Jul 27, 2016

Band Of Horses @ Sydney Opera House

Band of Horses do a few things well but I would say their major strength is in the live arena. Both times I have seen them they have been a huge amount of fun. The first was nearly 10 years ago at the old Gaelic Club, riding off the back of their fantastic debut album. Sadly their latest albums haven't really hit the spot and I kinda lost some interest. But a night at the Sydney Opera House sparked my interest and so I duly bought tickets. Let's just say it was an interesting night.

Things started well, seemingly, as the band blasted into 'The Great Salt Lake'. But lead singer Ben Bridwell was having some issues. I thought at first it might have been the sound or something similar. But it turns out it was his voice. He said it sounded like a 'dumpster on fire' and he 'would get better'. But as they launched into 'Is There A Ghost' Ben was really struggling to hit the high notes. His voice is a beautiful weapon and every time he tried the high registers he just couldn't do it. You could see it was tearing him apart and as the night wore on it didn't improve and he slowly grew more frustrated with himself. The audience was mostly sympathetic and called out encouragement, but it was in the end a bit sad. To see an artist so full of hope tear himself apart. The band battled on and tried to play a full set but it was all a bit of a struggle. Finally they left the stage after about an hour to 'work things out. Ben and guitarist Tyler Ramsey returned for an acoustic version of 'No One's Gonna Love You' and even though Ben was still struggling the loving crowd sang along and it still felt a bit magical. The final song was a balls out cover CCR's 'Effigy' which roared with passion and energy.

So all in all a disappointing night, but ultimately I felt more sorry for the band and Ben especially. It must have been devastating for them and I think it just shows that life isn't always perfect and sometimes shit happens. Next time they tour I'm definitely going to be there for the full experience.

Set List
The Great Salt Lake
Is There A Ghost
Detlef Schrempf
In A Drawer
Throw My Mess
NW Apt.
Islands On The Coast
The First Song
For Annabelle
Country Teen
No One's Gonna Love You
The Funeral

Effigy (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover)

Jun 17, 2016

Eleanor Friedberger @ Newtown Social Club

Oh Sydney. Why??? The greatness that is Eleanor Friedberger was in you town last night and you barely showed. A half full (if that) Newtown Social Club was charmed and bewitched by her presence Thursday night but you weren't there. I just don't get it. She was part of the superb Fiery Furnaces and she has now released three wonderful solo albums including this year's 'New View'. I understand that she isn't receiving much hype down under and she doesn't exactly fit into any particular genre. But her ear for melody is off the charts and I was so happy to be there last night.

It was a short and very sweet set by Eleanor and her two compadres. Playing a nice selection from her three albums she charmed us in her slightly shy way, speaking occasionally but mainly focusing on her music. I think my favourite was 'Scenes from Bensonhurst' in the middle of the set, but I loved the languid beauty 'Does Turquoise Work?. The encore included a Cate Le Bon cover and a great rendition of 'Never Is A Long Time', before the band left the stage and Eleanor played 'Cathy With The Curly Hair' in solo mode. A great end to a wonderful night. A pity that more people weren't there to witness her in person.

Set List
He Didn't Mention His Mother
When I Knew
Your Word
Early Earthquake
My Mistakes
Scenes from Bensonhurst
Because I Asked You
Sweetest Girl
Other Boys
I Am the Past
Does Turquoise Work?
A Long Walk
Stare at the Sun

I Think I Knew (Cate Le Bon cover)
Never Is A Long Time
Cathy With The Curly Hair (solo)

Apr 16, 2016

Dorothy-Kevin Morby


The brilliant new album from Kevin Morby is now out on Dead Oceans. 'Singing Saw' is nine glorious songs of beauty. Kevin's first two albums were pretty great, but this might just be his best album yet. There is a very strong possibility that this will be my favourite album of the year.

Here is 'Dorothy', one of the many stand out tracks.

Apr 2, 2016

The Decemberists @ Sydney Opera House

The Decemberists are a bit of a conundrum in modern music. They don't really fit exactly into any particular genre. They aren't easy to classify. Sort of country, sort of folk, sort of rock. But very literate. Not really cool, except for a brief time. But they somehow appeal to a wide audience that incorporates many ages and backgrounds. Then a few years they took a little break. Their music had perhaps grown a little tired and it was probably the right thing to do. Then early 2015 they returned with a brand new album. "What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World", which was a qualified success. There were some great tunes, but some average ones. It probably could have used some careful editing. One year after the release they returned to Australia for the first time in six years. Excitement was in the air and anticipation was high. In the end the show was a huge amount of fun after perhaps a slow start.

As said the newest album is one I like, but don't love. Naturally, and with good reason, the album would feature heavily in the set. And this gave the show a bit of a steady but not exciting start. Songs like 'Cavalry Captain' and 'The Wrong Year' are just solid but not superb. But it was actually a new song in 'Carolina Low' that got me going. Lead singer Colin Meloy went solo and acoustic and it was pretty magnificent. The other drawback sometimes is the venue. The Sydney Opera House is iconic and historic but sometimes not best suited to certain bands. The Decemberists fit that bill. They are inclusive and involved. They need to feed off a live and lively audience. But Colin Meloy is the master of crowd involvement. And he finally got everyone going. '16 Military Wives' saw Meloy get each section of the crowd involved and singing. This flowed onto 'O Valencia'. We stayed standing and singing. Then it got even better. The first encore was a section of songs from 'The Hazards of Love', an album I loved but one that divided some people. But holy cow, what an encore, replete with great singing from Kelly Hogan. The second encore naturally finished with the crowd favourite "The Mariner's Revenge Song'. A perfect crowd pleaser that had everybody involved. So we all left with huge smiles and were reminded with full effect of the power of great music.

Set List
The Singer Addresses His Audience
Cavalry Captain
The Wrong Year
Hank Eat Your Oatmeal/Calamity Song
The Apology Song
Rox in the Box
Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect (with Fleetwood Mac - Dreams intro)
Make You Better
Down by the Water
Carolina Low
Better Not Wake the Baby
Culling of the Fold
16 Military Wives
O Valencia!

Prelude
The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle the Thistles Undone)
A Bower Scene
Won't Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)
The Rake's Song
The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)

Death Defying (Hoodoo Gurus cover)
The Mariner's Revenge Song

Dear Avery

Mar 25, 2016

Kendrick Lamar @ Allphones Arena

I thought this could be good. I just didn't think it would be THIS good. Great, actually. Kendrick Lamar gave a supremely great performance at Allphones Arena on Wednesday night. He commanded and gripped 18000 fervent fans in a display of impeccable talent. Lamar has risen to the top of his game in the last couple of years, releasing two albums that have received massive critical acclaim. But on top of this he is a supreme performer. But not flashy or relying on tricks. He bares his soul on stage. He projects himself into the hearts and minds of his fans. He is inclusive, inspiring and distinctly human.

Kendrick Lamar arrives on stage and slowly but surely waits for the audience to reach fever pitch. He waits and waits, anticipation building. Then he intonates. THIS. DICK. AIN'T. FREE. His loving fans were hooked. Smitten. Taken by his charisma and his humanity. Soon we were all standing. Dancing, smiling, singing. It's quite a sight to see so many people in unison. Beating hearts all at once. 'm.A.A.d city' absolutely slayed. 'King Kunta' had everyone jumping. Hell, I could mention basically all the songs and how they captured us. But ultimately this was all about Kendrick. An electric, fiercely intelligent performer at the peak of his powers.It is a glorious sight indeed.

Set List
For Free?
Wesley's Theory
Backseat Freestyle
Institutionalized
Hood Politics
m.A.A.d city (2nd Verse)
These Walls
The Art of Peer Pressure
Swimming Pools (Drank)
u
Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe
Money Trees
m.A.A.d city (1st verse)
For Sale?
Complexion (A Zulu Love)
King Kunta
i

Alright

A.D.H.D
I Am

Mar 23, 2016

Tweedy @ Factory Theatre

I think Tuesday night at the Factory Theatre was a huge celebration of music. In fact a celebration of the musical career of Mr Jeff Tweedy. It was a great night, but also a very happy night. As happy and joyous a gig that I have been to in a very long time. Tweedy is the man but also the duo, or rather the father and son. Spencer is the talented son of Jeff and together they have released an excellent debut album. Now they tour together, fleshed out by two guitarists and a keyboard player. Spencer plays drums and was very good. But all eyes were on the greatness of Jeff. And he is very great indeed. And so was the night.

The early part of the show was the full band playing the 'Tweedy' songs. They were great actually, especially 'Diamond Light Pt. 1' which was quite epic and the sombre but beautiful 'Nobody Dies Anymore' They played the 'hit' 'Low Key' as Jeff put it sarcastically. Then he announced that he would go solo for a while 'playing some old songs'. Anticipation rose and we all smiled and sighed together. Just Jeff on acoustic playing some of his glorious back catalogue. As you can see by the set list below this was a special half hour or so. All of it great, with probably 'Via Chicago' the absolute stand out. But there was more to come. The band returned for an encore that was to be all covers. I knew having a peek at the Melbourne set list that hopefully a Bowie cover would surface. And it did. The totally glorious 'Five Years', which the band belted out with immaculate style. But then Jeff said 'let's do one more'. With huge excitement we were gifted 'Queen Bitch'. A totally stunning way to end a wonderful night of great music. Jeff Tweedy is truly a gem. His voice is classic and comfortable. But it's humanity that shines the most. He is engaging and engaged, funny and sarcastic. He reacts with the audience like few performers. With a quick wit and a big heart.

Set List
Hazel
Fake Fur Coat
Diamond Light Pt. 1
Flowering
Summer Noon
World Away
New Moon
High As Hello
Wait For Love
Love Like a Wire (Diane Izzo cover)
Low Key
Nobody Dies Anymore
Via Chicago (Wilco cover) (solo)
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (Wilco cover) (solo)
Remember the Mountain Bed (Billy Bragg & Wilco cover) (solo)
Love Lost (Golden Smog cover) (solo)
New Madrid (Uncle Tupelo cover) (solo)
Please Tell My Brother (Golden Smog cover) (solo)
Hummingbird (Wilco cover) (solo)
Either Way (Wilco cover ) (solo)
Jesus, etc. (Wilco cover) (solo)
I'm the Man Who Loves You (Wilco cover) (solo)
A Shot in the Arm (Wilco cover) (solo)
Please Don't Let Me Be So Misunderstood
Only the Lord Knows (Mavis Staples cover)

The Losing End (Neil Young cover)
Give Back The Key to My Heart (Uncle Tupelo cover)
California Stars (Billy Bragg & Wilco cover)
Five Years (David Bowie cover)
Queen Bitch (David Bowie cover)

Mar 19, 2016

Nothing To Hide-Hospital Ships


I am big fan of the work of Jordan Geiger. He for many years produced some amazing work in the band Minus Story, a truly under rated band. After that band folded he has been producing some beautiful work as Hospital Ships. His music is beautifully melodic, very emotional and very unique. Hospital Ships now have a new album out on Graveface Records. 'The Past Is Not a Flood' contains seven tracks and was produced by the esteemed John Congleton in Austin.

As Geiger describes, "'You and I' is the sound of my anxiety, 'Long May You' reflects grieving, 'Nothing To Hide' is inspired by/a tribute to the late Jason Molina, 'Little Flower' is reflecting on a family life I've chosen not to have, 'All In Time' (which is based on the same musical motif as both 'You and I' and 'Long May You') is about accepting the painful and temporary nature of life..."

Here is a beautiful rendition of 'Nothing To Hide' for your listening pleasure.
Please check it out or buy here.