Friday, 29 August 2014

Queens of the Stone Age 21st November 2013 – National Indoor Arena, Birmingham

And so to the present - almost. Queens of the Stone Age touring on the back of their Like Clockwork album in Birmingham. Can’t recall who opened for them but Im not even sure we bothered with them.

Josh Homme was ill and openly stated that he didn’t feel great, but that didn’t stop what was a really energetic show with a real cross-section of material on offer. They kicked off with “You Think I Aint Worth a Dollar...” and did everything you would expect. In fact, to hell with it, here’s their full setlist:

  • You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire 
  • No One Knows 
  • The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret 
  • My God Is the Sun 
  • Monsters in the Parasol 
  • I Sat by the Ocean 
  • …Like Clockwork 
  • In the Fade 
  • If I Had a Tail 
  • Kalopsia 
  • Little Sister 
  • Fairweather Friends 
  • Smooth Sailing 
  • Make It Wit Chu 
  • I Appear Missing 
  • Sick, Sick, Sick 
  • Go With the Flow
  • The Vampyre of Time and Memory 
  • Feel Good Hit of the Summer 
  • A Song for the Dead

Have to confess that we ducked out of the encore to beat the traffic which is probably a really bad habit best avoided for the future, but it was pre-Christmas in Birmingham and sometimes it sucks being stuck in traffic. Anyway, despite missing the last couple of songs, it was a great gig and I recall him waxing lyrical on the local area for its contribution to rock and metal. Which was nice.

9 out of 10

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Ian Anderson 30th April 2012 – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

I didn't realise it at the time, but Ian Anderson is pretty much Jethro Tull now. He has since stated that the band no longer exists as it was and that he is recording and performing in his own right with the legacy of material at his disposal.

This was a gig in support of his recording of the follow up the Thick as a Brick album (TAAB2) and my initial disappointment that it was not the full band was immediately tempered by the way that they approached this. He had the vision to understand his vocal limitations and therefore brought in an additional vocalists to support his efforts – in addition, his band really went for the theatrical look and it gave me the impression of how it would have been to see Tull back in the heyday of the mid-1970s when they were releasing an album a year and playing at Maddison Square Gardens. I also enjoyed the concept of a two-part gig where everyone gets a break in the middle.

What his next project will be, I can only guess but perhaps he could put together a touring band to cover each of the great albums in their entirety? Just a thought...

7.5 out of 10

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Ravi Shankar 16th June 2011 – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

This was the first concert after Em was before the following September and as I recall we were going through a tough phase with little sleep and lots of stress. So it was ideal really to drive to the relaxed environment of the Symphony Hall, where a ninety-year old came onto stage at around 7.30pm to play for an hour or so meaning I was back in bed before 10pm. That probably sounds sad and tragic but in reality it was a kind way of re-acclimatising me back into the real world where people can actually go out and enjoy themselves.

As per the first time, he was fantastic and his playing really took the audience to new places in terms of the sound and the composition. It was with sadness that I learned of his death eighteen months later, but what a musician and what a great legacy he has left from his extraordinary life.

7.5 out of 10

Friday, 22 August 2014

Joe Bonamassa 31st May 2010 – National Indoor Arena, Birmingham

Joe Bonamassa is a great example of a great guitarist who could ideally do with being in someone else’s band. A bit like Eric Clapton I guess. I have a copy of his “Ballad of John Henry” album but if I’m honest I find it a bit “Radio Two.” It’s okay but nothing special. Whereas to see him live, it is clear he has a massive talken for both blues electric guitar and acoustic – perhaps he just needs to be with better songwriters to translate that to record.

Live he was very impressive – playing his best known songs with a high level of improvisation and lots of off-the-cuff solos and jams. Well worth seeing live in a stadium/large arena environment, perhaps just not so much so when it comes to buying his records.

8 out of 10

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Bad Company (supported by The Joe Perry Project) 1st April 2010 – NEC Arena, Birmingham

The Joe Perry Project were crap. At one point they did a cover of “Walk This Way” and I think the band I used to play in covered it with more gusto on a dingy stage in Plymouth. Let’s move on.

Bad Company were good – having seen Paul Rogers with Queen it was clear that his voice was still up to it. They did all the hits and I did my best to block out the image of Dwight Schrute pumping his fists in the car on his farm when they performed “Feel Like Making Love.” I did sort of manage.

7.5 out of 10

Monday, 18 August 2014

Mastodon 16th Feb 2010 – Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton

When a band can simply walk on stage, start playing for a couple of hours and walk off without so much as a please, thank you, hello, good bye and yet captivate the crowd with every note, taking their already sensational albums to a new level, you know you are in the presence of greatness.

Mastodon walked on stage, then played one set which comprised of every song of their latest album Crack the Skye, before playing an assortment of greatest hits in the second half. Each piece was played with precision, aggression and such a unique feel that it was hard to really view it as a set list and more as a giant piece of awesomeness. I’ll never forget as the started up “The Last Baron” thinking that they would naturally avoid the wierd King Crimson time-signature bit in the middle where it goes all over the place like a jazz track, but when they hit that part, nailed it without breaking sweat my jaw hit the floor. Just incredible.

The second half included “Where Strides the Behemoth” (heavy heavy heavy) and a frankly sensational version of “Mother Puncher” in which Brent Hinds nearly headbanged his own head off and Brann Dailor produced a drumming performance than was utterly ridiculous and incomprehensibly impressive. Doesnt happen often, but this was perfect.

10 out of 10

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Porcupine Tree 6th Dec 2009 – Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton

This was a strange one. My curiosity to see Porcupine Tree was half due to their interesting progressive sound and half due to Steve Wilson and his contributions as producer to many Opeth albums (not to mention the Storm Corrosion project. The wired bit was when an official announcement came out a few minutes before they took to the stage instructing that anyone attempting to record, take photos or videos of the band would be physically ejected from the venue as the band find that it distracts them from their performance. The way it was put, it felt like we were at a Simon Rattle concerto, not a rock concert...

Anyway, they were good. Played their latest concept album in its entirety (I think) then stuff from past albums including “Fear of a Blank Planet.” They were actually far less pretentious than the original announcement had suggested and are fantastic musicians. Well worth the time to see.

7.5 out of 10

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Dead Weather 26th October 2009 – Carling Academy Birmingham

Another great gig – this time back at the Carling Academy. Strange band The Dead Weather. First album is awesome and I had high hopes, but the second was a bit “meh.” Still, as a gig this was really engaging – the vibe felt quite off-the-cuff and spontaneous. Alison Mosshart has got a great presence and together with the other excellent musicians on show, the sum was even greater than the individual parts.

Standouts include “I Cut Like a Buffalo,” “So Far From Your Weapon” and “Treat Me Like Your Mother.” Seemed to capture the Zeitgeist, which is a rarity for me.

9 out of 10

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Kasabian, 25th Aug 2009 – Civic Hall, Wolverhampton

What a great gig. I genuinely mean that – if I had to detail the component parts of a great gig this would be it...a really good band who you are looking forward to see, but with no particular expectations with regards to set lists. A venue not too far away. Seats at the top, but still nice and close to the action, where it’s possible to soak up the atmosphere below and casually observe the crowd surfing but without being soaked by beer bottles. A smart bar a couple of metres away. Space in front and behind. Great sound. I could go on – my point is that this was a really good evening in a venue that seems to have received some investment!

The support band were quite surreal (think they may have been French) and played a kind of sixties Zappa-style set. Kasabian were brilliant – played all the best stuff from their first three albums including “Processed Beats,” “Club Foot,” “Reason is Treason” and “Shoot the Runner.” Tom Meighan was excellent – the drummer was excellent, the songs were brilliant and the crowd were great. And I just sat on my backside and soaked it all up.

10 out of 10

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Opeth, 19th November 2008 – Carling Academy, Birmingham

Twice in one year? Yes. The fourth time in total.

This was on the back of the recent Watershed album, in which their style had shifted a little to include blast beats and slightly less structured progressive pieces (if that makes sense?).

Set List as follows:

  • Heir Apparent
  • The Grand Conjuration
  • Godhead’s Lament
  • The Lotus Eater 
  • Hope Leaves
  • Deliverance
  • The Drapery Falls
  • Demon of the Fall

“The Lotus Eater” stood out, if only for the blast beats, as well as the supreme “Deliverence” which always entertains as it reaches its outro (and the new guy on the drums did justice to both). Having taken a long time to finally appreciate Still Life, it was also a nice touch to hear “Godhead’s Lament.” Wonder when I’ll see them for the fifth time?

8 out of 10

Friday, 8 August 2014

Queen with Paul Rodgers, 17th October 2008 – National Indoor Arena, Birmingham

This was a last minute ticket that I was given by someone who couldn't go – a great opportunity to see the remaining members of Queen with another great vocalist standing in for the late great Freddie. Actually, I recall a man who resembled Mr Mercury almost identically (and dressed in his famous yellow trousers and jacket) stood in front of us. Maybe it was him, who knows. He leaped into action when a teenager fainted during the set.

Anyway, I digress. They were very good. Queen didn't try and match their original act which meant that material such as “Bohemian Rhapsody” was performed in part with supporting video material in place. They even threw in a couple of Bad Company covers for good effect. Clearly not a patch on the original Queen, but still a great substitute.

8 out of 10

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Circulus (supported by Zag & the Coloured Beads, Pamerla Wyn Shannon & High as Flames), 7th September 2008 – Tutbury Castle, Staffordshire

One month after we were married, we ventured up to Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire to a very unusual concert. I’d been a fan of Circulus for a couple of years and noticed that they had a gig booked via MySpace.

What an incredible day. Tutubury Castle is basically a ruined medieval curtain wall punctuated by towers and a big empty moat. Once inside, we were greeted by a big colourful beer pavilion and the bands were set to play in a jousting tent against the backdrop of the castle walls. There must have been thirty people there are most. We could just sit on a picnic rug, casually walk across the set to the cake shop, or to get a beer or hog roast whilst a “town crier” read old poems, ditties and generally talked a load of magnificent shite before announcing each act. First there was the graceful Pamela Wyn Shanon on acoustic guitar. Then Zag and the Coloured Beads (can’t recall much about them). Then High as Flames – an awesome psychedelic rock band...then some guy who had rigged electric guitar pickups into a lute (that’s right – a frickin LUTE), then ran it all through a Marshall stack with fuzz and wah and proceeded to play a minstrels version of Voodoo Chile. It was extraordinary.

Finally, Circulus began their set, dressed as the Spanish Inquisition and (I assume) high on some cocktail of life. Or drugs. Or both. They played stuff from their new album (including “Sumer Is Icumen In”)as well as the fantastic “Miri It Is.” If all festivals were like this, Id be a convert. Hardly any people, awesome music, cheap entertainment and complete escapism from reality – albeit for a few golden hours. Doesn’t get much better than this.

9.5 out of 10 (half a mark deduction because I had to drive there and back and was unable to simply wander off into a meadow, drinking mead and humming a medieval tune).

Monday, 4 August 2014

Dempsey’s Lot, 1st August 2008 – Birtsmorton Court, Worcestershire

It is a little strange to review one’s own wedding, but we did pay Dempsey’s Lot to play in the evening because we like Irish folk music. And they were very good.

Can’t really recall too much as I was drifting from one location to another, talking to people, drinking and generally soaking everything up. We were forced to dance at one point which threaten to ruin it, but we soon escaped that particular horror and got back to listening. Id quite like to obtain one of their CDs one day but I'm not even sure if they’re still going now to be honest.

10 out of 10 (they probably merit an 8 but it was the best day ever so go figure)

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Joe Satriani, 12th May 2008 – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

The weird thing about this concert is that the overriding memory is fiddling with new newly-acquired earplugs trying to work out if I actually need them at the Symphony Hall, given that the acoustics are so balanced. What a dull and pointless memory...

Anyway, some weird virtuoso guitarist on stilts with glasses opened up before Joe Satriani came on to play an extended set of his solo material. As you might expect, his playing is exceptional but what I like about him is that he rarely descends into to the self-indulgent excess of people like Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen and that creature Michael Angelo Batio (who frankly should be assassinated for crimes against the guitar).

Probably the only piece I actively recall was “Cool #9” but it was all pretty mesmerising and ultimately very impressive to think that this guy has taught so many lead guitar players of the last couple of decades.

7.5 out of 10