Chapman Family live review

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Distinct lack of proper updates on here recently so sorry for that, but here’s a live review of The Chapman Family live in Manchester last week.

It’s for Trisickle magazine and there will also be a feature in the new issue.

Clicky clicky linky linky.


It’s not all rock and roll…

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In the interests of fairness and balance, here are a couple of pop pieces I wrote for Entertainment Manchester.

Craig David @ The Lowry, Salford Quays – 16 June 08

Craig David was unlucky. He really was. Leigh Francis (aka rubber-faced Avid Merrion) could have picked just about anyone to destroy the career of, but it was Southampton born David that he chose to portray as a bedwetting Northerner for no apparent reason, other than that “Bo selecta!” made a good catchphrase.

He also memorably won no BRIT awards one year despite being nominated for multiple categories. David is only just recovering from both setbacks. He was unfairly made the laughing stock of the nation, but now he is beginning to fight back, putting on a fine show to prove the doubters wrong, although admittedly his audience comprised mainly of teenagers and drunk women.

Supporting tonight are five-piece Mamas Gun. They play a thoroughly enjoyable half-hour of funky jazz and in singer Andy Platts have a man with charisma in buckets. They are the sort of band you could see doing very well on a talent show like the X Factor, and I mean that as a compliment. They need to make more of their upbeat material and less of the slower, less musically interesting numbers if they are to progress, however.

Technical issues delay David’s arrival onstage, with his band (almost double figures of them) standing around waiting uncomfortably for him for two or three minutes. But the eventual effect is dazzling, an already well up-for-it crowd go wild when David emerges and launches straight into recent single ‘Hot Stuff (Let’s Dance)’.

David strives to control the set’s pace throughout, mixing the ballads into the set well, but there are often problems when his backing musicians are needed to slow or speed up the music immediately, with a muddying of the sound quite frequent.

His main problem is that he can’t decide who he wants to be. He comes out wearing an ice-white jacket and sunglasses, looking like a poor man’s Kanye West (a comparison also apt for when David attempts rapping), before ditching the shades to come across as more of a boy-next-door type. Which is difficult when most of his songs are about bedding members of the fairer sex.

David’s soulful voice is far better suited to the slower numbers where he has the chance to show off his vocal range, but the fact remains that the material he is working with is weak. Next single ‘Officially Yours’ is a prime example, offering nothing of substance to the listener.

However, the buzzing crowd reacts far better to David’s more up-tempo tracks, with plenty of dancing in the aisles taking place despite the stewards’ frowns. David’s voice is lost in the mix when his delivery speeds up though. The brass section also adds an unnecessary and distasteful Mark Ronson-esque tinge to otherwise soundly delivered songs.

It was not all bad at all though. David has grown into a master of working the crowd, and did an excellent job of making sure everyone was enjoying themselves. He’s also got a raft of pretty listenable songs behind him, although he’ll always be better known for his earlier work, with ‘7 Days’ and ‘Walking Away’ receiving by far the biggest cheers of the night.

Sadly, the quality of his output is reflected in recent chart placings. Long gone is the young star who twice topped the British singles charts, replaced with a confidence-shy man who appears lost over what direction to take now. David was heralded as the saviour of R ‘n’ B in this country and it hasn’t at all gone according to plan. But he is back on the right track. His next album, his fifth, will surely make or break him, his current generation of fans will surely soon grow tired of him and he will need a fresh trick to attract new listeners. But on this showing, he still has the talent to make something of himself yet.

3 stars

Craig David gave a nostalgic performance, as Salford remembered in patches why he was at one point so highly rated.

The Feeling – Manchester Academy 2 – Monday 5th June ’07

Before I begin, let me tell you everything I knew about The Feeling before I saw them live. They have had quite a catchy single. That’s it. I was informed by my companion that they’re very mellow, nice and gentle. Bit like Snow Patrol. Right…

Well, he was wrong. Maybe their live show is deliberately beefed up. Maybe the incredibly noisy, fantastic, foot-stomping rock and roll from support band Marner Brown (who, incidentally, have brilliant shoes) just made The Feeling seem a bit heavier. I don’t know, but mellow this wasn’t.

The Feeling’s album, “Twelve Stops From Home” had only come out that day, but that didn’t stop an alarming number of fans appearing to know most of the words. Indeed, I was positioned next to two Feeling uber fans, who not only knew all of the words to all of the songs, including lone newie “Join With Us”, but had also appeared to have devised their own dance routines. Which was odd. But an indication of how easy it is to love this band.

I had heard that The Feeling were an unfashionable band to like, and this was backed up by the surprising amount of, shall we say, older fans among the crowd. That said, it was a good turnout, the band practically filling Academy 2 despite an upgrade of venue from Academy 3. However, I couldn’t see why they’d earned this reputation, I mean, sure, they wear their love of 70’s pop-rock obviously enough on their sleeve, and look like maths teachers rather than rock stars, but they’re still cool, right? Well, I think so.

Definitely cool is lead singer Dan Gillespie Sells, who resembles Editors frontman Tom Smith in looks. Wheeling around in a circle, hammering his foot up and down, all the while pulling off ridiculous guitar solos, you want to laugh at him, but you’re just too busy going “Wooooooah….”

The band throw away recent hit “Fill My Little World” early on, but it pays off, with the crowd becoming much more animated as a result. Another highlight is the gorgeous “Rose”, which Sells proclaims to be about love and alcohol. Good combination.

The bouncy “Same Old Stuff” comes next, closely followed by the band’s anthem, “Sewn”, which prompts a mass singalong, along with much waving of arms and lighters. It’s a beautiful moment, but as touching and heartfelt as the song is, you can’t help but feel it’s missing something. Something you can’t put your finger on. Something that would propel The Feeling to superstardom, if only they had it. The “Run” factor. It’s simply lacking, and it’s a real shame. Even if it is perhaps only a repeat of the chorus at the end for the crowd to sing.

“Sewn” is really the peak of the evening, although “Join With Us” is very promising, if a little too similar to the material taken from the album. It’s difficult to see where the band can go next.

The Feeling close with “Love It When You Call” prompting another singalong to the basic lyrics. It’s all good clean fun. Bit of a guilty pleasure really. They then encore with “Blue Piccadilly”, a gentle number that doesn’t exactly give you that superb end-of-gig rush. It’s a shame they didn’t save “Sewn” for the end really, or play it again, because that would have given the evening the end it deserved.

So, what did I learn? I learnt not to listen to my mate’s description of bands, and I learnt that I actually quite like “great big no-nonsense, hook-filled, giant-chorused pop music” – as The Feeling describe themselves on their website. I learnt that The Feeling are unlikely to be huge, but that they’re a great summer band. I learnt that they’re actually quite like Delays, which is no bad thing.

Finally, if The Feeling’s drummer Paul Stewart did anything exciting I didn’t see it, due to where I was stood. Sorry about that…


And yes, I am ashamed at giving The Feeling a good review. But I enjoyed it!

Latitude 2007 review: Intro

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Again, this was originally published on the now dead 21st Century Music site.

Latitude is a bit like Glastonbury. Except there’s no mud. And no rain. And you can walk around easily from stage to stage in minutes. Except the line-up hasn’t descended into a mostly indie-rock snorefest like most other festivals. And you can get out of the site at the end in just a few minutes. And best of all, there’s no rain or mud. However, it is exceedingly posh, full of families with their incredibly middle-class art school kids who are probably just dying to see Kate Nash. I feel hugely out of place. But still, determined to have a good time I soldier on, looking forward to the exciting prospect of Arcade Fire closing the festival.

Latitude 2007 review: Friday

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Opening up the Huw Stephens curated Lake Stage are nice Welsh boyos Threatmantics, who are interesting at best and a horrible mess at worst. Singer Heddwyn Davies’ ability to play viola and sing at the same time is certainly striking, though.

Thankfully the Obelisk arena openers are far more noteworthy. Danish five-piece The Kissaway Trail play glorious, harmonious pop songs many of the festival’s acts would kill to have in their set. Expect big things from them.

Up next are Hot Club De Paris, who sound like a Scouse version of The Futureheads. Their anthem Sometimesitsbetternottostickbitsofeachotherineachotherforeachother is the first great song of the festival and their banter is also hilarious.

A first trip to the Uncut arena follows to catch the end of the truly magnificent Fields. The anglo-icelanders are band of the day with their life-affirming emotional building soundscapes. Maps are next and are unfortunate they have to follow Fields, Latitude leaves their electro-rock en masse to catch Bill Bailey in the Comedy tent, who is recycling old material and just about getting away with it, because he’s a genius.

Aqualung follow, a band still most famous for having a song on a car advert years and years ago. And they’ve bizarrely gone rock for their new album, from which they plunder far too much material for a festival show. A disappointment. Matt Hales should stick to what he does best, beautiful, soaring ballads like the inexplicably absent Brighter Than Sunshine.

If Carlsberg did festival bands, they still probably wouldn’t be as perfectly suited as The Magic Numbers. Their solid set complete with a smattering of genuine modern pop classics sends middle-class Latitude uncharacteristically mental. This generation’s Beach Boys? Only time will tell.

The only genuine A-lister on today’s bill is tucked away on the Uncut stage, even below the abomination that is Air Traffic. He is Albert Hammond Jr and his concise pop-rock is tremendous. The Strokes’ loss is Latitude’s gain today.

Headlining the Lake stage tonight are nerdy types I Was A Cub Scout, who are completely overawed at the experience, despite playing to 1000 people maximum. They occasionally make a brilliant racket for just two people, but there is no flow as far too long is taken up between songs. A shame.

A surprise choice for a festival headliner, Damien Rice delivers an extraordinary performance. He is without his regular backing singer and also his regular drummer but he doesn’t let that bother him. In the past he’s looked uncomfortable in the spotlight but tonight he is happy enough, opening up alone on stage bathed in red light with three acoustic tracks, a brave start. The rest of the set veers from terrible to brilliant. He seems unable to finish a song at a suitable moment, choosing to spoil subtle songs with yowling and wailing into a horrendously overused distortion mic leaving the relatively small crowd baffled. But just as Rice is dying a slow painful death on stage he pulls it out of the bag, telling a lengthy story about a man’s chance meeting with a woman as introduction for an enthralling Cheers Darlin’. Rice has the audience in the palm of his hand for the first time, and follows that up by roping in The Magic Numbers for an excellent cover of Bob Dylan’s I Shall Be Released. A triumph then, eventually.

Latitude 2007 review: Saturday

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Saturday’s music line-up is not to my tastes, so the early afternoon is spent in the comedy tent and walking around aimlessly until The Hold Steady’s tea-time main stage slot. There’s something deeply rooted in my brain that tells me it’s wrong to like The Hold Steady because of their age. But like The Magic Numbers yesterday, they really encapsulate the mood of the festival, and despite myself, I enjoy their energetic set.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are quite similar sonically but lose out on points due to Alec Ounsworth’s whiny voice. The crowd are happy though, boosted by increased day-ticket punters, and many of them, including me, nip down to the Lake stage for a bit of Friendly Fires, the perfect warm-up for the world’s best party band, CSS. The band obviously believe in audience participation and above all else, having a good time, and they justify their surprisingly lofty perch on the bill with ease. Lovefoxx is as charming as ever with her three outfits and regular sojourns into the crowd. The climax is the now ubiquitous Let’s Make Love.. and Latitude nu-raves away deliriously.

Sometimes things just work perfectly at festivals, and I charge down the hill to catch the end of Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip’s headlining set on the Lake stage. I only see two songs, but they’re clearly on top of their game. The perfect pastiche of indiedom that is Thou Shalt Always Kill is tremendous live as is their new single, which closes their set.

The Good, The Bad & The Queen are not everyone’s idea of an ideal festival headliner. But there’s no denying the talent of Damon Albarn, the man with the Midas touch. Tonight GBQ are ethereal, haunting and simply marvellous. Their excellence is wasted on a bemused audience to be honest, who clearly don’t know or appreciate the songs. There are murmurings that Albarn should have played some Blur hits for the crowd, but this is a different band with a different sound. For a band to headline a festival to fifteen thousand people on the strength of one album is remarkable. However, Albarn is nothing if not a showman and he loves a challenge. Tonight his band are resplendent in top hats and clad all in black, even the string section. It all looks like something out of an old black-and-white film, and the music suits, transporting Latitude’s rolling Suffolk countryside to a London of old.

The day is rounded off superbly with a tentative trip to the Poetry tent to see some more of the talented Scroobius Pip. Daft name, amazing rhymes. Look up his poems, they are fantastic.

Latitude 2007 review: Sunday

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The Hoosiers open the main stage on Sunday and are shockingly bad. They’re so bad it rains. This is a blessing in disguise however, as everyone crams into the Uncut tent for Cherry Ghost. Playing melancholic Elbow-ish soft rock music journeyman Simon Aldred looks to have finally struck gold at the umpteenth time of asking. Mathematics sparkles alongside other classics in waiting. One of the weekend’s biggest success stories.

Andrew Bird is described in the programme notes as being capable of changing the landscape of American music. If that means we hear more of this guff they can keep it, thanks.

The National follow, starting up like a shouty Interpol but getting progressively more cheerful as the set goes on. The singer looks a bit like the gay bloke from Gimme Gimme Gimme too, which amuses me while they’re on. The National have always been a favourite of the critics, maybe new album Boxer will see them crack the mainstream at last.

Mr. Hopkinson’s Computer is a terrific idea. Basically, a computer sat on a chair plays out a backing track and bleepy vocals in a vaguely German accent. Great entertainment.

Charlotte Hatherley is drop-dead gorgeous. Now that my drooling and swooning is out of the way, I can’t help but notice her voice is a tad nasal, and lacking just a wee bit of vocal power to make a top class frontlady. She is however an axe goddess and must have been born with a guitar slung around her neck. One cannot blame her for chancing her arm at a solo career but the nagging doubt remains that Ash are better off with her in the band and she’s better off in Ash.

Cold War Kids disappoint me. Having worked really hard to get into their album Robbers and Cowards I find as a live act something important seems to be missing, maybe a shot of energy. Unless they buck up, they’ll be nearly men I’m afraid.

New York’s The Rapture are next with their disco-funk-rock (discunkock?). There’s no doubting the sheer impact and power of scene-changing House of Jealous Lovers but for the rest of their performance the phrases “one hit wonders” and “annoying shouty whiny voice” keep drifting irresistibly to the forefront of my mind.

But never fear, Jarvis is here! The elder statesman of Britpop is here to show these so-called cool kids how to put in a dramatic, energising performance. It’s pure theatre, and Mr. Cocker has not forgotten his way around a clever lyric and a pop hook from his old Pulp days. His chat between songs is always entertaining too. Jarvis closes with the self-explanatory political opus Cunts Are Still Running The World and, I shit you not, a classy rendition of Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger. You couldn’t make it up. Legend.

I would have loved to have caught a bit of Blood Red Shoes down by the lake but I daren’t lose my spot for the best band in the world, Canada’s Arcade Fire. The field is absolutely packed as the band perform a note-perfect set, and Win Butler’s banter about the new Harry Potter book and the death of rock and roll all makes it the finest gig I’ve ever been present at. The set is carefully and brilliantly structured, taking in cuts from Funeral that have been polished up, such as Laika, as well as the more recent No Cars Go and the beautiful Ocean of Noise from Neon Bible. They may be touring the same setlist all summer but the effect is astonishing. People are utterly mesmerised. It is impossible to pick highlights but the wordless chorus of end song Wake Up, which echoes through the site all night, is as memorable a festival moment as they come.

Finally, it is impossible to talk about Arcade Fire without mentioning religion. Religion is ever-changing folks. Some may even say it is dying, becoming ever more unnecessary in the modern world. But having faith is as important as ever. Salvation has arrived in the form of the most important band ever. Arcade Fire will take it from here. They will save us all.

Leeds festival 2007 review: Friday

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The three posts below form my review of the Leeds festival two years ago. It was published on a website called 21st Century Music which sadly is no more. Websites I write for have a horrible habit of closing down…

After a nightmarish Thursday journey that took 6 hours from less than 50 miles away, the highlights of which were a large BANG and being rescued by Jesus (a long story not for these pages), my Leeds 2007 kicked off with New York punk rockers Stalkers who played a short but fiery and energetic set to a decent crowd in the Carling tent. The singer, with an American flag draped around his shoulders, even seemed drunk. At noon. How very rock and roll.

Next up are Glasgow’s Make Model, who play jangly, pleasant but unspectacular indie pop and look aggrieved at the lack of reaction from the relaxed audience, who are mainly using the tent to get out of the baking sunshine.

Friday at Leeds this year is rave day, and dance proceedings begin with I Was A Cub Scout, who draw a large crowd and look all the more confident for a summer’s gigging under the belts since I saw them at Latitude. They close with “Pink Squares” and for the first time of what will be many, Leeds goes nuts.

It’s time to move off now for our first taste of the NME/Radio 1 tent with New Young Pony Club, led by sex siren Tahita Bulmer. After failing to distinguish between the first few numbers we wander back to the Carling tent for Amandah Wilkinson’s Operator Please, one of a crop of young new female-led bands currently making waves. The songwriting here is solid, and the incorporation of the violin is eye-catching. Definitely one to look out for.

Arguably the best thing about festivals is discovering fresh talent. The programme lists Idlewild among Kubichek!’s influences so I stick around and the Geordies don’t disappoint, their powerful rock filling the tent with catchy hooks and precise delivery. A well-oiled live machine having toured practically non-stop since their conception, winning over the festivals will surely see Kubichek! move up the billing next year.

Cold War Kids disappoint me. Sporadically their songs are brilliant, the likes of “We Used to Vacation” and “Hospital Beds”, but too much of their set goes nowhere slowly, just filler around the singles. It’s a real shame, because they are all technically gifted musicians, perhaps time will hone their songwriting.

The first real clash of the weekend pops up next – go and laugh at Fall Out Boy on the Main Stage or head off for Kate Nash to see what all the fuss is about. Nash wins of course and completely packs the Carling tent. Line-up organisers obviously hadn’t forecasted her success and the sheer amount of people somewhat spoils what could have been a special, intimate show. As it is, Nash is difficult to hear above the bubbling chatter of the crowd until The Song That Everyone Knows for the first big singalong of the weekend. But the really important song here is “Birds”, which is either irritating or beautiful depending on your point of view. I’m an unloved cynic. I think it’s utter tosh. But if it’s successful Nash will be unstoppable having cornered both the break-up and the loved-up couples market. It’s an ominous thought.

The only British bands on the Main Stage today are both Welsh, the second of which are Lostprophets. They play the festival game superbly, playing the hits and the hits only, with Ian Watkins padding out the set with entertaining banter. The lack of depth to their emo tinged rock is forgotten by set closer “Burn Burn”.

We’re getting to the really good stuff now, CSS are on in the NME tent and are great fun live as ever. Lovefoxx however seems distracted, possibly by her beau Simon from Klaxons who is watching from the side of the stage. It’s still a riot though, with ‘Off The Hook’ particularly shining out.

LCD Soundsystem do nothing for me so it’s a beer and a mingle before tonight’s NME tent headliners Klaxons. Singer Jamie Reynolds is on crutches after breaking his leg in a stage-diving accident but not even that can stop Klaxons tonight. Having been pigeon-holed as “new rave” by the genre-trigger-happy NME last year it is clear tonight more than ever that Klaxons have outgrown that tag. All the hits are present as well as set highlight, the Grace cover “It’s Not Over Yet”. Leeds goes mental throughout. Klaxons have evolved into a properly big band. Don’t be surprised to see them headlining festivals in a couple of years.

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