Friday, 31 October 2008

Fleeeet Foxxxxxes at the Anson Rooms

After missing FF on their visit to Bristol earlier in the year (gnash gnash) I made sure to get tickets for their return to Bristol at the Anson Rooms. The lad, his mate (looking uncannily like Shaggy from Scooby Doo) and I turned up good and early in the bitter evening air to secure what inevitably turned out to be a crap spot in the hall - aaagh why can't I  be six inches taller, and why can't everyone else be generally more considerate.... sigh

Anyhow support (seated in the red velvet armchair in the photo to the left) was from an enigmatically named J Tillman, like the FF from the Seattle area, Vashon Island I think, and had the identikit long hair and shaggy beard that seems to befit the current swathe of americana/folksie/country-esque bands. But armed only with his acoustic and and excellent voice he managed to keep the crowd both engaged and attentive - hoorah, we could actually hear his rather beautiful songs (is it just Bristol crowds that are prepared to listen quitely to bands? The Bon Iver experience was similar and doubtless a Welsh gig by Mr Tillman would be drowned out why the merry and garulous celtic brethern). Joined (although not recognised by the bulk of the crowd) for a couple of songs by the whole of FF and the 'roadie' Steve (although clearly a toothsome lady), his songs were clearly the sort worthy of greater and closer inspection  - a new album due in the new year I believe. Oh and by the way - Mr Tillman is now also the drummer, vocalist and raconteur for FF...

The Foxes turned up without much pomp, retuned and dithered a bit before launching into a life affirming set that covered all (I think) of the eponymous album and the Sun Giant EP. What a delight, those complex harmonies delivered with gusto and panache (isn't that an Italian clothing brand?) and interspersed with some low key jolly banter - the crowd let them know that Bath is full of 'posh c*nts' much to their amusement and in turn they told us that they had voted for Obama (surprise) as McCain has a values structure based on his life of sin.

Hard to specify set highlights except for my two favourites, Myknonos and the final encore closing Blue Ridge Mountains. Well worth the wait it all seemed to me, could only have been made better with something better than the ocassional glimpse of them through the beanie headed hairies loitering in front of me - still this is now clearly my lot.

Hoorah for some uplifting and joyful music - lets hope they are able to sustain this through the next stuff they write

Photo courtesy of FF Myspace

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Elbow - The Great Hall , Cardiff

This was our second Elbow gig of the year, the first (and excellent) at Colston Hall strangely went without mention in my jottings. The rather misnamed 'Great Hall' at Cardiff University was the venue for this show, part of their post Mercury Prize shows (although booked long before winning the said award). The hall was frankly rather odd; short and wide with a nasty overhang at the rear, but no matter. The Welsh crowd an odd mix of B&B's like myself and student types but all intent on knocking back quantities of ale and having a good (loud) natter. I am afraid that the Guy Garvey-introduced support Jesca Hoop didn't really do it for me, although she had good support from further down the crowd. I do think it is very hard for a single person with what are obviously 'intimate' acoustic songs, to make an impact and gain the attention of a crowd like this in this sort of venue. Listening back to some of the stuff on Myspace, the frail beauty of her songs is easier to assimilate than amid a raucous crowd on a Friday in Cardiff.

Our friends Elbow gave a very similar set to the earlier Bristol one, and no worse for that. The band and four-strong string section sounding confident and strong, Mr Garvey in excellent vocal form. He really does have an extraordinary voice, slightly gruff but with a great range and control, with just enough 'regional dialect' and capable of delivering both the most gentle of songs (see Puncture Repair) as well as the rockier songs (Grounds for Divorce). Newborn from their first album is still a magnificent song that builds to a majestic state.

Despite the difficulties of the venue, the crush of the crowd (how come the tall git always stands in front of me?), the dedication of some of the crowd to carry on their conversations (why come to a show and talk? Sod off to a pub and do that), Messr Elbow still managed to transport me on many ocassions during the evening - beautiful songs, intelligent lyrics, good playing, an OK sound system - can't really fail can it? How many more time will we see them in a Great Hall, or even Colston Hall, environment? Are they destined for the Snow Patrol mega arena circuit? Lets hope not, they come alive in the smaller venues where the human contact can be made and built between artist and the crowd

Monday, 6 October 2008

Windsor Airlift

I am endebted to The Silent Ballet blog for introducing me to Windsor Airlift - an American threesome of chaps apparently from Minnesota. The Silent Ballet gives a more fullsome expose of them than I could do so best read it there! As the blog mentions they are indeed reminiscent of Fridge (of whom more later perhaps), but they also have twangs of Wheat it seems to me - and no bad thing either.

Anyhoo the young Windsor Airlift chaps knock out some pleasing sounds and as if their generosity knows no bounds , they have been kind enough to make three of their four track EP's and another track available for download free from Virb. Apparently they are puting together a full size album which I await with interest

Sunday, 5 October 2008

TVOTR - What's the Fuss About?

Oh dear I fear that I might have missed the point again.. after a rave review on a NPR podcast and then seeing esctatic reviews around the place I picked up my copy of Dear Science - apparently TV on the Radio's fourth album. But after a number of attempts to listen and love I am still a little nonplussed. Its OK I guess but there's nothing here that grabbed me and made me want to listen again - just doing it out of sense of duty. Sure I can here a bunch of influences but mostly I hear a rather incoherent jumble of stuff that doesn't seem to settle down (maybe that's the point) and little to make me think that the claims of the 'next great thing' are well founded. 'Halfway Home' is an example of a reasonable track but with 127,000 Myspace listens it must be me with a problem - is this really this years music saviour?

On the other hand after heaven knows how may times picking up the CD and never quite buying it, I finally grabbed a copy of Neutral Milk Hotel's seminal album Aeroplane Over the Sea. Sadly now defunct (despite occasional rumours of reforming and new/old music) here is music who's impact you can all too easily trace - Arcade Fire, Decemberists etc all acknowledge their debt. A few listens and you are hooked - those odd vocals and playing eat under your skin. With songs revolving around the issues of death and the here-after, war and other 'big' questions, often sounding like a music carriage rattling along with the wheels barely holding on, this is inspirational music. I wonder whether TVOTR efforts will still be sounding as fresh and vital as this after 10 years or so?

Photos courtesy TVOTR and NMH web site