Archive for the ‘Music’ Tag
Intimacy and concerts at The O2 don’t really go well together. I mean, I’ve seen Ben Lee at indigo2 and that was reasonably small, but once you enter the actual arena you do not expect to feel like it’s just you and the performer there.
Having opened with Cry Me A River and All Of Me, Michael Bublé immediately initiated some crowd banter that would help him to win over the hearts of anyone still unconvinced of his loveliness. He asked girls at the front how old they were, before replying “Oh Shit” and comparing himself to Justin Bieber, mimicking the Bieber hair flick, when they screamed “Sixteeeeen”. And then there was the time when an audience member, who later told us that her name was Jane, was allowed to walk up to the front of the arena, just to say ‘Hi’ to Bublé. He knew how to take this arena of about 20,000 and make it feel almost as intimate as the Joshua Radin gig that I went to the other week where the audience could have been more than 150!
He stated that this was not to be a concert. If we’d wanted to see a concert we should’ve gone to the opera. He wanted this to be a party. We were to stand up and dance if we felt like it and if the people behind us politely asked “Excuse me, could you please sit down”, Michael directed us to swear at them.
If anyone wasn’t already in love with him, the fact that he introduced the ten men on stage with him individually with the city that they were from demonstrated his lovely personality and charm. He didn’t see it as a one man show, he seems ever so grateful to everyone who has helped him out along the way.
Highlights of the setlist early on included Crazy Love where the whole audience sang along, each imagining that they were being serenaded alone by the man who recently got engaged to his Argentinean girlfriend. Upon announcing this to the crowd he laughed at the boos that were directed at him (the crowd’s only negative reaction of the night) and then joked about the men who’d been dragged in the audience who he assumed were thinking ‘He’s so gay’.
He combined his singles with covers, choosing songs that were personal to him in order to make it more intimate. Everything had the whole audience in awe, although there wasn’t a song he performed that didn’t have us all on the verge of tears. In fact, my male friend who came with me admitted “I had a tear in my eye but it didn’t come out.”
At one point Bublé left the stage to walk through the seated audience on the ground to the centre of the arena where the sound men were. Accompanied by amazing support act Naturally 7, he got up on the boxes of equipment and performed a few songs including Home. With my cheap seat being right at the back of the arena on Level 4, I was able to take a zoomed in photo on my old digital camera and just about made out where he was. Yes, the view wasn’t amazing, but you could still see him, just, and the sound was incredible everywhere.
The final song before the encore was Haven’t Met You Yet. Nearly the whole arena stood, singing and clapping along, making the most of his beautiful voice and equally beautiful looks. We continued clapping long after the song ended, knowing that he wouldn’t be leaving us just yet. Returning to the stage he played a three song encore which made for an incredible ending on the final song.
The O2 is huge. Yet Michael Bublé somehow managed to fill the entirety of the venue without a microphone. As he stood proudly behind a pale curtain singing Song For You to an audience who’d been stunned into silence, I knew that this concert could not have been any more amazing. And then he walked off stage, shaking the hands of many, many audience members before departing us for one final time.
May 15th 2010
I’ve seen Beth Rowley perform live twice. The first time was on that memorable evening when I saw Nerina Pallot at The Clapham Grand. Beth was one of the many other artists being showcased that night and one of the few who I took particular notice of. And the second time? Well that was something a little more holy. It was in a church. In Piccadilly. Perhaps you might think this to be a strange setting, but the acoustics were so perfect for her voice that it sent shivers down my spine. You could even go so far as to say it was sublime. So sublime.
So Sublime is one of the stand out tracks on Little Dreamer. It’s got a bit more of a pop music rhythm to it. Her voice really does shine through in the chorus. If I remember correctly, Beth didn’t perform this song in the church. I honestly can’t remember far enough back as to whether it made an appearance at Clapham, but I can say that I’d rather like to hear this live.
Nobody’s Fault But Mine and Sweet Hours each see Beth’s voice being used beautifully. They vary in tempos and moods but I can’t say I prefer one to the other. The versatility of her voice means that it’s suited to a variety of songs.
I’ll admit that I Shall Be Released, Only One Cloud, When The Rains Came and Oh My Life don’t stand out massively to me. Out of the four I’d pick When The Rains Came as my favourite but, particularly in the case of Oh My Life I find myself a little bit indifferent.
Angel Flying To Close To The Ground sees Beth’s voice joined by some male vocals to create a haunting song. Perhaps it’s the mention of angels, along with the sounds of what appears to be a harp, that make the song so heavenly.
This brings me to my favourite track on the album; Almost Persuaded is rather soulful. Beth’s voice is accompanied by the piano to show off it’s true abilities. In fact, there’s rarely any instruments used to distract you from Beth’s vocals. They are the main attraction. Occasionally they are supported with backing vocals that sound almost choral, but they can carry a note so well unaccompanied that they needn’t be added to.
Similarly, I love the vocals on You Never Called Me Tonight. Telling the story of waiting for a promised phone call when you really should have been doing more with your evening, Beth is able to make this mundane issue far more exciting.
Beautiful Tomorrow shows Beth’s voice in a rather different way to the rest of the album. It sounds as though it should be being played in a cowboy western film with the guitar being strummed in the background.
The final song on the album, is a cover of the classic Be My Baby. I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t know it was a cover at first (shoot me now). But even before I was made aware of this, I had already decided that this was my least favourite song on the album. It just doesn’t carry the vocals in the same way as others do.
Having just seen that John Mayer presented an award at the 2010 Logie awards (one day I will attend these!) I thought it was about time I shared with you the album that began his international career.
“Welcome to the real world she said to me, condescendingly”
This is how you are welcomed to one of John Mayer’s earlier albums Room for Squares. The first line of No Such Thing shows immediate promise for things to come. The lyrics that follow it are equally captivating with “I just found out there’s no such thing as a real world, just a lie you’ve got to rise above” holding the key to the song’s title. This lyric is one of my favourite Mayer lyrics. It might not be the most optimistic line, but it’s not pessimistic either. I’m a born cynic and I reckon quite a lot of Mayer’s writing comes from a place of cynicism.
Asking the rhetorical question Why Georgia, Mayer writes about doubting himself. At the time of writing, Mayer was yet to be portrayed as the so-called ‘womaniser’. I get the impression that he was still a little insecure back then. And you know what? I still think he still worries about the outcomes. It’s in his song writing where Mayer’s serious side can be seen.
You can see it in My Stupid Mouth. Written long before that Playboy interview, Mayer effectively foresaw the future. Saying silly things gets you in trouble. We all know that. But then again we all still say stupid things. We all have heard the “well anyways…” and forcefully wished for that elusive subject change only to discover it was already too late.
Women have always been a big part of Mayer’s press coverage. One such lady was fortunate enough to have Your Body is a Wonderland written about her. That lady is rumoured to be Jennifer Love Hewitt. Then again, this was who the media reported it to be about. So it quite easily could not be. Either way, it’s a rather catchy song. And he sounds sweet in it.
Neon sings of a girl buzzing in the same way that the aforementioned title does. It’s not the most buzzing song, it’s a reasonably slow song for Mayer with soft vocals of his electric guitar playing and the drum beats.
The metaphors of New York shine through at the beginning of City Love. “I never liked this apple much” plays on the cliché within it’s food related connotations. However it’s not a city that Mayer is declaring his love for, it’s a girl. (I know, who’d have thought it?!)
Next up come the two numerically titled tracks on the album. 83 sings of Mayer’s childhood whilst 3×5 uses the dimensions of a photograph to sing about the opportunities you can get if you just look at the world.
The non-specific title of Love Song For No One uses the first person perspective to carry the narrative that runs through the song. It plays on the emotions of wanting a relationship and potential missed opportunities to find the ‘one’. With the obvious locations being covered –the sandbox and the sidewalk are both prime locations to find true love apparently.
Back To You and Great Outdoors follow in due course with soft vocals combined with his outstanding guitar playing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Mayer is ridiculously amazing on guitar.
Not Myself shows the softer side to Mayer’s vocals. He evens sings of being on his “best behaviour”. Whatever his best behaviour is, the media never seem to focus on it. John Mayer’s music deserves good press, yet he regularly features in the tabloids/gossip magazines for less desirable non-music related activities. These activities normally include those females that enter Mayer’s life.
The final track, St Patricks Day, manages to take the listener on a complete journey through a year. A year of a relationship perhaps. For me it simply emotes how much things can change in a year. Once again I sense some vulnerability in the song writing with lines such as “No one wants to be alone at Christmas time” suggesting that personal experience could have been used as inspiration. Then again, Mayer is a very creative songwriter so it could simply be fiction.
Room For Squares was the first Mayer album I ever listened to. Now I proudly own 79 tracks of Mayer’s and am grateful for ever being introduced to this album as it opened a door to discovering a truly incredible musician.
This was the second time I’ve been to a gig in a church. And from these experiences I’ve learnt two things. Firstly, that the acoustics are outstanding in them. But also that pews are rather uncomfortable. Yet this did not matter in the slightest last night when Nerina Pallot took to the stage. Any moans about the seating were completely irrelevant. Her voice would have cured any back pains anyone may have had.
As I entered this interesting venue, I was aware that tonight was going to be a bit different to the rest of Nerina’s tour dates. She was to have a band and choir on stage with her. Something I discovered after having been tempted by the video of the rehearsals for the show. What I did not know, however, was that there was to be another special guest joining Nerina on stage.
To support her were a duo called Braxton Hix (not to be confused with the premature contractions) whose voices suited the venue rather well with their almost folk-like music s using the acoustics to their advantage. They weren’t the most professional band, having written their setlist on a paper plate and only bringing along twenty CD’s to sell, but I think that this added to their charm. The band was made up of a male on guitar and vocals, and a woman on vocals. The main thing you need to know about this band is that either they are a couple, or the woman has spent hours perfecting her loving stare at the guy as some part of a stage act. It almost felt awkward at times, as though you were intruding on a private serenading session. But I would definitely recommend you checking them out if you’re into acoustic/folk music.
And now onto Nerina. Well, not just Nerina. This was Nerina, a drummer, a guitarist, a strings section, a horn section and a chorus. This was nothing like my previous experiences of Nerina’s live shows. Opening with solo performances of God of Small Things and If I Know You, she sat at her piano and blissfully played for us. Her voice was amazing, as expected, and it wasn’t long before she broke into the amusing banter between songs that makes her so endearing.
Idaho and Mr King followed at the same haunting calibre of music. These slower songs felt particularly powerful in the settings. Not that the more uptempo songs weren’t impressive too: the debut single from her latest album, Real Late Starter, was played beautifully. The live performance of Nickindia made me realise it’s true beauty. I like the album version, but seeing it played right in front of me made it have far more impact.
It was around this stage in the show that I noticed that her drummer kept shaking a banana along with his shaker. I’m no percussion genius and would love to know why the fruit was used…
As with Nerina’s normal musings, she amused us in her introduction to the as yet unrecorded, Put Your Hands Up. Describing it as being “camper than Christmas”, I felt I had to agree with her that it was a bit Eurovision-esque. If it were to be overly edited with electro beats it could win it for us. But I just can’t quite see Nerina entering Eurovision. The song worked live because you can here the natural vocals shine through, if it developed into the next Cheeky Girls hit I’d be slightly more worried.
Next up came a cover of Rickie Lee Jones. Skeletons is the reason that Nerina’s latest EP is titled Skeleton EP and she’s happy to admit that it’s a cover and how she wishes she’d written it herself.
Three songs from her new album followed (It Starts, Cigarette and When Did I Become Such A Bitch). The middle of those three worked hauntingly well with a choir, whilst the full band performance of the latter, accompanied by the banter about the, perhaps factual, nature of the title kept the audience entertained.
A solo performance of Everybody’s Gone To War was opted for, which intrigued me as I own a strings version and know it sounds beautiful but seeing just Nerina and her guitar strum their way through it was just as impressive. Human was then performed with Nerina and a male vocal, having these two more low-key performances could have been decided to create a more impactful entrance for the artist who was next to join Nerina on stage.
Introducing her as “really wonderful and really special and so talented” (oh, and “This week’s number one”) Diana Vickers joined Nerina and the band to perform the Nerina penned track Put It Back Together Again. Having listened to this song several times on Diana’s myspace the night before the performance I have to credit the live performance as being far more impressive. Diana’s voice is very expressive and works well to evoke the emotion that Nerina clearly wrote into the song. If you want to witness this performance with your own eyes you’ll have to check it out on this YouTube video, which was kindly uploaded later in the evening.
The full band performance of my favourite song, Geek Love, was made all the more amazing by Nerina introducing it as “a song about shagging”. I’ve never heard the song performed so well as it was then. It was truly beautiful.
The final song before Nerina departed the stage was God. It’s a song from Dear Frustrated Superstar that I was always particularly fond of. Nerina admitted she’d seldom played it live because she wanted it to sound “as it was meant to”. I can understand why she allowed for it to be performed last night. The band and choir worked in harmony to produce a beautiful song.
After a long clapping and whooping session (not that there wasn’t this after every song) Nerina returned to the stage with just the strings section to perform My Last Tango and then end with her normal final piano masterpiece: Sophia. Both piano based songs left the audience feeling dazed by everything we’d witnessed throughout the show and wanting more. It’d been three years since my last Nerina show but I’m now certain it won’t be anywhere near that long before I next get to be a part of something so outstanding.
Being the lovely lady she is, Nerina hung around after the gig for a signing and I got my two lovely new EP’s signed “To Cat”. Nerina questioned whether I wanted them both signed to me and we concluded that it is good to be selfish in life and so yes I did. She also complimented my dress making me feel less of an idiot walking around Islington in a less than casual dress.
I was not the biggest Nerina fan in that room (not that you’d know it from the amount of positive adjectives in this review) but even the ‘Die-hards’ seemed to think that it was one of the best Nerina performances they’d ever seen. I love that Nerina has such a tight fanbase. Everyone was willing to talk to oneanother and become friends throughout the evening (or afternoon for those who arrived as early as one!)
There’s little else to add (I have written over 1200 words already!) than to leave you with one word to describe the show and it’s remarkably long setlist: Outstanding.
(Photos to follow!)
April 28th 2010
Nerina Pallot is a Jersey born, North London living, Arsenal supporting (she does have her faults!) singer songwriter. And a rather impressive one at that. I’ve seen her twice before, and already reviewed her latest album The Graduate. It’s been a few years since I last saw her and, alas, I was rather excited to here the announcement of her latest tour with a special gig at Union Chapel, London, on April 28th.
Combining my excitement for next Wednesday with the voice in my head nagging me to write something productive, I’ve decided to review Fires, Pallot’s second album.
It starts with her biggest hit. Everybody’s Gone To War can probably be described as one of the most literal songs that Pallot’s ever penned. (Oh, on a side note, Pallot’s been busy sharing her song-writing talents of late, writing for Diana Vickers, but, more importantly, writing for Kylie Minogue including the title track of her new album!) It’s a bit political –which I like. “If love is a drug/I guess we’re all sober” which later progresses to become “If God’s on our side then God is a Joker/Asleep on the job his children fall over”. Her use of metaphor is incredible. So simple, and yet so powerful. And how does it end? With the scarily simple line “I’ve got a friend who’s a pure bread killing machine/I think he might be dead by Christmas”. Truly thought provoking.
Pallot often writes about the most mundane things, turning them into something of beauty. In Halfway Home this is evident – “I’ve got a quarter in my pocket of an apple left to eat”. I love the vocals on the chorus. They sound so effortless, and yet they are sung in a key that I would be scared to ever attempt.
Next up come two songs of outstanding quality: Damascus and Idaho both flow with beautiful narratives that sound so heartfelt. The former sounds harsher, with the odd expletive thrown in for effect. And it works, so I’m not complaining. The latter has an incredibly catchy piano intro that immediately tells you it’s going to be something sublime.
I’ll gloss over Learning To Breathe – it’s not that I don’t like it. I do. I just think Pallot has a lot of better songs.
I never really liked Mr King until I saw it on one of Pallot’s Monday night live streamed shows. It changed the song for me. The simplicity of the guitar combined with the direct vocals just suddenly clicked for me. Whoever this ‘Mr King’ is, I hope he is impressed with this piece of art. It’s beautiful.
Geek Love. What a song. I’ve not listened to it much of late. But wow. It’s my favourite Pallot track. It’s also my friend Bryony’s favourite track (she’s even got herself a Geek Love tshirt). We’re both hoping it’ll make an appearance next week. I’m not sure what it is about this song. The lyrics to the verses and the chorus are so perfectly written for the mood of the music and the many messages of the song. It’s even got a bit that repeats the word “grey”. Three times. I love grey. But I love Geek Love more.
The piano in Sophia makes the song. Sure, the metaphors of the “fire escape symphony” are very clever. But it’s the piano that makes it haunting in places. It carries the lyrics along. I just can’t see it working with any other instrument as well as it does with just the vocals and the piano.
All Good People is a song that never stood out for me. The album version sounds a little too electronic for my liking, however live performances are far more favourable. It’s the same with Heart Attack. It’s just not my favourite style of Pallot’s.
Ending with Nickindia, Pallot returns to her more simplistic style. Her vocals shine this way. There’s a “ooh” that I love. It hits several notes that (despite many, many attempts) I just cannot hit. It’s slow paced, and it just works.
I’m sorry for the empty adjectives that I’ve used throughout this piece. If you wanted, I could write even more about each track. But even those of you who’ve made it this far would probably draw a line at a word-by-word analysis of each song! So I’ll leave you with one word to describe Fires: Beautiful.
As I’d Rather Be With You has just entered the UK charts at number 11, I thought it’s about time I introduced you to the talent that is Joshua Radin. Unlike most of my musical discoveries, Radin does not come from Australia. In fact, he’s American. That is, of course, not to say that he hasn’t toured with Missy Higgins, hence my discovery of his music last year.
Simple Times offers a great array of songs that really show off Radin’s soft vocals. He’s been compared to Jack Johnson, although I personally feel that Radin’s songs are slightly faster paced and easier to singalong to (obviously, I can still sing my heart out to Better Together.)
In the leading single I’d Rather Be With You, the chorus just screams catchiness. Radin’s soft tones are placed over simple acoustic guitar playing with some quiet drum sounds adding to the beat.
I love the semantics of Friend Like You. The lyrics are sung much like a letter. There are times when it sounds more like a poetry reading with background music, but it works. Maybe not the easiest track to singalong to, but I can still manage alright.
Brand New Day always makes me smile, simply because of it’s title and my brain’s immediate reaction to link it to Bran Nue Dae. A great song that reminds me of a great film. This song is full of optimism and is well worth a listen on those mornings when you wake up full of sorrows and regret. It reminds you that you’ll be OK. And sometimes that’s all you need to hear to force a smile and get on with your day.
My favourite song on the album? It’s got to be Vegetable Car. The story of a girl who the narrator’s never even spoken to. And yet he knows enough about her to write an entire song. He knows about her “Diesel Mercedes: Green, Two door”. It’s the simplistic nature of the song that I enjoy. The extreme details that are sung about help me to think that I’m not the only person who picks up on the little things. Finally, it makes him sound a little obsessive. And in my books, obsessive is an endearing quality. It lacks depth lyrically, but sometimes I like that. It’s refreshing in my iTunes full of songs with about twenty seven hidden meanings behind each lyric.
We Are Okay is possibly fastest paced song on the album. Reflecting the optimism of Brand New Day. it houses the title of the album. “Simple Times now seem so far” speaks of the complexity of life, and yet how we remain Ok.
One Of Those Days continues with the whole “life’s alright, why don’t you just get on with it” motto. It’s a track that’s easy to listen to, but you have to be careful not to leave it as background music. The lyrics are insightful. They speak of positivity and tell a story. Radin’s use of narrative is something that I’m particularly fond of. He knows how to tell a story and connect with a listener.
So yes, he’s another singer songwriter. But that’s what I love. He’s not the most amazing artist in my collection. But he produces music that I could happily listen to for hours. Which is good enough for me. I’m just gutted that I was away for his London gig. Hopefully he’ll return to the UK soon and I’ll get to see him play live.
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.
Shepherds Bush Empire
April 6th 2010
A Curious Thing is out now.
Who can wear a yellow jump suit? Hang on, let me rephrase that… Who can wear a yellow jumpsuit and pull it off? (First in a metaphorical manner, though later it must have been quite literally pulled off.)
As she walked onto the stage, with large pink feathers hiding her face, Paloma Faith immediately had a strong stage presence. Her hair a little crazy and wearing sunglasses that might more commonly be modelled by a six year old, it didn’t take long to realise that Paloma dresses like this because she wants to. Whilst she might not be as out there as Gaga, her outfits – yes plural – managed to create a stir amongst the audience.
Prior to her arrival on stage, the audience were awakened by the musical activity of La Shark. I have to credit them as providing me with the most enthusiastic performance I’ve ever witnessed; Jumping off amps and encouraging the audience to jog on the spot throughout a song of theirs proved to be all too entertaining. Oh, and if that’s not enough, they also sang a song in French. Which astounded me given my current relationship with the language from across the channel (I like to think we share a mutual hatred.) Musically, they weren’t exactly to my taste, but as live performers I genuinely enjoyed their set.
Opening with Smoke and Mirrors, the stage had been made to look like a 1920’s room complete with, you guessed it: smoke and mirrors. As the evening progressed, Paloma sang through nearly all the tracks from her album, as well as her own personal homage to Billie Holiday (who was a total unknown to me) and a cover of a song I’d never heard of The Beatles.
Instead of singing the album version of Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful? a remix version was performed. It was more electronic than the original and allowed for Paloma’s very smiley guitarist to perform an impressive solo as she made her way behind the central mirror for a costume change. Arriving back on stage in a dress embellished with shards of mirrors and a beret, Paloma blended into the set design perfectly. Her ability to wear obscure fashion, left me bewildered as I stood in my jeans, plain top and Primark leather jacket.
Other highlights of the show included her latest single Upside Down, my personal favourite Stone Cold Sober and a performance of Romance Is Dead in which a middle aged guy from the audience was dragged up on stage to be serenaded by Paloma.
To end the show, she burst into New York. However this was not the same song that she’d got into the charts with. Oh no, this was the “Start spreading the news / we’re leaving today” version. Of course, this only lasted for a verse or so before the familiar beat of the Paloma-penned track could be heard and, almost faultlessly, the song changed from one to the other.
One thing was, however, missing from her performance. After her first two songs, she produced some sheets of paper and took them over to her guitarist to read for her. “I’m sorry but I’ve lost my voice and so my band will be speaking for me” he declared. I missed the banter, anecdotes and jokes that so often make a good show great. There were times when Paloma broke her vow of silence to apologise once more for her dying voice (she even tweeted her apologies after the show), yet I can understand that she needed to savour it for her performances. She appeared to hit all the right notes despite the strain that must have been weighing heavily on her voice.
Curious. It’s an intriguing word. It forms the name of one of my favourite albums Curiouser. When you combine this with the fact that I loved Amy Macdonald’s debut album This Is The Life, you’d correctly be able to assume that I was excited to listen to this album.
Fame has also been a theme that runs through Amy’s songs. On her debut you had the likes of LA, Poison Prince and Footballers Wife (the latter being, perhaps, a tad ironic given that she is now engaged to a footballer, albeit a Falkirk player!) A Curious Thing offers songs in a similar vain with This Pretty Thing being my personal favourite. “I don’t care if it’s YSL / I don’t care if it’s Chanel”. Simple words. But a clear message. And as I couldn’t care less about the clothes of the righteous ‘celebrity’ I enjoy to hear them being ranted about in a musical format.
Similarly, An Ordinary Life speaks of fame once more. I’ve heard somewhere that it was written about seeing Gerard Butler being mobbed at a premiere and how fame can overwhelm you. Whether this is true is yet to be seen (LA was fiercely rumoured to be about Jake Gyllenhaal before this was later denied), but I love the song.
Next Big Thing is guitary and has a fast pace. Amy can sing at the speed I talk out. Which, for those of you who don’t know me, is very quick. Catchy chorus, verses take a few listens for you to embrace them but after the number of times I’ve listened to it you learn to love it in it’s entirety. The narrative sticks to the third person storytelling thing which has worked up to now so Amy (or her record company) clearly saw no reason to make any sweeping changes lyrically.
The first single Don’t Tell Me That It’s Over has more electro background sounds than previous material. The Scottish accent is immediately present and shines particularly strongly in the chorus. Love Love also sees the accent being very strong. Saying this, the accent is part of Amy’s charm and so can be heard in every song that leaves her vocal chords. I guess it’s a bit of a marmite thing. Love it or hate it. It doesn’t bother me either way. I get the impression it doesn’t massively bother Amy either. She doesn’t through herself out in the media. She sings because she wants to. And so I’d guess that she sings what she wants, how she wants.
What Happiness Means To Me starts off slowly. It also ends slowly. It takes a while to get into – You can’t exactly singalong to it. Aided by the second half of the song being completely instrumental you get some time to sit back and appreciate the music. It’s not conventional. But it works. Speed is also not of the essence in Troubled Soul, however the chorus maintains a slightly faster beat and I am very capable of singing along to it.
The lyrics to Spark really hit you. The chorus is really catchy and full of metaphors. And I can’t help but love a good use of metaphor. In fact, the whole song is basically an extended metaphor. I love it. Your Time Will Come is less metaphorical and slightly more to the point. But equally pleasant.
Also featured on the album are No Roots, My Only One and Give It All Up. Personally, I find these to be the weakest tracks, but none are offensive to my ears.
All in all, I really like the album. Amy’s voice does appear to have matured, as has her songwriting ability. Highly recommended.
Like the majority of Missy’s singles; the CD title is not just ‘Steer’. No, it has those added two letters ‘EP’ that don’t seem to appear on other releases over here. I’ve discussed the title track in my On A Clear Night album review which only leaves three other songs for me to comment on.
Before I even get started on reviewing the music I must mention the artwork on this physical release. The case is one of those cardboard ones that immediately makes it feel more special than being surrounded by plastic. The font is the same as is used on all promotional work from On A Clear Night; all capital letters with ‘HIGGINS’ being indented on the second line. In the right of the front photo is Missy in profile smiling as though she’s been mesmerised by something. Something that’s a night so totally clear perhaps? Perhaps it’s something that means you can control where you go and you can steer? Just a thought. Anyway, once opened there’s a lovely photo of a cloudy blue sky with a few birds flying around freely. And I guess being free is part of what Steer is all about.
Dusty Road seems to be about empowering women, I guess. “Sometimes men abuse your power” is a line that is followed by the chorus about how to get off the ‘Dusty Road’ of abuse. Maybe. I’m not entirely sure about this song to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, I love singing along to it (it’s one of Missy’s guitary upbeat tracks) but I don’t think I really “get” it.
A song that I do connect with is The Battle. Written about a supposed battle with another songwriter, the lyrics show Missy’s genius. Beginning with “I don’t need a slap in the face / I’m already at the bottom of the sea”, the use of metaphor is typically impressive. A slow song played on acoustic guitar, it allows for Missy to sing a few “oooohh’s” displaying her vocal talents.
The final track is asterisked as a Demo. It was produced by Missy herself and is titled Leave A Note. I love the rawness of this song. It’s full of emotion. It appears to be some sort of plea for someone to stop leaving without telling anyone. At face level that’s what I took from it anyway. Although as with most pieces of songwriting by Missy, there’s likely to be a few other more complex interpretations that could be found.
One of my favourite EPs. And definitely one of my favourite physical CDs for it’s beautiful sleeve.