End Of The Road festival 2018 – Day Four – Sunday 2nd September 2018

..and then we eventually all reached the final day of the 2018 edition of End of the Road. As all great events, there is always a sense of weirdness when one realises that something expected for months is actually going to end soon… 

That was another day of choices and for instance my program did not allow me to make it for Haley Heyderikx, Iceage, Ezra Furman, Idles, Feist or Ariel Pink‘s gigs. Another time, another planet I guess…

No better way to start the day than with the Perpignan garage band The
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from Perpignan, France. They may not be the most radical new band of all times but their music is really excellent, especially in the context of a festival. And being able to hear “c’est bon, on peut y aller” in the middle of Dorset was a real treat!

But this was nothing compared to the next gig I attended. I was not really familiar with the legendary Posies from Seattle, although I had recently heard the latest albums from one of their two leaders Ken Stringfellow, the other one being Jonathan Auer.  The concert was actually a positive shock as their music is an incredible mix of grunge and power-pop, which makes them associated by many with the beautiful Teenage Fanclub from Scotland. I had never seen them in their prime but I read that they are as good now since they reformed as they were in the 90’s. A band not to be missed on stage.

I then attended two nice gigs at the Garden Stage. The first one was from the Velvet Underground influenced British band The Wave Pictures: quite a refreshing gig but with no real sparkle to be honest. The second one from an old acquaintance with Jonathan Wilson, a musician from L.A. and also fantastic producer of our 2017 album of the year with Father John Misty. Jonathan’s musicianship and taste are unchallengeable but I must admit I had been more excited when I first caught him on stage a few years ago in France.

After a final catch-up at the Big Top stage with Michelle Zauner’s interesting band Japanese Breakfast, I came back to the Garden stage, full of hopes for Julia Holter‘s gig. That was quite a disappointment actually as although her challenging music can be very good on record, I felt that a festival was probably not the best place to appreciate it, especially on Day Four… What makes End of the Road so beautiful is that rather than killing time, I then decided to check on rebel grunge country outlaw Jim White at the Tipi Tent, which actually ended as one of my best moments of the festival. In the great tradition of American singers, his songs are very simple but also very often straight to the point and full of a certain desperate emotion. Jim White is also one of the funniest musicians I have ever experienced and his introduction story about his former role as a Jehovah’s Witness was hilarious.

My fate was to finish the festival at my favourite Garden Stage with the final two concerts I attended. Always a pleasure to see rock legend John Cale on stage, for the second time of the year after his March concert at the London Barbican. Of course, John Cale does not sing Coldplay-hymn stadium songs and his music is often a bit difficult to say the least. But taking a step backwards, isn’t it incredible to watch this 76-year old man still eager to experiment? Amazing bunch of musicians as well.

I was also super excited and full of joy to finish it all with White Denim, from my favourite city in the USA, i.e. Austin Texas. I have always enjoyed a lot their records although their music is so diverse and embracing all styles that this is sometimes difficult to remember them as a real singular band. However, they are truly amazing live, playing endlessly super catchy but very complex songs, owing as much to jazz, Americana or power pop styles. Not a hint of weakness during this great concert and the best way to finish the day and the festival full of memories.

Any idea about where I will be next year late August/early September?


End Of The Road festival 2018 – Day Three – Saturday 1st September 2018

 

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Saturday is traditionally the most tiresome day of them all. So to fight it and to stay as energy-driven as possible, I spent close to twelve hours on site!

I attended fewer gigs than the previous day (only eight…) but also decided to start the day differently by watching a movie at the beautiful cinema tent built in the Twin Peaks spirit. End of the Road is also a great festival to chill, relax, meditate, get a massage, attend a comedy show …or watch a movie. No better way to start the day actually than seeing one of my favourite director latest movie, namely Wes Anderson‘s Isle of Dogs. I guess he does not need me to say so but his latest opus is as usual funny, entertaining, full of emotion, very creative,…everything one wants to find in movies really.

 

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After this excellent start, it was back to the gigs for me in a day that was under the banner of psychedelic and garage rock music. This was also a difficult day in terms of choice and I missed amongst others bands or artists such as Screaming Females, Julian Baker, Mulatu Astatke, Gruff Rhys, Destroyer or again the festival headliners Vampire Weekend.

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After a nice first gig from Welsh newcomers Boy Azooga , my first thrill came from L.A psychedelic band Flat Worms. Their formula is not revolutionary but one can really feel the vibes and energy of this pure rock’n’roll trio just after one song. Lead by singer and guitarist Will Ivy, I dare anyone not to dance like a maniac after watching a couple of songs. Well I did anyway…

Next stop at the Garden stage was a bit of a disappointment as I was expecting more from Pennsylvania songwriter Alex Giannascoli, better known under his artist name of (Sandy) Alex G. I thought the gig was lacking energy, emotion or both so I went to the Wood stage to be prepared on time for Shame. They are a South London young punk rock band and they released early in the year (in January to be precise) one of the best records of the year. I knew they had the reputation of being wild on stage…and there was no disappointment here neither as wild is probably too soft a word. What is even greater with these guys and in particular with their singer Charlie Steen is that there is not an ounce of cliché. You feel you are watching a potential great band without them being aware of it. Isn’t this what rock’n’roll is about?

Spontaneity is probably not how I would describe Brooklyn’s Sunflower Bean as it looks everything has been studied here, from their influences (The Velvet Underground meets The Cocteau Twins) to their non-look… and moustache for their drummer. What makes this band different and probably one of the best we have today is bass player / singer Julia Cumming. She has a real stage fascinating presence whilst staying very spontaneous. One of the best gigs I attended during the week-end.

My next two gigs were a bit opposite as singer Sophie Allison’s band Soccer Mommy were more exciting on stage than on record with their folk rock music, whereas I thought Hookworms on stage were much less subtle than they are on records with their German repetitive influenced music.

Anyway the real excitement of the day for me was that I would eventually catch John Dwyer on stage with one of his numerous bands and project, namely Oh Sees. With Ty Segall or Jack White, John Dwyer is currently one of the hardest man in show business and his records have regularly been in our best of lists. Wearing his traditional bermuda shorts made out of cut jean trousers, his usual tattoos and his guitar held very high, the great man and his band performed an amazing gig of psychedelic music. John Dwyer is the sole constant member of The Oh Sees (I know, they are currently called Oh Sees…) and musicians come and go depending on the overall ambiance he wants to create. This tour is particularly awesome as there are…two drummers on stage. That was an excellent way to end a very long day.

Oh…and by the way, that was another beautiful sunny day in Dorset!

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End Of The Road festival 2018 – Day Two – Friday 31th August 2018

The last day of the month of August is generally a bit depressing at it means the end of summertime, no more sunny weather and back to work/school. The best remedy is to be at End of the Road…and attend 10 gigs as I did! So without further due, here you go for Day Two review.

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My first concert was under a beautiful sun at The Woods Stage with Du Blonde, the avatar name chosen by Beth Jeans Hougton. I had not seen her since 2015 for my first edition of the festival and she was as powerful and subtle as I remember her last time. She is probably not the most smiling person ever and her choice of a Star Trek tee-shirt was too geeky to be true but her music is a real delicacy. One can even feel the spirit of the great David Bowie sometimes. She is working on the finishing touches of her new record which should be released early 2019 so I am quite sure this is not the last time she will be mentioned here.

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I then attended two gigs in a row at my beloved Garden Stage, one of my favourite places on Earth. The first one was from the North Caroline band Hiss Golden Messenger, basically the sole project of M.C. Taylor. I have always enjoyed their records as they mix Americana music with a certain depth. They are a bit different live as they are more in the country rock tradition. In other words, I had a good time but I was expecting a bit more.

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Quite the opposite with This Is The Kit, the band lead by English singer and songwriter Kate Stables. I also discovered this band at End Of The Road 2015 with a fantastic concert at the Tipi tent. Since then, they have been one of my favourite current bands and this was the fourth time I was catching them live. It was again beautiful and probably the best gig of theirs I came to see. Kate was alternating as usual between her banjo and her nice green guitar with a strength and emotion I was not expecting. I also attended a signing session a few hours later in the day at the Rough Trade store tent and we had a nice conversation in English… and French as Kate has been living in Paris for thirteen years now.

Completely different genre of music with Tirzah, a young Londoner female artist, working in the design world by day and singing her great melodies by night. Her music is not that different from Leila, for those who remember this very original female artist who released a few personal kind of trip-hop records at the end of the 90’s and start of the 00’s. Tirzah was on stage in a minimalist configuration with her friend and collaborator Mica Levi and another excellent male musician playing… a bit of everything. Go and discover her debut album, which was part of our August record of the month selection.

Back to the Woods stage for the concert of the legendary Josh T. Pearson, former leader of the cult Texas band Lift To Experience. Josh T. Pearson released in April his second solo record “The Straight Hits!, with all tracks having the word “straight” in their title. I already told the story of this incredible artist and performer as part of my review of his 2011 gig at the Café de la Danse in Paris. With a completely different look and haircut and also a quite different style of songs, Josh T. Pearson looks and sounds like a different artist…but beware the beast is still here, as experienced by this fantastic live performance. He is an artist not to be missed, alternating between very intense numbers…and a few dick jokes as well (I did not get them all I must confess!). I also had a 5-minute conversation with the great man the following day as part of a signing session, once again talking about Paris as he used to live there a couple of years before going back to Texas.

Next step was back at the Tipi tent to see the Polish experimental guitar and clarinet duo of Zimpel & Ziolek. Although their names sound more like a kids’ cartoon, their music is quite fascinating. Exactly the kind of thing I like about this festival: discovering new artists and it looks I was not the only one as the whole audience was delighted. I then attended around thirty minutes of the Brooklyn band Big Thief at the Garden stage but I must say I was quite disappointed. All reviews of their latest records have been so positive that I was expecting to find a life-changing band but I only attended a quite good indie band. Maybe I was not in the mood… On the other side, I was not really expecting anything of The Orielles, a young UK band, but they were really excellent under the Tops stage tent. They are a two-female and one-male trio…and are actually all very young! Their indie rock sound will not start a revolution but I must say they have an impressive musicianship and energy.

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However, the greatest moment of the day and of the festival for me was Jeff Tweedy‘s gig at the Garden Stage. The show of the Wilco leader was not necessarily that different from that I saw at the start of the year at the Barbican but it was probably more intimate. Those reading regularly my reviews probably know how I cherish this amazing artist who has produced or created amongst the most beautiful songs of our recent years, first with his band Wilco but also with other collaborations or solo. He was just playing with his acoustic, which shows how strong these songs are. I also knew he was a very funny person and I must say the concert made it a real fact. When an audience member told him “You’re beautiful”, he replied “I’m beautiful? You’re sick!”. Discover this beautiful man, his beautiful band, his beautiful records and his beautiful songs if not done yet.

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I still had a bit of energy left so I decided to attend Protomartyr‘s concert in the warmth of the Tops Stage. …and I must confess there was not better to end a lovely day than with this Detroit band, lead by the fascinating Joe Casey. You would not believe this man in a cheap suit and with the haircut of an insurance clerk is one of the best current punk rock singers of our current times but he is! Their sound is also very dense and not that different from what a mix of Joy Division with Living Colour would be. Not sure if it means anything to anyone but they are really good on stage!

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So here it is for Day Two. I did not see Daniel Blumberg, The Weather Station, Lucy Dacus, The Low Anthem, Fat White Family or again St. Vincent although they were all on my list but a man has to do difficult choices sometimes. Stay posted for Day Three!

End of the Road festival 2018 – Day One – Thursday 30th August 2018

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That time of the year again… and what a magical and great moment that was. Back for the 4th year in the beautiful scenery of the Larmer Tree Park in Dorset, surrounded by excellent musicians, great audience of people actually here to listen to and enjoy music, birds (peacocks, macaws) but more than anything a friendly and peaceful atmosphere which makes this festival the best of them all (sold out again this year  – 16,000 tickets).

On top of it, the weather was also very enjoyable this year, meaning my traditional rain cape stayed in the bag whereas I was happy listening to awesome bands dressed in a tee-shirt and Converse shoes!

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As initiated in 2016, the festival started on Thursday evening. This was a good warm-up for your beloved reviewer as I started my 30-gig marathon with three excellent concerts that night.

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My first concert of the festival took place under the friendly Tipi Tent stage with a discovery. Laura Misch is a young South-East Londoner female musician who plays on her own…and with her saxophone and machines on stage. It meant sometimes a few software errors but mainly a mixture of beautiful sounds. She is very talented and her music sounds like a very personal R’n’B with an indie rock mindset. Not sure if it makes sense but I personally enjoyed it a lot.
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I then went to the main stage of the festival (the Woods Stage) to catch two very different bands. The first one is called Shopping and can be defined as a queer trio playing post punk music influenced by great names such as ESG or Gang Of Four. I had found their latest Edwyn Collins-produced album “The Official Body” ok but live this London band brings something else. Their drummer has a good sense of humor as well and I was proud to understand both Fanta-sy and Sex Cymbal jokes!

The headliner of the day were my beloved Yo La Tengo. This was my seventh YLT gig and there were as good as earlier in the year when I caught them in London. This American trio could be considered veterans of the indie rock scene but really they get better with age. They are now in a place where they can basically decide which kind of setlist they want to play and which type of concert one could attend. That night was quite focused on their latest quiet sounding “There is a riot going on‘” LP but they also played a few classics, alternating cool Velvet Underground influenced songs, repetitive loops but also ferocious punk rock numbers. Fantastic…as usual.

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Stay posted for Day Two!

My 80’s were…different: The The (Royal Albert Hall, 5th June 2018) and Microdisney (Barbican, 9th June 2018)

 

There is nothing more annoying that associating a decade with the bad music which was played then. I must say that apart from the 60’s, there is a tendency to match the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s with the worst music that was available at that time. The 80’s are probably the worst example of what I am trying to explain and so-called 80’s retro parties are generally a nightmare because the music that is played was and still is the enemy. Even worse I must say in my own country as one has to deal with all French awful “variété” songs of the time.

Anyway, this introduction was only meant to emphasize that the two bands I will describe in this review were indeed originally from the 80’s but could have been from any period thanks to the excellence of their sounds and production but also the witness and intelligence of the words. A few common things here as well as both bands had ceased to exist for a long time and had not played live for ages.

  • The The, Royal Albert Hall, 5th June 2018

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Basically the sole project of Matt Johson, The The made extremely good music in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The four records released from 1983 to 1993 are amongst the best of all times from any band, period: “Soul Mining“, “Infected“, “Mind Bomb” and “Dusk“. Their music was a mix of indie rock and ethnical rhythms, confirmed by the impressive list of great collaborators who played on these tracks (Jools Holland, Zeke Manyika or again Johnny Marr). In terms of words, Matt Johnson is probably one of the best British writers and always mixed personal topics with bigger political concepts.

Family issues (losses mainly) and a certain lack of faith in the music industry and its rules made him vanished little by little. Their last gig was in 2002 and personally I had only caught them live twice in Paris in 1989 and 1993. The recent loss of his other brother made Matt Johnson realise that being on stage was the best he could do, hence this mini tour with three dates in London, the first one being held at the Royal Albert Hall.

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The band were sharp on stage and all dressed in black as expected if I may. The The’s songs have not aged at all: the musicianship was extraordinary on stage and Matt’s voice even better than in my memory. The real impressive treat though lied in the quality of the lyrics with themes that are today even more relevant that they used to be (religious wars, gap between the poor and the rich, etc…). A fantastic band which deserves a second life.

Please click for the impressive setlist or The Guardian’s review.

  • Microdisney, Barbican, 9th June 2018

Originally from Cork, Ireland, Microdisney is to me one of the most hidden treasures of all times and I did not hesitate to put them in my 100 favourite artists of all times. Their four records released from 1983 to 1988 are also amongst the best series ever done, mixing a kind of Beach Boys / Country & Western sensitivity (created by Sean O’Hagan) with extremely sharp and bitter lyrics (sung and written by Cathal Coughlan). The late DJ John Peel described them at best when he mentioned that their music was an iron fist in a velvet glove.

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A bit like for The The, the band did not get the success they deserved or were expecting and they called it quit in 1988. Their two leaders stayed in the music business, Cathal Coughlan with the very good Fatima Mansions and Sean O’Hagan with the great High Llamas but one could not feel that their career could have been huge if…

Thanks to a local initiative celebrating the best Irish music and records ever made, Microdisney were requested to play for two nights only (one in Dublin and the other one at the London Barbican)…and they accepted! More precisely, the overall idea was to play their 1985 masterpiece “The Clock Comes Down The Stairs” in its entirety.

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Quite an emotive evening then for your reviewer as my only Microdisney gig was in 1987 at the now defunct Astoria on Charing Cross Road. The least one could say was that the band did not disappoint and were as good as they could be. Cathal Coughlan’s voice in particular remains for me one of the most beautiful male voices ever and Sean O’Hagan musicianship and leadership of the band was truly exceptional. After playing the ten songs of the album, the band performed a second set of “classics” amongst their repertoire. These songs were as good as the others and the gig was as magical as I hoped. The fact that it was a one-time event made it even stronger… If you want to discover Microdisney, there are three records on streaming platforms (a compilation and their first two records) so get there!

Please click for the setlist and for the Dublin gig which occurred a few days earlier.

All Points East presents… the greatest bands in the world! Victoria Park, 2nd and 3rd June, 2018

 

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Last week was held in the very nice Mile End neighbourhood and more precisely in Victoria Park the second week-end of the new All Points East Festival. Actually, the previous week-end was the actual official festival with names such as The XX, Bjork or again LCD Soundsytem whereas the gigs I went to were part of something called “All Points East presents…”. Well, whatever the name, the real treat was in the line-up as basically I could find many of my current or past musical obsessions.

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So, for once, nothing particularly new to write again about these great bands or artists but just the pleasure in sharing a few photos of these two days: This Is The Kit, Spoon, Flyte, The War On Drugs, The National, Courtney Barnett, Patti Smith, St. Vincent and Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds. My camera was also as overwhelmed as I was by such a line-up as its lens stopped working after a certain stage…

Stay connected as next time, I will write about two amazing bands I had not seen live for decades..

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Better to burn out than fade away: a parallel between Morrissey and New Musical Express

As written by the great Neil Young and reproduced by Kurt Cobain in his suicide note, this aphorism is probably one of the most famous in the world of rock music. I thought it was quite relevant to two recent events I experienced and which were very much connected with my discovering and love of music in my teenage years.

New Musical Express (nickname NME) was without any question the music Bible for many youngsters from the early 70’s to the mid 90’s. This weekly magazine reached its peak during the punk, post-punk and brit-pop years and at one stage its publication figures were in the hundreds of thousands. Numbers are not all there is to it though and more important in an age when internet was not even a concept, I was one of many people waiting with eagerness to receive (quite late) the latest music news, articles about my idols or new bands to discover. My favourite section was the records review and the straight-to-the-point way of writing of its journalists has remained a fantastic inspiration. I guess it also made me what I am and it gave me in particular a fascination for British music, which was not complicated for a teenager living in France. We all know the joke: “French rock music is the equivalent of British red wine…”.

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Thanks to one of my best high school mates, I subscribed in November ’85 and remained a faithful reader until last month, when NME editing group concluded that the printing version was not sustainable anymore. A real relief I must say as nothing is more painful than watching something you cherished decline at such a point that you feel more embarrassment than anything else. NME ended his first life in 2015 to become a weekly free magazine but the spirit was totally gone and I am sure I was not the only one to be ashamed to see such a cheap publication still bearing the name of my previous beloved magazine.

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Although there were probably more famous covers, the issue that made what I am today was the second one I received by post, dated 30/11/85 and including the journalists’ vote of the 100 greatest albums ever made. Click here to review this amazing list. R.I.P. NME.

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The parallel with Morrissey is an obvious one. NME were the first magazine to champion The Smiths when they appeared on the musical scene of the early 80’s and Morrissey used to write chronicles in the newspaper earlier in the 70’s about his beloved New York Dolls for instance. At one stage, when he went through his first solo years of the late 80’s and early 90’s, there was a joke to rebaptise the NME New Morrissey Express so strong was his presence in the magazine.

..and the question therefore is: should Morrissey also realise that he lost his flame a few year ago and that one only follows him because one knows the beauty and power there used to be in his songs…many years ago. His latest albums are not necessarily bad and there are still a few interesting things to discover here and there but no real subtlety and charm anymore. The way he keeps on hammering his hate of the Royal family or meat eaters for instance is a bit pathetic and closed to the old racist uncle you have to meet at a family wedding ceremony. Interesting to see also how Johnny Marr aged gracefully physically and mentally-speaking, which is not really something one could say about Morrissey.

I went (probably for the last time ever) to see him live at the Royal Albert Hall in March 2018. I must admit the show was quite pleasant although really lacking subtlety. Morrissey’s physical appearance is also a bit unpleasant and one sometimes has the impression to see a sort of “Morrissey in Vegas” show. If I were you, Mister Stephen Patrick Morrissey, I would follow the example of NME and start to think about stopping making music. The man has a real writing talent by the way so would it be the right moment to start another career?

A magical night with Flyte, Heath Street Baptist Church, 23rd February 2018

There is something incredible indeed when one loves music… How can this young band I had never heard of before last August suddenly becomes one of my favourite? How can a guy in his late forties be moved by youngsters in their 20’s playing classical pop/rock? That is really the beauty of it I guess and why I will keep on trying to discovering new bands and genres hopefully until my last breath.

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Flyte released their first proper album “The Loved Ones” last August and although I did not pay much attention first, it happened to be a grower and eventually one of my favourite albums of 2017 (ranked #5 in my end of the year-list). Claiming they are here to create a new style of music would be a lie. To my mind, their goal is to keep on the tradition of great pop/rock as, say, a blacksmith would like to keep on working on stuff the way his elders used to do so but in a modern way. Spontaneous influences to me are bands such as Prefab Sprout, The Bluebells or Pale Fountains for instance. In other words, all those great bands which appeared in the 80’s and wanted to keep on the great work done by their own influences.

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Last Friday’s gig was a special one as it was held in the beautiful context of the Heath Street Baptist Church, in the Hampstead borough, one of the most beautiful places in London. The 400-something tickets sold out in a few minutes and I was very happy to be one of the lucky few. The band really look like they are out of university as they are really young but also very much dedicated to their art…rather than their clothes or hair style. They played all the album, an old “classic” and also two great brand new songs. The musicianship of the four members is incredible either concerning their pure talent or on the team spirit they showed throughout the gig. Special mention in particular to keyboard/guitar player Sam Berridge who wrote in a couple of days the arrangements for the strings quartet which accompanied the band on the majority of the tracks.

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They have a formidable singer and leader with Will Taylor for sure but the four of them sing beautifully as well. The peak of the evening was without doubt their a capella cover of Alvvays‘ “Archie, Marry Me“, the kind of song which gives shivers down one’s spine. As Will said at the end of the gig, like a pastor speaking to his faithful listeners, “Spread the good word”. You will not find a more beautiful band than Flyte; discover them!

Clouds and Fire! Two artists at the top of their game: Iron & Wine (London Apollo, 16th February 2018) & Kendrick Lamar (Wembley Arena, 20th February 2018)

Two very different concerts within four days except that these two artists are among my favourite ones and currently at the top of their games so I thought it would be interesting to write a common review.

  • Iron & Wine, London Eventim Apollo, 16th February 2018

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For those who have not read yet the many posts I did on this band, Iron & Wine is the musical and stage name of Sam Beam, a very talented guy from Texas who happened also to be a father of five daughters …and the owner one of the most beautiful beards in the indie rock scene. He has been a long favourite of mine, basically since 2007 when I cherished his “The Shepherd’s Dog” album after driving through Texas that year. I have been lucky to catch him on stage in a few countries (USA, France, UK) and these gigs have never been anything else than pure joy so good is the guy on stage.

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Half Waif, the project of American-Indian Nandi Rose Plunkett singer, was a very good opening act. Funnily enough, I was seated just near her aunt and uncle (from Ashford, UK!) who were both very proud and moved by their niece’s beautiful voice.

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Sam Beam got on stage a bit later and he was as usual a mixed bag of emotion, cynicism and great humour. However, his great personality would be nothing without the beauty of his voice and songs and once again that was an amazing gig. There is a quality in his voice and melodies which may look common at first hearing for the non-converted but which is in reality completely different from that of a regular folk singer. First, his arrangements are always very subtle and influenced by pop, rock or even hip hop sometimes (he did a great cover of New Order‘s “Love Vigilantes“). Secondly, his themes and lyrics are nothing but extraordinary, mixing day-to-day life and poetry sometimes in the same sentence. Catch him live if you can or at least start to listen to these recommended records if you want to know more.

  • Kendrick Lamar, Wembley Arena, 20th February 2018

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I had a sort of hesitation to catch the incredible Kendrick Lamar on stage but I eventually went to see this gig, having the pleasure of being accompanied by my favourite teenager. For those who followed this blog on a regular basis, you will probably know I am a huge fan of this young rapper (well, not so young as I spotted he is now in his early 30’s) and that his last records have all been in my end of the year list (ALBUM OF THE YEAR actually in 2015). So indeed there was no real reason not to catch him live. However, I was a bit afraid to have again the Drake syndrome, i.e. not to find live Kendrick Lamar’s songs as good on stage as they are on records.

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It was fortunately not to be so and I must say it was an incredible and dense show. The great James Blake, his subtle electro/rock music and his beautiful voice put everyone in the right mood for the arrival of Kend…, sorry Kenny, our kung-fu turtle master of the evening. The guy played all night on his own on stage and unless I am wrong, there was no musician anywhere and the music was totally sampled from his records. The show itself was very good and full of rhythm and energy, although there was sometimes too much fire lights and special effects to my taste.

To put it differently, it could have been a not so pleasant mass celebration kind of show but that was not the case at all, thanks to the charismatic but quite humble personality of that evening’s host. Clothed in a beautiful colourful suit, our MC showed to his audience as much talent as energy and respect to his audience. One cannot say the guy is idle as after two sold-out gigs at the O2 Arena the previous week, he went back to the US to entertain the NBA All-Star before travelling back to London. ..and you may have noted he was the main musical force under the OST of the Black Panther movie, just released a few days ago. In a nutshell, Kendrick Lamar is currently at the top of his game in terms of art and like all great artists in such a position (say David Bowie, Prince, Radiohead or again Jack White), he does not sleep on his laurels but takes advantage of this period to be as productive as one can be. Good job Kenny!

A kind of magic: Jeff Tweedy (Wilco frontman) playing acoustic songs at the Barbican, 3rd February 2018

I was looking forward to seeing this gig for a long time first because I like the guy so much but also as it was held in my beloved Barbican Centre, the best cultural place in London. It had not been too long a time since I last caught Jeff Tweedy on stage as part of Wilco but last night’s gig was different as it was purely solo acoustic Tweedy.

Jeff Tweedy, London Barbican 2018, close

A bit of a dream come true concert to be honest as to me Jeff Tweedy is the definition of what a musician should be: amazing songwriter, beautiful voice, very much involved in the current times we are living (Wilco is with The National amongst President Obama’s favourite bands thanks to their Chicago common origins) and also a great passionate producer who has revitalised Mavis Staples‘ career.

After a very nice opening from US-exile English “person” (as he said) James Elkington, Jeff arrived on stage, alone as expected with just an acoustic guitar…and his Stetson hat. Playing amazing songs the acoustic way is always a difficult and tricky exercise, especially when they are known for the beauty and richness of their arrangements. No such hesitation last night though. Jeff started his set with probably three of his best songs (“Via Chicago“, “I am trying to break your heart” and “Ashes of American flags“) with such a natural beauty and emotion that we were all ready for a fantastic evening. Jeff Tweedy is known not to have a particular setlist and to play depending on the mood. Well, his mood must have been particularly good and relaxed as the choice of songs was incredible, including my best favourite Wilco song (“Impossible Germany“), making it all a superb setlist.

Jeff Tweedy, London Barbican 2018, far

An amazing set then…and a few incredible funny moments taking place throught the dialogues between him and the audience, which was made of a majority of American citizens. Very funny talks about his signature guitar, his hat, how he tunes his guitar or the beauty of not having hits in one’s career when one has to play live. The most moving and funny thing though was when he sang the last verse of the Wilco/Billy Bragg song based on Woody Guthrie lyrics (“Remember the mountain bed“) as requested by a female audience member. He actually did it, therefore making her delighted, and told us then that he should do it more often, i.e. only sing one verse per song rather than bothering to play entire songs! Not sure if it sounds so great when one does not live the actual moment but trust me that one was good…

Jeff-Tweedy-Together-At-Last

For those who went this far in the review, I recommend his 2017 album “Together at last” which is basically in the same spirit as last night’s concert or Wilco’s best records as selected in my Top 100 encyclopaedia (let’s be proud of our work!).