Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Simons Cat

Well this made me laugh early on a Wednesday. Many thanks to William Rycroft's blog for alerting me to this little cartoon that will presumably only make real sense to cat owners. There are a few more similar cartoons on the Simons Cat Youtube space

Monday, 21 July 2008

Slipping out of Focus

Oh my goodness, direct from the NPR Blog comes a rave from my own personal grave. Focus, that slightly odd mix of 1970's Dutch rock and virtuosic performance, were if I remember rightly the second band I ever saw in their own right, at the Chatham Central Hall in 1973 (first up in 1972 were Roy Wood's Wizard.... swiftly followed by the Crystal Palace Garden Party with all sorts of hairies - Procol Harum, Gryphon (anyone remember them?), Leo Sayer (good grief) and my hero of the time Rick Wakeman)

The YouTube clip here pretty much sums up the experience... Thijs van Leer was extra-ordinary on keyboards, flute and manic vocals, and Jan Akkerman was a genuinely accomplished guitarist. How strange is it now that I have a colleague in HR who plays in band that has recently supported the still-rocking Focus at a recent gig in Bournemouth ... old rockers never die they just go to Bournemouth

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Death Cab in Birmingham

Not an auspicious lead up to a show - trailing down the blocked motorway to Birmingham, arriving just late enough to hear the last support band song (no, don't know who they were), and having to go on my own like a sad lonely type, still...

Once I had extricated myself from the 30 foot concrete overhang position and its ear ripping bass levels I got to a place where I could just see then band, and more importantly hear them properly, things started to get a bit better

I must say the sound was not brilliant and the band seemed a little detached (or was that because stuck on the margins I wasn't properly engaged?) but Bixby Canyon Bridge was a good opener. After a couple of songs that seemed frankly rather dreary they got back on track with a storming version of I Will Possess Your Heart and some welcome favourites from the Plans album and quite a few from Transatlanticism.

Off quite quickly they came back for a five number encore set that finished with a moving and triumphant version of Transatlanticism itself. So all in all a bit of a mixed bag including some rather uninspiring elements that seemed to expose the rather fragile and insubstantial qualities of some of their songs that I hadn't really noticed on the recorded versions. However there equally were moments of great beauty and emotion when their fondness for building songs over long 'ish stretches can result in powerful and affecting music

Photos coutesy of DCFC Flickr

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Band of Horses at Shepherd Bush Empire

Oh I have been waiting for this! First picked up on BoH via podacst on KEXP (not surprisingly given their prior residence in Seattle) where there are a number of podcasts with BoH content. I am now rather hooked, along with others of their ilke (inlcuding the wonderful Mr Tyler Ramsey guitarist of this parish)

Well the lad and I schlepped (sp?) up the M4 to London and the splendid Shepherd Bush Empire for the first of their two sold out nights - squeezed onto the first row of the balcony which was none to comfortable but got us fine views.

Support was from The Virgins (unlikey it seems to me , but there you are) a bunch of skinny chaps with a not unpleasant if not especially memorable bunch of songs (the lad thought them rather good, for the record)

Well the BoH set just blew me away - once Ben settled into his vocal the whole thing rocked along. How great to see a band obviously really enjoying themselves, the audience was absolutely up for it and the set flew by. The whole thing was brilliant, not too many stupid pyrotechnics just great music, ( including a wonderful version of No-One Goes Out Anymore from Mr Ramseys solo album) and Funeral might well have been the high spot for me. As I say they obviously had a ball and it was great to bring them back for a second unplanned encore before we all melted back into the night

Sometimes a gig seems to transcend the usual, this was one such occasion, the lad and I agreed that this was one of the top two or three gigs we have seen (and I even bought the right size T shirt for a change...)

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The National in Birmingham

What a joy - The National in Birmingham. OK the Academy in Brum is not my favourite venue (and this time especially sticky underfoot) but who cares when they put on such a good show. I still find it hard to know how a band keeps up the energy when they are in the middle of what seems an interminable list of festival slots and filler gigs like this one - a few days earlier they had been at Glastonbury.

Opening for them was Caroline Martin with a collection of slightly morose looking chaps. Caroline hails from Bristol and was unknown to me. Her very lyrical and fragile songs seemed an unusual choice as support. However it became a little clearer later in the show when Matt Berninger announced that in his opinion Ms Martin had written the best love soing of the last six years or so, Without Permission, a track on the Virginia EP and part of the encore delivered alongside Ms Martin. To be fair this is a fine song and perhaps Ms Martin might be better in a more intimate and conducive environment.

Any hoo the National set was strong and joyful, rather wonderfully expanded with a small horn section that gave some welcome album-like textures. All the usual tracks were there (save About Today unfortunately, and do they ever play Thirsty?) But great to hear The Geese of Beverley Hills.

I was there with my lad as ever and this time managed to drag along my good chum Martin who, it transpires, had last been to a gig 15 years ago to see local Brum band Pop Will Eat Itself (I think that was it... mmm) - he must come out more ...