With well over forty years of gigs under my belt and finding my musical feet in the Seventies, it is hard to understand why I have never seen Black Sabbath live before. When tickets went on sale last year for ‘The End’ tour, there was one last chance remaining so, I grabbed it with both hands and brought a ticket for the last show on the tour in their hometown of Birmingham.
The Genting Arena is on the site of the NEC and is a fair way out of the City but it is a great arena size venue which holds 15,000 people yet, without you ever feeling you are standing in an Aircraft hanger.
Rival Sons from Long Beach, California kick off the show with a rocking set that really sets the mood. Regular touring partners for Black Sabbath, they are an excellent live outfit.
There are no great fanfares tonight, the place is full to bursting and, you just get the feeling that the main event is going to be what we would expect. A no frills workmanlike show, solid, intense, powerful, nothing less than Black Sabbath always deliver.
8.40pm and the lights go out, the bells toll and the curtain drops as the band kick off the set with ‘Black Sabbath’ from their 1970 debut. It’s a menacing start. ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ from Paranoid is next and it’s like a time machine! What is instantly obvious is how tight this band still is and what an amazing guitarist Tony Iommi remains.
The set has been constant during this final tour but, friends who had been to the London shows said that that tonight’s show saw the band on their best form of the tour and the sound mix, certainly the finest.
The set list speaks for itself, even a nod to that question “Name the best four best metal albums of all time”; Answer, “The first four Black Sabbath Albums” .
‘War Pigs’ mid set and N.I.B., are absolute gems as is ‘Hand of Doom’ from ‘Paranoid’. It’s a real treat to hear this song. We really need a four hour show to get all the songs in, ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ is an instrumental and a drum solo takes care of the toilet break for the older members of the band.
The final section includes mighty versions of ‘Iron Man’ and an epic ‘Children of the Grave’ plus a shower of black and purple balloons, (which is just fitting for this show, nothing flashy, the music does the talking).
The band return for a final and sonic version of ‘Paranoid’ with, Geezer Butler sporting an Aston Villa Bass guitar in front of 15,000 pairs of arms held aloft (for the band, not Aston Villa, I must add).
An outstanding, never to be forgotten show. It was being recorded but, perhaps for those there, just let it sink into the memory where over the years, it will obtain an ever greater status of magic in your mind.
Fairies Wear Boots,
Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes,
Into the Void,
Behind the Wall of Sleep,
Hand of Doom,
Supernaut/Sabbath Bloody Sabbath/Megalomania,
Children of the Grave
When I read that Margo Price was coming to Dublin I bought a ticket instantly. I had only heard one or two songs at that point and did not own a copy of her excellent album 'Midwest Farmer's Daughter' yet. There was a buzz about her though and I felt I had to go and see her.
For those who have not heard the back story: Margo is indeed a Midwest farmer's daughter who dropped out of school and moved to Nashville, where she worked odd jobs, started doing music and met her husband. She had her share of hardships. The death of a baby drove her to drink and depression and she even spent time in prison. She pawned her wedding ring and sold her car to be able to record her album in Memphis' Sun Studios.
After many rejections none other than Jack White decided he liked the album and it was released on Third Man Records. It scored high in many end-of-year lists and if there was any justice Margo should have been nominated for a Grammy alongside Sturgill Simpson.
So I found myself in the Button Factory in Temple Bar on a Sunday night. The stage was set up for the main act - 'Margo Price' written on the bass drum, a pedal steel to the right. It was only when an unassuming guy with a guitar walked on stage that I realised there was going to be a support act. He started playing and I found myself thinking that he was uncommonly good. After a few songs he mentioned that he was Margo's husband. Jeremy Ivey then played what he said he considered his best song, 'Loner', and I could not agree more. It sounded like something Townes Van Zandt could have written. Margo joined him for two songs and they duetted wonderfully.
The headline show was fantastic. Margo was accompanied by a superb band compromising drums, bass, electric guitar and pedal steel. Margo herself played acoustic guitar and tambourine and Jeremy dropped in and out on guitar and harmonica. They played a total of 18 songs including most of the album, as well as some newer songs, including the great 'It ain't drunk driving if you're riding a horse', written by friend of theirs who holds down a day job in a grocery store, as per Margo.
Highlight of the show was her masterpiece 'Hands Of Time'. What a song that is.. It got a prolonged ovation from the crowd. And even if Margo had not lived the life and written such great songs, she could have made it as a singer alone, which was particularly evident on her cover of Dolly Parton's 'Jolene'. She also covered Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and the band did a lovely version of Bob Dylan's 'Nashville Skyline Rag'.
The encore included 'Me and Bobby McGee', which I particularly enjoyed as I had listened to my one and only Kris Kristofferson CD only a few days earlier, following the rumour that he will fill this year's Glastonbury legend slot (yes please!). A friend of mine who saw Margo last year had said he enjoyed her show but that rapport with the audience was a little lacking. I can only presume that her confidence has grown as this successful tour continues. Perhaps not as natural a stage presence as her husband, Margo nonetheless addressed the audience frequently and also came down into the crowd to sing and dance from there towards the end.
Gig of the year so far! If I come across a better one I shall report back, but this will take some beating.
This show was part of the The Music Network tour featuring, Julie Fowlis, Kris Drever, Pádraig Rynne, Aoife Ní Bhriain. Music Network is an organisation that organises nationwide tours of Ireland with musicians that they invite over especially (trad, folk, world and classical). Often they bring groups of musicians together specifically to get them to collaborate. In their programme they liken it to matchmaking.
I wonder whether it is skillful choices or luck as to whether these unique partnerships work out. I have been to quite a few Music Network concerts over the years and the groupings are nearly always good, sometimes great, but it can also happen that individually brilliant musicians actually are not that suited to sharing the stage.
This criticism could not at all be fired at tonight's line up, which combined the talents of Scots Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis, singer/songwriter Kris Drever from Orkney, young concertina player extraordinaire Pádraig Rynne and Dublin violinist Aoife Ní Bhriain.
The quartet met initially in Inverness to get to know each other and develop a repertoire for this nine date tour. My options were either going to the second show, in the Sugar Club, a lovely venue a stone's throw from where I live, or to go to the last show at the Pavilion, a sympathetic theatre with nonetheless terribly cramped seating out in Dún Laoghaire. I went for the latter, since trad collaborations do get better with time.
Julie Fowlis was my main reason for going and once the musicians took the stage I recognised Pádraig Rynne from Triad (with Dónal Lunny and Sylvain Barou). Kris Drever I have seen him many times as he tends to guest with musicians I like. Aoife Ní Bhriain was the surprise of the night. She plays both traditional and classical violin and as per the programme she has played with many renowned orchestras and won numerous competitions.
Aoife's solo slot got the biggest cheer of the night. She talked about a project she has been involved in featuring songs collected by a Canon Goodman from Dingle. This man compiled a manuscript collection of traditional tunes that is now kept at Trinity College. These are often very well-known songs, that have been preserved in earlier, often slightly different versions. They played a variant of 'The dawning of the day'.
Both Kris Drever and Pádraig Rynne are musicians known to work with loops and other trickery, but for this show these gadgets were left out. Pádraig impressed with his virtuoso concertina playing, including some tunes he composed himself, with his skillful accompaniments and also his sense of humour. I liked Kris' guitar playing. 'Capernaum' (“Edinburgh, Edinburgh”) was his standout song. Julie Fowlis sang backing vocals to some of Kris' songs. It is curious to hear Julie sing in English, given that I have many CDs with her singing exclusively in Gaelic.
Julie's songs were fabulous. She has a beautiful, crystal clear voice and nice stories to go with her songs. She played tin whistle and the shruti box; a smaller, more portable type of harmonium, which she travels with so as to have more space for shoes in her suitcase, she said! Though its drone is similar to that of the pipes, it is actually an Indian instrument. Highlights of Julie's performances were a two part song about seals and the encore, which was some of the traditional mouth music that she is most famous for.
All in all a fantastic night of music. There were signs saying that the performance would be recorded. I wonder whether this is just for the Pavilion's archives or with a view of making this available to the public?
The annual Bristol Xmas gig notwithstanding, this is the first live dates, and tour from the Aeroplanes for what seems like forever, and thankfully they made a pit stop up North in Sheffield.
Sheffield is not unknown to Gerard Langley, as he and Wojtek went and met at Uni here a few decades earlier, and the decent turnout in the back room of the Leadmill were anticipating a night of classic tunes, and tracks from recently released new album Welcome, Stranger!
The night began with the customary spine tingling intro of aeroplanes passing overhead, before the band kicked things off with new track Dead Tree, Dead Tree! A surefire future live favourite and almost immediately the audience is swaying along.
It’s at this point that I realise that I’m here watching the Aeroplanes on a tour....at last, a tour, and they are playing as tight and rehearsed than I’ve seen for years and years, and what a joy that is. Wojtek is doing his thing, both on and off the stage, and he’s getting a lot of attention from the first timers in the crowd, who are mainly here with the your girl who opened the night.
The set is a mix of old favourites, with some surprises such as Missy Lane, which I’m not sure I’ve heard live before, and the wonderful And Stones, sounding as vibrant as it ever has, but the main message of the evening is that this is the Aeroplanes mk plenty, and this mix of young and not so young, talented musicians are elevating the band to new heights.
It’s clear the band are really enjoying themselves and after new album favourite Here Is The Heart of All Wind Things, it’s time for the main set to come to a close, and we all know what’s to come from the encores...
Mixed in with old live favourite Fun, and new gorgeous album closer Poetland, are 2 covers. Dylan’s I Wanna Be Your Lover, and the epic, iconic Tom Verlaine cover Breakin’ In My Heart. Like Jacket Hangs, an (almost) ever present in the set. The band are going nuts on stage - Mike and Bec are playing guitars on 2 platforms stage left and right, Wojtek is on and off the stage like a whirling dervish, while the rest of the band are shuffling restlessly around each other back on stage. The track, and the night ends with the last chord being played by Mike as he launches himself off the bass drum.
Exhilarating, exciting, refreshing, and almost tear inducing to this long time fan. The Aeroplanes are back, back, back, bigger bolder and brighter than ever, with some killer tunes that sit alongside their back catalogue as if they were recorded 20 years ago. With the promise of another album and tour later in 2017, this is going to be some year to be an Aeroplanes fan.
A night of quality hard rock was on the agenda at Manchester Academy 2 with the legendary Glenn Hughes touring in support of last years well received, and really rather fabulous album Resonate. His first solo album in 8 years.
The support band, maybe chosen because they were fellow midlanders, were the Walsall based Stone Broken. Yes, they’ve got the riffs, the looks and they can play, but most importantly they’ve got the tunes. This is a young new band, who clearly have a great rapport with their audience and genuinely happy to be doing what they do. Check out debut album All In Time.
So onto the main event, and on strode the mid 60’s but looking about 40, Glenn Hughes. Every inch the rock star - shades, shaggy hair and pearly white teeth, bowed to his adoring fans and launched into Flow from latest album Resonate. The temperature and adrenaline was turned up a notch, especially when running straight into Muscle & Blood from his collaborative album with Pat Thrall, and the battered old bass he had round his neck was put through it’s paces.
As this was my first live Glenn Hughes gig, firstly I wasn’t sure what to expect from the setlist, and secondly from the man himself in terms of his relationship with the fans. Was this going to be a trip down memory lane in homage to his stints in Trapeze and Purple, or would it be a more forward looking contemporary set ? The answer I’m pleased to say was a happy mix of both. And as for his chat and messages to the fans, I’m not sure I’ve witnessed a more warm, human and downright “normal” approach to band/audience interaction. The main message of the night (even from Stone Broken too) was that we should all celebrate life and love, and we only get one chance at this game, so make the most of it. It was genuinely heartwarming when Hughes explained he had written most of Resonate while recouperating from a double knee transplant, and that tomorrow he was back to his mothers hospital bed as she’s rather unwell. There was a genuine feeling of we’re all in this together, and there was no barrier between band and audience....Hughes exclaiming at one point that he had come tonight to see us...
Deep Purple song Getting Tighter was when the fabulous Mellotron was put through its paces for the first time by Jay Boe, and tributes were paid to lost masters of the machine Jon Lord and Keith Emerson. God bless you both.
The only Trapeze song of the night was the swirling, brooding Medusa, a song I admit to not knowing, however clearly a precursor to what was to come with Purple.
Much to my delight was the Black Country Communion song One Last Soul, and even better news was that BCC4 is on the horizon and due for an Autumn release. Black County from the same band closed the main set, and this black country reviewer was wondering why I hadn’t seen Mr Hughes live before.
Deep Purple favourite Burn closed the night, which obviously bought the house down and also showcased that despite the inevitable passing of years, Hughes’ voice is as incredible as ever....how the hell does he hit those high notes ?
What a great night...what an entertaining night. This was surely a lesson to any aspiring new rock bands of how to behave on stage, keeping the audience engaged throughout, and showing some personality coming through. Obviously it helps to have an amazing back catalogue to draw on, and magnificent musicians backing you, but this was a masterclass in stage craft.