If you want a spectacular setting for a concert and you're not too keen on the annual quagmirefest hosted in the Isle of Avalon then how about a stage between a Rainforest and a Mediterranean climate in a quarried out bowl in Cornwall. The Eden Project near St Austell has been hosting the Eden Sessions since 2002 in this very location and tonight's show is billed as PJ Harvey plus Special Guest. Those of us who got here early enough to make use of the Eden Project pass which is included in the cost of the gig ticket and represents great value for money, saw Jehnny Beth from Savages sound-checking and worked out who the Special Guest was. It's best we let Jehnny explain why she's here “My friend Polly asked me to play some songs tonight and you don't say no to Polly Jean Harvey”, and possibly PJ Harvey had a spare seat on the bus back from Glastonbury.
Whilst Jehnny's stage attire is the usual black and white combination, in a marked contrast to the often intense and brutal Savages live show she sits at the piano and plays 30 minutes of touching and beautiful ballads, finishing with a version of 'Adore', from the most recent Savages album which she says was originally written on the piano.
All dressed in black and wearing a crown of raven feathers PJ Harvey accompanied by her nine-piece band slow march onto stage. The slow march is to the beat of funeral drums which half the band are playing, the other half playing brass for the intro to 'Chain of Keys' from 'The Hope Six Demolition Project'. The first five tracks tonight are all from the new album , the highlight being 'The Community of Hope' which criticises the Hope VI regeneration project in Ward 7, Washington D.C, the chorus of “They're gonna put a Walmart here”; being the unlikely solution.
The instantly recognisable intro to 'Let England Shake' starts a triple whammy from that Mercury award winning album. The band co-ordinate hand clamps through the “ What if I take my problem to the United Nations” lines from 'The Words that Maketh Murder'. Polly says virtually nothing during the show but she embellishes the songs through mime and movement ; during 'This Glorious land' she turns to the band and demands of them “ And what is this glorious fruit of our land ?” to get the response from the band “Its fruit is deformed children”.
The set list is dominated by tracks from the two most recent albums, but towards the end of the show there are three older tracks : John Parish hammering out the guitar riff to '50ft Queenie' with Polly throwing shapes around him; 'Down by the River' and its creepy “Little Fish, Big Fish swimming in the water ...” outro and 'To Bring you My Love'. The main set finishes with a melancholic and haunting 'River Anacostia', the band removed of all of their instruments for the acapella outro “Wade in the water, God's gonna trouble the water” as they slow march depart from the stage as they arrived to the sound of the funeral drums.
They return for single song encore of 'Near the Memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln' before taking their bows, thank you and good-nights. These brilliant, flawless musicians and Polly's hypnotic, commanding stage presence in this beautiful setting puts this show amongst the most memorable of the year.
So here we are again, Neil Young at the O2 Arena in London. This time the band are, ‘The Promise of the Real’ a young band that, Neil really sparks off.
Laura Marling and band pull off a sparkling support slot which bodes well for her headline spot at The Green Man festival in August as as 8.30 pm approaches, the lights dim and there is Neil sitting at his battered piano singing, ‘After The Gold Rush’ then, he picks up a battered acoustic guitar and we get ‘Heart Of Gold’, ‘From Hank To Hendrix’ and ‘The Needle And The Damage Done’. The solo slot concludes with Neil at the organ for ‘Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)’. Its one of the most magical openings to a concert for a long time.
The Promise of the Real are Lukas Nelson (vocals/guitar), Anthony Logerfo (drums), Corey McCormick (bass), and Tato Melgar (percussion). Lukas is the son of Willie Nelson, a long time buddy of Neil Young. These guys are a band in their own right, three albums old and they step on the stage for ‘Out On The Weekend’ from Harvest’, the set continues with ‘Western Hero’, from 'Sleeps with Angels",‘Hold Back The Tears’, ‘Someday’ from ‘Freedom’ and back to Harvest for ‘Alabama’.
The set is really bringing out some some long lost live songs, it seems London is in for a treat tonight. ‘If I Could Have Her Tonight’ from the 1968 album ‘Neil Young’ follows, Words up next then our first visit to ‘On the Beach’ with ‘Walk On’.
Then we have the elongated wig-out to ‘Love To Burn’ and a trip to Ragged Glory’ for ‘Mansion On The Hill’. ‘Seed Justice’ is from upcoming album ‘Earth’ before a mighty ‘Revolution Blues’ is played from ‘On The Beach’ and we are in awe.
Keeping things recent ‘Monsanto Years’ follows, then ‘After The Garden’ from ‘Living with War’, ‘Love And Only Love’ finishes the set and a storming F*!#in' Up complete’s the show.
This was a thinking man’s /women’s set list, not songs that have appeared regularly, a set from a man with a conscience and someone who still has something to say at 70, his songs still resonate that much. If he doesn’t make the point who will?
The Promise of the Real were able to reproduce the songs and style of the many bands that Neil has been part of over the years. It was really quite amazing that you could listen to one band but, shut your eyes and that could have been many different bands. So maybe, we didn’t get all the favourites (don’t forget that start) but what we got, were the rare gems.
Long may this man run!
Photo: Eilís Boland
The Joy Formidable visit Nottingham tonight as part of the 'Hitch' tour in support of their new album of the same name. The backdrop has their logo drawn in the characteristic stylings of Gonzo artist Ralph Steadman who drew some of the album's artwork and with whom this reviewer more than once shared a local pub.
The distorted ice-cream van chimes intro to 'The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade' welcomes the band on stage to play that track from the 'A Balloon Called Moaning' EP released way back in 2009. The stage is set up with the drum kit stage left which gives plenty of room for bass player Rhydian Davies and guitarist Ritzy Bryan (with her blonde bob bouncing) to leap and dart around during the meaty instrumental sections of each track. 'The Blimp' starts with a chunky bass riff and during the guitar solo Ritzy displays some of the finest backwards /side sliding around the stage whilst playing since James Dean Bradfield of the Manics; there must be a Welsh School of Rock where they teach this stuff. Ritzy picks out the opening oriental sounding chords of 'Maw Maw Song' from 'Wolf's Law' before the track's monster riff explodes around the room ; fortunately all the references to carnivores doesn't appear to phase the small model of a Welsh Mountain Goat which is positioned on Ritzy's guitar effects board.
Driving the whole show along is Matt Thomas whose drumming style reminds you of an octopus in a tumble dryer in the best possible way. Matt confirms his membership of the 'drummers being slightly mad' club by selecting a striking yellow Hawaiian shirt as opposed to standard black for his stage wear and his star turn during a previous visit to Nottingham which we are told involved dancing and feeding the audience instant mash potato ; an act which was apparently a “Smash hit”- yes he really did say this.
Early single 'Cradle' and the big, bouncy funky drum and bass lines of 'Hitch's', 'The Last Thing on My Mind' get the crowd moving and show TJF have consistently written catchy tunes throughout their career.
The encore starts with the recent single 'Radio of Lips' with its killer chorus “The further I run, The faster you apologise ...”, and after 'Liana' also from 'Hitch' there's a call from the audience to play 'Cradle' again to which Ritzy replys she's learnt two things whilst touring, “Don't play any Chris de Burgh and never play the same song twice” (quite correct on both counts) . The chiming guitars and solid, pounding rhythm accompaniment of 'Whirring' has a little pause halfway through as Ritzy has to retune which gives the boys chance for a funky, jazzy improv workout, though with the general thrashing, squealing feedback which finishes the track I'm not sure the retune made a lot of difference. Guitars are thrown into the amps and it's kisses goodnight as they leave the stage for the final time, confirming once again that The Joy Formidable are definitely a band you need to see live.
It was so good to be at The Joy Formidable’s gig at Colchester Arts Centre.
They really set the place alive - sonic waves of rock filling the Medieval roof and arches.
The venue is small and intimate with a superb sound so was perfect. (As is the fine selection of beers!)
They kicked off with ‘The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade’ from their excellent first album The Big Roar. They also finished the set with a number off that album ‘The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie’. Finally they finished at the end of the encore with ‘Whirring’ from that same album producing a whirlpool of sound which left us ecstatic.
Many bands use their tour to showcase a new album, but not The Joy Formidable. They played only 3 numbers from their new album Hitch which came out earlier this year (The Last Thing on my Mind, Liana and Radio of Lips) and so the gig was a superb smorgasbord of their rock numbers to date.
They were on top form and looked so pleased to be performing for us. Ritzy was leaping about the stage all smiles and it really came across that the whole band were enjoying the gig and playing for us.
They are only a 3 piece band but sound so much bigger. A blitz of fuzzy guitars sounds from Ritzy accompanying her impressive rock diva vocals. Base arpeggios from Rhydian and strong drumming from Matt. The sounds are multi layered, in harmony with powerful jamming rhythms.
I first saw them at Reading Festival in 2009. I didn’t know them then, but was well impressed. Since then I’ve seen them at a number of Festivals but not at a gig. After this performance I’ll certainly be looking out for their future tours!
The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade
The Last Thing on my Mind
The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie
Radio of Lips
The Leopard and the Lung
A pleasant late spring Sunday evening in Nottingham and first on stage is Laura Lee (bass), Mark Speer (guitar) and Donald Johnson (drums), collectively known as Khruangbin from Houston, Texas.
First impression was West Coast psychedelia from this three piece, then came the soul and deep grooves. The usual 30 minutes for a support band just left me wanting more, certainly a band to investigate further!
Just after 9pm and a tall gangly bearded man with the energy of a 5 year old takes the stage with his band, Josh Tillman, A.K.A. Father John Misty then delivers a dynamic musical and visual show, stuffed with the humour that lives and breathes in his songs, this was a captivating 90 minutes.
It’s the ‘Fear Fun’ album that get’s the show started, with ‘Everyman Needs A Companion’, with the stage drenched in green lights, followed by the brilliant ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings’ which just highlighted Josh in dry ice and red light, barely visible. With the driving drum beat, this was an electric start to the set.
Latest album ‘I love you Honeybear obviously gets well represented with much gusto. The quieter moments often get drowned out by crowd noise, but that is just part of gig going in 2016 I suppose if, you stand in earshot of the bar .
Nothing came from the albums in Josh’s own name which was surprising as the songs from these records, are really great. There are however no complaints about this very solid and entertaining gig. Josh has his heart in the right place!
Still dates on the tour, just don't get tempted by the FJM leisurewear trousers on the Merch stall!
Tue, 17 May Colston Hall, Bristol, Bristol
Wed, 18 May Roundhouse, London
Thu, 19 May Roundhouse, London
Fri, 20 May Roundhouse, London
Sat 21, May O2 Guildhall Southampton