Live Reviews

Treetop Flyers have been through a lot since their debut album landed in 2013, both personally and professionally, but thankfully they have come through the other side, dropped new album Palomino and are now on a short tour to promote it.

The lovely Day & Night Cafe in the uber hip Northern Quarter of Manchester hosted the band on a cold Thursday April night when their new album was given a run out. Debut album The Mountain Moves seemingly gave the impression of the band as a folk-rock outfit, but Palomino takes several twists and turns and expands their sound significantly to include prog, soul and americana. My first experience of the band was on a sunny festival afternoon, so I was looking forward to the indoor show experience and wasn’t disappointed.

Singer Reid Morrison has the most wonderful soulful and unexpected voice, and various songs on Palomino show it off to its best, including title track You, Darling You, with the rest of the band performing the harmonies.

Several tracks on the album clock in at over the 6 minute mark, and in the live setting, seem even more at home. Keyboard player Sam takes on the vocal duties on Lady Luck, and what a voice he has too by the way, and closer for the night Dance Through The Night will quickly become a live favourite with its funky, proggy, groovy dance beat.

Several other tracks from Palomino made up the set, including Sleepless Nights, 31 Years and Never Been As Hard, along with opener from debut album Things Will Change also gets an airing.

The word joyous came to mind when I first saw them in that field, sitting in the sunshine with a cider, and I’m pleased to report that feeling remains even on a cold dark night in Manchester. Reid was constantly engaging with the audience, the band clearly having a great time playing their new tunes live.

Treetop Flyers are a fabulously talented band, and now they have 2 albums to their name, are able to expand their live repertoire even further. Catch them live to see for yourself, and preferably at a festival in the sun.

Keith @kjsmith4082

Treetop Flyers website

Pic below from Leicester gig and taken by Paul.

Muse's Drones World Tour returns to the UK after nine months for the first night of the European leg at Birmingham tonight. The spectacular stage built “in the round” consists of a central round stage from which two walkways ending in platforms extend; above the stage is a 360 degree video screen and high in the ceiling are a dozen large globes.

As the house lights dim the globes light up, take off from their platform and float around the arena in a ghostly ballet to the title track of the 'Drones' album. The band who entered from the far corner of the arena emerge from under the stage to the Drill Sergeant “Your ass belongs to me now- Aye Sir”, as the chunky riff intro to 'Psycho' starts up and signals the leaping down the front. The end of 'Psycho' leads into the drums and guitarist Matt Bellamy's fretboard tapping intro to 'Reapers' as the now illuminated floor of the central stage starts rotating giving the audience a decent view regardless of where they are in the arena. The new album has a more stripped back, direct sound when compared with the previous two albums which helps highlight the big chunky guitar riffs and pounding, driving section provided by Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard. The squealing feedback which ends 'Reapers' morphs into the familiar guitar riff and throbbing rhythm of 'Plug In Baby' the chorus of which results in the first big audience sing-along of the night.

During the first pause of the night as Matt welcomes the audience “Hello Birmingham, ...we're back home” to the pounding drum beats of 'Dead Inside' semi-transparent projection screens drop down above the two walkways as animation of the drone being prepared for war plays on the giant screens. This is topped by a stunning use of the technology for 'The Handler'; a sinister pair of eyes appear on the screen above the central stage and above the walkways two giant hands from which strings appear to connect to Chris and Matt controlling their movements as they play the track.

The spheres take flight, change colour and pulse, rotate and dance to accompany 'Super Massive Black Hole' and 'Starlight', during the latter track half a dozen super massive balloons are released for the crowd to play with and as each balloon approaches the stage Chris bursts it with his bass showering the front rows in confetti.

John F Kennedy's speech against political-economic- military complexes forms the intro to a brutal 'Stockholm Syndrome' with an eye-melting, migraine–causing use of the light show. 'Time Is Running Out' and 'Uprising' get more mass audience participation.

Just when you think they've used every spectacular trick in the rock arena play-book they top it all during 'The Globalist'. The whole length of the arena in now being used as a giant projection screen which shows vast cityscapes appearing and being destroyed by the drone, the heavy instrumental section is the cue for a large spaceship to take flight for a lap of the arena and for the big finish a grand piano has risen from under one end of the walkway. The main house lights dim again as the globes resume their ghostly ballet to the backdrop of a depiction of the end of the universe and the ecclesiastical 'Drones' to finish the main set to the sound of jaws hitting the floor and a standing ovation in the arena.

The three track encore starts with 'Take A Bow'; ghostly representatives of the band appear on the screens which dramatically pull back to the ceiling to the huge power-chord near the end of the track to reveal the band. 'Mercy' has a dozen canons blowing drone-shaped confetti into the air and a couple of giant party poppers exploding steamers through the confetti blizzard. All that's left is 'Knights of Cydonia', Chris plays a harmonica which he throws into the front rows, who are fist-pumping during the “la, la, la,...” introduction, and belting out the words to the chorus as they appear on the central screens as Muse play the galloping track and you remember what a great live track it is.
Whilst I understand that advances in technology have allowed what once only existed in the imagination to become reality in a live musical performance, Muse have created the most ambitious, spectacular and successful rock show I've ever seen.

Alisdair Whyte

Muse website

Note picture from O2 London 3rd April 2016

There's a botanical feel in the Bodega tonight as there a couple of mini privet globes on the merch table and on stage pot plants of the ornamental, not pharmacological, variety next to the keyboards. This is the second night of a tour promoting Emma-Lee Moss' (songwriter and lead vocals in Emmy the Great) new album 'Second Love' which was released yesterday.

Opening with the familiar slide guitar of 'Dinosaur Sex' from second album 'Virtue', which compares a personnel relationship to the ultimately futile sex between dinosaurs. The set tonight has a number of tracks from the new album and it's apparent that this new stuff has a fuller sound and more electric guitar, samples and keyboards compared with the mainly acoustic 'First Love' her first album released in 2009. A couple of new tracks 'Dance W Me' and 'Part of Me' are both pretty catchy, simple tunes sung by Emma in her characteristic clean and precise vocals.

In her warm and chatty style, we get a social/ political lesson linking Lord Elgin (he of the marbles), five cities containing SoHo districts, the particular one in Hong Kong being South of Hollywood St where her parents live, being referenced in new track 'Social Halo'. The Phoenix brothers River and Joachim get mentions in another new track 'Phoenixes'; as Emma remembers her teenage bedroom wall posters. 'We Almost Had A Baby' from 'First Love' gets a response of appreciative recognition from the audience.

A faulty sampler lead moves the great 'Paper Forest (in the afterglow of rapture)' up the set list as the band play catchup with the rapid tongue twisters which form the lyrics.

The main set finishes with 'Swimming Pool' the spooky, floaty track released over a year ago and first heard by this reviewer at Deershed Festival last year.

The three track encore features Emma going solo with electric guitar for 'Edward is Deadward', 'Canopies and Grapes/ Canapés and Drapes' depending upon the version you know, during the intro for which Emma discusses updating of lyrics as they consists of two bands who have split and reformed at least once, a TV program which has long finished and musicians who are no longer with us, and that her 2016 version should probably include Netflix and Adele “who should be Queen, we should all be ruled by Adele”, and to finish 'The Easter Parade'.

Despite yet to be familiar with the majority of the set, it's clear from this personable show tonight that Emmy the Great's sound has grown and matured more than the decoration on the merch table is likely to any time soon. Based upon a first listen new album 'Second Love' will be spending a lot of time on my digital turntables this year.

Alisdair Whyte

Emmy The Great website 

This is my first visit to the Islington assembly hall; the 2009 restored 1930s dancehall was closed for three decades before reopening in 2010. Originally a home for tea parties and variety shows, tonight it plays home to a rock show with 'The Duke Spirit', they themselves returned from a three year live hiatus last October when they played to a sold out crowd at another of London's beautifully restored venues, E1's Wilton’s Music Hall.

Formed 13 years ago at an Art College in Cheltenham, an unfair reaction is 'Duke Spirit... they still going?' With new bass player Rich Fownes (Bad for Lazarus, Unkle, The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster) and new album Kin, produced by Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins and Bella Union boss) who also worked on the their 2005 debut, they undoubtable are! The band return from a 5 year break after Liela Moss (vocals) and Toby Butler (guitar) moved to LA to record as electro-rock outfit "Roman Remains" while Oliver Betts (drums) worked on his own side project "FURS" (a personal favourite), co-writing and producing their debut album in 2014.

Relative newcomers and also London based 'KID Wave' act as first support. Eight month's on from their debut release Wonderlust (on Heavenly), the international boy/girl quartet are not shy in supporting established acts, touring the UK with 'Stereophonics' and 'The Vaccines' in Europe. With their setup at the very front of the stage and a decent crowd gathering they have approachability, refreshingly we can see everyone! Lead singer/songwriter Lea Emmery left her native Sweden in 2011 to pursue her dream and form a band in London, that notion alone reminds me of Chrissie Hynde's move in the early 70's to form 'The Pretenders', a band that truly embodies punk pop. Edgy and effortless, 'KID wave' carry that mantle with melodic hooky riffs over grungy guitars; Lea's vocals are deep, but stylistically muffled which frustrates as I would like to hear her soulful tones a little more. Any lack of charisma is carried by strong choruses with radio friendly 'Honey' and 'Gloom' are the picks of the set.

For the headliners the demographic changed, from my seated aerial view any spare floor space in the crowd was now packed with bald heads as the 'Real Ale' drinkers made their way from the back bar. Enter stage The Duke Spirit's Liela Moss, wildly throwing her tambourine into the crowd or just close enough so that it didn't get too lost. This band is clearly adored by their loyal followers, be it the generation that the industry called the '50-quid man'; the traditionalists who had enough disposable income and attention to actually buy CD's, true listeners. The modern incarnation of this it seems is direct-to-fan crowd funding platform 'Pledge Music' through which the band have released their new album and singles ‘Blue and Yellow Light’ and ‘Hands’.

One adorer endearingly stood out for me as he towered against the front barrier with his arms in the air and shouted every lyric to the well groomed 5 piece (we've all been there...). From what I gathered from similar fan reactions, the majority of the set was filled with crowd pleasers from the bands most successful albums, 2011's Bruiser and 2008's Neptune, both of which fell under my radar and hence sounded a little dated as I lacked any real vein of nostalgia. The most exciting moments for me were when the sing-a-longs dulled as Leila announced the new material was being given an airing. Much more dynamic and modern to my ears, with spacious Interpol chiming guitars and atmospheric 'Bat for Lashes' vocals, their softer side could be seen. I think they may have grown out of being the angst driven, London noise rockers doing rhythmic 'Atlantic soul' to something much more interesting.

I will await new album 'Kin' (released this Spring on Ex Voto Records) with baited breath and I hope current as well as new fans learn the words; the cover art is their most interesting yet so who knows I might even buy the CD.

Tom Cavanagh

 

The admission price for the sold out Bill Ryder-Jones show at the Scala in Lonodn was worth it purely for the in-between song banter between band and crowd. However, the highlight of the evening was the confirmation of Jones’ raw talent that has seen his popularity grow and grow since the release of his latest album ‘West Kirby County Primary’ at the tail end of 2015.

A near hour and half set was full of newer, semi-classic and even one brand new track that were more warmly received than the last by the crowd of cult like tendencies. Jones even obliged when he has heckled with requests, a nice touch for a man who was obviously slightly taken aback by the large crowd. Personally, having seen him last summer at Green Man 2015 on the Mountain Stage (That’s the main one if you weren’t sure), I was a tad skeptical. Although I was a big fan of the record, at Green Man I got the overwhelming impression that it all got a bit lost in the hoards of rugs, buggies, crying children and aging hipster that you’ll find on a sunny mid-afternoon at the Welsh festival. Maybe if he’d been moved into one of the smaller tents he would have been more warmly received. So to finally see him in London’s 1,100 capacity venue was a nice treat worth the wait and one that no one will forget in a hurry.

The first support came from Trudy, who only played to a handful of people so who am I to judge, and the excellent Beach Baby who are well worth 5 minutes of your time.

9/11

@thejoeeley