Live Shows: Part 2

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Mar 8 2010, 1h53

Wednesday, 3 March 2010 – Blood Red Shoes (with Underground Railroad)
Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

I was quietly looking forward to this one. Blood Red Shoes aren't among my absolute favourite bands, but they make great music. The band consists of just two members--guitarist Laura-Mary Carter and drummer Steven Ansell, with no bassist at all--both sharing the vocals. The stage was refreshingly uncluttered as a result, and they played a setlist that comprised of songs mostly from their new album (they ended up playing nine out of the ten tracks from it) sprinkled with a few favourites from their debut like "It's Getting Boring by the Sea" and "I Wish I Was Someone Better". Because their sophomore, Fire Like This, had only been released two days ago in the UK, I was concerned that the crowd might not appreciate the songs as much. In truth, no matter what the song, the majority of people near the front stood absolutely still much like the crowd when I saw Future of the Left in January. I get that there are some that just want to spectate, but the music that was coming out was full of energy and deserved more from those that were almost within touching distance of the stage.

On the other hand, there was a sizeable group in the middle that happily jumped their way through a lot of the tracks, arms aloft, occasionally stopping to mosh. I wish I could have joined in with them, but I got stuck next to generally static folks and this one guy who had no sense of rhythm, conservatively nodding away out of time. I was also disappointed that barely anyone sung along to songs like "I Wish I Was Someone Better" or shouted out the eponymous words of "Light It Up". If the attendees were having a blast, they didn't show it as well as they could have. However, I did love how everyone stopped and paid attention to the distinctly slow but awesome "When We Wake". It was a track that was significantly different to their usual rockier and intense tunes, yet it still felt like it belonged on the setlist. Also, someone randomly threw skin-coloured tights onto the stage halfway through, which provided some amusement. Regardless of what the two-piece played, they were always energetic and great to watch--and they'd have to be with only the two of them performing. Both had genuine band chemistry and were determined to enjoy themselves as much as possible. I would definitely go and see them again.

Afterwards, I stuck around the venue, because it was freezing outside, and ended up briefly chatting to Steven. When I told him "When We Wake" was probably my favourite track from Fire Like This, I was surprised to find that he agreed with me, and even hinted that the third album might contain a few more songs like that, slower and less upbeat. Sounds great to me. I also got my ticket signed by both Steven and Laura-Mary before one of the the venue dudes could bug me to get out a third time. All in all, a fun and very much worthwhile show, but the crowd could have been better.

Setlist:

Doesn't Matter Much
Keeping It Close
I Wish I Was Someone Better
Light It Up
It's Getting Boring By The Sea
Count Me Out
Heartsink
This Is Not for You
When We Wake
Say Something, Say Anything
It Is Happening Again
Don't Ask
---
One More Empty Chair
You Bring Me Down
Colours Fade


Tuesday, 9 March 2010 – Passion Pit (with Ellie Goulding and Little Death)
Rock City, Nottingham

I don't normally comment on opening acts, but Ellie Goulding is an exception. The fact that she was playing didn't at all affect my decision to buy a Passion Pit ticket in the first place, but it's strange that Goulding--second on stage after Little Death--was to be a warm-up for Passion Pit, because she's more recognisable at the moment especially with her album reaching number one in the UK charts just days before the show. The audience were even chanting "Ellie, Ellie, Ellie" as the stage was set for her arrival. I knew almost nothing about her aside from a few YouTube videos I watched the night prior, but I was pleasantly surprised by her performance. For starters, she actually has a great live voice, something that I didn't expect, and because of that, she had more than enough stage presence and effectively relegated the rest of her band (which included a guitarist-slash-electronic keyboardist, a bassist, and a drummer) to being mere peripheral members. Goulding backed up her vocals by often playing an acoustic guitar or smacking an extra drum in front of her.

Earlier on, when a portion of the crowd decided to mosh to Little Death's final song, it was obvious that this was going to be a fun night. They continued this good form throughout the half-hour set, showing their enthusiasm particularly during "Under the Sheets" and "Starry Eyed" by jumping, raising their arms, and singing along. Closer "Starry Eyed" was the most popular track of hers and had the majority of the floor, including me, going for it. I felt a little left out not knowing any of the lyrics, but it didn't stop me from being pulled into the mosh that happened towards the song's climax. I've honestly never seen or heard a crowd react so well to an opening act ever, and the cheers Goulding received at the end were insane. Goulding herself seemed to really appreciate the crowd, and smiled as she complimented them at the end. I liked what I heard from her despite being rather apathetic towards her songs; it was nice to hear rawer versions of them instead of what I had heard on YouTube, which were sounds that in my opinion were slightly over-reliant on electronic meddling.

Setlist – Ellie Goulding:

Lights
Every Time You Go
This Love (Will Be Your Downfall)
Salt Skin
Under the Sheets
Starry Eyed

Half an hour later, Passion Pit came out to a fantastic roar, and their opening two songs were particularly hectic. On "I've Got Your Number" and "Make Light", the crowd rarely stopped moshing, and I was getting pushed around all over the place. This was while everyone was jumping up and down during the choruses--it was awesome. After "Make Light", the moshing died down; people already seemed to be slightly worn out. That didn't stop the crowd from reacting energetically to the rest of the show, though. There were instances in nearly every song where everyone bounced in time with arms raised, and tracks like "The Reeling" and "Let Your Love Grow Tall" had people singing along. Clapping in unison was a common and fun occurence, and from time to time, water was thrown around from bottles. Several folks were even daring enough to crowdsurf; it was the most insane show I had taken part in. An amusing moment came about when lead singer Michael Angelakos said hello to the balcony, to which the floor responded by booing them. My personal favourite, "Little Secrets", was finally played as the last song of the main setlist, and it was worth the wait, turning out to be very popular on the night. I loved chanting "higher, higher, higher" with the crowd.

Throughout the night, I heard occasional cries for "Sleepyhead" to be played. When Passion Pit exited the stage, it was predictable what the crowd wanted, as once again they chanted for "Sleepyhead", but this time pretty much the entire floor was calling for it. When the band returned to much delight, they played "Eyes as Candles", which was ridiculously fun. The "na na na na na na na, hey hey!" was so contagious that it was hard not to sing along to that. Then, at last, the moment the crowd had been waiting for had arrived--"Sleepyhead". Everyone was giving it their all, knowing this was the final song. Verses were recited, and there was hardly anyone around me who wasn't jumping and singing the eponymous line "Sleepyhead". It was a brilliant way to end the night. I don't think I've experienced a better crowd, and that's partly down to the venue. Having attended various others around Nottingham, I was reminded why I fondly remembered Rock City when I saw The Subways in my very first live show. The music was extremely loud, as if it was demanding everyone to have a good time--and they did.

Passion Pit themselves deserve a boatload of credit for being a great live band. Angelakos didn't quite keep the falsetto voice going for the entire night, which probably wasn't surprising, but he was a superb frontman, active and often encouraging the crowd to sing along, which paid off wonders. If there was a criticism, it was that the setlist contained a couple of weaker tracks, but that was to be expected given that they've only released sixteen songs in their one album and one EP. It wasn't a big issue, though, as no one seemed to care. A sweaty but fabulous gig.

Setlist – Passion Pit:

I've Got Your Number
Make Light
Better Things
The Reeling
Moth's Wings
Swimming In The Flood
To Kingdom Come
Let Your Love Grow Tall
Fold In Your Hands
Smile Upon Me
Little Secrets
---
Eyes As Candles
Sleepyhead


Friday, 7 May 2010 – She & Him (with The Chapin Sisters)
Koko, London

I made the long trip to London for She & Him's first ever UK show, and on the whole, I had an enjoyable time. She & Him is a duo consisting of lead singer Zooey Deschanel, better known as an actress, and guitarist M. Ward; to my knowledge, Deschanel writes the lyrics, while Ward does all the arrangements. On stage, they were backed by a guitarist, bassist, drummer, and two backing singers. There were a couple of things that struck me about this particular gig. Firstly, the band played a total of twenty-five songs, which is way more than any other show I'd been to (The Subways rocked out seventeen). Granted, She & Him's songs are generally pretty short, and they crammed everything into their ninety-minute set by rarely bantering with the crowd, but this was still extremely impressive. I felt like I definitely got my money's worth, hearing most of their discography. However, the set kind of dragged on during the middle segment. They started off with a few better known songs, including "I Was Made for You" and "Thieves", but then stuff like "Brand New Shoes" and an Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong cover, among others, just didn't have much of an impact for me. I don't think they had enough top-notch content for such a long set.

The band pulled it back, though, starting with single "In the Sun", and following it up with several strong performances before closing the main setlist with my two favourite tracks of theirs, "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?" and "Sweet Darlin'". "Sweet Darlin'" was the best of the night for me. From the refreshingly different arrangements to Deschanel and Ward closing with an awesome piano duet, it was superior to the studio version. The crowd clapping along with Ward's encouragement made for a fantastic atmosphere, and the duo left the stage to a loud roar while the rest of the band finished off the song. This seemed to get the crowd pumped up even more, and when the band came back out for the first encore to perform a couple of covers, the audience were much louder than they were during the entire first hour of the gig. Another major highlight came in the form of the second(!) encore. Deschanel and Ward came out without the rest of the band to play a beautiful cover of "I Put a Spell on You", which if not anything else, really showcased Deschanel's voice. I wasn't the only one who appreciated how exceptional she sounded--the crowd cheered several times throughout the final song, impressed whenever she hit those big notes.

Despite weak links in the setlist, both Deschanel and Ward were superb--they had excellent stage chemistry and gelled together really well. Unsurprisingly, Deschanel was the more popular of the two (there were quite a few "I love you, Zooey!" screams from men and women alike over the course of the night), and while she was great and looked amazing, Ward was just as good but very much underrated. As well as being solid on the guitar, Ward's live arrangements were for the most part impressive and deserved more acclaim. Finally, the venue itself was not like any other I've been to. Inside appeared rather old-fashioned, with multiple tiers of balconies above the floor. I hope the people right at the top weren't afraid of heights, because the topmost tier looked ridiculously high off the ground. Even Deschanel and Ward commented on it at one point. Anyway, the night was great overall. It doesn't rank as one of the best I've been to, but it's still one that I don't regret going to.

Setlist:

I Was Made for You
Thieves
Black Hole
Me and You
Lingering Still
Sing
Home
Change Is Hard
I Thought I Saw Your Face Today
Brand New Shoes
You Really Got a Hold on Me
Would You Like to Take a Walk? (Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong cover)
Magic Trick (M. Ward cover)
Gonna Get Along Without You Now
In the Sun
Take It Back
Don't Look Back
Over It Over Again
This Is Not a Test
Ridin' in My Car
Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?
Sweet Darlin'
---
Fools Rush in (Frank Sinatra & Tommy Dorsey cover)
Roll Over Beethoven (Chuck Berry cover)
---
I Put a Spell on You (Screamin' Jay Hawkins cover)


Tuesday, 16 November 2010 – The Gaslight Anthem (with Sharks and Chuck Ragan)
Rock City, Nottingham

There've been quite a few gigs that I've been to where the crowd was poor despite a decent performance from the band. The night with The Gaslight Anthem was the opposite. I felt that the band was far too static and had merely average stage presence. The only member who actually demanded attention from the attendees was Brian Fallon, lead singer. However, the crowd - being Rock City - was still great; a surprising number sang along to several of the songs and there were a few fairly decent moshes. They weren't as fanatic or enthusiastic as they were when I saw The Subways or Passion Pit, where they were louder and moshes encompassed most of the floor, but that was to be expected when the band did little to invoke a reaction or encourage rowdiness from us. That said, Fallon visibly appeared to enjoy the crowd, broadly grinning and such from time to time, which was a nice touch.

The setlist was pretty lame on the whole. The first four of the six songs played came from their latest album American Slang, which I'm not a huge fan of. They ended up playing 90% of it. The rest of the setlist consisted of a fair few from The '59 Sound and a disappointingly low number from their debut (and best) album Sink or Swim, as well as a Senor and the Queen EP track and a couple of forgettable and rather pointless covers. I definitely would've preferred hearing something like "Boomboxes and Dictionaries" over a seemingly random track by Wilson Pickett. It wasn't until the final two main songs, "Great Expectations" and "The '59 Sound", where I got properly invested in the gig. Before then, I was still nodding my head, singing out the odd lines that I knew, just trying to enjoy myself as much as I could while I was here, but the one-two punch from The '59 Sound was genuinely an awesome seven minutes or so. And the encore wasn't that bad, either - if a bit unspectacular and lacklustre when compared to other encores I've experienced in the past. "1930" was great, as was "The Backseat", though the latter as the closer didn't have a prolonged impact as I would've wanted from the finale.

It's a testament to how apathetic I was about the night when I say that one of the highlights was the occasional chat from Fallon between songs, including talking up Bruce Springsteen (the band's from New Jersey), having a amusing dig at Bon Jovi, and comparing opening act Chuck Ragan to Chuck Norris. Speaking of opening acts, they were sub-par. Sharks were tolerable but ended one song early when the drummer broke his drum pedal, while I wasn't a fan of Ragan's material at all and grew bored extremely quickly, counting down the time until he left the stage. On a more positive note, my low opinion of the gig hasn't had much negative effect on my enjoyment of The Gaslight Anthem's first two albums. They're still excellent.

Setlist:

The Spirit of Jazz
Boxer
Casanova, Baby!
The Diamond Church Street Choir
Old White Lincoln
Old Haunts
Even Cowgirls Get The Blues
We Came To Dance
Orphans
Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis?
Wooderson
Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts
The Queen of Lower Chelsea
Bring It On
In the Midnight Hour (Wilson Pickett cover)
Stay Lucky
Last Kiss (Wayne Cochran cover)
Great Expectations
The '59 Sound
---
American Slang
1930
Miles Davis and the Cool
The Backseat

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