Saturday, 11 April 2015

946 ADAM ANT, Shooze, Bristol The Marble Factory, Friday 10th April 2015

The undoubted Comeback Of The Decade continues… following my witnessing Adam Ant’s run-through of his debut album, the sleazy, sexy art-school punk rock masterpiece that is “Dirk Wears White Sox” at the Hammersmith Odeon on one of my best days in recent memory, last year’s Record Store Day (gig 913), Adam had undertaken 4 more performances at a sold-out Islington Assembly then decided to take the show out to the provinces! So, this being the best night of the tour for me, I grabbed tix toot sweet for another Adam Ant show, my 8th (including his RSD acoustic performance at Rough Trade) in just shy of 4 years – well, I did say I’d be back whenever time and finances allowed!

Tired from a family day out, ironically in Bristol, and also suffering with a streaming cold and headache, there was nevertheless no way I was missing this one, so I dosed myself up with drugs them took a whip-fast early evening jaunt down the M4 into the blazing sunset, losing my way to this new venue around Temple Meads, then finding the road I needed was closed, and having to double back to get there! Eventually dumped the motor in a parking layby near this allegedly “new” venue, a scuzzy old run-down and low-rent warehouse effort which recalled the 80’s Sheffield Leadmill. Openers Shooze were already onstage, their unimpressive set including a couple of forgettable covers and some reggae-infused rock which actually recalled The Police at times, particularly in the vocalist’s Sting-like nasal lilt.

Their set meandered to an end at 8.30 with some better, rockier numbers, but we then had an interminable – and knee-numbing – hour-plus wait, thankfully enlivened by this knowledgeable crowd singing along to some punk classics over the PA, before Adam’s young backing band took the stage to the strains of Iggy’s “The Passenger”, at about 20 to 10. The dual drummers kicked in the solid drumbeat opening of “Cartrouble Part 1”, following by the distinctive bass refrain, then The Star appeared. As befitted his promise of “an evening of 100% British Leather Rock”, Adam was all bedecked in black leather, no concession to his later-period “pop” image (things looking up already!), with a natty straw boater atop his bandana-wrapped dome, as he yelped the song into life, immediately riveting, mobile and kinetic, performing the songs rather than just singing them, meaning it (maaaaan) from word one.

“Dirk”, having been further bedded in during the aforementioned Islington shows, was delivered with aplomb, the band tight and dynamic, rarely putting a note wrong, but still delivering the rock in raw, garage band style, befitting tonight’s surroundings. “Cartrouble Part 1” segued perfectly into “Part 2”, the brazen riff bursting into life, Adam’s flippant vocal a feature. “Day I Met God” was a boisterous, careering thrill-ride, then the stark “Tabletalk” was chilling, Adam’s repetition of the middle-8 hook “love love love love” echoing around the venue. The biker jacket was off for “Cleopatra”, then “Catholic Day” saw some distinctly un-PC but playful shotgun miming, before the singalong during the dramatic “Never Trust A Man (With Egg On His Face)” actually elicited tonight’s first, “thank you,” from Adam!

“The Idea”’s off-kilter funk groove brought “Dirk” to a close, after which we were left wondering how the rest of the set would shape up. Happily, having delved back in time for “Dirk”, Adam then went back even further in his Antmusic time machine, selecting approximately fuck-all songs from the “pop” years, dredging up some rarely heard but utterly unforgettable proto-punk Sexmusic gems. Also, following the grunge-sleaze of “Plastic Surgery” building to its’ frantic, frenetic finale, then the ringing chimes, driving power and war-chant yodelling of the brilliant “Beat My Guest”, we finally got the chatty Adam! Taciturn through “Dirk” (“less talk, more songs,” Adam offered by way of explanation), Adam now was voluble, cheeky and smutty, his charisma and humour shining. He introduced “Christian D’Or” with an ironic, “the next song means a great deal to me, as it’s such a sensitive lyric!”, fielded a bloke (!) shouting, “I love you!” with, “I love you too! Though not in a hippy way – fuck Woodstock… they were all eating each other after Hendrix had played!”, then introduced a brilliant and unexpected “Bathroom Function” with a slightly censored version of the story behind the song (“no names, no times, no places… her name was Sue!”). The rambunctious military march of “Deutscher Girls” was superb, all the more so for Adam proclaiming, “that one made the Top Ten and Pan’s People danced to it [on Top Of The Pops]! One of the highlights of my career!”

Set finale, “Lady” was introduced with a dismissal of “50 Shades Of Grey” (““Jubilee” was better! The lyrics to this [next] song are better!”), “Lady”’s “Carry On”-style playful smut segueing into a driven, dynamic “Fall In”, powering through to the end of a quite superb set. However, superb though that was, the encores even topped that; after thanking fans for picking up the Record Store Day re-release of “Dirk” and announcing that a gold-vinyl version of his breakthrough sophomore effort “Kings Of The Wild Frontier” is next up (full-LP gig/ tour as well, hopefully?), he then introduced said album’s title track as, “my favourite song,” and delivered it as such, the driving tribal drumbeats a base for Adam’s breathtaking performance, all the verve of a man less than half his age, his vocal dispatched with clear-eyed and purposeful intensity and conviction. That however was even topped by a brilliant, soaring “Zerox”, Adam bolting on a guitar to pick out the riff and his band powering through an utterly amazing version of Adam’s best number. “Physical” as ever brought the evening to a close, Adam ripping off his t-shirt and throwing it into the frenzied mosh in one final gesture of appreciation before exiting the stage, after another 1 ½ hour performance of complete and utter class.

I gathered my thoughts and a set-list, then hit the road after another vindication of Adam’s stature. This time we got the punk rock Adam as well; he’d whipped through “Dirk” then quipped through the rest, and in the process further cemented his place as a True Star Of Our Times. He’s 60 years old and “live” he’s still showing the rest how it’s done. Long may that continue!

Sunday, 5 April 2015

945 THE VACCINES, All We Are, Fufanu, Bath Pavilion, Saturday 4 April 2015

I have Sarah Henderson to thank for this one... when indie pop pilferers and doubtless future (and before too long I’d guess) arena-fillers The Vaccines announced a mini tour of smallish (for them) venues, ostensibly to bed in material from forthcoming album “English Grafitti”, fangirl Rach looked into getting tix for this one, but they sold out in pretty short order. However, I was happy to relieve old Level 3 and facebook friend Sarah of her 2 tix, when she suddenly realised, after receiving them, that they were for a different night than the one for which she was available. Whoops… the lesson here, ladies and gentlemen, is…! Thus was an unexpected extra added to my Spring dance card, a chance to catch up with these fun but plagiaristic indie darlings to see if they’d written any songs of their own by now… (ouch!)

We had new babysitters tonight, in Rach’s work friend Laura and her fiancĂ© Rob (thanks guys!), so we set off for a swift drive to this easy-to-find venue, finding ample parking in the cricket ground opposite and wandering into this large hall, as openers Fufanu kicked off their early set. An Icelandic lot, apparently, they regaled us with a doomy brand of droney pseudo-80’s post punk gothy rock, which normally would have been right in my Bunnyman/ Joy Division-inhabited wheelhouse were it not for the fact it was suffocatingly and somewhat ham-fistedly delivered, and the last number’s vocals seemed incredibly out of key. However after 1 ½ numbers of main support All We Are, we were wishing for Fufanu back, as the female fronted 3-piece AWA were excruciatingly godawful; their opener was the kind of piss-weak insipid white boy jazz funk which I rather hoped had gone out of fashion with The Style Council, then they went downhill from there, by which time we were in the bar trying in vain to escape their irritating noise, particularly the blonde vocalist, who sang as if she was wearing knickers 10 sizes too small for her!

Thankfully it eventually abated, so we found a good viewing spot stage left for The Vaccines arrival to an enthusiastic welcome from their keyed up and ready to rock young massive. Straight into tubthumping, roustabout opener “Teenage Icon” and revealing their 2 key influences from the outset in the couplet, “I’m no Frankie Avalon, I’m nobody’s hero…” 50’s embryonic rock’n’roll and 70’s post-punk new wave are stamped through The Vaccines work as through a stick of rock, with the gloriously dumb Ramones-like singalong punk of “Wreckin’ Bar” underlining this, and guitarist Freddie’s sleazy Cramps-like fretwork on the subsequent “Ghost Town” providing the punctuation point. Not that their young audience were playing “spot the influence” with this old muso… they were too busy moshing, raising the roof raucously singing along to The Vaccines’ easy and catchy hooks, and generally immersing themselves in a rocking good time.

As expected, a sprinking of newies punctuated the set, although only the hooky “Handsome” impressed; I found “Dream Lover” an unexpectedly jarring slow-burn glam sleaze with a Billy Idol-esque chorus, and “Want You So Bad” was a disappointingly incongruous slowie. No matter, there were still high spots aplenty in the older material; “Wetsuit” saw a mass singalong to this Buddy Holly doo-wop ballad, the mid-set double of the excellent, galloping “All In White” (which saw vocalist Justin abandon the mic for the crowd to fill in) and the haunting “Melody Calling” (“a golden oldie… from 2013,” introduced Justin) was a splendid mid-set double whammy, and the elongated, pounding intro to their best number, the penultimate “If You Wanna”, saw the crowd go even more batshit crazy, if at all possible.

The one hour set was capped by a 3-song encore featuring a bouncy “Norgaard”, after which the boys took a served bow; they’d put in a good shift tonight and left all their sweat and effort onstage, particularly Justin, who’s evolving ever more into a pretty decent singer and stadium-friendly frontman. A persistent but patient wait got me a set-list too, then off we went, with egress proving as easy as access, after a fine gig overall. So OK, they’re still not the most cutting-edge original band in the world, but there are plenty of other bands at a similar elevated level of popularity who are considerably less deserving of said status than this lot, who at least deliver an inclusive, effervescent and fun brand of catchy indie pop to their young audience. More power to ‘em, really. And thanks again Sarah for the tix!

Friday, 3 April 2015

944 WOLF ALICE, The Magic Band, Bloody Knees, Bristol Trinity, Thursday 2 April 2015

Following a splendid performance from this very promising young London band last May at the old Zodiac (gig 917), I was left looking forward to an album, or at least some new releases to keep up their then-forward momentum and increasing profile. So it was a bit of a surprise to hear nothing for the rest of the year, the Wolf almost going in hibernation... T’was a pleasure then, when a Spring tour was announced in advance of their debut album, finally set for June, with the Trinity our best shout, so I booked tix before it quickly sold out… guess I wasn’t the only one anticipating more from Wolf Alice!

Beef joined me this time, and we picked up Dean, who was staying with his girlfriend near Chippenham, on the way, for a typically dank and drizzly Easter drive down the M4, parking in Cabot and wandering around to this excellent evocative old church venue. We bumped into old friends Kiron and Alison from Bristol, waiting outside and lamenting their ticket-less status for this sellout, then reluctantly left them to get out of the rain. First support Bloody Knees were on, rocking an obvious blend of slacker grunge riffery and lazy vocal growling, that sounded like Nirvana. Exactly like Nirvana, in fact! We had fun spotting which Nirvana track each of their numbers sounded like (pretty easy, really…) and remarked that, although they were actually quite good at what they were doing, it was all a little blatant. By this time, happily, Kiron and Alison had scored some spare tix and joined us inside, so we chatted while main support The Magic Band plied a very innocuous, insubstantial brand of 60’s influenced beat pop, with occasional hints of Weezer-esque simple chunky powerpop, particularly in the set’s latter stages.

We took a wander nearer the front, stage right, running into a couple of Kiron and Alison’s other friends prior to the entrance, onto the blood-red backlit and smoke-swathed stage, of Wolf Alice at 9.45, heralded by a squalling noise backing track and greeted by squeals – literally, squeals – of delight from their young massive. And they were “on it” from the outset, with the bone-crunching power and battering-ram thrust of opener “Fluffy”, the boys already kinetic and mobile, and Ellie Rowsell, ice-maiden cool in black, a fragile yet hard-edged visual focus, delivering her stunning, slightly nasal vocals, ranging from glacial detachment to startlingly clear-eyed conviction. An equally superb “She” followed, and we already knew we were in for a treat tonight, a band really finding their form and feet in the live environment.

I recall labelling Wolf Alice a “snarling animal” last time out, and tonight they were even more so, with a fuller, more intense and way more dynamic sound, admittedly losing some of the more textural nuances of their studio work in the process, but replacing them with sheer bristling ferocity. For me tonight’s performance set them well on the way to deserving the prefix, “The Mighty…”, as they totally transcended their recorded output, becoming more strident, more powerful… just More! Newie “Storms” saw Ellie’s vocal gymnastics and a repeated building hookline leading to a Curve-like rap powering the song along, whilst “You’re A Germ” was magnificent, an amped up thrill-ride with a none-more-punk chorus, greeted by a wildly flailing moshpit. Some light and shade in the set too, with the quieter “Soapy Water” and the hushed opening to “Blush”, which nevertheless led to an anthemic crescendo.

Set closer “Giant Peach” was the appositely-named peach of the night, though; kicking off with Ellie and bassist Theo hamming it up with some side by side 80’s glam metal “hair band” guitar posing, then its’ relentless rhythm saw a circle pit open up, then burst into a bat-shit crazy frenzy at the song’s crescendo, sucking me into the mosh and down the front with it, and prompting Ellie to remark incredulously, “thank you so much… THAT was amazing!”

An unplanned encore saw bassist Theo crowdsurf over my head at its’ conclusion, before I scrounged a set-list and gathered my thoughts with the peeps, at the end of a quite stunning performance from a band brimming with boundless promise. Nice people too, with drummer Joel and guitarist Joff popping out to meet their public, so I got my list signed, and recommended The Julie Dolphin (who I still hear strong hints of in Wolf Alice’s work – no bad thing at all!) to Joel. Finally and reluctantly, we headed off, reflecting on tonight’s show and this band. If they totally nail their forthcoming debut, “My Love Is Cool”, we could be looking at one of the Albums of the Year, and tonight might just end up being one of the Gigs of 2015, a night which really put the Wolf into Wolf Alice!