Ten gigs to remember…

I will not give you a figure (although I have it!) but I already spent a huge portion of my time on Earth attending gigs. It also means money spent on tickets, travels, tens of merchandising and gallons of beer! Jim & Greg from Sound Opinions recently did one of their shows on the concerts which made them what they are. I thought it would be a cool idea for this blog. You will find below a selection of ten concerts. A few massive live bands like The Cure, Depeche Mode, U2 or again Bruce Springsteen could have been there for sure but these next ten are really special to me.

  • Prince – Paris, Bercy – 14th June 1987 – Setlist

Difficult not to select Prince in this list. I was lucky enough to catch him live three times but the first concert was definitely the best. He was at the peak of his career and had released his first post-Revolution LP “Sign O’ The Times” a few months earlier. I remember the stage was amazing while retaining a very natural feel. And Mr Prince Roger Nelson was also playing his beautiful peach harp-shaped guitar…

  • Happy Mondays / My Bloody Valentine – Paris, New Morning – 22nd March 1989 – Setlist

I must admit I am not sure which band was supporting which but I remember sweat was literally pouring on the walls of the tiny New Morning theatre, which was more a jazz location than a Madchester / Noisy Pop one! I also remember experiencing Happy Monday’s Bez dancing like hell with MBV on stage as if his life were depending on it!

  • Neil Young – Paris, Zenith – 7th July 1993 – Setlist

Neil Young is one of the best performers of all times and I guess you do not need to read this blog to discover this as a fact. I have attended six gigs of his and they have all been gorgeous. In my mind, the first time I caught him live on stage with the immense Booker T and the MG’s gave me shivers down my spine throughout all the concert and for good reasons probably. I saw him last year in 2019 at Hyde Park and he was playing like a guy in his twenties.

  • Jeff Buckley – Paris, Olympia – 6th July 1995 – Setlist

Jeff Buckley… The saddest history of them all… He gave us one hell of an album with “Grace” and was destined to be one of the greatest… It was unfortunately not meant to be but that night was one of the most moving moments I experienced in my life. This was an extraordinary performance by a beautiful human being. Pretty awesome setlist as well from acapella opener “Dream Brother” to final Big Star cover song “Kanga Roo“.

  • Radiohead – Paris, Cigale – 16th April 1996 – Setlist

Radiohead is probably my favourite band of the last 25 years and when I am asked which style of music I listen to, I generally reply that I like every genre but with a specific love of bands such as The Velvet Underground or Radiohead. I went to seven Radiohead gigs in my life and I must say their initiative of releasing one new video concert every week during this lockdown period was a real sign of class. In 1996, they were far from releasing their next to come masterpieces but that night they way the played tracks from “The Bends” with so much passion was the start of a love story between me and the band.

  • Tom Waits – Paris, Grand Rex – 24th July 2008 – Setlist

…and here we go, twelve years later, back in Paris as if living in Brazil or Strasbourg never happened… Catching Tom Waits on stage is quite difficult to say the least as the great man very rarely tours (no sign of him in Europe since then). What made this concert standing up above the rest was probably the musicianship and atmosphere the audience had that night and the feeling we were all in a different and fairy world.

  • Arcade Fire – Austin City Limits festival, Texas – 18th September 2011 – Setlist

Is there a better band than Canadians Arcade Fire on stage in terms of intensity, passion and dedication? Probably not. Is there a cooler musical city in the world than Austin, Texas? Probably not either… Attending Austin City Limits festival was a dream come true for this blog’s main shareholder and his Paulistano buddy. No ticket picture this time and no way to find the original wristband…

  • Iggy Pop – London, Royal Albert Hall – 13th May 2016 – Setlist

Finally, a concert happening in my favourite city in the world! Was it the best concert I have ever seen? Difficult to answer such a question but the way Iggy Pop performed that night was probably as good as in his years with The Stooges but with more experience and life troubles behind him. Based mainly on his three best albums, i.e. “The Idiot” and “Lust for Life” from his Bowie Berlin years and recent “Post Pop Depression“, what made this show so special was also his backing band…which basically was Queens Of The Stone Age on this tour. Spotting Bobby Gillespie (Primal Scream), Mani (The Stone Roses) and Kate Moss while leaving the Hall probably added up to the excitement that night.

  • Moses Sumney – End of the Road festival, Dorset – 2nd September 2017

Another obvious choice as End of the Road has probably been my favourite time of the year since I have discovered it. No edition this year for the same obvious reasons which have made 2020 such a weird year so far but memories from past editions as still there. Moses Sumney’s gig that year was a shocker to me as I had no clue whatsoever about who he was and what kind of music he was playing. I am not sure being able to better characterize his art today but I know for sure he is one of my favourite current artists following the emotional encounter I had that day at the beautiful Garden Stage.

  • David Byrne – London, Eventim Apollo – 19th June 2018 – Setlist / New York, Hudson Theatre – 25th January 2020 – Setlist

Last but not least to end up this list of concerts, let me introduce you to Mr. David Byrne, originally from Scotland but better known as the singer of New York band Talking Heads. I went to his London concert just because his new album was quite good and also because I had good memories about the previous gigs I had seen. However, nothing was preparing me for such a beautiful conceptual thing. Surrounded by eleven musicians from all over the world, each of them wearing an elegant grey suit, free of their moves and barefoot, David Byrne had never sung so well. The setlist was extraordinary with songs from all periods of his musical career. If you add up a beautiful stage, lots of fund and energy plus a pinch of political conscience, you will get a recipe of a fantastic gig. The good news is that this tour had a continuity on Broadway in late 2019 and early 2020. I must admit I loved it so much that I succeeded in seeing it again in New York at the start of the year.

So ten nights out of hundreds of great performances may look like a difficult choice to make but I guess it was done quite naturally. Regrets, I had a few (how did I do not to see Nirvana live?…) but overall I would like to thank all these artists for the 1,304 concerts I have been to (indeed, here is the number!).

End of the Road festival – Larmer Tree Gardens, 29/30/31 August 2019

This week brought the very sad but quite expected news that the 2020 edition of the End of the Road festival will be postponed to 2021. This event has been this blog’s favourite part of the year for a bit of time now and missing it will be a huge disappointment…

As I did not take the time to review last year’s festival, I thought that the moment to do so was perfect and that it would (slightly) ease the pain. The 2019 edition was quite special for me. On the minus side, I had to leave on Sunday and therefore did not attend any of the fourth day’s gigs. Not ideal as for those familiar with this festival will undertand that this is more than actually missing a few bands… On the plus side though, I was accompanied last year by the leading music expert of Garidech, France and we both enjoyed every minute of it. Here is a selection of the bands and artists I liked the most.

Day One – Thursday 29th August 2019

I guess I probably repeat myself but deciding a few years ago to extend the festival from three to four days was a great decision. This was even truer this year with two of my favourite artists. Du Blonde (née Beth Jeans Houghton) played as usual a very intense set with her usual mix of rage and tenderness.

Thursday’s headliners may not appear an obvious choice on paper but to me Spiritualized played the best set of the festival. Jason Pierce is one of the best songwriters of his generation and the only one to mix so beautifully gospel sounds and psychedelic rock. If not familiar with his career, please read my review of their “Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space” masterpiece.

Day Two – Friday 30th August 2019

I think I can bear any sort of weather when attending a festival but I must confess that nothing beats a beautiful sunny day! We were also lucky to have an unexpected and friendly chat with Sofia Hagberg, one of the two original founders of the festival.

From The Beths (young pop band from New Zealand) to Wire (post punk legends), I very much enjoyed all the gigs I attended but a specific mention has to be given to two artists. The first one is what is called a musicians’ musician, i.e. an artist very much lauded amongst their peers but without necessarily a major impact in terms of sales of records. Steve Gunn is an extraordinary guitar player and he can regularly be found on other bands’ records. He is starting to find his own voice as well as a songwriter and singer and his set was close to perfect. Very nice to find him again a few hours later playing guitar on two songs with Cass McCombs. The latter had been one of this blog’s favourite for a long time now and his latest LP was one of our albums of the month in 2019.

The other special mention of that day was to be given to the festival’s main headliner. Michael Kiwanuka‘s name is probably no stranger to those reading reviews in this blog on a regular basis. The more he ages, the better and personal his art and music get. That night’s set was incredible in terms of dedication and beauty. There is still a feel of the late Bill Withers in his music but also something which is very ‘now’ and difficult to describe. Probably one of the key artists with whom we will grow old in the next twenty years.

Day Three – Saturday 31st August 2019

Saturday was a tough one in terms of choices. As I still did not find a proper solution to be in two different places at the same time (I would be happy to learn from you, beloved readers…), I did not attend Courtney Barnett‘s concert. No regret however as all eight gigs we attended were awesome, from young British sax player Nubya Garcia to London female band Goat Girl (and their papier maché guest on stage) or again Porridge Radio, lead by vocalist Dana Margolin. Specific mention though to be given to three bands.

The first one is to the very young and bright band called black midi. Not a band you wanted to miss on stage as they played at 120% from the very first second to the last. Their music could be associated with a kind of modern age Public Image Ltd and I hope they will confirm all their musical talent in the years to come. Did I also mention that their drummer is amazing?

I finished the festival with two major bands, the first one being Low. That was a bit weird to catch them in the relaxed and mysterious atmosphere of the Garden Stage after their Barbican February gig but I must say I found it even better. The way this fantastic trio of musicians evolve in their art is simply flabbergasting.

No better way to finish the festival than partying with Sleaford Mods. No real surprise here as they give what you get, i.e. Andrew Fearn touches his laptop at the start of every song and dances with a beer in hand while Jason Williamson puts into lyrics all that does not work in today’s society with a Balzac-sense of details and loads of wittiness and humour. I must admit I was not that convinced the first time I caught them live in 2015 but the more it goes, the more I like them. A band not to miss on stage by any means.

So it looks this is it for now… The pain is still here but I already got my ticket for the 2021 edition for which a few greats have already confirmed their presence (Pixies, Aldous Harding, King Krule, Little Simz, Big Thief,…). For sure, ‘we will meet again’.

Spending Valentine’s Day with Sarah Records – London, 100 Club – 14th February 2020

I had to be in my sixth London year to finally go through the door of the mythical 100 Club on Oxford Street, home of so many legendary concerts throughout the years and in particular during the gold punk and post-punk era of the late 70’s and early 80’s. I must confess I would not have attended this gig without an excellent initiative from C & JB, by far the most passionate music people in the Nice, France area!

Jetstream Pony

Sarah Records was a Bristol, England label, specialised in pop and power-pop indie bands. I remember at the time that their popularity and level of coolness were subjects to the trends of the times. The UK music press in particular, namely Melody Maker and NME, always had a love/hate relationship with this label and their bands, which were basically guilty of being too sensitive in a music scene which one should remember was still very much male-oriented at the time and sometimes close to being sexist. Anyway, these debates are far behind us now. Before disappearing, NME even declared in 2015 that Sarah Records were the 2nd best indie label of all times, just behind 4AD. Sarah Records also did not survive in the Britpop environment of the mid 90’s and called it quits in 1995.

St. Christopher

I would lie to say I am that familiar with Sarah Records, although I bought at the time in 1990 their references #24 and 25, i.e. both 7″ singles of the excellent The Field MiceThe Autumn Store, parts one & two“. So I was quite excited to attend this nice mini-festival to discover bands and the least I can say is that we were rewarded. Very good start first with Jetstream Pony, a very nice melodic band from Brighton. We then had a very solid performance from St. Christopher, another English band from York, although they were a bit struggling at times with the sound. No such worries for The Orchids, who were the headliners and one of the most emblematic bands of the label. Originally from Glasgow, Scotland, their music offers a great balance of indie rock sensitivity and sense of melody. No real reason why this band had not been popular but I am not sure this was really their number one goal in life. Eternal youth is not something you measure by the whiteness of one’s hair and that night at the 100 Club, The Orchids were as good as in their prime days.

My ‘women in rock’ mini festival: Sleater Kinney (London Brixton Academy – 26th February 2020) & Big Thief (London Eventim Apollo – 27th February 2020)

I know the title of this post may not be the best I have ever found as indeed I would not write I saw two great gigs in a row by ‘men’ bands; it would sound stupid… Anyway, these were two great concerts although I clearly remember having doubt at the time in going out so much, that it was not serious to attend so many gigs and so on. Retrospectively, that was actually probably one the best decisions I took!

First in line were the great Sleater Kinney, lead by two amazing performers and singers: Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein. This is funny because I remember mentioning to this blog’s NY correspondent recently that, no, Carrie Brownstein’s real job was not to be the main actress of the hilarious series ‘Portlandia‘ but to be one of the most creative musical forces of the last twenty years. All their albums are great and they evolved from a typical post-punk riot girl band to one of the treasures of American rock. They disbanded after 2005’s absolute classic “The Woods” but did a very welcome come back in 2015 with the excellent “No Cities To Love“. I never had the opportunity to catch them live so being finally able to do so was met with excitement but also a bit of worries, following the departure of drummer Janet Weiss, who was so key in their sound. The set was probably a bit different from their previous tour…but gosh, what an energy and determination they had that night. Their new drummer really adapted well and the setlist was a perfect balance of all their career. Read The Guardian 4-star review of this concert.

After a good shower, a bit of work and a couple of beers, I was ready to catch Big Thief on stage at the great Eventim Apollo. I remember not having been really convinced by their first concert at End of the Road Festival in 2018 but I did not know the band that well at the time. On top of it, they released two amazing records last year, “Two Hands” being my #7 best record of 2019.

The band would be a good one with a regular singer but Adrianne Lenker is really the driving force and what makes them so singular. This is even clearer on stage; she is the one giving the tempo and I sometimes felt attending a jazz concert, especially when the musicians look at their leader, trying to decipher what will happen next and giving their best. Big Thief’s music could be described as American indie rock and I found that night a few similarities with my beloved The National or even Neil Young sometimes. I also really enjoyed the nakedness of the stage; always good when musicians play close one to another, social distancing hopefully being something temporary…A band to discover at any cost…and another review from the Guardian to read!

Supergrass – London, Alexandra Palace – 6th March 2020

For another episode of our sci-fi series about a world where musicians used to play on stage in front of thousands of people, let us go back in time to a very ancient period of five weeks ago (!) to review the comeback tour of one of the best British bands of all times.

Like the three musketeers, Supergrass are a band whose members are Gaz Coombes on voice and guitar, Mick Quinn on bass and Danny Goffey on drums but also Gaz’s brother Rob Coombes on piano and synths. Originally from Oxford, they appeared in the mid-90’s and were (wrongly) associated with the Brit Pop movement. One has to remember that any British band in these times which could write a tune was labelled as such… They were actually something very much on their own, with a few obvious influences here and there (Buzzcocks, The Kinks,…) but no more than any other band.

After releasing six great records from 1995 to 2008 and indeed progressively losing popularity amongst the general public, they sort of vanished without officially disbanding. Gaz and Danny kept on collaborating together on a few projects but overall the band looked like they were over. One must recognise also that Gaz Coombes aged gracefully, releasing beautiful records, with a specific mention to 2018’s “World’s Strongest Man“, our record of the year.

The news that they were back for a short European tour was therefore probably one of the best music news of last year and I must say I did not wait too long to buy my ticket for one of the London shows. Held in the legendary “Ally Pally” theatre, the gig was one of the best I had seen in recent times, either by the astonishing quality of the songs (they played the ‘hits’!), the excellent engineering of the sound or the voice of Gaz Coombes. It is very true to say that one can really feel a gang mentality in this band ‘a la U2‘ (i.e. if one were to miss, that would not be Supergrass) but they also very much rely on the great leadership of their singer. Not sure if they will tour again so in the meantime I would recommend their recent “The Strange Ones 1994-2008” compilation or to watch the video I took of one of their greatest songs “Mansize Rooster

The Hold Steady – London – Bush Hall – 8th March 2020

I had almost abandoned a systematic review of the gigs I attended but I guess reviewing them now is a way of living again a period of time when things were more straightforward. 8th of March is not that a long time ago and I remember having doubts about the notion of social distancing in such a tiny place…

Anyway, taking these considerations aside, being in a position to watch The Hold Steady in such a small venue was almost an honor. Although almost completely unknown in Continental Europe, they are quite famous in the UK…although nothing compared to the popularity they have in the USA, where they play in arenas on a regular basis. Originally from Minneapolis, the band enjoyed their first success when they relocated to Brooklyn. They have released seven excellent studio albums since the mid 00’s but the key game changer record in their career is definitely 2006’s “Boys and Girls in America“. Those following the series “Billions” are probably familiar with this band as they appear in an important episode of season 3.

Their music is pretty simple and straight to the point but with a beautiful sense of sensitivity brought by their leader Craig Finn. It has been said again and again in all reviews mentioning The Hold Steady that he looks more like an accountant than a rock’n’roll beast but who cares really? The way he performed that night in their third London concert of the week was everything one would look for when going to see live music: attention and communication with the audience, great sense of leadership and camaraderie with band members and also a very strong voice. If you like Bruce Springsteen or so-called blue-collar American music, this band is for you. If you want to spend a hell of a night, catch them live. I took the following video of their classic “Chips Ahoy!” which I hope gives a good flavor of how crazy that evening was.

‘Waiting for the end of the world’ – Elvis Costello & The Imposters – 13th March 2020 – London, Eventim Apollo

…that was an easy one but actually they did not play that particular song (from 1977’s ‘My Aim Is True‘ album). So, remember a time when one could go to gigs, have a couple of beers and enjoy live musics? This is a review of an event that occurred around two weeks ago but it really felt like from another age… I was actually waiting for this gig to be cancelled but it looks it was one of the last which took place in London. Always a difficult choice to do but I considered that because the venue did not break any government rules, there was no real reason not to go.

So, yes, the concert was a bit…special to say the least… This concert was sold out for a long time but around ten percent of the seats were empty. Elvis Costello really played the game and gave us a tremendous performance but one could feel he was very much overwhelmed by what was going on in the UK and in the world, having also in mind the serious health issues he had two years ago. That was actually the last date of the tour and he posted a very moving message on his Facebook account two days later.

But let’s focus on the music and the performance, shall we? I had high expectations from this gig as to me, although his works in the fields of jazz or classical music are not without interest, Elvis Costello really excels when he plays good ol’ fashioned rock music. I would also add he is at his best when playing with his old compadres Pete Thomas on drums and Steve Nieve on the piano, the other ‘new’ member of The Imposters being the excellent Davey Faragher on bass. That night’s performance was one of the best I have seen from the great man. The way they played old and new classics was close to the bone and could have been the work of under 20’s youngsters. I also could not emphasize how much the inclusion of American soul backing singers Kitten Kuroi and Briana Lee was a good idea as very often it gave a different feel to the songs (…and it also brought a welcome female touch in this men’s environment). If you are not convinced, catch the setlist on this link and read the review of The Guardian.

Noise rules! Two gigs at the Islington Academy: Young Gods / Helmet

I must admit that with all the diversification this blog has faced in the last years (a restaurant chain, a web hosting service, consulting advice on the climate warming, etc…) this is time to stick back to our core business and review a few gigs attended by our team. I went twice to the O2 Islington Academy this year to see two excellent bands I never had the chance to see before.

23rd March 2019: The Young Gods

To me , The Young Gods were not really active anymore and I must admit I kind of forgot them throughout the ’10’s. Their latest 2010 album (‘Everybody Knows‘) was excellent but no news since then. Quite a surprise then to see them on the cover of the excellent French Magazine New Noise with a new unexpected album. They were also back with original sampler band member Cesare Pizzi, which was very promising news as he used to give a specific flavour to the band before he left ages ago. And for those reading about this band for the first time ever, you should note they are from Fribourg, Switzerland.

On stage, they created a very dark but simultaneously warm atmosphere. They are now very far from the noisy sound of their beginnings and their music could be described as lovely but also menacing noisy techno pop. I guess this definition may look quite scary but really I had a complete different sensation while in the audience and more precisely a feeling of calm and peace of mind. Their leader and singer Franz Treichler has a real beautiful presence on stage. Go and listen to their latest LP ‘Data Mirage Tangram‘, one of the best of the current year.

10th October 2019: Helmet

Another new experience for me and a bit the same as for The Young Gods. I thought the band was no more but they decided to do a very interesting 30+30+30 conceptual tour this year, each figure meaning 30 years of career, 30 big cities in Europe and 30 tracks played each night (well..it looks they cheated that night with 31 tracks!). Lead by Page Hamilton on guitar and voice, Helmet were tagged as a early 90’s grunge band. It is true that their style of music and American origins made them close to Nirvana but they did not really get any cross over success out of those interested by this kind of music.

They really were amazing live and I do not remember seeing a band on stage with such dedication to the power of their music, not adding one inch of fat or any rock star bullshit attitude. Although their music is really different, their skills and ways of being reminded me of the American jazz scene of the 50’s, i.e. musicians in love with their art and happy to do it forever, notwithstanding the level of success they can enjoy. Page Hamilton is an incredible leader but all the band is impressive, with a specific mention to Dan Beeman on guitar (from whom I caught a mediator he sent)! Definitely not the kind of music to play at a posh dinner but if you are a person eager to listen to new ‘old’ sounds, Helmet is for you!

(grand)Fathers and sons: Todd Rundgren and The Lemon Twigs live (London – 2019)

I recently attended two beautiful gigs by artists of different generations but so close in their love and understanding of what music should be, i.e. inventive, energetic and full of melodies. On my left, The Lemon Twigs aka Brian and Michael d’Addario, respectively 21 and 19-years old. On my right, the immense Todd Rundgren, who just turned 70. I just realised how close their respective music was while catching Todd live and then remembered he featured as a guest on a couple of tracks on their latest excellent “Go To School” album. I was also sent this hilarious link by one of my most faithful readers, which is basically The Lemon Twigs interviewed two years ago by… Todd Rundgren.

  • The Lemon Twigs, London Roundhouse, 27th February 2019

I was quite excited to catch The Lemon Twigs again after their phenomenal gig at the End of the Road festival 2017 edition. Held in the great Roundhouse theatre where the atmosphere is always special, the gig was as good as expected thanks to the tremendous energy the two brothers (and the rest of the band) showed throughout the show.

The brothers’ dynamics is always a fascinating one too. One can really feel that Brian is the more mature person of the band, which makes him to accept the talent but also sometimes uncontrollable behaviour of little brother Michael. They clearly love each other but will things stay as such forever after spending life on tour, in the studio or under constant pressure? Difficult to know… What makes this band different thought is that both brothers have their equal share of compositions and I must say all tracks are superb whoever the composer can be.

However, the set was pretty amazing and I hope the pictures I took can translate the experience we all lived that night. …and if anyone has any doubt about these guys’ talent, have a look at this past video:

  • Todd Rundgren, London Eventim Apollo, 6th April 2019

I really thought I would end my music lover’s career without ever catching Todd Rundgren live as I thought his main interests were more creating weird music and enjoying his nice simple Hawaiian house than touring. It looks the guy either needs the cash or remains excited to tour… Whatever the reasons, this was probably one the best idea he had in recent years. For the record, you will find a quick catch-up about his musical career by clicking on this All Music link but to make it short Todd Rundgren’s musicianship is extraordinary, either through his own music or his work as a producer. All his albums of the 70’s are recommended and in particular both “Something/Anything” from 1972 and “A Wizard, A True Star” from 1973.

The concert was indeed excellent although those who wanted the hits probably ended up a bit frustrated. Typically of what he has been all his life, i.e. not doing real compromise, he played a first set with all 70’s classics and came back later in the show to play his more experimental stuff. I personally liked this approach a lot and was also seduced by the man’s showmanship and great contact with the audience. Please do not die before listening to “I Saw The Light“, one of the best songs ever.

Tribute gigs… are they any good? Bowie and Prince, London, January & February 2019

I had mixed feelings in the past about tribute bands, considering them very often as quite pathetic either for the musicians involved or for the audience. To make it short, the past is the past and better to discover new exciting bands rather than listening to the same songs again and again from your favourite band from the past or dead artist. Maybe this is age or being more tolerant but I welcome such gigs now. The concert that made the difference was probably that I went to in the early 00’s in Strasbourg, bringing on stage Genesis “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” by the excellent tribute band The Musical Box. Bach or Coltrane have been dead for a certain period of time now and musicians play their music all over the world so why could not we listen to the music of The Rolling Stones?… Wait…I am just told The Rolling Stones are not dead actually…Anyway, I recently experienced two Bowie and one Prince tributes so here is the review for each of them.

A Bowie Celebration – Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 12th January

The first gig I went to was in the same mindset as that attended early 2017, in the sense that the leader of this band is American pianist Mike Garson, probably one of the most influential band members David Bowie worked with (like Mick Ronson, Carlos Alomar, Reeves Gabrels or Gail Ann Dorsey to name but a few). On stage with a few usual suspect compadres like Earl Slick on guitar or Carmine Rojas on bass, one must recognize he manages to bring David Bowie’s music live with joy, energy and just a slight touch of pathos. The three singers were also quite good, with a special mention to Corey Glover, one of the founding members of Living Colour. My only frustration came from the choice of songs; they were all great but quite a pity there were so few from the last thirty years.

Seu Jorge & The Heritage Orchestra – The Life Aquatic -Tribute to David Bowie – Hammersmith Apollo – 8th February

The next one was a bit different as it was a specific breed of tribute… Based on the songs he performed in his sailor role in Wes Anderson‘s “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (one of my favourite movies ever), Seu Jorge was in the beautiful Apollo theatre to sing in Portuguese a few Bowie classics from the so-called glam period. The majority of the songs were indeed actually from “Hunky Dory“, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” or again “Aladdin Sane” and like in the movie, sung in Portuguese… according to Seu Jorge’s inspiration. For those not familiar with the man, he has been one of the most singular voices in Brazil in the last 25 years, either with supporting roles in movies or through a few excellent records. I was also a bit frustrated not to hear any Brazilian-sounding songs from Seu Jorge but I guess these were the rules of the game. On the other side, it would be a disgrace not to mention the extraordinary level of the classic ensemble on stage that night as they really brought an extra dimension to the songs whilst staying subtle.

The Revolution – Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 14th February

No better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day that catching up live Prince‘s former glorious band from the early 80’s, surrounded by prestigious guests from Bordeaux, France. As a reminder, a bit like James Brown used to do, Prince did not hesitate to frequently change his musicians and despite their excellence, The Revolution was no exception. Despite great or…interesting records later, they probably played on Prince’s greatest albums: “1999“, “Purple Rain“, “Around the World in a Day” or the immense “Parade“, one of the most moving, dancing and singular albums of all times. The Revolution are/were: Lisa Coleman on piano, Doctor Fink on keyboards, Bobby Z. on drums, Brown Mark on bass and the great Wendy Melvoin on guitar. They were also accompanied on stage by singer Stockley Williams, especially when a falsetto voice was needed.

After Prince’s death in 2016, these musicians went through a tough mourning phase and spontaneously reformed the band more than 30 years since they last played together to celebrate their former leader. I guess I am not the only one to claim it but these musicians really created a specific sound thanks to Prince’s vision. The setlist was really extraordinary and I must admit being very much moved by Wendy’s interpretation of “Sometimes It Snows in April“. All the set was very moving actually and I spent the whole evening in a happy/sad state of mind. The rockers were also amazing in terms of energy and musicianship. Wanna see the funkiest band in town? Go and see a bunch of immensely skilled musicians in their late 50’s named The Revolution!