May 05

Saturday 7th May

Thirteen Senses, The Leaves
Anson Rooms
, Bristol


The Anson Rooms held a strange mix of students, older balding music fans and what seemed most of the family of Thirteen Senses down from their Cornish homes. Icelandic support group, The Leaves, surprised the crowd with their melodic guitar and keyboard tunes. These chaps were tipped for the top in 2002 made a well received album, went in the charts with their singles and played across the UK including Glastonbury and T in The Park before they disappeared. Well, they’re back with a new single The Spell this month and new album The Angela Test. Sounding a bit like Radiohead when they were good, this tight unit look like it could be better luck second time around. Try

Thirteen Senses came on to a frenzied welcome with Into the Fire only for lead singers keyboard to cut out. The overall sound was poor and didn’t improve much throughout the gig. The band seem to have decided to invest  in a light show which distracted more than helped. Frontman Will (who’s new short haircut makes him look every inch the Gary Barlow of the naughties) chatted freely with the crowd and confessed they were a bit taken aback by the large venue - it showed. While the anthemic songs from The Invitation are fine, the other non-album tracks sounded dull. They just about redeemed themselves with the soundsnew crew by playing a blinding version of Thru The Glass in the encore followed by Into the Fire again  (to make up for the first time being screwed). Why couldn’t the sound have been as good and they have played like that all the way through? If we had to choose, we’d have signed The Leaves on tonight’s performance....

Sunday 8th May

Final Fantasy, Arcade Fire
Carling Academy, Bristol


The night began with Arcade Fires violinist Owen Pallett holding a solo slot under the title of Final Fantasy. Looking like a page boy with his floppy fringe, Owen managed to keep the super-cool Bristol crowd mildly amused for 30 minutes using his fiddle to make repeated loops with delay pedals. His wall of sound was accompanied for one number by the Arcade Fire Drummer. While it was fine and clever, Andrew Bird does this sort of stuff much better....and he whistles too!

Shambling onto stage looking like they’d been dressed by Oxfam for a college ball that had just been cancelled, Canadians Arcade Fire follow The Dears from Montreal to educate us how to put on a show with a bit of drama. The band literally lept into first song Wake Up with a gusto not seen in these here parts for nearly 20 years! Part theatrics, part pure energy, the 7-piece seemed to rip the building apart brick-by-brick. One member of the band wearing a crash helmet for part of the gig seemed like an very good idea with the amount of rushing around on stage, someone was going to get whiplash.

Swapping equipment more often than partners at a Surbiton swinging-night, this lot all seem to be able to sing and play each others instruments better than most bands we’d ever seen. One minute the the drummers playing guitar, the guitarist is playing keyboards or the female lead singer Regine playing drums. When male lead (and husband of the latter) Win Butler went to play bass he got as electric shock which sent him flying across the room - it could easily have been from the static energy they created as they sped around the stage. In a fit of madness Win managed to pull each of the six strings from his guitar mid-set before playing keyboard again. Racing through most of the album Funeral and a smattering of tracks from their home produced (and soon to be reissued) Us Kids Know EP they found time to include a cover version of the theme from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

Ending the gigs encore by leaving stage right and walking through the audience to the front entrance of the venue marching band style was a brave move especially as most of us hadn’t been able to budge from where we had been shoe-horned into the packed pit area for nearly an hour! For those with the patience to hang around, they slipped back in and were happy to chat and sign things for the faithful.

Arcade Fire? Dante’s Inferno more like, these guys are blistering!


Friday 13th May

The Go-Betweens
Carling Academy 2, Birmingham


As they were only playing a handful of gigs in the UK and nowhere near South Wales and the West, the soundsnew crew made a special journey up the M5 to Brum to see eternal favourites the Go-Betweens. The Academy 2 is an intimate club within the larger Carling Academy, but live music ends at 10pm to let the local chavs dance around their handbags to frog ringtones and the like. Except for these 3 hours  it was a place of  musical nirvana for the over-30s and we were in the front row so we didn’t miss a thing!

For over 25 years the Go-Betweens have been plying their trade to an indifferent world. Nevertheless it didn’t seem to stop 300 faithful to come out of their bedsits and see the oft quoted and near legendary partnership that is Robert Forster and Grant McLennan. Backed as they have been for nearly 10 years by Adele Pickvance on bass and Glen Thompson on drums, the band played with an air of confidence that can only come with the experience of playing together for so long. McLennan may have lost all his hair and Forster may look somewhat grey around the gills, but no-one would argue that they have written some of the finest pop tunes ever recorded.

With no set list pinned anywhere on the stage, they played for 90 minutes taking the audience on a  musical journey through their back catalogue. While concentrating on latest release Oceans Apart there were a few numbers each from the the more recent albums The Friends of Rachel Worth and Bright Yellow Bright Orange. The older songs sounded a fresh as they did 20 years ago and the band genuinely seemed to enjoy sharing them with us. Streets of Your Town, Bye Bye Pride, Cattle & Cane and Spring Rain were all executed to perfection. No Lee Remmick, but you can’t have everything! 

Although they may share the credits equally it was evident on tonight’s performance who wears the trousers with Forster doing all the talking between songs. Introducing Draining the Pool for You with “This is a medium tempo number in A minor” seemed to wind-up one member of the crowd who let out an unwarranted “get on with it you Aussie wankers!” Forster replied “It could be good that I didn’t understand that!” And then 10pm came and we were ushered into the night to allow the alco-poppers in to hear their unoriginal machine made drivel. If only they’d been here a few hours earlier they might of learnt something about classic pop songwriting....   

See here for full set list of the night:

We also picked up one of these tour only live CDs which we may let you listen to one day if you are really, really good...

Wednesday 25th May

Peter Bruntnell, Story One, Earnest Cox, The Shelleys
The Riverfront Studio, Newport


Diverse Records invited a suitably diverse line-up for a sunny mid-week in Newport. Shame then that UEFA decided to hold their Cup Final on the same night which meant most potential punters seem to decide to stay at home or in the pub to watch televised footie rather than witness live music.

First up were local folk-rockers The Shelley’s. Highly prolific and swapping between male and female vocalists kept the interest level up. Accompanied stage left (and with a big distance between him and the others) by a man dressed as a minstrel playing sax and various ancient instruments! They explained he had to rush off to a medieval banquet to excuse his attire, but it could just be a ploy!

Next on were Gloucester band Earnest Cox. Despite having guys on guitar and bass who looked more like they should be running the door, this five piece of vocal, guitar, bass, keyboard and drums knocked out a tight pop/rock sound. Highly competent and proficient musicians with some clever songs. The return of the Loud Hailer in rock is to be erm, hailed loudly!

Nottinghams Story One started their act as singer/violinist and guitar only. At first we though the singer was Kelly Jones both in the voice and face. When the drummer and bass joined it became apparent this violin-led four piece had been playing together a while and it came as no surprise to hear they’d played Glasgow the night before and had gigs for the rest of the week. Young and committed (but not in a looney way) they could appeal to Keane fans who want to hear violin rather than keyboard- so basically if you like your rock with a bit of a fiddle (oh er misses!) this lot could be your cup of tea..

UK Americana style singer/songwriter Peter Brucknell (billed as Brutenell!) rambled on stage to say “These lights are so bright there could be hundreds of you out there”, unfortunately this was far from the truth. Swapping between two acoustic guitars and the occasional blast on the harmonica, Peter played a selection from his last two albums intersected with insight into the background of a few. One Drink Away, By Time My Head Gets To Phoenix and Here Come the Swells were well received by the small but enthusiastic crowd. New songs Little Lorelei and title of new album Ghost in the Spitfire showed the quality of his workmanship both his guitar playing and vocal delivery (similar to Joe Pernice) were top notch. His tale of a failed and drunken songwriting trip to Cornwall that only recently spawned the Tin Streamers Song was an entertaining sidestep from the music. Taking time mid-set to find that Liverpool had won the UEFA cup, Spurs supporter Brucknell made an attempt to play You’ll Never Walk Alone in tribute. Confessing he’d never played it before, it was abandoned despite some pretty good supporting harmonies from most of the audience. His final song was the magnificent Handful of Stars (having also abandoned a cover of The Smiths -  Reel Around the Fountain after two chords!).
Another pleasant night out for those who bothered. For anyone who bemoans the lack of live music in South Wales and watched the football, maybe you should have set the video after all?


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