Saturday 29 June 2013

Goat and Teeth of the Sea at Electric Ballroom - 27 June 2013

a Goat, yesterday.

I have some reservations ahead of tonight's gig. I'm not convinced that I'm going to enjoy it. I suspect it's because I'm wary of bands that are predominantly instrumental - I've seen way too many acts that nurdle away to themselves and gradually disappear up their own bumholes, oblivious as to whether they have an audience in front of them or not.

I'm also sure that I have seen tonight's support band, Teeth of the Sea, before, probably in one of their very earliest incarnations. What I AM sure about is that they are terrific this evening.

The band stand in a line at the front of the stage. They are past the first flush of youth and are challenging the onslaught of male-pattern baldness with a remarkable array of tonsorial techniques ranging from shave and dye, to distraction by means of outrageous moustache, to comb it all back and stick it up like a cockatoo.

Teeth of the Sea bring the fun. Rhythms are pounded on a small drumkit while the groove is picked up by a battery of keyboards. Stage right, a guitarist poses shamelessly with a Flying -V, sporting an ancient T shirt favouring ancient hair metallers Vinnie Vincent's Invasion.

It's all racketingly good. The band have a sense of the theatrical and the absurd and deliver a fine set of electronic dance with that glam rock beat.

We're off to a very fine start.

Goat hail from Sweden and have been gathering buzz since the release of their debut album 'World Music' late last year. There are such positive vibes about their stage shows that tonight's gig (only their second in the UK) has been moved to the Electric Ballroom from the Scala after excessive ticket demand.

What follows is pretty much indescribable…I just get blown away…

…a non-stop whirling orgy of psychedelic tribal drumming, insane rock, voodoo, robes, ju-ju, massive riffs, tribal masks, diamante knickers, hair flying, whooping, frenzied dancing, hand bells, ululation,  GOAT!……

..hypnotic groove dance jive, Egyptian imagery, arabian nights (at their primitive best), harem pants, seismic basslines, riotous colours, twins dancing dancing dancing ,  GOAT! GOAT!

,synchronised screaming, krautrock, glam rock, Ayers rock, mystery and mysticism, excitement, ectoplasm, exertion , passion, possession, afro beat, aphrodisiac, dizzy miss lizzy freak out freak out GOAT! GOAT!! GOAT!!!!

When the band leaves the stage you feel as though you have just been dumped in a field by a tornado. Everyone around you stands wide eyed and stunned.

Goat are an astonishing, almost religious cargo-cult of a band. Bloody hell!


Wednesday 26 June 2013

Sky Ferreira at H & M Oxford Street - 25 June 2013

Sky Ferreira

It seems like a bad idea. Sky Ferreira is playing an invitation only gig at H&M in Oxford Street.

So this is why I'm standing in a queue of excited teenagers that snakes round the building, drawing queries from passersby and muttering from folk who are trying to use the nearby bus stop. It's not really a crowd that I can easily blend in with, so I adopt the demeanour of a taciturn Russian minder.

There's an awkward moment upon entering the store when I have to squeeze into a tightly packed lift. It's so cramped that if I breathe out, we're gonna get trapped between floors.

Upstairs we are shown into an area teaming with excited youth. There's a sign that says "Try it on!" I decide that I'd better not.

We are eventually stacked like kindling in a small space delineated by curtains. We are facing a huge neon sign. It reads…'Fitting Room'.

One of the first lessons learned in rock school is 'make 'em wait'. And wait we do in our sardine state for nearly half an hour after Sky's purported stage time.

Then Sky appears and all discontent and doubts about this evening disappear.

She's a genuine pop star. While between songs she is all nerves and giggles, when the music starts she is all business.

I saw her earlier this year at Madame Jo Jo's and was impressed on that occasion. Tonight I'm even more so.

Unlike many young pop stars, there is no sense of sticking to a rigid or safe formula. The tunes vary from rock numbers, to emotional ballads, to dancey pop. Sky is able to nail them all with aplomb. And make you care while she's doing so.

To my unaccustomed ears, the best track tonight is a brand new one called 'On Top'. It's got a rumbling rocky churn to it and it builds in intensity and repetition as it goes on.

Huge ballad '24 Hours' elicits squeals from the young crowd and camera phones are held aloft (yes, even more than usual) during a climactic rendition of 'Everything is Embarrassing'.

We troop out through the store in polite order and are given a goodie bag containing a T shirt and other odds and ends which I'll have to find a good home for.

It's been an unorthodox but very enjoyable evening. Sky’s the limit. 

Monday 24 June 2013

The Virgins and Gentlemen at The Old Blue Last - 20 June 2013

The Virgins

The ladies are in the audience. Gentlemen are on the stage. At this early part of the evening the ladies are few in number whereas Gentlemen are the extremely difficult to Google support band.

These guys are long, slim and handsome in bright, tight-fitting shirts, skinny trousers and big hair. These guys are rockers.

They play an easy on the air psychedelic rock music and go down well in the room. It's a shame that more people didn't come up the stairs to see them, because they fit in very comfortably with the vibe of tonight's headliners.

By the time The Virgins arrive, the room is packed. It's really hot in here, a marked contrast to the first time that I saw the band on a minus eleven February day in New York in 2007.

It's been a while since the band have visited these shores yet welcome familiarity floods back as soon as genial front man Donald Cumming starts speaking. His is one of the more distinctive voices in all of rock, an amused and genteel adenoidal tone.

To untrained UK ears bands from the US sound…American. But The Virgins hail from New York and sound like that city, unmistakeably, through and through.

The band are promoting their new album 'Strike Gently' and it continues where their self-titled debut left off. And like that previous record, it is targeted like a missile at the love parts of every woman in the room.

The Virgins can make women dance like no rock band that I've ever seen. Donald calls out to them, praises them, winks and smiles. It's genuine and warm and not bogus or creepy. The band's music is a loping guitar and bass heavy funk that bumps and grinds against your hips, gives you a little nudge and invites you to dance.

As the new album has not yet really landed in the UK, it is the older songs that get the biggest response. Incredibly the audience sing along with their favourites in their entirety. 'Rich Girls' becomes a happy communal chant with the throng singing not just the chorus, but the verses and the off-the-cuff vocal asides too. This is real worship and affection.

I shuffle and groove with the best of them. I see a couple of lads try and hit on a pair of young women gyrating in front of me. They get rebuffed, but everyone is smiling, no harm, no foul.

The evening comes to a rather abrupt end dead on 10.30. It seems to catch everyone by surprise, including the band. 

The Virgins are a safe bet, a home run, a cast iron guarantee. You'll have a good time - and ladies will dance.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Siouxsie and Viv Albertine at Royal Festival Hall - 17 June 2013

Siouxsie (obviously)

Viv Albertine is golden and gorgeous as she takes the stage of the Royal Festival Hall as part of Yoko Ono's Meltdown Festival.

Looking for all the world like a gleefully beaming mumsy gladiatrix in a shimmering metallic dress, the former Slit leads her five piece band through a set that is a deft mix of punky noise, sweeping strings and familial concerns.

Viv acknowledges the passing of time since her eventful youth and jokes that her song 'Needles' might previously have been written about heroin, but is actually an account of her (successful) IVF treatment.

She's moved from 'Typical Girl' to everyday mother. Another song is entitled 'Life's too Short to be Shy'. Viv Albertine completely embodies this sentiment. Good on her.

Siouxsie Sioux has been absent from the stage for the past five years or so and it is a coup for Yoko that she makes her return with a couple of shows here on the Southbank.

The set design is striking- a wall of huge metal blinds and bright light beams that creates an antiseptic, hospital atmosphere. When Siouxsie appears there is an audible gasp followed by wild cheers.

From my lofty perch up in a balcony I can see a heaving rush of bodies crashing over the seats below, forming a pyramid of devotion as the fans pile on top of each other at the foot of the stage. It's exactly like this striking image from World War Z.

Siouxsie is dressed in a skin tight white latex gown, her hair hanging long and black and straight. It's an image directly referencing Japanese horror. Gone is the Victorian lace or coloured scarves of previous incarnations - this version of Siouxsie is dominant and cruel and not in the mood for softness or subtlety.

She starts with 'Happy House'. Her band is brutally loud and battering. For the rest of the night they will hammer us into submission. Siouxsie's voice is perhaps a note lower than previously and there are occasional signs that she can't quite control her breath in way that she used to, although this becomes less noticeable once she warms up.

Siouxsie is a formidable presence. She strides around, high kicking like a Russian soldier or else twirling and shimmering like a belly dancer, her arms weaving mystical patterns in the air.

She rips off the robe to reveal a clinging white latex cat-suit. It's a costume that only the very bravest would even attempt to wear, let alone carry off as triumphantly as this.

The crowd are in a febrile frenzy and Siouxsie playfully growls at them for thrusting gifts and flowers towards her during one of the relatively quieter numbers. They love her for it and they love the music – tonight’s set is very heavy on tracks from the Banshees’ third album ‘Kaleidoscope’.

The second half of the show starts with 'Israel' and the roof pretty much comes off the building. This is followed by a crunching version of 'Arabian Knights' which Siouxsie admits herself is demanding to perform.

It's a devastating, deafening show and an uncompromising performance. As the band leaves following an industrial 'Spellbound' my senses are spinning and my ears are ringing like gongs.

A literally breathtaking show.