Einstürzende Neubauten – Forum, London, 16 October 2010

They don’t look like rock stars. “They’ve been going 30 years? They must be really old,” as my friend so delicately put it. Alex Hacke looks like he should be working in the local chip shop, with his knackered old vest and hair all over the place. Blixa, a sweet eccentric in a three-piece suit, is prowling the stage barefoot and making theremin noises with his mouth. You will find him if you want him in the garden, unless it’s pouring down with rain. Do Neubauten entertain me? Yes. Do they move me? Yes. Then who cares if they’re scruffy barefooted old men in vests banging on bits of metal?

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Ah yes, bits of metal. Two percussion kits with all sorts of home-made contraptions attached to them dominate the stage, and band members move around, occasionally swapping more traditional instrumentation for metal pipes and planks of metal. That song that sounds like a drawer of cutlery being thrown around? Oh, that is a drawer of cutlery being thrown around.
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Adventures In Music: Reading 2010 – Saturday

<< FRIDAY

MAIN STAGE

Arcade Fire
sh*te! I haven’t even heard of the headliners! They’re not very interesting – just extremely standard indie.

The Libertines
I instinctively hate this lot on principle because they’re famous solely for their lead singer dating a supermodel *yawn* and having a heroin habit *double-yawn*. That’s like famous for … being a polar bear, except Knut the bear isn’t interestingly insane; it’s just bored. Like I am, a few bars into this song.

Dizzee Rascal
I’ll say this much, it’s pretty catchy in an obvious sort of way. It reminds me of being at the youth disco I used to go to when I was 12 or so. I remember winning a KMFDM single in a dance competition and giving it to a boy I fancied. What the hell was I thinking? Dizzee? I think I’ll have forgotten this the minute it’s over, but I don’t hate it.

The Cribs
Apparently Johnny Marr’s their guitarist, which doesn’t sway my opinion of them one way or the other. Neither does this song. Average.

The Maccabees
The NME reckons this is the best indie has to offer right now. Oh dear. Why am I thinking Kitchens of Distinction?

Modest Mouse

Again, I’ve dimly heard of this lot, but I know why I’ve never gone ape over them. You know it’s bad when you have to root around for anything interesting enough to link to.

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Adventures in Music: Reading 2010 – Friday

Typically perverse, I’m going to talk about Reading on Glastonbury weekend. Someone on our intranet was selling tickets, you see. I told my colleagues earlier that out of 132 bands announced for the 2010 Reading Festival, I had heard of only 19 of them, and liked only one.

I declared myself “officially old”.

Hey! That’s no good! I need to fix this. I mean, I’m realistically only a third-to-half of the way through my projected lifespan: it’s a little too early to send me to the knackers yard, so I guess I need to catch up.

Friday 27 August 2010:

MAIN STAGE

Guns ‘n’ Roses. Need no introduction. Didn’t Robin Finck join them at one point? Yes. Have they been any good since Appetite for Destruction?
No.

Queens of the Stone Age
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Oh yes, of course I know this lot. I know this song. It’s catchy, but underwhelming. Needs more cowbell.

Biffy Clyro
Welsh, apparently. I think of only novelty pop, sheep and the Manics. They’re closest, of course, to the latter. While they’re not exactly blowing me out of my seat (bubbles! Blowing! Geddit?) they strike me as perfect festival material. I think after a few pints of warm lager you’d have a blast watching this lot.

LostProphets
Ah yes, I remember this bunch from way back. I’m not really surprised I can’t remember what they sounded like – they fall into the awful middle ground a lot of bands do with me, where I actually forget they’re playing while they’re playing. They’re sort of Muse-lite, which isn’t a very enviable position.

NOFX
Hunh … musta missed this of my list of 19 bands I knew of from the lineup. Make it 20, then. They remind me of Green Day, who (other than one song) also made absolutely no impression on me whatsoever.

Gogol Bordello
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Sort of a folky mishmash, part wistful accordion, part Pogues. I actually like this more than anything I’ve heard so far. It’s extremely catchy, and while there’s the suspicion it’s more than a little tongue-in-cheek, it’s intensely musical and passionate.

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My first gigs

I just stumbled on this hugely entertaining blog series about a Londoner’s earliest gig-going memories.

Reminds me of a few of my own.

FIRST: Soul II Soul / the Sindecut / Swervedriver
Brighton Centre, 1990

I was on Third Year Camp at the time (age 14), and my mother – I’ll always love her for this – drove out to where we were camped with our school-class, and drove me and my friends all the way to Brighton for the concert. I was still wearing my green wellington boots! After the gig, she picked us up and drove us all back to where we’d left our tents, in the forest in the middle of nowhere.

I remember being annoyed by the lack of enthusiasm for Swervedriver – really nice guys; great tunes. It was a pretty odd thing to have one of the heavier “shoegazing” bands supporting Soul II Soul anyway. The jazzy Sindecut had a really great single out that I don’t think actually got anywhere. I remember liking them.

I don’t actually remember if Soul II Soul were good or not, because I had no basis for comparison. They were just exactly as I expected them to be, and extremely slick and professional. I remember thinking Jazzy B was really sexy – and, like, totally profound. I might laugh now, but I’m still tapping my toe to this, even if the kiddie chorus grates.

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SECOND: Charlatans / Intastella
Brighton Event, 1990

I queued for four hours before the doors open, and even thirty minutes after we’d arrived, the queue went right around the block. We were right at the front of the queue – me and my mum. We went right to the front. Mum and I got separated, and she’s barely five feet tall. She ended up wedged between these two really big blokes, and every time they jumped up, she got pulled up into the air with them. The bouncers had a hose trained on the crowd just to keep people from passing out.

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Best Concerts Ever: Full Top Ten

I’m being nagged for my top 10 favourite gigs. This is, of course, just shows that I’ve been to. I caught footage of mid-70s Led Zep on TV the other day, so I’m pretty sure better shows have been played.

1. SMASHING PUMPKINS/FILTER

Wembley Arena, May 1996

(Review here)

The highlight of all highlights begins as the Pumpkins play another untitled track with incredible tribal percussion that threatens to cause the roof to cave in. The deep rumbling basslines resonate around the room, booming up through the floorboards. The sound is clear and pristine tonight, perfect conditions for a little experimentalism. Jimmy Chamberlain shows his true ingenuity as a drummer by holding the steady, complicated rhythms together as Billy and James churn out guitar lines in a vaguely Eastern-sounding fashion. The sound swells and holds for a full eight minutes before dying down to the percussion-based theme, and then something extraordinary happens.

2. RADIOHEAD/MANICS
Reading Festival, 1994

Saturday’s headliners Primal Scream were oddly disappointing – even if they had Dave Gahan as a guest star – because there was just no possible way they could have beaten the back-to-back double act that was Radiohead and the Manics. Two bands I personally rooted for, as much for their good-natured personalities as their music, and they never sounded better. I always felt afterwards that Richie had used this as a test run: see if they could survive without him before doing his disappearing act. I remember the surprisingly gorgeous James Dean Bradfield – a regular at the PR agency where I was doing an internship that summer – saying, “I gotta go play in front of 50,000 people” with a mixture of pride and terror to which I could only smile and wish him luck. They pulled off the challenge admirably. Radiohead were their consistent, excellent best.

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Best Concerts Ever: Smashing Pumpkins and Filter

This is right next to the Foetus one in the same issue – it has to be said, 1996 was one of the best years ever for live shows. If I was effusively enthusiastic about the Foetus one, this was the type of concert to completely take you out of your skull. Rarely, I was stone cold sober, but the performance itself made us quite forget our lack of beer …

SMASHING PUMPKINS/FILTER

14 May 1996, Wembley Arena

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Filter playing live somewhere

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I have dreams of concerts like this. The line-up was hardly to be sniffed at, but to be honest, we were only really there to see Filter. Yeah, I like the Pumpkins, but they’re just a better-than-average Alternative Rock Band, right …?

“Felcher?” asks Filter’s Richard Patrick, gazing bemused at the slideshow backdrop that has been craftily switched by the mischievous lighting crew. The red banner is hastily swapped back to “Filter”. Richard laughs, and introduces the next song. Filter’s Richard and Brian are undaunted by the size of Wembley Arena – this is probably due to their spell as members of Nine Inch Nails – and look right at home in the rapidly-filling venue. Blasting through the killer tracks off their spellbinding debut LP (Short Bus), they blind us with It’s Over, Dose, Under, and all the usual suspects, plus the ever-present Hey Man, Nice Shot (sorry guys – it’s most definitely your Creep).

Richard prowls the stage with his characteristic feline charisma, and whilst his singing voice shows the telling signs of end-of-tour strain, he can scream with the best of them. Continue reading

Best Concerts Ever: Foetus

I found my review of Foetus from 1996. Yes, it’s horrifyingly pretentious – but I was an overexcited teenager and all that. Of course, I was completely unaware of any connection between Foetus and either Nick Cave or Cop Shoot Cop, if the references seem a little off. Alas, before you ask, I wasn’t in the front row …

FOETUS/OTIS/LEECH WOMAN

24 Sep 1996, London Astoria 2

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From the live MALE DVD; the lyrics are allegorical.

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YYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Talk about one hell of an impressive bill. Actually, I think I will.

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