GIG REVIEW: Majid Jordan @ Heaven Club, 30/05/16

Canadian R&B duo Majid Jordan started their European tour with a sold out event at the popular night club Heaven in London, in which they showed how amazing they were in both their performance and crow pleasing aura. This was clearly shown in their ability to keep fans moving, cheering and active for the time they were on stage (even with a range of female clothing being launched at them, much to this reporter’s surprise.)

Perhaps the most interesting factor of the event was the musical duo taking musical cues not just from the R&B scene but elements from trance, soul and reggae. With a hint of newretrowave design (with regards to the background), it created a very unique musical backdrop that plays to the strengths of Jordan Ullman’s producing skills and Majid Al Maskati’s lyrical skill. As such, there was an interesting mix of some very different style of music, along with Majid’s ability to keep the crowd active throughout the performance. This not just with the skill of the crowd singing, but also by their willingness to record the event, clap when required and even request an encore to end the night.

Perhaps the only flaw I could have is that at certain points Majid seemed to a bit reserved, but this may have been due to technical difficulties or just nerves for this first night on his European tour. However, these were minor issues that would not significantly take away from an amazing event showcasing perhaps some of the most interesting musicians to come out of the R&B scene for some time. The next stop on their tour is Manchester on the 31st of May, followed by Paris on the 2nd. Nevertheless, if this show was any indication of the duo’s skill then the following events will only get better and could truly bring an interesting and unique style of R&B.

Review by Syed Aadil Ali

GIG REVIEW: Disclosure @ Alexandra Palace, 02/12/15

Disclosure played to a massive capacity crowd at London’s Alexandra Palace, one that included my boyfriend and I. After not so hot warm-up act Eats Everything, the Surrey-born sibling duo took to the stage on spaceship-like platforms. They opened with two of their bigger songs from first-album Settle, and safe to say it got the crowd going crazy. “White Noise” and “F for You” are also two of my favourites so I was glad I got to see them live. They played quite a few songs from Settle, as well as some of the new stuff, just enough to appease old and new fans. I would have really enjoyed hearing “Help Me Lose My Mind” as in that setting it would been mind-blowing; sadly, it didn’t get a play.

The biggest highlight for me, however, was the guests. Disclosure are pretty renowned for featuring amazing artists on their songs and we got a snapshot of that at the gig. First to take to the stage was Eliza Doolittle whose voice was completely faultless. Throughout the night we were spoilt for choice with Kwabs who did a soulful rendition of “Willing and Able”, the fierce Lion Babe and Brendan Reilley. I think the fact that this show was in London meant we got a truly special line-up.

It’s clear that thes pair are seriously talented as they swapped from instruments, to electronics, to taking the lead on vocals. With such good voices, it is surprising that they choose to feature so many other artists, but I think it works really well to create different sounds. Although they weren’t the chattiest stage performers and their lines of “London is the best city and the best crowds” etc. were a little cliché, they seemed like they were humble about their talents. I also loved how much and how crazily they danced on their tiny platforms.

The graphics and lightning for the event were absolutely top notch. The light show was amazing, and despite some weird Aurora-style projections at the start, the graphics they used added another layer of atmosphere to their performance. My only really complaint about the gig was the middle section, which suddenly become a drum and bass breakdown. It was the kind of music that you can’t figure out how to dance to and the crowd seemed to lose their vibe. Once that was over though, the last song and encore were fab. Obviously, they finished with hit single “Latch” and it was absolutely phenomenal.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend seeing them live. The live performance warmed me to their new album even more and as a show it was really fun.

[Review by Laura Shipp]

GIG REVIEW: Hunter Hayes @ O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, 30/09/2015

Currently best known as a country artist, the young American artist Hunter Hayes is moving slowly into a sub-genre of country-pop. With songs such as “I Want Crazy” and “Tattoo” following a more jumpy beat they contrast to the usual mellow ‘my woman left me so I gotta drink away my memories’ tone that many country songs follow. However, with bluesy and Guns ’n’ Roses-type baselines and guitar melodies, it is clear that the young singer-songwriter has other musical influences on his work.

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GIG REVIEW: Hot Chip @ Brixton Academy, 23/10/2015

My first time in Brixton Academy, I could not have been more impressed. The sheer size of the place was the first noticeable feature, but as the place began to fill up and the lights dimmed I finally got the chance to see what so many of my friends had described as the ‘indoor/outdoor venue’. The design of the stage as if it was the front face of a castle, complete with turrets and balconies suddenly stood out against the pitch black roof, causing the illusion of being outside in the night sky.

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Live Review – Enter Shikari @ The Corn Exchange, Cambridge – 24/02/15

EnterShikari

 

Enter Shikari are one of the few bands that require no introduction, partly because any attempt to describe their music would result in the same confusion as a discussion of the meaning of life with an infant. These genre-hopping giants recently dropped their incredible 4Th LP “The Mindsweep” last month, meaning it was time to ‘Take To The Skies’ once more and deliver a tour de force filled with brand new, meaty material, alongside fan favourites.

 

‘The Corn Exchange’ fits in perfectly with the architectural aesthetic of Cambridge – old and pretty from the outside, but neat and modern on the inside; with a decently sized floor-space for fans to tear up, a huge stage and the obligatory wall-length bars in the foyer. Unfortunately, Cambridge is around three hours away from where I live, meaning I missed the first support band: ‘Fatherson’ – which is a pity as their smooth alt-rock tones would have been the perfect way to get in the mood for a night of music – if not quite preparing for the hectic energy of the following bands.

 

 

The second band to hit the stage was ‘Allusondrugs’ – a band which I did manage to catch, who were sadly underwhelming. Each song seemed like a pastiche of a different band: first attempting to emulate ‘The Strokes’, then ‘The Darkness’, followed by ‘Marmozets’… unfortunately, by not choosing a signature sound for themselves, ‘Allusondrugs’ don’t feel like they’ve mastered any particular style – the set came across as bland and uninteresting. Oh, and the lead singer could benefit from some singing lesson (just saying).

 

 

All was not lost though, as ‘Feed The Rhino’ took to the stage to remind everyone that the raw energy of hardcore is still very much alive and kicking. Still riding off the back of the success of their most recent album “The Sorrow & the Sound”, FTR know how to get a crowd moving. The venue’s PA was almost unable to handle the sheer power or anthemic belters “Behind The Pride”, “Give Up” and the signature rock’n’roll vibe of “Deny and Offend”. Towards the end of their set, it seemed that even frontman Lee Tobin was struggling to maintain his voice – although I challenge anyone to keep up his full-throated hollering for over half an hour. ‘Feed The Rhino’ finished off their set with the more reflective “Tides” – living proof that even the heaviest bands have a subtler side – and the undeniably catchy “New Wave”. The energy in the performance was pure and ungated, and whet the crowd’s appetite perfectly for the entrée: ‘Enter Shikari’.

 

 

Before I continue, I should point something out: ‘Enter Shikari’ work within every genre of music possible. They can start off with a sombre acoustic sound, move into a dance track, a dubstep drop, crushingly heavy breakdowns and finish with a stadium rock anthem – often all in the same song. As a result, crowds aren’t full of the usual suspects when it comes to moshing. Usually, there’s a standing area at the back, a pit for moshing in the middle and people singing along at the front. A Shikari gig is essentially a free-for-all: there is no etiquette. People break out into moshing/dancing all over the venue, and standing at the front will get you squashed up against everyone else so tightly that you won’t be able to breathe. Ironically, this makes the pit (in any shape or form) the safest place to be – suits me.

 

‘Enter Shikari’ set the scene with the thought-provoking opener from the most recent album: “The Appeal & the Mindsweep 1”. The chilling electronic backbeat and slam poetry-style call to arms from front-man Rou Reynolds gave me chills, before the band launched into a frantic, anthemic journey – a pattern and pace that was held for the entire concert. I’m always impressed at how refined Enter Shikari’s lyrical content is – all songs are incredibly well thought-out political statements weaved into a beautiful and often raucous blend of electronic and metal music. Angry fan-favourites “Destabilise”, “Radiate” and “Gandhi Mate, Gandhi” provided the perfect atmosphere to throw my weight around and just wallow in the sorry state our society is (apparently) in. When a song starts off with the lyrics “Now, I don’t know about you…” and warning sirens, you know that someone is about to erupt – and it’s probably going to be you. New additions to the Shikari catalogue definitely don’t let up on this; notable songs include “Anaesthetist” – a furious retort to plans to privatise healthcare and the decline of the NHS – “Never Let Go Of The Microscope” – an electronic, almost ambient song if it weren’t for the carefully planned scientific rap from Reynolds – and “Myopia”, a tragic song about the extinction of various species on our planet. The technical proficiency of the band has noticeably improved since their inception, especially on these newer, more ambitious songs.

 

 

Of course, it’s not all violence and harsh sounds: Welcome respites from the madness came in the form of slightly softer songs such as the acoustic “Stalemate”, “Torn Apart” which is an anthem for the decline of society (and oh so danceable-to) and the almost Coldplay-esque “Dear Future Historians”. Each of these songs starts off noticeably softer, in an acoustic manner and build different layers of sound until you’re hit with a wall of emotion – which is no less breathtaking than screaming your lungs out. It’s during these quieter moments that you realise “Wow, these guys are seriously talented musicians”, and it’s utterly true. Few bands can claim to flick between your emotions like Shikari do: tugging on your heartstrings, making you think about the world that you live in and getting you riled up about how stupid human beings can be.

 

 

Not to say that the show was all doom-and-gloom – more reflective at times, with an aura of aggression that’s a welcome release for most. Some class-A stage-presence and banter kept everyone completely invested in the show – particularly towards the end of the show. Already a fan-favourite, the 2-minute restaurant complaint in the form of “Slipshod” went down an utter storm, with the entire crowd screaming out the quintessentially British anthem of disappointment. Reynolds may have even gotten a little too into it, as he smashed a glass vase on Rob Rolfe’s drum kit to the cue in the song. It just made me wonder how many injuries the band sustain from shows like these! “Slipshod” ran straight into the party anthem “Sssnakepit”, Shikari-style: The song started off with the Hamilton remix of the track and the band transitioned seamlessly into the original. This practise was seen earlier with the dubstep edit of “Motherstep 2.0” into “Mothership” and a mash-up of the latest single “The Last Garrison” with a stellar remix of “Juggernauts” by Nero, ending up again on the original. Throughout the gig I was constantly aware of how much planning the boys put into their set – which music to play, how it all flowed into the next song and how to create a spectacle with a mix of gravitas and exceptional lighting.

 

 

This was the 4th time I had seen Enter Shikari, yet I was still completely blown away. It definitely won’t be the last time either. If you’ve never seen the indescribable spectacle that they put on, I recommend you head down to a show as soon as you can.

 

 

~ Adam Hitchen, Head of Music

Live Review: DUMB at The Old Blue Last, 11/03/14

Another week, another gig in London Town. This time I was at the Old Blue Last in Shoreditch for my hotly-tipped-for-2014 band DUMB.
Opening the bill was Birmingham’s Curb who showed their stuff in their melodic grunge which got a fair sway going in the crowd. I often feel that OBL crowds are particularly stringent when it comes to any movement so this was fair play to Curb! ‘So High’, a favourite of mine, showed how the band really are great live as guitars and vocals were tight. This band has loads of support in their hometown of Birmingham so hopefully London will be the next city to crack the Curb love!

Now, if you listen to my radio show, you’ll know that I’ve been recommending Dumb gigs for a good few months and last week I finally got to see them! The band opened with ‘In Our Mind’ followed by previous single ‘Retina’, which was enough to elicit some sort of recognition in the crowd and encourage some movement. I was do pleased to see the OBL so packed for this band – their performance just showed a passion for what DUMB are and what they want to be and, frankly, I reckon they will 100% make it!
Tracks I’ve never heard before such as ‘Dollar Babes’ really got me excited as to what DUMB’s album will be like, alongside recent single ‘Supersonic Love Toy’ which was probably the track which was the most recognised. By this point I was completely past caring that I was in London and in the midst of a (very) boring crowd – who can resist busting some moves to some cracking tunes?
The final track ‘Two Bottles’ rounded the set off nicely and left me eager to see the band again to investigate how they progress and which new tracks they’ll whip out. Double A-side ‘Supersonic Love Toy’ and ‘Two Bottles’ is out now on iTunes. Catch DUMB in Manchester on April 11th, in Liverpool on April 12th or in London on April 18th.

~Ceri-Ann Hughes

Check out DUMB’s single “Two Bottles” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jp8-8GXbeRI&list=UUTdBQbdi1Gj1QE_LMUWfrIQ

Live Review: Catfish and the Bottlemen, The Borderline, 24/02/14

When you go to a lot of gigs you know when it’s going to be good pretty much as soon as you walk in the room. For me, London is the home of all the best venues for live music – especially if you’re seeing small bands – and Catfish and the Bottlemen’s gig at The Borderline was no different.
As soon as I walked into the basement venue I could sense the eagerness of the crowd to rock out to what was probably the last chance to see this band in a small venue! The mix of people in the room just represented how this band has really had an effect on the musical lives of gig-goers. It was the first time seeing this band for me and, honestly, it was seriously a game changer! You could feel the passion of the band throughout the set in the vocals and in the guitar riffs and I don’t think I’ve been as blown away with a band before as I was with these lads.

Following a not-very-good support act (who I honestly can’t remember the name of), Catfish and the Bottlemen’s performance was well needed. It’s so easy to become absorbed in the passion of this band as frontman Van McCann joked down the microphone and gave exceptional vocals on well-known tracks such as ‘Pacifier’ and ‘Tyrants’, whilst also nailing new tracks such as ‘Kathleen’. And the guitar riffs? Don’t even get me started on how fab they were.
Having a hilarious frontman is just guaranteed to make this band even more huge in the coming months, and with the attention of radio 1, it’s simply inevitable. I’m so happy because they really deserve it! Upon a request for an older song, McCann shouted ‘you liked us when we were s***, top lad!’ down the microphone – I reckon he’s a bit of a top lad himself to be honest.
I’ve also never ever met a band so appreciative of my support for their music which just goes to show that hard work and perseverance can do wonders for a band. (I also quite enjoyed the hug, it was super cute!).

~Ceri-Ann Hughes

Listen to Catfish and the Bottlemen’s latest single “Kathleen” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrrcVxnjJO8

Live Review: Tinariwen

This band has perhaps one of the most rock ‘n’ roll histories of all. Beginning in 1979, the group has faced territorial conflict, government rebellions, military rivalry and they won a Grammy in 2011.

Tinariwen are a collective of musicians from Mali, North Africa who have risen to international fame over the last decade and appeared at festivals like Glastonbury and Coachella. Their sparse, raw guitar lines and mesmerising blues has become popular in places outside North Africa partly due to attention from acts like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Robert Plant and Carlos Santana. Their new album “Emmaar” was released last month.

Wearing traditional boubous, a nomadic robe, they play music defined by inter-locking electric guitars, sultry, sly vocals and gritty bass. There were a couple of more upbeat songs towards the end of the set, but the first half was dominated by songs that sounded like angry political comment that were aimed at a Malian, not western, audience. This half was more focused and intense than the end, which was mostly animated. At this point the front couple of rows were swamped by dreadlocked hippies.

In between songs there is little chat (the band speak little English and sing in Tamashek, the language of the Tuareg nomads), but the common “thank you” receives rapturous applause.

I think the real enjoyment comes in just immersing yourself in the spacey sounds and hypnotic guitars. Their set crawls along using soft drumming and vocals that multiply midway through the verses to slowly build to twinkling guitar melodies. More than this though, Tinariwen stand and play as a group that has overcome more than any band around. They are certainly the greatest example of desert blues there is, in the West at least.

After a long list of dates in the U.S, Tinariwen are back in the U.K for a few shows in early May.

 

~ Joe Burns

Live Review: Shy Nature @ Boston Music Room, Islington, 13/02/14

One of the things I love the most about travelling around London to different gigs is the discovery of new gig venues. The Boston Music Room in Islington is now one of my favourites – and that’s before I even get to the music!

Anyway – back to the gig. Opening the bill was Australia’s ‘The Creases’ who brought their jangly indie tunes to the small but gathering crowd in the North London venue. Their debut ‘I Won’t Wait’ sounded fab as it echoed around the room, though I have to say that I was particularly disappointed in the still crowd. Being myself, however, it was easy to embrace the energy and passion of the lads who were having so much fun on the stage in their uniform of (very) messy hair and Docs. A band I would 100% see again – the Shy Nature crowd were definitely a harsh group!

The appearance of Shy Nature on stage generated a little more enthusiasm and a larger crowd had appeared by this stage. Opening with ‘Fine’, a mellow sway started throughout the fans whilst the London lads looked so comfortable on stage. It’s always nice when a frontman has a personality, right? The banter had between tracks at this gig had the crowd literally laughing which was certainly a great change to those bands who look at their feet and avoid all talk during a set. The riffs which come out of the guitars of this band are just brilliant and you can’t help but be happy and up-beat whilst listening to them! ‘Sinking Ship’ was the track which got the crowd moving the most and was possibly the most fun having been the lead single from their debut self-titled EP.

I would definitely recommend a trip to one of their gigs if they’re around again at any time soon – I promise you’d have loads of fun. New single ‘Lie Back’ is out now – the video involves the band hanging round on a farm (for some unknown reason) – check it out!

~ Ceri-Ann Hughes

Live Review: Superfood (Oslo, Hackney, 19/02/14)

It’s very rare that you find a band which entices you so much that you want to see them again and again. There’s just something about Superfood’s nonsensical and seemingly odd lyrics about TVs and bubbles which makes me want to practically live at one of their gigs, especially when the crowd is willing to let go and go a bit crazy.

To start at the beginning, the show was opened by a band called Wild Smiles who were able to get some of the gathering crowd doing a mild sway. I did, however, find their music a little unpleasantly odd at times. My brain just couldn’t understand why the lead singer was making cat and dog noises during the last song, though I must say that the drums in this band stole the show. I’d say that Wild Smiles are a band I’d see again – if not only to investigate whether they were as weird as I perceived them or whether my judgement had been skewed by my excitement for Superfood.

The main thing I love about Superfood is how they don’t care for absolute perfection and so they’re happy to grunge down on stage and just have fun. That’s, after all, what it’s all about. The London crowd were as tame as ever for the first few songs at least and so it really gave me the chance to actually hear and see the band – something I hadn’t experienced in previous Superfood gigs! New single ‘TV’ filled the room with a bold confidence which just makes you just sing (shout) along with the band. Despite the crowd’s unwillingness to get involved, ‘Bubbles’ was able to gain a recognition which sparked the formation of some kind of ‘mosh pit’, whilst chants of lyrics could be heard which made me so happy as it wasn’t just me singing along!

New Superfood tracks sounded brilliant as the band used the gig-goers as guinea pigs for their new album – for which I personally cannot wait. You couldn’t deny, however, after being to this gig, that ‘Superfood’ (the track) stole the show. Who knew a song about raisins and being hungry could make a crowd so brilliantly rowdy? This is what a Superfood gig is all about – leaving the venue looking absolutely hot, bothered, and looking like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards (bruises are also inevitable). If I were you I’d scoot along to a Superfood gig ASAP – after the release of their album I’d predict that things for this band are seriously going to kick off and small venues such as the Oslo would be a distant memory! Superfood’s ‘Mam’ EP is released on 3rd March – get involved!

~ Ceri-Ann Hughes

Live Review: The Aristocrats (The Garage, London | February 17th, 2014)

The rock/fusion power trio The Aristocrats – featuring Guthrie Govan on guitar, Bryan Beller on bass, and Marco Minnemann on drums – are back on tour in support of their second studio album, Culture Clash, released last summer to serious acclaim. The three players are all well known in their fields, especially Govan, who has built up a considerable and loyal following from his YouTube guitar tutorials and the release of his first solo album, Erotic Cakes, in 2006. But this is The Aristocrats, touring their second album on Govan’s home ground.

I don’t want it to sound like it was a one man show, as the group is a completely collaborative effort (each member has contributed three songs each to both albums so far), but it did almost feel like it. Every skinny and long haired guy in the venue erupted as Govan appeared on stage. When it had died down after a minute or two, the band, in turn, erupted. They began with a notably aggressive version of Furtive Jack from their first self-titled album. After the first couple of lightning guitar scales I found myself laughing in shock at just how madly they all play. It’s quite incredible to see in person so close up.

Each song was preceded by lengthy tales of their creation, which served to add to the audience’s admiration. A memorable story was the naming of Ohhhh Noooo, from their latest album. The story goes that while on tour in mainland Europe, a huge guitar amp fell flat on its face while unloading for a show, to which the usually quiet, reserved and gentle Govan furiously exclaimed “Ohhhh nooo! (pause) This is not good. (pause) In fact, this is quite the opposite of good.”

That said, there’s no lack of communication in the music. The entire set came without muddy acoustics or any distracting guitar sounds. This meant the audience could purely listen to the three elements, drums, bass and guitars, all at once. This is particularly valuable for the material in Culture Clash, that leap all over the place between sections of complex time signatures, changing lead instruments and elements of jazz, fusion, rock and metal. Culture Clash was followed by Flatlands from their first album; a distant, driving and melodic track that allowed everyone to have a breather.

However, the wild personality of Marco Minnemann behind the kit quickly took over. He introduced his song Blues F**kers, in which he took a solo, before each member of the group took out a small rubber toy (featured on the cover of Culture Clash) and began improvising with the various squeaks, squeals and screeches they all made. It appears this is a band that do not take themselves too seriously, although, they have all mentioned that this is their most favourite project they’ve ever been a part of. With the experience they all have, that’s certainly saying something.

And Finally, after an encore that almost didn’t happen (thanks to the hesitant management), the show was over in a flash. In the coming months, The Aristocrats will move throughout mainland Europe with no future date set for England yet, but be sure to check out an album or two for now.

 

~ Joe Burns