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The Rolling Stones @ London Olympic Stadium 22.05.18

Review written for Record Collector magazine

View: Down the front in Pit A (Ronnie’s side)

A beautiful summer evening and a packed stadium augured well for the Stones return to their home town and they did not disappoint. Mick Jagger’s opening remarks emphasised how much London means to the band, even claiming that they played at nearby Dalston Baths (they did, in November 1963). The No Filter tour has featured a stripped back stage with walkways and massive video screens, allowing the band to project to the back of the 80,000 capacity venue. The sound was loud and clear, with a mix that emphasised the guitars. Street Fighting Man made for an emphatic set opener, highlighting the increasingly robust contributions of Keith Richards. Whilst co-guitarist Ronnie Wood still played the majority of the solos Keith was a more active partner in their guitar weaving and delivered a tough solo version of Before They Make Me Run.

Winner of the audience vote was Under My Thumb, delivered in a bouncy arrangement reminiscent of the 1966 original, albeit with some of the more sexist lyrics edited out. Adding more variety to their two hour, nineteen song set was the ballad Fool To Cry, not performed live since 1999. Jade, the daughter that Jagger sings about putting on his knee, is now 46 and she watched the song from behind Charlie Watts’ drum riser. Ride ‘Em On Down was the only blues number, this and a  raucous Midnight Rambler provided Jagger with a chance to show off his considerable harmonica prowess. There was a real visceral impact to Ronnie and Keith hitting the opening chords of Sympathy For The Devil in unison as the stage flooded with blood red light – a great mix of visuals and music. Some hardcore fans are claiming this as the best Stones London show since Wembley in 1982. And it’s only the second gig of the tour – in the words of Keith Richards they are just getting warmed up!

Chuck, Wendy, Simon, Keith, Mick

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“Ladies and Gentleman…the Second Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band in the World – The IORR Band!”

The Hope & Anchor, Upper Street, Islington 22.05.18

Wondering where to go next in your Rolling Stones rock’n’roll time machine? Will it be The Roundhouse in 1970? Madison Square Gardens ’72? El Mocamabo in ’77? Well tonight the IORR Band took a packed and sweaty basement all the way back to October 17 1973 and the Forest National Arena. Yes, its Brussells Affair, track by track, note by note.

And what a great job they made of it. No rehearsals and they only meet once a year. And the monitors weren’t working. Somehow these guys transcend the term ‘covers band’ through their love and commitment to these classic songs. DandelionPowerMan did a terrific job as a front man, ably supported by a rotating cast of musicians including guest harp (WildSlivovic), saxophone , keyboards, impeccable bass (Mr_dja)/drums (IrwinH) and a bewildering selection of guitarists (BluzDude, Roller99, Duke Richardson). Special mention to Mathjis who pulled off my favourite moment of the night when he did that Mick Taylor switching pickup thing on his Les Paul Sunburst on an ever accelerating Street Fighting Man that closed the set proper. Encores were not as per ‘73 but instead a rambunctious Let It Rock and then a real audience singlaong in Bye Bye Johnny.

Almost as good as the band was the crowd. I recognised ManOfWealthAndTaste , BarRoomQueen , SilverDagger, Beast and SomeTorontoGirl (thanks for the plectrum). And Steve. Where was PaulyWaul?

And I got a signed setlist – at last something that Matt Lee doesn’t have !

A great event in its own right and a perfect aperitif for tonight’s London Olympic gig – only with a much better setlist!

Photocredits: Dag Hakon Hellevik

Bryan Ferry, The London Palladium 01.05.18

View: Centre stalls, three rows from the front

Bryan Ferry provided a succinct summary of his career for a sold-out Palladium crowd, covering both solo material and a judicious selection of Roxy Music classics. The elegant theatre provided a perfect setting for his classy crooning and his well-drilled nine-piece band. The sequence of Ladytron followed by Out Of The Blue highlighted the contributions of violinist Marina Moore and slinky saxophonist Jorja Chalmers. Mid-set suffered from too many medium-paced songs of similar melodic construction, distinguished by an acoustic Bittersweet where bass-player Jerry Meehan switched to bassoon to great effect. Remake/Remodel and Do The Strand featured Luke Bullen’s energetic drumming and got the crowd on their feet as did Love Is The Drug and Virginia Plain. Let’s Stick Together allowed guitarist Chris Spedding to cut loose with a rocking Chuck Berry coda, Jealous Guy saw backing vocalists Bobbie Gordon and Hannah Khemoh demonstrate their impressive range and a final Editions Of You proved that “Stay Cool Is Still The Main Rule” .

Photocredit: Richard Gray/EMPICS ( richard@rugfoot.com )

Written for Record Collector Magazine.

 

 

Record Store Day 2018 – Seven Inch Heaven from Buffalo Springfield, Easybeats, The Who, Jimi Hendrix Experience and Johnny Thunders!

Buffalo Springfield – Live At Monterey 1967 EP

The 1960s Record Company REP015

Gets off to fine start with For What It’s Worth, which showcases an excellent sound with good instrumental separation. This is particularly important on an extended Bluebird where there are three guitars at work with Steve Stills on lead guitar and a guesting David Crosby on rhythm (Neil Young apparently AWOL). Richie Furay sings an authoritative lead vocal on Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even sing where he is ably supported by Dewey Martin’s fluid drumming. Considering how little live Springfield has been released officially this is a real find.

 

Easybeats – Lovin’ Machine EP

The 1960s Record Company REP018

Recorded live in Offenbach, February 1967. Never heard a live recording of the Easybeats before and they acquit themselves well. Harmonies are particularly impressive, replacing Tina Turners titanic wail on River Deep Mountain High. Highlight is a feisty version of Friday On My Mind where they reproduce the studio version with complete accuracy. Live the band come across as fans of the Who. Made My Bed: Gonne Lie In It has Sell Out-harmonies, and Lovin’ Machine even contains a snatch of the Batman theme. Sound quality is good throughout.

 

The Who – Ready Steady Who 4 EP

The 1960s Record Company REP017

Talking of which, here are West London’s finest in high dudgeon but low fidelity. The songs that survive best are those with the strongest harmonies – here Pictures of Lily and I’m A Boy. As the sleeve notes point out it is the only recording of the Who’s 1967 US tour so until something better-recorded emerges…like all these EPs it looks terrific and has a spiffy printed colour inner sleeve. For the committed fan only.

 

Jimi Hendrix Experience – Hamburg ’67 EP

The 1960s Record Company REP019

If there is a German equivalent of Franglais that’s how this set is introduced. A slow and careful Hey Joe with a lot of echo on Jimi’s vocals is followed by a dancey Fire and a menacing Purple Haze. Sound quality is good. Whilst other portraits of early live Hendrix exist this particular set has a charm and an innocence about it that really works.

Give Her A Great Big Kiss – Johnny Thunders featuring Patti Palladin

Remarquable Records RBL3

At last a remix that actually makes an aural difference! Pedro Mercedes’ Remarquable Records delivers a fuller mix than 1978’s So Alone original with more backing vocals and better guitars. The extended MWAH! instrumental version on the B side would be a real asset at a New York sleaze themed karaoke evening but is otherwise inessential. Beautiful sleeve (designed by Patti). Crisp pressing. Go Johnny Go!

The Pretenders, Subterania, London, 26.04.18

Written for Record Collector magazine

View: Bopping at the back

I loved the original line-up of the Pretenders. One-and-a-half strong LPs and an unbeatable run of hit singles up to and including Back On The Chain Gang. Never saw them live – they came to Manchester where I was living in May 1980 but we elected to see The Fabulous Thunderbirds instead. It sounded like we made the right choice, as at this stage the Pretenders were doing the “everyone louder than everyone else” thing Chrissie Hynde documented in her autobiography. Reports suggested the gig was a cacophony of woolly metal sludge.

I did see Chrissie on her own, in 1999 recording a TV programme called Songwriters Circle with Nick Cave and John Cale (it’s great, see it here ). By coincidence that programme was filmed at Subterania, the 600 people capacity club under the Westway where last night the Pretenders played a sold-out benefit gig for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Chrissie thanked Vince Power for re-opening this venue, which was as good as I remember it – clear sight lines throughout and room to dance downstairs, seats upstairs.

The current Pretenders are a fine combination of youth and experience. Original drummer Martin Chambers was caged in Perspex but still managed to drum immaculately throughout and provide backing vocals. Young Pretenders James Walbourne (guitar), Nick Wilkinson (bass) and Carwyn Ellis (keyboards, acoustic guitar and maracas) did everything needed to serve the songs. Chrissie Hynde was in excellent voice throughout, that low Sandie Shaw vibrato still seemingly effortless. She looked more at ease wearing a Telecaster than singing unencumbered. Her onstage patter included a heartfelt thanks to PETA founder Alex Pacheo and a diatribe against pedigree dog breeders, possibly a first for a rock’n’roll concert.

From that sparkling first LP we got a stomping Mystery Achievement and a concise Private Life. Sprinkled throughout the set were the irresistible singles Kid, Talk Of The Town and Stop Your Sobbing. Encoring with a brace of B sides (The Wait and Tattooed Love Boys) would have been risky for a lesser band, but finishing with Brass In Pocket meant that everyone exited on a high.

 

 

 

A Spy In The House Of Loud: Chris Stamey tells us nothing about sex and drugs, plenty about rock’n’roll

A Spy In The House Of Loud – New York Songs and Stories

Chris Stamey

University Of Texas Press (2018)

This may be a first: a modest autobiography. But then as Stamey himself notes, this book is more about his songs than his life, the diametric opposite of the rock’n’roll tell all. So we learn a lot about how some wonderful records were made, many released on Stamey’s Car Records. Stamey is responsible for so many of my favourite singles including (I Thought You) Wanted To Know, Big Black Truck, I Am The Cosmos, Bangkok, Angels, Cara Lee, My Baby Wears Her Hairdo Long, Big Brown Eyes and Bad Reputation. Wandering in and out of the narrative are Television, R.E.M., Big Star Third, Ray Davies (that memorable Barbican show from 2012), Jack Bruce, Alex Chilton and a cast of New York luminaries from 1977 – 1992.

Stamey comes across as thoughtful and articulate and his insights into songwriting and recording are fascinating. Only once does the book topple into muso speak: non-musicians can skip the Appendix completely.

Stamey’s longest musical relationship is with Peter Holsapple, his co-writer in the dB’s. Strangely the book is named after a Holsapple song, recorded after Stamey (amicably) left the band. Holsapple and names such as Mitch Easter and Richard Lloyd do recur, indicating loyalty as another one of Stamey’s virtues.

I loved this book. You might love it too if you were active in popular music between punk and The Spice Girls. I suspect this is a book with selective appeal (to parapharase Ian The Manager from Spinal Tap). Plus as a hardback it costs $27. Despite this I would recommend it to anyone who ever wondered how bands form, how songs are written and how records are made. And go here for the soundtrack.

Upbeat Live At The Half Moon, Putney 25.03.18

The walls of the Half Moon bear witness to the Stones, Elvis Costello, Kate Bush and the other musical greats who have played here. This Sunday afternoon it is the turn of Upbeat, where the tiniest of children are taught to rock out – a real life School Of Rock. After an excellent Sunday lunch of cauliflower cheese and roasties we saw five bands over a two hour period. Divided into Bronze, Silver and Gold (depending on age), each band performed three or four covers from a pleasingly eclectic list. Not only did everyone perform really well but they all changed instruments at the end of each song, showing amazing versatility. There was a smidgeon of adult-played rhythm guitar and tambourine for the Bronzes but by the time we reached Gold the training wheels were most definitely off.

Musical highspots for me were Burning Down The House (Talking Heads), London Calling (the Clash, “I live by the river”indeed), Wicked Game (Chris Isaak) and best of all Hazy Shade Of Winter (Simon and Garfunkel via The Bangles). The energy and enthusiasm on display made for a great afternoon, Upbeat are highly recommended.