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