Friday, 16 May 2014

The Sonics at Concorde 2, Brighton - Monday 5th May 2014 || Review by Dave Harris

I had unfinished business with The Sonics. The last time I saw them live (which was also the first time the reformed line-up played in the UK) was back in 2008. I was near the back and I didn't really connect with the show the way I'd hoped for. Tonight I made sure I was right down the front and the band did not disappoint.

The Sonics defined the garage rock sound and became a massive influence on many bands including Mudhoney, The Cramps and The Fall. They left two absolutely stunning LPs, 1965's debut "Here Are The Sonics" and the 1966 follow up "Boom", but things went awry after a change of label and the band called it a day soon after releasing their third album. After a few brief reunions The Sonics officially reformed in 2007 and seem to have gone from strength to strength ever since.

My last visit to the Concorde 2 was to see Swans, a band notorious for being very loud. I'd worn earplugs that night and hadn't expected to need them this time round. That proved to be a mistake as The Sonics opened with a blistering version of Cinderella that nearly blew the roof off the venue. New bass player Freddie Dennis sang lead and absolutely nailed the primal scream vocals that are evident on the original. It was clear from the off this was The Sonics I wanted to see.

I'd guess Jerry Rosalie avoids some of the screechier vocals but he sang lead on Shot Down, also from "Boom", and sounded great. Rob Lind's sax is a key element in all the songs but really shone during their cover of the fabulous Wailers' tune Dirty Robber. Lind, who also got to sing lead on a few tracks, explained they'd had an 11 hour drive from mainland Europe to get to Brighton but were really pleased to be playing the town. Considering most of the band are in their late sixties, it was pretty impressive they could still cope with the rigors of touring and put on such a scorching rock'n'roll set. If I've got the same sort of spirit when I'm their age I'll know I'm doing pretty well.

If you ever wondered where the Black Keys got their inspiration from you needn't look much further than The Sonics version of Have Love Will Travel. It's my favourite version of the Richard Berry track and sounded fantastic live. The old hits were great but the band also played six new songs and announced they intended to release a brand new album very soon. This was news to me and, though you might not expect a band to release their best work some 40 years after their last studio offering, all the new tunes compared pretty favourably with the classics. I certainly won't hesitate to pick up a copy when it's out.

One of the new tracks was Bad Betty, The Sonics half of a Record Store Day split single with Mudhoney. Two peas in a pod without a doubt. There were a handful of copies left at the merch stand and, with hindsight, I regret not trying to pick up a copy. Rosalie joked that the next song was "a song about a Horse ... or perhaps a car" before launching into Boss Hoss, a new set of wheels "painted in turn on red, Girls see it and it knocks 'em dead". Dusty Watson proved he was an able replacement for original drummer Bob Bennett with the trademark tub thumping, that had me air drumming, on the set closing Psycho.

Larry Parypa's guitar was outstanding throughout but seemed to get even louder for the encores. A blistering version of Strychnine went down particularly well before the show came to a proper conclusion with an equally raucous version of the band's debut single The Witch. A magnificent evening with the band storming through the perfect set of hard rocking garage punk that showed the kids you're never too old to rock'n'roll.

Review by Dave Harris

Thursday, 1 May 2014

ANGIE STONE | Monday 21st April 2014 | Review by Dara Yazdani

In this era of Rhiannas and Beyonces, Angie Stone’s brand of measured R&B could be considered something of an anachronism. Into her fifth decade Stone has outlasted an army of  ass-shaking pretenders and she isn’t about come out on stage twerking or swinging naked from a wrecking ball.  She’s much too classy for that. 

Her sound firmly recalls the golden age of soul music albeit filtered through the hip-hop prism that categorized its neo-soul revival in the mid 90’s. Tonight’s set leans heavily on her break out debut, Black Diamond, from 1999 which pleases the sold out crowd who have come in such numbers that they are spilling out into the bar.

Stone is a Baptist and her performance is rooted in the church where all the best soul singers have paid their dues. The tone is set for the evening with the fabulous gospel harmonies of Lover's Ghetto offsetting the tracks sultry Michael Jackson sampling funk.  Stone gets the opportunity to really let loose her impressive vocal ability as she trades lines with her incredible backing singers.

Green Grass Vapours slinky groove about the benefits of marijuana is probably not a subject you’d hear discussed in a Sunday sermon but it reflects Stone’s urban subject matter as is Bone To Pick (Wit U) about a cheating ex who may have twigged he was the star of the story when he confronted Stone about its content.
“Did you write that song about me?  If the shoe fits....”  

Stone’s plays us her favourite song, the laguid Everyday co-written with former paramour D'angelo.  Its musically very similar to D’angelo’s  Jonz in My Bonz, a song she also co-wrote for Brown Sugar, as it shares the same burbling organ percolating in the background.

After her favourite song we get a cover by her favourite artist; Al Green. She says she hasn’t played it much but you would have never have guessed as Stone takes it to church on the classic For The Good Times. After summoning the spirit of Aretha the Hammond organ segues into Guilty from new album Rich Girl which shares the same chord progression and we are suddenly in a full blown South Carolinian gospel service.  

The crowd are asked to put our hands in the air to praise the Lord.  Even though the bulk of the audience are probably atheists they acquiesce and a lovely moment is shared. Stone’s amazing backing singers then take centre stage and give it the full gospel breakdown. Lord have mercy!
“Where my girls at!?" 

Stone changes the tempo with the upbeat swing of Pissed Off a song about female empowerment which is more Beyonce than Spice Girls. Stone admits that her good friend Beyonce has stolen her thunder on that front but tries to get the crowd to sing the refrain from one of her more obscure songs in the middle. The problem is the crowd don’t know the song and the whole things falls rather flat. 

"Don't be ashamed to enjoy yourself.  You bought a ticket right?" 

Although being wronged by her man is a recurring theme to much of her output just to show she is not just another jilted man hater Stones gives us the rolling bump ‘n grind of Brotha, an old school R Kellyish celebration of strong black men. The delicious two note guitar lick courtesy of guitarist James Owens gets the hips a-dipping.

Before the obligatory encore the sunny groove of No More Rain (In This Cloud) spreads over the audience like butter on hot crumpets.  Stone’s feather-light delivery recalls a lost Syreeta track, the retro vibe perhaps influenced by the judicious Gladys Knight and The Pips sample.

When Stone returns to the stage her band run the old Prince number  of going through some of her back catalogue only to tantalisingly stop after a few bars to play something else: "You don’t want that one.  I got too many songs"

The audience isn’t stupid and they know that one track has been conspicuous by its absence tonight.   I Wish I Didn’t Miss You is a lesson in how to take a sample and make it your own. It pinches the riff from the Temptation’s Backstabbers but takes the song into a completely different dimension.

Stone’s talented band goes to town and runs through a variety of genres including reggae, blues and salsa before the audience start pogoing to a rock version of the song.  When you’re as good as Angie you get the crowd to do the ass-shaking for you.

 ANGIE STONE || 21st April 2014
Review by Dara Yazdani || Photos by Andy Sturmey

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

ROBERT GLASPER || 1st April 2014 || Review by Dara Yazdani

Jazz has long had the reputation for being the unique preserve of uber-cool, beret-wearing beard-strokers smoking Gauloises in dingy basements.  Heads are nodded to improvised solos and diminished 9ths are talked about in reverential tones.  It’s a select club and there’s a good chance you are not invited.

Grammy winning Houstonian Robert Glasper has done his best to open up the genre with his contemporary amalgam of jazz and hip hop.  He is the go-to-guy for heavyweight acts such as Maxwell, Q-Tip and Common hoping to sprinkle some of his jazz seasoning over their urban offerings.  

Beanie hat on and smoking a cheroot Glasper strolls on stage and perches behind a wall of keyboards playing the role of band leader with a practiced calm.  First up is Glasper’s take on Kanye’s No Church In the Wild which sets the tone for the rest of the evening with an atmospheric paired down arrangement, Derrick Hodge’s bubbling bass  and a vocoder laden vocal from Casey Benjamin.  

The charismatic Benjamin is tasked with most of tonight’s vocal duties subbing on the guest-laden tracks from Black Radio and its sequel which feature the likes of Anthony Hamilton, Snoop Dogg and Bilal all of whom were unlikely to pitch up on a cold Tuesday evening in Brighton.  Tonight he is decked out with an impressive quiff, beard, biker jacket and vest that make him look like a black George Michael. 

The disco scratch of Nile Rogers guitar is substituted for some descending scales and weird synth burbles for their cover of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky changing the tone to such an extent that there is a ripple of satisfaction when the crowd eventually work out what they are playing.   Benjamin’s Herbie Hancock referencing vocals are interspersed with some ingenious Max Headroom stuttering audio effects.

Let it Ride picks up the pace with some with some intricate drumming from Mark Colenburg expertly conveying the songs delicate drum and bass texture.  This is the start of the show dedicated to the jazz nerds who coo loudly when a particular break or key change is delivered.  Glasper plays a long complicated improvisation simultaneously on two different keyboards, basically because he can.

I Stand Alone starts with a striking John Legendesque piano break that segues into an extend bass  solo from Hodge which recalls motifs from Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain. It’s technically brilliant but so is a research scientist in a lab extracting stem cells from bone marrow.  Both hardly classify as Saturday night entertainment. 

Jazz fans may want to appear cooler than thou but they can’t help stifle a cheer when Radio 2 staple Lovely Day gets an airing. Benjamin’s vocoder lends the track a light funk that offsets the heavy hip hop beat laid down by Colenburg.

Basment Jaxx/Dizzee Rascal collaborator Vula Malinga then appears on stage to give the crowd a welcome break from the vocoder. Her sublime Minnie Ripperton register works well in harmony with Benjamin and her sultry vocals include some Badu-like scatting on the cover of Floetry’s Say Yes and are good enough to make Glasper leave the stage in mock admiration.

 Up next is All Matter song Glasper co-wrote with Bilal.  I had the privilege of hearing the track played live at the Jazz Cafe a few years ago and Bilal’s band blew the roof off.  This version doesn't have anything like the urgency of the original and suffers from Glasper’s dissonant chords. Benjamin breaks out the alto sax midway through for an extended solo and we are on another one way trip to Noodlesville. 

“Brighton rocks!” exclaims  Glasper but he is beaten by the clock after another vocoder heavy  reworking of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit takes him past curfew with no time for an encore.

There was me thinking jazzers were good at keeping time. 

 ROBERT GLASPER || 1st April 2014
Review by Dara Yazdani

Monday, 24 March 2014

LISSIE | 17th March 2014 | Review by Dara Yazdani

Tammy Wynette famously sang: “Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman”. She should know, she was one. She also worked in a music industry that, despite the intervening years of women’s liberation and the noises made about equality, would still prefer its females airbrushed, semi-naked and ideally on all fours. Fortunately there are still female songwriters who refuse to play the game.

One of those is California-based folk-rocker Lissie who, although yet to set the charts alight, has cultivated a devoted fan-base following a solid opening salvo of albums which have piqued the interest of such luminaries as Lenny Kravitz, Snow Patrol and Robbie Williams in the process. Whilst Lissie may not bow to the fickle winds of fashion, either visually or musically, she is going through something of a transition.

Debut album Catching A Tiger was heavy on the folky introspection whereas new album Back To Forever sees her heading in a more FM rock direction under the guidance of uber-producer Garret “Jacknife” Lee. It’s a welcome evolution. Lissie is known for her covers and her sedate take on Hank William’s Wedding Bells eases the crowd in gently to her set. It is an odd choice to kick off proceedings. Perhaps she is conscious that some die-hards have expressed displeasure at her distancing herself from her folk roots, much like they did with Dylan, These folkies can be a militant lot so its best not to upset them.

She lets loose a little more on old track Record Collector with its ska-lite chords chops and fully rocks out on the snarling Can’t Take It Back, a new track that shows how far her song-writing has come on. The “break-up” is fertile ground for musicians and her own heartbreak has underpinned many of the songs on Back To Forever. It provides some added vitriol to a number of tracks.

Song writing and sartorial qualities aside Lissie’s greatest asset is her voice. On the radio-friendly Sleepwalking she sounds like a dead ringer for Stevie Nicks in her smoky 70’s pomp. On the late night 80’s vibe of They All Want You her voice is as clear and powerful as a siren. This versatility is key and she tackles a few musical styles during the course of her set.

Live her songs benefit from a harder, paired down sound that strips away some of the album production. The Habit benefits from driving drums and insistent rhythm transforming it into a distant cousin to The Cardigan’s 'Erase and Rewind'. Her band is competent but opt to stay in the shadows on all but a few tracks. 

Everywhere I Go, an old song Lissie performed with current indie darling Ellie Goulding at The Great Escape in 2010, is a ballad that wouldn’t be out of place over the credits of Dawsons Creek. It’s much too mannered for me as is Oh Mississippi and ode to her home town of Rock Island, Illinois and her carefree childhood hanging out by the river. Its county vibe veers into Lucinda Williams territory and whilst it does include some nice lap steel it fails to set pulses racing lacking perhaps from some classic Everly Brothers style harmony.

The crowd warm up to the country hoe-down  of Little Lovin’ with fist-pumping gusto and a call and response finale that has Lissie riding a mock pony by the end. She may not be MTV fodder but her combination of tousled blonde hair, freckled face and boho-chic has sections of tonight’s sold out crowd a bit hot under the collar. Men of a certain age can’t seem to resist heckling declarations of love and marriage during any breaks in the music.


Mountaintop Removal is my stand out track from the new album although she hasn’t been playing it much on this tour. There is no ambiguity in the eco-friendly lyrics about the practice of dynamiting mountains for coal.

“Darling my dear
I tell you what is wrong
I went to the mountain
But the mountain top was gone”

On record it’s a monster but live it’s slightly paired down by curious atmospherics although the chorus is as colossal as ever. You could call it her 'Mercy Mercy Me'  if you were feeling generous or her 'Earth Song' if you were feeling harsh.

Shameless could be her personal anthem dealing as it does with the music industries penchant for style over substance. She has picked up a few tips from Mr Kravitz on the way as its loose funk groove complements her gripes about the vacuous nature of celebrity.

“So take a shot for free
And photoshop the bits of me that you don't want”

Lissie sounds best when she lets it all hang out and lets her voice soar. This issue is obviously personal.

The driving drums and proto punk funk sound of Further Away (Romance Police) sounds a lot peppier live than on the album and it gives guitarist Eric Sullivan a rare moment to shine with a guitar solo a chance to do his best Slash-on-a-mountain-top impersonation.

At the encore we get one of the most bizarre promos I have seen when Lissie selects a winner to a raffle for her own brand tequila. The winner is dragged up on stage and downs a shot with her in front of a bemused crowd. It’s all rather odd and incongruous and the sort of shameless promotion best left to Gene Simmons.

Just to ram home the point that she is Little Miss Versatile set closers Back To Forever and In Sleep could not be more divergent. The first is a tender, nostalgic look at her childhood. Lissie openly admits to weeping like at infant after recently opening one of her grandmother’s photo albums. On record the sentiment is lost amongst the twee arrangement but in the flesh her cracking voice gives the ballad an undeniable power.
Closer In Sleep is a southern fried rock out from debut album Catching A Tiger with Eric Sullivan again building up quite a head of steam.  Once he is let loose he builds to a noisy crescendo that surely upsets the folkers in the audience.

Safe to say Lissie is not one for compromises.  Its good to see her go her own way.

Review by Dara Yazdani

Photos by Mike Burnell (all use to be agreed in writing)

Friday, 24 January 2014

| 11th Annual Poets Vs MC's | Thursday 16th January 2014 |

Arriving at Concorde2 you could straight away see the diverse range of people waiting in anticipation to enter the venue. As this was my first spoken word event in the Brighton area I was very eager and curious for the event to start.

Upon entry crowds were met by hip hop beats spun by ‘Tyny’ getting people in the mood for the night’s events. The hosts of the night Rosy Carrick (Hammer and Tongue) and Hinesy Hines (SlipJam:B) stepped to the stage to introduce the night. Straight away insults were fired back and forth to warm the crowd into what’s to come.

The first section of the night was demonstration of each of the word smiths work. Each member of the poets and MC’s took it in turn to perform a rap or poem. First up was the host herself, Rosy Carrick who performed a poem about Michael Douglas using witty similes comparing bad sex to a broken kettle which had the audience laughing. It also brought a lot of surprised faces to the newcomers of the Hammer and Tongue events, who’s only connotations of poetry were from a year nine English class.

Next from the MC’s was Gramski, who performed a rap only, using words beginning with M and C. If witty poetry didn't already get the crowd going, then this clever word play definitely did. The speed of which Gramski was rapping had the crowd cheering for him and already siding with the MC’s before the battle had even begun.

The poets brought Mike Parker to the stage next who performed a poem about Primal Scream. The poem itself was incredibly well written and the energetic performance alone captured the audience. But for those that were there that didn't like or didn't know Primal Scream looked very confused with the references.

Next on was the comedy MC, Professor Elemental. The professor invited the crowd to each get on their invisible horse whilst he did the same and hopped around the stage whilst rapping about his horse. Looking across the audience you could see heads bopping up and down still pretending to be on a horse enjoying his performance.

To calm the audience down the poets introduced Robin Lawley who described himself as the poet’s antidote the fun the audience had been having with Professor Elemental. Despite the negative introduction, Robin Lawley managed to keep the audience in high spirits with his witty poetry.

Jon Clarke joined the stage yet to really show off the skills of the MC team. He brought a long a beat boxer to keep within the spoken word rules. For his freestyle he placed Gramski in the crowd to get questions from the audience to ask to him and he answered in freestyle. He was asked a range of questions from his most embarrassing moments, to his views on feminism and if he could freestyle by rhyming orange. Non of the questions really seemed like a real challenge to Jon, everything that came his way was answered in a clever and entertaining way. With Gramski rhyming the questions to Jon the whole performance had brilliant flow that the audience really enjoyed.

With the crowd in high spirits from all the previous acts Tommy Sissons took to the stage. As soon as he started his poem the crowd were captured. Not because of Tommy jumping around the stage or any sort of costume, but because of what he was saying. The poem was about his difficulties of been young and about his single mother. It was clear that Tommy was extremely switched on and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind and the audience were engrossed by this. The only time you heard even a whisper from the crowd was when within the poem Tommy said that he was sixteen and everyone in the audience were in shock. Tommy’s performance was definitely a highlight of the evening for me, and, from what I could tell, the rest of the audience too.

After a poetic rap performance from TJ, A P Staunton took to the stage and dedicated his poem to Steve Pybus (Dirty Harry’s owner) who had passed away a couple of weeks before the show. The style in which the poem was written was almost like a story. With Staunton’s clever rhyming skills the audience cheering and clapping so loudly that he had to pause for a minuet to let the crowd calm down for him to finish the poem.

Chris Parkinson presented us with a poem playing on the Gil Scot-Heron song/poem ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ adapting it to the revolution will not be on social media. The sheer energy of Chris’ performance alone captured the audience but the poem itself was incredibly well written.

To finish the first round off the MC’s welcomed on stage Harley Alexander-Sule from Rizzle Kicks to the stage. For those that only new Harley from Rizzle Kicks seemed pretty shocked at his ability to MC.

The next part of the show allowed all the MC’s to really show off their skills with group freestyle. Tyny spun beats for the MC’s and they took it in turns to freestyle. For this they welcomed anyone up from the audience who was willing to join in. The only two that took the MC’s up on the opportunity were two 13 year olds who weren’t shy in performing in the slightest. It was refreshing to see the openness that that the MC’s had to giving people a chance to show there talents, no matter how old. It was a brilliant and extremely entertaining performance from everyone that was involved.

It was now time for the moment everyone had been waiting for, the battle. As before the MC’s and the poets took in turns to slate each other. It would appear that the audience had already chosen their favourites performance from the introduction round with some performers getting louder cheers than others. For me the performances that really stood during the battle were A P Staunton’s poem about everything he would rather be than an MC, which had the audience laughing throughout.  Tommy Sissons poem about why he preferred the poets and everything that was wrong with the MC mentality. Gramski’s freestyle rap which can be seen below. And the surprise performance from Spliff Richard who was originally on the Hammer and Tongue team before Tommy took his place for this show. Spliff Richards rap slated the poets for not letting him in and how he felt the MC’s were more of a family. His flow and clever wording really topped the evening off.

Overall it was an extremely enjoyable evening that the MC’s had won. I would recommend attending any event that you can by the SlipJam:B or Hammer and Tongue teams and I look forward to the 12th annual battle.