I’d call this my “song of the summer” if it weren’t one of the only new songs I’ve listened to recently. For whatever reason (Lockdown = no concerts? Stress = retreat from novelty?) it feels like I’ve been listening to Underworld non-stop since March, with occasional forays into Kimbra and Mull Historical Society whose previous album Dear Satellite seems so strongly embedded in my memory that it feels like it ought to be way older than 2016.
As another illustration of how out of touch I am with current music, I kept wondering why the awesome song “Blinding Lights” by TNAF wasn’t included on their new album Recover, until the original (massive global hit, lol) by The Weeknd came up on our weekly playlist at work, which this week has the theme “Earworms”. Sure is catchy! I’d never heard it before. I prefer the cover.
Any band that stays together long enough becomes its own tribute band. The danger of being a tribute band is the audience shows up for just the hits. I saw this when we went to see The Who at the Ziggo Dome a couple of years ago, when they were doing a special “Quadrophenia And More” tour. I love Quadrophenia, but most of the crowd didn’t wake up until the band finished their main set and launched into the “…And More” section. You know, “Who Are You”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, etc.
I got that same feeling at the AECC on Saturday evening seeing Deacon Blue. Although I don’t think their latest album, Believers, is quite so strong, their previous one, A New House, is one of their very best. I like it when bands keep moving forwards. When I see them live, I want to hear their new material as well as the old songs. At the AECC, although the crowd nearly lifted the roof off for songs like “Fergus Sings The Blues” and “Dignity”, for quieter new songs like “Birds” it seemed like everyone decided it was time to talk amongst themselves. The audience was almost as loud as the band. This may have been down to the venue, which is basically a shed. It’s built for cattle markets, not concerts. No cloakroom, no lockers, or anywhere to stash your coat on a freezing Aberdeen evening. The stage looked hastily thrown together, and the sound was loud but thin. Ricky Ross said it was the biggest venue that Deacon Blue were playing on this tour. He wisely stayed quiet about which one was their favourite.
Maybe I was just projecting my own gig fatigue and a sense of dissatisfaction about the venue, but the band looked…tired and bored. Now, I have loved Deacon Blue since Raintown. When The World Knows Your Name was released in my last year at secondary school, and I vividly remember it playing in my head when a couple of friends and I came to Scotland to walk the West Highland Way just after graduation. As a teenage Scot living in the Netherlands, trying to figure out where I belonged, the band struck me in a very emotional place. I should have been much more excited about finally seeing them live, but in the end it felt more like a tick in the box.
One of the problems with seeing concerts in rapid succession is a certain feeling of obligation: I should get in the mood for an upcoming concert by listening to the band’s music. But the timing doesn’t always work out. In the days after the Frightened Rabbit gig earlier in that same week, all I wanted to listen to was more Frightened Rabbit. And on the day of my journey to Aberdeen I found that the only album I’d downloaded on Spotify for offline use was the new We got it from here… by A Tribe Called Quest, and I spent the whole trip listening to that, and loving it more and more on every play.
Although it was Deacon Blue’s concert that drew me to Aberdeen last weekend, it was everything else around the gig that made the trip worthwhile. The train ride up the East Coast in the afternoon was lovely and relaxing (even though Scotrail cancelled the first class service I had booked). In Aberdeen, I met up with Dave(Hi Dave!), whom I haven’t seen for about ten years. We met at the delightful CASC bar and talked for hours, stretching the time up to the point where I had to take a taxi out to the AECC instead of taking a bus or walking. Seeing Dave again, and picking up the friendship like hardly a day had passed, was the highlight of the weekend. (And I’m not just saying that because he’s watching.) After the gig ended, I took a “gig and go” bus back to Union Street, which was positively buzzing with people in a party atmosphere. It was great to see Aberdeen so vibrant. The next day I took a lovely walk, and had another nice train ride down to Dundee, and stayed with Mum & Dad overnight.
So: regrets? No. Would I go and see Deacon Blue again? Maybe, if the venue was right.
PS: Gregor Philp, who plays guitar with Deacon Blue, looks quite disturbingly like Nigel Eccles, CEO of FanDuel. At least from a distance. It was quite distracting. Every time I’d look over to stage right, I’d wonder where Nigel had picked up those licks, and whether the board knew he was moonlighting at the weekends. Go on, tell me I’m wrong.
I was a warm day, and I wanted to stretch my legs. I walked to NDSM and took the ferry to Westerdoksdijk (not Tasmanstraat any more). Walking along the Wesetrdoksdijk, I caught some views of the buildings on the IJdok that I hadn’t seen before. I’ve passed them on the water often enough, but I’d never stopped to look at the buildings from this angle before:
I walked to the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal and caught a tram the rest of the way to Leidseplein. JPNSGRLS (pronounced “Japanese Girls”, yet consisting of four dudes from Vancouver, Canada) were on stage already. I bought myself a cold beer and found a good spot to watch. I hardly ever drink a beer at concerts these days, but the circumstances of a nice walk on a warm day were perfect for a cold pilsje. It was good. JPNSGRLS were good, too. I hadn’t listened to any of their music before, but they played well and got the crowd on their side with a batch of solid rock beats.
The Heavy were a completely different matter. They tore it up, and the crowd went wild for them. Unlike my last two concerts at Melkweg (Halsey and Melanie Martinez) I was down on the floor, just a couple of heads back from the jumping and moshing, but still in the middle of the hands and arms and clapping and shouting. The band opened with “Can’t Play Dead”, then three tracks from their new album Hurt and The Merciless. Front man Kelvin Swaby complimented the audience on how we were joining in on the new songs. “What’ll happen if we play something you know even better?” he mused, and launched into “Short Change Hero.”
The whole gig was like that — a mix of new songs and old favourites, with the crowd loving all of them. I had listened to the new album a few times, but what struck me at the concert was that those songs are made to be played live, with an audience joining in at key moments. The recorded versions are good, but they really come into their own when Swaby asks a thousand people to howl like a wolf when he waves his old-fashinoned silver mike during “Big Bad Wolf”, or shout “up!” when he points his arm skywards Usain Bolt-style during the chorus of “Turn Up”.
Can’t Play Dead
Not The One
Short Change Hero
The Big Bad Wolf
Curse Me Good
Since You Been Gone
What Happened To The Love?
Slave To The Love
What Makes A Good Man?
How You Like Me Now
After the gig I emerged into the warm Amsterdam evening. The café tables of the Leidseplein were crowded, and the air was full of dozens of languages. I bought a slice of pizza and wandered back up the Leidsestraat and the Spuistraat back to the station, soaking in the summery atmosphere. Friday evening after the Bleached gig I took the ferry across to Buikslotermeerplein by the Eye, and Abi drove me home. Yesterday I waited around for a bus, listening to The Glorious Dead on my headphones, and watched river traffic pass by under the watchful gaze of the newly opened Adam Toren. Its various lookout bars and restaurants opened last weekend. The top of the building is illuminated and looks fabulous. Must visit it soon.
After visiting the World Press Photo exhibition in Amsterdam the other week, I walked to the Melkweg to meet Fiona in the queue for the Melanie Martinez concert. Fiona is a big fan. Having learned our lesson from the Halsey gig in February, Fiona had got there even earlier than me, at about 13:30. There were still about 200 people ahead of us, but when I showed up at 15:30, there were even more behind us. The fans first in line must have been there since early in the morning, or maybe they camped overnight. (Although I didn’t see any sleeping bags.)
Apart from the roadies and security staff, I was by far the oldest person there.
We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting and standing around, watching videos or listening to podcasts and music on our phones, and getting colder all the time. Fiona went off to get a makeup pencil so she could apply a cry baby tear to her cheek, like many of the others in line. Melkweg staff toured the line periodically to make sure we weren’t blocking the road, to collect rubbish (mostly futile), and to lead groups inside for toilet breaks. The tickets said doors at 19:00. We kept a careful eye on all signs of activity near the entrace, so we were ready to move when the doors actually opened, and the line instantly collapsed into a tight swarm. We were early enough that we could have got floor spots about six or seven back from the stage. Fiona wasn’t sure about the view, though. The balconies were still mostly clear, and we got some excellent positions up there.
With a good view locked in, Fiona went off to grab a poster and a cry baby necklace from the merch stand. While we were waiting for the opening act, we amused ourselves by identifying the “Concert Dads” in the audience. They were pretty easy to spot. Midde-aged men, usually with their arms crossed, bemused at what they’ve let themselves in for, standing slightly apart from a teenage daughter, conspicuously trying not to look like a chaperone.
The Alvarez Kings came on at about 19:40. I had been listening to them during the day, and I was liking their track “Tell-Tale Heart”. They played through their EP Fear To Feel, and three other songs I didn’t recognize. The song they opened with, “Run From You”, starts with a two minute slow burn, and then erupts into a wall of guitars and noise. The crowd loved them; I thought they were excellent; Fiona was “meh.”
When Melanie Martinez came on, the whole place melted down. The gig was originally scheduled for the Oude Zaal at Melkweg (capacity ~700), but had been moved to The Max (~1500) because it was so popular. At least 95% of the people there were young women in their teens. I had thought that Halsey’s fans were enthusiastic, but it felt like every single person in Melanie Martinez’s audience was singing along with every single word of every song, at the top of their voices. To the point where it was hard to hear her sing. At the start of “Sippy Cup”, she sang a different, slower intro than on the album. The crowd started singing it in the tempo of the recorded version and almost drowned her out. They backed off briefly, but started up again at full volume when she launched into the body of the song. I can’t blame the fans for having a great sing-a-long time with their favourite artist, but I would have preferred to hear more of Melanie Martinez herself than the chorus. (Hmm. It’s almost like there’s a reason the audience skewed young.) Melanie Martinez’s voice did seem strained and weak, so maybe that’s why I was having trouble hearing it. She commented on it the start of “Soap”, and at the end of the gig she said she would love to come back to Amsterdam again when her voice was better.
(Set list: she played the album Cry Baby in order. I was surprised, but Fiona wasn’t. She explained that the songs form a narrative, and need to be played in the right order.)
I woke up this morning with the band name “The Teardrop Explodes” stuck in my mind. I knew they were from the early eighties, but frustratingly, I couldn’t remember their music. Wikipedia came to the rescue. Their biggest hit, of course, was “Reward”:
As I was reading the article, the name “Alan Winstanley” jumped out at me. I recognized the name, but couldn’t figure out why it was so familiar. Reading his wikipedia page didn’t help in that regard, but it did show that he had produced the album Please Describe Yourself by Dogs Die In Hot Cars, one of my favourite albums from 2004, which is what I’ve been listening to this morning.
I bought my ticket for this gig kind of by accident. Not literally, “oops, I just hit the BUY button.” It was more that I got so excited about seeing Metric live that I bought the ticket without looking too closely at my calendar. If I had, I would have seen that the date was the night after we (the whole family) were supposed to be seeing Imagine Dragons at the Forum in Copenhagen. That would have been a squeeze.
But… we didn’t end up going to Copenhagen in the end. (We will see Imagine Dragons at the Ziggo Dome in February instead.) So I could go after all!
But… then Fiona and her best friend at school wanted to go and see Fall Out Boy at the Heineken Music Hall on the very same night, and I thought I was going to have to accompany them.
But! I finally got in touch with Fiona’s friend’s parents on the day of the concert to confirm the arragments, and it turned out they were both going along, and they didn’t need anyone else on Team Grownup. So I could go to Metric after all!
I was supposed to be on part-time leave from work that week, but we were right in the middle of crazytime, and I ended up working the Monday and Tuesday. I tore myself loose from my keyboard in time to make it to the gig, but I missed the opening act (Léyya), which was a pity. I also arrived too late to get a good spot to see the stage. I ended up squeezed between a pillar and the bar, and spent most of the time stepping aside to let people past for drinks.
Lie Lie Lie
Youth Without Youth
Help I’m Alive
Too Bad so Sad
Cascades (with everyone wearing funky LED glasses; super synthy!)
Black Sheep (from the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack)
I didn’t recognize this one, but setlist.fm suggests that it was Monster Hospital. I listened to the track when I got back home, and I still didn’t recognize it. I’ll take their word for it. But then, they also list Combat Baby at the end of the set, and I don’t remember the band playing that, either. Hmm.
Gold Guns Girls
Nothing but Time
I felt that the gig was good but not great. Maybe being constantly jostled for drinks every couple of minutes made me a bit cranky. The tour T-shirts were excellent, though.