Gig Report: Bloc Party @ Paradiso (Amsterdam)

Seen on Friday, 27 November 2015 @ Paradiso, Amsterdam, NL

On the way traffic was atrocious on the motorway, so we arrived only fifteen minutes before Bloc Party were supposed to come on. Thus, we were stuck somewhere towards the back, but we could see, so we did not make too much effort to get forward. In hindsight we probably should have, because being so far back just made me feel a little disconnected.

The start was a little iffy. The sound was a little off and the sound people were tweaking it during the first song. Luckily it soon seemed fine tuned and the band was in fine form for their first European gig.

The crowd was a good one. Many people seemed to sing along almost every word, especially of the older stuff, and that is always good to see. I have listened to Bloc Party plenty enough, but not quite so much that I know the words to all the songs, so I was quite impressed with that!

Their line-up really seems to work for them and they did themselves justice. Kele was lively and enthusiastic with Russell in his own little world getting quite amazing sounds out of that old familiar Tele.

Bloc Party exceeded my expectations and I wish we had been closer in, so we felt more part of the gig.

For me highlights were ‘Hunting For Witches’, ‘Helicopter’ (which the whole crowd sang along), and the lovely ravy ‘One More Chance’. The new stuff still sat uneasily in the set for me, but I have to admit that apart from ‘The Love Within’ I had not heard them before.

Overall a good gig. Enjoyable, but not incredibly memorable.

Record Collection: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – ‘Chasing Yesterday’ (2015)

This is the first of the 2015 albums I bought that I thought deserved a bit of love. I will be giving some love to some more beauties later.

Chasing Yesterday

These days it is not cool to like Oasis and in extension the Gallagher brothers, but I luckily never was one for caring about being cool. I am happy to admit that Oasis was one of the first bands I really loved.  I remember buying ‘Definitely Maybe’ and just playing it over and over again. I simply loved it. Its sound was completely new to me as a fifteen-year-old. The love stuck throughout the ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory’ era, but faded when their follow-up albums just lost that special something. Though I have little interest in the younger brother (after all he didn’t write any of the good songs), I was glad when Noel decided to do his own thing.

I have heard plenty of criticism of Noel’s songwriting in the past. The ‘they are just copying the Beatles,etc’. But whenever I hear that I remember hearing Noel in an interview back in the day. He responded to the criticism by asking ‘If it’s so easy, why isn’t everyone else doing it?’, which was a fair point, as it was making him shed loads of cash.

I liked his first HFB album a lot. There are some really good songs on there and already showed that he had rekindled his love for music and songwriting. But with self-produced Chasing Yesterday he has proved that he can still move forward and is still perfecting his craft.

My opinion:

I really love this album. For me, it’s easily on par with everything Noel Gallagher did with Oasis. It was the first album of 2015 I really looked forward to (out in February) and it did not disappoint me. In fact, I am incredibly impressed with this album, mainly because it’s great to see that someone who has been around for so long and is, let’s face it, getting on a bit, can still improve as a songwriter. I think it is especially the lyrics that have improved. Yes, the rhyming dictionary is still there, but there appears to be a depth to the words that there hardly ever was in his Oasis days. It feels like he has finally come of age. About time too.

It’s rare that I have something to say about every song on an album, but because this is an album that both me and my husband like a lot we have played it an awful lot, so all the songs have started to have their own life in a way.

The album starts with ‘Riverman’ a highlight for me with it’s lovely almost soothing guitarwork and then the lovely sound of the saxophone. ‘In The Heat Of The Moment’ is a song I took a little while to warm to and I still much prefer the Toy Drum Mix, which comes as a bonus track and misses out the slightly annoying na na na na nas. There’s a bit of an echo of Bowie in ‘The Girl With X-Ray Eyes’ and it reminds me a bit too much of the old Oasis B-sides, but is a pleasant song.

‘Lock All The Doors’ I believe is one the oldest songs on the album, written during early Oasis times and it sounds like it too. You can imagine how great it would have been sung by Liam (early on when he still had a decent voice). Nevertheless, I love this song, it’s got great energy and the chorus just makes you want to shout along, which is exactly what a great Gallagher tune does. ‘The Dying Of The Light’ is a gorgeous tune that just invites me to relax and close my eyes. It’s bloody lovely! In between that and ‘While The Song Remains The Same’ sits ‘The Right Stuff’, which is a song I needed some time to get used to, but actually ended up being one of my favourites on the album. I would be happy if Gallagher decided to pursue that type of sound for a whole album.

The backend of the album remains strong with the to my ears slightly dirty sounding ‘The Mexican’ (It’s not the words that make it dirty, it’s the riff I think. It is hard to explain – more a feeling than anything.) and ‘You Know We Can’t Go Back’ in which I strangely love the drumming in particular.  Chasing Yesterday finishes with ‘The Ballad Of The Mighty I’, another highlight. With handy guitarwork from Johnny Marr and a great beat, it’s a wonderful track that shows a glimpse of Gallagher’s love for dance music.

So bookended by two great tracks with plenty to enjoy inbetween this is an album I have really enjoyed this year. Of course the fact that my husband loves it as well means we simply played it a lot!

I am looking forward to the next one!

One word to describe this record: Solid

Play it when… Relaxing, driving, working… any time really

Songs you need to hear: The Dying Of The Light, The Right Stuff, Lock All The Doors, Riverman

Gig Report: Ash @ Melkweg (Amsterdam)

Seen on 16 November 2015 @ Melkweg, Amsterdam, NL

What should have been the start of Ash and We Are Scientists’s  combined Masters of the Euroverse Tour, was blemished by the fact that We Are Scientists were not able to play their co-headline set. Singer Keith Murray was at the Eagles of Death Metal gig at the Bataclan on Friday 13 November. Though he and his wife fortunately left before anything happened, it left them understandably shaken up and he decided to fly her home to NYC. The right thing to do and I cannot say a bad word against this decision. Of course I was disappointed not to have a We Are Scientists gig, but sometimes things take precedence and this was one of those times.

Now, de Oude Zaal in de Melkweg is a small venue, taking only about 700 at the best of times. I don’t think the gig had sold out (what’s wrong with people!) and I don’t know how many people decided not to show up after the Scientists cancelled, but though there were plenty of people, it felt well, unfull. Now the crowd was pretty tame, though that might well be something to do with the Dutch stoicism. I have never been so grateful for a mental girl to liven up the gig. Thanks, whoever you were! The Dutch have a saying that goes ‘just act normal, that’s crazy enough’. I so disagree with that. You go to a gig to enjoy yourself, so do try and look like you are!!! Of course, I did my fair share of dancing. Having said that, I heard nothing but praise for Ash afterwards, so they must have enjoyed the gig. Funny Dutchies (I can say that, I am one of them).

I was really looking forward to seeing Ash live again after 19 years. After having been off my radar for far too long, it was a blast to see them again and they did not disappoint. With the Shadows-like instrumental opener Evel Knievel straight into Cocoon they really set the tone with a high energy set. Though Ash’s set was littered with the old hits such as Jack Names The Planets, Girl From Mars, Shining Light, Kung Fu, Orpheus, Oh Yeah and Burn Baby Burn,  they really shone when they did the songs from their new album Kablammo!  Let’s Ride, Go! Fight! Win!, Free, Shutdown and Machinery fitted seamlessly into their set and suffered none of the polite respect that bands often suffer when playing new stuff whilst having such an impressive back catalogue. No, indeed, these new songs stand up and more! I do wish they had played some A-Z stuff and maybe Twilight of the Innocents, but maybe another day, another gig. You can only fit in so much!

For me, the highlight came at the end when the guys were joined on stage by Chris Cain and Keith Carne of We Are Scientists. There was a bit of W.A.S.H.-action going on after all! They played a couple of We Are Scientists songs (The Great Escape and After Hours) and they were awesome, even if Tim messed up the lyrics! The Best Man speech that Chris gave during final song, the Weezer cover Undone – The Sweater Song – in which he pretended Ash were getting married, was hilarious and was a gig moment for the ages.

So despite the underwhelming crowd, I had a fantastic time. Ash really proved themselves to be a terrific live band, so if they are coming anywhere near where you are, make sure you catch them!