You may have seen her playing the role of the judge on ITV’s ‘Popstar To Operastar’, but it seems like Katherine Jenkins is trying the reverse. Having scored six number one Classical albums in the past decade, it appears Miss Jenkins is enjoying centre stage and wants to prove she can do it all. Having wowed the critics with her dancing skills alongside Darcey Bussell in ‘Viva La Diva’, Jenkins has pulled out all the stops for her debut UK Arena tour. Accompanied by a competent crew of dancers, Katherine Jenkins invites you into her own world of wonder.
A clever marketing strategy hit you as soon as you entered London’s o2 to see Birmingham’s ‘finest’ UB40 — Ali Campbell, without whom the group are touring, is launching his own tour. Entitled “The True Voice Of UB40”, his tour promises all the hits. The attack seemed scathing, especially given that Campbell left of his own choice only to be replaced by older brother Duncan. With fans undettered by the line-up change, the o2 was brimming.
Opening act at the Komedia is Restlesslist, with their heady experimental carnival of moody instrumental electronica and prog/post-rock with exotic calypso and fairground parades. Where the project started as the lo-fi bedroom escapades of a duo over several years the group has morphed and grown into a six-piece maximalist adventure and when it all comes together its a glorious and captivating affair.
This year’s Shred Yr Face tour follows the previously two successful editions in presenting three of the more exiting bands from recent alternative American folk scenes, with this time The Cave Singers, Woods and Espers rolling around the UK and in to Brighton’s Freebutt towards the end of the run.
Vitalic’s energetic electro was given a hiatus last year when Pascal Arbez-Nicolas chose to adopt a more minimal sound interspersed with barnstorming hits “The Bells”, “My Friend Dario” and signature tune “La Rock 01” when performing live. It was a step away from his V Live show and album which went hell-for-leather from start to finish. With new album Flashmob he’s returned to the full throttle sonic assault he became synonymous for and for this showcase of his latest material he brought a lavish new live set to London’s premier nightclub matter.
New Yorker Ingrid Michaelson may have only just released her UK album debut, but with four hit albums Stateside, Michaelson is one of the best selling independent artists to date. With her reputation proceeding her, London’s Scala was full to the brim with anticipatory music lovers. With a senstational warm-up set from Ingrid’s reported boyfriend, Greg Laswell, the mood was right for Michaelson to take centre stage. Equipped with just one bandmate (Allie Moss), a keyboard, a guitar and ukulele, Michaelson jovially launched into “Die Alone”. With an immediate singalong response, the pro-performer launched straight into audience participation. Immediately apparent was Michaelson’s addictive presence, appealing good humour and masterful stage craft. From the outset, it was clear that Michaelson was bound to impress.
It was early on a Tuesday night in Birmingham, stuck in a queue outside the new O2, traffic whizzing past, and the wrong side of a cold breeze. You would think I would mind but I was waiting to see the “song and dance man” himself, Seasick Steve.
“I’ve got a really bad throat” declared a rather gruff voiced Cosmo Jarvis as he started his set with the crowd pleasing “You Got Your Head”. The seemingly shy Jarvis then launched into action, the crowd swelled and many shoulders were shuffling and heads were bopping. The clearly effected spoken voice appeared to be the only victim of the dreaded lurgy, allowing Cosmo to impress with his crisp clean serenade. Briefly clarifying that he was no longer the naive 18 year old he was when he wrote it, “Clean My Room” bumped along and kept the crowd interesting.
Performing and recording are two very different art forms, therefore I attended the Charlie Winston gig full of optimism. Having seen him as a support act several years ago, I was aware of his warm and captivating presence — for years a friend and I pondered who the man that sung about being a “Hobo from a broken home” was. Then, when Charlie Winston’s debut album Hobo landed on my desk, I was excited to have found out who the mystery man was. However, upon listening I remained undecided about my rediscovery. Hobo was a real mixed bag of killer tunes and overblown ballads. So what was to be expected of the live show?
Birmingham’s o2 Academy may still be shiny and new on the outside, but inside after a month’s worth of gigs and club nights, the spacious venue already has sticky carpets. They would prove to be a hindrance as Newcastle’s indie quartet Little Comets took to the large but not overpowering stage. With drummer Mark Harle secluded at the back, bassist Matt Hall, guitarist Michael Coles and vocalist/guitarist Robert Coles spanned the front of stage with only a strings worth of percussion between them and the audience. An interesting setup, especially given Michael’s interesting percussion instrument of choice — a saucepan!
Former Blame Jack singer Katie Meehan took her first baby steps towards a solo career with a set at Chalk Farm’s eminent Monkey Chews. The popular musical hangout boasts a relaxed atmosphere which perfectly reflected Meehan’s simplistic set. Joined on stage by a sole guitarist, Jason Newton, who still plays with Blame Jack, Meehan relaxed into her set which revolved around new material and interesting cover versions.
Amadou Bagayako met Mariam Doubmia when they went to blind school together in Mali. At the time, he also played guitar for the Bamako hotel band Les Ambassadeurs. By 1980 they were married and they jointly chased for the unreachable goal. He adored John Lee Hooker and Jimi Hendrix, whilst she idolised Pink Floyd and James Brown. Together, they infused traditional Malian music with their western influences. The development was slow but sure, it wasn’t until 2003 that international attention beckoned. International superstar Manu Chao heard their early recordings and noted unassuming potential. He contacted the blind couple and set to work with them, resulting in their 2004 effort Dimanche a Bamako. This was swiftly followed by an unusual collaboration with German superstar Herbert Groenemeyer. Support slots for the Scissor Sisters followed suit and finally Amadou and Mariam met Blur’s Damon Albarn and released their critically acclaimed crossover album Welcome To Mali. The album took the relatively unknown pair and made them coffee shop music for the designer crowd to talk about. Mariam has even got to play with her idol Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour. They even had to fly in from an American support slot for Coldplay to play their headlining gig at Camden’s Roundhouse.
“When I first moved from Dublin, I lived in a little bedsit up the road and it’s so bloody brilliant to be playing here (Camden’s Roundhouse) at last.” From the moment that Imelda May slinked on stage with her 50s-inspired quiff, wearing a sexily skin-tight little green dress and killer heels the entire audience were put under her spell. It was obvious she belonged on the Roundhouse’s very special stage and wanted to be there so very much. Teasingly tapping the tambourine, she opened her mouth and revealed a voice more killer than her heels. Enticing the audience to “Feel Me”, May instantly won applause with her subtle sex appeal and Irish charm.
Having made it “Acceptable In The 80s”, Calvin Harris ensured his place at the forefront of the British music scene. A notable producer, with Kylie Minogue’s X amongst his credits — and almost more noteworthy, the rejection of current pop darling Lady Gaga. Harris is all set to release his second album, but first he must prove that he “created Disco”.
A frontman sporting a mullet haircut and wearing black leather trousers held up by red dungarees and a rhythem-maker powering out the hooks on a keytar make for a entertaining pair just to look at performing on stage; backed by an impressively tight drummer they sound just as good. Australians Grafton Primary follow up successful attempts by countrymen Pendulum and the Sneaky Sound System to break into the UK and judging by their debut performance at London’s Cargo, they have the spirit, the energy and the music to follow in their footsteps.
Nathan Fake’s early promise has been fulfilled in production form thanks to his relentless new style heard on Hard Islands, and he’s going to be in demand on the live circuit if this album launch party is anything to go by. His headline set at London’s Corsica Studios proved he will be whipping up a storm on dancefloors having evolved from was a more considered approach to electronica until now.
Cyber pop in a cyber club: matter’s concrete walls and grey stylings aren’t the most welcoming for clubbers, though you could say it’s a fitting venue for Miss Kittin and The Hacker to perform their integalactic techno. These cold surroundings match the android-like pale complexions of Miss Kitten and The Hacker on stage, dressed in chic black attire as the intergalactic theme for their second album Two is given the perfect setting.
It was only a small crowd made it out to The Lexington, formerly Clockwork, on London’s Pentonville road for this date, late in Racebannon’s UK Tour and with great support slots from casio-grind merchants Trencher and PW Long. Those who did though were treated to a show fit for a full house.
For several weeks under the ‘Colour Your Summer’ banner The Roundhouse draped huge curtains down to enclose a smaller space within the pillars and used cabaret-style tables in front of the stage with small tiers of seating circled behind, creating a more intimate club-style venue — more fitting perhaps for a one woman show. Though the evenings proceedings were set off by the rather louder O’death.
As several articles ran in film publications like Sight and Sound commemorating many a great double-bill at the Scala in its days as a repertory film house (on the 15th anniversary of its demise), the music venue that the King’s Cross building now stands as hosted another exiting twin header: first up, the first live airing of Daniel O’Sullivan and Antti Uusimaki’s new project Mothlite, and then Dylan Carlson’s Earth, who are always a mind-lockingly captivating experience.
Manchester got a treat over Easter with the return of The Warehouse Project for the first of three ‘Lost Weekend’ series of nights. Making the most of the four-day weekend, Thursday night’s Ape party brought together a diverse range of DJs including the Scratch Perverts, Coldcut, Goldie and Kode9 while Saturday hosted the Swedish House Mafia including Axwell, Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso. Easter Sunday closed the weekend with a classic Hacienda night featuring 808 State but zap! bang! was in attendance on Good Friday when a selection of bands and DJs came together for an electro house showdown courtesy of Ed Banger, Kitsune and Modular.
The Canada Music Fund offers grants to fledgling bands, allowing them to live modestly, tour and make music with less industry pressure to create a mass-marketable product. BSS, Patrick Watson and Miracle Fortress have all benefited from this scheme and created distinct, interesting LPs; the latter’s Five Roses being the focal point of this short promo tour.
A large amount of the crowd came gamely dressed-up in bloodpaint and/or costume for ATP’s Halloween gig at The Forum in Kentish Town which featured a bill rammed way into the night including the Cervidae-likes of Deerhoof and Deerhunter among others. The aforementioned costumes and a venue bedecked with copious amounts of large 2D skulls and the like indeed gave an air of the witching season, however, and strangely, as the two bands already mentioned suggest, the choice of music on offer didn’t do much to continue this mood. Black Lips are by no means evil and The Liars aren’t too dark either, in fact the only band with any real attempt to befit the name and time of year were Fuck Buttons.
Harking back to the days when raves were held in warehouses, Manchester’s premier series of major dance parties celebrated 20 years since acid house with an impressive mix of live acts and djs who are hitting the peak of their form. It wasn’t a night of rehashing old favourites from decades ago, The Warehouse Project chose artists pushing acid sounds further as electro and techno with plenty of fist-clenched air punching along the way.
Canadian inidie rockers The New Pornographers waltzed into the grand designs of London’s Koko to blast out their power pop to waiting fans. The Vancouver band, who have now released four albums – the latest being Challengers (Matador, 2007) — are much celebrated in Canada and tonight was the chance for me to not only see the band for the first time, but also hear their sound.