Soft Machine Kendal Brewery Arts Centre 19 March 2016
When 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. Since 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.
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
Posts Tagged ‘concerts’
Soft Machine Kendal Brewery Arts Centre 19 March 2016
They Might Be Giants Newcastle Riverside 28 Jan 2016
The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha (frequently shortened to Don Quixote), is a book written by Spanish author Cervantes in the seventeenth century, and often considered to be the first modern novel. The main character, Don Quixote, is an insane man who thinks that windmills are evil giants, often tilting his lance at them. At one point Don Quixote’s trusted servant Sanch Panza asks the Don why he is preparing to attack several windmills with his lance. Don Quixote replies “Why, because they might be giants.” This inspired the name of a 1971 film, They Might Be Giants, and then of the quirky new wave alternative pop/rock band who Laura and I recently saw.
Now They Might Be Giants are pretty difficult to categorise. Their songs are all very different; however they also all share a few common factors: they have great hooks, they are catchy pop tunes, and they are super FUN. A Riverside packed with hipsters in the know was treated to an evening full of their top ditties, causing mucho bopping, dancing and singingalonging. The biggest bop was, of course, reserved for the wondrous Birdhouse in Your Soul (to my shame the only song I really knew). Super crazy cool; man.
Setlist: Walk On Water; Can’t Keep Johnny Down; They Might Be Giants; Music Jail; Why Does the Sun Shine?; Answer; The Statue Got Me High; Meet James Ensor; The Famous Polka; Doctor Worm; Alphabet of Nations; Rhythm Section Want Ad; Your Racist Friend; Bills, Bills, Bills (Destiny’s Child’s cover); Turn Around; I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar (Jonathan Richman cover); Cloisonné; Older; Let Me Tell You About My Operation; Birdhouse in Your Soul; Trouble Awful Devil Evil; Man, It’s So Loud In Here; Fingertips; Memo to Human Resources; Don’t Let’s Start; Damn Good Times
Encores: Particle Man; Robot Parade (Adult Version); James K. Polk; Twisting; Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
Maximo Park Newcastle City Hall 19 Nov 2015
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
I’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. Accompanying 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. A 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.
Bob Dylan Manchester Apollo 28th October 2015
Bobby; he keeps reinventing himself. These days he has become a crooner, the ultimate smokey lounge singer, paying tribute to all those great balladeers who went before. It sort of suits his croaky gravelly rasp. Like he has found his way back home. His latest album “Shadows in the night” covers songs made famous by Frank Sinatra. It has been a big success; reaching Number 1 in the UK album charts and achieving rave reviews. The Telegraph declared it Dylan’s “best singing in 25 years.” The crowd at Manchester Apollo knew the score. Two nights sold out in the blink of an eye. Everyone wants to go see Bobby sing those sad winding poetic tunes. From Rolling Stone: “He felt that a lot .. of it was written from the heart …He felt there was a lot of spirit in that music. …. ‘I’m not gonna write a song; I’m gonna pay homage to what shook me as young boy.'” So no “Like a Rolling Stone” or “All along the Watchtower” this time around, although we were treated to “Tangled up in blue”, “She belongs to me” and, for an encore “Blowing in the Wind”. The rest of the set was drawn from Dylan’s recent albums. But hey I’m not complaining. Bob Dylan is singing great; better than he has been for years. Sure; I never dreamed I would see Bob Dylan sing Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I do”, but it works, and seems so natural. Dylan’s voice fits these songs like an old glove. Of the more recent Dylan tunes, “Scarlet Town” is dark and powerful. Closing classic “Autumn Leaves” was truly emotional, and a great way to end an excellent and enjoyable concert. As we made our way out of the Apollo, I could hear everyone around me commenting how good it was. Very different to shows I attended 10 years ago, which left some people disappointed. Me; I went back to my little hotel room in Piccadilly and got some sleep; I had to get up at 5am to catch a train to London for a meeting. Till next time Bobby.
Set 1: Things Have Changed; She Belongs to Me; Beyond Here Lies Nothin’; What’ll I Do; Duquesne Whistle; Melancholy Mood; Pay in Blood; I’m a Fool to Want You; Tangled Up in Blue
Set 2: High Water (For Charley Patton); Why Try to Change Me Now; Early Roman Kings; The Night We Called It a Day; Spirit on the Water; Scarlet Town; All or Nothing at All; Long and Wasted Years; Autumn Leaves
Encore: Blowin’ in the Wind; Love Sick