Posts Tagged ‘classic rock’

Soft Machine Kendal Brewery Arts Centre 19 March 2016

Soft Machine Kendal Brewery Arts Centre 19 March 2016
brewery-arts-centreWhen I was a teenager I would listen intently to “In Concert” on the radio. There are three broadcasts that I recall very strongly. The first was by Led Zeppelin, recorded at the Albert Hall; the second Fleetwood Mac; and the other was Soft Machine. It will have been 1970 or 1971. Of the three, the Soft Machine concert was, for me, the most memorable. I still remember the impact it had. The strange sounds coming out of my radio intrigued me; I immediately became a fan. The music was so different to that of other bands, and to anything else I was listening to at the time. If I remember correctly, the concert was introduced by John Peel, who championed Soft Machine at the time. Their “songs’ sounded like long improvisations; however I now realise that was the nature of the band’s music and the songs were probably more planned than I thought. I think they may have played “Moon in June”, “Facelift” and a few other tracks from “Soft Machine 3”.
I only got to see Soft Machine live twice. Both occasions were in the mid-70s; by which time Soft Machine had completed its transformation from psychedelia to jazz-rock. The first time I saw the band was at the Reading Festival, and the second at Newcastle Guildhall as part of the Newcastle Jazz Festival. Last night I took up on the chance of seeing Soft Machine again; when the latest line-up performed at Kendal Brewery Arts Centre.
The current line-up of Soft Machine was launched (initially as Soft Machine Legacy) in 2004. The line-up consisted of Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, John Etheridge and John Marshall: four long-time members from different eras of the legendary group. In 2006 Elton Dean sadly passed away and his place on sax and flute was taken by Theo Travis, who has an association with Gong and David Gilmour and is a long time fan of Soft Machine’s music. Hugh Hopper sadly passed away in 2008. His place was taken by veteran bass player Roy Babbington, who first joined the group in 1970. This reunited 3/5ths of the 1975-77 Soft Machine line-up. SoftMachine_2016Since 2010 the band has recorded a new, and highly acclaimed album “Burden of Proof” and they continue to tour. “Burden of Proof” is (from the venue website): “a collection of songs that basically has something for everyone; challenging jazz-fusion, adventurous prog-rock, bits of chaotic free-jazz, atmospheric instrumental pop-jazz, and even a little hard rock. Extraordinary!”
I had an uneventful drive over to Kendal, and took my seat in the Malt Room of the Brewery Arts Centre. Last time I was here was to see Marianne Faithful; which was some years ago. It’s a great venue and regularly features some classic acts. I have to admit that I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from Soft Machine; I guess I thought I might find the jazzy instrumental nature of the songs a little hard going. But I also knew that it was going to be worth the effort in order to reacquaint myself with the music of Soft Machine.
The band came onstage just before 8.30pm and launched straight into “The Steamer” from the 2006 Soft Machine Legacy album “Steam”. The sound was clear, crisp. The music a mix of jazz and prog. Guitarist John Etheridge introduced the songs and seemed to be taking the lead. He explained how the last incarnation of Soft Machine had seen former members put old disputes behind them, and how time had allowed that to happen. He also explained that veteran Soft’s drummer John Marshall was unwell, suffering from a bad back and unable to make this tour. The guy standing in did an excellent job.
FullSizeRender(7)The concert comprised two sets and drew from Soft Machine’s extensive back catalogue, going back to 1970 and “3” for “Facelift” and to “4” for “Kings and Queens”. The music was much more varied than I had imagined, and ranged from guitar-riff-driven hard rock, through jazz (with mucho sax) to atmospheric flute-led prog; the latter songs being my own favourites. The musicianship was excellent, and Etheridge joked and talked to the audience a lot more than I had anticipated. In fact, he explained that “back in the day” the members of Soft Machine would never speak to, or acknowledge, the audience. The evening passed quickly, and I realised that I had after all enjoyed it; actually a lot. It was very much a concert; rather than a rock gig; but hey that’s just fine for me these days.
The concert finished shortly after 10.30pm; I was back home around 12.30am. I’ve spent this morning playing my vinyl copies of Soft Machine “3” and “4”. Happy days.
Set 1: The Steamer; Hazard Profile; Chloe and the Pirates; Voyage beyond Seven; Song of Aeolus; Grape Hound
Set 2: Burden of Proof; Facelift / the Last Day; Kings and Queens; Relegation of Pluto / Transit
Encore: Gesolreut

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The Who Wembley Arena 13th Feb 2016

The Who Wembley Arena 13th Feb 2016
imageLast night The Who returned to their home turf to play a one-off gig at Wembley Arena. Roger Daltrey has been suffering from viral meningitis, which resulted in the postponement of the last leg of their American Tour, and this gig was slotted in by way of a warm-up before the band returns to the USA to play the rearranged dates. I’m pleased to report that Roger looks and sounds well, although he did tell us that he wasn’t 100% and that his “legs weren’t fully there”. Well it didn’t show. This was another classic Who performance, easily on par with, if not surpassing, their Hyde Park show last Summer. A sold-out crowd of locals and die-hard Who fans from across Europe gave the band the rousing London welcome they deserve. The Who Hits 50! Tour is a celebration of the amazing legacy of a legendary band who have given us so much over the years. This was my 21st (I think) Who live experience, and the third time I’ve seen them on the current tour, having caught the first leg of the tour at Newcastle Arena in late 2014 and the Hyde Park gig last summer. The set is largely the same, although it has become slightly shorter with openers “I Can’t Explain” and “Substitute” being dropped, as has their early attempt at a mini opera “A Quick One (While He’s Away)”. Last night we were treated to the inclusion of the instrumental “The Rock” as part of a trio of songs from “Quadrophenia”.
imageThe evening started with a slide show which took us through the history of the band, and featured many great images of the late Keith Moon and John Entwistle. This tour is a celebration of their legacy and contribution, as well as a run through of some of the Who’s greatest songs. The band walked on stage and launched straight into “Who Are You?” and away we went on another amazing journey through so many classic tunes; a history of this extraordinary band, and also of our own lives and memories. The giant screen behind the stage displayed powerful full-face images of Roger, Pete, Keith and John, along with clips of the Who in the ’60s and the ’70s and clips from Quadrophenia. The sound was crisp; I was sitting halfway back on the terrace to the left of the stage, and every note was very clear. The first part of the set featured early classics: “The Seeker”, “Picture of Lily”, “The Kids are Alright”, “My Generation” and my personal favourite “I Can See for Miles”. Then we moved swiftly to the ’70s and the haunting “Behind Blue Eyes” followed by “Bargain” from “Who’s Next”, “Join Together”, and “You Better You Bet”. The aforementioned segment from “Quadrophenia” followed. “Eminence Front” is not my favourite track, so I took the opportunity to have a walk around the arena, finding a spot downstairs on the floor towards the back. I spent the rest of evening there, enjoying the band and observing the crowd singing along, dancing and generally going crazy. imageThe songs from “Tommy” followed, culminating in a powerful crowd singalong to “Listening to You” which always gets me. I knew we were on the home stretch. Roger’s voice was holding out fine, and Pete was full of power and angst, twirling and twirling his arm, and squeezing great solos out of his Fender Stratocaster. The familiar minimalist synthesiser intro signalled “Baba O’Reilly” which then lead into closing song “Won’t Get Fooled Again”; as raw and relevant as ever. Pure class. Pete introduced the band, and they left the stage at around 10.30pm. I took the 2 minute walk across the road to the Wembley Hilton. Pete said at the end “Hope to see you again.” Yes indeed, hope so.
Setlist: Who Are You; The Seeker; The Kids Are Alright; I Can See for Miles; My Generation; Pictures of Lily; Behind Blue Eyes; Bargain; Join Together; You Better You Bet; I’m One; The Rock; Love Reign O’er Me; Eminence Front; Amazing Journey/Sparks; Pinball Wizard; See Me Feel Me/Listening to You; Baba O’Reilly; Won’t Get Fooled Again
I’m typing this on a very slow train (engineering works on a Sunday) which is gradually taking me back home ‘up north’. Next stop is York. I’m feeling quite tired and stiff this morning; must be starting to feel my age.

Michael Schenker Sage Gateshead 25 Jan 2016

Michael Schenker Sage Gateshead 25 Jan 2016schenker
It was a Friday night over 40 years ago, probably 1974. A group of us were standing on the dancefloor marveling at the young guitarist who was strutting his stuff a few feet in front of us. The band was UFO, who had just released their third album Phenomenon, and their new member was German guitar wizard Michael Schenker. Schenker was every inch the young and perfect rock god; long blonde hair, skinny jeans, a scoop neck t-shirt covered in stars (I think; my memory plays tricks). And he could squeeze some tryly amazing sounds out of his Gibson Flying V. The stand-out track was Doctor Doctor. Amazing. We all went home and practised some more on our guitars.
Roll on 40 something years. It’s been a long time since I last saw Michael Schenker; probably in the 1980s when he fronted his own MSG. Today his band is Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock and the members are ex-Scorpions Herman Rarebell (drums) and Francis Buchholz (bass), ex-Rainbow’s Doogie White (vocals) and Wayne Findlay (guitar & keyboards).
schenker tixI make my way to the front and stand (probably too) close to the PA stack. Schenker and the guys take to the stage and launch straight into a blistering rockin’ Doctor Doctor. Schenker looks great: skinny, fit, and he’s walking the stage with a wild glint in his eye and a massive grin across his face. His playing is amazing; still the guitar hero who blew me away all those years ago. The band rocks and is LOUD; Doogie White does a fine job singing those classic UFO and Scorpions tracks. The new songs sound pretty good too.
Legend.
Setlist: Doctor Doctor; Live and Let Live; Lights Out; Where the Wild Winds Blow; Natural Thing; Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead; Victim of Illusion; Lovedrive; Coast to Coast; Vigilante Man; Saviour Machine; Too Hot to Handle; Good Times; Rock You Like a Hurricane; Rock Bottom
Encore: Attack of the Mad Axeman; Communion; Blackout
Postscript. By the time I drove home I couldn’t hear a thing. Just a dull ringing in my hears. Now when I was young it was great fun if my ears buzzed for days after a gig. This time it sort of scared me. My hearing isn’t that great anyway, and I was thinking “What if it doesn’t come back?” Well luckily it has. Lesson learned: when you are an old guy like me you take the earplugs they offer you at the door.
Schenker is still a legend.

Dave (and Ray) Davies Islington Assembly Hall London 18 Dec 2015

Dave Davies (and Ray!) Islington Assembly Hall London 18 Dec 2015
imageMy early Christmas present to myself was to go and see Kinks guitar riff hero Dave Davies in London last night. And what a Christmas present it was. Dave Davies played a blinding set to his home crowd. Still recovering from flu, Dave bounded on stage, greeting us “Hello London! It’s good to be back in town!” He ran through a set of Kinks classics, album tracks and solo songs. Dave’s guitar was loud and fuzzy and his band’s versions of Kinks hits “Dead End Street” and (my favourite) “See My Friends” were raw and heavy. Dave’s own “Death of a Clown” started pretty ramshackle but finished as a great singalong. But the best was yet to come. Sometimes miracles do happen at Christmas.
For the last song, Dave introduced a “surprise for Christmas” and on walked brother Ray!!! The two brothers played “You Really Got Me” and the place went completely berserk. I was sitting upstairs and everyone leapt to their feet; singing, clapping, shouting and going generally nuts. The next few minutes became an unbelievable almost surreal dream. Ray and Dave shook hands as they left the stage. As I walked out of the venue onto the street everyone faces me were looking at each other; grinning, not quite believing what we had all just witnessed.
You can find a video here

This was the Davies brothers first time on stage together for 19 years, and it was an amazing event to witness; musically, historically and emotionally. Two brothers, in their home town, back together on stage where they belong, singing the song that started so much. It really doesn’t get any better; I am going to be on a high for ages. Best Christmas present since I opened my Johnny Seven in 1966.
Setlist: Ripping Up; All Day and All of the Night; She’s got everything; Creeping Jean; Tired of Waiting; See My Friends; In You I Believe; Strangers; Flowers in the Rain (Dave solo track, not the Move song); Young and Innocent Days; The Man He Weeps Tonight; Death of a Clown; Living on a Thin Line; Dead End Street; Where have all the Good Times Gone?; I’m Not Like Everybody Else; You Really Got Me (with Ray Davies)

Maximo Park Newcastle City Hall 19 Nov 2015

Maximo Park Newcastle City Hall 19 Nov 2015
FullSizeRender(6)This concert was a big deal for Maximo Park. Their Facebook page proudly declared “everyone has played Newcastle City Hall: Bob Dylan, the Beatles; and now we are playing there”. The concert had sold out quickly: a hometown show with the added attraction that the band were showcasing their excellent debut album “A Certain Trigger” in full was bound to be a big draw. Laura was really excited about going but sadly came down with flu on the night of the concert, so along I went to the City Hall on my own.
Maximo Park exploded onto the stage to a big loud and friendly roar from the home crowd. The set was one of two halves, opening with 11 tracks drawing from across their career, starting with “Girls who play guitar”. This was followed by a performance of all 13 tracks from “A Certain Trigger”. Ten years on the songs from the first album sound as fresh and modern as ever. The crowd loved it, and you could see how much the band enjoyed the night, and how keen they had been to grace the City Hall stage.  A great performance from a local band who maintain a loyal and strong following.
Setlist: Girls Who Play Guitars; The National Health; A19; The Kids Are Sick Again; This Is What Becomes of the Broken Hearted; Hips and Lips; A Year of Doubt; Midnight on the Hill; Leave This Island; Our Velocity; Books from Boxes; [A Certain Trigger set:]; Signal and Sign; Apply Some Pressure; Graffiti; Postcard of a Painting; Going Missing; I Want You to Stay; Limassol; The Coast Is Always Changing; The Night I Lost My Head; Once, a Glimpse; Now I’m All Over the Shop; Acrobat; Kiss You Better

Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express Gateshead Old Town Hall 6th November 2015

Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express Gateshead Old Town Hall 6th November 2015
FullSizeRenderI’ve always wanted to see Brian Auger. I am a big fan of that classic ’60s swirling Hammond organ sound and you don’t get much better an exponent of that groove than Mr Auger. Brian Auger has played or toured with many of the greats of classic rock including Rod Stewart, Julie Driscoll; Jimi Hendrix, John McLaughlin, Led Zeppelin, and Eric Burdon. Those crazy stylish videos of the Brian Auger Trinity and Julie Driscoll playing “Wheels on Fire” will remain etched within my memory for ever. But today Brian Auger is once again fronting his jazz rock combo the Oblivion Express. brian augerAccompanying Brian in this incarnation of Oblivion Express are his son Karma Auger on drums, Mike Clairmont on bass and Alex Ligertwood on vocals, guitar and percussion. Alex Ligertwood hails from north of the border, and is best known as being the lead vocalist of Santana on several occasions during the period 1979 to 1994. He also performed with The Jeff Beck Group (1970) and was a member of Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express in the early 1970s.
The concert took place in the beautiful and historic Gateshead Old Town Hall building. gateshead old town hallA respectable number of evening hipsters turned up on a cold Friday evening to groove away to the Oblivion Express’ jazz rock fusion extravanganza. Auger’s music is enjoying renewed interest and the audience reflected this, consisting of young and old; all keen to experience the sound of a band of excellent musicians. The material was unfamiliar to me, drawing from jazz greats including Jimmy Smith, Miles Davis abd Art Blakely, but nonetheless enjoyable. Auger’s Hammond organ playing has lost none of its style and Alex Ligertwood’s vocals were excellent. An enjoyable evening, spent experiencing some music which is a little different from the gigs I usually attend.

Alice Cooper (and Motley Crue) Newcastle Arena 2nd November 2015

Alice Cooper (and Motley Crue) 2nd November 2015
FullSizeRender(3)I haven’t been too well this week. I’ve had a head cold, but I still couldn’t resist going to see Alice Cooper. Alice is currently special guest on the Motley Crue farewell tour which called at Newcastle Arena on Monday. I made a last minute decision to go along to see the old rock schocker. Its almost 40 years since I first saw Alice on the Welcome to my Nightmare tour, and I remain a fan. So I stopped feeling sorry for myself, forgot my cold and drove through to Newcastle for the show. I parked the car and wandered around the outside of the arena, hoping to score a cheap ticket. A friendly guy sold me a £45 standing ticket for £30: Result. I wandered around the floor area, but soon realised I needed to sit, so retreated to an empty seat in the front tier just to the left of the stage. First up was a thrash rap band called The One Hundred from London. They warmed the crowd up well, and were very LOUD. There was then a short wait before Alice took to the stage at around 7.45pm. Alice_Cooper_2015The familiar creepy Vincent Price intro for “The Black Widow” came over the PA: “….I feel that man has ruled this world as a stumbling dimented child-king long enough! And as his empire crumbles, my precious Black Widow shall rise as his most fitting successor!” Alice looked and sounded great; he has a cool rocking band which features three lead guitarists. Next up was “No More Mr. Nice Guy” quickly followed by two of my favourites: “Under My Wheels” and “I’m Eighteen”. Both are classic rock songs and still sound excellent. It’s difficult to believe that “Eighteen” was written 45 years ago. You might think it wierd seeing a 67 year old Alice sing about being “Eighteen and I don’t know what I want … I’m a boy and I’m a man” but it worked. And it still sounded great. Those dark chords came slamming out, Alice’s vocal was as strong as ever, and he led the audience through that anthemic chorus “I’m eighteen and I like it!” Wonderful!
Alice’s band are straight out of the school for heavy metal. There’s lots of leather and ripped faded denims, and three excellent metal guitar heroes in the form of axe woman Nita Strauss, and axe men Ryan Roxie (who has been in the Alice band for 20 years) and Tommy Henriksen. Bassist Chuck Garric has been with Alice for over 10 years and drummer Glen Sobel was recently placed 1st runner up in DRUM Magazine’s Poll in both the Rising Star and Rock/Metal categories. These guy play great and do justice to all those classic Alice songs.
FullSizeRender(4)For “Billion Dollar Babies” Alice threw fist fulls of billion dollar notes out to the crowd (wish I’d caught one), and in “Dirty Diamonds” handfuls of necklaces flew out to luck people in the front rows. I had wondered whether the show would be as theatrical as in the past, given the special guest status of Alice’s performance. But I should have known that you can’t really have Alice Cooper without theatre. I am pleased to report that poor Alice still gets himself into the usual macabre scrapes. The guillotine made an appearance …. off came our hero’s head, and a massive boa constrictor nearly strangled him. One minute Alice was in a straight-jacket; the tortured victim of a psychotic nurse and next a giant Frankenstein monster lumbered around the stage. Just like old times. The final song just had to be everyone’s favourite teenage rebellion anthem “School’s Out.” Excellent! We all sang along.
I stayed for part of Motley Crüe’s set which started off as powerful and OTT as you’d expect. The crowd were well up for the glam metal pioneers and gave them a hero’s welcome. But my cold started to get the better of me, so I made my way home; I really must be starting to feel my age.
Alice is THE MAN.
Alice Cooper setlist: Vincent Price Intro; The Black Widow; No More Mr. Nice Guy; Under My Wheels; I’m Eighteen; Billion Dollar Babies; Poison; Dirty Diamonds; Go to Hell; Feed My Frankenstein; Ballad of Dwight Fry; I Love the Dead; School’s Out
Many thanks to Ralph Arvesen for allowing use of his picture of Alice Cooper live in 2015 which is licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons