Tuesday 24 March 2015

Nile Rodgers and Chic at Glasgow Academy

What a night! The cheer that reverberated around the 02 Academy in Glasgow last night when Nile Rodgers and Chic finally paused between songs, following their classic Le Freak, was among the loudest I have ever heard in 22-years of gig going in Glasgow. And it didn't stop, it went on again, again and again. Nile smiled and looked genuinely amazed. The cheer came back again and Nile asked his keyboard player to take a picture of the crowd.

When I got home i tweeted Nile and he replied;

  1. My ears are still ringing from the ROAR of the crowd! True Fact!
  2. 11 hours ago

The Academy was a complete sell-out and Nile strolled on to the stage alone to chat to to the crowd and introduce the video for Chic's new single I'll Be There, an up temp disco beauty that plays on the old Sister Sledge classic Got To Love Somebody.

Nile then returned with his exceptional band and got everyone straight into the groove with an amazing opening trio of Everybody Dance, Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah Yowsah Yowsah) and I Want Your Love!

The crowd responded by dancing, clapping, waving their hands in the air and generally having the best Monday night ever. It didn't let up!

Nile announced he would be playing songs he had written and produced over the years and kicked off with a Diana Ross double - the blissful I'm Coming Out and the exquisite Upside Down. This was disco heaven, Nile patrolling the stage playing and feeling his guitar; letting us hear and see some of the best disco funk riffs of all time.

A medley containing the likes of He's The Greatest Dancer (one of my highlights of the night), We Are Family, Madonna's Like A Virgin, Lost In Music and Duran Duran's Notorious had the crowd in raptures.

This was a musical lesson; short verse, huge choruses hammered home again and again, raising it up, taking out the beat and bringing it all back in again. All the time underpinned by Rodgers unique guitar playing.

The two female singers were brilliant and Nile took time to thank them and all of his band.

Thinking Of You is one of my all-time favourites and it was a real hands in the air moment while the cover of Carly Simon's Why was superb.

I'll Be There is the new single and Nile told us about how he was diagnosed with cancer 5-years ago and how he decided he wanted to let the doctors do what they do and he would do what he does - make music. I'll Be There was a highlight, as was the delicious Get Lucky, Nile's single with Daft Punk that gave him a whole new audience.

The set was all one big highlight but the closing quartet of My Forbidden Lover, an outstanding romp through Bowie's Let's Dance, the aforementioned Le Freak and the closer Good Times really raised the roof, with Rodgers inviting people on stage to dance.

This was a special night with Rodgers blown away by the audience response - this was a Monday night; he should try a Saturday night at the Barrowlands!

Thursday 19 March 2015

Fresh Blood

Big Inner by Matthew E. White was my album of the year in 2013, so I have been looking forward to his follow up. Thankfully I didn't have too long (in album terms) to wait.

Fresh Blood, released on White's own Spacebomb Records in conjunction with Domino, contains all the charms and delights offered on White's debut - the gorgeous dry delivery, exceptional arrangements, warm production and flowing melodies.

The album opens with Take Care My Baby with White in loving poetic form; the playing and production is beautifully warm, White's voice is soothing and welcoming, the melodies flowing, the Spacebomb house band gelling with ease, horns soaring, incredible percussion. It is brilliant stuff; no-one else (to my knowledge - please tell me if i am wrong) is creating music and melodies like this.

Oh the diamonds on the sea look like your eyes to me

Love will make the flowers grow
and blossom till its colours show

Baby I never met another one like you before
Talking all night long
From the midnight on

Rock n Roll Is Cold pours scorn on the current rock n roll scene while sounding like superb rock n roll with more than a dash of soul.

White referenced God and religion throughout Big Inner and Holy Moly sees him reference child sex abuse in the Catholic Church. The very subject injects a feeling of disgust and White ensures the listener is in no doubt about his own.

Holy moly, what's wrong with you.....
don't you ever give me false hope, don't you ever give a man false hope

F**k 'em all, love is home
Home is love, f**k 'em all

Almost to display his own faith, White follows with Circle 'Round the Sun; a gentle strum and shuffle that sounds like it could easily have been lifted off a Lennon or Harrison solo album.

So wrap your arms around me Jesus, like the circle 'round the sun

Hand in hand , do you know where we're going
Hand in hand, I'll go where you lead me

White's lyrics are often simple, yet the music and arrangements surrounding them are exquisite, lifting the song and allowing White's melodies to flow and he comes on all Marvin Gaye on Feeling Good Is Good Enough, especially on the line I feel like making it with my baby one last time leading to an extended outro - just listen to the drums!

Tranquility is aptly named, dreamy strings for the first half of the song before piercing electric guitar wakes the listener from the lullaby, before going all gentle dreamy again, dig deeper for the lyrics which were written following the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

White does love in simple form, but sometimes you don't need to say too much and Vision begins with the line nobody in this world is better than us, repeated for extra effect. After a few dreamy tunes White throws in a huge chorus.

Dry humour ushers in Love Is Deep along with acoustic guitars, a real Wall of Sound percussion, Stax horns and the kind of backing vocals that just get me every time - the kind that are a real important part of the song, harmonising, having their own sections.

Everybody ought to think twice baby
Cause love is deep
Cause love is deep shit

The song grows to flow beautifully with White referencing some of his musical heroes.

Matthew E. White plays Oran Mor on Tuesday 14th April. I intend to be there.

Monday 16 March 2015

The Most Important Place In The World

The last time Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat recorded an album (Everything's Getting Older, released in 2011) it won the Scottish Album of the Year Award. They have just released a second - The Most Important Place In The World on Chemikal Underground and I fully expect it to be on the shortlist for next years award.


Well, in short, the album allows two of Scotland's most treasured and talented musical artists to combine to create something genuinely special and unique.

Moffat is fine poetic fettle; flowing with anger on The Unseen Man, full of romance/realisation with Far From You, oozing sleaze and lust on Vanilla and This Dark Desire and in classic form on Any Other Mirror. Always full of sharp, honest and often funny observations.

For me, Moffat is at his best when he goes off on one; flowing with ease to vent his anger, frustration, desires, issues, heartbreak and ache... his lyrics, pace and flow are sublime especially on songs like The Eleven Year Glitch with a sample below.

the problem is that no-one changed, we didn't evolve, we just grew in all the wrong directions
we met too late, we tried too soon, we died so they could live

but don't peek behind the curtain, never scrutinise a mind, 
because you never know the heartbreak and the horror you might find, 
don't think you'll get a answer, don't expect to understand, 
the fragile correspondence between heart and head and hand

you'll never want me back, oh just say you'll never want me back
walk away, but don't you dare come back
just make sure before you pull the trigger

Dark (honest) humour is all over the closing We're Still Here, with Moffat talking about banks, bookies, pharmacies, charity shops, surgeries, letting agents, jewellers and even trainer shops! But Moffat says more about the state of Britain in 2015 in 4-minutes than most artists manage in a career - the fact that things are/can be pretty bleak but in the end we are still here.

Wells provides the perfect backing throughout, this is a real partnership; dreamy, seductive and 60's like on Vanilla, gentle beautiful on On The Motorway and The Tangle Of Us, matching Moffat's lyrics with the perfect mood on This Dark Desire and going bar style jazz and adding backing singers on Street Pastor Colloquy, 3AM.

I only bought the album today, picking up a super ltd edition print in the process from the lovely folk at Monorail and I have already fallen for it's charms. I suspect many more will follow.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

The Charlatans at the Barrowland

'This is a song about sunshine' said Tim Burgess, introducing So Oh a few songs into last nights set. Was it a co-incidence that The Charlatans were in town and Glasgow basked in double digit temperatures as locals dared to believe that Spring had arrived as we saw clear blue skies for the first time in ages?

There was certainly loads of warmth in the legendary Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom last night as Tim led his band through a 2-hour set featuring a good half dozen songs off latest album Modern Nature in amongst some true classics.

Opening with a lengthy version of Forever that allowed the band to get into their groove before Tim walked on with his arms aloft, you just knew this was going to be a great gig. Before we could pause for breath it was straight into the groove of Weirdo and the place was going mental.

Let The Good Times Be Never Ending, the new single, was an real highlight, the band gelling beautifully and leading the song into a euphoric chorus. It easily stands up with the best of The Charlatans back catalogue and that was exactly what they did next - playing You're So Pretty, a storming Crashin' In, a banging Oh Vanity and a truly stunning One To Another in succession.

Burgess patrolled the stage and controlled the crowd, conducting them and encouraging them to get lost in the music.

Emilie and In The Tall Grass are two of the best songs not to be released as singles from the new album, and they gave an element of breathing space in amongst classics like Just Lookin' and Just When You're Thinkin' Things Over, with Burgess unsure if the band were about to take the audience back to 1994 or 1995. It didn't matter, they took us back alright!

How High was delivered at blistering pace, a speed punk groove, straight into The Only One I Know which probably generated the reaction of the night - still sounding fresh and vital after all these years.

Come Home Baby was an absolute delight, the chorus soared towards the stars on the ceiling of the Barrowland and threatened to take the roof off the place.

The band ended with Sproston Green, done in 'Glasgow style', Martin Blunt slowly, slowly teasing the band into the groove that erupted into a monster.

The Charlatans play a second night tonight - tickets are still available and I would highly recommend going if you can. This is a special band, still releasing brilliant music and they are one of the best live bands around.

Sunday 8 March 2015

Pete MacLeod recording with Youth

Scottish artist Pete MacLeod is currently recording his second album, with legendary producer Youth at the helm!

With Alan McGee as his manager, this album could lead to a real breakthrough for the hard working artist who is always willing to help younger artists trying to break through.

Youth has worked with artists ranging from Paul McCartney and The Verve through to Crowded House with quite a diverse range in between including Blue Pearl (who he formed) who had the massive hit Naked In The Rain. His taste and ear for sound has led to remixes for artists like the Sugarcubes and U2.

Pete's debut Rolling Stone displayed a real ear for melody, honesty and soul. It will be interesting to see how Youth helps him to develop his songwriting talents on his follow up. 

Pete kindly answered a few questions on what it is like to work with Youth and his future plans.

1. So - you are recording with the legendary producer Youth. How did you feel when you first heard of this possibility? Were you aware of his work?

Yes it's great. It feels like I've been working towards this point the whole time I've been involved with music. I'm a big fan of his work. Youth helps create timeless music. He has the gift. A lovely man too may I add. An artist in every way of life.

2. What has Youth brought to the table? Has he turned you on to any new music? Taught you some new tricks? 

Well, we are probably about a quarter the way through the LP at the moment and the table is round with colours. As I say, he's an artist and I respect artists. I would like to think I create art...so we both have that same mind set if that makes sense? I don't want to disappear up on my own arse or anything but if I was doing music for money then I'd have quit a long time ago. I do it to be creative. That's always been my angle. Youth get's that. In respect of learning from the man....yes, every day's a school day as soon as you wake up eh?

3. What did you learn from releasing Rolling Stone? What was the highlight?

Eh...I learned that I can do this. I learned that some will grudge you the time they have and others won't but overall I think I've been fortunate to connect with many who appreciate what I do. That's been my highlight so far. The connection through my music with others. It's a healthy circle if people are as willing. But I have no expectations. I do music because it's my passion. Anything else would depress me to be honest. I learned that through my 20's.

4. You are in exceptional company in working with Alan McGee - what is the best advice he has given you?

Yes Alan is a believer. It's great to be working together with him and Youth. It's kinda like a dream team for me I suppose. I couldn't be in better position. We'll make a record that we like and if others connect then brilliant. Best advice from Alan? I'm not sure...we are really close so we talk to each other so often it's like, when he's not around I subconsciously kinda do what he would do...maybe? I don't know...we give each other advice with our lives and certain situations. He respects my opinion as much as I do with what he has to say. It's very much a 50/50 friendship. I don't think I need a baby sitter. Just people I trust. And I trust Alan. 

5. Will the new album be coming out on 359 music? Do you know when it will come out?

No. I am glad to have been a part of 359 and I truly wish each artist signed to the label all the very best in the music industry. It's not an easy trade what we try and do. It's tough man...I like to see everyone doing well...especially if they work hard and are genuine. Music isn't a competition. I'm not into competing with music. That's bullshit. That's not why I love music. I'm not sure when my album will come out? Hopefully before the summer. That would be ideal.

6. What has influenced your new songs? What influence has Youth had on them and your sound?

Well, a lot of people don't really know the music that I listen to a lot. And I listen to it a lot! I suppose my close friends know. I listen to it to relax and step away from everyone and everything. It's just where my heads been at for a long time now. Like I've needed it. It's like my meditation. I guess I've been traumatised by shit in my life...some things out with my control and others being my own doing...I think Youth is a perfect partnership for the songs that have came out of these experiences. Like a soundtrack to my thoughts/words and voice. Alan and I had a chat about what we wanted to do with this album...we met Youth and explained the direction...he was intrigued and then we gave it a go in the studio. It's exceeded my expectations...and they were already pretty high. So it's exciting now. It's early days though so feet on the ground and all that!

7. Are there any artists trying to break through that you like?

Mmm...well, if I've heard them and I like them they've broken through to me I guess eh? I'm helping a young singer/songwriter just now called Kieran Fisher. He kinda comes from a similar background to me in terms of not having much help around him. Apart from his Father and friends/family but it's still tough man...your kinda looked upon as a weirdo if you want to be an artist or an actor in this country aren't you? That's why I fucked off for 5 years. Sometimes I struggle with others mentality...I just hope these kids don't have to go through that same shit I did to get to this point. Kids like Jamie Reilly, Jamie Coleman and Mark Maclean and his band The Beat Movement. So many of them just want to do music...a system should be set up to encourage aspiring artists...not grudged or set up for them to fail. What the fuck is that? So many young musicians come up to me and contact me. I feel helpless...it's frustrating. What can I do man? I'm skint and I've chosen my path...I wouldn't wish the lack of empathy for that sacrifice on anyone never mind a young kid just wanting to create music! 

8. Do you have an ultimate goal for you and your music?

A goal. Yes, to score! Haha. Good question...my ultimate goal would be to inspire and help anyone going through a shit time or celebrate when they are going through a great time. If I do both with my music then that's an achievement. If one song can do either...that's a result!  

Idlewild ABC Glasgow

Idlewild returned to Glasgow last night for the first of two sell-out shows to promote their new 'comeback' album Everything Ever Written. (see review here)

They played an absolute blinder, Rod Jones put in an astonishing performance on lead guitar, with echoes of Jack White at times, Peter Buck at others. Roddy Woomble was passionate and assured, often stepping side stage to enjoy watching and listening to his band.

Yes Idlewild are back, Woomble, Jones and drummer Colin Newton are now assisted by Andrew Mitchell, Hannah Fisher and Lucci Rossi - 3 extremely talented multi-instrumentalists that also added backing vocals and delightful harmonies.

The band were on fire, starting with Nothing I Can Do About It before launching straight into You Held The World In Your Arms. We were standing at Rod Jones side of the stage and it was an absolute pleasure to watch the guitarist in spellbinding form at such quarters.

Woomble quickly discarded his tweed blazer as the band swiftly got down to business, hitting their stride from the off. The audience reacted accordingly, the love and passion for Idlewild was evident from the roar that greeted their arrival on stage but it developed throughout with outbreaks of pogo-ing (and a mosh pit at times) and a mass sing-a-long at others. There will be a few hoarse voices today.

Little Discourage, Love In A Hiding Place, Roseability, A Film for the Future, Captain, Every Little Means Trust were played in quick succession by a band on top of their game - Woomble taking his mic from the stand and patrolling the stage, Jones leaping about on to the drum riser and then back to stand like a rock god on top of his monitor.

Idlewild have a stunning back catalogue and they have added to that with their latest gem of an album.

American English was greeted like a long lost cousin whilst (Use It) If You Can Use It from the new album was probably my highlight of the night. The closing instrumental was sensational with Jones guitar soaring. The duelling guitars were a real highlight of the night - sounding superb.

El Capitan was ferocious before Utopia brought a sense of calm before an epic Scottish Fiction closed proceedings with Woomble ensuring the full band came to the front of the stage to take acclaim from a crowd that were blown away by an incredible performance.

Welcome back, don't go away!

Friday 6 March 2015


I have enjoyed and admired the creative talent of Duglas T Stewart for over 20-years. Duglas has a new project that he is working on called Dreamers - a departure from his work with BMX Bandits - or maybe the next step.

The Bandits last 3 albums (My Chain, Bee Stings and BMX Bandits In Space), have delivered career highlights, with Duglas reaching new heights with his songwriting and delivery. His ever willing band of collaborators extended to help him produce results that he probably dreams of - akin to his great hero Brian Wilson and also Daniel Johnston.

Duglas with the great Brian Wilson, Brian with the great Duglas T Stewart

Check out the likes of So Many Colours, The Sailor's Song and the exceptional The Unforgiven for starters. A far cry from the C86 days yet retaining the warmth, melodies and love that Stewart has a natural knack for.

Duglas recently wrote this on the BMX Bandits website. (click the link for the full post)

"2014 was a difficult year for me. I know there are people out there who have it much worse than me but that doesn’t help, actually it just makes you feel worse and guilty that you’re not feeling good. On the last night of the year I recorded a song.  I thought I was going to be celebrating the arrival of the new year and new hope for the future in Hamburg but I was home alone in Bellshill. I was in a mess. I recorded a version of Somewhere from West Side Story. I found an orchestral backing track, added some of my own stuff to it and put it through some echo and sang one take straight into the computer mic. At least that’s what I think I did. I couldn’t actually remember doing it until I found the file on my desktop. It sort of made slightly harrowing listening for me but I think I captured something that has something, a rare authenticity. It’s certainly for real. I sent it to the mighty Bill Wells for his opinion. He said he thought it was “very special” and I trust his taste."

I was extremely moved by this recording. It is the sound of a broken heart, still clinging to hope, love and dreams. It is the sound of an artist looking for solace in song. It is beautifully and heartbreakingly fragile, my heart strings are pulled with every listen.

Duglas has released a further Dreamers song entitled Rust, another raw beauty.

The BMX Bandits will always have a place in my heart, but I am looking forward to hearing Duglas complete his Dreamers project with some more 'very special' music.