Fans Cast Aside


O2 Academy
30th March, 2012

Rating: 1/5

I’ve got an open mind when I go to see bands, especially up-and-coming acts or this trying to establish themselves, but I was left feeling quite angry about how Cast treated those who turned up to this gig.

First, for £20 I expect longer than a one hour show before the encore, and would have hoped it to include more than two of three of the tunes that made their name to be sung.

Second, for the lead singer (John) not to reappear with only two songs left because of a “sore throat”, is totally unforgivable. To then attempt to paper over the cracks by getting members of the audience up to sing the last few songs, is nothing short of astonishingly short-sighted arrogance!

If I wanted to be treated to a test night of new songs, and then a karaoke, I could have gone to a pub. And if Cast want to be treated seriously as an act worth going to see or to buy their music, they will have to up their professionalism and start treating the fans that put them there with a bit more respect.

This review was also published on Ticketmaster.


Bursting Ear Drums for Fun, the Mogwai Way


22nd December, 2011

Rating: 5/5

It was a Christmas gig in front of their home fans: Glasgow instrumental rockers and underground legends, Mogwai, playing the Barrowland, the number one venue in the city. It was never going to be anything else than spectacular.

The atmosphere building up to this gig was electric; the audience never quite sure what they’re going to get during the evening. Much of this is down to the eclectic nature of their fans, as they tend to pull a from a wide sample of the music lovers we have in modern society, but it’s also down to the fact the they have such an awesome back catalogue from which to pick.

Not usually such an animated gig (on stage or off it), Mogwai gigs create their own wee world of intense emotion, generated from the concentration between player and instrument, and the hard line guitar riffs to the delicate string solos that are generated and stretched to the maximum. Even the floor, the guitar pedals, and mic stand are fair game when it comes to creating the unique sound of Mogwai.

Attending a Mogwai gig, the only hing you can be sure of is loud music that appeals to the feral side of our beings. Some of my own personal favourites were included in last night’s set: I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead, 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong, and Auto Rock, as well as a wide selection from their latest album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will.

The end of the set was as good an ending as you could hope to get anywhere. They came back out after a lengthy encore and eased into Hunted by a Freak, which was followed up with a sublime 16 minute performance of Mogwai Fear Satan.

And if that wasn’t enough, the explosive Batcat sent us on our way with our ears ringing. If tinnitus wasn’t a worry before this gig, it was on the back of all our minds afterwards.

Long live Mogwai!

Can’t Get Any Better

Shed SevenShed Seven
2nd December, 2011

Rating: 5/5

This was an outstanding performance of top notch rock and roll from the kings of indie nostalgia, in the only venue that can match the enthusiasm of the band to the fervor of an 18-rated audience.

Despite a slow entrance with Parallel Lines that confused the hell out everyone, the mighty Shed went on to blow the roof off the place with a dynamite set that included all the expected floor shakers.

They hammered into Where Have You Been Tonight, delighted the hard core with Bully Boy, and caused mayhem with Dolphin. All the favourites were there as Rick Witter and has merry band of York brothers went for it big style: Going for Gold, On Standby, Disco Down, and the mosh-pit fanatic’s favourite, Getting Better.

A surprise cover of The Smiths Panic! re-introduced them after a short encore, as much for the fans benefit as the band, before the standard closer of Chasing Rainbows was belted out with the top approval of an audience that never lets go of the baton for the entire time Shed Seven are on stage.

Charismatic and Catchy from Canaveral and Creosote

Kid CanaveralKid Canaveral & King Creosote
The Liquid Room
3rd November, 2011

Rating: 3/5 (based on 1st hour)

Despite yours truly leaving this gig half way through because he thought the gig had completed, what I did see was immense.

The Liquid Room was packed to the rafters for this delightful combo made up of Fife’s finest Kid Canaveral and King Creosote.

The first half hour saw Kid Canaveral on top form as they belted out several numbers from their excellent debut album, Shouting at Wildlife.

Couldn’t Dance, Good Morning and Smash Hits, are but a few of the top tracks off an album that is memorable from start to finish. It’s one of the best album buys from a debut band you will ever make.

They remind me of The Blockheads in a way, in that on stage they look like they might just have bumped into each other at the bus stop on the way to the gig. But once they get going they are totally irresistible: charismatic and catchy from start to finish.

King CreosoteOn the half hour mark, King Creosote joined them to sing a few numbers, the highlight for me was his performance of No Way She Exists from his 2009 album, Flick the Vs. Sung by Creosote and backed by Canaveral, it was a powerful starter.

Finishing the set (before Creosote would later return with his own band, unknown to me) with their first release as a true collaborative unit, they gave us the brilliant Homerun and a Vow, which is a single you will find hard to remove from your brain once it gets in there.

One thing that this gig did prove, is that if so called “underground talent” like this can pull the type of enthusiastic audiences in such numbers, then it’s an absolute travesty that they are not listed higher in the charts or given the recognition they deserve.

An Evening with John Cooper Clarke

John Cooper ClarkeJohn Cooper Clarke
HMV Picture House
28th October, 2011

Rating: 4/5

This wasn’t just an evening of punk poetry that some had expected, this was also an evening that gave so much more.

Billed as a “whirlwind adventure in lyrical levitation”, The Bard of Salford, the original punk poet, John Cooper Clarke, gave us so much more in the vein of old school banter, stand-up jokes, and a level of political incorrectness, that some in the Edinburgh audience found a little too much to bear.

Open about the impact and influence the likes of Bernard Manning had on his early life, Clarke talked frankly yet humorously about his many downfalls in a set littered with poems old and new.

Some of his classic poems were conspicuous in their absence, which was a shame because everyone wanted to hear them. When you consider though, that he had to be forced to wind up the gig as his 90-minute allotment drew to a close, one was left to wonder if he could possibly fit them all into a set twice as long, even without the banter.

As if to mark their appreciation of Clarke’s poetry of the past, however, Beasley Street was the first of his poems he performed purely from memory, and at speed just like in the old days when he battled to build a reputation in front of the baying crowds of the late 70s punk scene.

Surprising and delightful that he can still pull it off, even with the whisky he was knocking back (and clearly enjoying), but throwing him off at times a well when he twice went to recite his Lydia ditty, forgetting he had already done it.

At one point, he thought he was in Glasgow, an irritated murmur in the audience that he managed to get away with, that was until his jokes about “the pikeys down at Dale Farm”.

Some nodded, most laughed, but a couple loudly let their disapproval felt, much to Clarke’s astonishment. For what it’s worth, don’t go see John Cooper Clarke if you are easily offended – it’s kind of all about what it’s about.

Finishing with his now trademark jokes about his “swear jar doubling a high yield pension scheme”, he gave us Evidently Chickentown, the poem that catapulted him back to fame as the outgoing track on an infamous Sopranos episode, then disappeared with a large “Ta!”

A great gig, with as much laughter as there was appreciation of a man with a supreme talent with words. I just wish there had been more of them.

Related Links

The Fruit Tree Foundation Gig

The Fruit Tree FoundationThe Fruit Tree Foundation Gig
Noble’s Bar
20th October, 2011

The Fruit Tree Foundation is an independent project, led by musicians Rod Jones and Emma Pollock, which aims to raise awareness of mental health and well-being by creating great art. First Edition, the Fruit Tree Foundation’s first album, was released in the summer of 2011 to great critical and public success. A limited edition is available for purchase commercially and for download on the Chemikal Underground label.

Now, in 2011, they’ve launched a new mentoring programme to create exciting new music by pairing up aspiring singer-songwriters with established mentors chosen by the Foundation. Successful applicants have had a taste of the creative process with mentors from the indie and folk music scene.

The fresh talent has enjoyed a day of collaboration and recorded two songs in the studio, which culminated in a live performance in Leith’s Nobles Bar with mentors Rod Jones, James Yorkston and Withered Hand.

The gig went down a storm with each of the mentees performing admirably against their full-time musical partners, the highlight for me being singer/songwriter, Liz Cronin, who gave a performance with as much professionalism as the pros alongside her. A woman with a voice to be treasured, it’s remarkable to think on watching we perform that she was the mentee in her combo.

A great night and a great charity, it’s very much a case of watch this space for all of the talent showcased on the evening.

Related Links
Rod Jones on Wikipedia

The Specials Blow It Out The Park

Toots and the MaytalsThe Specials
18th October, 2011

Rating: 5/5

The general feeling among the ska community about The Specials playing Glasgow’s SECC, other than the usual nostalgic wave that accompanies their arrival, was one of apprehension.

After the massive success of their 30th anniversary reunion tour in 2009, some felt—myself included—that by putting together another tour two years on, with no new material and in a larger, sub-standard venue, the Specials would be seen as another 80s cash-in.

And with the O2 Academy lying empty just down the road, all signs pointed to it being a move to capitalise on the loyalty and generosity of their fans one last time.

Although the gig was one of the few that never sold out in this particularly extensive UK tour, those that did show up (and it must have been almost at capacity by stage time) were in for a pleasant surprise.

Yes there were no new songs, and yes the acoustics in the SECC’s hall 3 sometimes leave a lot to be desired, but for a top atmosphere and a killer set, nobody could complain.

Lynval Golding seemed to acknowledge this fact toward the end of the gig in an unusually honest appraisal: “thank you for coming out to this one, Scotland—it means a lot.”

And as far as ska gigs go, it was up there with the best. The sound was as good as it could be, but the quality of the delivery and energy on stage was immense, surpassing any possibility that the venue might dampen the show. It didn’t, and The Specials worked through a blistering set and blew it out the park.

The intro was a display of iconic images shone up on the back screen to the tune of a John Barry cold war classic; every politician from Thatcher to Blair and Brown got booed. As did Gazza (that image probably meant more for the English dates on the tour). There were also images highlighting some of the changes in the nation since 1979 when it all started for Terry Hall and Co.

The message was clearly obvious: how much has really changed?

The curtains opened and into the mic bellowed Neville Staple: “Al Capone’s guns don’t argue!”

And we were off!

A romping set took us through all the classics but that’s why we were there. The whole point of the exercise was to look at the juxtaposition between the lyrics of the songs and the political landscape, asking ourselves had anything actually changed but did any of it matter? And to dance our way through the memories and the muck-ups of the political system along the way.

Do The Dog, It’s Up To You, Rat Race, Monkey Man, Dawning Of a New Era, Too Much Too Young—I could name them all but it would be a futile attempt to try and recreate something that was so unique on the night.

Part of the excitement of The Specials live stage experience that eventually won the day, is the way that one simple song can elevate a crowd into a single ball of stomping energy; heads bouncing, shoulders hunched and feet furiously shifting, with Staple and Golding equally energetic on stage flanking the ever dead-pan Terry Hall. It’s his consistently straight face that helps turn up the excitement, as he surveys the bobbing heads and swaying mosh pit in front of him.

Particularly poignant was the short speech from Golding, who praised the Scots for not being involved in all the summer rioting across England, and then dedicated A Message To You, Rudy to the Scottish people.

Also great on a more personal note, was Do Nothing, a song that speaks as much to me today as a 38-year old, as it did as a young lad.

Closing after the encore with a brilliantly extended version of Ghost Town, a final encore followed with one last stomp through Little Bitch and finally, You’re Wondering Now. It was a fitting finale, brilliantly executed by the finest and most iconic ska band we are lucky enough to be able to say are still playing on the live circuit.

The Specials have achieved a lot over the years and they did it again here in Glasgow, reminding and proving to everyone that they will always beat the odds, be it poor venues and acoustics or bigotry and racism.

Where would the nation be without The Specials to remind us who we were, and exactly who we are?