Jun 142019
 

Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

It’s a sad, undeniable fact that if you want to attend certain concerts then a trip to Glasgow is, more often or not, the only option.
This has been especially true the last few years with the Music Hall closed for renovation and the opening of the Hydro in Glasgow which has attracted some of the biggest names to perform there.

Hopefully this situation might be rectified in the future with the newly renovated Music Hall and the soon-to-be opened TECA complex (or is it called the AECC as per the WPR signs? Or the P&J Live as announced last week?) already attracting some big names to the North East.

There is one major glaring gap in the Aberdeen live music scene, however, and that is the staging of outdoor concerts and festivals during the summer months.

Sure, Rod Stewart will be belting his heart – and the odd football – out in the AECC car park this June but, apart from that, what is there in the way of major outdoor music events in Aberdeen now that Enjoy Music has taken a year off?

Glasgow, on the other hand, seems to have an abundance of events – TRNSMT, in the city’s Glasgow Green will host headlining sets by Stormzy, Catfish & the Bottlemen and George Ezra whilst across at Bellahouston Park you can attend sets by The Cure, Foo Fighters and The 1975 as part of the Summer Sessions.

In fact, even more frustratingly, the Summer Sessions are held in two cities just an hour or so away from each other so Glasgow residents could just pop in the car or train to Edinburgh where Florence & the Machine, Primal Scream, CHVRCHES, Lewis Capaldi and James will be performing in Princes Street Gardens.
Weather permitting, which of you wouldn’t rather be lazing in the green grass in a park, on a weekend afternoon rather than a midweek gig in a windswept car park next to the North Sea?

Can you imagine a summer in Aberdeen with acts of that calibre performing in Duthie or Hazlehead Parks?

And it’s not just major festivals that are happening in Glasgow – smaller outdoor events are happening in places such as the SWG3 venue which is hosting outdoor events by bands such as Miles Kane, Foals and the subject of this review, the newly reformed Doves.

SWG3 itself is another revelation and a perfect example what can be achieved with a little creativity and foresight.

Located in the city’s West End, the main space is a repurposed warehouse that can hold up to 1250 people for concerts and will see bands such as Interpol, Ministry, Orbital and Stereolab tread the boards over the summer months. There are also artist studios for hire, design studios to utilise and a smaller warehouse that can hold 450 people for concerts.

Doves, however, are outdoors in the former Galvanizer’s Yard performing their first Scottish gig for nearly a decade as part of reunion tour that has seen them play festivals down south in England and as main support for Noel Gallagher in Heaton Park, Manchester.
Judging by lead singer / bassist Jimi Goodwin’s reaction, however, this night is proving to be the highlight of their comeback as he profusely thanks the crowd from the stage and looks genuinely emotional at the reception they receive.

Well, that’s between the occasions he’s speaking about the seagulls and the passing trains however!

Doves have a back catalogue of four strong albums to fall back on and these contain a fair amount of hits and fan’s favourites.

Top Ten singles such as the anthemic ‘There Goes The Fear’ and the melancholic ‘Black and White Town’ are sang along to word for word by the 5000 strong crowd whilst driving rockers such as ‘Words’ and ‘Pounding’ bring out extra reserves of energy from the fans.

There are also touching moments of real emotion in tracks such as ‘Caught by the River’ and the beautiful ‘The Cedar Room’ that brings a tear to the eye.

Overall, an amazing set and a welcome return to one of the best acts to come out of Manchester on the last couple of decades.

Here’s hoping their reunion is extended longer and they make it up to the North East before long.

Also on the bill are Edinburgh based two-piece Man of Moon.

They’ve been reviewed in the Voice before, when they played at True North last autumn, and the sentiments expressed then are still true – they are magnificent, one of the best young bands to have emerged from Scotland in the last few years.

Their mix of droning, psych, garage and electronica recalls bands such as Suicide, Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized and will appeal to fans of those acts. They’ve played Aberdeen a few times in the last couple of years and if you haven’t made it to any of those gigs then make sure you make it to their next.

So, overall a nice wee trip to Glasgow – the weather held out, the music was outstanding and the venue was fantastic.

But also one tinged with a sense of frustration – OK, we can’t do much about the weather but surely, with a bit of innovation and daring, venues such as SWG3 could come to happen in the Granite City? And maybe we could host summer events that aren’t just hoary old rockers playing to your Granny in a car park?

Here’s hoping….

Doves Set List.
Snowden
Rise
Black and White Town
Sea Song
Words
Last Broadcast
The Outsiders
Winter Hill
Kingdom of Rust
Pounding
10:03
Caught by the River

Encore:
The Cedar Room
There Goes the Fear

Doves – https://dovesofficial.com/
Man of Moon – http://www.manofmoon.net/
SWG3 – https://swg3.tv/
TRNSMT – https://trnsmtfest.com/
Summer Sessions – https://www.smmrsessions.com/

Jun 042019
 

Review and photographs by Craig Chisholm.

Idlewild frontman Roddy Woomble.

Scottish indie veterans Idlewild rounded off their UK tour in support of latest album ‘Interview Music’ with a heated and well received performance at the Music Hall on an already scorching May Day weekend.
This was, in fact, their fourth live appearance in town in recent weeks after they headlined two nights at the Brewdog AGM, held at the AECC, and performed a stripped down, intimate – and slightly hungover after a few Brewdog beers – acoustic set at HMV.

Those truncated performances, whilst entertaining, were merely a precursor to the main event of a full set in front of a partisan and adoring crowd.

The set list encompassed a wide range of material stretching back over two decades to their earlier, rawer work to the more refined and mature songs from their latest album.

Five songs off the new album are given an airing tonight – ‘Dream Variations’, ‘I Almost Didn’t Notice’, ‘Same Things Twice’, ‘There’s a Place for Everything’ and the title track itself.

Well known songs and singles are reeled off during the show prompting singalongs – ‘American English’, ‘Little Discourage’, ‘Roseability’ – each one a highlight from the band’s over two-decade career.

On stage, guitarist Rod Jones is the visual focal point – careering and spinning round the stage, guitar swung around with casual abandon. He’s a whirlwind of noise and skill, painting the songs with melody and bite. Singer Roddy Woomble, by contrast, is a more reserved and understated figure. His lyrics and melodies are given his full attention and during the musical interludes is more likely to wander to the side of the stage rather than engage in the drama or histrionics seen in more attention seeking frontmen.

As well as their own songs the band play a poignant and touching tribute to late Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison with a touching cover of ‘Heads Roll Off’ that the crowd appreciate and understand.

Opening the nights proceedings are local heroes The Xcerts.

Although born and bred in Aberdeen, the band have been based in Brighton for several years now.

They’ve mellowed their rock sound over the years in favour of their current, polished, arena-rock sound which is more palatable to the ears and would appeal to a wide range of listeners.

Their stage craft is confident and natural, and they look at home on the large stage.

Looking genuinely happy to be performing in front of many of their friends, family and fans – both casual and dedicated – their set is a triumph for them.

The Xcerts will only go from strength to strength and its only a matter of time before we see them headline this historic venue themselves.

Idlewild Set ist.
Dream Variations
Roseability
You Held the World in Your Arms
(I Am) What I Am Not
Interview Music
Little Discourage
There’s a Place for Everything
A Ghost in the Arcade
Live in a Hiding Place
Love Steals Us From Loneliness
Same Things Twice
I Almost Didn’t Notice
American English
Make Another World
El Capitan
When I Argue I See Shapes
Encore:
Head Rolls Off (Frightened Rabbit cover)
Everyone Says You’re So Fragile
A Film for the Future
A Modern Way of Letting Go
In Remote Part / Scottish Fiction

Apr 082019
 

Review and photographs by Craig Chisholm.

Rick Redbeard.

The multi-million-pound revamp of Aberdeen’s Music Hall, has breathed new life and opportunity into the historical and iconic city centre entertainment venue.
One of the innovative schemes was to create more usable space for concerts and events within the building and it is in one of these spaces – the Big Sky Studio – that an early evening show is taking place.

The intimate room, with seating for around 50-100 people depending on layout, provided a unique up-close-and-personal opportunity to see former Phantom Band members Rick Redbeard and Duncan Marquiss perform short sets for a bargain ticket price (only £8.00) and at a quite civilised post-work Friday time (6pm start!).

Opening proceedings is Duncan Marquiss. His set consists of effects laden, ambient guitar soundscapes and space age blues instrumentals that lift the listener to transcendent realms of bliss.

Duncan Marquiss.

Hunched over his bank of guitar pedals, Marquiss coaxes beautiful textures from his instrument looping himself, manipulating the sound to create a cascading ocean of sound textures.

Using a slide or an e-bow to great effect, he strays into the world of avant-garde minimalism and experimentation, creating new and interesting sounds, with a screwdriver under the strings on one track, or laying his instrument on the ground and using small sticks to drum on the strings.

It’s a beautiful and satisfying experimental set that has the audience listening in hushed silence before erupting in rapturous applause at the end.

Rick Redbeard, better known to his parents and friends as Rick Anthony, offers a more straightforward but, nonetheless, satisfying set that is steeped in folky acoustic heritage whilst remaining topical and forward thinking.

His acoustic guitar strapped round him like a shield, he offers a satisfying nine song set of beautiful, heartfelt campfire melodies.

His intricate finger picking style is flawless and mesmerising, creating space to allow the songs to breathe and for the listener to fully embrace his well thought out lyricism.

Songs from his two previous solo albums – ‘No Selfish Heart’ from 2013 and ‘Awake Unto’, released in 2016 – are given an airing alongside sneak previews of a track or two from his proposed third album which he hopes to release this year.

Between songs he is friendly and chatty, acknowledging his family sitting a couple of rows from the front and discussing Brexit and the irony of his track ‘The Golden Age’ given the current political situation.

There’s a moment where a new song is stopped as, he says himself, his “brain and hands stopped communicating” and there’s a moment of amusement – and bemusement – when the tannoy announces that the show in the main hall is due to start in 5 minutes.

But moments like these add to the intimacy and personal feel of the performance rather than detract.

One can only hope that the success of this show encourages the Music Hall staff to organise more events of this nature – the early start is an interesting novelty that may encourage people to seek out new and interesting music and sounds whilst enjoying a post-work pint at the end of the week.

Overall, the evening proved to be a success – enjoyable music, an appreciative audience and a wonderful atmosphere. Here’s to the next one!

Big Sky Sessions returns to the Music Hall at 6pm on Friday 19th April with Iona Fyfe, Calum Morton-Teng and Ellen Gira.

Then on Friday 31st May with The Dark Carnival : Unplugged (which also includes a free glass of whisky).

Tickets for Iona Fyfe are available here. and for The Dark Carnival : Unplugged, click here.

Apr 022019
 

Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

The Men in Black returned to the Beach Ballroom for another triumphant performance, albeit one with a few teething troubles including a couple of false starts and one song being stopped half way through.

But, as lead singer Baz says apologetically “it’s only music, only a band” before pausing and adding:

“Not just any band – it’s the fucking Stranglers.”

And he’s right, it’s not just any band. It’s a legendary, critically acclaimed, punk band that scaled commercial peaks, influenced everyone from punks to Britpoppers and still sells out venues across the world nearly 50 years into their illustrious career.

And, as it’s only the second date of their 2019 tour, then any teething troubles can be as easily forgiven as the exuberance at seeing such a seminal act in front of a sold-out crowd.

Before the self-proclaimed Men in Black take the stage, however, there’s an opportunity to see another classic rock act ply their wares as Britain’s premier Rhythm & Blues act, the mighty Dr Feelgood, open the night’s proceedings.

It’s a very different Dr Feelgood that started in Canvey Island 1971 and became mainstays of the then burgeoning pub rock scene – long gone are original members Wilko Johnson, The Big Figure, John B Sparks and late, enigmatic frontman Lee Brilleaux.

Instead, present members Kevin Morris, PH Mitchell, Steve Walwyn and Robert Kane have been keeping
the band’s name alive as a going concern for a few decades now. 

Between them, they provide a competent, nostalgic and talented run through of some of the band’s finest moments – ‘Down by The Jetty’, ‘Milk and Alcohol’ and
a cover of ‘Route 66’ being stand out songs of their all too brief set.

The Stranglers themselves have a few line up changes over the years too and the only remaining members from their early years are bassist JJ Brunell and keyboard player Dave Greenfield – although drummer Jet Black is still part of the band when recording in the studio but no longer touring due to ill health.

It’s a typically eclectic set from the band that stretches back to their 70s beginnings right up to their most recent releases.

Chart hits such as ‘Golden Brown’, ‘Peaches’, ‘Always the Sun’ and closer ‘No More Heroes’ are well received by the adoring crowd as are fan favourites such as the pile driving ‘(Get a) Grip (On Yourself)’ which, as always, gets the crowd going wild only three songs in.

Humour is never far from the band – whether it’s JJ’s huge grin throughout the set, or lead singer and guitarist Baz Warne’s between song banter.

But the comedy moment of the night surely belongs to their poor guitar roadie, tonight celebrating his 40th birthday and getting the opportunity to dance topless on stage whilst wearing a tutu. Quite a sight, to say the least.

The Stranglers return to the Granite City in October as primary support to Alice Cooper in an eclectic three band bill that includes the surviving members seminal rockers The MC5, celebrating 50 years and billed on the night as The MC50.

It’s sure to be another unmissable night of live music that, one suspects, won’t feature any false song starts, early tour teething troubles and, most importantly, dancing roadies in skirts! Miss it if you dare.

Aug 132015
 

Steve Harris spent some downtime from Iron Maiden at Lemon Tree with his new band, British Lion. Andrew Watson was in attendance. Pictures by Dod Morrison.

Steve Harris Lemon Tree (2)The album was released about three years ago, so it was refreshing that some newer material was thrown into the mix.

Upon the band name itself, Harris has reasoned it wasn’t necessarily harking back to the days of imperialist might on these shores; but more like supporting your local football team.

He certainly knows how to do that, with West Ham’s crest emblazoned across the body of his bass; his guitar strap a thick, woolly claret and baby blue.

Soft on the shoulders the key to his longevity perhaps. The Hammers, also known as the Irons because they were founded on Thames Ironworks – ‘Up the Irons!’ – provides a possible link to the origin in the name of his most famous musical endeavour.

One can’t help but draw at least some initial comparison to this setup and the formative spell of Ozzy Osbourne’s solo career. They were originally meant to be called Blizzard of Ozz, yet in the end that was only the name of the debut album and not the band itself. Yes, again as in Iron Maiden, Harris is the primary songwriter, unlike Ozzy.

However, why say onstage the band is called British Lion, when the CD says it’s Steve Harris and that’s merely the album title. It makes sense in both instances from a marketing perspective, one would suppose. Band rebelling against record label? Never!

Before all that, though, were support act The Raven Age, of London. These guys featured none other than George Harris, Steve’s son, on guitar. They were really interesting, actually. The brutality of more modern heavy metal, combined with a more classic rock sensibility of desire for melody and completely refraining from screaming and growls.

What’s more, they actually looked like they were enjoying themselves and, shock horror, you could even catch them smiling from time to time. The only drawback was the singer appearing to thank, come the end, Edinburgh for a good show. Whoops. Which was kind of strange because Aberdeen was mentioned mid set prior to that, so let’s put it down to a mere lapse of thought; engaging tongue before brain.

It turned out they were actually a man down, with their current guitarist away getting married. The fill-in did a tremendous job. Oh, and Harris Jnr was every bit as flashy, dextrous and brilliant as his father; albeit just on a different instrument. As is done a lot, both guitarists took dual responsibility for leads and solos, but you could tell he was their driving force; and that’s no disrespect to the aforementioned.

Overall, very good.

Steve Harris Lemon Tree (1)Main act British Lion opened with the thundering ‘This Is My God’. This was quite a grungy number and a fair old rocker to get the crowd going. Think Alice In Chains or Stone Temple Pilots. Yet another comparison would be that the singer sounds like Brandon Boyd of Incubus, and that’s only part of his range.

His opening salvo to the audience was something along the lines of ‘the harder you work for us, the harder we work for you’.

The Aberdeen audience, perhaps conscious of perceived reticence in comparison to more vocal places like Glasgow, and of course, Edinburgh, duly accepted the challenge and went on to do this with much aplomb. Later he said the latter were good but Aberdeen was better. Very diplomatic.

He went on, perhaps as a titbit in reward for the crowd’s raucous behaviour, to explain that ‘These Are The Hands’ was about his hometown, it’s history and it’s struggle and perseverance to this day.  It’s driving, epic and links well to the tribal pride in your area or nationality.

There were chances aplenty to wave your arms in the air and clap to the beat of the drums, call and response football-esque chants and get shot by Harris Snr and his machine gun bass.

The song selection was generally good and featured, as said, a lot of new material. The likes of ‘Karma Killer’ was omitted, which was a shame because it’s punchy, groovy and little like anything Iron Maiden has ever done.

Speaking of the Irons there were at least a few numbers that sounded like that kind of material, but never explicitly so. Just like Bill Wyman warned his Rhythm Kings wouldn’t play Rolling Stones songs at the Music Hall a few years back, so British Lion are within right to demand the same.

However the influences do creep into some. Who is the audience to claim they don’t like the sound of dual guitars, or the performer to claim they don’t like pretending they’re Thin Lizzy when they’re doing them?

A pretty lively night, considering it was a Monday.

Jun 192015
 

Laurence JonespicBlues Rock Aberdeen’s next eye-catching show brings Laurence Jones to the city.

With his third album What’s It Gonna Be attracting unanimous critical praise, Jones will play at The Tunnels on Monday June 22, with his ubiquitous and faithful bassman Roger Inniss and drummer Miri Miettinen

Voted Young Artist of the Year in the 2014 British Blues Awards and representing the UK in the 2015 European Blues Challenge, his is no X Factor-type fluke or hype.

Not yet in his mid-20s, Jones has paid his dues and has the receipts, having supported, among others, Walter Trout, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and King King. 2014’s Ruf Records Blues Caravan saw Jones tour Europe in the company of Albert Castiglia and Christine Skjolberg.

Underlining his growing stature, Jones was invited to play at the Royal Albert Hall on 15 June to celebrate the music of blues giant Leadbelly. What’s It Gonna Be includes a tribute version of the great man’s ‘Good Morning Blues’, even sampling the original. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3RGnSKNy6c

Reviews have compared him to Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy and he’s been described as “the future of the blues”.

His ongoing battle with Crohn’s disease is no secret and the launch party for What’s It Gonna Be  raised over £1600 for Crohns’ and Colitis UK.

Support Graham and Kenny’s terrific promotional efforts and hear some top-class modern blues in what is a considerable coup for Blues Rock Aberdeen. Tickets cost £10 plus booking fee from Aberdeen Performing Arts. http://tinyurl.com/oa9adee Doors open at 19:30.

Links:

http://www.laurencejonesmusic.com
https://www.facebook.com/bluesrockaberdeen
https://www.facebook.com/crohnsandcolitisuk/posts/1127072767318778

 

Sep 172013
 

With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

Gerry Jablonski

Gerry Jablonski and The Electric Band have long been one the most successful acts to come out of Aberdeen.

Their first 2 albums on Fat Hippy Records have sold to classic blues rock fans all over the world and both albums have had to be re-pressed to supply demand for their music!

On the 23rd September Fat Hippy will release their stunning third album Twist Of Fate.

Recorded whilst the band were fighting for their future as drummer Dave Innes (Midge Ure, Marillion, Fish, Bay City Rollers) battles with stomach cancer there is real passion and pain on this album and it takes the band and their electric music to a whole new level.

The band will play Aberdeen’s Lemon Tree on September 20th; other upcoming dates include 21st September at Non-Zeros, Dundee and 27th September in Edinburgh’s Voodoo Rooms.

With tours of Poland, Germany and Czech Republic already booked for 2013 and 2014 to launch the album and interest from the USA growing every day you should probably catch this band whilst you can!  More info:

www.gerryjablonskiband.com
www.fathippyrecords.co.uk

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Sep 032013
 
Sugar Blue with Giles Robson

Sugar Blue with Giles Robson

Giles Robson & the Dirty Aces will appear live at Aberdeen Blues Club in The Blue Lamp on 12 September.

Only in his mid twenties, Robson is the leading blues harmonica player of his generation who hosted a harmonica showdown at the Great British R&B Festival last weekend in the company of world-renowned players Charlie Musselwhite, Sugar Blue and Billy Branch.

The band’s 2011 debut release Crooked Heart of Mine earned enthusiastic reviews and the forthcoming album From The Basement is likely to be the first British blues album released on leading Chicago-based label Alligator Records.

The band plays high energy blues and R&B with new wave grittiness and are slotting in this exclusive mainland Scotland show as they travel between the Monaghan and Shetland blues festivals.

Apart from Robson’s harmonica histrionics, the band also features respected Polish guitarist Filip Kozlowski. Ian Jennings on double bass and drummer Mike Hellier blues veterans both, between them have accompanied Jeff Beck, Van Morrison, Jools Holland, Scotty Moore, Jimmy Witherspoon, Sherman Robertson and Derrin Nauendorf among many others. Most recently they backed Mud Morganfield at this year’s Aberdeen Jazz Festival.

Doors open at 8pm. Tickets bought in advance from The Blue Lamp cost £8 or £10 on the night

Dec 212012
 

On Friday December 14, The Tunnels played host to Bin Laden’s Daughter plus a generous selection of four support acts. Andrew Watson was in attendance to review for Aberdeen Voice.

My inaugural visit as a gig reviewer to The Tunnels could be described as time spent in a shite venue reviewing reasonably good bands.
Anyone who gigs regularly will tell you that, usually, venue quality ascends from the pits of The Tunnels, to Cafe Drummond, The Moorings and then The Lemon Tree. After that, you’re usually in the limelight in places like the Music Hall and the AECC.

The only place possibly worse than The Tunnels is Cellar 35.  Not only is the sound crap in the latter, but there’s barely any room to move.  Forget nonsense about intimacy and all that!

Anyway, enough bashing of The Tunnels because the sound wasn’t too bad this time round.

First up were Dead Hermit Peepshow, fronted by Obscenities guitarist Johnny Morrice:

Dead Hermit Peepshow are NOT a blues band.  Blues was developed by black musicians. Goth was developed by musicians who dyed their hair black.  Important distinction.

Yeah, a quirky lot they were. They were an engaging opening act, playing riffs a night crawler would probably use as a backdrop to a totally dastardly, though slightly comical, jewel heist – shifty eyes, and all! Even just the novelty of hearing headbanging guitar work played out on a semi-acoustic was enough keep punters interested.  The crowd asked Johnny if the instrument in question was the one with the hole in it…

Erm, well it had an excellent varnished surface.  Maybe a mahogany table put together with pinewood neck and cheese wire strings? Ironically, they’re best described as melding the lyrical mores of ‘goth’ bands like The Cure, spider-eating-me-for-dinner and all that, and well…the blues!

Certainly one number that stuck out, towards the end of the set, had the rhythm of the blues infused with the subversive, youth corrupting values of films like the The Rocky Horror Show. Did I tell you they also, complete with a corset-wearing woman sharing vocal duties with our Johnny, concluded with ‘Time Warp’?  A sight to behold!

Next up were The Obscenities.  Forgive this writer if he’s got slightly more insight into this band than the others, for he used to be the bassist! Anyway, currently touring their The Judge Is Guilty EP, they did what could only be described as blowing the door off the hinges.  Debuting a much faster, more intense version of the aforementioned title track, they rocketed through their set with panache.

A lot of pent-up angst and frustration was particularly personified by the singer

The world of difference between a band that often ended their performances with this barnstormer, and this new-look line-up, was sizeable. The audacity to begin proceedings with this song paid off as the reaction surpassed anything they ever received from the punters when deploying this ‘finale’ previously.

Bry Parasite, switching from guitars to his first instrument, the bass, played with an almost overwhelming electricity on his overdriven four-stringer. New boy Johnny gave, to put it bluntly, a clarity to the six-string scratchings, originally penned by Bry, unseen until now.  Put succinctly, the band were far more comfortable in their playing than they’ve ever been.

They flagged somewhat between the middle and end of the set, but recovered remarkably. Whether that can be put down to yours truly contributing bass on one of the tracks, I couldn’t possibly say!

Slave System came on afterwards, and were a band said to be performing for the last time. They had the mark of a band amidst an acrimonious swansong.  A lot of pent-up angst and frustration was particularly personified by the singer and how he interacted with the guitarist, “No. You’re playing the wrong song,” etcetera.

Without doubt the focal point, the singer had an androgyny about him that was a cross between David Bowie and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. The guitarist was more like his glam rock foil:  white jeans, cowboy boots, scarf.  All very T-Rex.  Or perhaps more like Bowie’s late axeman, Mick Ronson?

Truth be told, I wasn’t looking forward to this band.  The last time I’d seen them was my last gig with The Obscenities, and they didn’t seem to have the courtesy to ‘blood’ their bass player properly. By that, I mean have mercy on them and let them gel into the band, before exposing them to the potential ridicule from an audience.

This is nothing to do with whether or not they only picked up a bass yesterday or the day before, but giving them sufficient time to absorb song structures and riffs. If you have the attitude that it’s ‘only’ the bass so-and-so’s playing, then your performance will suffer and it will be your fault, not theirs.

But I digress.  Slave System now had yet another bassist, and, thankfully, he seemed to get right into the pocket rhythmically for most of the songs.  It’s strange, though, how his difficulty with some of the material, probably sprung on him the night before, complemented the performance. The undercurrent bubbling away seemed to come to the fore, in an explosion of what could only be described as awkward. When he figured out what he was meant to be playing, the song kind of lost its magic!

Way up the fretboard, his high-register fills were a joy to watch

It was only venerable members of established instrument shops embarrassing themselves in drunken stupor that enhanced viewing pleasure during the rest of the Slave System set.

The main support act for the night, [ ], or Wall, are a powerful duo of drum and bass.  The casual observer would probably draw comparisons to Death From Above 1979, though I’d say, bar overdriven and effects-laden bass, there’s slightly more to them than that. The sound they produced wasn’t too far off from the thump you’d hear in a club, yet the drummer was a powerhouse and very inventive. This belied the general focus upon brutality and rhythm, rather than melody.

When the bassist broke free from holding down three jobs – bassist, lead and rhythm guitarist – he was somewhat reminiscent of Chris Squire from prog-gods Yes. Way up the fretboard, his high-register fills were a joy to watch. If Chris Squire roared like a lynx, you’d get to somewhere approaching how this ace of bass sounded when he began introducing vocals to an almost entirely instrumental set.

Think Anders of In Flames before those death metal gods began toying with keeping with the times and, erm, nu-metal.

The front of the stage draped with a Palestinian flag, and lead singer resplendent in an emerald green IRA t-shirt, headliners Bin Laden’s Daughter looked every bit as controversial as they sounded. Though your erstwhile reporter was likened to a member of the National Front, he enjoyed himself as much as one could after such an accusation.

If I were a tad more self-conscious I wouldn’t have had any fun at all.  Seeing as I couldn’t respond in affirmation of whether or not I was a Chelsea-supporting Head Hunter, what, with my track record of poking fun at sons of Rangers legends, my reputation as a fairly upstanding member of society remained intact!

However, my position as contributor to Aberdeen Voice is perhaps under threat due to my positive response that I was indeed a fan of The X-Factor. Well, if he can have a joke at my expense, why not vice versa?

All round, a good night!

Dec 032012
 

Interesting Music Promotions celebrates its 250th gig with a stellar cast featuring King Creosote and Edinburgh noiseniks FOUND. Aberdeen Voice’s Pete Thomson grabs a seat in the front row.

As an outfit that’s been bringing classy if often obscure acts to Aberdeen as long as Interesting Music Promotions, we might have known they would conjure up something just a little bit special on reaching so notable a milestone. We are not disappointed. Tonight, legendary Anstruther troubadour King Creosote teams up with FOUND to bring their aptly-named Bits of Strange tour to the Blue Lamp.

With only 100 tickets on offer, queues outside 1-Up and crashed websites were the order of the day when they went on sale, but your correspondent’s cunning plan actually works for once and Parker rolls up in the limo nice and early on the night.

Once in the Lamp, we grab the best seats in the house and join a queue where we’re handed commemorative tote bags containing (don’t laugh) specially printed tea towels and a cd from KC’s extensive back catalogue. All included in the £25 ticket price.

King Creosote – Kenny Anderson to his mum – eventually wanders onstage, gives us a quick run through the evening’s schedule then picks up his acoustic guitar. We’re treated to a 4-song solo performance including a robust yet somehow delicate cover of Lone Pigeon’s I’ve Woken Up Love, the short set crowned with My Favourite Girl, one of Anderson’s finest moments.

The evening’s format is unusual in these piratic times. Following a concept first tried out by Anderson in 2009, the audience has been invited to record proceedings on mobile equipment.

The bar is closed for the duration of recording, the troubadour joined onstage by FOUND and he asks us to kindly refrain from applauding for the sake of the forest of microphones, laptops and other digital equipment that’s suddenly appeared.

Last time I saw FOUND, they were busy producing a maelstrom of noise at the science festival’s End of the World gig, and while I’m pretty sure mainman Ziggy Campbell is wearing those shoes for a laugh tonight, he’s never less than serious when he picks up his beloved semi-acoustic Rickenbacker.

The guitar features strongly as the ensemble rattles through a percussive Collector Of Mundane, then Anderson steps up and delivers Trigger Happy, I Am with a clear-eyed intensity that towers above the arrangement’s poppier leanings. This is Anderson at his most potent, drawing an audience in even if they’re not entirely sure what he’s singing at times.

Highlight of the first set is a fabulous electro-jaunt through Bats In The Attic. Far from the gently ambient version on Diamond Mine, Anderson’s Mercury-nominated collaboration with Jon Hopkins, it is tonight set against a seething backdrop of blips, bleeps and magnificent beats courtesy of sampler Kev Sim and Fence Records house drummer Captain Geeko.

At half time, each member of the audience is given a special nip glass to mark the occasion. Glasses for each of the four dates were individually designed and Aberdeen’s features a magnificent engraving of a Bon Accord lemonade lorry. How good is that? Even better, it comes filled with whisky for those who want it, a limited edition coming in at £150 a bottle, no less.

Thirsts suitably slaked, set two opens with Shallow Dive before eventually arriving at the wonderfully named Tits Up, a delicious confection of Byrds-style guitar and Kraftwerk-inspired electro – eight miles low, anyone?

Quiet and unassuming as he is, Anderson’s star shines bright. The rich Fife brogue in which he delivers his dry but always witty observations on the foibles of life and love is Scottish to the core, yet defies categorisation. His unique phrasing comes from that same well, and to these gifts you can add a soaring falsetto that elevates Anderson’s wry tales of betrayal and alienation to an altogether happier place.

The main event closes with The Be All And End All Of That to a huge reception, but the ensemble returns and meanders through a short but intriguing set including a Cait Le Bon cover and a driving version of She Means Nothing.

We can’t not mention bass player Tommy Perman who, with Geeko on drums, is sometimes all that’s holding things together, but Anderson chooses to close on his own with a spine-tingling medley of Spy Stick and Not One Bit Ashamed.

In such electrifying moments do we realise it’s in the performance itself Anderson meets his demons head-on, and one senses it might not be fanciful to suggest this is where he finds the strength to face the travails of which he sings with such passion.

Such is the ensuing uproar he’s not allowed to leave the stage, persuading his colleagues to return once more for a brisk two-chord run through Sinead O’Connor’s Emperor’s New Clothes.

It’s a bright ending to what has been a bit of a strange evening, unique and unforgettable. Many thanks to Interesting Music Promotions for setting it up – oh, and roll on the next 250!

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