Tag Archives: live

The Proclaimers, Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 5 November 2022

John Bramwell (former frontman of I Am Kloot) opened the show with a combination of intriguing lyrics and intricate acoustic guitar lines, delivered with warmth and clarity. His sparse and thoughtful songs made an instant connection with the audience.

Two thirds of the way through a huge sold-out tour The Proclaimers return to Cambridge and as usual they deliver musically and emotionally to a packed hall of adoring fans. The show started with the title track from their new album; the duo continues to record and featured new songs throughout the set.

‘Over and Done With’ and ‘Should Have Been Loved’ are up-tempo fun songs boosted by their appearance in the excellent ‘Sunshine on Leith‘ movie, but it is the irresistible swirl of ‘Let’s Get Married’ and their debut hit ‘Letter from America’ that first raise the roof. At the heart of the show are many hidden gems; going back to their guitar/vocal roots for ‘Misty Blue’, the simple beauty of ‘Make My Heart Fly’ and spiritual intensity of ‘Sky Takes the Soul’. The political messages are still strong too, with the independence theme of ‘Cap in Hand'(from 1988) and especially the moving description of immigration ‘Scotland’s Story’ (2014) sounding bang up to date.

Craig and Charlie Reid have created a huge back catalogue of memorable songs with the contrasting giants of ‘Sunshine on Leith’ and ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)’ being the best known. Towards the end of the set these were of course received with massive enthusiasm as the superb band sound soared into the rafters of the venue. Finally, the party atmosphere of ‘The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues’ sent us away happy into the rain and fireworks until the next time…

https://the.proclaimers.co.uk/

http://www.johnbramwell.com/

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The Shires, Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 15 May 2022

First on stage at this sold out show was Kezia Gill; with her strong vocals and witty lyrics she won the audience over playing her opening track ‘Country Song’, featured on her 2021 EP ( reviewed here). From the tender reminiscence of ‘Local Man’s Star’ to the partying ‘Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman’, Kezia was a shining opening act.

From the USA, Eric Paslay has an impressive CV of collaborations, hit songs and awards. Tonight his engaging performance of these carefully crafted tracks brought the listeners into his world of subtle disquiet and emotional celebration.

It has been a long delay before headliners The Shires arrived in Cambridge for this tour but tonight’s show made up for the wait. The duo were supported by a spot-on band for a set that alternated rockers (‘Lightning Strikes’), grand ballads (recent single ‘I See Stars’), and the emotional pull of very personal statements (not a dry eye in the house for ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’). Ben and Crissie are an instantly likeable pair, with the great strength that the two individual vocals can carry a song brilliantly but the combined harmonies of both voices are on another quite magical plane.

In a show of many highlights, by the time we reached the big finish of ‘A Thousand Hallelujahs’ the combined hands of the audience were definitely waving up to the heavens…

https://www.theshiresmusic.com/

https://www.ericpaslay.com/

https://keziagill.com/

Sound + Vision Festival, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 21 April 2022

A musical highlight in the ‘Sound + Vision’ multi venue festival bringing new and established music and comedy to the city.

Unfortunately we missed indie strategists Death to Slow Music but arrived in time for some of the psychedelic noise burst of Cambridge favourites Lemondaze, fresh from a support slot for cult shoegazers Ride the previous evening. As on previous encounters, the density of the band’s sound engulfs the intimate confines of the Portland but there is always a loose and off beat ambience that warms the soul.

Chester-based trio Peaness played the whole of their soon to be released long-player ‘World Full of Worry’, starting with the gentle acoustics of ‘Take A Trip’ and the punchy previous single ‘Kaizen’. Full of light and shade the songs are relentlessly likeable and there is always instrumental twists and delights, given extra depth with the inclusion of a keyboard player for this opening night of their tour.

‘Doing Fine’ carries subtle sadness along with a crisp melody as does ‘Left To Fall Behind’ with the haunting refrain ‘…hoping for the best…preparing for the worst…’. The superb pop of ‘Hurts ’til it Doesn’t’ is identified by the band as a Beatles-type composition then the wistful ‘Sad Song’ finishes the main set.

Audience favourite ‘Oh George’ showcases Peaness at their best; politically biting, sharply delivered vocally and musically, but always with warmth and humour. Then ‘Same Place’ is a celebration of friendship before the emotional flourish of ‘Skin Surfing’ brings this excellent show to an end.

https://www.peanessband.com/

https://www.facebook.com/lemondazeband/

https://www.facebook.com/deathtoslowmusic/

Public Service Broadcasting, Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 11 November 2021

It was a full venue for the return of Public Service Broadcasting to Cambridge, along with opening act EERA, also part of PSB for this tour. EERA’s free-flowing sensuous songs build around sparse instrumentation and her echoing voice, especially on the low-fi ‘Christine’. She moved into rawer territory for ‘Ladder’ when PSB surprisingly appeared as a rocking backing band towards the end of this well-received set.

Public Service Broadcasting have broadened their distinctive sound with longer instrumental pieces on their new Berlin concept album ‘Bright Magic’, strongly featured tonight and described by the band; ‘….the album’s theme is light… the light bouncing off of Dietrich’s cheekbones, of neon signs in the rain. I wanted to celebrate movement, colour and joy in an urban environment….’

Decked out in white suits and with of course a brilliant sequence of lights and visuals their long set maintains unstoppable momentum.

The ‘Every Valley’ mining community tracks take on a distinct poignancy this evening as the Glasgow Climate talks were taking place at the same time, but the older ‘Sputnik’, ‘E.V.A.’, ‘The Other Side’ seem to be a timeless slice of history. 2014’s ‘The Race For Space’ also provides two of their showstoppers; ‘Gagarin’ complete with dancing astronauts and the manic energy finale of ‘Go’.

EERA’s vocals soared throughout, particularly in the glorious ‘Blue Heaven’, probably my favourite song of the night out of so many highlights. As the brass section added textures to the last song ‘Everest’ there was no doubt that PSB continue to be a formidable live attraction.

https://www.publicservicebroadcasting.net/

https://www.eera.co.uk/

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Ward Thomas : Epic Studios, Norwich, 8 November 2021

A much-anticipated show at this fine all-purpose venue, opening tonight with the passionate performance and emotionally powerful ballads of Dan Owen. First track ‘Icarus’ immediately pulled the audience in and with his warm anecdotes and a barnstorming blues rendition of ‘Little Red Rooster’ he set the positive tone for the evening.

After many years of performing and a long career break, County Affair are a four-piece having a second life promoting an Abbey Road recorded album of a new batch of Americana songs. The tracks deal with eternal country music themes, joined with a likeable background of accordion, keys, guitar and percussion.

Ward Thomas started with the low-key duet ‘Dear Me’ and as soon as they segued into the descending vocal harmonies in the chorus of ‘No Fooling Me’ and the bitter-sweetness of ‘Cartwheels’ we knew that the emotional and musical magic was all in place. With varying amounts of input from their empathetic band this was a fantastic set, balanced between the pop oriented songs of 2019’s ‘Restless Minds’ album and the big country ballads such as ‘Guilty Flowers’ and the stomping ‘I Believe In You’ as well as the heart-tearing ‘Someday’ and ‘One More Goodbye’. With final encore ‘Safe’ performed as just a duo the show had gone full circle as the harmonies gently floated in the air.

https://www.wardthomasmusic.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/thecountyaffair/

https://www.facebook.com/danowenmusic

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The Staves, Junction J1, Cambridge, 24 September 2021

Live music at last!

First onstage was US singer/songwriter Samantha Crain, a performer with a quiet authority evident from the first track ‘Joey’; a languid leisurely waltz with the gentle instrumentation as a perfect platform for her rich vocals. The tempo was increased for ‘Pastime’ and through her short set her accompanying musician played pedal steel, second guitar and keys to add extra colour to the involving narrative strengths of the songs. A highlight was the emotive tale told in ‘Elk City’, sung to a solo guitar as her overall performance effortlessly won over the audience.

The Staves create an intimate and welcoming musical atmosphere; opening song ‘Failure’ features the harmonies and indie folk rock ambience that instantly draws the listener in. Sisters Camilla and Jessica (Emily is currently not touring) are joined by an empathetic band that knows how much to push the sound forward or keep in the background more for a track like ‘Good Woman’; the title song from the 2021 album that makes up most of the set.

The songs can move into moody territory like the walk through a dark forest of ‘Blood I Bled’ or luxuriate in the deceptively simple beauty of ‘Make It Holy’. It all flew by in a delicious haze of ethereal melody and musical textures, a triumphant performance after too long away..

https://www.thestaves.com/

https://www.samanthacrain.com/

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Malena Zavala : La Yarará (Live at Studio 2), single released June 2020

This is a new version of La Yarará by Malena Zavala; it was the title track on her second album released earlier this year but this is an as-live studio recording cut at the legendary Abbey Road studios. The singer is based in London but draws on her Argentinian roots, she describes herself as being influenced by many sub genres; Cumbia, Afro-Cuban, Afro-funk, Andean folk, Argentine folk, bolero-son, and for this track, ‘reggaeton’ which is a music style originating in Puerto Rico during the late 1990s.

From the mysterious ascending keyboard in the introduction before the full band effortlessly join in the party it is a sinous, flowing track which evokes the image of the serpent of the title. As well as Malena’s sparkling voice the percussion and unadorned drums are crucial to the essence of the song and a spectacular trumpet solo appears from nowhere and nearly steals the show at the end as it duels with the graceful electric guitar lines.

I saw Malena and her band at the Blue Moon in Cambridge last year (see review below) so this is a reminder for me of an excellent show which has stayed in my memory…

https://www.malenazavala.com/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2019/04/28/malena-zavala-blue-moon-cambridge-25-april-2019/

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Salt House, Storey’s Field Centre, Cambridge, 15 March 2020

Storey’s Field Centre in the new settlement of Eddington near Cambridge welcomed folk trio Salt House.
The clarity of the acoustics and the lofty church-like structure were an ideal setting for their haunting, celebratory music – conjuring images of stark but beautiful landscapes from the Scottish islands where they record.

Opening song ‘Turn Ye to Me’, “a tale of a baby stolen by a sea monster and replaced by a changeling whilst her mother gathered seaweed” is a new interpretation of an existing poem; immediately the music and voices on this and the following ‘Lay Your Dark Low’ set the tone for the evening. With acoustic guitars, a Gretsch hollow-body electric twelve-string, violin, viola and an indian harmonium the instruments were as lovely to look at as to listen to.

Imagine seeing hump-backed whales and orca off the coast then the northern lights in the sky, top it off by writing the gorgeous ‘Old Shoes’, with its fast guitar picking, relaxed harmonies and a lustrous violin solo and you have a perfect song to go with the ideal day.

Over the course of two sets they played many songs from their 2018 album ‘Undersong’ as well as all the tracks from their new long-player ‘Huam’ (the call of an owl), released at the end of the week. Each song was introduced and explained, drawing the audience into the rewarding layers of this rich musical genre.

The band feature the history and folklore of traditional Scandinavian and Scottish themes such as ‘The Sisters’ Revenge’; an epic seven minutes built around the recurring words ‘…the summer comes the summer goes…the grave of my father green grass grows…’. The words and music built the tension as the title characters prepared for the gory final act ‘…they hacked him into pieces small…’.

There were more contemporary reflections too; ‘All Shall be Still’ ties in the tedium of work routines with thoughts of escape and the timelessness of the natural world, also evoked in ‘Mountain Of Gold’ and ‘Staring at Stars’. Musically there was plenty to gently immerse yourself in but there was also darker, sombre moods such as the hypnotic dream of ‘The Road Not Taken’ with pulsing rhythmic guitar and soaring violin.

It was a warm, flawless and brilliant show.

http://www.salthousemusic.com
https://www.hudsonrecords.co.uk/
https://www.storeysfieldcentre.org.uk/


Josienne Clarke, The Musician, Leicester, 8 March 2020

The Musician pub and venue is hidden away on the edge of Leicester city centre, hosting an extensive programme of live music that crosses the genres.

Tonight the mellow audience welcomed two solo singer/songwriters; first on stage was Autumn Dawn Leader fusing folk and blues as a platform for her very personal lyrics of emotional exploration. Starting at the piano but mostly accompanied by guitar, her vocals fully inhabit the theme of the songs as they move through their thoughtful structure. ‘Bottle’ takes a simple idea and spins it into an impressive ballad, new single ‘Another Year’ is a considered lament for the passing of time, while the much-streamed ‘What It Is’ fuses distant and haunting verses with a powerful and catchy chorus.

Weaving together subtle and varying guitar playing with her mesmerising and pure voice Josienne Clarke makes music of breathtaking beauty, showcased immediately by her opening tracks ‘Seconds’ and ‘The Drawing of the Line’, two highlights from her 2019 album ‘In All Weather’. The lyrics have the timeless imagery of the best folk music ‘…the swallows only sing the summer long…and leaves will turn to ochre in the fall…’ as well as more contemporary themes ‘…I’m leaving London but I might be back….I’ve given him my best years and he’ll never give them back….’.

More experimental tracks such as the song about a song ‘Season & Time’ (‘…this one struggles with structure…it wanders in its rhyme and its reason….’) appear alongside brief ideas and interludes – like the loop-pedalled vocals of ‘Fair Weather Friends’ that we share for less than two minutes and then drifts off hauntingly into the ether. ‘Onliness’ was a fragile and melancholy vignette, ‘Cast In Stone’ was a track that she recorded with previous collaborators Pica Pica and there were new songs too.

In this intimate performance space Josienne effectively communicates and invites the listeners into her musical world, the two sets she played tonight were over all too quickly…

https://www.facebook.com/josienneclarkeHQ
https://www.facebook.com/AutumnDawnLeaderMusic
http://www.themusicianpub.co.uk/

Mammoth Penguins, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 3 March 2020

A big turnout for a Tuesday night at the Blue Moon, full of well-wishers for the upcoming appearance at the US ‘SXSW’ festival by Mammoth Penguins.
It was a cracking support bill too, started by Peterborough quartet SUDS. Opening with the catchy recent song ‘You’ll Feel Better’ the sound is immediately established; a warm, ethereal jangle-pop, topped with smooth vocals that float over jazz-infused guitar lines, a bass line that descends and garnishes reassuringly and drum playing that weaves everything together.
The breezy pop of ‘Evergreen’ was a highlight – this was their debut single and included on their EP ‘It Suits Me Well’, a fine collection soon to be added to with recordings of some of the new songs featured in this impressive set.

Last time I saw Goldblume they were playing live in a summer storm and as always generating enough energy to compete with the elements. Opening with ‘Fawning’, tonight they were showcasing the instrumental power and complexity when the ensemble lets loose, with math-rock time changes and the volume and dynamics of the trio constantly varying. A great communicator with an audience, singer/guitarist Jethro brings the lyrics to life with a vocal performance that cuts through the noisy wall of sound, especially on ‘Bleach’, one of their best songs.

Cambridge three-piece Mammoth Penguins have two excellent albums to draw songs from and they opened tonight with the compact and to-the-point ‘Propped Up’ and ‘Cries at the Movies’ from 2015. Emma Kupa’s vocals sound simultaneously disconnected yet right in the middle of the narrator’s viewpoint in the songs, especially on the more recent album tracks such as ‘I Wanna’, an uplifting and clear statement of love (‘….I wanna be waiting when your train arrives…I wanna save your life….’).
The tense longing of ‘Put It All on You’ with the lyric of contradicting pairs of phrases (‘….you filled me with confidence and then you drained it all out…’) is another highlight, especially when the band go into overdrive, as they also do on the power pop of ‘Cold and Lonely Place’.
Mid-set they perform ‘Closure’, one of my favourites and probably their definitive song in all areas, with the resigned melancholy of the vocal, the chorus that sounds suspended and unresolved and the bass and drums that alternately sit back then explode into action.
It was a standout set in an atmospheric venue…good luck at SXSW!

https://www.facebook.com/MammothPenguins
https://www.facebook.com/goldblumeband
https://www.sudsband.com/
https://schedule.sxsw.com/2020/artists/2022509