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 ‘gig’
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)
Ronnie Spector The Sage Gateshead 30 Nov 2015
Now there are those that we call legends, and those who really are legends. Ronnie Spector is definitely in the latter category. The self-styled wild child of rock and roll, the rose of Spanish Harlem, one of “the” voices and faces of the ’60s, is still going strong, voice and beehive intact.
I’d waited some years for this. I recall reading a review of one of Ronnie’s comebacks in the ’70s and vowing then to see her. I finally kept my promise to myself, event if it has taken me 40 or so years to do so. I had a ticket for a gig in Edinburgh a few years ago and it was sadly cancelled, so when this time round Ronnie came over for a full tour, calling at the Sage, I was determined to catch her while I can.
I went along wondering whether she would still be able to do it. I needn’t have worried. I am delighted to report that Ronnie Spector can perform, sing and hold an audience in the palm of her hand for an entire evening.
The concert was a run through Ronnie’s life. Between each song she sat down and told a little story, illustrated by some great images and videos shown on a big screen above the stage. The balance between stories and songs was just right, as was the way in which Ronnie told the stories. Sometimes these shows sound like name dropping. This one didn’t; it worked really well. Her band consisted of three girls (who could be the young Ronettes) in red taffeta dresses, and a drum/ guitar/ bass/ organ/ sax combo. Perfect. She looked great, sporting the biggest hairdo you can imagine.
First up was the Ronettes classic “Baby I Love You”. Ronnie explained how the young girls were just desperate to sing and dance, telling a story of how they lined up at the door of the Peppermint Lounge, were mistaken for the dancers, were invited in and then bravely took to the stage with no rehearsal. Of course, they knocked the crowd out and it everything started. Cue “Keep on Dancing” followed by “What’d I Say”. Next Ronnie told us how she loved DooWop, which led into “I’m so Young” by early DooWop group the Students. We then moved to the UK and the Ronettes first tour of this country, on which they were supported by the Rolling Stones. “Time is on My Side” was sung in front of a picture of herself with Brian Jones and Keith Richards. Pure magic. The next couple of songs showcased great songwriters: “Is that what I get for Loving You?” by Goffin and King and “Paradise” by Harry Nilsson. Ronnie next celebrated another major milestone in the lady’s career: a video of the Ronettes first US TV appearance on American bandstand followed by the song they sang on the show all those years ago: “Do I Love You”, followed by “You Baby” and “Chapel of Love”. For the next two songs Ronnie paid tribute to one great lady singer who was a friend; and another who was her sister and a great influence. For “Walking in the Rain”, Ronnie talked about Dusty Springfield who she shared a dressing room with in the late ’60s. And for “(the best part of) Breakin’ Up” she told us about her sister Estelle who lived the Ronettes journey with her.
Ronnie explained how she left showbiz in the late ’60s to return in the ’70s. “I wish I never saw the sunshine” was followed by “You can’t put your arms around a Memory” which was written for her by Johnny Thunders, andrecorded with Joey Ramone. “Back to Black” paid tribute to Amy Winehouse who was, undoubtedly, influenced by Ronnie.
Next was the song I had been waiting for all night. “Be My Baby” sounded just great; still powerful; not at all cheesy. For encores we got an early Christmas in the form of “Frosty the Snowman” and the Ronettes last single, the Beach Boys “I Can Hear Music”.
A class act. It was great to witness a legend who for once truly lived up to expectations, and much more.
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.