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Live: Mika – Koko in London – March 22nd

 
By on Friday, 23rd March 2007 at 1:47 am
 

When tipped for the top, many artists can’t live up to the hype that has been created for them by the press. Mika, on the other hand is different. Revelling in the limelight, the 23 year old jumped on stage at London’s Koko last night to start the first date of his six date UK tour, fully recovered from a bout of flu that cancelled the first date in Brighton on Tuesday.

Support came in the interesting form of Kitty, Daisy and Lewis who are something of a hillbilly Von Trapp family, with Mum and Dad providing backing on double bass and acoustic guitar respectively, and the kids at the front of the band, appearing younger than most of the audience. They muddled their way through their set, clearly nervous at playing to such a large crowd compared to what they’re used to, playing just about every instrument possible. In the circumstances they were good, but need to work on getting that much tighter in the future – they seem a bit all over the place, and don’t appear to know their way around their instruments particularly well.

Pretty soon 9pm rolled round and sure enough Mika jumped on, launching straight into “Relax”, showing that his voice was fully recovered from his flu, and that he was back to full strength. Moving nicely into a jumpy “Love today”, he soon removed his ornate hoody, going down to braces and a dress shirt, joking how he always starts off with so many more clothes than is comfortable.

“Big Girls” came around and he was indeed joined by two, erm, larger, girls for the song, dancing around, popping out of their corsets several times, and generally causing mischief, dancing on his piano stool, and getting in the way of his guitarist. “Ring Ring” is the closest to a ballad Mika has, joined by a superb backing singer and a cellist. Sure enough closer to the set was “Grace Kelly”, his current number 1 hit single, sung almost perfectly from the crowd, with Mika clearly touched by the response.

After a short break, Mika comes back to do his bubble-gum hit “Lollipop”, a song that Aqua would have been proud of. He’s joined by his dancers, the Lollipop girls, who dance, jump, and play with four huge letters that spell out “LOVE”. Glitter cannons go off; giant balloons are thrown into the crowd, giving an experience akin to the Flaming Lips at Hammersmith Apollo last summer. With that, Mika walks off, finishing 50 minutes of camp classics that in one album have put him up there with the Scissor Sisters and a modern day Freddie Mercury.

His May tour has almost totally sold out, and he looks likely to be a hit at the festivals this summer, with Glastonbury already confirmed. Watch out for him – he’s going to be very infectious over the coming months.

 

Live: We Are Scientists with The Scare Pull Tiger Tail and Switches at London’s Astoria

 
By on Wednesday, 28th February 2007 at 3:46 pm
 

Normally support bands get better as the evening progresses. However, at last night’s NME awards show with We Are Scientists at London’s Astoria, this was not the case. Opener Switches started playing to a quarter full auditorium, and by the end of their set they’d converted virtually all those present.

The Southend-on-sea four piece led by the charismatic Matt Bishop took us on a romp through their brief back catalogue, with both energy and excitement. Sounding like they’d be right at home in the background of an episode of Skins on E4, they’re the anthem to a night out, and their set was all too brief. Highlights ‘Drama Queen’ and ‘Lay down the Law’ got the crowd going, and were everything the best support bands should do.

The stage was quickly turned around and soon the audience’s favourites Pull Tiger Tail came out complete with day-glo tubes and tiger masks (which they only remembered to put on halfway through). Sounding like a mix between the Killers, Panic! At the Disco and Klaxons, the London three-piece were loved by the girls on the front, whilst some of the older audience members looked on in bemusement. Their energy was briefly halted when Davo their bassist / keyboardist knocked his synths and keys off their stands, causing much amusement.

Going on the last two bands, I was hopeful that Australians “The Scare” would be amazingly good. How wrong I was. Coming on looking like the typical stereotype of the hard living rock stars, Russell Brand look-alike Kiss Reid gave it his all, telling us that we were “boring… come on, give it some”, before spending much of the last two songs in the crowd. At the end of the last song he was joined by his two guitarists, who seemed to think that we loved them more than we did. Their music was overshadowed by their dramatics, with their generic brand of rock proving as unique as everyone else.

Finally, We Are Scientists graced the stage, coming on, looking genuinely surprised to the audience’s reaction. Starting off with a new slow song ‘Spoken For’, WAS were on top form, ploughing through most of their debut album whilst also throwing in a few extra new songs. WAS’ new stuff was good, though nothing they played stood up to their debut album: hopefully they’ll have some better songs hidden up their sleeves. Their inter-song banter between Keith and Chris was amusing, though a little short compared to other times. Pretty soon they launched into ‘Nobody Moves, Nobody Gets Hurt’, when the place erupted into a sweaty mess that The Scare would have loved to have been a part of. Closing off the evening was the obligatory “Great Escape”, sending the crowd off into a frenzy once again, and bringing a brilliant evening of great (and not so great in the case of The Scare) music to a close.

 

Live: Bloc Party – Southampton Guildhall – 27th January 2007

 
By on Sunday, 28th January 2007 at 11:42 am
 

Last night saw the first date of Bloc Party’s 20 date UK tour at Southampton’s Guildhall, and the earnest start of the campaign for their (superb) new album ‘A Weekend In The City’.

Opening up were Canadian Metric, who did little more than piss me off. Whilst some people love them to pieces and think Emily Haines is the best thing since sliced bread, I didn’t appreciate the noise they created – I much prefer her stuff with Broken Social Scene.

So after 35 minutes of noise from the Canadians, the stage was set for Bloc Party, and after putting up with the crap music pumped over the PA, the lights go down and Kele and co came on stage. Sure as anything they didn’t disappoint. Opening with new song ‘Song For Clay’ they blasted their way through about 16 anthems, including all of our favourites.

The new stuff feels like it could fill a stadium, with its driving bass and prominent drums. The Prayer I felt was a bit of a letdown – thrown in the middle of the set, I would have prefered it to have been the climax of the first half, however it was still a highlight for me. I’ve never been a big fan of their initial album, however live it just blew me away – I can’t even begin to pick a favourite.

Halfway through ‘Helicopter’ which closed the first set a random guy jumped on stage from the crowd, needless to say quickly escorted off, after getting tangled in Kele’s guitar. The start of the second half saw a second set of drums being lifted onto stage, for a superb rendition of new song Bloc Party – Sunday. On the album its one of about 5 standout tracks, but live its just as good as ‘The Prayer’, with Gordon joining Matt on the Drums. Before the second half we had a proposal, with a guy and a girl getting engaged on stage which was a sweet moment.

Closing the set was ‘Pioneers’, which kicked the rather subdued crowd into a bit of action. I only wonder what happened to the guy in the wheelchair we saw being wheeled in front of stage at the centre during this action!

Setlist:
Song For Clay
Like Eating Glass
Hunting For Witches
This Modern Love
Waiting for 7.18
Blue Light
The Prayer
Banquet
Uniform
So Here We Are
Positive Tension
Helicopter
—————
Two More Years
Little Thoughts
Sunday
Pioneers

 

Live: Ben Folds – Appollo Hammersmith

 
By on Wednesday, 24th January 2007 at 2:02 am
 

It seems that Ben Folds is a rare thing in the music industry – a genuinely talented musician who can hold an audience in his hand, and hasn’t been pushed up to the top on record company spin – he’s made it on his own. After an intriguing set by Clem Snide he leaps onto the stage dead on 9, and promptly plays his way through most of his solo stuff, with a few hidden gems thrown in for good measure.

Now, most of you probably won’t have heard of Ben as he’s quite underground here, so a quick bit of introduction. Nerdy white boy from North Carolina forms a band, the band breaks up, Ben goes does solo albums, becomes massive in the states and increasingly so elsewhere.

Clem Snide started off the evening as a very suitable support: one man and his guitar, and some rather humorous songs. More than capable at holding the audience’s attention, he seemed like a young Ben Folds. Whilst some may question his sanity after his passion filled acapella song at the end of his set, he proved himself to be a capable musician, doing both his own stuff and others (including a cover of Christina Aguilera’s “you’re Beautiful”). He could be one to watch coming up in coming years.

Then Ben made his entrance, with Europe’s “The Final Countdown” blasting over the PA. He then rattled his way through most of his well known songs, and a few special oldies for the diehard fans. “Rock this Bitch” came in quite early whilst Ben played with his kazoo and synth. For those who don’t know, “Rock This Bitch” is the customary part of the evening when Ben plays a song that he makes up on the spot, which is different virtually every show.

The musical maestro continued with a majority of newer songs from last August’s Supersunnyspeedgraphic, which whilst good live, don’t have the same energy as some of his earlier stuff in the Ben Folds Five.

Halfway through the set and his backing band takes a break, leaving Ben to do some slower numbers, including the tragic “Fred Jones Pt 2”, before being joined again by his full band for a triumphant romp through such classics as “Kate”, “Underground” and “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces”. Included was an extended version of his now famous “Bitches ain’t shit” – a cover of Dr. Dre’s rap classic, with much swearing and humour in a song that really shouldn’t be sung by a nerd like Ben Folds, but somehow he makes it his own. Quick on its heals was a cover of The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” with Ben using both the traditional piano and his new synth to great effect. He really seemed to be on a roll, with everything going for him – though this could be due to his own admission that “I’ve been sat on my ass for the last two months”

Then came the required sing along to “Army” – one of his biggest hits, Ben got the crowd to split into two to do the brass section of the song, which, with 5,500 people singing along to was quite something to behold. Throughout these closing songs he slowly built the songs up into bigger and bigger renditions, until the end of the set left us all gagging for more. However, as is always the way, the 11pm curfew rapidly swung round and it was time for Ben to leave, and for us to wait another year and a half for him to return to the UK.

Setlist:

1. Theme from Dr Pyser
2. Trusted
3. Gone
4. Synth improv including Freebird (and the theme from the waltons), leading into…
5. Rock This Bitch
6. All You Can Eat
7. Learn To Live With What You Are
8. Jesusland
9. Bastard
10. Still Fighting It
11. You To Thank
12. Losing Lisa
13. Landed
14. Bitches Ain’t Shit
15. Fred Jones Part 2 (Ben solo)
16. Evaporated (Ben solo)
17. Gracie (Ben solo)
18. The Last Polka (Ben solo)
19. Narcolepsy
20. The Ascent Of Stan
21. Army
22. Such Great Heights (Postal Service cover)
23. Kate
24. Underground
—————
25. Zak and Sara
26. One Angry Dwarf

 

Klum – Victory all my life

 
By on Saturday, 30th December 2006 at 3:01 pm
 

Klum’s debut album “Victory all my life” sees the LA five piece take a variety of musical styles and re-invent them as their own. At times they could be compared to Radiohead, at others they’re as melodic as Sigur Ros and others as chaotically organised as Arcade Fire and Guillemots, whilst never treading on the toes of the aforementioned artists. However there is one thing we will all agree on: you’ll either love or despise their debut.

Album opener, “Focus”, seems to be lacking in much focus, providing quite a good idea of whats to come throughout the album, but tries to be many things at once it seems. Whilst this is no bad thing, it does seem a bit of a mish mash of styles in one track. “Asleep at trial”, the second track of the album starts off with a voice akin to Thom Yorke’s, before descending into a mish-mash of sounds similar to an Arcade Fire live show

“Breathe Machine” is the perfect soundtrack to a good night’s dreaming: disembodied voices in the background, gentle, organ-like keys and the soothing vocals of Brock Flores. Slowly “I can’t dance” fades in, and the dream continues, floating over epic sounds that are akin to early Radiohead.

“From the door” sounds like a chilled out attempt at cock-rock, “That’s not really my car, but I look good in it and that could take me far” says Brock, and you can’t help but feel that he actually means it, before everyone starts to overlap each other with drums and electric guitars chaotically mixed: but just before it becomes unlistenable they pull it back round, suddenly becoming very tight and together.

Perhaps one of the most vibrant tracks of the album, “I sing the song wrong” is full of hidden little sounds, from the child-like keys at the start, to the percussion throughout, and bird-like guitars and weird sounds at the end, its songs like this that show what Klum could be in a few albums time.

Closer “Seaslow” starts off quite similar to Sigur Ros, but soon we realise that its not quite as good, and the album could probably have managed without it: a long string of moaning before the obligatory loud ending.

So all in all a bit of a mixed bag from this LA band. They could be ones to watch or check out in an album or two’s time, when they’ve perfected their sound a little bit more. At the moment they seem to be trying to be too much at once, and whilst they do most of it perfectly ably, I think they need to just focus on one style.

 

Live: Delays – Oxford’s Zodiac – 19th December 2006

 
By on Wednesday, 20th December 2006 at 7:13 pm
 

Along with the Christmas party, another British institution of late appears to be the trend of bands doing a special one-off Christmas show in their hometown. This is the case with Southampton’s Delays, who played Oxford’s tiny Zodiac on Tuesday ahead of their hometown gig at Southampton’s Guildhall on Wednesday.

Their epic, summery songs are the perfect antidote to the freezing temperatures outside, adding some warmth to the audience. After a short intense set by Oxford based Fell City Girl for support, Delays walked on stage and burst right into “Lost in a Melody”, an electronic tinged stomper that is equally at home in the fields of festivals and the caverns of clubs. With this, Aaron, Greg, Colin and Rowly ran headlong into about 20 songs of pure quality that could convert even the most hardened of sceptics.

“On” has reminded me of Hot Chip’s “Over and Over” for a while now, with its catchy repetitiveness, and rather nice use of the strobes in the tiny Zodiac made for an entrancing song. “Bedroom Scene” was a chance for three quarters of Delays to take a break, as they left Greg to do the gentle strum with a lone light and a mass sing-along that didn’t quite work. The rest of Delays returned for new song “Girls on Fire”, which is tipped to be on their new album that’s going to be out next Summer reportedly, and if all goes to plan should set the festival scene on fire.

They closed their main set with “Long Time Coming” from their debut “Faded Seaside Glamour”, and Greg’s masterful footwork and over-excitability clearly made several girls at the front’s day. This was the song that got everybody going, having shaken off the winter blues and finally embraced the warmth they were giving off to the crowd.

When they came back for an encore we got a special version of “White Christmas” with Greg solo on his guitar, which was sublime and made my evening. We then got treated to two of Delays best songs from their last album, “Hideaway” and “Valentine”, both pop-classics in the making, and both failed to make much entry into the public’s mind.

Sometimes bands just don’t make as much impact into the public’s consciousness as they should, and Delays appear to have this misfortune. However, whilst this is the case they’ll continue to play small shows of people “in the know”.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

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