Live Reviews

Jonathan Wilson – Hoxton Square Bar and Restaurant (Monday 21 November 2011) 

You may never have heard of Jonathan Wilson. But a lot of the bands you listen to have heard of him. In fact many of them know him very well. His CV, if he had one, would sound like a Who’s Who of American singer-songwriters and folk musicians. He’s performed with and/or produced a huge range of musicians including J Tillman of Fleet Foxes, Roy Harper, Crosby Stills and Nash and Jackson Browne. Most recently he supported Wilco on their European tour, and he is credited with revitalising the Laurel Canyon scene along with many of his musician friends.


Which all in all makes it quite extraordinary to see him play his own album – Gentle Spirit – in a tiny room in Hoxton with barely 100 people. Someone with his credentials, you think, might be used to greater things, but there was no sign of anything but pleasure as he played a ninety minute set to a receptive audience.


Gentle Spirit has been described by Kitty Empire in the Observer as 'like getting a free reflexology treatment and a small dose of diazepam combined'. It is certainly relaxing, with repetitive lyrics, lengthy guitar solos, and a summery haze that forces you to slow down, whatever you might be doing.


Live, however, the music is far from sleepy. With an extra guitarist, a bassist, a drummer and a keyboardist joining Jonathan Wilson on the tiny stage, the sound is strong and loud. With the heat of the small room, and the unique sound of a Mellotron accompanying many tracks, I was transported to an imaginary sweaty beachside bar in early 70’s California. I could almost feel the sand between my toes as the band sauntered through tracks like ‘Can We Really Party Today’? and title track ‘Gentle Spirit’.


It was a wonderful night, only slightly tainted by what to me seemed like the stringing out of every song with over-enthusiastic guitar playing. But that was a small price to pay for such an evocative and enjoyable performance.


Jonathan Wilson will return to London on January 31st 2012 when he plays the Scala. If you need warming up in the midst of a cold midwinter, I can think of no better way.


Louise Neilan


Let me take you to two concerts by the same artist, playing the same album, thirty five years apart.

Peter Frampton: Frampton Comes Alive

Wembley Empire Pool – Saturday 23 October 1976

Cambridge Corn Exchange – Saturday 12 November 2011

Well what can I remember of that night back in 1976. Peter Frampton was at the height of his worldwide fame. Almost every home in the western world that loved rock music and owned a record deck, would have had a copy of ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ in their collection.

Wembley Empire Pool (now Arena) was packed (imagine the scene with the Artic Monkeys playing the same venue today). More long hair in the place in those days, sweet smoke (that’s not dry ice) filled the place. Support was keyboard maestro Garry Wright ex- Spooky Tooth, who had a popular album out at the time called Dream Weaver but Frampton got all the God like treatment. A full on 70’s Rock Show and a band in their prime. Ticket price £2.40 (yes, Two Pounds and Forty Pence).

Fast forward Thirty Five years, No support this time but a three hour show none the less. Peter has bass player Stanley Sheldon in the band who would have been at that Wembley show as well. Peter’s long blonde curls have gone, receding hairline and turning grey like most of the (this time around, seated) audience from that era, he still plays a mean guitar.

The almost two hours Frampton Comes Alive section of the shows flashes by like a time machine, with some great video backdrops from that 70’s peak. The 2011 band gels extremely well, Adam Lester on guitar is a great foil for Mr Frampton and the album is enthusiastically reproduced. A great two hours!

The second set is a bit patchy, but  there is a Humble Pie highlight, a decent cover of Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun and some great musicianship throughout and, a few years on, its £27.50 for the ticket. 


Cate le Bon kicks off proceeding tonight. a lovely lady, great voice, great songs and a second album surely just around the corner??? Purely on eclectic guitar with an attentive audience, this was a very nice opening set. 

St.Vincent, with band (and added Cate le Bon) were visually spectacular and engagingly original from the off, (being part of part of Sufjan Stevens' touring band, certainly has had an influence) with Annie able to draw your attention like a magnet.  

A well drilled and extremely tight musical unit delivers a seventeen song set drawn across Annie’s three albums to date. Electric energy abounds on stage. You get the impression that Annie certainly seeks perfection from those around her (even the sound guy!) but sadly the energy is not replicated by an almost reverential seated audience, who I guess at the end of the day, are just awe struck.


Mark Stewart popped up to sing along to the Pop Group’s ‘ She Is Beyond Good and Evil’ which left Annie seemingly awe struck herself and tempted to veer left and play the rest of the Y album!


This was a tremendous show and demonstrated yet again what a unique talent Annie Clark is.







3.Save Me From What I Want  

4.Actor Out of Work  

5.Chloe in the Afternoon



8.Just The Same But Brand New  

9.Champagne Year  

10.Neutered Fruit  

11.Strange Mercy  

12.She Is Beyond Good and Evil ( Mark Stewart Pop Group)

13.Northern Lights

14.Year of the Tiger  




16.The Party

17.Your Lips Are Red  



A set lasting two hours and 15 minutes, not bad for a band who have been around in various guises, for over 40 years. Yes provided  good coverage of what the crowd wanted to hear, Yours is No Disgrace, And You And I , Roundabout, Wondrous Stories, Starship Trooper were all there, as was the nucleus of the band.  

Central focus a wiry Steve Howe, as technical and spectacular on guitar as ever .  Chris Squire seems to morph more into Gene Simmons each time I see him. A giant of a man, he stomps and commands the stage with various bass guitars (one upright) churning out a menacing vibe. That’s an idea let’s swap Chris and Gene around ! Alan White, solid if a little stilted is a powerhouse. Time marches on for all of us though I guess. 

I have never been a close follower of Turin Brakes indeed I have never actually heard the Optimist LP all the way through until Monday night.  

This was the first night of a 10th anniversary UK tour of the said record. The venue was around ¾ full and with little in the way of lighting effects the band played the Optimist LP front to back.


Soon into the groove the next fifty minutes were enjoyed by both the crowd and the band.

This formed the first part of the set and after returning to the stage the band continued for another hour or so, turning out song after song for the back catalogue and a new ep.


The Monday Blues are quickly consigned to the bin!






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