heart Around. It was also exciting to see that Keith Airey was the guitarist of choice and his playing, as always, was innovative, concise and personal (complete with SRV signature guitar). The audience first became involved when Colin sang the Motown hit What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted which led nicely into the superb Caroline Goodbye - the second song he had ever written. He wisely advised budding young songwriters to think carefully about including real names in song titles because of possible break-ups and their repercussions! The group went on to perform several tunes from the new Blunstone release The Ghost of You and Me before closing the first set with a stunning Say You Don’t Mind, surely Denny Laine’s finest moment as a songwriter.
The second set began with an amazing trilogy from 1974’s Journey, ending with the breathy love song (Let’s) Keep the Curtains Closed Today (a romantic sentiment and not a worry that the bailiff or Inland Revenue might be dropping by). Andorra sounded impressively close to the record and the group (with Keith on lovely Spanish guitar) then played Tim Hardin’s Misty Roses. Our host then sang his favourite tune from his recordings with The Alan Parsons Project (Old and Wise) and the set ended with a rousing singalong version of The Zombies 1964 hit She’s Not There. The five musicians couldn’t be allowed to leave the stage without playing Russ Ballard’s I Don’t Believe in Miracles. Women swooned, grown men (nearly) cried and drum machines, I-pods and mobile phones seemed quite irrelevant.
And so ended a beautiful evening with one of the finest singers of his generation, four fantastic musicians and a smashing bunch of warm-hearted and sincere punters.
Turn Your Heart Around/Levi Stubbs Tears/Oxygen/What Becomes of the Broken Hearted/Caroline Goodbye/ The Ghost of You and Me/ Miles Away/ Say You Don’t Mind. Wonderful/ Beginning/ Keep the Curtains Closed Today/ Andorra/ Follow/ She Loves The Way They Love Her/ Misty Roses/ Any Other Way/ Old and Wise/ She’s Not There/ I Don’t Believe In Miracles
Last time I saw Sweet Baboo was in the Glo bar. I didn’t expect his meteoric rise to global stardom would result in a gig at the 70,000 capacity stadium for at least a few more years!
This was actually part of a nationwide event called ‘24 Fragments’ modelled on the firing of the human brains neurons. Well yes go figure! Anyway on a spring like February afternoon it was actually really good fun. I had no idea what to expect and neither did the Threatmantics by the sound of it as they had been led to believe there would probably only be about 4 people there. As it turned out there was a respectable crowd of around 100 and Sweet Baboo seemed perfectly at home serenading us from the terraces. Maybe he should be drafted in for the next international match. Unplugged his voice was projected well and his new songs just get better and better.
The Threatmantics are more used to being ‘plugged’ and it showed in the vocal delivery. Nonetheless it was a novel experience and maybe the stadium should think about low key gigs like this more often. It certainly beats doing battle with the shoppers on Queen Street on Saturday afternoon.
Aberystwyth’s Coffeebar Music have relocated to Cardiff and on the strength of this evening Aber’s loss is Cardiff’s gain.
On the coffee theme let’s say Pippa Rogers and the Ricochet would be a cappuccino; smooth and likely to have a broad appeal. Pippa is a classy singer who has already begun to make a name for herself in and around Cardiff. The acoustics of the room were not great for this type of jazzy/acoustic music and with a lively and chatty crowd it was hard sometimes to concentrate on the band. “Oi you at the back pipe down for Pippa!” The band’s EP ‘Sooner or now’ recorded at Space Studios is available at iTunes and is definitely recommended.
I have seen The New Tea Party before at last year’s SWN festival and I must admit I hadn’t found them particularly memorable, maybe just a café latte. However, on this showing they have certainly gained in confidence. The vocals were a bit ragged which I guess matches their DIY ethos and has a certain charm. If they can write a few more songs such as the excellent ‘Punctuality is the thief of time’ they will definitely be going places. Maybe café latte with a vanilla shot.
No question who the stars were tonight. Introduced as the 4th best band in Wales Short Man Syndrome came on complete with shades and a drummer in a spaceman’s helmet! This seemed a bit contrived however, once things settled down and the helmet was removed things kicked off. If they were a coffee they would be a pint of espresso with a triple shot of Jack Daniels. The band are tight, energetic with good interplay between the guitarists. They have some cracking songs which are much better live than the studio versions on their myspace page. Possibly not the 4th best band in Wales yet but put them in a studio with a good producer and I wouldn’t be too surprised if they were climbing up the top 10 over the next 18 months.
The last time Peter was due to appear in Cardiff with Efterklang he was unable to make it as he had been deported for work permit violations. So it was fortunate on this occasion that despite the wintry weather and the Severn Bridge being closed for part of the day he managed to reach Cardiff unscathed.
We met up with Peter before the gig and you can read about that encounter in the interview section. Needless to say he was genuinely warm and friendly and seemed totally engrossed in the joy of creating and performing music.
I had seen The Gentle Good last year for his album launch at the Norwegian Church and on that occasion he seemed nervous and this affected his playing. However, tonight he was relaxed and on top form. The album has been well received and featured on the Bob Harris show so his profile is definitely on the ascendancy.
I guess it shouldn’t have come as much of a shock that multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick performed alone with only the aid of tape loops to build backing for his songs. He was hard to see for most of the audience and when he was seated very few of us could see him – luckily being rather vertically challenged I was able to stand on a chair. However, even if you had trouble seeing him you couldn’t fail to hear his immaculate performance. Most of the material was from his recent 5 star CD ‘Home’ with songs such as “Below it” and “Not at home” being some of the highlights. He also featured a song written by his Father.
Much of the time he was moving from instrument to instrument building his own backing which he then sang along to. This could have been distracting, but he did it with great ease and managed to create a magnificent sound scape in the process. He even got the crowd to sing along to a song from a Swedish film soundtrack at one stage!
No doubt Peter will be back and a venue such as the Globe or the Point would be ideal. I for one will be head of the cue to buy tickets when he does.
Its not every day you get to hear a musician sing something from Richard the 1st’s back catalogue, but if they are referencing 1000 years of popular music as part of a concert tour that is both absorbing and entertaining, and are called Richard Thompson then you might expect that, and a lot more besides.
Richard Thompson has teamed up with Judith Owen vocals and keyboard and Debra Dobkin vocals and percussion. Owen is originally from Wales and is daughter of opera singer Handel Owen and has made a home and a considerable name for herself in America. Dobkin has played with the likes of Marianne Faithfull and David Crosby. Together they took us on a journey from the Ballads of the Middle ages via the troubled times of the industrial revolution and romance of the roarin’ 30’s and 40’s to the beginnings of popular music as we now know it.
The second half of the evening focused exclusively on the 20th century and encompassed songs by Julie London, Hank Williams, Noel Coward, Gilbert and Sullivan, the Kinks, Abba, and Nelly Furtado, and finished with an encore that included a medley of Beatles songs.
At times it did seem a bit of a rush through the ages, but then 1000 years is a lot to cover in 2 hours! It would also appear that the 1990s have been wiped from Thompson’s musical history of the 20th century (hey what about Blur, Radiohead, Nirvana?!!?).
Overall it was a flawless performance and Thompson’s virtuoso guitar playing was a wonder to behold. All in all a thoroughly informative and entertaining evening.
If push came to shove and I was asked to name the best gig I have ever experienced then Grace Jones’ One Man Show in London in the early 1980s would certainly be vying for top spot. On that occasion she was simply stunning with an incredible show choreographed to perfection and with a faultless performance. This together with classic albums such as ‘Night clubbin’ & ‘Warm Leatherette’ secured her place in history. That seemed to be the end of the story with Grace having all but disappeared from recording and full live performances. That all changed last year with her appearance at Meltdown and a new album ‘Hurricane’ which more or less matches the standard of her early 1980s output. After all that time away it was going to be interesting to see how things had changed in the world of Ms Jones.
After the obligatory 30 minute delay tension mounted as it became clear something was happening at the back of the stage behind the curtain. Then all was revealed with Grace looking resplendent on top of a raised platform. It was definitely ‘Showtime!
The material covered was basically her greatest hits collection plus Hurricane with new track ‘Williams Blood’ getting one of the loudest cheers of the evening. Tracks such as ‘Demolition Man’ and ‘Libertango’ sounded as fresh and vibrant as they did all those years ago.
One slightly irritating factor was that Grace insisted on going off at the end of every song to change her costume during which time she left her mike on. She gave a running commentary with double entendres galore about what was actually happening back stage. This was amusing at first but wore thin after the 5th or 6th time. She would probably have been better served with less costume changes and more time spent building rapport with the audience.
All it took, however, was a request that we got up out of our seats for ‘Pull up to the bumper’ and all hell broke loose. Suddenly it was as though the spirit of Studio 54 or the Paradise Garage had been invoked and literally a ton of confetti descended on the audience (thankfully I didn’t have the task of clearing up afterwards) and a crowd of revellers were allowed on stage to get on down with Grace. That was the moment the concert really took off and it was a shame it was towards the end of the evening. Encores continued with Grace managing to keep her hula hoop spinning throughout ‘Slave to the Rhythm’ and then a stunning piece of theatre for ‘Hurricane’ which involved Grace fighting against the current from a huge fan whilst wearing a billowing black outfit. Simple, but brilliantly effective.
This wasn’t the cold distant ice queen Grace from 1981 this was a mellowed, warm and more chilled out performer who seems revitalized and it certainly makes you wonder why she has been way so long. Hopefully she won’t wait another 27 years before she tours again and if she comes to a venue near you beg, borrow or do what you need to do to be there.
Teddy Thompson supported by Tift Merritt
The opening act Tift Merritt was a new one on me, but she made a great impression. Being an American in Cardiff on inauguration day her mind was clearly on the historic activities happening back at home. In fact she told us she couldn’t stop thinking about President Obama. She sang for him at a rally in 2008 and the jacket she was wearing had been touched by him – needless to say it will be never be washed again! Clearly some of the audience had come specifically to see her and left after she had finished. She has a good collection of fairly traditional country/folk songs and a fine voice. On this showing I suspect it won’t be long before she is back on these shores with full band in tow. Definitely recommended you go and see her next time she comes to Wales.
Teddy Thompson has been recording and performing for over ten years now and has produced 4 studio albums. At the age of 32 he seems to be finally beginning to enjoy himself onstage or maybe its just we as the audience have learnt to finally appreciate where he is coming from.
Having seen him before on several occasions there has been a progression both in terms of audience size, his repertoire of great songs and his overall standard of performance. His humour is beyond dry and on first encounter he seems to have a nonchalant, self-deprecating manner that is off putting. This was exemplified when he read out a birthday request from the audience. Having wished the lucky lady happy birthday he suggested this wasn’t necessarily the best place to come and celebrate your birthday and then launched into another fairly downbeat love song.
Musically it was a fine performance from Teddy and his band. Nothing to tingle the spine but solid and effective. There is no denying that he has some great songs including one or two that may well become classics such as “I wish it was over” and “In my arms”from his latest and most commercial album to date.
When he first started out his friend Rufus Wainwright was usually described as being ‘son of Loudon’. The tables have now turned and invariably Loudon is described as the ‘father of Rufus. I somehow don’t think we will see the same with Teddy Thompson. However, through hard work and perseverance he has carved out a niche for himself and has a respectable catalogue of songs which should be enough to make Richard & Linda Thompson proud parents indeed.
[Setlist: Can’t sing straight, Jonathan’s book, Don’t know what I was thinking, The things I do, Slippery slope, Thanks a lot, I wish it was over, What’s this, Everybody move it, Tonight will be fine, That’s enough of you, A piece of what you need, Turning the gun on myself, Where to go from here, One of these days, Price of love, In my arms.]
This was my first visit to the Globe, former Cardiff cinema on Albany Road, and what a great new venue it is. Like yours truly it is small, but is perfectly formed. Just the right size for an intimate performance with a great atmosphere helped by its decoration and subdued lighting. The capacity of Cardiff venues must have doubled overall in the past few years and this new venue is a perfect addition.
First up was Gareth Pearson which was an unexpected pleasure and was apparently only arranged that afternoon. For those of you who are not familiar with Gareth he is without question the best acoustic guitar player in Wales. If you know a better one please tell me. He gave us the usual high standard of playing which seems effortless but has probably taken 10,000+ hours to perfect. His own songs such as “Beauty of discipline” show that he has a talent for writing as well as performing. He also included a couple of great covers, Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” and his first ever live performance of his take on MGMT’s “Time to Pretend”. Having seen him in a supporting role on many occasions I really look forward to seeing him headlining his own shows in 2009.
Paul Barrere has been involved in the various incarnations of Little Feat since 1972 including their heyday with Lowell George and Fred Tackett since 1988. That they have been playing together for over 20 years was clear for all as soon as they took to the stage. They have that kind of chemistry and bond that gels to produce a perfect musical entity. There was nothing flash or particularly complicated about what they did, it was just great songs, played well and a communal sense of having a good time. Little Feat have always been more influential than commercially successful, but they have a legacy of classic material including the evergreen “Dixie Chicken”. They were joined by Phil Beer on violin/fiddle (Show of Hands, the Rolling Stones) and a great bass player, Emma Spires. Things really got cooking with covers of the “Weight” and “Don’t Bogart that joint” and the audience was on their feet and jigging around. A couple of well deserved and genuine encores followed with “Feats don’t Fail me now”, “We bid you goodnight” and “Down on the Farm”.
Gigs of this nature always run the risk of nostalgia and becoming a kind of ‘Here and Now Tour’ for the Pentangle generation. However, this was simply a group of hugely talented musicians doing what they do best with some of the strongest material you could ask for. Now how about a visit from the whole band next time – that would be an even bigger treat.
Setlist: Ain't Had Enough Fun, Hate To Lose Your Lovin', Honest Man, Skin It Back, All That You Dream, Fool Yourself, Sailin' Shoes, Trouble, Roll Um Easy, Six Feet Of Snow, Willin, Don't Bogart That Joint, Long Black Veil, The Weight, Willin', Dixie Chicken, Feats Don't Fail Me Now, We Bid You Goodnight, Down On The Farm.
Photo copyright http://kirstiecat.com/
With no Welsh dates in site – why no one has booked her to play venues such as the Norwegian Church or Chapter is beyond me – I travelled to this superb Victorian gothic church in Islington to catch up with Baby Dee for the second time this year.
At the age of 55 and having only released records relatively recently, both under her own name, and with Current 93, what intrigues me most about Baby Dee is just what has she been doing for the past 35 years? It would make fascinating material for a documentary on BBC Four/Channel 4. Probably much of those years have been spent developing a singing style that is highly individual and influential. A voice that can range from being soft and sweet through to a maniacal chuckle that seems to punctuate much of her phrasing. A kind of alternative vibrato? Unsettling and unnerving at times, but highly effective. Her piano playing is classically based and much of the time rich and melodic. Her harp playing is definitely a sight to behold.
Looking resplendent in “101 Dalmatians” hoodie she took the stage and launched into a new song written about slugs apparently inspired having visited a friend who took great care to avoid stepping on the little creatures during a late night smoke in a Hastings garden. I can think of nobody else who could sing a song about the “Slug King and Snail Queen” and make it sound quite so dramatic, moving and beautiful!
Joined by her band, including the truly splendid Alex Nielson on drums, she continued with one of her darkest songs “So Bad” which was perhaps the perfect song for her to perform in a gothic church, including as it does the chorus “Jesus got my mum in there and beat her up so bad” truly chilling. Baby Dee’s has a wicked sense of humour and made the most of playing such a song in a church during her interaction with the audience.
With the band in full flow there were some slight timing issues between Dee and the band, but this has improved since I last saw her. I suspect this stems from Dee having spent much of her time playing solo and probably endlessly alone at home perfecting her style. It is however, only a very minor distraction.
Baby Dee will probably always be an underground performer and is unlikely to follow in Antony’s footsteps to a kind of leftfield mainstream success. However, if she is to remain an underground performer she is on top of her game and I for one hope it is not too long before we see her performing in Wales.
Support came from Black Carrot whose set climaxed with an inspired deconstructed version of Bowie’s “Five Years” and Paul Curreri who was great and looks set to make waves on the alt country front next year.
I don’t know how I have managed to miss, seeing Thea Gilmore live until now. She is 11 years and 8 albums into an acclaimed career as a singer songwriter. She labelled her music as folk on stage and indeed some of her work seems to be reminiscent of the protest songs of the 60’s and 70’s. “The best wordsmith of her generation” is one of many plaudits.
The support act, singer songwriter Joan Coffey, did a medley of songs from her 2nd release ‘Struggles and Lulls’ and this was very well received by the audience. The set included an acoustic version of the Grease song “You’re the one that I want” which required a leap of faith, but actually the stripped down version emphasised what turns out is a poignant love song.
Thea came on stage initially on her own and opened with Old Soul and then a song, which she said friends thought was about Tony Blair, but which isn’t, but upon hearing it could be. “God’s got nothing on you”. This was followed by Frank Sinatra
This was the first gig of her UK tour and there was a good turn out of fans who sat or stood in rapt silence for most of the performance. Thea was then joined on stage by her husband and producer Nigel Stonier and a violinist called ‘Fluff.’ She had good interaction with the audience and lots of anecdotes about their recent American tour amongst other things.
A song title called Contessa was said to have been inspired by the name of a fancy lingerie shop in Bangor (but not the lyrics). Other songs on the play list were The wrong side and surprisingly Get this party started which was a bit of unexpected frivolity. Following on was Avalanche the title track from her 2003 CD and then two Gospel/civil rights songs including If you miss me at the back of the bus with harmonies all round.
New song Inch by inch about the recent Presidential election was said to have been written just 2 minutes before the election results and it was said to be about the importance of the fight even if the result doesn’t go your way. Another, not so positive, election song, written in collaboration with Joan Baez some years ago when Bush was elected was also chosen. The crowd had to join in with the chorus “We will ride are you ready”
I had been waiting for Dance in New York which was 7 minutes of unadulterated bliss for me. Thea joked that she does not normally like long songs as it all gets a bit Prog Rock but she could have sung it 7 times over as far as I was concerned. Other songs were Here it comes, The Wrong side and This girl is taking bets and for encore Juliet and I will be rolling on
After a few minutes back stage with her 2 year old son, also on tour, Thea came out to sign cds and I bought a second copy of Liejacker just for the privilege of meeting her. Some-one is going to get the other copy for Christmas. So far I cannot decide which of my friends is worthy.
21st November 2008
Photograph by Leaky Sparrow
This had to be seen as the Hot ticket as it was a one off performance in and in the Foyer of the Wales Millennium Centre. The main entrance was suitably adorned with two Delorian cars on either side so it was strange that we were subsequently informed that admission would be at the south entrance, where there were no cars. The venue filled up comfortably and there appeared to be plenty of space and bars selling drinks. The usual stage had been pushed back just by the stairwell and, I realised, to my horror that it is only about 18 inches off the floor. I pushed forward as far as I could go, which was the fourth row but spent most of the concert ducking and diving behind tall people trying to get a glimpse of the performance as it unravelled on stage. There was also some video footage to accompany some of the tracks projected to the wall on the left hand side which gave added value.
The support act was Yo Majesty which was a DJ and two Female MC’s who rapped at grime like pace over a loud drum and base driven loops. They were enthusiastic and determined to get the audience participating and overall it worked very well, but may not have appealed to every-one.
Neon Neon was stripped down from the Mercury award live line up to essentially Gruff Rhys and Cate Le Bon plus American drummer with occasional bolt on by Yo Majesty and very special guest HAR MAR Superstar (for “Trick or treat”). It felt very intimate and there was lots of banter and interaction with the audience. The Disco style “Raquel” was played amidst lots of footage of her career as an actress and pin up. The last track “Stainless Steel” was played in extended version with lots of percussion instruments and it felt like we were back in a 90’s hard core Rave. Overall, visibility issues aside, it was a great success and the feel good factor was high amongst the audience and, it seemed, the band.
20th November 2008
This is the SWN festival’s 2nd year and although it is never likely to rival the big hitters in terms of numbers or star names, it does look set to become one of the key UK leftfield fringe festivals in the music calendar. Spread over 15 venues and with close on 100 acts performing, it is a mammoth undertaking that Huw Stephens and his team have managed to pull off.
With so much choice the question was whether to venue hop or stick to one location. I opted for the Gate (arts centre in Roath) on Friday and Saturday night and smaller venues for the afternoon sessions. This is the first time to my knowledge that the Gate has hosted gigs of this nature. The downstairs room worked best with the numbers present. The main room is a fabulous setting but needs at least 200+ to avoid looking thin on the ground. John Mouse was in rabble rousing mood with some alt country style shenanigans. If this is really only his 3rd gig in the last 4 years it was a privilege to have been there and he really should do more! Trying to catch 2 bands at once isn’t easy but a few minutes in the company of Rod Thomas convinced me that he really is one of Wales’ brightest hopes for mainstream success in the year ahead. Quality ‘folk disco’ indeed and he did seem genuinely pleased with the reaction he got. Last up for the evening was Stephen Fretwell who was probably the highest profile artist of the whole weekend having had top 10 albums and loads of airplay. Fretwell is now a seasoned performer and seemed totally at ease. It was simple but effective and proves that sometimes one man and a guitar can still speak much louder than a band cranked up to 11. He was definitely the highlight of Friday night for me.
Saturday afternoon at Tommy’s Bar (Howard Gardens) began with DIY indie pop from the New Tea Party and Little My. The latter including a lion on slide guitar – you really had to be there for that one. The revelation of the afternoon came with Conan & the Mockasins. Once Conan began singing I realised that I had seen the band before at last year’s Green Man festival. Believe you me once you hear Conan’s distinctive helium filled vocal chords you would recognise them anywhere. He is definitely idiosyncratic and quite unlike anything else I have heard in recent times. He is also an excellent guitar player and it seems strange there are no recordings available as yet.
It was then time to head over to the Gate for the evening session which saw some excellent skiffle pop from Brighton’s Peggy Sue in the down stairs bar. In the main room Cate le Bon performed solo. This was the second time I had seen her this year and I get the impression, rightly or wrongly, that she doesn’t seem particularly at ease or happy performing live. The singing and playing were fine, but I suspect it will be recorded output that will earn her reputation in the year’s ahead. Of all the acts I saw over the weekend the artist that stood head and shoulders above the rest for me was Eugene McGuinness. As you have probably read in the review section, we rate his new album very highly and performing live he didn’t disappoint. Dressed in black polo neck and skinny jeans he had the look of John Lennon circa 1964. One minute singing cranked up pop and the next 30s style balladeering. This was premium class indie- pop of the highest order. If he doesn’t become a major player next year there is something seriously wrong in this world. (Setlist was: Nightshift, Fonz, Wendy Wonders, Rings Around Rosa, Old Black & White Movies, Atlas, I want Action, Bug Juice, Moscow, A Girl Whom and Bold St).
I had planned a full day for Sunday but in the end all I managed was the Glo bar with authentic and perfectly pleasant Welsh folk of Wrightoid and Gwyneth Glynn. Another of our favourites Sweet Baboo finished off my SWN festival experience. Yes he is wacky and amusing, but I spent time watching his guitar playing and I think that is why his songs work so well because they are founded on great song writing and excellent fretwork. The crowd reaction seemed the most genuinely appreciative of the whole weekend.
With all the walking I had done between home and the various venues and listening close to 20 performers to I was knackered and my cup definitely raneth over - but in a good way. So a big thank you to Huw and team for the music and for helping me get fit for Christmas. Now to get in training for SWN 2009!!
8th November 2008
There has to be a certain irony in the fact that after having spent several years in a monastery having ‘given everything up’ to live a simple life of contemplation, poor old Leonard returns home to find over £5 million had been stolen by his manager. Maybe the gods were trying to tell him something?
Presumably that is why at the age of 74 he is now playing extensively again. I did have some trepidation about this concert. Firstly, at £70 it wasn’t exactly cheap. Secondly, it was in my least favourite venue in Cardiff. A venue that usually has diabolical sound and if it’s a standing gig I am always cursed with members of the local basketball team placing themselves between me and the stage. However, on this occasion it was seated and for once the sound was pretty damn good.
The last time Leonard Cohen toured was 14 years ago a time when, as he said himself, he was just a starry eyed kid. This was Cohen’s first and probably last gig in Wales and he didn’t disappoint. Playing for over 2 ½ hours, performing over 20 songs and doing countless (4?) encores it was a magical evening. Once the band had assembled, the man himself bounded on stage with the enthusiasm and energy of a man half his age. However, it is unlikely that a man half his age would have the vast catalogue of classic songs to draw from or a band of this calibre. No doubt some of the audience were there for the ‘hits’ i.e. “Hallelujah” and “Suzanne”. However, most were well into their 50s and 60s and you sensed that they had lived with these songs for a long time and never thought they would see them being performed live again.
I did have a feeling in the first half that the impact was beginning to fade after 4-5 songs as the pace and style was all quite similar. However, during the second half things went into orbit with much more variety and we finally got to hear the aforementioned “Suzanne” and “Hallelujah” as well as “So long Marianne” and “I’m Your Man”. One of the most poignant moments came with the song “Democracy” the refrain of which is “Democracy is coming to the USA”. This was not lost on the audience who cheered loudly at that moment, celebrating the week in which America finally elected an intelligent, democratic and seemingly caring President!
This concert was a triumph and should give reassurance and guidance to all performers approaching those difficult 40s and 50s. Look and learn. This is how you grow old and still remain vital, entertaining and true to your art form.
This was probably the best gig in Wales in 2008. If you can think of a better one please let me know!
Craig and Willoughby wowed the small intimate crowd at Space Studio's 5th Space Lounge. This series of intimiate showcase gigs justs gets better. In the past the likes of Sweet Baboo, Jimi Alexander and the Gentle Good have appeared and have already set the bar pretty high. After this performance it will be hard for Space Studios to top this.
Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby have folk/country 'pedigree'. Brian having played with the Strawbs, Mary Hopkin and Nanci Griffiths amongst others and Cathryn being something of a Nashville legend having worked with the likes of Tom Paxton, Emmylou Harris and Chet Atkins.
Brian provided the perfect guitar backing with delicate, intricate guitar work that looks so easy, but is devilishly difficult to play and perfect. Cathryn sang with a deep emotion and clarity that gave their songs immnense power and effect.
As the crowd left you could sense that everyone realised how lucky we had been to have witnessed a performance of such class in such close proximity.
A gig in the future at a Cardiff venue such as the Norwegian Church would be perfect.
9Bach/The Gentle good/Georgia Ruth Williams
Norwegian Church, Cardiff
11th October 2008
Having gone along to a concert that see the launch of an EP by 9Bach and a CD by the Gentle Good at Cardiff Bay's Norwegian Church I was pleased to find a third act on the bill, an artist I had not heard of: Georgia Ruth Williams. I have since read that she currently studying English at Cambridge and originates from Aberystwyth.
Georgia plays the harp and like all the other artists that evening takes the traditional instrument and ethos of Welsh folk music and provides a modern twist. Huw Stephens describes her music as" beautiful love torn songs". I was also surprised to find that she cites an eclectic range of influences such as Bon Iver, Ani Di Franco, Antony and the Johnson's and Aimee Mann which presumably run alongside a passion for all things Welsh. Georgia played on the BBC introducing stage at Glastonbury this year, but sadly did not have any CD's available yet to sell at the end of the evening. She has a very strong clear vocal which thrusts the lyrics and meaning of each song centre stage, contrasting with the subtlety and virtuosity of the harp. I particularly enjoyed the song 'Ocean' which you can follow this link to watch her performing at Glastonbury: www.bbc.co.uk/glastonbury/2008/artists/georgiaruthwilliams/. The final song, "Flir" dedicated to a friend to whom she had given bad advice over a broken heart, sung in Welsh was particularly beautiful. A collaboration with 9Bach seemed under rehearsed, but nevertheless welcome, as it illustrated an unspoken bond between all artists appearing that night and an intimacy that was evident in relation to those performing on stage and those in the know listening.
I had seen 9Bach on the main stage at the Green Man and it was nice to get more up close and personal to enjoy their so called "psychedelic folk rock" in a smaller setting. This is their last performance for a while as their lead vocalist and harmonium and glockenspiel player Lisa Jen is pregnant and will be going on to produce something other than records shortly. Will 9Bach then become 10Bach? Their set was extremely enjoyable stripped down without the drum and base and more focused on the harmonies.
Last, but not least, was Gareth Bonello otherwise known as the Gentle Good. He was introduced by Huw Stephens who revealed that they are old school friends and that Gareth used to call for him to go and play HE MAN when they were boys - surely material for a song in there somewhere?! Huw also gave his public support and endorsement of the new CD and this emphasised the sense of occasion and friendship surrounding the evening. Gareth came on stage and took off his glasses which had me confused for a moment but it did not seem to impair the intricate guitar work throughout the set. There was required re tuning for each new song. Gareth did seem a little nervous and tense at times and this occasionally showed with his guitar playing. However, he seemed to relax as the set progressed. There was just one instrumental based on a traditional folk song. Gareth's vocals were soft like Kings of Convenience and at other times more in the traditional Welsh mold. As with Georgia set members of 9Bach joined him onstage for a few numbers together with a guest mandolin player. In summary it was gentle and it certainly was good and that could sum up the whole evening.
The Point, Cardiff
23rd September 2008
The Peth made their debut appearance in Cardiff 23rd September.
Green Man Festival 2008
This was my 3rd Greenman in a row and statistically speaking it had to be dry and sunny didn't it? Er no but hey we enjoyed it anyway. That, after all is the mark of a good festival. Despite the downpour and the resulting mud I came away feeling I had been part of an overall experience that will last and recharge your musical batteries for the winter months ahead.
As usual when you explain to people about the GMF it is too simplistic to say it is a folk festival when the music ranges from the powerhouse rock of Howlin Rain to the increasingly jazz rock musings of Iron & Wine. It is eclectic and unique in Wales and in a world where sponsorship and profit are increasingly dominating the festival circuit, it is this festival that is keeping the spirit of the original festivals of the late 60s early 70s alive and flourishing.
So what about the music? Many highlights, some disappointments and a few surprises...
Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir
This really kicked things off. They are not a choir and they don't come from the deep south. However, this 4 piece Canadian band make one hell of a beatiful racket. Footstomping, good time roots music that really got us moving. No wonder they are Seasick Steve's favourite band. They even prompted something of a howedown at stage front. They finished with the perfect choice of the call and response gospel classic 'John the Revelator'. The band were much better than I had dared to expect and I suspect they could become a festival favourite across Europe. (FB)
The Bowerbirds lifted the spirits on sunday afternoon. The band has spent much time communing with nature and as a result are being lumped in the 'Bon Iver' camp site. However, this is too easy and simplistic. If anything their music is more akin to the likes of Beirut. Passionate and energized the trio worked well with the crowd, although as yet there is too little variety and you sensed after 3-4 songs that they had failed to engage fully and people were beginning to lose interest. More variety and pace and a chance for people to get to know their material should resolve this. Definately a band who will gain strength from this visit and continue to grow. (FB)
a little bit of magic in the rain...
For me this was the most eagerly awaited live act at the Green man and I got as far to the front as I could anticipating that the magic would not carry beyond the mosh pit. She started with Ghost and it became immediately clear that the voice was special, strong and pure and it seemed effortless. She had a compelling stage presence and the small band of musicians with her were understated with a subtlety that complimented her vocal performance. Listening to my manic and me I kept thinking: How can some-one so young produce such complex lyrics revealing knowledge and wisdom and vulnerability beyond her years. She did a couple of songs without the band with confident delivery reminiscent of Joan Baez, finishing with Alas I cannot swim. Discussion with friends afterwards revealed that those in the know and those having the Marling experience for the first time were universally elated by the performance and felt they had seen something special. (RG)
This was my second favourite band on the main stage. They announced it was the last gig of the tour and seemed genuinely pleased that the crowd was accessible with no security front stage. It became clear there was a devoted following amongst us. I had just bought the album Boxer thinking," if Edith Bowman rates it, then it is good enough for me". I had not got in many plays of the cd prior to this gig but had been instantly impressed by how subtle dark and atmospheric it was, and how each track was integral almost like reading a book. The National did not disappoint and on this performance I will be buying the other two cds. The sound was clean and the brass and guitars elevated it to an epic performance. The lead singer strutted the stage jumped on speakers, touched hands in the crowd more reminiscent of Glastonbury than the Green man and for this, after many a limp performance over the three days I was eternally grateful. I referenced Killers and Tindersticks and I knew I was in the presence of greatness. Thank you The National for bringing a little bit of New York to a wet and windy Wales. (RG)
George Thomas (and the Owls)
This was in fact just George (or Dave in real life)on the Greenman Café stage. I had just bought the second CD on a speculative basis, mostly I admit based on the fantastic art work and design. This is a high risk activity as the artist could prove to be a lesser known genius or a lottery loser ticket. George Thomas was neither but he certainly was unique. His ratio on the cute factor was extremely high, wearing a red and white check shirt, and faded jeans being also slight in build he was a cross between Tin Tin and Fun Boy Three. The opening song was with ukulele and the leg thrashing and writhing that accompanied the song immediately drew me in. I don't remember much about the songs, although there was a unique cover of Fire by the Pointer Sisters. His own songs were whimsical and witty, with references to sumo wrestlers on diets and liking pastries and patisserie. The voice is of low timbre and unremarkable but occasionally a touch of Ben Christophers permeated. My friends were singularly unimpressed and quickly moved on. I stuck with it, mostly because it was unique and there was great charisma. I also appreciate it when some-one is trying to do something original that is not pretentious. Upon my return to Cardiff I played the CD in the car on my way to work. Enjoyable on many levels but I don't think it will make it to my IPOD. (RG)
He now can be deemed a 'regular' at the Green Man. Last year I enjoyed his performance in the Folkey Dokey tent and the Fence collective did an unscheduled late night set on the Green man Café stage, but this year it was the main stage. He did not disappoint again this year and was very much on form playing lots of favourites such as "Good Enough". There was good interaction with the crowd and a genuine feel good factor with lots of toe tapping and jigging going on around me. The new album has had universally good reviews so there was a feeling of a man at the top of his game. The last song was a jocular traditional yarn about a man with a large" lardy dardy dum" and seems to strike the right cord with the crowd. My only regret is that I did not get to the literature tent at 5pm the next day to see him interviewed, it got lost somewhere in the mud and the rain. Never mind there is always next year
Cate le Bon
A large gang of us made the journey to the folkey dokey tent, including friends from Space Studio, to see this rising star of the Welsh music scene. I was driven more out of a sense that some-one who sings on a mercury nominated cd Neon Neon cannot be all bad and she appears to be flourishing amongst a small exclusive circle of welsh musicians including Steve AKA Sweet Baboo on bass. I knew from the web site to expect, eccentric, ethereal, with a dash of tradition: Maybe the Welsh 'Bat for Lashes'. I particularly enjoyed the songs in Welsh from her new vinyl only EP on Peski recordings. I did enjoy the performance overall, although there were some tuning problems which distracted from the overall impact of the songs. Cate has lots of potential, musical integrity and star quality. Given time it will shine through.
Other worthy mentions are due for Drive By Truckers, The Cave Singers, Super Furry Animals (of course!), Burning Leaves and the Gentle Good,. Also not to be forgotten the Peth, proving to be much better than we thought they would be. We shall always treasure the moment that we narrowly missed being hit by the barrel of cider that Rhys Ifans so generously threw into the crowd!
The Peth @ Green Man
Next year's festival takes place 21-23 August and 'early (bower)bird' tickets are now on sale. Contact ticket line on 0871 424 4444.