Sunday, 19 June 2011

Week at the knees. Incubus. Enter Shikari. The Xcerts.

Three big gigs in one big week. Phew. First up:

HMV Forum, Kentish Town
Tuesday 13th June.
All together now....

Jam-packed venue. Assembled masses of screaming fans. Real fans. This was one of those 'special' gigs laid on for the devoted hardcore as a 'warm up' for some European festi dates. And it felt special.

No support, just anticipation. And perspiration. On a hot and sultry evening, shortly before 9:00, a hot and sultry Brandon and the boys took to the stage.

The welcome was ridiculously fervent and almost religious. They burst into Megalomaniac to a football crowd-like noise. Then the weird stuff started. They weren't particularly loud, which normally wouldn't bother me, but tonight, Matthew, the crowd were going to be...Incubus. Every word. Every syllable. Sung with gusto and passion. In fact, with so much gusto and passion, it was difficult to actually hear the band. This was the world's largest ever group Karaoke. And it was remarkable.

Mikey; you sing. I'll, along.
The set swung straight into Wish You Were Here. More than just a crowd-pleaser but a crowd marital aid. With extra batteries. And vintage champagne flavoured lube.The girls all got fizzy-knickered over Mr Boyd and the boys were sweating and singing like back yard cats. All 2,500 of them.

What then followed was a dream playlist which could've been culled from everyone here's iPods. Pardon Me, Have You Ever, 11am, Anna Molly, Circles, Love Hurts and a host of other faves including the brilliant Just a Phase and, of course, Drive all received the karaoke treatment. All played and sung note-perfectly. Which, to be honest and hyper-critical was a little wearing. They were almost too perfect. Only once really wandering from the script throwing a few lines from Riders on The Storm into Are You In?
'DJ' Kilmore...make some noiiiize!!!. But nicely.And not too loud.

It was even more like karaoke than it first appeared. Mikey didn't miss a slide, a tap or a trill. All box-fresh and surgically delivered. The bloke at the decks (must've been a really outrĂ© and cutting edge thing to have in a rock band 10 or 11 years ago, but now sadly reduced to a nostalgic fairground attraction - albeit a good one) did all his squeaky, scratchy bits perfectly and the rhythm section was the tightest it could be without actually cutting off the circulation. Don't get me wrong, it was at times spine tinglingly goose-bump inducing. But it was clean. Very clean. And at times, the weeniest bit anodyne. 

Two new tunes got an airing. Adolescents and the very sugary and soft Promises, Promises. I wasn't too sure to be honest, but the assembled congregation already knew the hymn's words and joined in like the good folk on Songs of Praise.

Nice to Know you was the final encore and was the ideal and apposite end to a terribly pleasant and enjoyable service. Amen.

Enter Shikari*****
Some Dubstep Bums*****
Dingwalls, Camden
15th June. 2011

Rory...Squashed tomatoes and stew...
If the Incubus gig was 'special', then tonight's partyyyyy at the sweatbox in Camden Market was the jewel-encrusted limited edition collector's edition with a royal warrant and a bunch of flowers.

It's Rory's birthday, a warm-up gig for Amsterdamage and a bloody great party for 300-400 very lucky souls all rolled into one.

Shall we pretend to be a support band?
I don't know who the support were (I thought Pdex was going to play, but must've missed him, sadly) but two asbo kids strolled and bopped on stage to a big, brown dubstep wall of noize. Their chat (lyrics I'm reliably informed - sorry) was stilted, out of balance and derivative. They begged the crowd at every opportunity to 'make some noiiiiiiize Camden'. Which some did. They tried to cajole the already baying and packed house to open up a pit. They couldn't really be arsed. And despite the constant rebel rousing cry of ' Is y'all looking forward to fukkin Enter Shikaaaaarieeeeeeeeeeee?' there was a polite and attentive response with just a few of the young chaps and chapesses down at the front deigning to get involved. Yawn. Bleep. Booom. Drop. Dance. Zzzzzz.

Good, they were gone. The young crowd started hollering for the St Albans Boys. Normality was restored. Well, as much as a Josef Fritzl-like dungeon packed with sweaty cider-swilling young'uns can be described as normality.

As the lads took to the tiny stage, the crowd,in unison belted out happy birthday. Which mutated into Robbie Williams's 'Angels' led by a sprightly-looking mr Reynolds. Yup, this was going to be a party all right. And some.

Pass the jump leads. return to energiser indeed.
Angels faded. Solidarity kicked off. Literally. The crowd went, expectedly nuts. As did the band. This lot still have to be regarded as one of the finest live bands in the nation. Well aired and repetitive arguments about whether their older stuff is better or not were rendered redundant this evening. This evening was extra special. For the crowd, for the band, for live Brit music. They galloped through all manner of tunage. From classics like No Ssssweat, Return to Energiser and Anything can Happen...thru Destabilise and the new crowd pleaser Quelle Surprise, they totally killed it. There was a fun undercurrent to the evening (probably more where they should sit as opposed to the slightly more polemic and political angry tones) and it was infectious. They threw themselves, into the adoring throng, they fooled about, played funky interludes, gagged and quipped. And, unlike the bloody support band (apart from when Rou suggested the 'normal human pyramid stuff while insouciantly raising a mischievous finger upwards) didn't need to egg the crowd on into mass hysteria. They'd found, and pushed that button themselves.

It was a genuine privilege being there tonight. The sweat, giggles, power, energy, passion and effort that this foursome put in could end the world's energy crisis at the drop of a backwards baseball cap. Pass the jump leads.

They were back to their imperious best this evening. Milking the crowd. Enjoying themselves and leaving no mitochondria underworked. Ok, Time for Plan B was given an airing and that just abut wrapped up the perfect evening. Welcome back boys. Welcome back.

The Xcerts*****
Get Cape Wear Cape Fly *****
Hold Your Horse Is*****
Rosa Velle*****
The Old Blue Last, Shoreditch
17th June 2011

Tiny room. Lots of people. Lots of rain. Many beards. Quite a lot of plaid. Definitely Shoreditch. Yup.

Rosa Velle*****
On saunter the hooligans from The Simpsons. Hoodies, beanies and guitars. They screech into what could have been awful. A post punky jangly guitar hook. Then it just went nuts, And I bloody loved it. Like a mini Dillinger, this bunch of smoggies totally killed it. Technical, mathcore, complex but thrilling and contagious constructions hooked me straight away. Such technical ability at such a tender age. The compound timings and crazy tapped and swept riffage kept it fresh throughout. Screams mixed with crisp, Mars Volta-esque vox enraptured and entranced in equal measure. The very thought of this lot rehearsing the massively complex and technically challenging tunage in an egg-box adorned sweaty garage somewhere in Smog land filled me full of admiration and set a permanent grin on my old face. A massive thumbs up. Would love to see them again. And soon.

Get Cape Wear Cape Fly *****
Suddenly Mr Duckworth was on stage. Dressed as a Geography teacher. Cord jacket 'n' all. With his acoustic guitar and a laptop. Delicious memories of The GCWCF of yesteryear filled by still-mathmoshed bonce. And Mikey Glennister was there with his trumpet too. This could be brilliant.

Sam's new look. Peachy.
Sam looked and felt slightly uncomfortable though. Don't know why (apart from the possible intimidation from the assembled apparently disinterested Hoxtonite hipsters and their molls). I'm not sure if most of the crowd knew who the surprise guest actually was. The reception was a little tepid. And Sam's performance was affected by this. He manfully zipped through an Oak Tree and a couple from the last album. But I was waiting for I spy or War of The Worlds - not that I needed to hear them again, I've seen Sam dozens of times and love him to bits - it's just the assembled distracted cool dudes and dudesses may suddenly have twigged who they were privileged enough to be in the company of.

But he didn't get them out of his medicine bag. His set was energetic, bouncy and great fun. As always. But, apart from the few down at the front, the crowd appeared lazy, complacent and couldn't really give a toss. Which was a real same. He finished with Chronicles as Mikey returned to the stage and momentarily you could feel the recognition flickering amongst the too cool for school ccolites. But it was too little too late. Even the joiny in bits (the do doo doo doo doos) failed to convert the achingly icy trendies. Wankers. I liked it though.

Next up were  Hold Your Horse Is*****

Three blokes. Small room. Big noise.

Definitely a good recipe. And it was indeed a tasty dish served up to, by now, a much fuller room.

A shortish but powerful set. All precision, riffage and great vocals. A bit like Arcane Roots or early Biffy, this lot make a bloody huge din for a trio. Really loved it too. The pit got going. The bass played came down to have a look still banging away at his Fender while participating in an enthusiastic mosh and they went down like a bagel at 4:00am in Brick Lane after a clubtastic evening out. Brilliant stuff. Not as mentally tech as Rosa Velle, but catchy, impressive, soulful and kick-ass. More please.

The Xcerts*****
Finally, after a quick rejig of the backline, the main attraction (Sam notwithstanding!), took their positions. And, as always, totally ruled. I've run out of great things to say about this lot, so I'll keep it as brief as possible.

Come on Murray! Nice backhand.
If you haven't seen this lot live, you're missing a limb. No fuck it, you're missing a vital organ. Yes their records are grand. Their lyrics, sharp, clever and tidy. But live, they're on another level. I've said of them before that they're destined for greatness. On tonight's evidence, greatness isn't great enough. Murray and the boys are right up there. Such a shame they're not playing Sonisphere again this year, as they would be a worthy addition to such a splendid occasion.

Can't wait to see them again. And again. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Right, from the sublime to the ridiculous. After a week of wonder, it's pantomime ie again...Ozzy next week for the Kerrang! 30th birthday party.

More tunes soon. Bwoooar!

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