Monday 30 September 2013

Manic St Preachers at Glasgow Barrowland, 29/09/13

Manic St Preachers slayed the Glasgow Barrowland ballroom last night, digging into their considerable back catalogue and displaying all the credentials that have ensured they remain one of Britain's most loved and enduring bands from the last 30-years.

Opening with 'Motorcycle Emptiness' was a great decision, the crowd were up for it from the off. James Dean Bradfield was straight into it, his voice soared with ease, his guitar playing was exceptional, Nicky Wire bounced about the stage with his bass slung low, glitter and make up on his face making him look like he hadn't aged a bit since the release of their debut album away back in 1992.

There were many highlights; 'Your Love Alone Is Not Enough' was delivered with venom, Bradfield's voice as sweet as a Welsh choir boys at times, as punk as Lydon's at others.

The Manic's are clearly fond of Glasgow and the venue; they announced that it was the eleventh time they had played it and also talked of playing King Tuts back in 1990 and the Plaza.

pic lifted from Twitter - thanks

'You Stole The Sun From My Heart' was a joyous romp, the crowd lapping up the huge chorus. If that got the crowd going then 'You Love Us' a couple of songs later took them to another level. The band and crowd were performing as one for this song,

James, Nicky and Sean were ably assisted by 3 others musicians on the night on trumpet, guitar and keys, although they stayed to the side and in the shadows, letting Bradfield and Wire take centre stage - you would have to be a little mad to try and steal any limelight from Nicky Wire!

'If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next' was poignant and emotional. The band then departed to allow James to play acoustic. A short 'This Sullen Welsh Heart' was beautiful before James spoke of the kindness displayed to the band when they came to play King Tuts back in 1990 when a lady took them into her house for a Sunday Roast. Her son would go on to become the Manics sound engineer. James announced that she had past away recently and they attended her funeral last week before dedicating Frankie Valli's 'You're Just To Good To Be True' to her. It was stunning and the crowd sang along with gusto.

'I wish a young band would write something like this' said Bradfield before launching into 'Kevin Carter'. The band then played a ferocious 'Motown Junk' before ending with the glorious finale of 'A Design For Life'.

Hands were in the air as the Manics played their biggest hit, with the crowd singing along;

We don't talk about love, we only want to get drunk

It was a spectacular gig. I hadn't actually planned to go until a few weeks before when my mate Tel told me he had a spare. I'm glad I did. James Dean Bradfield's vocals were powerful and emotional, raw when required, his guitar playing was exceptional. Nicky Wire patrolled the stage and looked like he was having the time of his life, changing into a captain's hat for the encore - he sails his ship well.

The Manics announced that they had already pre-booked the venue for April 2014. I imagine a lot of the crowd last night will come back for more.

Friday 27 September 2013

Visiting The Hydro

Last weekend I took my little girl to Glasgow Barrowland as part of Doors Open Day. Now it was time to go all modern and visit the new kid in town - the Scottish Hydro Arena Glasgow, or the S.H.A.G as it was once affectionately known. It looks like it will be known simply as the Hydro - probably best for all concerned.

Building work commenced back in February 2011 and the venue will host its first show next week, with Rod Stewart breaking in the venue in style.

The venue bills itself as 'an entertainment experience for the 21st century' and from the outside I immediately through how futuristic/space-age it looks. That just continues when you venture inside.

We had managed to get tickets for a wee 'tester' day, coming the day after a V.I.P evening that featured Admiral Fallow playing - although they didn't actually play on the venue's proper stage. That honour is being saved for Rod the Mod.

We walked through the doors into the court behind the stands - there are loads of different kinds of food  stalls and bars. Plenty of variety to keep everyone fed and watered. We didn't hang around there for the time being, we wanted to see inside.

The futuristic vibe continued inside with banks of seats rising steeply to the ceiling - the ceiling itself is like a work of art, containing the lighting rigs. I immediately thought of the scenes from the parliament in Attack Of The Clones.

The Hydro is multi-purpose; music is the main focus, however it will be holding events for the Commonwealth Games and is capable of holding tennis matches and much, much, more.

It will go on to hold around 140 events per annum and it will bring Glasgow up into contention with the likes of Madison Square Garden and the O2 Arena (Millenium Dome) in London.

It was time for some food and the North Sea Haddock and Skinny Fries I had were excellent, with my wife going for some delicious noodles. 

Thanks to the fact that my brother works for the Hydro we managed to escape the masses and get up into the corporate boxes. They are very plush, you get your own bar and they open out on to the venue.    Unfortunately I was stuffed after my fish'n'chips so couldn't manage a cake!

We left the box to wander up into the second highest tier of the stands. I don't think there will be a bad seat in the house. Although that might not be the case for those who suffer from vertigo!

The Hydro is a fantastic modern arena that will enable Glasgow and Scotland to draw the best acts in the world - even more so than it currently does. I look forward to attending a show in the near future.

Thursday 19 September 2013

Chvrches - The Bones Of What You Believe

Chvrches have had a rather incredible 15-months since they exploded on to the scene with a show at the Art School in Glasgow in July last year (read my review here).

I imagine that the band must be almost relieved that their debut album 'The Bones Of What You Believe' is finally out.

'The Bones Of What You Believe' is a fascinating album, extremely polished pop on the surface, often with darker, menacing undertones. The production is crystal clear, staying clear of the trap that many modern acts fall into - that of over-production. The songs have space to breath, there are hooks galore with synths (lots of them) beats and bass combining in a glorious manner and Lauren Mayberry's vocals are delicious; sweet at times, capable of anger, revenge, hurt and heartfelt emotion at others.

The opening song 'The Mother We Share' is a song that anyone with a remote interest in the band will be familiar with. The 'go-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh' hook in the verses is pure pop, the chorus soars. A truly brilliant start.

'We Sink' is even better (in my opinion). I listened to this 5-times in a row before going on to the next song! Bass-y synths kick things off and the beats come in. There is a menace to Mayberry's vocals;

Bleed out, what the fuck were you thinking?

This is a love song with a difference, the vocal melody is simple, effective and catchy, the lyrics cut like a knife yet also offer hope at the end.

I'll be a thorn in your side
Til you die
I'll be a thorn in your side
For always
If we sink
We lift our love

'Gun' is an exceptional and intelligent modern pop song, changing pace cleverly throughout. Mayberry is on fire with the lyrics and her delivery, this is a girl not to be messed with.

You had better run from me
With everything you own
Cause i am gonna come for you
With all that I have

'Tether' slows things down and if we didn't get the hint from the previous songs then this song is clear proof that 'The Bones Of What We Believe' is a break-up album. There is a stunning break down 2 minutes 9 -seconds in when Mayberry sings;

I'm feeling capable of
Seeing the end
I'm feeling capable of
Saying it's over

Her voice is fragile, sounding sad that things are over. The music then lifts to an all out EDM dance-floor filler, Mayberry repeats the phrase over-and-over as if to convince herself that she can end it. Stunning.

'Lies' is the song that Chvrches (then known as Churches) chose to launch themselves into the world with. The synths are not as pure pop as those in some of the previous songs (think Gary Numan's 'Cars'), they are darker, as are the lyrics.

'Under The Tide' features lead vocals by Martin Doherty. If our heroine has been under some pressure in a relationship and going through a break up, then this is a friend coming to her aid, letting her know she has someone to turn to.

Head up, head up
And stay strong
Holding your head up, head up
Keep holding, holding

'Recover' was released as a single in early 2013, a little teaser after the band were named in the influential BBC Sound of 2013 top 5.

Synths are all over this song yet there is plenty of room for the song to breath. Mayberry, yet again, sings superbly, the lyrics and their delivery fit in perfectly with the music - rising superbly in the section;

I'll give you one more chance
To say we can change or part ways
And you take what you need
And you don't need me

'Night Sky' starts slowly but the chorus instantly reminded me of Ladyhawke - catchy pop.

'Science/Vision' is darker and also more experimental.

'Lungs' is somewhere in between, Mayberry's vocal melody is clever and catchy, somehow squeezing in the vocals to match. This time she's with another girls guy.

How long, 'til you leave her
You should know that
We're alone this time

'By The Throat' returns to theme of a love that is over. Glorious synths explode into action for the chorus

All that's golden is never old
And I won't play fair with you this time
All that's golden is never sold
And I'll be thankful when you let go

'You Caught The Light' brings the album to a close. An extended intro that would fit perfectly into Days of Thunder/Top Gun leaves you wondering if it is an instrumental on first listen. The synths fade to a stark male vocal.

And then it is over.

'The Bones Of What You Believe' is an excellent debut. The first half of the album is particularly strong, containing some sensational pop songs with real depth to them. After a number of listens I did find myself wanting a little more warmth to the production or some guitars, but as the review reads; this is definitely an album worth checking out.

I look forward to seeing Chvrches at the ABC in Glasgow in October to see how they translate live. With a heavy year of touring behind them, Chvrches should be in great form for what is sure to be a warm homecoming.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Catching up with the Velveteen Saints

A year ago I blogged about a young Scottish band by the name of the Velveteen Saints after they contacted me about their song ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Is Dead’ and invited me to their second ever show. Their energetic guitar pop punk sound with echoes of The Clash, Jesus & Marychain and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club won me over and I have been following them ever since.  

The band has had a productive 12-month, working hard – playing lots of their own shows, supports and festivals. Their hard work has recently been rewarded with a support slot on The View’s extensive European tour stretching through October, November and well into December culminating in shows in Glasgow and Edinburgh. It seems that I am far from the only one to have fallen for the band. I caught up with bass player Mark Thomson to find out how things are going and I ended up getting an exclusive about the bands first release! Read on to find out more. 

Well done to the lads and all the best for the tour. 

Mark Thomson in action

1. It has been quite a 12-months for the band. Could you pick out 3 highlights?

There have been that many highlights in the last year, but if I had to pick 3, it would have to be playing at the Isle Of Wight Festival, headlining the T-Break Stage at T In The Park and being asked to support The View on their European & UK tour.

1.b How did the support slot with The View come about?

We'd supported Tim Burgess on the Scottish dates of his solo tour. He had his own venue, Tim Peaks, at the Isle Of Wight and he asked us to play there too. It was brilliant! From that, Tim asked us to play before The Charlatans at their gig in front of 5000 people in Delamere Forest. The View were on too - we got talking and spent the day with them. By Midnight, we down to support them on their European tour. It's was mental.

Velveteen Saints at Delamere

2. You’ve supported loads of fantastic and experienced bands over the last year. Have any of them offered advice that you have taken on board?

No one has really offered any advice as such, but, there is so much to learn from these bands just by watching them and how they go about their business. There is a lot to be learned in just watching bands do what they do.

3. You have just been announced as support for The View’s winter tour. Are you ready for it? Will you be able to keep up with them?

Well, we're travelling on the same tour bus, so we're just going to have to! Aye we're ready for it. It's such a great opportunity to play such a big tour, and to play to so many people in so many different countries so early on in our career. We're absolutely buzzing for it to start.

4. Are there any particular cities on the tour that you are looking forward to playing?

We're all looking forward to playing in different cities, Shaun is looking forward to playing Berlin, Martin is looking forward to playing Paris and Michael is looking forward to playing Amsterdam. I'm particularly looking forward to playing Stockholm. The London gig will be a special one for us though, as it will be the first time we've played there, it'll also be good to see how the band goes down with the audience down there.

5. How did the band get together?

We're all from Coatbridge, so we've known each other for a while from playing in different bands and stuff.. Martin and Shaun were looking for a bass player, so the three of us got together, started writing and playing together and moved into a flat in Glasgow. When it came to looking for a drummer, Shaun had seen Michael playing at a gig, asked him along to a rehearsal and that's it, we just went from there.

6. You are definitely a band that wear your influences on your sleeve, what are you currently listening too - old and new?

It's clear we're influenced by Soul, 50's & Garage Rock 'n' Roll, 60's Girl Groups, and Punk - The Clash, The Ramones, BRMC, The Raveonettes, Jesus And Mary Chain, Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Black Keys etc. We still listen to all those bands. I've been listening to a lot of old vinyl too, lovin' Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti right now.

As for new bands we've been listening to, there are some great new bands coming through with some great new records and great sounds.  Crocodiles new album "Crimes Of Passion" is a great album, Baby Strange new single "Friend" is a belter of a track. Then there's Twisted Wheel, Charlie Boyer & The Voyeurs, Casual Sex, and Childhood who are all cracking new bands coming through too. There are loads!

7. Your early shows saw you hand out promo cd’s to fans – how important was that in establishing a connection?

It was really important at the start, as it engaged the audience and it became really personal for them and us. People would contact us on Facebook and Twitter after gigs saying they loved meeting us, loved the tunes and would spread the word around about the band, which is great.

8. Can we expect an official release in the near future?

We're looking to release our first single in early February 2014 on O Genesis Records, Tim Burgess's label. It'll be released on 7" and download format. We can't wait. To be honest, we're not sure if Tim's announced that yet, so we might have just let the cat out of a bag. You can keep a secret though, right?

Hmmmm....kidding I did check it was OK to publish this :-)

Wednesday 11 September 2013

No Miracles - Galleries

Galleries debut album has been a long time coming, thankfully it has arrived and it has been worth the wait. They may have lost a little bit of the buzz that they had when they first arrived on the scene, picking up critical acclaim and daytime play on Radio 1, but they have delivered a brilliant album that is positively brimming with confidence.

I've put them on a couple of times over the years, as well as going to catch them at other shows and they have always been a pleasure to watch and listen to (and to meet). Lead singer David McAdam has a mesmerising voice that can reach notes that you wouldn't believe.

'Wilderness Song' opens proceedings, building with ease into a widescreen cinematic epic.

'Underground Overground' is a previous single, full of shimmering guitars and funky beats. McAdam uses the full astonishing range of his voice to lift the song to incredible heights, the music rising in tandem.

'Darkness Coming' has also been out before, but like 'Underground Overground' it has either been re-recorded or had a real studio polish. The band were full of talent and potential when they came on the DIY/unsigned scene in Glasgow, it is clear from this album that they have been hard at work over the last few years and the results are quite staggering.

We have nothing, use some imagination will you now?

A lengthy introduction leads us into '+Danger', the song threatens to explode for a while, yet the explosion is controlled - just. Galleries have the ability to hold back, to tease and to then let loose - in music and in voice. As I've already mentioned that this is widescreen, cinematic and epic. Add romantic, beautiful and dreamy to the mix as well.

The pace picks up with 'Great Comets (Of 1910)', a song with urgency from the off. There is a beautiful piano riff that underpins the explosion into the chorus. The lyrics are heart on the sleeve stuff, simple yet effective.

I really wish you wouldn't go
I really wish you wouldn't go-oh-oh

'Being Here' starts with synths that just sound ripe for a remix. McAdam's vocals are clear at times before being treated with effects.

I'm bleeding like it's all for nothing
There's nothing sweet about surrender

The production and programming are impeccable throughout the album and on 'Midnight Rush' it really comes together. There is space for the song to breath and again Galleries let the song soar and swoop with ease.

I can tell, I can tell, I can tell where this is going now

McAdam's voice backed by a lone piano start 'Love Diagram' before a real disco/electro groove kicks in and the pace picks up. The closing 1-minute and 25 seconds are excellent as things build, there is a brilliant synth riff going on and you just know the beat is going to kick in.

'Young Wounds' is a song that Galleries originally released as a single and it picked up daytime play on Radio 1 in the process. It is utterly beautiful. Unfortunately Galleries had their album launch on my wife's birthday so I couldn't attend, but this song is majestic live - as are the band.

I've got a feeling
Young wounds don't last forever

I recognise 'Born to Be Afraid' from live shows. The song structure is clever and bold. I'm kind of gushing about this album, hopefully that means that anyone reading this will check it out!

'No Miracles' closes the album. The song is slightly more stripped back, yet it still soars. McAdam is a very talented singer and songwriter and his mates back him superbly.

Don't dare ever let me go
You're the only face I want to know

So...quite an exceptional debut album from a young unsigned band. Check them out.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Vigo Thieves at The Arches, 7th September 2013

It felt special, one of those 'I was there' shows, but then every Vigo Thieves show feels like that these days - the King Tuts shows in February, a Barrowlands support with The Fratellis, BBC Introducing and Transmission Stage shows in consecutive years at T in the Park, a rammed Solus Tent at Wickerman, a riot of a show up in Elgin...This is a band determined to create something special...they are succeeding; the word is out and the word is spreading.

Vigo Thieves have progressed at an exceptional rate since the release of their debut EP 'Heart and Soul Pt I' in February 2012; reviews, airplay, shows, supports, festivals, songs, production, confidence (not that they have ever lacked in that department!), They ramped it up another notch with this show, selling out the Arches.

Support was from Model Aeroplanes, a feisty young band from Dundee and Arches, but the night was all about Vigo Thieves.

The atmosphere built considerably between 8.30pm and the stage time of 9 o'clock as I got a number of fans to help hand out glow sticks to the crowd that were pouring through the doors. The band didn't hang about and came on to their own atmospheric track 'Wide Awake' that opens their debut EP. The layered vocals building Verve/Ashcroft style before the line 'dreams I'm having with you by my side' is repeated.

The band blast into 'Steal Your Heart', the circular guitar riff lifting the already pumped crowd immediately. Glow sticks twirled in the air as the crowd sang back the lyrics and also the guitar riff as frontman Stevie Jukes walked to the front of the stage with his arms aloft in celebration.

Stay young in your heart, and young in your mind

'Blood Red' is the oldest song in the Vigo Thieves cannon, revitalised since the addition of Chris Cruickshanks on saxaphone for some songs. 

'Viiiigo, Viiiiigo, Viiiiigo' terrace style chants filled the air. Vigo Thieves are a band of the people, positive anthems that almost demand to be sung.

There was a brief interlude as Chris Gorman on piano teased the crowd with the hypnotic riff from 'Heartbeats'. The crowd started singing along, so Stevie started singing with them - it is usually the other way round! It was a spine tingling moment and I've got to admit that tears came to my eyes, this stripped back piano version was incredibly emotional.

The bands motto has always been 'believe' or #believe online. It has served them well and it was natural that a song with that title would come along at some point.

What a song it is! Starting with arms in the air style synths and Stevie Jukes singing like his life depends on it before the rest of the band kick in. Stevie was off the stage and up on the barrier in front of the crowd, shaking hands with the adoring masses and being held up by them.

Do you believe in the fire in your soul

With confidence flowing the band introduced the first of two new songs, the slower yet still anthemic 'Songs That We Sing' and with the crowds reaction you would never guess it was brand new - literally completed the week of the show. Alan Jukes hammered down on his drums during the intro to the point he was leaving his seat. Chris Cruickshanks joined the band again to play flute, highlighting the growing sound that the band have found.

'Steal Your Heart Pt II' was incredible, containing my favourite Vigo Thieves lyric;

You're looking for the love to heal the pain from all the scars
So live for the moment and you'll shine like the stars

'Forever' is one of my favourite Vigo Thieves songs, it is so cleverly constructed and written so that when the chorus hits for the second time it truly soars to places that other bands can only dream of flying. The band ripped through it.

Let's live forever, together we can stay young

I'd started off the show at the back of the room by the sound-desk to make sure everything was sounding good - it was. By now I was down the front, dancing and singing with the rest of the fans. During this song an older guy was standing next to me, hand banging against his heart. Our eyes met and we shook hands. After the song I found out he had travelled all the way from Wick to see the band! What a guy! 

Next up was a song that I have been dying to hear for a couple of months. I'd heard it in soundcheck for the first time and it blew me away, now I was eager to see how another 800 people would react.

'This Love' is a special song. It flows superbly, Stevie Jukes has a knack for that. The band gelled superbly and the breakdown towards the end when Stevie, Barry (guitar) and Chris (piano) come together in glorious 3-part harmonies before the song jets off to the sun. Exceptional.

The band departed to gather their breath. Chris Gorman (keys) and Chris Cruickshanks (sax) came back out first and started a stripped back 'Ghosts' to get the crowd in the mood. They knew what was coming.

The band came back on and hammered into it, Stevie Jukes was urging the crowd on, as if they needed it! The closing instrumental saw the band locked tight in a groove with Cruickshanks allowed to go wild on sax - E-street band-tastic! 

We can be alive tonight, we can be alive tonight!

'Heartbeats' is the traditional set closer for Vigo Thieves. The place went absolutely mental. The simple piano riff just sticks in your head for days, the lyrics are as heartfelt as anything Stevie Jukes will ever write.

The band all came to the front of the stage with their arms aloft at the end - totally triumphant. This is a band of the people, a band for the people. To get such a huge crowd singing your songs with you was just incredible - anyone for the Barrowlands next year?

View from the stage at the end, by Stevie Jukes

And triumphant backstage

Monday 2 September 2013

Girls In Hawaii - Not Dead

The Culture magazine that comes with the Sunday Times has an excellent little feature called 'the hottest tracks' that regularly turns me on to new music.

Today they described Girls In Hawaii's new single 'Not Dead' as 'a stoned stum-along gem, the Belgain's latest is a must for Grandaddy fans'.

Check it out for yourself. below. I like!