Festive season ! The Cure, London Eventim Apollo, 21st December 2014

The Cure, London Apollo, 21st December 2014, Full band

The Cure are now a band out of the regular record/promotion/tour biz mindset and as often been the case in these last years, their leader Robert Smith is quite creative to choose nice ideas to please the fans and do things his way. Hence the fact that the band decided to play three shows in a row just before Christmas in the magical Apollo theatre. I had personally taken note of these shows a bit late as they were sold out in the matter of a few minutes. However, tenacity is probably one of the strengths of this blog and I finally succeeded in getting tickets for the opening night.

Saying I was overwhelmed by joy is probably an understatement as The Cure have been one of my favourite bands ever and they are particularly GREAAAAAT on stage. They were my first show ever (buying my own ticket) in 1985 but that was only my fourth show this time despite my trying to see them again on stage after their fantastic 3h30 show in Paris Bercy in 2008.

The Cure, London Apollo, 21st December 2014, Robert Smith and Simon Gallup

One of the most common remarks when talking about The Cure is hearing comments such as “they still exist?” or associating them with the 80’s. Nonsense of course as if one can not deny a slight feeling of nostalgia, this is not really what is important here. What matters is the power of music, creativity, believing in your values and overall bearing one’s burden with dignity and passion throughout the years… basically everything for which music stands for.

On top of Robert Smith, The Cure current members are Simon Gallup on bass (he played of course his famous “dam-dam” “A Forest” signature), smiling Roger O’Donnell on keyboards, youngest band member Jason Cooper on drums and last but not least the extraordinary American guitar player Reeves Gabrels, famous for his work with David Bowie.

The Cure, London Apollo, 21st December 2014, Robert Smith & Reeves Gabrels

I was expecting a great show… and it was even better. Starting with “Shake Dog Shake“, Robert Smith was on amazing form, singing better than ever and playing all his repertoire from great obscure B-sides to fantastic famous pop songs like “The Walk” for instance. My personal favourite was “from the Edge of the Green Deep Sea” from the album “Wish” due to his repetitive mantra and power. Interesting to notice that they band played all ten tracks from the luminous “The Top” LP from 1984 ; I guess they will do the same tonight and tomorrow for the other dates for other LP’s.

To summarise it in a nutshell, I probably had the best three hours of my 2014 year yesterday evening… Please click for setlist and review of the show.

It’s 1985 again ! Bob Mould, 18th November 2014, Village Underground / The Jesus and Mary Chain, 24th November 2014, Troxy / Morrissey, 29th November 2014, O2 Arena

The Queen is Dead“, “Hardly Getting Over It“, “Just Like Honey“, “Asleep“, “Never Understand“, “Hoover Dam“,… here is a sample of the fantastic songs I was lucky to listen to sung by the artists who created them in the first place. Let me add that they were all in great shape (ok, William Reid might have taken a few extra pounds…) despite all having a dark passenger in the late 90’s/early 00’s. But this is the beauty of rock music, one of the rare places where second acts are still an option and real talent always there somehow. Here are a few comments on these shows that were all occurring in the Eastern districts of beautiful London city.

Who : Bob Mould / Opening act : Young Knives / When : 18th November 2014 / Where : Village Underground, London / Place in history : rank # 27 / Setlist here

Bob Mould, Village Underground, November 2014, band
Those who are faithful followers of this blog know how fond I am of Uncle Bob, either for his extraordinary career with Hüsker Dü, Sugar and as a solo artist or for his great personal story, fantastically written in his book “See a little light“.

What is particularly great in Bob Mould’s current reincarnation is the energy and youth one can find in a 54-year old man. One of the reason is probably the trust he has in his current trio with Jason Narducy on bass and Jon Wurster on drums (same band as for the Brussels show in 2012) but as well the peace he found in his inner soul and trust in his art. Peace is probably not the right word by the way as the set was really powerful and the audience really reactive (anyone interested in pogoing with old-fashioned punks?).

Bob Mould, Village Underground, November 2014, Bob singing

That might have been the only regret of this concert held in the beautiful bricked wall-venue. The man is so good in slow and introspective songs that seeing only his hardcore side is sometimes a bit frustrating. But great show overall and looking forward to seeing him next time.

Who : The Jesus and Mary Chain / Opening act : The Amazing Snakeheads / When : 24th November 2014 / Where : Troxy, London / Place in history : rank # 69 / Setlist here

The JAMC, Troxy, November 2014, Reid brothers

Last time I had seen The Jesus and Mary Chain on stage was in 2007 at Rock en Seine in Paris and I really thought that it would be the last time as it looked the relationship between brothers Jim and William Reid was as tense as ever. This is probably what has made this Scottish band so great throughout they years : internal tension and a very clear attitude about their art and the limits above which not to go and not to compromise.

The JAMC, Troxy, November 2014, Jim Reid

As a consequence, this current mini-tour was a real gift and to add up to the reward the set was dedicated to their first LP “Psychocandy” (NME Album of the Year in 1985). The above-mentioned album was played beautifully but moreover they were smart enough to start the set with a few other classics of their own. To my mind, it might have been of their best concerts. Here, maturity means integrity as the songs were played with Jim Reid singing better than ever and William reminding everyone that he must be one of the most underrated guitarists of our times. Happy to have you back guys.

Who : Morrissey / Opening act : Anna Calvi / When : 29th November 2014 / Where : 02, London / Place in history : rank # 30 (with The Smiths) / Setlist here
Morrissey, O2 Arena, November 2014, Band

London was holding yesterday evening Morrissey’s only date of his current tour. Although it looked a bit ambitious at first and in particular when watching poor Anna Calvi trying to give a bit of emotion and life to her great songs in such a big arena, the place was actually full when the great man arrived on stage. Wearing white clothes of an uncertain style (between the Loveboat series and workingman overalls) and hugging his crew of mainly American musicians all wearing beautiful “FUCK HARVEST RECORDS” tee-shirts, one could feel a certain emotion on stage and a real and beautiful connection with the British and Toulouse (South West of France) audience.

This is not a secret that Morrissey is currently not in his best-ever health shape but one should not be surprised when reading his fantastic biography as he can already consider himself a real survivor amongst his peers. But this was difficult to spot when seeing his energy and enthusiasm on stage. On top of it, I really found his voice close to perfection last night, even when he sang tricky slow ones.

Morrissey, O2 Arena, November 2014, singing on screen

The show really confirmed that his last LP “World Peace is none of your business” is really amongst his best ones. Although one could regret that Stephen Patrick Morrissey did not sing more tracks from his the Smiths and solo repertoire (as all done live at the O2 were amazing), the overall level of the quality of the set plus the emotion felt made it one of the best shows of the year.

Spoon, London Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 7th November 2014

Spoon, Shepherd's Bush Empire, Band

God how I like this city! There are literally great concerts to attend on a daily basis and the good thing is that sometimes great events occur very near where you live as this is the case with the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, one of the best theatres in London. That was my second Spoon show ; this American band being one of my favourites ever, ranked # 88 in this blog’s Top 100. Last time I saw them was in Paris at the Elysée Montmartre, just before this theatre burnt in flames. It has been remaining closed until now and I hope I will not bring back luck to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire…

Hamilton Leithauser

The opening act was Hamilton Leithauser, former singer with the excellent The Walkmen, whose last LP was one of the best of 2012 but it looks the band is now on hiatus, as is the current correct way of saying “separated”… He played songs from his first LP with just another guitarist and I found the show quite sad, first because the songs are beautiful and intimate but as well because this is always a bit moving to see someone with a career already behind them starting from scratch and having to prove to the audience how good they are.

Spoon, Shepherd's Bush Empire, Jim Eno

Spoon arrived on stage with what one could really perceive enthusiasm and pleasure in presenting to the UK audience (well, probably half of them being Americans…) their new songs for the very good recent “They Want My Soul” LP. For those not familiar with the music of Spoon, you probably actually are if you are a series’ freak as their songs are often used in the best ones of the last years. Theirs is a mix of very easy listening American pop with a real talent for memorable melodies and more ambitious and looping/repetitive music. In other words, the best of both worlds for a band particularly at ease and giving their best on stage.

Spoon, Shepherd's Bush Empire, Britt Daniel

Great show with a very responsive audience and a set list well-balanced between the new album and their incredibly good old songs.

Elvis Costello, London Royal Albert Hall, 29th October 2014

Elvis Costello, Royal Albert Hall 2014, alone

… and yes dear readers, the blog is back! After years of tremendous world-wide success and aggressive buying offers from equity funds, Virgins and Philistines Senior Management have regrouped and concluded that the only way for the blog to keep its independency and stay focusing on the pure musical side was to cross the Channel and set up our Headquarters in London, one of the few major rock cities.

Elvis Costello, Royal Albert Hall 2014, with Georgie Fame

And there is probably no better way to re-start our chronicles than seeing live one of our favourite artists of all times (ranked #8 in our Top 100) in one of the most beautiful and famous music theatre of the U.K. (I did not find out though how many holes could fill this place…). Despite having reached the honourable 60-years old threshold which is by the way something amazing as I am still seeing him as this enraged young punk rock musician from the 70’s, Elvis Costello – real name Declan McManus – is currently in a very dynamic energy. To my mind, he has much clarity and vision about what he wants to do about his musical life than, say, 10 or 15 years ago.

Elvis Costello, Royal Albert Hall 2014, with Steve Nieve

After being on stage with the legendary opening band Georgie Fame and the Blue Fames for one track, Elvis Costello came back later to open his own set that was supposed to be solo… but with a great surprise as the pianist Stevie Nieve was on stage for a good part of the show. On top of having the pleasure of seeing these two great musicians working together, this was fantastic as well to see how they both are not people only watching in a rear-view mirror but always eager to go towards the future when the art of arrangement is concerned.

Elvis Costello, Royal Albert Hall 2014, on guitar

The set list was extraordinary and really well-balanced with all musical periods of his life and you will find all details in the set on this link. When Elvis Costello played on his own, he only had to choose one of the beautiful six guitars that were surrounding him but once again for me the real magical moments came when he revisited all songs with Steve Nieve on the piano. Songs such as “I don’t want to go to Chelsea” or “Shipbuilding” were really extraordinary that night. See you soon again Elvis and you dear blog readers for more frequent news than the last months.

Elvis Costello, Royal Albert Hall 2014, on air

Metronomy, 28th April 2014, Paris, Zénith…clean and sharp !

Metronomy, Paris, April 2014, band

Although one of this blog cherished band for a few years, this was my first actual live Metronomy experience.

Metronomy, Paris, April 2014, singing

The band led by Joseph Mount is probably one of the most original amongst their contemporaries and they way their sound has developed from electro DIY melodies to what it is now is quite impressive. Describing it with words is not easy as well and the best I could do would be to mix Tamla Motown sound with Hot Chip euphoria and a Prefab Sprout sense of melody. It looks I just created a monster..but bear with me as frankly this band is really great.

Metronomy, Paris, April 2014, keyboards

The band was in a 5-musician mode on stage in a sold-out Zénith to present their new album “Love Letters” just made recently available. To my mind, although different, this new LP is as good as their previous one “The French Riveria“. And let’s not forget that the latest was our album of the year in our 2011 best-of! The were all dressed in the same outfit which is something nice and once again gives a wink to the best bands of the Motown era. They now succeed to be at the same time at ease and excellent on stage while keeping their singularity of playing a very sharp kind of pop music which is not stadium-oriented as lots of other bands awfully do.

Metronomy, Paris, April 2014, drums'n'bass

Great musicianship as well and my favourite band member was by far the amazing  Olugbenga Adelekan from Nigeria on bass. Setlist here.

Wild Beasts, Paris Trabendo, 16th April 2014

Wild Beasts, Trabendo 2014, blue mood

Wild Beasts is probably one of the most interesting and original current bands and the whole editorial team decided to catch them live again in Paris in a much different environment compared to Austin City Limits 2011 when they were actually our start of three great days (ah…the sun, the Austin atmosphere, the cold beers,…).

What makes this band different is that they brought from a relatively straightforward rock structure in the tradition of many great British bands their personality through the rich and falsetto respective voices of Tom Fleming and Hayden Thorpe. On top of this, their path has not been a direct one and the more they make records and shows, the more one feel their will to experiment but once again within the scope of beautiful melodies.

Wild Beasts, Trabendo 2014, Hayden Thorpe

The Trabendo Hall was not sold out for the show which was a pity but as well lead to a great and friendly atmosphere between the band and the audience as that night was their last concert of their European tour. The band played greatly all along the show and as often in such cases having two different voices complementing and challenging each other is a real asset. One coud feel throughout the concert that these guys are more than a bunch of musicians gathering for the sake of playing music and that they really make music to go forward and try to add up a tiny layer of excellence in the long history of great bands.

Wild Beasts, Trabendo 2014, drum'n'bass

All their LP’s are really recommended ; Two Dancers” in 2009 and “Smother” in 2011 were part of our end-of-the-year best of’s and new LP “Present Tense” is excellent as well. Catch them up live if you can as well as I think they will tour the summer festivals.

Wild Beasts, Trabendo 2014, Tom Fleming

 

Sun Kil Moon, Paris Divan du Monde, 22th March 2014

Red House Painters ? Mark Kozelek ? Sun Kil Moon ? Which band or artist were really playing tonight ? Well, truth is that all these different identities actually hide Mark Kozelek who has been/is the sole leader of these different names.

For those not familiar with that name, you should know that Mr. K. has been a major artist now for around twenty-five years. Although one could blame him for doing the same depressed folk grungey kind of song, one has to recognize first that this same song is particularly beautiful, funny, moving and greatly melodic and secondly that Mark Kozelek has brought changes recently in his music, playing with different peers (please refer to our 2013 Best of list where the man was particularly well represented). For this blog, this man is unmissable and number 75 in our all-times TOP 100.

Tonight he was supposed to play as a trio with Steve Shelley formerly from Sonic Youth on drums but the guys were actually… four and Steve Shelley replaced by another excellent drummer.

 

Sun Kill Moon, Paris 2014

 

All four men were playing seated down and the use of cell phones or cameras to take pictures was not encouraged to say the least, hence this only one I took during the final song of the show.

That was my second time in seeing the great man and my feeling was the same in front of him as the first time : he can be at the same time very funny, full of charisma in a American-style of behaviour whilst showing at the same time a huge fragility and the fact he is not the most at-ease person ever where human relationships are concerned.

The 2-hour long show was beautiful, mixing up mainly songs from his new “Benji” album and other ones from his LP’s of the last three years. Although the stories are sometimes quite depressing (mainly about deaths of former next of kin), there is always humour and beauty in these songs (a bit like the 80’s/90’s British movies that directors Ken Loach or Stephen Frears used to do in their prime years). The only usual regret is that he very rarely plays old masterpiece songs from his Red House Painters old times. Despite him complaining that there were too many middle-aged men in the audience (which was true!) and that people on the balcony were watching him in a scary Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes wide-shut” kind of way, even when young girls were requesting such songs, his answer was not really positive.

 

 

Very moving show overall and listen to his new “Benji” LP (cover above) while listening to the words if you want to know more about the guy and discover his fantastic music.

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Paris, Divan du Monde, 18th January 2014

Stephen Malkmus & The Jigs, Paris 2014 - Stephen Malkmus singing

The start of a new year, what to do ? Keeping on seeing too many live shows ? Concentrating on the classics or searching for THE new band ? Not sure I know… Anyway, hope you readers will get a great year 2014 full of musical treasures.

Stephen Malkmus & The Jigs, Paris 2014 - Full band

And is there a better way to start the year with than experiencing good ol’ Stephen Malkmus on stage ? The guy has been one of our favourite for years, either through his seminal band Pavement (# 43 in our Top 100) or through his excellent solo career. This is quite amazing to realize that he has had more records under his own name now than under the Pavement banner. How time flies…

Stephen Malkmus & The Jigs, Paris 2014 - Stephen Malkmus and Joanna Bolme

A brand new album under his belt (“Wig out at Jagbags“), Stephen Malkmus and his three compadres were back in Paris on the nice Divan du Monde stage to defend this new record. The general feeling of the rock community is that this album is once more very good but that the man will never be as important as when he was in his Pavement days. This might be true but I guess there is as well a kind of snobbish attitude there such great his albums are for those who like their weird songs with melodies and guitars (count me in!). The show was really excellent and although one could regret the absolute non-appearance of any Pavement songs, the material he has been gathering through his solo LP’s is definitely great. Singers like Paul Weller or Morrissey for instance waited years before starting incorporating Jam or Smiths songs in their set so there is hope for the future… The encore was particularly weird with two covers ; one was not a real surprise (“Beginning to See the Light” by the Velvet Underground) whereas the other one was quite unexpected to say the least… : “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin !

Seeing again Stephen Malkmus was like meeting back a very old friend after many years : excited first to see him and checking what he has become, a bit disappointed after a few minutes to realize nothing has really changed and finally aware that such familiarity was great in the first place!

Click here for setlist.

Stephen Malkmus & The Jigs, Paris 2014 - Stephen Malkmus on guitar