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Live Review: Kaleo with Bishop Briggs and The Wind and The Wave at Livewire, Scottsdale, AZ – 2nd November 2016

 
By on Thursday, 10th November 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

My most recent TGTF road trip took me north from Tucson to Scottsdale, which is part of the Phoenix metro area, and a slightly longer drive than my usual 2-hour gig trek. The night’s venue, Livewire AZ, is located adjacent to Scottsdale Fashion Square, an upscale suburban shopping center, and at first glance, its ambience is as sterile and superficial as you might expect from such an overtly trendy venue. Aside from its lack of distinguishing character, Livewire turned out to be, well, not a bad place to see a show, and a singularly appropriate venue for the night’s headliner, Icelandic/American alt-rock band Kaleo.

Wind+Wave2

I arrived at Livewire to find a long queue of patrons, and though the queue moved quickly, the evening’s first support act had already taken the stage when I got inside. Luckily for me, it was a band I’d seen quite recently, Butch Walker protégés The Wind and the Wave. The Austin-based folk-rock duo had impressed me back in September at Los Angeles’ much smaller Teragram Ballroom, and they didn’t disappoint here at Scottsdale’s Livewire.

The brighter acoustics of the room benefitted The Wind and the Wave’s warm guitar and vocal quality, especially the ringing harmonies between singer Patricia Lynn and guitarist Dwight Baker. Though most of the crowd seemed new to their music, The Wind and the Wave garnered an overwhelmingly positive response from their Arizona audience with single ‘Grand Canyon’ and the title track to their recent album ‘Happiness Is Not a Place.’

Bishop Briggs

The evening’s mood took a heavier turn with the decidedly dark electropop of second support act Bishop Briggs. London-born but currently based in Los Angeles, Briggs takes her pseudonymous stage name from her family’s hometown of Bishopbriggs, Scotland. Her stage persona at first reminded me of Gwen Stefani, complete with girlish pigtails and sporty sneakers, but Briggs’ music packs a noticeably weightier punch. Her all-too-brief set was dense with forceful lyrics and deep bass grooves, and her cagey movements on stage were both energetic and decisively edgy.

Briggs is fairly new to the music scene, having only begun releasing songs last year, but a fair few punters in the crowd apparently already knew her first single ‘Wild Horses’. For me, the knockout blow came in the form of Briggs’ recent single and set closer ‘River’. Her live performance of the song was even more powerful than the recorded version below; watch for this track to become a radio hit in the very near future.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/h5jz8xdpR0M[/youtube]

Headlining band Kaleo already have a handful of radio hits under their collective belt, at least here in America. Their debut album ‘A/B’ is the only established back catalogue they have to draw from for live shows, but that catalogue is packed with hit singles, including ‘All the Pretty Girls’, ‘Way Down We Go’ and ‘No Good’. All of these naturally found their way into Kaleo’s live set, along with a handful of as-yet-unreleased songs thrown in for variety and good measure.

JJ solo

Kaleo made a rather dramatic entrance to the stage, starting the set with their heartwrenching album closer ‘I Can’t Go On Without You’. Lead singer and songwriter JJ Julius Son was spotlighted early on, and his vocals were flawless from beginning to end, switching effortlessly from raw and raspy to sweet, finely-tuned falsetto. He quickly followed ‘I Can’t Go On Without You’ with another bittersweet ballad, ‘Save Yourself’, which you can view for yourself just below in a live performance from Iceland’s Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/oCi0RHLrauU[/youtube]

From that point forward, Kaleo firmly established their rock ’n’ roll credentials with the hot and heavy blues number ‘Broken Bones’. It must be said here that the band’s absolute best live moments came in down-and-dirty guitar tracks such as these, which were plentiful and strategically placed in the setlist. The mid-set sequence of ‘Hot Blood’ and ‘No Good’ ratcheted up the intensity level in the room by factors of ten, though Kaleo would never quite regain those giddy heights.

For all their obvious talent, Kaleo were a bit stiff on stage, rarely engaging with their audience. Julius Son was remarkably serious and concentrated throughout the set, stopping to speak to the crowd only to introduce a song in the band’s native Icelandic, the hauntingly beautiful ‘Vor í Vaglaskógi’. Far be it from me to dictate anyone’s facial expressions, but I did think it might have been nice to see a smile on his face at some point. As for the rest of the band, they only really let loose during ‘Backdoor’, when bassist Daniel Kristjansson and lead guitarist Rubin Pollock came together for a brief jam in front of drummer David Antonsson’s kit.

jam photo

Despite their rather indistinctive demeanor, Kaleo played a tight and polished show, overall. They stuck to what they’re good at, and let it be said that they are indeed very, very good. They ended the night with a scorching version of ‘Way Down We Go’ before rocking out to close the set proper with ‘Ladies Man’. Their choice of encore played to their obvious blues rock strengths in the extended and appropriately-titled ‘Rock ’n’ Roller.’ If you haven’t had a listen to Kaleo yet, there’s no time like the present; the band will be on tour in America through the 12th of of this month before hitting the UK and Ireland for a short list of already sold out November live dates. A complete list of Kaleo’s upcoming live dates can be found on their official Facebook.

 

Live Review: Butch Walker with The Wind and the Wave at Teragram Ballroom, Los Angeles – 17th September 2016

 
By on Wednesday, 21st September 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Less than a month ago, I reviewed American producer and songwriter Butch Walker‘s outstanding new album ‘Stay Gold’, and my lasting impression of the record was that these yearning, high energy anthems would better suited to live performance than the relative constraints of a studio recording. Based on that impression, I trekked westward last weekend to Los Angeles, to catch Walker live at the relatively unknown Teragram Ballroom. Though this was the penultimate show on Walker’s current tour, his enthusiasm and energy were in full force, and the audience in his adopted hometown were equally excited to see him grace this stage.

Wind and Wave internal

Walker’s support act on the night, The Wind and the Wave, are a country-rock duo from Austin, Texas, comprising guitarist Dwight Baker and singer/songwriter Patty Lynn. They released their first album ‘From the Wreckage’ back in 2014, and their second LP ‘Happiness is Not a Place’ (produced, perhaps not coincidentally, by Butch Walker) is due out on the 28th of October. Naturally, their opening set was somewhat abbreviated and focused on the new songs, touching only briefly on a pair of older tracks, ‘My Mama Said Be Careful Where You Lay Your Head’ and ‘This House is a Hotel’. But their energy and charisma on stage seemed to grow exponentially as they went along, and they made their own strong impression with both the title track from ‘Happiness is Not a Place’ and more recent single ‘Grand Canyon’.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/–zhov5kpbQ[/youtube]

The music on the PA system between sets, laced with throwback television theme tunes from the 1980s including ‘Magnum, P.I.’ and ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’, seemed designed to set a retrospective mood for the headline show. Indeed, Butch Walker’s new album ‘Stay Gold’ has a decided undercurrent of nostalgia in the aggressive pulse of its songs, and he constructed his entire set list on the night around a theme of reminiscence and reflection.

Butch 2

Walker and his band took the stage and opened their set by tearing through the first four tracks from ‘Stay Gold’ at breakneck pace, starting with the title track and proceeding in order through ‘East Coast Girl’, ‘Wilder in the Heart’ and ‘Ludlow Expectations’. For my money, this opening sequence was the most effective part of the show, partly because these were the songs I was personally most familiar with, but also because Walker and his colleagues proved my own initial hypothesis correct, and in a most emphatic fashion.

The Wind and the Wave’s Patty Lynn made the first cameo appearance of the evening when she returned to the stage to duet with Walker on ‘Descending’, the next track in the ‘Stay Gold’ sequence. Walker took a seat at the piano for this song, giving Lynn center stage, and though their voices blended nicely together, it was the raw emotion in Walker’s delivery that came across as singularly captivating.

Descending internal

From that point forward, Walker dived deeper into his catalogue of older favourites, much to the delight of his diehard fans. The smouldering vocal quality of ‘Descending’ carried over into an intensely sensual performance of standout track ‘Bed on Fire’, from previous album ‘Afraid of Ghosts’. Striking a lighter note, Walker then thrilled the “California girls” in the crowd with his spur-of-the-moment geographical adjustments to the lyrics of ‘Closest Thing to You I’m Gonna Find’, from 2011 album ‘The Spade’.

Butch 1

Walker introduced his next cameo guest simply as “Jake Sinclair of the Black Widows”. The Black Widows, for those not already in the know, were Walker’s band from a few years back, with whom he released two albums, ‘I Liked it Better When You Had No Heart’ (2010) and ‘The Spade’. Sinclair did play in the band and garnered production credits on both albums, but they might not be his greatest claim to fame—he’s worked more recently with Weezer, Panic! at the Disco, and Fall Out Boy. On this night, though, he and Walker fit comfortably back into their old groove, performing the humorously self-deprecating (and surprisingly pop-oriented) ‘Synthesizers’. Sinclair seemed mildly surprised and greatly amused when Walker segued briefly into ‘Come On, Eileen’ by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, asking aloud, “Are you really still doing this schtick?” But Walker’s high spirits were undeterred by his protégé’s momentary insolence, and his audience, familiar with the routine and roaring with laughter, were more than happy to play along.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/uz0EAMDsyVc[/youtube]

Walker and his talented entourage of backing musicians touched on two other covers late in their set, a vocally harmonised version of Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer of ’69’ and a fleeting allusion to The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’. But the real showstopper of the night was a final cameo by Walker’s young son James. James is apparently a regular fixture at his dad’s gigs, and though he appeared to be a bit sleepy, he showed no signs of stage fright as he regaled us with a song and a joke of his own. (Q: Which pencil won the art contest? A: It was a draw!)

James internal

Walker and his band didn’t break for a formal encore at the end of the show, playing straight through ‘The 3 Kids in Brooklyn’ and ‘Hot Girls in Good Moods’ before leaving the stage. But Walker did indulge himself in a final solo appearance, holding forth on the virtue of times and places past, especially the fading tradition of browsing through brick-and-mortar music stores. He made the rather unusual choice of leaving us on a pensive note with ’Stay Gold’ track ‘Record Store’, but then again, by that point, he’d already established a memorable and lasting impression.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/orgjnGCB4Dk[/youtube]

The Wind and the Wave set list:
Wind Wave setlist

Butch Walker set list:
Butch Walker setlist

 
 
 

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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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