A cold damp Tuesday night in Nottingham is about to become warm, cozy and enthralling in the company of two very accomplished outfits.
Rock City is pretty much full (not sure why they did not open the balcony) tonight and the first band on are Submotion Orchestra, a Seven piece formed in Leeds in 2009.
With an expansive, ambient and dreamy sound, the venue is quickly enveloped in the band’s warm glow. New Album ‘Colour Theory’ provides the base for the 50 minute set which if there are new listeners present, they must be checking out the band further as we write.
The Cinematic Orchestra do not tour that much and recent live dates have been in London and major cities, so a regional tour is most welcome.
The Cinematic Orchestra formed in1999 by Jason Swinscoe are a band that to me that evoke memories of Jazz legends, Weather Report but, with added vocals from singers, Tawiah and Hedi Vogel that just melt your heart this takes their songs to a new level. New song ‘To Believe’ is a prime example. This is actually the first new material for a while and with the tour and the evident tightness of the band, this all bodes well for more activity soon.
A string intro started the show, as the band eased into ‘Burn Out’ and really warmed up with ‘Child Song’ and ‘J Bird’.
‘The Reveal’ is a stunning song, but by this time the people with 2 pint glasses are becoming decidedly chatty which, takes the edge off the mid section of the set until nature calls and they don’t return!
‘Flite’, ‘Breathe’ and ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ end the main set superbly and there is still a 3 song encore to come.
We can cope with whatever winter throws at us with warm musical nights like this.
Eye for an I
Man with the Movie Camera
To Build a Home
Ode to the Big Sea
All That You Give
We've all been in a part-filled music venue which claimed to be “SOLD OUT” for the sake of good PR for the band, haven't we. Tonight as I walk up the stairs to the Main Hall at Rock City there are people standing in the doorway to the entrance it's rammed, there are 2,500 here tonight to see local heroes/ anti-heroes/ superheroes Sleaford Mods. Andrew Fearn (laptop, blue 'Still Hate Thatcher' shirt, and bottled beer), and Jason Williamson (machine-gun style vitriolic vocals, plain black shirt and bottled water) walk on stage to a heroes welcome.
Tonight's show is a mix of old faves and new stuff from the 'TCR' E.P. 'I Can Tell' and the title track (the cleaned up version of which has been getting air play on 6Music) get played early in the set. 'Face to Faces', 'Fizzy' and 'Giddy On The Ciggies' get the largely male and young moshpit going down the front.
Mid song something gets thrown towards Jason, at the end of the song he addresses the transgressor “I am not Tony Stark, I am made of flesh. If you throw things at me and I go down you have wasted ten pounds. Hit the b*****d” In spite of that incident the mood is celebratory, the band seem genuinely overjoyed with the audience's reaction “Just remember you didn't come to see us tonight, we came here to see you. We love you Nottingham” as they finish the main set.
The three track encore begins with the rattling intro to 'Jobseeker' over which Jason ad-libs a couple of lines from Bad Manners' 'Lip Up Fatty'.'Tied Up in Nottz' ignites the Catherine Wheel circle pit and rockets of beer fountains and keeps the bouncers busy attempting to repel the stage invaders one of whom gets through and takes an impressive dive back into the crowd at the climax of the song.
The lack of a traditional song structure, the minimal deep bass beats from Andrew's laptop and Jason's impressive machine-gun style vocal rattle sit uneasily with some, but as a band willing to shine a light at the absurdity and general dissatisfaction many feel in life they are a vital British band.
Its a testament to the progress the Picturedrome has made over these last few years that they now have the privilege of hosting the opening night of Anathema’s November mini tour, rather than the latest Oasis or Stone Roses tribute band. The tour itself takes in several smaller UK venues, a brief trip to the prog friendly venues of The Netherlands and France, before the prestigious support slot to Opeth at Wembley Arena in late November.
The band have been holed up in a studio for the last few months, working on studio album number 11, and by their own admission have been feeling lonely and yearning to play for audiences again.
The event was billed as an evening with Anathema, promising a 2 hour set, including previews of the new music worked out so far.
The lights dimmed, the heavy doom laden backing track was silenced, and the band took the stage where they launched into the first new track of the evening. No clues were given to the title of this track, but the word “tonight” was prominently used. The track seemed to follow on from 2014’s cooly received Distant Satellites, with a glitchy, electronic backing track over which the rest of the band played. After the majesty of albums We’re Here Before We Are Here and Weather Systems, here’s hoping they don’t go do a Radiohead - after all, this is a band used to making bold changes of musical direction.
Lead singer, and one of the 3 brothers in the band, Vinnie Cavanagh hoped, at the songs conclusion, that we weren’t too freaked out by opening the set with a new track. The mainly silent audience, stayed silent.
Thankfully, we were quickly on familiar territory, with the magnificent, 11 minute or so Untouchable Parts 1 & 2 before leading straight into Thin Air. These tracks also saw the first appearance of female vocalist Lee Douglas to the stage, and all was well with the world. Similar to Mimi Parker in Low, Douglas add a beautiful, sweet softening to the main vocals and harmonies and I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing she was used more.
The rest of the first half of the set continued with mainly old stuff, much to the pleasure of the ever warming crowd. The exception was another new track (Springfield ?), sounding lovely and reassuring, before closing with the traditional Closer.
It was clear that the band were a little rusty, with Danny Cavanagh even forgetting to plug his guitar in at some point, and several issues with the sound mixing, but this eased as the evening progressed.
The second half opened with Distant Satellites, before 2 new tracks in a row. The first was introduced as “your new favourite Anathema song”. Again, both sounded familiar, yet a progression on recent albums and something to look forward to in the new year.
Fragile Dreams closed the evening, by which time the euphoria caused by the band meant we didn’t want it to end, and disappointingly there wasn’t a encore.
Always great to see this magnificent, if underrated band, even if it seemed a little like a warm up to a bigger event, which of course it was, but as a taster to album number 11, next year can’t come quickly enough.
Upstairs @ Whelans was the setting for Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker's first ever gig in Dublin. When explaining to my other half who I was going to see I just said, “I saw them at Cambridge”. That is enough to justify that I am going to see something that was so good, it just has to be experienced again.
Support came from Bostonian Dietrich Strause, who has been on this entire tour with the couple. Ben guested on guitar on one of his songs and Josienne on vocals on another one. Dietrich had his brand new CD 'How Cruel That Hunger Binds' for sale at the show.
Josienne and Ben almost seem to come from a different time. Their music at times sounds medieval, classical, and at other times reminiscent of 70s folk – Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson in particular.
The previous time I had seen Josienne and Ben they had had a band with them, that included Red Clay Halo musicians Anna Jenkins and Jo Silverstone. This time they were on their own – just Ben's excellent guitar-playing and Josienne's beautiful singing. I loved the pared down sound.
Although she comes across as shy and sings either with eyes staring in the distance or cast down, Josienne Clarke has a wicked sense of humour and her in-between song talk perfectly balances the bleakness and melancholia of the songs. She is the songwriter in the duo and this is no mean feat. The majority of the songs performed at Whelans were written by Josienne and they were magnificent.
'Something Familiar' from their just released album 'Overnight' is probably the best song she has ever written. If there is any justice it should get nominated at next year's Folk Awards. If interested, check YouTube for the haunting video for this song, starring actress Olwen Fouéré. I am not a fan of story videos as I prefer to have my own images with songs, but this is a fantastic video that plays on in your mind long after watching it. And as for the song, it has the same qualities as Richard Thompson's 'Beeswing', Tom Waits' 'Martha', Martin Simpson's 'Never Any Good'... in other words: It makes you cry.
The set included a few covers. Josienne joked that Gillian Welch must know her, as 'Dark Turn Of Mind' seems written about her! I did not know the song but am now going to seek out the original. They also covered Fairport Convention's 'Fotheringay' (nice) and 'For All We Know' by Nina Simone. The latter has never been my cup of tea, but that's nitpicking.
The gig was reasonably attended but it was by no means full. There is not a huge audience for English folk in Ireland, though the Unthanks and Kate Rusby draw big audiences these days. In a way it is a privilege though to see such amazing artists in the intimate setting of the upstairs room at Whelans. You got the impression that everyone present was in awe of the gig. There was zero walking and talking during the set.
It was quite a contrast then to transit from the beautiful music made by this talented, well-spoken duo into the crassness that is Camden Street on Saturday night at Halloween weekend... I wanted to just run home, close the door and put on the CD to prolong the atmosphere of the concert.
Daoirí Farrell has been on my radar for some time. I first came across him when he supported Solas in Whelans, quite some time ago. When he spelled out his name at the end of that gig I paid close attention, as this was an exceptional singer I was going to keep an ear out for. Last year I caught him with the group Four Winds at a tradfest. Both times I thought he was superb, but the gigs were too short, so when his album launch show at Whelans was announced I jumped at the chance to see a full concert.
There was a great buzz in Whelans. The queue to enter stretched around the corner, the upstairs was open and it took forever to get a drink. There was no support and Daoirí played with a full band, with some songs performed solo. He seemed nervous at the start but relaxed soon enough. This was a home show (he hails from Bluebell, Dublin 12) and many friends and family were present.
His most popular song, 'Creggan White Hare' (over 130,000 views on YouTube) was played early on in the set. On that song and on some others Daoirí's singing and mandola playing are reminiscent of Andy Irvine. Although I am a longtime trad aficionado, I know relatively little about ballad singing. I have heard of Frank Harte and of course Christy Moore, but that is about it. I always find it interesting when singers explain how they came across certain songs and who they learned them from.
Daoirí's band included Tony Byrne on guitar, Robbie Walsh on bodhran and Paddy Kiernan on banjo. The bodhran playing stood out for me. The band was padded out with fiddle, two pipes and cello on some songs. It is a personal preference of mine that trad ensembles should not be too large and I would have been happy to have just the main three accompanists, though there is no denying that some of the pipe-playing was very beautiful. Michael McGoldrick plays on Daoirí's new album and as I am a huge fan I had secretly hoped that he might be there, but one cannot have it all.
Daoirí's debut album, 'The First Turn' is from 2009 and it took him seven years to come up with this successor. In the intervening years he has been singing and gigging, and obtained an MA in music performance from the University of Limerick. The launch of 'True Born Irishman' felt like quite a special occasion and Daoirí said several times how much the great turnout meant to him.
After Lynched and Ye Vagabonds here is yet another great new Dublin-based act. Dónal Lunny has said that “Daoirí is one of the most important traditional singers to emerge in the last decade”. Jools Holland may well come calling soon and if Cambridge Folk Festival do not book Daoirí for next year I will eat my hat.