Tag Archives: Corn Exchange

Penguin Cafe, Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 30 September 2019

Rising from the ashes of the late Simon Jeffes’ pioneering ensemble Penguin Cafe Orchestra his son Arthur has now built on the legacy with his own compositions and re-imagined versions of earlier pieces performing as Penguin Cafe. The first half of the show featured the new LP ‘Handfuls of Night’, based on Arthur’s Greenpeace trip to Antarctica, embracing the mysticism of the landscape on tracks like ‘Winter Sun’ as well as the characteristics of four of the penguin species to be found there.

With a rock band lightshow and flanked on stage by two watching Emperor penguin head sculptures, this seven-piece incarnation of the band is a string quartet with added percussion, bass (electric and upright), harmonium and of course those rippling piano figures that drive many of the pieces. ‘Chapter’ is a perfect example of this, a lengthy meditation likened by Arthur to a 70s TV cop show theme (he carefully introduced each of the tracks played) whereas ‘Pythagoras On The Line Again’ is an experiment using beat frequencies, octave resonance and dialling tones.
My favourite is ‘At the Top of the Hill, They Stood’ with gorgeous impressionistic chord changes and a gradually building sound.

The second half was a trip through the Penguin back catalogue, with the familiar ‘Perpetuum Mobile’ and ‘Music For A Found Harmonium’ being very popular with the audience. A cover of Simian Mobile Disco’s ‘Wheels Within Wheels’ was an unexpected excursion and the show ended with the evocative ‘Rescue’, a soundtrack for a film yet to be made.
The Cafe in full flight is an immersive experience but perhaps the most affecting moment in the show was near the end when Arthur Jeffes played ‘Harry Piers’, a solo piano piece simply described as being ‘…written for my Dad…‘. This musical innovator died in 1997 (aged 48) but his musical inspiration is certainly living on.

https://www.penguincafe.com/

The Specials, Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 12 May 2019

A return to a sold-out Corn Exchange for the The Specials, as part of an extensive tour to celebrate 40 years of the band.

Accompanying them on all the dates are The Tuts, an excellent indie-pop power trio from Middlesex. Opening with the sublime ‘Let Go Of The Past’ they immediately blast the audience into submission, the guitar and bass intricacies building towards the life-affirming chorus. ‘Tut Tut Tut’ is their self-narrative band manifesto with the purest of hooklines. ‘Dump Your Boyfriend’ is a deceptively uplifting pop single but with a darker message ‘…he took my liberty away…he clipped my wings so I stay…. I’ll leave it off for another day…’. Main singer and guitarist Nadia trades vocal lines with bassist Harriet while drummer Beverley lays down the foundation for these many-sectioned songs. ‘1982’ is a blast, then a Clash cover and final song ‘Back Up’ descends into tuneful anarchy. Earlier in the set Nadia describes how they have got this far with no label, management etc resulting in the highly-regarded album ‘Update Your Brain’ and these blistering and fun live shows.

Last seen in Cambridge in 2016, The Specials opened their set with the apocalyptic ‘Man at C & A’ then it was the double glory of ‘Rat Race’ and ‘Do Nothing’ that set the crowd alight. In front of a backdrop of placards and protest slogans the three original band members are all focal points; Lynval Golding’s rhythm guitar and trademark vocal interjections, Horace Gentleman running around the stage and playing possibly the loudest and most spot-on bass I have heard in the Corn Exchange for years and, as ever, Terry Hall’s vocals and presence are the core of the band. Newer songs like ‘Vote For Me’ slot in effortlessly and the re-birth of ‘The Lunatics’ is a welcome and topical addition.

As well as DJ-ing between sets, special guest Saffiyah Khan delivers her powerful ’10 Commandments’ to a heavy-echoing and unpredictable backing. Wow. There are no low points in the set, all the old songs sound as fresh as could be, especially the tense and taut ‘Blank Expression’ and the bleak humour of ‘Friday Night, Saturday Morning’ and ‘Nite Klub’ (about to be re-recorded by The Tuts?).
They ended with ‘Gangsters’ and ‘Too Much Too Young’ before a reggae instrumental encore then finally the thoughtful closer of ‘You’re Wondering Now’. Maybe we missed ‘Ghost Town’ a bit but instead there were so many new and old gems in this show by a band who seems to have the momentum and energy to keep them going forever….

https://www.thespecials.com/
https://thetuts.bandcamp.com/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2016/11/16/the-specials-corn-exchange-cambridge-11-november-2016/

Public Service Broadcasting, Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 10 April 2018

The return of Public Service Broadcasting to the Corn Exchange after three years of a steadily increasing profile culminating in their new album reaching number four in the charts.

Support was from Jane Weaver, multi-talented singer/songwriter tonight showcasing tracks from her most recent album with her keyboardist and guitarist laying down some bold electronic grooves and featuring some excellent live drumming. Jane’s vocals float effortlessly above the music and the hypnotic qualities of ‘The Architect, ‘I Need A Connection’ and older favourite ‘Don’t Take My Soul’ went down well with the sold-out crowd.

With a stage flanked by two moving pithead wheels and miners’ lamps descending from above the four performers of PSB opened their set with the first three tracks from the very successful ‘Every Valley’ album, describing the central position of the coal industry in communities in the Welsh valleys; the decline of the industry to be revisited later in the show.

Their use of visuals has reached a new level, the striking images projected onto several screens, illustrating the archive voice samples. The musical core of the band continues as strongly as before, with live guitar, drumming and bass giving extra heft when necessary.
Older songs such as ‘Theme From PSB’, ‘Night Mail’ and concert rarity ‘Elfstedentocht’ (‘…a song about ice-skating in Dutch…’) were real treats but the surprise mid-set highlight was definitely ‘ROYGBIV’ when the voices describing the invention of electronic colour were accompanied by a visual spectacular.

We cheered the re-establishment of contact with Apollo 8 as it returned from ‘The Other Side’ of the Moon, enjoyed the dancing astronauts and brass-players in ‘Gagarin’, went misty-eyed over film of the pioneering ‘Valentina’, were shocked by the images of confrontation and musical dissonance in ‘All Out’, revelled in the eccentric singalong of spacecraft technology in ‘Go’ and were carried along by the emotional history lesson of ‘Everest’. And there was more too.

What a great show! In 2015 I described them as a ‘…formidable live attraction…’, they are even better now…

https://www.publicservicebroadcasting.net/
https://janeweavermusic.com/

https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2015/04/26/public-service-broadcasting-corn-exchange-cambridge-25-april-2015/

Franz Ferdinand, Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 23 February 2018

Meggie Brown is a singer/songwriter/guitarist from London playing a mystical punk rock, showcased perfectly in her debut single ‘Coming Back Again’, (produced by FF’s Alex Kapranos). Tonight she was playing with her sharply dressed and tightly drilled band, who although as support they were all confined to one side of the cluttered stage, impressed and engrossed the steadily growing sold-out crowd. It was an enjoyable set, I particularly liked the sudden instrumental twists in amongst the spiky lyrics, and I am still pondering the meaning of ‘crying for 14 years’ appearing on Meggie and her companion guitarist’s frock coats..

Albert Hammond Jr has a reputation founded on his guitar playing in cult legends The Strokes, and he has continued to push boundaries with his solo work, soon to release his fourth album, ‘Francis Trouble’. Fronting a five-piece band he is a likeable and lively performer, able to share his affability with ease as he leaps around the stage, climbs onto speakers, plays guitar or serenades his stripy jacket. The band are reassuringly adept too, able to switch smoothly between wall of sound and sparser tracks based around single line figures.

Since Franz Ferdinand released their debut album in 2004 they have built a strong reputation based on live performance and a succession of contrasting albums, with constant experimentation weaving through their own distinctive sound. Now expanded to a five-piece, new disc ‘Always Ascending’ featured heavily tonight, with ‘Lazy Boy’ and ‘Paper Cages’ particular highpoints. In an artfully crafted set, old favourites also appeared at key moments, with ‘Do You Want To’ and favourite of mine ‘Michael’ (in the absence of ‘Jacqueline’!) which really kicked the crowd off. Some moody moog synth textures featured more in mid-set but of course the wall of guitars for ‘Take Me Out’ was stunning.
During the encore the back-projections of the band members and other effects went into overdrive and then the double header of new (‘Huck and Jim’) and vintage (‘This Fire’) brought the show to an explosive finale.

http://franzferdinand.com/
http://www.alberthammondjr.com/
https://www.facebook.com/meggiebrownmusic/

The Specials, Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 11 November 2016

The spotlights shone out from the stage accompanied by the familiar wailing introduction of ‘Ghost Town’ to herald the arrival of The Specials in Cambridge, many years after their only other performance in the city in the early Eighties (Terry Hall mentioned that on that previous show he was arrested for ‘inciting a riot’!).

‘Ghost Town’ is of course a genuine classic, as relevant as ever and probably one of the most unusual and political UK number ones. Despite the departure of original member Neville Staple and the untimely death of drummer John Bradbury the band make a great sound, tight, hefty ska underpinned by the hammering bass guitar of Horace Gentleman and sterling drumming from Gary Powell of The Libertines.

The signature songs rolled out in the first part of the show; ‘Do Nothing’, ‘Friday Night, Saturday Morning’, ‘Rat Race’, much appreciated by the animated audience. Lynval Golding vocalised on a moving version of Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ then via ‘Gangsters’ (the song that started it all!) we arrived at the compact masterpiece ‘Too Much Too Young’.
Through it all Terry Hall is the central presence on stage, he doesn’t move much but he really doesn’t need to, the words and delivery say it all. The main set was finished with that strangely optimistic/depressing standard ‘Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think’). How True.

As a tribute to John Bradbury and Leonard Cohen becoming the latest in the long list of losses for 2016 the band encore featured a cover of ‘We Have All The Time In The World’. This was a highlight, sounding reminiscent of Terry Hall’s extensive and excellent solo work in between the original and current incarnation of The Specials.
It has been a long time for the return to Cambridge but it was definitely worth the wait…

http://www.thespecials.com/

The Proclaimers, Corn Exchange , Cambridge, 4 November 2015

The ever-popular Proclaimers arrived in Cambridge as part of their latest tour. First on stage was Pete Williams; as a vocal foil to Kevin Rowland in Dexys (and an original member of the band from its founding in 1978) he knows how to build a rapport with the audience as his well-paced set related tales of growing up, working and relationships, drawn from his two albums and ably played by his compact band.

Craig and Charlie Reid have continued to perform to packed halls and festival audiences and their music has lodged itself into the general consciousness. The opening ‘Sky Takes The Soul’ from their first album recalled the days when they performed as a duo rather than with the multi-textured full band now featured.

They still pack a punch with their powerful semi-shouting vocal delivery, of course with no concessions to rock and roll conventions by modulating their Scottish accents. They have so many good songs, from the wistful longings of ‘Letter From America’, the infectious optimism of ‘Lets Get Married’, the waltzing splendour of ‘Spinning Around In The Air’ to the relentless barrage of ‘Joyful Kilmarnock Blues’.

As many new bands steer clear of any political or controversial references the Proclaimers are happy to step up on Independence (‘Cap In Hand’) and immigration (‘Scotland’s Story’). Then of course there is the one that everyone knows, ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)’, closing the main set tonight, a song that most folk-rock exponents would be very glad to have written.

Their other anthem ‘Sunshine On Leith’ is a perfect song, with an emotional and musical timelessness (a future national anthem for an independent Scotland?). The film of the same name has given their profile a recent boost (gently affecting ‘Misty Blue’ one of several tunes featured tonight) and as they continue to record and perform they will go on forever….?
Hopefully.

http://www.proclaimers.co.uk/

Belle and Sebastian, Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 7 May 2015

Belle and Sebastian formed in Glasgow in 1996 and despite several albums and live performances they have passed me by, so tonight at the long sold-out Corn Exchange was a chance for me to see what I have been missing…

Opening the show were Lower Dens from Baltimore, a four piece band fronted by the emotive voice of enigmatic songwriter Jana Hunter, the vocals sounding like a hybrid of Anna Calvi and Siouxsie Sioux. Musically dark and quite sparse, at times a variant on pop keyboard electronica and then taking a turn into bottleneck guitar loops. There was a gorgeous song featuring the unique tones of a fretless bass. The intriguing and compact set was well received (the Cambridge audience in place early as usual!) and lingered in the mind long after they had left the stage.

While the stage was being set for the headliners, we were treated to a documentary film about the history of Glasgow up to 1980. Fascinating stuff, then finally the string players arrived on stage, followed by the rest of the band, thirteen in total to reproduce the instrumental style and quirks of their recorded output with a combination of guitars, keyboards, cello, recorder, flute and more. Stuart Murdoch is one of the most relaxed and engaging frontmen I have seen for a while, starting seated at the electric piano for ‘Nobody’s Empire’, he was soon off the stage and walking along the tightrope of the front barrier, supported by the arms of the crowd (including me!?). ‘I’m A Cuckoo’, one of their more well known songs was followed by the disco-stomp of ‘The Party Line’ (an appropriate title for general election day). ‘Perfect Couples’ was sung by guitarist Stevie Jackson and like many of the songs this featured artfully designed back projections. Just for this show this included a quick view of ‘University Challenge’ while the string section performed the theme tune…

There was always plenty going on, scan the stage and see that the band had swapped instruments or something new to contribute to the sound had appeared. There was a big crowd reaction for the stripped back acoustic ‘Piazza, New York Catcher’ which I think shows the key to their longevity; I heard that a fan said that whatever your emotional state or life-experience there was a Belle and Sebastian song that would describe it and their devoted fan base have bought into this. They are not always comfortable lyrics, as some of the slightly strange album and song titles indicate. ‘The Cat With The Cream’ was introduced as their political song, ‘Enter Sylvia Plath’ was high energy europop. Members of the audience were on stage dancing to the sixties hipster vibe of ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’, some stayed up there for another song and somehow it just seemed part of the laid back celebratory feel of the evening.

‘Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance’ is the new album, many reviewers say it shows a new direction but all the essentials are still there and they sound superb live…

http://www.belleandsebastian.com/news
http://lowerdens.com/