Tag Archives: live

Tom Robinson, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 12 October 2017

Another sold-out show at the Portland started with the acoustic guitar and lived-in vocals of Lee Forsyth-Griffiths. Originally from Manchester he is now based in London and preparing his third album. Referencing some difficult past times in his lyrics and exchanges with the audience he performed a short set of intense and musically free-form songs, with passionate vocals veering into the hurting tones of the late lamented John Martyn and Kevin Coyne.

It was a good night for vocals, Tom Robinson had politely introduced Lee to the rapidly building audience, but once the bass was strapped on and his band took to the stage his voice showed no restraint as he blasted out the opening number ‘Up Against The Wall’. As is the welcome trend with many established musicians the show was mainly a complete performance of an album; in this case the first LP from the Tom Robinson Band ‘Power In The Darkness’. It is an album that has retained relevance with its many references to disillusionment (‘…I’ve given up reading the papers, I’ve given up watching TV…‘), alienation, government inaction, media, discrimination, racism – all sounding remarkably contemporary. On top of that the music is strong stuff and although the original TRB imploded after 2 years this specially assembled incarnation played it loud.

There were so many standout tracks; ‘Ain’t Gonna Take It’ with added Hammond organ sound, the slinky groove of ‘Too Good To Be True’, ‘Man You Never Saw’ ( according to Tom it was too difficult for the original TRB to play live! No problems tonight..), celebrating the iconic 70s ‘Grey Cortina’ (‘…8-track blazing Brucie Springsteen…’) and the prophetic ‘Winter of ’79’.

These ten original album tracks were encored with the music hall singalong ‘Martin’, the ground-breaking (and banned by the BBC) protest of ‘Glad To Be Gay’ and of course the all-time classic ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’. A bonus encore of later period hit ‘War Baby’ finished off the set.
Tom may be more well-known these days for breaking new music on BBC 6Music, but he has lost nothing of the anger and flair of live performance.

http://www.tomrobinson.com/
http://lee-griffiths.co.uk/

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The Big Moon, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 24 September 2017

There was a definite anticipation in the air for a sold-out gig on a warm Sunday evening at the Portland. It meant that the room was already full for the spirited support band Get Inuit, a four-piece from Kent combining mercurial lyrics with some stop-start rock. With a clear American surf-pop influence of three part harmonies and a good-time vibe they won the audience over immediately. The highlight was the catchy surrealism of ‘All My Friends’ (…all my friends are dead, their corpses lie in bed…) and the slowburn intro of ‘Barbituates’, soon kicking into some serious loud guitar pounding.

The Big Moon are riding high, flying the flag for guitar bands at the Mercury Prize with their sublime album ‘Love In The 4th Dimension’ nominated and a great performance of ‘Cupid’ at the award show. Taking the stage with a backdrop of a large blue moon, we knew we were in safe hands as soon as ‘Silent Movie Susie’ opened the set with its soundwall opening and that three-voice descending hookline. Songwriter Juliette Jackson has put together a set of songs that seem to breathe new life into the basic guitar-band formula in a similar way to the first Franz Ferdinand album.
In a live situation the relaxed onstage chemistry between the four players extends out into the audience and we all share in the good times. There were new songs never played before, a bonkers cover of ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ and Fern Ford had the difficult task of swapping between drums and the occasional atmospheric keyboards, all adding depth and resonance to the show.

The final one word titled ‘tetralogy(?)’ of ‘Cupid’, ‘Formidable’, ‘Bonfire’ (complete with an invasion into the crowd..) and ‘Sucker’ rounded it all off in style. A great night, I think it will not be in the intimate surroundings of the Portland the next time The Big Moon come to town….

http://thebigmoon.co.uk/
http://getinu.it/

Bouquet Of Dead Crows, Six Bells, Cambridge, 9 September 2017

The local music scene in Cambridge (and I assume in other towns) is being supported by an increasing number of pubs and cafes featuring the best of home-grown talent (special commendations to The Earl Of Beaconsfield and Relevant Records café). Now the Six Bells off Mill Road has broadened its musical repertoire to feature some of the more contemporary indie artists, including a recent bout of noiserock from up and coming four-piece Shyer, as well as a forthcoming December gig from carnival psychsters The Scissors.
Tonight it was an acoustic showcase, beginning with Matt Hammond, added to the bill at the last minute, and very pleased to be playing to an appreciative audience.
He is one of those guitar players who is fascinating to watch, a style based around tapping the strings up the neck of the instrument, forming repetitive, hypnotic patterns to underpin his mellow vocalising. It was all relaxing and tranquil, he is clearly a fan of Nick Drake and John Martyn, as everyone should probably be….

Jethro Steel of Goldblume is not a coaxer of the guitar, preferring a more punishing approach to the strings. He plays effective versions of the electric power-trio’s tracks, with all their unpredictable twists such as whisking us away to ‘Winconsin’. With a new EP release imminent, this magnetic performer knows how to win a crowd over.

Bouquet Of Dead Crows are equally at home as full-on rockers and with different stripped down versions; tonight it was the vocals of Antoinette Cooper with guitar (and some effects) from multi-instrumentalist Neil Bruce and a rare appearance of an acoustic bass played by Graeme Clarke. They were featuring songs from debut album ‘Of The Night’, previously reviewed on this site. They certainly held audience attention, for a couple of quieter tracks we were instructed to be silent to get fully involved, this was readily obeyed!

Varied musical styles, intimate surroundings, good beer, free(!), that must be a good night out…

Bouquet of Dead Crows
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2015/09/13/bouquet-of-dead-crows-of-the-night-released-november-2015/
https://goldblumeband.bandcamp.com/
https://www.musicglue.com/matthammondofficial/shop

The Surfing Magazines, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 8 September 2017

Ricky Boom-Boom opened the show with the most obscure cover of the evening (‘You Belong In Rock And Roll’ by underrated Bowie side-project Tin Machine) and although he describes himself as ‘….playing songs about disillusionment, bitterness and smouldering anger….’ I found his set quite uplifting, with some sparky guitar work and lyrical entanglements. ‘It’s Snowing In Hell’ is a highlight , featured on his recent EP, along with the characterful ode to ‘Barbara’. New song ‘Discotheque In The Dark’ continues in the earthier trend of his work but my favourite was probably a bonus encore at the end, a burning blues that seemed part-improvised but showed that perhaps the devil does have all the best tunes.

Moonstrips have changed a bit since I saw them last, they are still filtering some fairly heavy rock through a psychedelic prism but now a saxophone has been added to the line-up and the music has increased in ambition. ‘Broken Catapults’ and ‘Why Do You Need It’ from their album ‘Glimpses’ stomp along nicely but it was the new ‘You Had To Find Out’ that brought the set to boiling point, an epic waltz sounding like seventies icons Sensational Alex Harvey Band and the Hazel O’Connor saxophone of ‘Will You’ fame had joined the party too. In a few spare minutes at the end they threw in a powerful cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Electric Funeral’ (which greatly impressed Dave T of the Surfing Magazines!)

Not since the formation of The Travelling Wilburys has a ‘supergroup’ been quite so anticipated; The Surfing Magazines consist of David Tattersall and Franic Rozycki from the Wave Pictures, Charles Watson from Slow Club and drummer Dominic Brider.
With a newly released album their onstage enjoyment of the music shone out from the opening track ‘You Could Never Come To Me Too Soon’, with all the expected flourishes from these players; forlorn lyrics, crisp guitar solos (now with extra rhythm guitar added), driving drums and slinky bass.

Taking turns to sing, David, Charles and Dominic all add something different to a cool set of songs, favourites of mine being the garage shuffle of ‘Goose-Feather Bed’ (featuring the exotic wordplay of ‘…pickled onion monster munch for lunch I had a hunch…’), the country lament duet of ‘One Of These Days’ and the brilliant build-up of ‘Lines And Shadows’. It is all such infectious good fun, a cover score of N Young 2, B Dylan 1 and don’t forget the surf guitar instrumental ‘A Fran Escaped’, propelled by Shadows-style dancing that may need some practice…

Like the famous quiz ‘fact’ that only one of The Beach Boys could actually surf, there may not be much sports activities here but this band can certainly play the blues/garage/pop/rock and have a great time too..

https://thesurfingmagazines.bandcamp.com/album/the-surfing-magazines
https://moonstrips.bandcamp.com/
https://rickyboom-boom.bandcamp.com/

Mary Epworth, Norwich Arts Centre, 2 September 2017

Three upcoming acts from the Momentum funding programme in the converted church that is Norwich Arts Centre. First on was Love Ssega, originally part of Clean Bandit, he now records polyrhythmic funk and soulful commentaries on modern life. Tonight his full band were stripped back to a subtle single electric guitar, this was an empathetic accompaniment to his strong voice and winning personality.

Hannah Peel is an amazingly talented solo performer, dressed in a white flowing outfit, surrounded by keyboards and conjuring extra sounds and effects from violin, a music box and her voice she takes herself and the audience to another plane. ‘All That Matters’ is a show-stopper, even better than the recorded version.
Back projections of her parents’ wedding video from 1978 seem timeless as the gorgeous and melodic ballad ‘Tenderly’ builds to a crescendo. I’m not sure quite what ‘Cars In The Garden’ is all about but it is a fine and memorable song. She ended the set with the epic ‘Foreverest’, an electronic spectacular; more evidence that Hannah is a creative force to be reckoned with.

Musical free spirit Mary Epworth has just released her second album, ‘Elytral’ (..relating to the wing cases of a beetle…) and tonight with a four piece band she enhanced the recorded versions of many of the tracks, with industrial bold beats, plenty of percussion, free-flowing saxophone and deep, deep bass synthesiser; it is a heady mix.
At times sounding like a modern version of ‘Being Boiled’ by the Human League but with Mary’s voice floating and yearning over the music she has created a sound all her own. This is most evident on ‘Me Swimming’, an extended, echoing piece with haunting hookline. ‘Last Night’ has a more ambient experimental start then a cacophony of synth crashes in like distorted sirens.

…..and the music disappeared upwards into the high rafters of this superb venue….

http://maryepworth.com/
http://www.hannahpeel.com/
https://www.lovessega.com/

ABC, Parker’s Piece, Cambridge, 7 July 2017

As part of the long-running institution that is the Cambridge ‘Big Weekend’, what seemed like the entire population of the city were on the historic green space for a rare appearance by 80s originals ABC. Founder member and creative force Martin Fry fronted a seven piece band, reminding us that the mid eighties charts weren’t just full of electronica and there was room for lush, sweeping romance tempered with underlying world weariness….and just how good those songs still sound.

The pounding stomp of later hit ‘When Smokey Sings’ opened the set and we were soon into some choice selections from the 2016 album ‘The Lexicon Of Love II’. The classy ‘Viva Love’, big ballad ‘Ten Below Zero’ (…It’s not surprising there’s snowflakes in my room…) and best of all ‘The Flames Of Desire’ with its historical Roman references over a ‘disco classic’ beat; though I’m surprised Martin didn’t push the spoken …vene vidi vici… line a bit more, after all we are in Cambridge…

On the album and some live dates these tracks are woven through with strings arranged and conducted by original collaborator Anne Dudley but tonight it is left to the two keyboardists to effectively handle the orchestration. As you would expect for this complex music the band were top-notch with a special mention for the elaborate special textures from the percussionist.

The finale was the mighty quartet of hits from the original ‘The Lexicon Of Love’ album; step forward ‘Poison Arrow’, ‘Tears Are Not Enough’, ‘All Of My Heart’ and of course ‘The Look Of Love Part 1’. A fine collection indeed as a prelude to the fireworks afterwards…

http://abcmartinfry.com/

Flowers Must Die, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 19 June 2017

On the hottest day of the year so far and as the summer solstice approaches a double header of psychedelia featuring Swedish collective Flowers Must Die and Cambridge band Psychic Lemon.

I have followed the career of Psychic Lemon and reviewed them several times, hearing them satisfyingly evolve into the mighty trio on show here tonight. If ‘psychedelic’ conjours up images of trippy acoustic interludes and 60s keyboard solos the band are well removed from that, instead we are hearing space-rock power; relentless drums and slicing bass lines with unpredictable raw guitar and the effects pedals becoming instruments too. There are occasional vocals (and some keyboard too), a contrast with the songs on their debut album. The four extended tracks played tonight presumably form the substance of the highly-anticipated second long-player due later this year.

This band are totally immersed; it is like they are a conduit for pre-existing natural and technological sounds somewhere in the ether. They have tapped into the source and the audience are completely pulled in too. Enthralling, primal and hypnotic!

Flowers Must Die
show a similar no-compromise approach to their music, from the stage setting with a single backlight and revolving colour dome keeping the six members as outlines and shadows for the whole set (not quite sure how they could see to play, but it all sounded fine!) to the build-up of musical ideas within the tracks. The two guitars, bass and drums line-up is enhanced by added electric violin, keyboard and the extensive use of that always fascinating electronic marvel the theremin!

‘Don’t You Leave Me Now’ was a standout song, with impressive vocals over a mutated disco-funk backing. ‘Hit’ was a complex groove, another track from their 2017 album titled ‘Kompost’ with its enigmatic mixture of Swedish and English titled songs.
Flowers Must Die have finely honed their live sound but they have still retained an effervescence and sheer enjoyment in their performance.

http://www.flowersmustdie.com/
http://psychiclemon.co.uk/