Archive for the ‘Live’ Tag

Amy Macdonald – The ‘Love Love’ Tour, Manchester Apollo

Seeing an artist you like once is pretty impressive. Seeing them three times in a year is something special.

Amy Macdonald is an underrated singer in this country. Mention her name in Switzerland and there’s a frenzy – she plays huge outdoor festivals and accompanies symphony orchestras in Germany. So why is it that she can’t fill an average sized theatre in Manchester?

Her avoidance of the media probably is key to this. As she opened her eighteen strong set with An Ordinary Life she makes it clear that she never wanted fame. “I don’t care about the camera; I don’t care about the lights”. Her voice is quick to fill the room, its strength capable of holding any note.

Poison Prince was next in the firing line. Similar subjects are approached once again; with this Pete Doherty inspired number featuring some enthusiastic tambourine playing from a new addition to the band: Owen.  

First album favourites LA and Youth of Today are normally greeted with tame, appreciative crowds yet tonight one drunken heckler decided to offer a passionate interpretation of the latter. He stood up from the seated audience and enthused “We are the youth of today” with his shirt half open and beer in hand. It’s not a scene that’s often associated with the Scottish songwriter’s fan base but he was clearly enjoying it nonetheless.

Love Love and Mr Rock and Roll got the entirety of the crowd on their feet before Amy introduced a song that she admitted she’d shied away from of late. Before the opening chords of Footballers Wife, Amy made it clear that she was not oblivious to the irony but was a bit fed up of being asked the same questions about the topic. She stated that she is not a WAG as she buys her own clothes and owns her own house and when you consider the football team her fiancé plays for you can truly establish the fact that Amy is anything but a WAG.

An onslaught of songs from A Curious Thing followed. All were performed to Amy’s usual high standards with anecdotal stories being told between them in typical Amy fashion. She spoke of performing This Pretty Face on Switzerland’s most popular TV show which just so happened to be a ‘Next Top Model’ style contest hence the permanent smile fixed on her face during the performance. Similarly she entertained the crowd with the story of her mother’s suggestions for an album title – apparently “2010” was her mum’s favourite which Amy dismissed calling it unoriginal only for Prince to later release an album of the same name.

Reverting back to her first album’s hits, Amy finished the first part of her set with Run and This Is the Life before disappearing from the stage. The crowd clapped her back on for her encore in which she pulled out her cover of Born To Run as a solo performance before her band joined her for What Happiness Means To Me. Being the keen fan that I am, I was surprised when Amy left the stage to applause without finishing with Lets Start a Band. It was clear that I wasn’t alone in thinking this so we cheered once more and before we knew it the band had returned once more to finish the set in the way that leaves audiences still wanting more.

Whilst I wasn’t sold on the two encores (surely making one three song encore would have been just as adequate?) I still find it hard to fault Amy as a live performer. Her voice was as strong as ever and with her longest tour ahead of her (tonight was the first night of the Love Love Tour) I expect that it will maintain its strength.

So whilst she may not have crafted herself into the most mainstream artist, she will always have an audience who are eager to listen to what she has to offer. And maybe one day Britain will appreciate her in the same way that our continental cousins do.

Set list:

An Ordinary Life
Poison Prince
LA
Youth Of Today
Love Love
Mr Rock n Roll
Footballer’s Wife
Spark
This Pretty Face
Don’t Tell Me That It’s Over
Troubled Soul
Give It All Up
Next Big Thing
No Roots
Run
This is the Life
—————————
Born to Run
What Happiness Means to Me
—————————
Lets Start a Band

 

Amy Macdonald
The ‘Love Love’ Tour
O2 Manchester Apollo
19/10/10

Joshua Radin and Justin Nozuka at Manchester Academy

First things first, I had been very excited about this gig for some time and as such, I could have a slightly biased view of it. But all you really need to know is that both artists were amazing. If you still need to know more then here are some more words to describe it…

With both Nozuka and Radin having toured with Missy Higgins before, my excitement for the concert was already heightened. Throw in the fact that I’ve previously seen Radin live at the Hard Rock Café and knew of his incredible musical talents and you get a picture of the energy that was buzzing through me before I even left my flat.

Justin Nozuka

Nozuka took to the stage for his half an hour set opening with Carried Away. His vocals were much stronger than is evident on his album and I was immediately impressed. As he continued with a mix of songs from Holly and You I Wind Land Sea I couldn’t help but find myself entranced by him. Whilst his conversation with the crowd wasn’t a patch on what Radin was about to offer, his songs were performed so well that what was said between them didn’t matter.

Be Back Soon, Golden Train and Mr Therapy Man all had the Nozuka fans in the audience singing along whilst the tracks from his newer release seemed to be slower burners. Unbroken Man brought the tempo down in the same way that his final song, Heartless, did. All in all it was a very impressive eight song set from the young Canadian.

Setlist:

Carried You
Be Back Soon
Golden Train
Mr Therapy Man
Unwoken Dream
How Low
After Tonight
Heartless

Joshua Radin

From the moment he casually strolled onto the stage, to the moment he departed through the crowd, Joshua Radin had the audience in the palm of his hand. If there’s anything that this guy doesn’t know about how to woo a crowd then it’s not worth knowing. Marriage proposals were aplenty from the females, with one ambitious guy offering his own scream of “Marry me Joshua” only for a polite refusal from the man with the guitar.

Why haven’t I mentioned his music yet? I hear you ask, or think rhetorically as the case may be. Well it’s quite simply because Radin is the epitome of an artist who (wait for it…) has a lot more than the music to offer. He crafts a relationship with the audience, be that with his questions as to the name of that guy who does a Sunday morning show on Radio 2 (“I think he’s a Sir or something, I should know his name”) or through his endless ramblings about Australia after he thought he’d heard someone say they were from there.

Vocally his talents were obvious to all – he even walked away from his microphone at the end of No Envy, No Fear, filling the room with his unadulterated voice. Each song tells its own story but Radin was always on hand to offer more insight into his mindset at the time of writing. Many of the night’s highlights were songs from his forthcoming album, The Rock and the Tide, with the title track being about the first time he had a crush. He admits that his previous two albums were written about break ups so it was different for him to venture into new territories with this third offering.

A new sound has come about with the latest songs to. Radin put aside his acoustic guitar in favour of an electric for several tracks including a personal favourite of mine, The Ones with The Light, which had the crowd parted in two to sing (or scream as it turned out) a different line in the chorus.

After telling the crowd about how people often go on dates to his concerts, Radin joked about couples arguing and finding new partners in the room, before clarifying that the song he was about to play, Today, was not about polygamy.

After a bout of rock numbers from his third album he returned to the fan favourite with his biggest UK hit I’d Rather Be With You getting the most enthusiastic reception from the crowd before his whisper rock style kept us enthralled in Winter.

As we cheered for an encore, the sound of acoustic guitars could be heard behind us so we raced to the back of the room to find Radin and his two guitarists had made their way to the middle of the venue and performed one last track for us all in his typical unplugged fashion.

Overall, I am still struggling to sum up the evening in comprehendible sentences. Radin is a sublime performer and I cannot recommend him highly enough.

Setlist:

No Envy, No Fear
Everything’ll Be Alright
Closer
Think I’ll Go Inside
The Rock and The Tide
Today
Brand New Day
One of Those Days
The Ones with The Light
We Are Only Getting Better
Here We Go
Nowhere To Go
You Got What I Need
I’d Rather Be With You
Winter
———————————–
I didn’t catch the name of the encore

Joshua Radin and Justin Nozuka
Manchester Academy 1
17/10/10

Justin Nozuka (not looking so great) and I.

Amy Macdonald at The Hard Rock Café

This was to be my third time seeing Amy Macdonald. In fact, it was only in April when I last saw her, but last night’s gig was something different. The intimacy of The Hard Rock Café won the whole crowd over; There couldn’t have been more than one hundred people in the bar area.

Unlike at the Joshua Radin gig, I’d sensibly starved myself since my small lunch to make the most of the free food. Burgers, goujons and brownies were consumed throughout the evening immediately increasing the enjoyment of the evening!

To support Amy, the Icelandic artist Lára took to the tiny stage and performed six songs. Her mis-matched fashion sense defined her with multicoloured leggings and a lace necklace emphasising her look. Her first two songs didn’t overwhelm me with their lack of lyrics and reliance on ‘doo-da’ and ‘la’ to accompany the music. The set came into its own in the penultimate song Honey You’re Gay. With such a direct name, the chorus featured lines such as “You don’t have to kiss my lips/You don’t have to touch my tits” adding to the humour from the title. I’m not expecting her music to be storming the charts any time soon but her voice is good enough when it is matched with the more lyrical numbers.

Amy’s set list for the evening was half the length of her Shepherd’s Bush gig which still pleased me as I wasn’t expecting too much from a free Q The Music Club gig. As her and her four male band members opened with An Ordinary Life I remembered the quality of live performances Amy likes to deliver. Strong vocals and guitar playing on her part combine to create a real stage presence. From her first song she went straight into Love Love before she first spoke to the crowd.

She told us that this was her third gig at the Hard Rock; this somewhat surprised me as she stood there in front of merchandise from notably more famous acts such as The Beatles, Queen and The Who. Her previous appearance had seen her smashing a guitar outside and she joked that this was not something she hoped would be repeated this evening. Maybe she is more Rock’n’Roll than I first thought…

The next song was introduced to us as being her next single with a video that had been filmed only the day before. Unlike previous videos, Amy told us that they’d gone all out and used around fifteen actors and actresses so I am anticipating what the outcome will be. This particularly excites me as the song in question happens to be my favourite from A Curious Thing and is called This Pretty Face.

Her biggest hit, Mr Rock And Roll, suited the venue perfectly and had the crowd singing along. And  she then shushed the crowd with the Glaswegian slang “Wheesht” before her quieter song Troubled Soul.  Her Springsteen cover Born To Run went down really well in this particular venue with everyone joining as she sang the lyrics of the title.

Continuing with her two singles from her new album, Don’t Tell Me That It’s Over and Spark, Amy never once disappointed. Sure, I’d have loved to see an acoustic song thrown in, but her and her band delivered track after track.

Before No Roots, Amy told a similar story to the one she told at Shepherd’s Bush about how this album was named. Laughing at her Mum’s suggestions that had generally been thought up whilst watching Coronation Street, Amy eventually opted for the lyric from this song. I for one find it preferable to listening to an album called Ken Barlow!

Amy then told us that she would normally go away and wait for cheers before coming on and doing an encore, but in such a small venue we would be able to see everything and it would be a ‘bit shit’. So we clapped for her as she stood on stage breaking into This Is The Life. The title track of her debut, it’s a great to song to end on with the crowd lending their vocal skills in the chorus.

A great evening was had by all, particularly some of the people behind me who had certainly made the most of the free drinks. My friend and I hung around for a good hour after the show hoping that Amy would appear. Alas she did not. However nothing was going to put a downer on the evening and we left delighted at the performance we had seen.

Q The Music Club
The Hard Rock Café
June 9th 2010

John Mayer at Wembley Arena, May 27th

Having previously been amazed by John Mayer live two years ago, I was expecting a lot from him once more. Back then, I saw him twice in twenty four hours and was so shattered that I walked out of Hard Rock Calling three songs into Eric Clapton’s set. I have memories of being very excited for weeks before the show, so I was a little anxious when these feelings didn’t resurface prior to the latest saga in my John Mayer adventures at Wembley Arena.

As I entered this vast warehouse-like building, I could hear how Ellie Goulding had already started her set. Due to lengthy tube journeys and a McDonalds stop, we couldn’t quite make it there fast enough to see everything. But from what we did see, I was surprisingly impressed. Under The Sheets was accompanied by some drumming on Goulding’s part. Now, I know that I’ve never been a Goulding fanatic, but I wasn’t aware of her drumming abilities. She stood proudly on the huge stage dancing to her heart’s content and manically drumming along to the beat. Whilst I know I missed a few songs, she’d saved her biggest hit for last and so I got to see Starry Eyed in all it’s glory. I know many people dismiss Goulding’s musical ability but what I saw was a genuinely talented girl who was very deserving of the awards she won at the beginning of the year.

It was when the male figure, dressed casually in a white shirt and khaki green combats, took to the stage that the excitement I’d been lacking suddenly all came back to me. The opening chords to Why Georgia took me straight back to my first Mayer concert at Brixton Academy and his guitar playing blew me away once more. A lengthy guitar intro to his cover of Crossroads followed where the crowd were in awe.

It was after one of my favourites from Battle Studies, Heartbreak Warfare, that he really demonstrated his musical ability with Vultures. Notoriously a long track when played live, he wowed the crowd by playing guitar with a drumstick before beat boxing in the middle of the song.

Following the heartfelt Perfectly Lonely that we first got to see him talk properly, revealing that personality that the media love to report on. Did he talk racist slander? No. Was he a sexist pig? No. Did he try and hit on a crowd member? Well, yes he did. But once he discovered she was eighteen he thought better of it and simply silenced the arena so that this heartbroken girl could sing-along with him. Having somehow gotten across to him that she’d been dumped, he cheekily added a “Fuck him” to the chorus of Edge of Desire, creating laughter amongst the audience.

To introduce his next song, he linked from this discussion by saying “On day you’ll grow up to be an Assassin”. I’ll admit that it’s not one of my favourites from Battle Studies, but any song that he plays on stage has me from the first strike of the guitar. Talent oozes from him and continued to throughout In Your Atmosphere/Something’s Missing.

Talking about the venue, Mayer stated how it’s one of those arenas that people in the US have heard of, comparing it to their far bigger Madison Square Gardens. He said that Wembley isn’t just a building; it’s a concept and an idea too. Whilst I’m not really sure the “it’s an idea” thing made sense, the sentiment was definitely there and it was clear he was delighted to be playing here for his international audience.

A highlight of the evening would be when he brought Your Body Is A Wonderland out of retirement. Apparently he scarcely plays it live nowadays because of the media’s interest in its subject matter. But, as he said, it’s OK reading the slander about him on the internet when he’s sat in his big house that the song bought him. A song about his love of the female form, it was written pre-Jessica Simpson, pre-Jennifer Anniston and long before his famed Playboy interview. You can tell that it’s not his favourite song to play for fear of the media’s repercussions, but, equally, I think he was a very different person when he wrote it. His song writing is always full of emotion that I still believe is genuine. Maybe I’m a fool for believing this, but I think there’s a private side to Mayer that he only lets the public see through his lyrics. Then again, he continued with Who Says which had the audience singing ‘Who says I can’t get stoned?” reverting back to the edgy persona who the media love to hate.

Despite the large capacity of the venue, Mayer attempted to create a more personal atmosphere by taking note of any posters and flags in the audience and commenting on them. Correctly identifying the Brazilians and the Saudi Arabians, he stumbled with the Mexican flag, suggesting it might be the Italian flag before being corrected by his fans. He apologised, “lo siento”, and broke into an impressive performance of Bigger Than My Body.

Mayer appeared to be close to his band, introducing them all personally but paying particular attention to his British guitarist Robbie McIntosh who was given the opportunity to speak to the crowd. Given the opportunity to speak to around ten thousand people, he decided this was the perfect time to tell a ‘Knock Knock’ joke, opting for the well-known ‘Big Issue’ punch line. Unfunny it may have been, but the crowd warmed to his British charm and clapped nonetheless.

Three of my favourite songs followed; Slow Dancing In A Burning Room, Waiting On The World To Change and Half Of My Heart (without Taylor Swift!) all had me completely stunned by his abilities in both performing and crafting a song.  As he finished the latter, he managed to merge it into Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’. Known for it’s recent revival on Glee, Mayer made the song his own and left the stage to clapping, cheers and a standing ovation from the arena. Whoever had the idea to sing the notes that Mayer had gotten us to chant during Don’t Stop Believin’ must be feeling pretty proud, as we all joined in and continued to repeat them until Mayer and his band returned to the stage. Mayer was visibly impressed and joined in with us before playing No Such Thing.

A song from near the beginning of his career, it couldn’t have been a more perfectly fitting song for me. I’d missed my leavers meal at school for this concert. My final day of Sixth Form had ended with me waving goodbye to all my friends as they left on coaches to an evening of entertainment. I’d had to miss out on all of this for the concert and so when Mayer sang the opening line “Welcome to the real world she said to me, condescendingly” it rang very close to home. Singing about wanting to go back to high school and tell everyone that the ‘real world’ is non-existent was fitting for the day itself and I was delighted for it to have been included in the setlist.

What did he choose for the final song of the night? A very, very long rendition of Gravity. A stunning song, he took it to another level with his guitar solo at the end. Playing with the guitar laid flat on the ground, Mayer proved himself to be this incredible musician who the press tend to forget about. Behind the tabloids, he is just another musician. A talented man who makes a few mistakes and gets ripped for them by the world’s media. For me though, John Mayer will always be the outstanding singer, songwriter and guitarist who, after an impressive two hour set, still left me wanting more.

John Mayer at Wembley Arena
May 27th 2010

Amy Macdonald at Shepherds Bush Empire

Amy Macdonald is Scottish. This is important to know as it’s a huge part of her performance. No, she doesn’t burst out into freakishly synchronised jigs in between songs, but her accent is very much a part of her charm.

Having released her second album last month, Amy had plenty of songs to choose from. And oh, how she chose to play a lot of them. After frantically typing the set list up on my phone between songs, I can tell you that Amy played a grand total of twenty songs. Twenty. That’s a lot of songs for a one-off gig yet alone as part of a nationwide tour. And the reason why she played so much? Because for Amy, her career is not about the fame: for her, it’s 100% about the music.

Opening with anti-celebrity mobbing song An Ordinary Life, Amy embarked on a musical tour of her back catalogue with Poison Prince, LA and Youth of Today from her debut all being played in quick succession. Next up was my favourite song; This Pretty Face, as Amy told us, was written after flicking through a magazine that was dissecting celebrities lives and realising that actual musical ability is becoming far less important nowadays. This is why I love Amy’s music. Her song writing is simple, yet so effective, in telling you about everyday issues in our deteriorating society.

Before playing Spark, Amy announced that it was going to be her next single (although, being the dedicated fan I am, I already knew this). The video was recorded a few weeks ago at Loch Lomond in Scotland (of course) and it’s Amy’s self-proclaimed “favourite” video.

In amongst all the songs about fame, The Road to Home stuck out because of it’s alternative subject: Amy’s dog. I laughed at this. Several of the audience laughed at this. Amy didn’t seem impressed at the laughter. I think the dog died. But all was forgotten when yet another outstanding performance was produced. As this song, and the following two (Your Time Will Come and Amy’s major hit Mr Rock & Roll) were performed acoustically, the drummer and guitarists swapped their normal instruments, on occasion, for the less harsh tones of a tambourine and shakers. Let me just tell you that seeing grown men shake a shaker is an entertaining site.

Next up, Amy successfully tackled the Bruce Springsteen classic Born to Run. I won’t lie, I had not heard of it. But I typed down some lyrics and have just googled them to discover it’s title. Hence I don’t really know if it’s a classic. But for the sake of me having just called it one, I shall hope that it is.

Troubled Soul was performed well before the audience were treated to the story behind the album’s title. (Once again, I already knew it – I really shouldn’t research artists as thoroughly as I do!) In No Roots there is a, perhaps autobiographic, lyric “This life that I lead, it’s a curious thing” and hence those last three words stuck out so much that they became the album title. I wouldn’t call it curious, I’d call it amazing.

Leading single from this album Don’t Tell Me That It’s Over was followed by an anecdote about the band’s football obsession (Amy’s fiancé plays professionally, I believe, in Scotland – although she is far more wellknown than he is –hence the slight retrospective irony in the notably absent Footballer’s Wife). If anyone steps out of line on the tour, they get a red or yellow card. So far, offences have included forgetting lyrics, insulting Amy and, more peculiarly, sweating over a Korma.

Before Amy and her band left the stage, we were treated to another flurry of songs; For me Give It All Up and The Next Big Thing were overshadowed by the stunning vocal performance on Run. To finish the show (or so one might have thought had I not read previous reviews informing me that there would be an impressive encore), Amy performed What Happiness Means To Me. A heartfelt song, it really threw you aback and made you question the happiness in your life. Oh how I love deep lyrics.

The encore consisted of This Is The Life which was a hit with an overexcited audience, specifically amongst some of the older males around me who got up, danced and clapped simultaneously.  Love Love was also well received, although the final song Let’s Start A Band was the perfect choice to end the night. The whole audience sang along, so much so that it was still ringing in my ears as I left, and then continued to skip across the park back to Shepherds Bush tube station, screaming my heart out about my desire to start a band.

Woah, this review has been long. I didn’t mean to dissect it song by song. Yet I feel it would be wrong to skip out songs. The entire set was amazing. And credit must also go to the venue itself. For a venue bigger than those that I’ve become accustomed to of late (Bush Hall further away from the station is a personal favourite of mine) I was pleasantly surprised. Whilst I was up on Level One with the more mature, young kids and pregnant (Amy has a very mixed fan base!), the view was perfect and sound quality was excellent. I’d happily return to the venue and I definitely would go and see Amy again.

Amy Macdonald
Shepherds Bush Empire
April 6th 2010

A Curious Thing is out now.