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Thunderclap

13 Oct

You stride across storm tossed fields to greet me,
Face elevated by a thousand bolts of neon and a tangerine black sky;
White lit, lofty eyed, voice strangulated into some sick kind of marvel by heaven knows what,
skewering wind, mud and rain to hasten its assault.

Your string missiles, hardly less lethal;
With this thunderclap;
and again,
lives hurled forward,
discharged
I think I’m gone,
Strung out, wrung out, prised well loose.
And the rain barely felt, heated at your refrain, like relieved tears, brushes  away the stresses that have fractured my skin.

Push-go,  hurl-thrust, battle bloody persist,
spew savagely forth heart and guts;

lethal armed, incisor sharp, instrument versus voice,
hot blood, new life, mouth to mouth resuscitation,
imperial liquor through each vein and cell,

never was joy like this –
these sublimely spiteful, sacrosanct songs,
towering and
thrusting to the skies,
annihilating whatever shit once was.

On these last crushing chords,
the fiercest screams, hers and mine,
up, up;

crinkle iced eyes melt,
a
smile,
and I’m myself again.
In this wild aftermath,
with these giant smashclaps I pray
,
I’ll make damn happy hope with them all,
just like you .

Ru @ QOTSA



 

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Muse @ Emirates Stadium, 25.5.13: Soul Music

8 Jun

The last time I saw Muse was back at Wembley Stadium in 2010 on their Resistance Tour. I didn’t think I’d be blogging about them again after that, in fact I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to see them again.  White Lies, Biffy Clyro and them all on the same bill? Awesome sound set up by Skan? It was quite simply, the show to end all shows.

Except, I have gone to see them again. Largely at my sister and brother in law’s insistence. (I did love their new songs but was convinced they wouldn’t measure up to before.) This last Saturday in May however, is proving to be impossible to forget – I feel compelled to describe it. The last time I talked about one of their gigs, I reckoned they were “all about the music.” See link.  Now, I’m not convinced.

The afternoon didn’t start particularly well; we made the mistake of trying to get across London via the M25 on a bank holiday weekend. Result: what should have been an hour journey took three, and I ended up missing the support act I wanted to see, Bastille. My consolation? Dizzee Rascal, hardly the best warm up act for an alternative rock band, esepcially one as beloved as Muse.  After a few scant minutes in which to collect our outraged selves, they took the stage. The atmosphere didn’t feel especially buoyant – a good part of the audience were propping up the bar apparently to avoid the Rascal – there was a rather limp explosion, a half hearted cheer, and there they were. I blinked. Was it really them? There was no proud entrance down the walkway, no protesters waving flags, no over grandiose gestures to herald their return to UK stadiums; it seemed an apologetic entrance for a band of their stature.

For the first few songs I bit back my disappointment, the venue was much smaller than last time, the sound set-up nowhere near as good as Wembley, no-one was standing up in our section, they seemed nervous, Matt making a false start at the beginning of “Super Massive”.  Fourth song in though, they launched into “Knights of Cydonia” and I said to myself, ‘I’m blowed if I’m sitting this one out.’ The rest of the stadium was obviously thinking the same – there was a roar and it collectively leapt to its feet.

Everyone, even those high up in the nose bleeders, knew all the song words, something I’d not experienced at any of their previous shows, or indeed at any of bands I’ve seen over the years. Singing streamed back and forth across the stadium, creating a hugely resonant – and magnificent – wall of sound. It was strangely moving. These songs seem to mean a heck of a lot to a huge number of people; everyone sang along with conviction, often with arms aloft, as if their very life depended on it.

Muse have more songs to draw on than ever and whilst previously it was the classics such as “New Born,” “Time is Running Out,” and “Knights of Cydonia” that used to give me the shivers, tonight some of their newest felt the most profound – during “Survival” and “Uprising” I nearly sent myself flying head first over the seats; my brother in law said his stand out track was “Liquid State” – a winning performance from newly streamlined Chris of one of the standout tracks from “The 2nd Law.”

There was plenty of spectacle too, some relating to the state of our world, bankers kicking the bucket, a businesswoman guzzling from a petrol pump and some just ridiculously wonderful fantasy – forty foot light bulb with acrobat beneath, Charles the steam spurting robot; however the most stunning thing about this show was Muse’s performance itself. Whilst Chris is stepping out of the shadows to become a skilled songwriter and singer, Matt has also raised his game. He’s always been rather a reserved showman; if you’re lucky he will mumble a few embarrassed words between songs or trash his guitar like a guilty schoolboy behind the piano.  I don’t know if it’s because he’s been hanging out with Bono or if he’s genuinely feeling happier and more comfortable in his own skin, but tonight there was an extra dimension to his performance. He was connecting with the audience in a way I haven’t seen him do on previous tours; it was like an invisible barrier had gone, enabling him to project a host of emotions from the songs. During “Follow Me” he fell to his knees, in “Madness” jumped off stage to pick out different members of the audience to serenade, lay on his back, pouring out his heart during “Blackout.” He ran this way, that way, determined to sing to every single section of the audience. I vividly remember shouting,“Fight, fight, win, win!” idiotically –  Matt standing miles down below, punching the air. They also seemed to be finishing their songs differently; instead of directly launching into a new song, they finished with a flourish and paused, allowing the song to “breathe” and the audience to fully show their appreciation.

My sister Sue and I have a long standing joke about Muse, saying they may as well walk on stage with paper bags on their heads – their music is completely out of this world, we couldn’t care less what they look like.  After this show, I’m forced to withdraw that statement – I do mind now, quite a bit. It’s not just about the music any more Muse, it’s also about you – you seem to have found your souls.

Photos  1,3,4,6,7, 9 – Ru, 2 and 8 – G. Craig,  5  – http://www.muse.mu

Set List:

(The 2nd Law: Unsustainable)

  • Supremacy
  • Supermassive Black Hole
  • Panic Station
  • Bliss
  • Resistance
  • Animals
  • Knights of Cydonia
    (Man with a Harmonica intro)
  • Dracula Mountain
    (Drum and bass jam)
  • United States of Eurasia (Matt with piano on B-stage.)
  • Dead Star
  • Monty Jam
  • Feeling Good
  • Follow Me
  • Liquid State (Chris on B-stage)
  • Madness
  • Times is Running Out
    (House of the Rising Sun first verse.)
  • New Born.
    (Ashamed outro.)
    B-stage:
  • Unintended (on catwalk)
  • Blackout
  •  Guiding Light
  • Undisclosed Desires
    Encore:
  • The 2nd Law: Unsustainable (With the Robot Charles)
  • Plug in Baby. (With Sweet Child o’ Mine outro)
  • Survival
    Encore 2:
  • The 2nd Law: Isolated System (extended version.)
  • Uprising
  • Starlight
    (Chop Suey!)

Matt Corby @ The Bodega, Nottingham, 24.11.12 : Star in Waiting

18 Dec

Singer/songwriter extraordinaire, Mr Corby.
Photo by JPW

I’ve been a fan of Matt Corby’s music for a while now – each winter has seen me considerably cheered by the arrival of one of his EPs from Australia; I did therefore find it a bit weird going to see him live. He sings and writes songs like a well-seasoned veteran, in the flesh I could see how young he really is. However, a few minutes into this gig and thoughts of age became compeltely irrelvant.

Only an artist with a hefty amount of self belief and talent can enter the stage like Matt does and go on to hold a club full of people captive with only voice and guitar; he stole in noiselessly, there was no fanfare, no acknowledgement of the audience, he simply stood there and launched straight into “Big Eyes.” After an initial restlessness, the crowd were stunned to silence. Rufus Wainwright pulled off a similar feat on his “All Days are Nights” tour, but in feathers and a seventeen foot train.

Bree and ChrisPhoto by JPW

Bree and Chris
Photo by JPW

Matt doesn’t really do banter or smile often – although he did relay the melancholy story behind “Untitled” (a girl who jilted him by thirteen paged letter) – during some numbers he barely lifted his eyes. Every bit of emotion is saved for his vocal performance. And what a voice he has!  It ranges from a tremulous silken whisper to a tremendous full throated scream and has the power to stun – which he did -hundreds of people.   During slow numbers such as “Untitled” – and “Beggars and Thieves” the audience was uncannily quiet, people were actually sushing each other.

His band aren’t exactly run of the mill either. In numbers such as “What the Devil Has Made” and “Souls a Fire” they whipped up a rip-roaring- blues-infused musical storm:  Bree Tranter’s ethereal voice and presence is the perfect foil to Matt’s thunderous vocal and shy seriousness; uber cool drummer, Chris Maas’s performance was sharp as his cheekbones; the two bearded guitarists beefed up the sound mightily.  The performances of the evening for me at least, were poles apart, the sublime acoustic number, “Untitled” and “Souls a Fire” which built feverishly verse upon verse until it felt like the walls would most likely, burst. I was also thrilled to hear them end with “My False”, one of the most upbeat of any of his songs, which unfortunately still isn’t available to buy or download in the UK.

Matt gets soulful.
Photo by JPW

Matt’s songs are what I’d call “slow burners” – their awesomeness is revealed gradually, they’re more from the thoughtful/romantic school, such as your Wainwrights and Buckleys than anything you’re likely to find in the current crop of top downloads. Surely peeps it’s time we had something a little more extraordinary and downright orginal, dominating our airwaves – i.e. this top quality sort of stuff?

It is fantastic to see how Matt’s popularity is growing in this country; “Into the Flame” has just been released over here and as this concert proves, he’s at last finally managing to play venues other than London. Don’t be fooled by his boy band-ish blue eyed exterior – this one time Aussie Pop Idol runner up is the genuine article – I feel extremely privileged to have had the chance to see him live whilst he’s still playing small(ish) venues like the Bodega, because I’ve the feeling he’s going to be huge!

Set list:

  • Big Eyes
  • Kings, Queens, Beggars and Thieves
  • Runaway
  • Made of Stone
  • Brother
  • Untitled
  • What The Devil Has Made
  • Souls ‘a Fire
  • Lonely Boy (Black Key’s Cover)
  • My False

Level 42 live @ Westcliffe Pavilion, 27.11.12: Lessons in Transcendence

7 Nov

“King of Cool.”
Photo by G. Craig

I blame my current musical fetish on my three year old nephew. This summer he dug out Level 42’s “Running in the Family,” album from the murky depths of my sister’s CD cupboard and played it so much, she was forced to hide it. Back at home, I found I’d quite a few of their albums squirreled away in my collection which quite frankly, sounded awesome and I thought it might be good to go and see them live this autumn, though I wasn’t entirely convinced. I’m quite sceptical of the current craze for nostalgia. I’m not a fan of living in the past; things you were mad about when young – and I was remarkably zealous about Level 42 for a while when I was a kid – tend to lose their magic when you’re all sensible and grown up.

Anyway, my sister and I made the journey to Southend; I cushioned myself against disappointment by telling myself, if nothing else I’d get inside Westcliffe Pavilion, the concert hall that was built on the land one of my ancestors donated to the town. We arrived, in a flurry of bitter wind and with some apprehension. Some of the people there were quite a few years older than us; there was also a fair  smattering of teenage kids. Dan Clews, the support act, was good but didn’t exactly set the audience alight. Then “Lessons in Love” sounded over the speakers and they sort of exploded onto the stage.

“Gorgeous Acoustic.”
Photo by Ru

A couple of songs in, I turned to my brother in law  behind me, and shouted, “Am- azing!” at the top of my voice.

They’re a different band since I used to like them, having lost and gained several members along the way. Individually they’re fantastic musicians; more importantly they gel. They play together as if they’ve been a band all their life. As my sister was pleased to note, Mike was still an incredibly vital/ necessary part of the band, also Mark’s bass playing was typically, exemplary and his voice stronger than ever – he’s a very underrated singer, I think. We happened to be standing right in front of Nathan, Sean and in the acoustic set, Pete, who apart from whipping up a musical storm, were very obviously, having a ball. Level 42 are uncommon in that they sound even better live; I’ve seen few bands play with this amount of verve and passion.

“Magic Mike.”
Photo by G. Craig

For the next two hours they ran through an enormous twenty song set, which included their entire “Running in the Family” album – it was its twenty fifth birthday – plus songs spanning their career.  To my surprise, I realized I knew practically all the words to the songs. There was one I didn’t know, “All I Want.” For its duration, I held my breath. It was extraordinarily beautiful and melancholy, one of the finest they’ve done, I reckon.  It was surprisingly, the slow songs that really got my attention: “It’s Over”, “Two solitudes”; the whole stripped down acoustic section was a revelation. The harmonies, delivery and arrangement were exceptional; it also revealed just how fantastic these songs are. “Out of Sight, Out of Mind,” and “Guaranteed” had completely altered, taking on other an other worldly, mystical quality.

The last part of the show was completely different, and proved they still can strike up a rare groove. Somewhere between “Heathrow” and “Hot Water” I lost my head. It was rather like being at a party where all the best songs are playing, but performed live right in front of you, by your favourite band. Being there didn’t feel like looking back, one bit. The best music, is after all, very much part of the now, always bang up to date. Level 42 songs have a rare quality; they’ve power and complexity enough to transcend the ordinary, they give you space just to be and more importantly, to dream.

Thanks v. much guys not just for an unforgettable night, but also for reminding me what’s important about music!

Set List:

  • Lessons in Love
  • Children Say
  • Running in the Family
  • It’s Over
  • To be With You Again
  • Two Solitudes
  • Fashion Fever
  • The Sleepwalkers
  • Freedom Someday
  • All I Need
  • Out of Sight Out of Mind
  • Guaranteed
  • Heathrow
  • The Sun Goes Down (Livin’ it Up)
  • Starchild
  • Something About You
  • Hot Water

Encore

  • Love Games
  • The Chinese Way

Hurrah for Justice!

13 Apr

Photo courtesy of JPW.

Lifting the roof.

Dark, dingy and desperate: January was a rubbish month. I had to get some sparkle back in my life.  I thought French electro band Justice could be just the ticket; I was rapidly falling in love with their new album “Audio, Video, Disco” and they were one of the few bands left I really wanted to go and see live.

The Birmingham O2 used to be “The Dome” nightclub, which many moons ago used to be the place to go, apparently. (However the last time I’d been there, I’d had so many K ciders that the whole place was tilted the wrong way up – but I could still see through my beer goggles – it was awful!

It seemed a hundred times better on this freezing February evening however, altogether more warm and lively and pumping with energy, stuffed to the gills with European teenagers, jostling aggressively for their place in the bar but when Justice took to the stage, they soon became one of the most fun-loving, whacky, out there dance movers of any crowd I’ve been in at a live show.

We were on the balcony and weren’t allowed to dance in our seats – or in the aisles, the bouncers were adamant – so I had to keep jumping up to go and go wild at the back. The thing about seeing Justice live is that they don’t let you stay still, just when you think you’ll take a breather they yank you back on your feet again for a fresh onslaught of their supernaturally head melting grooves.

Photo courtesy of JPW.

Silence.

They slickly mixed in the old with the new, tracks from “Cross” with new parts of “Audio, Video, Disco”. It sounded pretty fantastic. Yes, the light show was as fabulous as I’d been led to believe, with their now legendary Marshall stacks still on stage and different sorts of lights projected through and above them and the third member of their band, their glowing neon cross. At one point the set split apart to allow Xavier to sit down and play keyboard at another, spooky pipes rose and glowed.

Easily the best thing about this show was the atmosphere. Justice (Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay) are dab hands at controlling the crowd, they don’t say a word but know how to keep the tension taut – when to wrack up the sound, when to bring it down and pause, arms outstretched, beckoning…

The encore song “Audio, Video, Disco” was simply wowsome – the light show, stars streaking across the universe, everyone going mental. It was like being at the best club night ever, the music, the lights, the crowd, everything was spot on. Mr F. had to literally drag me away when it finished – “is that really the end?” I said. “I was ready to go on all night…”

What it means to live or being out there in the arena

7 Sep

Life has slowed considerably and is peaceful. It’s stupid that it takes something massive happening to you to make you put your feet up good and proper and to reflect. A couple of weeks ago I was grappling with the idea of going back home and getting back into life. I suffered many sleepness, anxious nights. What if I went back and started to get anxious again and couldn’t cope?

Then whilst I was sorting through some work I came across an e-mail a friend sent me at the beginning of the year  It was a quote by Theodore Roosevelt from his speech, “Citizenship in a Republic at the Sorbonne in Paris in April, 1910:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is not effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

It hit me like a truck.  I haven’t been on the wrong track. The person “out there” doing battle is cool – out there doing the their darndest for something they consider worth while, even if things do seem to keep ending in defeat, at least they’ve done their utmost.

My Chemical Romance’s set at Reading this year made me think much the same thing. The first time they played there they were bottled off and though initially discouraged in the end, it only made Gerard more determined. Taking Freddie Mercury as inspiration – it also happened to him in Paris with Queen – when they next played there Gerard vowed it would be as headliners. And so it proved to be. And their show was utterly incredible – don’t think I’ve seen anyone put so much into one performance – it was passionate, it was outrageously OTT, sexy bombastic and darn good fun – even they consider it to be the show of their lifetime.

As for me –  I’m saying no to doubt and what the future will bring, it might well become a self fulfilling prophecy. I’m getting back into life and not looking back,  keeping focused on the things that build me up. I’ll keep going forward with hope and courage.



Rock is Not Dead 11: Foo Fighters

27 May

Love the Foo Fighters new album, “Wasting Light.” It’s definitely one of their best – full throttle, head banging, freak out rock which doesn’t let up  for a second until lump in the throat track, “I Should Have Known.” (Which could well be about K.)

Favourite track: White Limo.

Loved the Foo Fighters film “Back and Forth”.

Best moment(s): The track by track performance of Wasting Light at the end and the candid way each band member opens up about the band and it’s history. (Apparently no-one knew what anyone else said on camera until they all sat down and watched the film together – wonder if they still were talking to each other after wards?)

Loved the Foo Fighters set at Radio One’s 1 Big Weekend. It was in-credible.

Best moment: the blues infused jam in Monkey Wrench.

Love the Foo Fighters! Rock is truly alive and screaming and shaking it’s sweaty long locks.