[Review] MEN @ Bush Hall, London (07/06/11)

June 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Walking into Bush Hall ten minutes before the headlining band are due to take the stage and finding the room a third full doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that a heady night of exhiliration is ahead of you. Thankfully, the people who made up that third didn’t seem to care, singing to Michael Jackson songs playing over the PA, and dancing energetically before Brooklyn’s MEN have broken out even a single beat. The room fills up a little more before JD Samson, Ginger Brooks Takahashi and Michael O’Neill burst onto the stage, looking full of energy and ready to show London a good time. « Read the rest of this entry »


Warpaint @ HMV Forum, London (25/05/11)

May 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Warpaint brought their hypnotic, intimate yet powerful melodies to the HMV Forum in Kentish Town on Wednesday night. The Los Angeles foursome have garnered respect and admiration from critics and audiences alike since the release of their debut album The Fool, and tonight they set out to show exactly why they are deserving of the praise they have received.

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Niki And The Dove @ Electrowerkz (24/05/11)

May 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

With some gigs, it’s all about the venue. Acoustics, lighting, capacity, proximity of bar from stage…these things create the atmosphere which contributes to the success or failure of the night. Other times however, all of these things pale into insignificance as the band you watch transport you to another place all together. Never have I witnessed this happen quite like it did on Tuesday night as Niki And The Dove played Electrowerkz (Angel, London). « Read the rest of this entry »

Lady Gaga @ M.E.N Arena 02/06/10

June 8, 2010 § 1 Comment

The last time Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball Tour came to the UK, tickets were £27.50. This time they came with a heftier price tag of £50-75. So I guess the big question is, was it worth the money? The answer – a resounding yes.

Having been to my fair share of female pop star shows, I can tell you that it’s not what the tour is made up of that will make or break it, it is how it is pulled off, and if there is talent to back it up. You can have all the gimmicks in the world, all the dancers and pyrotechnics and sparkling costumes that money can buy, but if you stumble on stage and proceed to re-enact Whitney Houston’s X Factor debacle, no-one is going to be impressed.

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Marina & the diamonds @ Manchester Academy 23/05/10

May 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

The last time Marina & the Diamonds played Manchester, it was at the 200 or so capacity Deaf Institute, a charming and much loved venue, but ultimately just a room above a trendy bar. Whilst that crowd had its fair share of Diamonds (they’re the fans, come on you now that by now), this time there is a much more palpable excitement in the air. It could be the heat of what is likely to be Manchester’s only weekend of sun that has caused the energetic buzz in the room, but most likely it’s the anticipation of seeing what audible and visual treats will be thrown out to the crowd by Ms. Diamandis tonight. « Read the rest of this entry »

Ellie Goulding @ Club Academy 30/03/10

April 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

It would be easy to imagine Ellie Goulding’s live show as being extravagant; an excuse for the much hyped and glorified ‘folktronica’ singer to flex her ego and essentially show off. But this is incredibly far from the truth. Whilst the majority of performers receiving the amount of attention she has (winning the Brits Critics Choice Award and topping the BBC’s Sound of 2010 Poll) may find themselves swimming in a sea of self-adoration, Ellie Goulding is a humble and unpretentious individual, an attitude that comes across refreshingly and allows her incredible talent to shine through.

A select few of us in the crowd at the Club Academy were privy to this knowledge pre-show, having had the opportunity to take part in Nike’s ‘Ellie Runs’ campaign earlier in the day: we met Ellie and got to join her on a run through Manchester, a ritual she upholds in every place she visits, and is letting fans join her on in 7 cities. How many other artists would be willing to do such a thing with their fans?

The set opened with a track only included on the iTunes version of her debut album Lights, a bonus track of the same name. ‘Lights’ is an incredible song, and anyone who purchased a physical copy of the album (does anyone do that these days?) should download it. It was a great choice for an opening number; the song starts out quietly and cathartically, crescendoing into the pop/electro/folk sound that categorizes the album. This gave the crowd a brief glimpse of Ellie solo, before seeing what she can do with aid of her band. And what can she do? Quite simply, blow your mind. She proceeded to play every song from her album, with tracks such as ‘Everytime You Go’, ‘This Love (Will Be Your Downfall)’ and ‘Your Biggest Mistake’ providing the crowd with sing-along opportunities that they wholeheartedly embraced. The crowd itself was a jumble of gender and age, with die-hard fans holding banners aloft and singing along to every song, groups of friends joined in mutual adoration of Ellie’s incredible voice (and hair as someone yelled out), and older gentlemen admiring her mastery of the acoustic guitar and drumming skills (as well as swaying to tracks such as ‘The Writer’ which looked a little peculiar but was thoroughly endearing!). The diverse crowd only served to highlight Ellie’s talent, people from all age groups had braved the horrendous Manchester weather and crammed into the basement of the Academy to hear the girl from Hereford amaze us with her raspy, delicate, and yet shockingly powerful vocals.

Between songs Ellie came across as appreciative and charming, thanking fans for buying her album, explaining track meanings, and inviting us all to go jogging with her (the girl can RUN). Her comments that the room was too quiet whilst she was speaking were met by raucous yet concise cheers, not due to lack of enthusiasm but an enthralment and eagerness to know what she had to say next. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of the room were completely spellbound: those who had come with prior knowledge enjoying her brilliance; those just discovering it left astounded.

The most energetic parts of the night were found in singles ‘Under the Sheets’ and ‘Starry Eyed’, stomping tracks during which Ellie grabbed her drumsticks and beat her sparkling drum as vigorously as she attacked the microphone. Vocal samples were used to recreate the layering found in the production of Lights, but it was the live vocals that shone through, showing that no matter how good the album is, it does no justice to the range and nuances displayed in live performances. ‘Wish I Stayed’ gave the audience a chance to hear her vocals more stripped down as her band left and we saw Ellie alone with her guitar. Any doubts that fans may have had about over-production ruining Ellie’s sound surely had their faith restored by this number, a moving few minutes during which we saw her vulnerability and natural ability to mesmerize. The same was seen in a cover of Midlake’s ‘Roscoe’ which was performed stunningly, showing how easily Ellie can put her stamp on any song with her unique vocals (as she has done in the past with Bon Iver’s ‘Wolves’, Sam Sparro’s ‘Black and Gold’, and Robyn’s ‘Be Mine’), and in this case impressive guitar skills. Not to say that this was lost during the bigger numbers; ‘Salt Skin’ was performed with the band but still proved to be emotive and touching whilst showcasing Ellie’s ability to create bigger and more complexly produced numbers.

‘Starry Eyed’ closed the night with a bang, leaving everyone in the room energised and thankful that they had seen Ellie Goulding in such a small and intimate venue, something that won’t be happening much longer for a girl with her immense talent. Overall, an enchanting evening, one which proved that if you take away the production of Lights, the opinions of critics, and the stacks of publicity, you are left with Ellie’s natural talent and warmth, things that make her worthy of all the success she is destined to achieve.

Marina & the diamonds @ The Deaf Institute 21/02/10

February 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Having just reviewed The Family Jewels I thought maybe I’d skip reviewing the Marina & the diamonds gig. Then 3 things happened (yes all at once):

1. I remembered I’d already promised to review it.

2. I read the M.E.N’s review and decided someone who actually paid attention at the gig should review it.

3. I remembered what a great time I had!

So here you go…

The Deaf Institute is a great venue, let me start by saying that. Tiny, fun and full of character. It was my first time seeing Marina, and my first gig at the Deaf Institute, so the first thing I thought when I walked into the Music Hall was…”she won’t be playing venues this size for much longer”. Which will be a shame, you can’t get the same level of intimacy and closeness in bigger venues.

The crowd were happy before Marina even took to the stage, due to the fact that the support act was thoroughly enjoyable – Alan Pownall and his band. I had never heard of him before but when Alan announced this was his first gig outside of London I had to presume that he had been playing there for some time – he was professional, comfortable on stage, and hugely talented.

As the support finished and the stage was prepared for Marina, the anticipation was palpable. It is has been mentioned several times that some Diamonds are a little over-enthusiastic, so I was a little apprehensive as to how those I could hear talking about demos and letter-writing would react when Ms. Diamandis took to the stage. As she came out, cloaked in a floor length black sparkling dress, the cheers, whoops and claps seemed to indicate that those of us in the crowd felt lucky to be seeing her, the day before her debut album release, in such a small and intimate venue.

‘Girls’ was the first track, and a fantastic opener, as the drums pounded and Marina bounded across the (very small) stage grinning into the crowd. I was very pleased to hear ‘Seventeen’ (a track from The Crown Jewels EP), and it seemed other people felt the same from the cheers it received. I had always thought it would be a hard song to sing live, being pretty low pitched, but Marina sounded incredible. I didn’t really know what to expect from her voice live, but I ended up being very impressed. Obviously her vocals were not as polished as on record, but was actually an improvement, with all the different tones and nuances to her voice being allowed to shine. And of course there were some extra ‘oohs’, ‘laas’ and ‘cuckoos’ thrown in throughout the night.

Next came ‘The Outsider’, probably my favourite album track and probably my favourite number of the night. The band seemed to be having a great time all night, especially during this number, and its upbeat rhythm, thumping drums and screams of I’m a fucking WILDCARD went down amazingly.

Marina took a moment between songs to announce that it was indeed the only show she would ever perform the night before her album release, and that she was feeling maybe just a little nervous about it all. The nerves didn’t show though, and she proceeded to perform ‘I Am Not A Robot’ (during which levels of Diamond singing reached their pinnacle) and Oh No!, which was another highlight of the night for me, the electronic drums actually sounded great and Marina’s vocals and facial expressions during all the Oh nos were priceless. Throughout the set she proceeded to display dramatic poses, arm movements and mic holding, which would have been over the top if they weren’t completely fitting for the songs they accompanied. She has great stage presence without seeming like she’s trying too hard, which isn’t all that easy to achieve.

[iPhone cameras are TERRIBLE but you get the idea]

The band took a brief jaunt backstage while Marina took to the keyboard for stripped down versions of Numb and Obsessions, during which her vocal power came through, and her talent for powerful ballads as well as quirky uptempo songs became more than apparent.

The band returned and we heard Rootless, Shampain and Hollywood, which was every bit as fun live as it is recorded (OH MY GOD being the highlight of course). And for the encore, the weirdly wonderful Mowgli’s Road. It was a brilliant number to end on, the quirkiest performance of the night (you try singing cuckoo without looking weird) and utterly enjoyable.

As Marina left the stage and the lights came back up, the crowd’s chatter seemed to indicate that we were completely satisfied, slightly besotted by her charms, and saddened that our night with her was over. Thankfully, she returns to Manchester to play Academy 2 on May 23rd, and we can do it all over again.

As for my not being “truly passionate about an artist until I’ve seen them live” – I’m a Diamond through and through.

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