Kimbra at Paradiso Noord, Thursday 21 March 2019

This was part of Kimbra’s “Reimagined” tour, where she is performing a bunch of her songs in a smoky jazz bar style, backed by just a piano and a double bass. This is a great combination. Some of her recorded songs have this kind of feel to them already (“Hi Def Distance Romance”, “Waltz Me To The Grave”), and some absolutely shine with the new treatment (“The Magic Hour”, “Old Flame”). Others were less successful. “Lightyears” from her album Primal Heart is a beat-heavy club song, and its lyrics don’t have the gravitas to stand up to being slowed down. “Version Of Me” is slow, quiet and haunting already, and I’m not sure if it benefits from the vocal welly she puts into it in this arrangement. The overall atmosphere in the small Paradiso Noord venue was magical, though, with a warm crowd that rewarded Kimbra with tons of applause whenever she would end a song with a “dankjewel” and a smile.

Set list:

  1. The Magic Hour
  2. Plain Gold Ring
  3. The Good War
  4. Everybody Knows
  5. Withdraw
  6. Waltz Me To The Grave
  7. Old Flame
  8. Rescue Hum
  9. Black Sky
  10. Hi Def Distance Romance
  11. Lightyears
  12. Past Love
  13. Version of Me

Encore:

  1. My Way
  2. Cameo Lover

Area 11 at G2 Glasgow, Saturday 16 February 2019

Alex, Fiona, and I saw Area 11 in Edinburgh a few years ago. Alex travelled to see them on his own last summer. And last weekend the four of us all took a trip to Glasgow to see them at the G2 on their “Everybody Gets A Piece” tour. It was fun!

We flew from Amsterdam to Edinburgh on the Saturday morning, and picked up a rental car. It was too early to check in to our hotel, so we drove in to Glasgow and did some lunching (fish and chips for Alex, haggis for Fiona) and shopping. By mid-afternoon we were all tired, so we headed for the hotel, had a bit of a rest, and then came back in to town for the gig. Fiona decided she was too tired, though, and stayed in her room.

The concert was good, varied, and incredibly loud. No, seriously. I like loud concerts, but I’m not sure I would have survived that one if I hadn’t had earplugs with me. The first opening act was local band Dancing With Dakota, who were metal AF. They were also bathed entirely in a blue light so far into the violet my eyes couldn’t focus on them, and I didn’t even notice they had a drummer until I saw the photos afterwards. I thought they’d been playing with a backing track.

By comparison, Misery Kids sounded like a boy band. I absolutely don’t mean that in a bad way! Just that their uptempo melodic sound and catchy choruses were so stunningly different from Dancing With Dakota that you could be forgiven for thinking you’d been teleported to a different venue.

October Drift were yet another change of pace, their style dark and grungy, with a front man unafraid to traverse the side wall of the venue all the way to the merch table. No crowdsurfing, but I’m sure he was tempted.

Now I love discovering new music, but to be honest, by the time Area 11 came on I was feeling a bit tired. It was an early gig – the venue’s doors had opened at 18:00, and there was a 22:00 curfew – but I’m an auld mannie and I need my rest. I thought they were good, and I loved hearing their new songs, but they also seemed like they were holding back and not rocking out quite as much as when we saw them a few years ago. Maybe they were tired and tense, too – it was the first night of the tour.

Set List:

  1. Cassandra part 1
  2. Cassandra part 2
  3. In The Blind
  4. Everybody Gets A Piece
  5. Versus
  6. Red Queen
  7. All Your Friends
  8. New Magiks
  9. Panacea and the Prelogue
  10. Curtain Fall
  11. The Contract
  12. Heaven Piercing Giga Drill

(No encore – they felt they were cutting it close to the curfew already.)

The merch guy recognized me by the end of the evening. Between Dancing With Dakota and Misery Kids, Alex and I had gone to load him up with a tour T-shirt, a Cassandra Rising longsleeve, a beanie hat (+1 for Fiona), and a nifty zip-up hoodie. Between Misery Kids and October Drift Abi got herself a shirt as well, and I decided to give in to temptation and get myself one of the zip-ups too. And then immediately after the gig I had to get Fiona one of the Cassandra Rising shirts as well, because on reflection I realized that it was the one she would have wanted if she’d been there. So: “You again!” Yes. It me.

Alex had another portion of fish and chips on the walk back from the G2 to the Buchanan Galleries car park, and Abi and I shared some falafel from the excellent Falafel To Go hole-in-the-wall (literally) on Hope St.

On Sunday we went in to Edinburgh for a bit of lunching (more fish and chips for Alex, more haggis for Fiona – they have to get their Scottish deep fry when they have the chance) and hanging out. I dropped Abi and Alex at the airport in the later afternoon, before driving up to Mum & Dad and stopping off at the chip shop in Stanley for, yes, some more haggis for Fiona.

On Monday I took Fiona to Fife to stay with her boy C. Seeing as it was close by, I went in to St. Andrews for a bit of a wander. The last time I was in St. Andrews was a few years ago, and it had felt incredibly upscale and upmarket – the lingering royal afterglow of William and Kate. Perhaps it was the cold and grey weather, but this time it felt a bit more casual and studenty. I mean, it’s still St. Andrews, so let’s not get carried away. The bones of the place were showing through more clearly.

On Tuesday, Mum and Dad and I went in to Perth for some lunch and shopping. (I got myself a pair of slippers I intend to leave at the office, because why not be comfortable?) We also paid a visit to the Fergusson Gallery, which was a rare treat. I couldn’t have told you who Fergusson was before I went in, but I certainly recognized a few of his works. It’s a small but lovely gallery. In the evening I picked up Fiona from her overnight stay.

Wednesday we headed back to Edinburgh. Fiona spent the day with C, while I zoomed back up the M9 to return Dad’s reading glasses that he’d left in the car the day before. We flew back home in the evening, exhausted.

Categories
Family Music

Lindsey Stirling at 013 Tilburg, Tuesday 4 November 2014

Alex found Lindsey Stirling on YouTube back in 2012, and got the whole family listening to her infectious pop violin. She was touring in support of her first album, and for Christmas that year I got us tickets for her gig at 013 in Tilburg on 16th January 2013.

I don’t remember if it had been snowing that day itself, but the country was white and cold. Alex, Fiona, and I bundled into Turty late in the afternoon and drove around the Amsterdam ring to Breukelen, where we picked up Abi from the station. We stopped off for some food at a McDonalds on the way, and got to Tilburg in time for the concert, but not in time to catch the support act. The place was packed — unpleasantly so, I thought. We struggled to find a spot at the back of the hall with a moderately unobscured view.

The gig itself was great. Lindsey played all of the key songs from her album. She had a keyboard player and a drummer on stage with her, and the act was full of energy. Fiona had been to see the Barenaked Ladies at the Mountain Winery with us in 2010, but it was Alex’s first pop concert. We loved it and resolved to catch her whenever she played near us again.

That day was last Tuesday! The concert at 013 in Tilburg again (after originally having been scheduled for the Klokgebouw in Eindhoven). Not wanting to run the risk of Turty’s exhaust dropping off (again) on a long trip with a time-critical component, I hired us a bigger car for the drive this time. I picked it up at lunchtime, and we set off on the journey at about 17:30. Just as before, we circled Amsterdam and picked Abi up at Breukelen. No snow this time, just lots of traffic jams.

We got to the centre of Tilburg just before 20:00, parked, and queued to get in. The place was packed again. We tried to get in to the downstairs area, but couldn’t even squeeze through the doors. A friendly usher told us that there was still space up on the balcony. It was better up there, but the sight lines weren’t great. We bought merch, lots of merch. We caught the second half of Mike Tompkins’s opening set, which was energetic and nicely produced, but not quite my thing.

Lindsey Stirling came on at 21:00, and the difference from last year was clear straight away. She still had the same keyboard player and drummer, but she was joined on stage by two dancers for many of the songs. The set was more elaborate, the lighting better, and the choreography was more elaborate. In the pauses between songs, she seemed more self-assured. Her second album, Shatter Me, came out earlier this year, and so she had more material to choose from. Everything was bigger, brighter, and more polished. Fiona was utterly entranced. Alex was somewhat pained by the sheer volume of the music, but enjoyed it too.

Lindsey Stirling at 013 Tilburg

(I confirmed my suspicions that the iPhone 4’s low-light performance isn’t as good as the Nexus 4. And the Nexus 4 is not that great.) Long drive back afterwards, and we didn’t get home until after midnight. Alex and Fiona had brought neck pillows and duvets with them, so they curled up in their seats and slept some. I was up early the next day to get the car back before 08:00. Very worthwhile trip.

Categories
Music

Maxïmo Park at Melkweg, Amsterdam, 11 February 2014

Maxïmo Park at Melkweg, Amsterdam, 11 February 2014

I’ve loved Maxïmo Park since their stunning debut album A Certain Trigger in 2005. I had heard thay are great live, and I was sorely disappointed to have missed them when they played Utrecht on their National Health tour in 2012. (I had actually–giddy with excitement–bought a ticket before I realized that I was going to be in Scotland with the kids for their autumn break that week.) But yesterday evening I finally caught them at Melkweg in Amsterdam. For the second time today, I’ll note:

Holy. Shit.

As usual, I got to the Melkweg way early. (Since missing the first ten minutes of The Tragically Hip in Glasgow a few years ago because I’d foolishly thought that 20:00 on the ticket meant I still had plenty of time, I don’t trust venue schedules any more.) At 19:50 the place was practically deserted. The balconies were blocked off, too, which probably meant there was going to be a relatively low turnout. (Melkweg has a capacity of about 1500.) On the plus side, this meant I was easily able to bag myself a great spot close to the stage and up one step, to help me see over the heads of the inevitably tall Dutchies. Also, right in front of one of the massive speaker stacks. Yuss.

His Clancyness came on at 20:00 and played a nice set. More people arrived, and at 21:00 the lights went down and the sound came up. A haunting electronic drone, throbbing with promise, building and breaking in complexity, played over a blue-lit stage for about five minutes while the sound guys stage left made final adjustments, and finally covered up the glowing apple logos on their MacBook Pros.

The the band came on and launched into Give, Get, Take, the opening song from the new album Too Much Information. Paul Smith was dressed in a natty checked suit, white shirt, Doc Martens, and his trademark hat. Right from the start he was electric, dancing around the stage, posing, jumping, and shaking his hips. His voice was so pure and clear, and so like the recordings that I wondered if he was miming, but no: his live delivery is just extraordinary. The first four tracks they played were all loud and hard and fast to get the audience moving.

Sometimes hearing a favourite song live for the first time can be a disappointment. But when they played The National Health, it was just as powerful as I’d hoped. Locking eyes with the audience, shaking his finger for sharp emphasis, Paul Smith put so much power and emotion behind the words that it made me shiver.

Unfortunately the middle part of the set was plagued by technical issues. Lukas Wooller’s keyboard died during A Fortnight’s Time, and even the replacement keyboard didn’t work straight away. It took him and the techs a good twenty minutes to get sound out of it again. In the meantime, Smith was very apologetic, asking the audience for suggestions of songs they could play that didn’t involve a keyboard. Graffiti was a popular shouted choice, and they shuffled the set list around to accomodate the disruption. I’m sure it would have been even better with keyboards, but Graffiti was never going to be anything but a huge crowd-pleaser.

It was interesting to see a very different Paul Smith during those unrehearsed, slightly panicked moments after each song ended, wondering if the keyboard was ready yet. When he’s singing, he’s mesmerizing; when he’s thanking the audience between songs, he’s charming. But in the face of equipment malfunction he seemed shy and vulnerable. He’s a brilliant performer, but not a natural raconteur. (Puns about “sourcy” behaviour backstage notwithstanding.)

Her Name Was Audre was a great little guitar-and-drums punk tune to end the interruption, and things were properly back on track for I Recognise The Light, a funny track from the new album that I hadn’t properly appreciated until then. The sound quality at Melkweg was fantastic yesterday evening, with the vocals definitely leading the mix. As well as bopping up and down, I spent a lot of time listening to the lyrics, and hearing and interpreting them in a different context. I usually listen to music as a background to other activities, but at a concert I’m right there, doing only that: listening. I didn’t used to like Write This Down much, but the live performance completely changed my perception of it. Likewise, I hadn’t found anything special in Drinking Martinis from Too Much Information until the live experience transformed it for me.

Smith introduced By The Monument by saying that they were playing it at the request of Emma who had contacted them, at which point the woman standing next to me went into a squealing fit of utter delight. I can only assume she was Emma. The Undercurrents, another of my favourites from The National Health was glorious. Girls Who Play Guitars had the crowd in a frenzy. And finally, Midnight On The Hill, one of the most emotional tracks on the new album, gave them a truly shining exit.

The encore was playful. The last track on Too Much Information is Where We’re Going, and it starts with a simple strummed guitar and the line: “I don’t know where we’re going.” Someone in the crowd shouted, “Going Missing!”, which was the obvious response. Paul Smith interrupted the song with a laugh and told us that we’d get there soon enough. Big roar of approciation. So they finished Where We’re Going, a delightful, simple song about uncertainty and anticipation, and then segued straight into their big finale, the much-loved Going Missing.

To everyone who told me that Maxïmo Park are a must-see live band: you were right. So awesomely right.

Set list:

  1. Give, Get, Take
  2. Our Velocity
  3. Signal and Sign
  4. The National Health
  5. Brain Cells
  6. Hips and Lips
  7. A Fortnight’s Time
  8. The Kids Are Sick Again
  9. Graffiti
  10. Lydia, The Ink Will Never Dry
  11. Leave This Island
  12. Books From Boxes
  13. Her Name Was Audre
  14. I Recognise the Light
  15. My Bloody Mind
  16. Write This Down
  17. Drinking Martinis
  18. By The Monument
  19. The Undercurrents
  20. Girls Who Play Guitars
  21. Apply Some Pressure
  22. Midnight on the Hill

Encore:

  1. Where We’re Going
  2. Going Missing
Categories
Music

Gigs on a stick

USB stick (image by Fons Reijsbergen: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/468405)For some time now, it has been technically possible to offer concert-goers the option to buy a CD of a gig almost immediately after it has ended. I wrote about this back in 2003. The technology isn’t particularly widespread, at least partly due to patents and licensing issues surrounding it, but services like Instant Live (part of Live Nation, a spin-off of Clear Channel, who pioneered the technology) and DiscLive show that it’s definitely happening.

It looks like the next leap step for the technology is to sell the concert recording not on CDs, but on a USB stick. From the Barenaked Ladies blog:

These days people need their music fast. Rather than waiting a whole day to download the show from our website, you can now take part in our latest high-tech experiment (no, this doesn’t include lysergic acid or agent orange), by purchasing that evening’s show AT THE SHOW. Just go to the merch booth and ask to buy the USB version of tonight’s show, they’ll sell you a wristband, and at the end of the evening, you can come back to the table and pick up a fresh baked USB stick with that evening’s performance magically embedded in it. And we have t-shirts, too.

Very cool. It’s not quite a download straight onto your iPod, but it’s certainly moving in that direction.