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Albert Hall

LIVE: Maribou State @ The Albert Hall

WORDS BY: TIM MOONEY         PHOTOS BY: SAM NEILL AT BRIXTON ACADEMY

The Manchester Albert Hall was a lost venue until it reopened back in 2013. The refurbished Wesleyan chapel now provides a unique environment for some of the bigger bands and artists who take their tours to Manchester, and its vintage, somewhat eerie setting matched perfectly with the bold and euphoric sounds of Maribou State at the weekend.

Celebrating the release of their third Studio album which surfaced in September 2018, Maribou State have been touring America and Europe ever since, and their sold out Manchester show was met with great anticipation from fans. After arriving at the venue and finding a spot close to the stage, which was at the time kitted out with the bands impressive range of performance equipment, my attention turned to the supporting DJ, Earlyham Mystics.

He provided an eclectic mix of ambient and uplifting tracks (similar to what you may expect to hear from artists like George Fitzgerald or even Bonobo at times) and did a great job of lifting the mood and keeping people dancing as the audience started to flood in and fill the hall. Earlyham Mystics ended his set at around 20:45 to a ripple of applause and general appreciation from the crowd before departing for the main act.

On reflection, I feel he could have continued his set for longer, as by the end the crowd was much larger than it had been midway through his set, and I felt he was deserving of a larger audience. In addition, Maribou State came out slightly later than scheduled, around 20 minutes later, meaning the mood of the crowd had started to dwindle slightly during the long break between performances. Nonetheless, when the lights dimmed and Maribou State took to the stage to perform opening track Home, the restlessness of the crowd was immediately forgotten as we became soothed by the ambient yet powerful sounds of their arrival.

I will always be slightly biased toward bands that show a range of musical talents and switch seamlessly between instruments during a performance, therefore, Maribou State have my complete gratitude. Each member had a range of keyboards, sample pads, guitars and synthesizers at their fingertips and alternated their use of each piece of equipment throughout their tracks. And as if there wasn’t already enough for the eye to take in, their touring vocalist Holly Walker took to the stage for their third track Steal. This added a whole new dimension to the performance which previously had no obvious leading member, but now Holly was able to address the hall from her position as front woman, and the crowd absolutely loved it.

The smooth transitions between each track meant there wasn’t a real need for the band to talk in-between songs, so instead they did so during tracks, or to motivate on the build-up to a big chorus. From start to end, they provided a constant flow of music that fluctuated perfectly between mellow breaks and explosive, stadium-worthy choruses, all performed before a vintage-esque, summery backdrop that could have had even the frowniest gig-goer in the hall smiling peacefully. Maribou State closed the show with Turnmills, a personal favourite of mine lifted from their most recent album, and the crowd were sad to see them go after a mesmerising performance.

All in all, Maribou State’s performance felt like a breath of fresh air and frenzy of dance all in one, and I hope to catch them again at a festival this summer.

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La Discotheque returns to Albert Hall this February

Returning to Manchester after their 2nd birthday tour, La Discotheque brings a stellar line up of disco and house to Albert Hall on Saturday, February 23rd. Headlined by the Founding Father of House, Lil’ Louis, along with sets from Dmitri from Paris, Horse Meat Disco and Luke Solomon.

Known for its huge lineups, La Discotheque brings Lil’ Louis to Albert Hall for the first time in seven years. Widely referred to as the “The Founding Father of House” with his seminal piece of work – French Kiss – released on Pete Tong’s FFRR imprint in 1989, remains one of the most recognisable tracks in House music today.

Joining Lil’ Louis is Dimitri from Paris, who returns to La Discotheque for a second time. Boasting such a prolific discography, the Frenchman is a true champion of the Disco era and a favourite of disco fans worldwide. London favourites Horse Meat Disco also provide support, having gone from strength to strength since they last played at La Discotheque in Manchester. They’ve been flying the flag all over Britain and selling out countless parties across numerous cities. It’s the queer party for everyone: “Homos and heteros, bears, fashionistas, naturists, guerrilla drag queens and ladies who munch”. Now mainstays on the club and festival circuits as DJs, and with tours in Asia and beyond becoming a formality, the Horse Meat revolution is well and truly underway and en route to Albert Hall on February 23rd.

Photo: Jack Kirwin -JK Photography-

The final announced support slot comes from La Discotheque debutant Luke Solomon.A true linchpin of the underground House music scene, Luke founded the long-running imprint “Classic” together with Derrick Carter back in 1995, produced Horse Meat Disco’s latest album and has been running the A&R for Defected Records for nearly a decade now. Despite operating on the fringes of the underground for so long, Luke has made big strides in recent years, touring extensively and bagging ‘Soldier Of The Scene’ at last year’s DJ Mag Best of British Awards.

Of course with it being La Discotheque, you can expect a load of surprises and VIP extras. We can’t wait to don the glitter once more and get back to Albert Hall. You can get your tickets HERE

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LIVE: Lily Allen @ Albert Hall

WORDS BY HANNAH TINKER      PHOTOS BY JACK KIRWIN

She’s the comeback kid who’s won the heart of a (liberal) nation. Lily Allen has self-admitted that she’s been to the lowest of lows and the highest of highs (literally). She’s an icon, with a career behind – and ahead – that stands on its own. Lily’s fourth studio album ‘No Shame’ was out earlier in 2018, followed later by the release of her tell-all autobiography ‘My Thoughts Exactly’. Haven’t got a copy yet? Written by the woman herself, it’s a frank and open book that washes away any thoughts that the reader may have had, that Lily Allen had been swallowed by the false celebrity culture.

With the success of both book and album, Allen’s dedicated fans swamped upon the announcement of her December 2018 UK tour. Tickets were snapped up early on and eager fans awaited the date they’d catch the iconic British singer. Manchester’s Albert Hall made for a prime location in the North of the country, which sold-out months ahead of the Sunday evening set.

As the songstress takes to the stage, a fan screams that it’s her birthday. To which Lily gleefully responds by encouraging the room to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the delighted audience member. After a quick “I hope for your sake that you filmed that”, she opens with the first track from ‘No Shame’ which follows the lines of 2009’s ‘Fuck You’ in that it’s a finger-poke at her critics. The track, ‘Come On Then’ calls out her haters and touches on topics she mentions in her book: that she often feels scrutinised by the media and disparagers. Lyrics like “I’m a bad mother/I’m a bad wife” points out that some tabloid publications have made attempts to defame Lily by making clickbait headlines from supposed atrocities she’s committed, creating a false image of her for viewers who simply skim headlines.

Followed up by ‘Waste’ (which features Lady Chann on the album, but the singer isn’t a guest for the live show) which relates to those who have double-crossed her in the past. Be it, ex-friends/lovers/collaborators, the path to fame often seems to see people cross the line of trust, and divulge their celebrity story to the media if it results in a shiny penny.

In amongst tracks from the new record, Lily Allen plays classics that established her fame, including the unforgettable ‘LDN’ and ‘Smile’. The singer is clearly not planning on forgetting her roots any time soon, as shown by the candid words in ‘My Thoughts Exactly’ and the whole reason she’s produced it – to set the record straight.

 

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And this goddess 💞 We luv u

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As often is, songwriters share tracks that are almost a story-telling of their own lives; sharing their own antics, experiences, and vices. Lily is no different. ‘No Shame’ harmoniously works hand-in-hand with her autobiography, soundtracking different chapters of her life / the book. For the finale, Allen speaks to her crowd: “there’s something in the air…” and mentions the current political climate, hostility, and judgment that seems to be common these days. Before closing with the time-honored favourite ‘Fuck You’. It’s a track that calls out racism, misogyny, and sexism along to a quirky, care-free pop backdrop that echoes the words: “…there’s a hole where your soul should be/You’re losing control a bit/And it’s really distasteful.”

The live set isn’t all middle fingers and ‘screw the patriarchy’ angst, it humanizes Lily Allen as a grounded figure. Part way through the set, a member of the audience seemingly faints, at which point Allen pauses the show and waits whilst medical staff access the situation. It’s an act of kindness that she could have overlooked by simply continuing and assuming that crews were on-hand, but she duly chose not to ignore.

Tucked in amongst the setlist is a cover of Lykke Li‘s ‘deep end’ from her 2018 album ‘so sexy so sad’. It’s a hit which traces similar themes yielded by Lily, it presents us with a double entendre; going “off the deep end” is a figure of speech that relates to irrationality, especially when referring to strong emotions such as infatuation and romantic lust for others.

There’s also a promise of more to come from the melodist. On this tour, Allen shares a new track – “which might end up on an album or whatever it is people are doing these days” – ‘Party Line’ that speaks of the relatable topic of ‘beer-fear’ or ‘hangxiety’. It’s that quaking feeling that you tipped too far over the edge the night before, said or did things you never meant to see day (or night) light. Currently unreleased, the song discusses that feeling of “crossing the party line” and that it’s a persistent issue – once you get into the habit of “losing it”, the problem is often recurrent. With all cards now laid on the table and the promise of new endeavors in the works, her fanbase befittingly awaits the next chapter from Lily Allen.

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LIVE: Ocean Colour Scene @ Albert Hall

WORDS BY BENJAMIN CASSIDY

A venue that sees the bands performing surrounded by fans. There’s those near to the stage, at the front. The others, further back, penned in with them and then the others on the two balconies. The place is built for gigs. Big enough to get a decent amount of people in; small enough to still be intimate. MCR Live just happened to be amongst them all, on a night that had a group playing with a firm following – one that’s never waned since the band broke onto the mainstream scene (no doubt a few who saw them play before that, too).

Roll back the clock and Birmingham’s Ocean Colour Scene have always been fast establishing themselves as the band to see. They’d taken the country by storm, following Chris Evans championing them and Paul Weller asking Steve Craddock to play and Simon Fowler to sing for him. They sounded like no other group. No obvious Rock N Roll front or claims of being the next great act. Though they were thought of then, as a part of what’s now known as the Britpop movement, this lot are a band’s band. Nothing but the music mattered. That’s what wowed people and led to them supporting Oasis at Knebworth, with an estimated quarter of a million people watching over two nights.

Since then the group have released a host of albums and other than sporadic patches of time out, have toured regularly. Some critics have slammed the band for being “too nice” and showing no character. Clearly, the entire audience present has different opinions; not to mention the many who couldn’t get tickets for the Manchester leg of their tour, a two-night sell-out show. Not just any act could get music royalty in the way of soul band Martha Reeves and The Vandellas to support them. Such a massive act on the bill further proved how well-respected OCS are within music.

Martha Reeves oozed class, style, and confidence, strutting and swaying. The centre of the stage was hers. No mistake about it. She did what she has done for longer than most bands stay together. Entertained, energised and engaged a crowd that felt the privilege that was watching her. She rocked and bopped, belting out her classics with a distinctive voice commanded attention. Her, along with her two sisters (actual siblings and not just in the sorority sense of the word) Lois and Delphine Reeves provided a sound that has had people moving for decades – few as well as Martha though, who egged on the crowd and dared them to try and keep pace with her. It was easy to take up the challenge and plenty did, getting into the spirit she spread so plentifully. There was also new music too; it was plain to see that this influential group couldn’t stop if they wanted too. Also blatant was the fact that they don’t want to and have no plans to any time soon.

By the time Martha Reeves and the Vandellas finished their set, around an hour after coming on, her and the band had cemented in the mood for the night. The backing band, a mini-orchestra of sorts (trumpets and trombones) were sensational, too, providing more magic to the spells of the vocals. Energy and nostalgia (for many – there were those who weren’t born when Ocean Colour Scene first hit the scene – but it didn’t stop them singing along.  They’d clearly be well-schooled in brilliant music by their parents). A great choice of support act and one that has no doubt inspired OCS too.

 

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Following a short shift about of the stage area (bringing on of guitars and drum kit altered) Ocean Colour Scene walked on stage. Steve Craddock and Simon Fowler wore light-coloured, loose-fitting suits. Straight to it. The unmistakable riff of the ‘Riverboat Song’ screeched out, as heads nodded and feet tapped. Steve Craddock’s fingers danced high up the fretboard, as the tips began biting the strings. Oscar Harrison, a powerhouse of a drummer, was accompanied by support on the bongos. He certainly didn’t need it, but it was a welcomed addition. Harrison lorded over his huge kit, as Craddock and company got stuck in. Simon Fowler’s diverse vocal brought the necessary growling rock sound to the opening number, as the group ripped things up, to the solid backing of Raymond Meade, the group’s now permanent bassist (Damon Minchella is the only original member no longer with the group).

A few songs in saw a change of pace, one of the many brilliant traits of this group. A rendition of ‘Profit in peace’, from the band’s fourth album demonstrated the more political side of the band’s music; not directly so, but in the sense that they exploited wonderfully the ability for music to unite people and be a force for forgotten voices. Although a quieter song that didn’t stop the chants of the audience performing the chorus, powerfully, declaring “We don’t wanna fight no more”. With so many songs to play they couldn’t do them all, but, they did an eclectic selection, including hits such as ‘The Circle’ and more recent material. It was an absolute roller-coaster of sound, with ‘Hundred Mile High City’ seemingly coming from nowhere and filling the venue. The audience was sucked in and it was refreshingly pleasant to see a lack of people recording and photographing (possibly down to the fact the crowd were generally older and wanted to re-create original experiences before it was standard). The performance was riveting, and people just wanted to absorb the atmosphere – one thick with a mutual love of Rock n Roll and music capable of climbing inside you and staying there until it ends. After so many great songs of theirs being played, the band left the stage, to the inevitable shouts of “more, more, more”.

Simon Fowler returned to the stage, alone, a few minutes later. He treated fans to what’s possible their live favourite, ‘Robin Hood’. They helped him out with it and it helped to make what was a brilliant performance even better. He was then joined by Craddock and the gang who put their all into one last song. Yep, that song. ‘The Day We Caught the Train’ rang out and ended what was a gig that showed age means nothing when it comes to attitude and musical brilliance. There are few bands in the industry that can rival Ocean Colour Scene. Their live sound leaves you knowing that should their fate have been different they’d still be playing; they’re simply not capable of not doing. Fortunately, their sound did become known and is now part of Rock n Roll history. The World’s a better place for that.

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LIVE: Jon Hopkins @ Albert Hall

WORDS BY SOPHIE BILLINGTON

I had been looking forward to seeing Jon Hopkins play his latest album live ever since I had first heard and reviewed the album back in April. Since the Manchester leg of the ‘Singularity’ tour completely sold out, it was clear that so had everybody else. This is evident in the huge queues that snake around the block as I arrive, just after Kelly Lee Owens finishes her supporting set. Jon Hopkins is arguably deserving of his vast and committed fanbase. He’s been playing both as a professional artist and in the public eye since the tender age of seventeen, having successfully auditioned to handle the keyboard and samples for Imogen Heap’s tour in 1998.

In the venue, the prestigious Albert Hall, the noise of Hopkins’ loyalist fans began to gather high up in the rafters. It was a friendly crowd, despite every man’s unspoken commitment to a dark jacket. Coming closer to go time, a terse atmosphere began to loosen as blue lights began to sweep up and down, bathing the masses. Then it begins. Ambient and low, a chorus of voices lulls a very excited and chatty crowd into serenity. This is a positive and relaxing beginning to the gig. A notice on the projector screen appears ‘No phones’, creating a traditional air to the show. This is not only reflective of Hopkins’ mature and somewhat serious crowd, but also the grandeur of the show to come. My friend Lawrence gets on his phone and takes a photo, quite naturally.

A horizontal neon green line spread across the projector screen as the eponymous track ‘Singularity’ comes in to experiment with Hopkins’ patient crowd. A thrumming electronic note quavers its way into a full-bodied strength. It’s not long until the show really kicks into motion. The zipping notes that fizz into strength are full of energy and bring a sense of a new dawn. The horizontal line on the screen jolts and becomes a heartbeat in time with the beat. Lasers rise up and out of the projections screen and onto the roof and top floor crowd. There’s a sense of unwinding as the beats hit in hard, but it allows the crowd to remain light and dancy.

Who knows what will play next. The sucker punch beat slowly stomps on until it is brought to a standstill. Noise vibrates outwards in all ways and directions until it juts into a rhythm and brings everyone dancing again. Hopkins is the master of this process whether he intends it or not. We encounter it in the next track and the next. As the drama reaches a momentum I think about how many people Jon Hopkins had got to leave their homes to see him through a through a cold November Thursday night. He got them all buzzing, moving and dancing. All sorts of electronic feedback make a heady pathway for hard-hitting techno. It comes through the thrumming and punches its way into its beginning once again. But there are many more layers of sounds to process. Some people don’t like the acoustics in Manchester’s echoing Albert Hall, but you can enjoy that there is so much noise going around. With the rich texture of Hopkins’ sound, you are able to choose whether to lose your thread in it and allow yourself to be lost in a daze, or sew yourself in and get stuck into it.

Every fourth beat is a crash in the next track, which is accompanied by dangerous red lights that make it an experience of a crash landing. As the structures fall and scream, high notes emerge. This is a song of crisis. Jon Hopkins is all hands on deck, or all hands on his decks to save his crowd and guide them through his soundscape. He steers them clear of caution with soft panpipe like electrical melodies and slams the breaks down hard with a filthy return.

Soon, the intricacies of Hopkins’ work are revealed. Dim sounds move on a minute level, just so many notes shifting only slightly from their original points, all moving together as a collective. Visual entertainment becomes a focal point at this stage of the show. It works closely with the music to emphasise its emotional effect. Twinkling stars on the screen above move to form the molecular structure of psilocybin above blue lit mountains; As mentioned in my album review of ‘Singularity’, Hopkins has explained that the album’s tracks are reflective of a psychedelic experience. In keeping with the idea that ‘Singularity’ is an experience rather than just an album, he offers a constellation of sounds not long before fine lasers shine the projected constellation of stars up on the ceiling for all to look up at in awe, standing in Hopkins’ imagined universe. When the visual treat finally disintegrates, Hopkin’s beats integrate. Moments like this highlight the surprisingly relaxing nature of Jon Hopkin’s upbeat set. The last song plays out and the lights come back up signalling the end of the show… but as the star of the show proudly bows, my sixth sense about an encore seems to grow.

As the music jumps back into a pattern, so does the crowd, all of whose movement is heavy and slow. Nothing lasts forever, however, and towards the end of the song, it becomes very emotionally intense in a way that is rather painful and sudden. BBC News-like notes shout out in protest – this is the sound of letting go, of ending and loss. I had thought that this was the sure and fated end, but no, it was all back in with a rolling bass to start, and the surefire of bullet-like beats hitting a sound-wall over and over. Unexpectedly, the final song is the one that I dance to the most – in between the production of a series of illegible and simply pointless written notes. Hopkins is to end his performance on a swinging, romantic note, one of those that felt like it would never end. Every electronic blow pulsed through the audience as lights and lasers of every colour danced. Finally, as smoke curls in the lasers the noise dies down, and a blurry piano is left to pluck its way out of the soundscape one last time.

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Review: Leonard Cohen Appreciation Evening @ Art of Tea

A church hall on a Saturday night felt the right setting for what was the second evening of this year’s musical tribute to the late, unrivalled Leonard Cohen. The night before a similar event took place over the road, at Didsbury’s quaint café and occasional music venue, Art of Tea. People gathered on plastic chairs around fold-out tables, on a cold night in a community space.

The atmosphere (and the good people of Art of Tea operating the bar to provide refreshments and mince pies) and a few drinks gave all the warmth necessary, though. This was a community of people – performers and crowd – who share the feeling of Cohen’s music being something truly special.

Matt with Hannah AC

This year saw the third annual event, to commemorate Cohen’s passing (the inaugural event was a few months after he died in 2016) and ran over two nights, such was the demand and popularity. Organised by Papillon Promotions, who facilitate many fantastic music nights (and day events too) in and around Manchester. The success, of the original idea, built on by last year’s nights led to it becoming an annual affair. This night looked sure to be a memorable one. Space was limited, but, in the spirit of togetherness that music has a unique ability to create, people invited strangers to join their table and soon nobody was a stranger. The music began just after 8pm, to the thrill of a keen audience.

Matt, who runs Papillon Promotions opened the night by welcoming and thanking everyone. He also announced that towards the back is a collection being ran for donations to Hope for Children Charity, that the night was put on in aid of, instead of an entrance fee. It really was an environment of giving, in more ways than one. Homage to the poetic brilliance and poignancy of a true legend, accommodating others and helping an important charity to be able help those in need. The standard was set by the first act and it all went from there. Gracious applause brought the first few songs to a close.

 

 

Kiki Trijber wowing

A few acts in and things only got more magical. The spells cast were the gifted and effortlessly entertaining singers and musicians, who were having as much fun as those who’d come to see them. This was a night put on and made possible by music lovers, for music lovers. Nothing could stop what was playing out, an example of the power that passion, enthusiasm and commitment brings. A real treat for all present. One or two technical hitches did try to stem the flow of merriment. That didn’t happen though. Absolute consummate professionalism meant that if necessary that performer would play without the sound system to amplify their guitar. Other musicians jumped up to help, offering their instruments and the wonderful Raffaello Porto (the evening’s appointed sound manager) got things back on track, which gave everyone another reason to cheer. And so, the show went on . . .

 

Matt, with Hannah playing a duet

The structure of the night was governed by the sheer number of musicians queueing up to get a spot. It meant there was no time for a break.  Nobody minded though. The sheer quality and range of performers was far too entertaining to think about stopping the flow. Other than people nipping to the loo or topping up their glass at the bar nobody really moved. With a massive back catalogue to choose from, hearing individual spins on absolute golden songs was as interesting as it was powerful. Each artist managed to express their love for Leonard Cohen and his often, mystifying sound. There were other collaborative efforts too.

 

 

The Stroke Society choir performed for the crowd, complete with their own guitarist. Though it’s impossible to single out any one performance as standout (the night certainly wasn’t a competition – it was a gathering of like minds), this group effort brought Cohen’s music to life in a different way. The energy of around 20 people or more belting out the same song totally filled the room. Though they knew it, they chose not to sing Cohen’s most famous song, Hallelujah. That was still to come. Matt also chose to collaborate with other artists, including the angel-voiced Catkin Gilligan and Hannah AC, who stunned the crowd to silence. This micro-collaboration was representative of theme on the night, with the audience (which also comprised those who’d either been on or were yet to go on) playing the role of unofficial backing singers too. Those who weren’t there to entertain on the night also played a crucial role. Melissa Finch gave her time to collect donations for Hope for Children.

 

As the evening was almost over, around 11pm, the final hymn of a song was sung and performed as Matt invited all who’d played to take to the stage again and offer one final tribute, a crescendo to a rousing success of a night and a touching celebration to a much-missed maestro. The performers huddled together. As a unit, Sam Rabin, Tony Harper, Hilary Troop, Harry Stafford, Kiki Trijber, Colin Cuningham, Hannah AC, Catkin Gilligan, Vincent O’Brien, Mathew Gray, Cal Rush Williams formed their own makeshift choir, led by matt who played the anthem of a song on guitar. All that ability and vocal range made for a rendition of Hallelujah that saw many in the audience stand for. A real ceremony of an affair. The vocals were shared out by individuals and for the chorus all joined in on the chorus. A mix of genders, ages and styles. The result was nothing short of sublime and shows just what happens when put together talented, dedicated musicians and massive fans of an artist. No wonder it had to have two nights given over for it.

On hand to capture the events was Colin Cunningham, who as well as being a gifted guitarist, performer and singer/songwriter also provides photography (with much experience and a portfolio of work available upon request) for gigs. As Sycamore Film and Photography, he is available to hire for shooting videos too. The services of many of the other performers are also available for hire, as well as some of their work being available to purchase. Details of their upcoming gigs can be found via their Social Media pages (Facebook) (MCR Live! hope to be attending some soon). Also, to be found via Facebook are the many up and coming nights that Papillon Promotions organise, including Bruce Springsteen – An Appreciation II (another annual event in the growing calendar), on Saturday December 15th 2018. Starts at 8pm and will take place in St James and Emanuel, Didsbury –once more in association with The Art of Tea (that it’s over the road from). This night will also serve to raise funds for the Hope for Children Charity.

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LIVE: GoGo Penguin @ Albert Hall

WORDS BY JOEL MALLEN      PHOTOS BY GARY BROWN

Hometown boys GoGo Penguin are probably a name you’ve heard – they’re the shining bright burden for acoustic, left field jazz, and have cultivated a reputation for high quality, widely-influenced music. These guys aren’t Mercury Prize nominated for no reason. The 2018 UK tour for their February album ‘A Humdrum Star’ concluded at our very own Albert Hall; its church setting with the open, fairy-lighted top giving an atmospheric and intimate take befitting of the band’s clout. Manchester, and myself, awaited with baited breath.

Starting the night off were Gondwana Records newbies Sunda Arc, who had swathes of progressive and modular trance jazz for the audience – a great homage to the large reach of GoGo’s tastes. Their square and sawtooth bullets of sequenced bass settles under colourful, washing chords, skipping sixteenths and throbbing kick drum. The percussion is multi-layered and detailed, which give a possessive motion, especially with the natural reverberations of the Albert Hall sitting softly underneath.  Looping sequences patiently whirl in and out, either to highly charged quaking and rumblings, or disturbing, hypnotic buzzing. This is filled out with minimal melodic solos on a Nord or improvised mini-saxophone. They should definitely be watched within the scene, and closely; and their first EP ‘Flicker’, primed for release in December, might just strengthen that sentiment.

And then for something completely different – there’s nothing chilling or disturbing about Andreya Triana. The MOBO nominee glided comfortably on stage over the counter-melodic noodlings of guitarist Ben King, and offered a stripped back blend of pop and soul. On stage with such little instrumental backing, the effect is one of isolation, but if anyone can fill that pronounceable void it’s Andreya. Her clean, soulful chops filled rooms and hearts with genuinely jaw-dropping ease, and combined with her refined stage presence makes her performance hard to take your eyes and ears off.

We were treated to cuts off new album ‘Life In Colour’, due for release in February, such as ‘I Gave You My Heart’ and ‘WOMAN’, where her melodies had strong shades of Corinne Bailey Rae – a pop-centred yet incredibly intelligent navigation of colourful diatonic harmonies. Yet, her delivery had plenty of versatility, adding blues-like riffs and raspy sprinklings at song climaxes, all over intricate, rhythmic guitar work. We even got a preview of Andreya’s new McCartney-esque Hofner bass, adding a lovely layer to the closer. A fantastic support on what is an overall high quality night of music so far, and if any band can push that even further, it’s our headliners.

GoGo Penguin are shrouded in yellow coming on to stage, starting the set like the album does – pianist Chris Illingworth plays the patient, monotone piano pulse of ‘Prayer’, which builds to a heart-crushing crescendo of space and melancholia, Nick Blacka’s bowed double bass whirling in and out. One thing that immediately hits you about their live sound is how acoustically pristine it is – there’s a cleanliness and purity to every single note, never fudged and combined with an unbelievable sense of musicality. No song shows this more than oldie ‘One Percent’, an ultra-rhythmic piece that mixes pulses and and skips beats to gleeful abandon, ending on performed live out-of-time glitches with an unbelievable tightness I have rarely seen.

Songs like ‘Bardo’ show a hypnotic, EDM-like approach to progressive acoustic music, with repetitive hooks on Illingworth’s piano, whereas songs like ‘Strid’ show Rob Turner’s bullet-quick drum changes and minimalist polyrhythms; but whichever song they do, they act as one incredibly tight sonic unit. Whilst they blend elements of jazz and acoustic music, every now and again you hear a bass pattern that wouldn’t be out of place on a Squarepusher anthem, or a Nils Frahm-prepared piano: they pull from such a wide range of influences that it’s hard to really box them into one all encompassing genre. They even sprinkle some delay pedals on a bass, and a wash of hand bells on ‘100 Moons’, to add to their mature sonic palette.

The one feeling you get from the entire room, and it’s one you rarely experience as a gig goer, is one of genuine awe. Their almost robotic humility and dedication doesn’t negate from the overall sound, and special mention must go to sound engineer Joe Riser, who helped provide one of the purest sounds I may have ever heard live. Blending perfectly with the surroundings, it is a sound to be proud of. More poignant tracks like ‘Murmuration’ and closer ‘Transient State’ cement this attention to detail, and provide listeners with such a love for music that they almost transcend being a band altogether; a immaculate, subtle yet jaw-dropping tribute to the musical experience. If you fancy getting both misty-eyed and blown away at the same time, hop on this show as soon as possible, and I guarantee your heart will grow three sizes.

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LIVE: St Paul & The Broken Bones @ Albert Hall

WORDS BY XAVI HERAS         PHOTOS BY OLIVIA BLINN

Manchester’s Albert Hall belonged to Southern US for a few hours. But before the Alabama Soul fanatics took the stage, The Americans, from Los Angeles, set the tone for St Paul & The Broken Bones. The Americana quartet was picked by Jack White, T Bone Burnett and Robert Redford to be the house band for the soundtrack of American Epic, the PBS/BBC series about the pioneers of North American roots music in the 1920s. They add a modern, sort of indie, pinch to that sound when creating their own stuff, presenting a set that was more rock than folk but more country than rock in their first visit to Manchester.

A ballad finished on a high for starters. Then blues. After the appetisers they presented their main dish: ‘I’ll be yours’. The single, and the name of the debut album that they’re presenting across Europe. Guitarist Zac Sokolow switched to the banjo while the drummer took care of both the sticks and the keys. It felt honest and emotive. Like a song with that name should sound. Whiskey style rock to finish. A Bruce Springsteen sound-a-like tune that brought the biggest cheer of the night so far.

 

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What a night. @stpaulandthebrokenbones we’re everything I expected and more 🤩

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The crowd clapped and shouted again soon after, when the lights went low and the music stopped. St Paul & The Broken Bones made their entrance. Oh, man. Paul Janeway. What a front-man. He seemed determined to show what he’s able to do with his voice. High-pitched, heart-rending at times, always impressive.

It was a bit of a show-off. But if you can show-off, then that’s great entertainment. Yes, Janeway shined on stage. So did the cape he wore when he appeared under the lights with the rest of the band. Seems like with every new release, the singer from Chelsea (Alabama) digs deeper to let himself out, opened, easy to read and comprehend. And he does it in a brilliant fashion. That’s why the show off must go on.

For ‘Young Sick Camellia’, St Paul & The Broken Bones worked with producer Jack Splash, who had previously teamed with names such as Cee Lo Green and Mayer Howthorne. Soul beyond the Sixties. Their set started with ‘LivWithoutU, a 70s-kind-of-vibe, before looking back to their previous albums. Paul Janeway excelled with the beautiful ‘Grass Is Greener. A voice and a song that would make Otis Redding tingle. Then he went for a cuppa -literally- and left everyone at Albert Hall admiring what a superb rhythm section The Broken Bones are. Another show-off moment. But funky this time. That’s when hips started to be shaken and feet started to be moved from side to side.

Bang! Four new tunes in a row before reaching another instrumental break. Drums and the horn section shining this time. Everyone else was supposed to be resting, instead they were dancing by the side of the stage. They seemed eager to come back, and when they did, they played ‘Apollo, the first single from the new album. A song that navigates somewhere in between disco, soul and funk. Nowadays R&B.

Before they played ‘Call Me’, one of their greatest hits, they did the usual encore moment. Paul was the first one to go, then guitarist Browan Lollar stopped playing and followed, then so did bassist and co-founder of the band Jesse Phillips. One by one, until silenced was reached. Well, almost. There was a long, loud cheering until the band came back.

And the final touch. The icing on the cake. Paul Janeway climbed from the stage to the stands of the Albert Hall while singing the last song, ‘Broken Bones and Pocket Change’. It was a bit scary watching him doing that to be honest, but also heart warming as he was greeted by the audience as he walked all the way until he was facing the band from across the hall. It felt good. Big smiles all around. A beautiful, beautiful night.

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LIVE: Kurt Vile @ Albert Hall | 11.11.18

WORDS BY HANNAH TINKER         PHOTOS BY PIRAN ASTON

Prepared with almost a guitar per song, Kurt Vile is easily a master of his craft, a connoisseur of those ethereal, anguish-stricken tracks of his. Promoters of the gig, Now Wave had already posted a crafty pre-show Instagram snapshot of some of Vile and the Violators‘ string instruments to whet our appetites. The ‘Outlaw’ himself and founding member of The War On Drugs, is known for taking his music seriously, not offering chit-chat midway through or idly delaying tracks. He’s a maestro, a virtuoso.

 

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@kurtvile @nowwave #kurtvile

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To sell out Manchester’s Albert Hall says it all really. It says that he’s managed to fill the hearts and minds of almost three thousand people and there were surely more, clamouring to get a ticket for one of the final nights of his UK tour. The crowd interaction was the epitome of the way I’d always pictured Kurt Vile to be during a show. Professional and awkwardly at ease, he’s the long haired flounder-er, sipping a beer while shrugging and blushing at the crowd’s affirmations.

Each lyric traced by his vocals brings the familiarity of those ever so well-known hit tracks about anxiety, losing control and a full blown identity crisis. ‘Bassackwards’ from his eighth (and latest) album comes as the third song amongst his set and it’s a clear favourite with the audience, as the phonics leak dreamily from his mouth, flawlessly coordinated with the whimsical waves of light that pass across the stage. That latest album ‘Bottle It In’ leaves a far more upbeat and optimistic taste in the mouth than Kurt’s previous works had done. Of course their’s still his trademark romantic, stoner harmonies but there’s a more vibrant undertone through the instrumentals and deep in the heartstrings of his voice.

From previous records, notable tracks like ‘I’m An Outlaw’ and ‘Jesus Fever’ stand out amongst the set, each applied with a different guitar of course – he’s no amateur you know. His guitar rig is more than impressive, despite the simplistic tone of his songs; his use of various pedals during a live performance is well and truly astounding to witness. A master at work if ever we’ve seen one.

A drum machine provided the constant background noise for almost the entire set, apart from acoustic tunes like ‘Peeping Tom’ – which Kurt presented solo half way through the gig – so it was almost too easy to guess which song would be coming up next based on the beat alone. Kurt kept his face shrouded by his hair whenever he wasn’t at the microphone, the awkward we all admire, you’d find it difficult to feel overpowered or defeated by Vile and his Violators.

After a quick moment of down-time after ‘Wild Imagination’ – one of the tracks found deep within one of his previous albums – this is when we have the encore. The genial charm of ‘Pretty Pimpin’ opens the final moment of the astounding set from an astounding live act. A song about being unable to recognise ones self but continuing on with life anyway and losing track of time, feels identifiable to so many members of the audience, the emotion of losing ones self clearly a common feeling that often graces us in our modern lives. No matter what he’s singing about, Kurt Vile’s words leave you feeling at peace, as though everything is mended, all tensions are cleansed and if they’re not then there’s no need to stress or anguish over such tremors.

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LIVE: Car Seat Headrest @ Albert Hall | 07.11.18

WORDS BY CIERA LITTLEFORD        PHOTOS BY PIRAN ASTON

In February this year, Car Seat Headrest released a re-recorded and reworked edition of their almost cult-status 2011 album ‘Twin Fantasy’, giving those familiar lo-fi sounds a new lease of life. Frontman Will Toledo seems to have a knack for revisiting old pursuits. Their first album ‘Teens of Style’ being a rework of Toledo’s material prior to getting signed by indie label Matador. It’s full of angsty lyrics about teenage love and mental health, which is translated vividly in their live shows.

 

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And then I saw Jesus…

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Car Seat Headrest are a rollercoaster of a live band. They open with ‘Cosmic Hero’; its slow-burn matching the gorgeous surroundings of the Albert Hall and the moody fog and blue lighting. Both band and crowd are stood quite still for now, whilst frontman Will Toledo is hiding behind his shock of black hair, but by the time he’s belting out “I will go to heaven! I won’t see you there!” everyone in the room is invigorated with a new-found energy.

The rest of the set unfolds in a similar fashion: sometimes Toledo is subdued and somewhat self-conscious, while other times he’s dancing like no one is around. The crowd seem to follow this energy, too. Car Sear Headrest have a dedicated following and they seem to gel well with the dynamics of the band, watching in hushed awe one moment and thrashing around the next.

The band launch into ‘Bodys’, a spirited and cathartic track from ‘Twin Fantasy’ that encapsulates the spirit of the band and Toledo’s prolific song-writing efforts. A personal highlight comes around halfway through the set, with ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’ from 2016’s ‘Teens Of Denial’ LP. The song, inspired by ‘post-party melancholia’ and the documentary ‘Blackfish’, is a roaring, anthemic track that keeps the audience hooked on every single word, dark imagery and all.

The momentum never really slows, even when Toledo reverts back to his endearing shyness – his bandmates are able to keep up the intensity. The atmosphere is electric ‘til the very last second, and Car Seat Headrest leave an impression; they’re as monstrously fun as you’d expect from their enigmatic, multi-layered discography.

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