Sunday, 24 May 2009

Idlewild at Dingwalls

There is still something profoundly exciting about lining up for a gig, appropriating your selected spot and waiting in anticipation with a few hundred others for your chosen band. This time we had to trek up to Camden Lock and Dingwalls for the third and last night of Idlewild’s residency where there were playing all their albums over three nights – something they did last year at King Tuts in Glasgow.

Although I would have been more than happy to try and make all three nights (with the first performance of Post Electric Blues, the self released - almost - new album) the lad and I could only make the last night Make Another world and The Remote Part, in part as celebration of the end his exams

Idlewild have been a long held favourite of mine, generating the kind of personal allegiance only a very few artists can. There is something about the unavoidable Scottish-ness of the band and its music, not just the lyrics or Roddy Woombles vocals, but the chord structures that make it resonate so deeply.

Anyhow with a prime by-a-railing-on-a-kind-of-balcony position we stood ready with our over priced pints in hand. Make Another World was the first half of the set, and whilst I have always found it to be perhaps the patchiest of their albums, live it came imbued with more punch and drive; punchier than when we saw them tour the album first time around.

The 450 in the crowd were obviously going to be paid up supporters and responded accordingly. A Ghost in the Arcade and If It Takes You Home being personal and crowd favourites it seems.

A short break and they returned to play The Remote Part - fired up for this harder but still melodic set of tracks. Clearly this was what the crowd anted and very fine stuff it was as well. You Held The Whole World In Your Hands, American English, A Modern Way of Letting Go – breathless, punchy stuff – the final track Scottish Fiction saw them leave with the tape of Edwin Morgan speaking out his poetry.

The encores largely went back to earlier !00 Broken Windows and Hope Is Important tracks – Fireworks and Captain earning particular grateful shouts, and then all too soon it was over. A great night, sounded brilliant, band seemed happy and relaxed.

Its always a worry hoping a band lives up to your expectations or hopes – how great it is when they exceed them. The long but elated drive home, an evening very well spent

Idlewild Wikipedia

Idelwild Web SIte

Idelwild MySpace

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Dark Night of the Soul

The album of tracks put together by Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley) and Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse), titled Dark Night of the Soul, looks like it might never see the (official) light of day thanks to 'legal issues' with EMI.

How is it that you could get so far - 13 tracks completed with quality collaborators from the Flaming Lips, Strokes, Iggy Pop, Shins, Vic Chestnutt etc; a teaser poster campaign at SXSX, a booklet of stills photos from David Lynch etc, and fall at this hurdle - what a waste.

The CD is currently (but perhaps not for too long) being streamed by NPR (although the site is pretty hard to bring up right now), apparently the only place where the album can be heard in its entirety. I am sure that if you dig around enough a Torrent copy of the CD could be downloaded - not of course that I have tried :)

NPR Website

Monday, 11 May 2009

Andrew Bird at The Thekla

Noble Beast has been the default album of choice these last few months, rapidly working its way into the old psyche so that frequently one its songs will be rattling around my heading in the morning. The prospect of seeing Andrew Bird was already more than tempting but the 09.30 Club show put out by NPR only confirmed that it had the potential to be a special event.

Strangely this was my first show at the Thekla (largely I guess because my usual gig buddy son is still oh-so not quite 18 and so unable to access this old tub) and what an oddly endearing venue it is, deep in the insides of some hulk of a ship laid up in Bristol’s Mud Dock (ah the romance of the name) for which there is bound to be a rich history that I am ignorant of.

Peering out of one of the oblong ‘window’ apertures on the balcony level made me feel a bit like an extra in a nasty west end musical but it did at least afford me an excellent view of the stage not 10 feet away – a stage that it must be said is microscopic, the kit of the two bands filling it to the brim.

I know that ‘intimate’ venues always look impossibly small yet seem to cram in more people than you imagine, but it seemed to me (perhaps mistakenly) that both bands were a tad underwhelmed by the venue, maybe expecting something a little larger.

Anyhow Cortney Tidwell (you would do something about the name wouldn’t you?) and her band took the stage and knocked out some frankly rather good stuff – I knew nothing of them and apart from rapidly saying their individual names, saying they were from Nashville and have a new CD due out on City Slang, I learnt little more from them. Cortney has a fine voice reminiscent of Bjork on occasions, the band did some fine stuff and I found myself transfixed by the drummer – this sometimes happens to me I have noticed, not through any weird homo-erotic leanings but my own absence of rhythmic ability draws me to wonder at those who have it in spades. Anyhow some fine stuff, the last track being especially affecting (whatever it was called), I of course got the last CD – Don’t Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up - and hope to rediscover some of the stuff they played through this.

Mr Bird was as hoped, an extraordinary chap. He looks like a regular IT technician, slightly geeky and gangly (in a good way!) but has an immense talent – guitar, vocals, the violin and of course his trademark whistle. OK he may not be the first person to use those natty loop machines to build up layers of sound but good grief he does it with majesty – complex layered loops of violin snatches, bits of whistling, hand claps, guitar riffs overlaid with his pitch perfect vocals. I can safely say I have never seen anyone produce this sort of quality, creativity and emotionally engaging music all on his-ownsome. Of course the addition of a drummer/keyboard/knobs and buttons man plus a bass saxophonist and a far-back guitarist only adds depth and richness but it is still Andrew Bird that produces the great majority of the wonderful sounds. At times it was hard to know whether to concentrate on the music or be absorbed by his darting between pedals and buttons, guitar and violin – stabbing, pressing, twiddling without losing a beat and generating a seamless stream of magic (ooph, better ease up now looks like I am getting carried away….)

The hour and a half set of course ran through many (but far from all) tracks from Noble Beast, and pleasingly several from Armchair Apocrypha plus no doubt some from other albums that I don’t know. A cover of a Smog track and an apparently old gospel song added different facets to the mix, all welcome.

His closing, solo encore was jaw-dropping and I am unable to describe it adequately – not a track that I know, but a staggering mix of virtuoso violin playing, mastery of the loop technology, guitar and the voice and whistle. Quite exceptional – as Ms Butterworth said on the stairs on the way out – perhaps the gig of the year so far?

Cortney Tidwell Myspace

Andrew Bird Website

Andrew Bird Myspace

Thekla Website