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Live Review: Human League with Performance at London Royal Festival Hall – 10th December 2010

 
By on Thursday, 23rd December 2010 at 2:00 pm
 

Wow, what a crazy few weeks it has been. It’s always like it this time of year, a mad rush in the weeks leading up to Christmas before the whole music industry flops for a well-earned rest until mid-January. So this is my lame excuse and apology for such an overdue review of the Human League at the Royal Festival Hall with support from Performance.

I was particularly interested in this gig as I have never been to the Royal Festival Hall, and also, being born in the 80s, I have kind of grown up with The Human League, so I was interested to see them live. Royal Festival Hall certainly lived up to expectations, really high ceilings made for fantastic acoustics….and the seats were really comfortable!

We arrived in time to see the support act, Performance. (You can read more about the band in our Bands to Watch piece on them and our review of their album, Red Brick Heart.) Performance are very like the Human League, which makes no surprise seeing as they are supporting them! They are a 3-piece: vocals, a female guitarist and backing vocalist and an electronic drummer and multi-instrumentalist. Their sound is very 80s but with a current pop twist to every track. Each song had strong choruses and I could see them doing quite well. Unfortunately, the band were a little under-rehearsed and looked dazzled by the size of the crowd. And why shouldn’t they be, for a relatively new band this was a hell of an opportunity for them? On the whole, the band really held it together and it was only a matter of a few relatively minor ‘school boy errors’; missing opening cues, guitar straps falling off and the band starting regardless. They had the crowd’s support, so they got away with these little hiccups. I’d like to catch up with them next year once they have toured some more and ironed out these issues.

So, the stage was set for the Human League; lots of white microphone stands, risers and LED backdrops. I did wonder whether this was going to be a ‘throw away throw back gig’ or whether the band could come back and really impress us. The band opened with one of their best known-tracks, ‘Electric Shock’, to mass applause and an almost standing ovation, where the crowd stayed for the rest of the gig. What a great choice for an opener: everyone was really behind this band and the atmosphere was incredible. People were dancing in the stalls as well as in the boxes (badly) and singing back the lyrics. Oakey was dressed in a long black parka jacket, hood up he commanded the stage, pacing from side to side delivering a perfect vocal with attitude like a seasoned pro. He’s still got it.

(Editor’s note: I really wanted to find a good photo of what Human League look like now [versus what they looked like back in the day] so the header photo is from the Londoneer.)

Continue reading Live Review: Human League with Performance at London Royal Festival Hall – 10th December 2010

 

Live Review: Flashguns at London Old Blue Last – 2nd December 2010

 
By on Friday, 10th December 2010 at 4:00 pm
 

Well, it’s been very snowy here in London which means it’s been very cold, which inevitably means that the whole of the UK’s transport system effectively and efficiently grinds to a halt. It happens every year and will probably always happen every year! Nonetheless, I had tickets to the Flashguns single launch at the Old Blue Last and I was going.

Having reviewed their latest single, ‘Come and See the Lights’, I was looking forward to hearing how they performed live. I arrived at the venue and the band had just gone on stage, the room was packed out with what seemed like mainly friends of the band, or maybe fans too, considering the radio support these guys have had in the past. It’s a small stage in here and a somewhat curious venue for a single launch, but we settled in all the same.

I was hoping to hear a really energetic three piece, embellished with the epic vocals and ambiance I had heard on the record, but unfortunately that didn’t really happen. The band had some technical difficulties on the night and it’s a shame as it seemed to be affecting them and they couldn’t get into the gig. Saying that everyone else in the room seemed to be enjoying it, but the sound and performance just wasn’t doing it for me.

The third or fourth song in the set was the single, ‘Come See the Lights’, which was delivered well, but lacked the nuances and production of the record that ultimately turn it into something special. Don’t get me wrong, the band were tight and obviously made the best of a bad situation. There just wasn’t enough dynamic on stage to really hold my attention, even for a set this short; the band only played five or six songs, so hardly had time to leave much of an impression.

Once Flashguns have played some more shows at some bigger venues, I could definitely get behind them as they have some great songs and are great musicians. For now I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, but the jury’s still out on this one.

 

Live Review and Film: ‘My Life Story’ and Mark Ronson and the Business Intl at London Abbey Road – 25th November 2010

 
By on Wednesday, 8th December 2010 at 2:00 pm
 

Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited along to probably the most famous recording studios in the world. Abbey Road opened up both of its main studios for the red carpet premiere of ‘Epic’, a short film by Ridley Scott Associates, Channel 4, American Express and Mark Ronson and the Business Intl. The evening started swimmingly with a champagne reception in the wonderful studio 2. Canapés came thick and fast, we decided the chili beef ones and the mini fish and chips were the most desirable by far. For the record; if anyone ever offers you a mozzarella risotto ball….avoid it at all costs! It was great to spend some proper time in such a fantastic room seeped in so much musical history, you can imagine any superstar from the past 40 years walking down the staircase from the control room at any second.

Once we’d had 40 minutes’ gorging time, it was time to head into studio 1 for the screening of ‘Epic’. Rick Edwards off the TV and the film’s director, Toby Dye, introduced the film. The film started from a project called ‘My Live Story’ to uncover the best music experience. Members of the public were asked to go out and film an ‘experience’ at a live gig of their choice, then 21 finalists were chosen, and their pieces were featured in the film. If I’m totally honest the film was a bit of an anti-climax and it had undertones of corporate brand experience throughout. Unless I fell asleep for the majority of the film (which I didn’t) hardly any of the footage seemed to make the final cut of ‘Epic’. There were some great stories unearthed: one guy who proposed to his girlfriend onstage at Wembley Stadium, and another guy who hopped onstage and played drums for Paramore, but a very limited amount of this footage was in the film, which I found strange. I mean, the film looked great and was put together well; it just needed some more substance I thought. Once the film finished, DJ Ali B spun some tunes whilst the stage was set for Mark Ronson and his Business Intl.

After a few more glasses of ‘plonk’, it was time for Mark Ronson to hit the stage. The most exciting aspect of this gig for me was the expectation of top notch sound, being at Abbey Road and all! The band came onstage looking pensive, almost uncomfortable I thought. I put it down to the crowd maybe being smaller than they are used to playing to. All of Mark Ronson’s branding was in place and the stage looked pretty cool, although I did think at times it looked a bit like Dracula with his disciples of drummers.

Ronson opened with an instrumental track from the new album, ‘Record Collection’. I didn’t care so much for this rendition but it was a nice way to start the show. Next was the cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’, which went down an absolute storm. Different to the earlier funked out, brass-influenced version Ronson used to perform, this had an altogether lo-fi and dancehall vibe to it. The drum sound was fantastic, and Abbey Road started to come to life.

Continue reading Live Review and Film: ‘My Life Story’ and Mark Ronson and the Business Intl at London Abbey Road – 25th November 2010

 

Single Review: Flashguns – Come and See the Lights

 
By on Monday, 29th November 2010 at 12:00 pm
 

Flashguns have had a busy 2010 recording their debut album ‘Passions Of A Different Kind’. Fresh from a 20-date UK tour, their first single ‘Come and See the Lights’ is released today (Monday 29th November) through Friends vs. Records.

The song starts with a thundering drum and guitar combo. I really like this drum sound: it’s big and brash and tastefully overcompressed. “I know because I’ve been there” is the first vocal line delivered with intriguing understatement, a gentle entry to what has so far been a hard-hitting opening. The contrast works well and I’m finding myself getting hooked in, wondering what is to come next.

The chorus is an epic, almost post-rock affair: not the catchiest, and I feel that could slightly let this tune down. I like the odd instrumental sections and bar arrangements going into and out of the choruses, they add a nice dynamic to the song. The production style is big and epic but nothing feels too rammed down your throat. The electronic elements of the track, mainly synths and keys, ride along behind the rhythm section creating an inoffensive ambiance, filling the ‘3-piece void’ that can be so damning with these sorts of records.

Aspects of the arrangement do puzzle me on the first and second listen, but this track turns out to be a grower. By the third or fourth listen, things seem to be making more sense. This song delivers on many levels but I’m not sure if it is the song to catapult Flashguns into the market, but who am I to judge? It could be great synced alongside TV programme or advert.

The three-piece have had some great support from NME and Radio 1 in the past, so good luck to them with the new album. It’s nice to hear a British trio doing something a bit different; this band aren’t just jingle jangle indie guitars, there is something deeper in there than that, and I shall be keeping my beady eye on them, you should too methinks. I’m looking forward to seeing them live at their single launch at the Old Blue Last on 2nd December, so expect a live review soon after.

‘Come and See the Lights’ is released today, 29 November, on Friends vs. Records.

 
 
 

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