Field Music and Music Measurement in Leeds More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Friday, February 26th, 2010

Field Music at The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

I once stood next to Field Music man Peter Brewis as we crossed the road at the traffic lights near Jesmond Metro Station in Newcastle. He is a short man and has a haircut which is never going to be described as fashionable. On and off stage he looks - well - not very cool.

He takes to the stage with brother David and two ancillary members and looks little different as the band skip through a catalogue of six years that culminates in the critically lauded Field Music (Measure) album. A band matured, a band who have had time to create something

Field Music at the Brudenel Social Club in Leeds is a busy night populated by a crowd a good ten years older than last week's North Eastern invasion. There is talk in the air about the achievement that is Field Music (Measure) and how organic the growth that came via two side projects - a School of Language is played tonight - and a spell in hiatus.

Perhaps it is the distinct lack of the kind of cool that record companies are so quick to pick up and drop that has allowed Field Music to craft their indie prog rock narratives. Songs like A House Is Not A Home are long standing in the canon of work and show the promise delivered with the likes of Them That Do Nothing.

At times the evening's fair starts to sound a little too similar - the band are guilty of taking the same tune out a few times as one might suspect from an outfit who have released a double album in these days of downloads - but everything on Seamonsters sounds the same and more than one of people here would sight that as an album of quality.

A thoughtful band given time to grow and bloom, to measure only to themselves.

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Little Comets ask if we really need The Geordie Nation playing Graceland? More

Club NME Specials Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Friday, February 19th, 2010

Little Comets, The Chapman Family and Frankie and the Heartstrings Club NME Specials at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

A few years ago I was in a round table discussion over the new bands of a year that promised Vampire Weekend which someone described as "The Strokes playing Graceland". On hearing the preppy New Yorkers I remarked that they sounded more like Paul Simon playing Graceland and the debate moved onto the way that the beloved NME had a habit of describing bands in reference to other bands conjoined with a few outlandish phrases.

"Debbie Harry punching 10CC in the face with a knuckle duster that was previously used on Led Zep" is great to read but says nothing. Such is the problem with talking about music. One needs references but references pigeon hole and that is far too restrictive for something as sprawled as tunesmithery.

Nevertheless watching NME's wandering night of bands and see Newcastle four piece Little Comets one is forced to ask if we really need The Geordie Nation playing Graceland. Which is not to say that Little Comets are over reliant on the bunch of World Music clichés which have come to be summed up by the word Graceland in the last few years just that the 1986 album would feature in some musical Venn diagram of their output.

So, I speculate, would many other things. They have the regulation indie influences that come strapped to an electric guitar on purchase for sure - a dash of The Libertines colours everything since - but they add to it is smart pop sensibility constructing nice three minute pop songs in a traditional manner. Perhaps that goes through a prism of a circuit in the North East which is rich with esoteric acts and high on narrative drama.

Joanna is the most obviously comparable tune but it is own way the song plays with those comparisons name checking with a knowingness. Do we need a bunch of Geordies playing Graceland? Certainly we do, especially when thrown into such an interesting mix that produces such an enjoyable broth. They are like Sting being force fed mushy peas by Tony Lacey while Diana Ross plays tennis, or something.

One Night In October lives long in the memory and Little Comets one regards a band worthy your attention I would say, and certainly commanding of mine.

Worth someone else's attention are The Chapman Family who strike the right notes for some but not for me. They are a touch on the heavier side although there style varies to a lighter shade at some points during the set. At times drop into a pastiche of Ian Curtis vocals which is a shame. Perhaps they are Joy Division weeping when listening to The Who while queueing for toilet at Guy Garvey's bar. Certainly Guy Garvey's bar's toilets are enough to reduce anyone to tears.

The bassist does mean things to a guitar but the singer should avoid wrapping the mic lead around his neck, it left a curious taste it the mouth. The kids are into them enough for me to say that they are ticking many boxes for many people.

Ticking other boxes are Frankie and the Heartstrings who plough the same furrow as Wild Beasts (...while being licked by Ross from The Futureheads who is drinking Sherry from a bottle he stole from Angela Lansbury) or The Sugars and in the song Hunger they have one of the catchiest things that could buzz into your head. They make a good account of themselves and fill the stage with a confident energy. They have growing to do as a band - perhaps like The Crookes need to they will find they grow away from such obvious rockabilly referencing - but should they expand in the right directions they could be very interesting indeed.

She Keeps Someone’s Bees More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Thursday, February 4th, 2010

She Keeps Bees at Nation of Shopkeepers, Leeds

A curious thing She Keeps Bees and one which takes some getting used to as they scream clearly and singularly of references to PJ Harvey.

Which is not to criticise Jessica Larrabee's vocals - far from it - or Andy LaPlant's backing but rather to have a scratch of the head as to what direction the band will go in having completed a set of songs which could sit on Rid of Me. They are entertaining for sure but for all the throbbed electric guitar, stripped down percussion and raw vocal the effect is strangely cold.

Like a faked Mona Lisa one is impressed by the technique to achieve it but some how not by the thing itself. All of which risks dismissing She Keeps Bees as if they were a tribute act - they are not - but for this reviewer they trod a path frequently taken before, and I was done with that.

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs. No, No Experience More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Monday, November 30th, 2009

Yeah Yeah Yeahs at O2 Academy, Leeds

In front concentric circles Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs - looking like a Queen Jawa in a hooded robe - spins and bends her vocal to screams of appreciation but I am not amused.

A large eye looks down over the three New Yorkers (and one extra) and the assembled in front of them but I am far from entertained.

The band could be brilliant - certainly they seem to be entertaining from the screen of one of the many cameras held up which provides a snatched view of the stage - but there is something between me and them. Some barrier to my enjoyment.

It is two cussing huge men standing annoyingly ahead of me. I'm pushing six foot three and two cussing tall people are ahead of me.

I try shuffle left or right to get a better view but my feet are welded to the floor. I hear over the sound of Maps my own foot pulling away from a sticky floor as I move trying to get a view. A plastic glass arcs from the upper tier of the venue, the fourth I have counted as I begin to fume. I get an enthused text from a mate at the front and look it with a jealousness. Why didn't I get in early, I might not be this annoyed.

Bit by bit this situation plays through my mind. A third tall person pushes past - there is a constant stream of people pushing past trying to get a better view only to stop in front of me having found a solid fullness in front - and he stops. For a moment my hands tense up, I realise I'm not going to enjoy this evening.

It plays through my mind and I recall a "disagreement" with a League Two football club (who I am not allowed to mention for legal reasons) about paying £20 to be crammed into a stand by stewards who were more about forcing people into areas than about looking after safety, or experience. That night some of my mates were told that they could not sit down and had to stand in the walkways. £20 to stand in a walkway to watch League Two football. Tonight was £20.

There is no sloped floor though inside this bare, hollow "music processing facility" as there is in the Manchester Apollo and so it is inevitable that some people will get substandard views when events sell out. There is no attempt to manage the flow of the audience around the venue so people try push to the front and stop leading to the constant battle just to stand an see the stage. This is a Leeds thing though, a city where people's level of entitlement ramps to unprecedented levels, and there is no camaraderie.

Neither is there any serious attempt to stop plastic glasses flying around or at least if there is it failed miserably and has done on each of the five times I've been to this venue this year. Is this something that I should just go with as part of the fun of gigging? Some people don't think so.

On the way in one of the doormen/stewards/men in yellow jackets address another calling those coming in to the venue "Puters". Comedians, bookmakers and prostitutes call their customers "puters". Are we a joke, getting ripped off or just being fucked? Perhaps all three.

I can more afford £20 a gig now than I ever have done in my life I'm less inclined to pay it. Yes, I'm getting old although looking around "the kids" are in a minority - perhaps they spend their money more wisely or maybe they just can't afford it - but wanting to be able to have a decent chance of seeing, not getting hit by a flying glass, getting covered in beer, getting push constantly through the night. These are not unreasonable requests. Certainly they are possible at The Apollo, at The Brudenell Social Club, at St George's Hall in Bradford, at Brewery Arts in Kendal, at Town Hall in New York, at Holmfirth Picture House and at none of those places am I asked for so much money for so little service.

I'm not recalling some halcyon days of gigging though - I'm not suggesting that things were better watching The Wedding Present in '88, Happy Mondays in '92, Pulp in '96, The White Stripes in 2000 or The Radio Dept. in '04 or Laura Groves in '08 - nor am I saying that gigs should be staid, lifeless affairs where no contact is made between audience members. This is not about that.

This is about a venue that takes as much as it can from your pocket and offers as little as possible back in return. It is about a venue that once you have had your ticket ripped on the way in could not give a flying cuss about the experience you have.

£20 a person. Is it too much to ask that someone runs a mop over the floor?

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When you think you have seen it all, Morrissey More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Morrissey at O2 Academy, Leeds

On playing Ganglord Steven Morrissey muses to his audience which ages with him and muses "I smell the lowest chart position of my career, unless..."

Hand clenched put pointed upwards his eyes rise and his band of checked shirted boys strike up Cemetery Gates.

He refers to Swindon and the first night of this tour which ended within minutes of the opening refrains of This Charming Man - Morrissey has started The Smiths revival without Johnny Marr and is right to do so arrowing the phrase "Punctured bicycle on a hillside, desolate" across the room he reminds all that while Marr and his union was beautiful no one liked or loathed the definitive band of the eighties because of the noodlings from Marr's guitar.

Morrissey spent an evening in a Wiltshire hospital with breathing difficulties and tonight - four days later - his skin as a waxy, ill look about it in comparison to the gleaming, tanned Steven who returned to his homeland in 2004 with album You Are The Quarry and a set of gigs that saw the man tanned, robust, powerful and epitomised by the snarl of Irish Blood, English Heart which crisply played tonight.

He commands though This Charming Man and races into his newer work setting a tone for the evening in which he enjoys his current album unsettling all with the odd gem of his past. From The Smiths canon emerge unexpectedly Is It Really So Strange?, How Soon Is Now? and - in a seething awe - Nowhere Fast the live performance tonight of does justice to its status as one of the best tracks on the best album by one of the best bands to have made a noise.

Nowhere Fast sits well along Morrissey and his men's blues tinged slap bass current efforts the performance ends with Morrissey at the rear of the dark stage picked out by spotlight in a swirl of haze and bassist Soloman Walker thumping out the end of I'm OK By Myself taking the last bow of the evening, the solid figure of the iconic front man silhouetted behind him before the raucous return and end with First of the Gang to Die.

There is awe, even in the reasonably minded there is awe, but that is not what the evening will be recalled for. Thirty minutes in and the now fifty year old man bombastically treads the stage teasing his devotees with the chance to speak into his microphone. "Do you want to say something?" he asks down to the front row and - as he has many times - bends down to offer and withdraw.

Frozen in time though someone speaks clearly to the singer - to his idol - to this icon and softly he says tells the singer that he is looking well, and that he is sounding good, and that he should - please - look after himself.

The singer moves backwards and his face is near indescribable. His eyes bleed forward tenderly and he might mouth or say "Thank you" because at fifty after a lifetime of leading this near army of devotees and followers though his teasing and tantrums and his affection and rejection Morrissey - for a second - is subject to his supporters.

His eyes show a powerlessness, for a second only, and a dedication as if he could form the words he would thank the world for allowing him his part of it. For a second only and after what would seem to be the scare of his life it seems that Morrissey is the young man again plucked by his bedroom and put on stage simultaneously seeking attention and painfully shy. The boy again, but for a second.

That, as he would sing, is how people grow up.

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