Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fault lines should be worn with pride

Incubus - Alexandra Palace - 4th November 2011

I'm not a crazy dedicated Incubus fan but I saw them tour Morning View at the Royal Theatre in Canberra years ago and was really impressed with their live show. I haven't had the chance to see them since A Crow Left of the Murder came out. I love that album and have been pretty keen to hear certain tracks performed live. There's not a lot of overlap between mine and J's music taste, but Incubus fall in the small sliver of that particular Venn diagram, so we made the trek up to Alexandra Palace. The evening was off to an exciting start when we discovered Flaming Cactus, among the food concessions, the delicious burrito van that we'd been obsessing about since Reading.

I love it when bands play big venues and utilise the visual equipment. The big screen alternated between prepared clips and live camera shots from on stage which meant that even from a distance, there was plenty to be watching.

There's a new album out and the material from it didn't grab me. But they played Talk Shows on Mute which I love, brought back the best songs from Make Yourself, and included Certain Shade of the Green in the last part of the set. Brandon Boyd is still a sexy sexy man, though the hair's a little dodgy these days, and he seems to enjoy pleasing the crowd by losing the shirt.

There were a few dicks in the crowd. I don't think of Incubus as a thrashy or aggressive band, but we ended up next to a group of fuckwits who insisted upon smashing into everyone around them. Regardless, we left happy. That happiness lasted about half an hour until we and thousands of other Incubus fans got stuck in North London by a tube closure caused by an emergency ahead of us in the line. We had two hours to get back to London Bridge. We spent that two hour sat on a train that wasn't moving, we then joined hundreds of other people fighting to get on a bus, we traversed London on said bus which was crammed full, and got back to London Bridge 10 minutes after the last train. Thank goodness for friends who live in London and have couches and makeshift mattresses.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

There's a fire going out

Bon Iver - HMV Hammersmith Apollo - 24th October 2011

I took my time getting into Bon Iver and wasn't keen enough to go to the effort of seeing them tour For Emma. Then the Blood Bank E.P. was released and I was sold. When I was emailed the presale details for a show taking place on my birthday, I ignored my empty bank balance and bought two tickets. Not that I knew who was going to come with me. I don't mind going to concerts on my own, but going solo on your birthday is just a little sad. Thankfully the boyfriend contract includes certain obligations and I dragged J out to the Hammersmith Apollo to see a band that he'd basically never heard of.

I think of For Emma as such a quiet album. Almost just a guy and a guitar. I know that there's plenty more to hear on it, but that's how it's reduced in my head. The second album isn't quite as low-key. The band's sound has changed dramatically, and the stage show has not just changed to match, it's overtaken the recordings in terms of density and scale. Bon Iver are touring with about 9 musicians, including a horn section. Bon Iver fans really really fucking love Bon Iver. Cue trumpets entering at the perfect time, two percussionists, multiple vocalists, it all combined to turn the material (particularly the new album) into something epic that was visibly moving the audience. The light show was significant and certainly added to certain songs, but I couldn't help but think that some of the flashing must have made things difficult for the musicians.
Flume is made better with horns entering at just the right time. The current live version of Blood Bank is super rocky. Beth/Rest is great, but just a little too eighties for me to be fully on board. Predictably the encore consisted of For Emma and Skinny Love performed with just with Justin on guitar and vocals, and very quiet choir back up from the rest of the band. Fan dedication extended to this conclusion. The pauses during Skinny Love were the quietest I have even seen/heard a room with that amount of people in it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

All at Sea

Jamie Cullum - HMV Forum - 18th October 2011

I tried to see Jamie Cullum live years ago. Back after his second album was released, he played at a club in Penrith, Sydney and I missed out on tickets. To be honest, I haven't completely kept up with his music in recent years. There's at least one album that I've never heard, but I'm still interested to have made the trip up to North London to finally see him. Thankfully, his set included plenty of material from his second album (some lyrics slightly altered though as it's been a while and Twentysomething is now definitely Thirstysomething).

His band included some very impressive multi-instrumentalists and it occured to me early on in the night that it's hard to classify the type of show. It was either the jazziest rock gig I've been to, or the rockiest jazz gig. Probably the latter, even though Cullum's on stage persona tends to lean towards the former. The frontman antics were jarring for about 30 seconds, but between his energy and his very easy and humble banter with the crowd, it became clear that he knows exactly how to use his charisma. There's no doubt that he really just wants to entertain, and he seems to derive such joy from performing, and creating performance in others. Towards the end of the night he organised the crowd into an impressive three part harmony and the shher delight on his face when the crowd hit the sound indicated that the interaction was as much for his pleasure than anyone else's.

There was some decent variety. Cullum's brother joined him onstage at one point and the second half of his set was cover heavy, including his ever impressive version of Jeff Buckley's Lover, You Should Have Come Over. Overall, it was an infectious performance. One that would have been difficult not to enjoy. The two Brisbane lads whom I chatted to during my tube ride to Charing Cross seemed to agree. It's always nice having a post gig wrap up with people equally enthusiastic about live music.