Jul 24, 2015

Ryan Adams @ Enmore Theatre

You probably know this by now, but I do LOVE American music. The best of it represents an earthiness, a sensibility that is quite unique. Drawing on many strands of country, rock and folk there are many artists who write songs that leap into your heart with a brutal honesty and an unwavering commitment to melody. There are many great names in this canon and most assuredly Ryan Adams belongs in this. His gravelly voice, his emotional honesty and guitar playing chops make him a substantial figure in the American music scene. It feels like Adams has been around forever. Probably because he is so prolific, with countless albums under his belt. Which is the recipe for a great show.

Which Thursday night at the Enmore Theatre most definitely was. First up we had the glorious pleasure of Jenny Lewis. I had never seen Jenny live before and she did not disappoint. Backed by a great band she sauntered around the stage with a quiet confidence delivering her varied catalogue with lashings of style. Her vocal range is very impressive and her attention to detail is precise. Her closing song, "Acid Tongue", had the crowd wanting more.  But it wasn't to be as the stage made way for Mr Adams. I had seen him live once before, in solo mode, and he was very impressive. Tonight with an ace band backing him he was equally so. A dream set list covering all the bases allowed Adams to show off his skill as an artist, performer and songwriter. He was energetic, full hearted and gave his all, displaying his skill as a guitarist with some major rock jams, such as on "Nobody Girl" My favourite though was the beautiful "Dirty Rain". That is until we got to the section where Ryan went solo on an acoustic. Breathtaking beauty culminated in my favourite song in "Oh My Sweet Carolina". I'm sure some tears were shed at this point. The only downer on the night was the persistence of some audience members to use flash photography. Adams suffers from Meniere's disease and flashes only make it worse. He asked nicely for it to stop but it didn't and he was rightly quite angry by the show's end. But he ploughed on, maybe he wouldn't have a few years, and still managed to deliver a show that we won't soon forget.

Set List
Gimme Something Good
Let It Ride
Stay With Me
Dirty Rain
To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)
Dear Chicago
Magnolia Mountain
This House Is Not For Sale
Peaceful Valley
Kim
When the Stars Go Blue
Nobody Girl
New York, New York
Why Do They Leave? (Ryan solo)
My Winding Wheel (Ryan solo)
Oh My Sweet Carolina (Ryan solo)
Cold Roses
Shakedown on 9th Street
I See Monsters
Come Pick Me Up

Easy Plateau
La Cienega Just Smiled
Trouble
I Love You But I Don't Know What To Say

Jul 19, 2015

Girl In A Sling-Destroyer



I can not adequately describe just how amazing this is.
"Girl in a Sling" is from the upcoming new album from Destroyer.
"Poison Season" is out August 28 on Merge.

Jul 4, 2015

Waxahatchee @ Newtown Social Club

Halfway through Friday night's set Katie Crutchfield (who is Waxahatchee) asked if we were crazy. "What are you doing here on a Friday night listening to me sing sad songs?" Well Katie I know your songs are sad, but also they are pretty great. And for me sad songs are the best. If written with a good melody they fill the soul and lift you up. And that's certainly what Katie did in Newtown on a cold Friday night.

Truly a solo show it was just Katie on electric guitar through out. Her songs are stark and painfully honest. Her voice carries strong and loud. There is emotional clarity in all her songs. She began with "Chapel of Pines" which is a song from her other project in Great Thunder. But the rest was purely Waxahatchee. Three albums to draw on and she touched on them all, with the older songs loaded more at the top of the show. It was an impressive night, with perhaps the only quibble that songs delivered starkly can sometimes show a vague sameness. But that was a minor quibble, for the honesty and truth shone through. Especially on the wonderful "La Loose", which is oddly more of a 'poppier' song but here was given a very stark rendition. The encore was great too with two powerhouse songs to finish in with "Catfish" and "Peace and Quiet". This was the first time for Katie in Australia, Let's hope she returns very soon.

Set List
Chapel of Pines
Grass Stain
Michel
Swan Dive
American Weekend
Brother Bryan
Tangled Envisioning
Under a Rock
Blue
Blue Pt II
La Loose
Bathtub
Summer of Love
Half Moon
Noccalula
I Think I Love You

Catfish
Peace and Quiet

Jun 19, 2015

NOS Primavera Sound

Recently I made the pilgrimage to Portugal for NOS Primavera Sound. This was my first time in Portugal and I loved the country. Great history, great food and warm and friendly people made for a great holiday. I visited Lisbon, Sintra and then Porto for this 3 day festival. It's a smaller version of the festival run a week earlier in Barcelona, with many acts playing both festivals. I had a wonderful time. The festival is set in a beautiful park in the western area of Porto. It was very easy to get to with buses servicing the site very well and the festival was run superbly. It had a very relaxed vibe with not many queues and good food and drink. Music started each day at about 5pm and often ran until the early hours of the morning.

There were four stages and only occasionally did a clash occur that I regretted. There were some big names that I didn't actually see. Mainly because I'm not really into them. Such as Caribou, Antony and the Johnsons or Belle and Sebastian. But I managed to see some amazing music. Here is a brief report.

I love Mikal Cronin so much. His three albums have been chock full of melody and great songs. I think his latest album is his best yet. His set was fairly early on the first day and despite some sound issues it would prove to the one of the best I saw.

Set List
Turn Around
Made My Mind Up
Apathy
Am I Wrong
Say
Weight
Get Along
Control
Shout It Out
See It My Way
Change
Gold
Green and Blue
Circle
I have seen Interpol many times over the years and even though their earliest music is clearly their best I was happy to see them once again. They put on a great show in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

Set List
Say Hello to the Angels
Anywhere
Hands Away
Evil
Leif Erikson
Rest My Chemistry
Everything Is Wrong
The New
Narc
Take You on a Cruise
Not Even Jail
Pioneer to the Falls
Slow Hands
PDA

Untitled
Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down
All the Rage Back Home

Viet Cong have courted some controversy of late because of their name. But their music shines above all of that. A standout on Day two, their set was bruising, hard and to the point.

Set List
Throw It Away
Silhouettes
Bunker Buster
March of Progress
Continental Shelf
Death
 
Never in my lifetime did I ever think I would see The Replacements. A seminal band from the 80s their songs are timeless. But like a lot of acts they have reformed and their set was shambolic, joyous and SO much fun. And apparently they announced it would be their last show!

Set List
Takin' a Ride
Favorite Thing
Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out
Take Me Down to the Hospital
Little Mascara
I'm in Trouble
Waitress in the Sky
Valentine
Kiss Me on the Bus
Nowhere Is My Home
Androgynous
I Will Dare
I'll Be You
The Ledge
Maybellene
Customer
Nevermind
Can't Hardly Wait
Bastards of Young
My Boy Lollipop

20th Century Boy
If Only You Were Lonely
Left of the Dial
Alex Chilton


Day Three came and it was the best of the three days. Foxygen were the first highlight and they were so much fun. Brilliant and chaotic, with dancing girls and a front man in Sam France who never stopped talking, singing or moving. Apparently this is their last tour. If that is the case they will most definitely be missed!


After the beautiful chaos of Foxygen I moved onto the beautiful sounds of Kevin Morby. Like Mikal Cronin, Morby has great songs and a great sound. This man has my heart!

Set List
The Dead They Don't Come Back
Reign
Sucker in the Void (The Lone Mile)
Harlem River
All of My Life
Motors Runnin
Amen
Miles, Miles, Miles
I Hear You Calling/Parade
Much like Interpol, Death Cab For Cutie aren't probably what they used to be, but they still know how to put on a great show. And they did, before a much devoted audience.

Set List
I Will Possess Your Heart
Crooked Teeth
Doors Unlocked and Open
The Ghosts of Beverly Drive
Grapevine Fires
Black Sun
Little Wanderer
You Are a Tourist
The New Year
Cath...
Soul Meets Body
Transatlanticism


Dan Deacon was my last act to see of the festival and it was a good way to go out. I love Deacon's music but unlike previous shows I have seen he couldn't quite get the crowd participation going properly. He tried hard but I don't think the crowd fully understood. Still, it was a nice way to end a wonderful festival in a great city.

Set List
Sheathed Wings
Mind on Fire
Wham City
Learning to Relax
When I Was Done Dying
Feel the Lightning
USA I: Is a Monster
USA II: The Great American Desert
USA IV: Manifest

Jun 10, 2015

Kevin Morby @ Charlatan, Ghent


I recently had the good fortune to be Europe and visit Belgium. Or more specifically Ghent. Ghent is a beautiful, classy, historic city with so much to offer. When I planned my trip I found out that Kevin Morby would be playing a show there. Morby has become one of my favourite artists of recent years. An original member of Woods, he has now branched out on his own with two wonderful solo albums. So on a late May Sunday night I saw him at Charlatan, a small club in the centre of Ghent.

It was a great show. Not because of any drama or histrionics. But because of the strength of the songs. I think he is a special songwriter. He has a great ear for melody, a warm voice full of character and is a an excellent guitar player. His group consisted of Meg Duffy on guitar and Justin Sullivan and drums. Together they combined for a wonderful night. Highlights were the plaintive "All of My Life", the epic guitar jam of "Harlem River" and then the encore which consisted of the Bill Fay cover "I Hear You Calling" morphing into the genius song that is "Parade". A blissful night indeed.

Set List
The Dead They Don't Come Back
Reign
Sucker in the Void
Harlem River
All of My Life
Motors Runnin
Amen
Miles, Miles, Miles
My Name
If You Leave and If You Marry

I Hear You Calling (Bill Fay cover)/Parade

May 23, 2015

Sufjan Stevens @ Sydney Opera House


In the great scheme of things Sufjan Stevens sits somewhere near the top. His music is singular and transcendental. Plainly he is quite extraordinary, a celestial being. So any opportunity to see him live is one to be treasured and one not to be missed. Friday night in Sydney was the first of four consecutive nights at the Sydney Opera House as part of the annual Vivid Festival. This show would showcase material from his new and truly excellent album Carrie & Lowell. In fact he would play the whole album in full, if not in order. The album is deeply personal and totally amazing and live it was even better, if that is possible.

Augmented by video and a dazzling light show the music leaped off the stage and into our hearts. It was personal and monumental from song to song. Songs were fleshed out by the five piece band, adding extra touches that don't exist on the album. "Fourth of July" expanded and stunned. "No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross" was impossibly beautiful, whilst the solo version of "All of Me Wants All of You" was near tear inducing. He hardly spoke, as the canvas of the music was drawn across us. When he finished he addressed the audience and spoke of life, death and purpose. It was actually quite profound and sometimes a little funny. Then he settled into a few older tunes with the sublime "Casimir Pulaski Day" being especially amazing. Then he returned to the final song from the new album. Holy Cow! "Blue Bucket of Gold" started tenderly on piano before it descended into a near ten minute storm of music that kept building and building until it near exploded. Stunning to say the least.

After a prolonged and ecstatic standing ovation the band returned for more, giving us more classics including a rousing and smile bearing "Chicago" to close the night. A night so special it will long in the memory. Thank you Sufjan for being you and gracing us with your presence. 

Set List
Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou)
Death With Dignity
Should Have Known Better
Drawn to the Blood
All of Me Wants All of You
Eugene
John My Beloved
The Only Thing
Fourth of July
No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross
Carrie & Lowell
The Owl and the Tanager
In the Devil's Territory
Casimir Pulaski Day
Futile Devices
To Be Alone With You
Blue Bucket of Gold

Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois
For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti
The Dress Looks Nice on You
Chicago

Mar 8, 2015

The Felice Brothers @ Newtown Social Club

Over the last decade or so I have come to listen to a lot of American music. Most of the time it is my go to point when I listen to music. Which is naturally on a daily basis. There are probably many reasons. Foremost it is because of the quality. But probably the most important reason is an emotional one. American music fits my mindset and fills my heart. The traditions of folk and country and rock hit the hardest. For my listening ear, and this has to be totally subjective, it's the heartfelt lyric, the guitar lick, the violin plucked that make the happiest and the most nourished. The Felice Brothers tick all the boxes. I really hate that expression but it will do nicely here. Now they might not be the most talented band going, although they are pretty talented. But they reek honesty. They are filled with an authenticity that few match. And the best part when you see them live, as I did Saturday night at the Newtown Social Club, they give 100 per cent. Totally.

They also have a large catalogue and they mine it thoroughly. And they all sing, although Ian Felice is the main man. But it's a total team effort, which produces a great show. Guaranteed. I won't go deep into the highlights. But the show was worth it one three counts alone. The back to back stark beauty of "Omie Wise" and "Ruby Mae". James Felice leading the enthusiastic crowd on a sing along of "Whiskey In My Whiskey". Closing the show with a burning cover of the spitfire Neil Young song "Rockin' In The Free World". American Music! Have to love it!

Set List
Meadow Of A Dream
Saturday Night
Cherry Licorice
Dead Dog
Silver In The Shadow
Lion
Whiskey In My Whiskey
Honda Civic
The Big Surprise
Love Me Tenderly
Omie Wise (Doc Watson cover)
Ruby Mae
Frankie's Gun
Cus's Catskill Gym
Got What I Need
White Limo
Penn Station
Marie
The Mating of the Doves

Run Chicken Run
Lincoln Continental
Rockin' In The Free World (Neil Young cover)