Allo Darlin’ and the End of Nostalgia More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Allo Darlin' at The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

It would take a stone heart to not warm to London/Aussie popsters Allo Darlin' who bash out a set on a Sunday night in Leeds splitting their set between their as yet unreleased second album Europe and their first album which could not be said to be inspired but does showcase the band's problems effectively.

Problems such as they are. The first album has been on my playlist since it's C86 inspired ditties floated in two years ago and the first four tracks on that album - all played tonight - could have been pulled off any good Sarah Record of the period. The Polaroid Song is typical setting the end of a film stock against the passing of part of life, and off the innocence that comes with that.

Nostalgia leads to ghettoes though and while the band are sensible to stack their set with well known tracks to finish the early set shows a band changing and maturing. More bittersweet the album Europe more readily references the likes of Camera Obscura than it does The Field Mice or Even As We Speak.

The four piece play those song nervously, unsure perhaps of how the band will change from sweet memories to a more painful, more grounded reality.

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Clap Your Hands Stay Warm More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Monday, January 30th, 2012

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah at The Cockpit, Leeds

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are a spirited bunch but in the half full main room of The Cockpit at one point one can see the curling mist of breath coming from the audience. Coats are on, there is room to swing, and it is distinctly chilly.

The band, oft talked of of having listened to a few too many Talking Heads circa 1986 records, are an interesting proposition. The early songs - crowd pleasing and coming towards the end of the meaty set - focus on the kind of deliberate quirk which Talking Head point to while newer work is more rough and ready and perhaps better for it. Alec Ounsworth's staccato vocal style of five years ago when the band first broke has been replaced by something more powerful and more able. He hits notes, guitars fuzz, it feels more real.

Which suggests a band in transition. Going from what made them known to something they are feeling out the edges of. Perhaps this accounts for the relatively Spartan audience showing. The tenancy for old favourites to dominate is common in most gigs but, when styles change and some are left behind, the effect can be on of dilution.

Not that that should deter band or audience. The newer work has an edge which is interesting, 4AD like if I were looking for comparisons, and more demanding. A shame then that it did not demand a bigger audience.

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Let Him Be, McCartney plays Manchester More

Live Review

Written By Jon Maher Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Paul McCartney at M.E.N. Arena, Manchester

OK, I’ll level with you. I love Paul McCartney.

I love it when he sticks his thumb in the air. I love it twice as much when he sticks two thumbs in the air. I know there are those that don’t. They think he’s silly.

It will be interesting to see the bent that history affords him once he does leave us. The true genius of the Beatles, the innovator, the psychedelic sonic architect? Or remain just the sidekick of an angry-yet-empowering, peace-mongering poet-come-Martyr, who thought it might be, maybe, kinda cool if we all gave up meat?

This is the sort of thing I think about. And, to be honest, it doesn’t really matter one jot. His true legacy is his songs, and, as tonight proves, his songs are the best.

A giant screen or three projects a Höffner bass made from stars, the lights dim and people cheer. Loudly.

Now, I’m not one for giddiness but I am genuinely overcome as I realise that the little dot at the other end of the Manchester Arena is a Beatle. A real Beatle. My guest for the evening, my Mum, is transported back to the Bradford Gaumont, December 1963. It’s a moment. Silence ye cynics.

Countless moments follow, as Macca expertly picks from Beatles, Wings, The Fireman, and solo material, even throwing in Come And Get It, the 1969 hit he penned for Badfinger.

His defiant reclamation of Live And Let Die from Axl Rose and his cronies, with staggering indoor pyrotechnics, his thundering Maybe I’m Amazed, the majestic Long and Winding Road, and his perfect rendition of Yesterday which takes one and all back to Royal Variety performances of yore. Us in the cheap seats rattle our iPhones.

Oddly though, it’s a George Harrison song that pushes me over the edge. Now if you ask me, or Frank Sinatra, Something is indeed the greatest love song ever written. The blossoming version Macca delivers unfolds delicately from ukulele to full band with four-part harmonies. It is transcendental. Consider this spine well and truly tingled. And eyes moistened.

Now, it wouldn’t be Macca without a bit of that old cheese of course. A kid’s choir helps us all sing A Wonderful Christmas Time as the fake snow falls on the front rows. People are selected from the audience to join him on stage for a chat and hug. But as the cynics arm their pens, it’s worth remembering this isn’t a man fighting the wrongs of the Vietnam war, this is a man who wants to show us the transfer sticker tattoos his grandchildren gave him earlier in the day. Let him Be.

After the set-piece sing-along of sing-alongs Hey Jude leads us into an encore or two, there is one final moment for me, as Abe Jnr on drums powers the incredible band through Helter Skelter. Bucket List item #27 = ticked.

The fact that Macca chooses to include and deliver this near the end of three hour set is further proof that, despite approaching 70, there is no sign visible or audible to me that he wont continue for a 1,000 years at least.

And as Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End brings the night to a fitting close, Macca says he’ll see us next time.

And I respond with a big double thumbs up.

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The Lemonheads and not being able to recreate More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

The Lemonheads at The Ritz, Manchester

The retrospective gig, which The Lemonheads at the fine Ritz in Manchester ostensibly is, assumes that the album work being celebrated is not only worthy of such devotion but will also stand up to the scrutiny placed on it.

Tonight the album some souls unimpressed at Seattle call early 90s America's finest (half) hour It's a Shame About Ray gets played in its entirety by a laconic Evan Dando.
Time has been graceful to Dando but not passed him over. His surfer/slacker looks are worn in, his mannerisms well practiced. He adjusts amp and levels between songs with an edge to perfectionism not in keeping with his image.

Dando start the show strumming solo before plunging into the album being celebrated with bassist and drummer. The pace is unrelenting.

The album stands up well being payed over more franticly live than memory of mellowed out listening suggests it would be. As an album It's A Shame About Ray captured stories - generally thought to be biographical - of a crossroads in a person's life. It tells of a turning that leads to a narcotic haze, another away from that and any number of compensation that come in companionship.

Dando pours an quart of his soul into the encapsulation of that that is My Drug Buddy. At times I've listened to Ray - and I'm no one's drug buddy and never have been - but heard challenging questions about if it is right to leave behind someone in the interests of improvement or do you owe it to that person to battle on together. I think of people I've known and shared things with but never see again. I think of The Beatles In My Life.

No Mrs Robinson, never a part of the album just a cd bonus track, but after Ray is done and the band work through some entertaining numbers from around their still continuing career it is contextualised in the same way Bridge Over Troubled Waters came at the moment Simon and Garfunkle's reached its shattering summit.

All albums capture a time for the audience which passes too quickly, not all do for bands who are required to live with their work and see it bleed back and forth unto other work. Ray though is an album of friction from a decision now resolved.

Live the album can be repeated, one doubts it could be recreated.

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Morrissey the Reminder More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Morrissey at St George's Hall, Bradford

It is said that Morrissey's set at Glastonbury did not raise much of a note against the back drop of Beyonce but tonight Steven is on familiar ground.

Playing to an audience mostly advancing in years it might be seventeen years since the one time The Smiths front man was hosted in thus venue or this city but should he cast his eye over the faces that yodel back at the singer must feel on familiar ground.

Morrissey knows his audience and plays appropriately. Six The Smith tracks and a smattering of his modern stomp alongs are raucously received. The lighter moments of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out float over the heads of the beer guzzling sort who sing football songs between tracks.

It's difficult to recall sometimes just how insanely important The Smiths songs seemed on a personal level. They were Zeitgeist, they moved the person you were, informed the person you wanted to be.

Perhaps the gang mentality that weaves through of Morrissey's songs - and is seen in his backing band - attract the sort of element which missed that formative isolation which many years ago the Mancunian singer seemed to be all about avoiding. Morrissey is all about gangs, and leading them, and to illustrate that while he shimmers in a purple shirt the six men behind him dress identically in t-shirt emblazoned with the words Fuck Fur.

Morrissey is at his most effective when cast as the outcast leader. I Want The One I Can't Have still crackles with anti-authoritarianism and there is a stunned silence to the images of slaughter and animal cruelty projected behind Meat Is Murder.

It is there that Morrissey has risen to his full height as the reminder. The tap on the back or hand on the shoulder that recalls a person changed by time, and age, but who had nurtured dreams of something else.

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