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December 22, 2011

TOP 11 ALBUMS OF 2011

TOP 11 ALBUMS OF 2011

This was not an easy decision to make. Plowing through my album reviews of this year, I realised just how much good music there was in 2011. So many didn’t quite make the cut and I regard them as solid albums (The Vaccines, Portugal. The Man, Beady Eye, Yuck, The Streets, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, White Denim etc. etc.) Following my selection, I deliberately never revisited (apart from the top two) as ultimately, any one of these albums, depending on mood, could be my top album of 2011. 

Interestingly enough, my favourites are comprised of seven US bands, just three from the UK and one from France in, Daft Punk. Perhaps this is a function of living in the US, or maybe the music scene is better in the US at this time. Having read both ‘NME’ and ‘The Rolling Stone’ top 50 list, the disparity is huge with, PJ Harvey #1 on ‘NME’ only managing #47 on ‘The Rolling Stone’ and conversely, Adele takes top spot on ‘The Rolling Stone’ poll and doesn’t even feature in NME’s top 50. To the ScoAustin top 11 of 2011. We lead with my numero uno, El Camino.

1.
This duo from Akron, Ohio has really struck a chord with me since first hearing them four or five years ago. On a global scale, they are still relatively small, but ‘El Camino’ is in fact the band's seventh studio album. ‘Brothers’ rocketed them to new proportions and was a massive hit with ‘Tighten Up’ the big commercial hit from them in 2010. It’s no coincidence that was the only track on the album produced by, Danger Mouse and he is at the helm of every track on, ‘El Camino’. The album may only be forty minutes in length, but it’s blistering throughout. Danger Mouse’s lightweight touches accompanied by the gritty vocals of vocalist and guitarist, Dan Auerbach and lanky drummer, Patrick Carney’s precise beats work a dream. If you like this band and haven’t heard their back catalogue, get it sorted…you will not be disappointed. El Camino was only released on the 6th of December, but in my mind can certainly be the catalyst for more good sounds in the future. Supported by next on my list, Arctic Monkeys next year, it’s the hottest ticket in town. Favourite track: Little Black Submarines
2.

Few bands have grabbed me in the last twenty years…Arctic Monkeys are one of that few. When the rose to success upon the release of ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not’ in 2006 and gripped the UK music scene, I was firmly on the bandwagon. Six years and four albums in to their musical career, the Arctic Monkeys again fail to disappoint as so many bands have as they get deeper in to their young careers. I have enjoyed each of their albums and think 'Suck It And See' will build upon the success the band have had to date. Without moving too far away from their traditional sounds, the Arctic Monkeys experiment enough on each release to keep me intrigued. As a group, they are talented, laid back and oftentimes witty. I like their demeanour and love their music. The lyrics and hooks are superb and drummer, Helders is among the best I have seen. Favourite track: Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair

3.

This band has been on my radar for quite some time and I have spent a good bit of time getting to know more about them and their music. Fortunately, it has not been time wasted. I know the band are currently embarking on a North American tour and have recently supported, ‘The Black Keys’ in Canada with my friend suggesting they were better than the headliners. In addition, they have just been announced as the support for, ‘Foo Fighters’ October tour. Unfortunately, the Foos gig that I went to wasn’t supported by, Cage The Elephant and I impatiently await their next tour on this side of the pond. This is a sound I’m thoroughly enjoying and I pine to see the bands’ highly regarded live performance soon. The bands explosive nature caught my attention upon the very first listen whilst being delayed on the tarmac of Dublin International on a flight back to NYC. The debut album was recorded in true garage fashion taking just ten days to complete. This band have the fearlessness and energy of bands like, ‘The Hives’ and ‘The Vines’ whilst sometimes showing the composure of, ‘Bob Dylan’ and display amazing slide guitar sound of, ‘Beck’. Sometimes sounding like an American version of, ‘Arctic Monkeys’  or the aforementioned, ‘Beck’, ‘Cage the Elephant’ make soulful, raw music, inspired by everything from, ‘Iggy and the Stooges’ to hardcore American blues. Favourite track: Always Something

4.

What more can be said about, Foo Fighters? Dave Grohl is a rock messiah. He is one of the best in the business…the consummate rock band front man. The ‘Foos’ seemingly reached the peak of their powers with 2007 release, ‘Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace’. An album idolised by those who listened and further embraced by some fairly important engineers in the art of rock - Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones (who took the stage with the ‘Foos’ at sold out Wembley Stadium shows in 2011). The fifth track here, ‘Arlandria’ harks back to ‘Nirvana’ sounds with, Grohl beautifully exuding his lyrics “you are not me, Arlandria, Arlandria, you and what army? Alandria”. The slower burning, These Days’ is a tad more melodic but no less vitalising as it ascends in to a rocking little tune. ‘Walk’ is a blissful sounding track and probably encapsulated the 2011 ‘Foos’. “I never wanna die! I never wanna die!” Grohl howls. I believe him and who wouldn’t in this vein of form.  It can’t be easy for the, Foo Fighters to maintain and build upon their name and successes, but this year, they have proved that they are still very much one of the best in class and ‘Wasting Light’ is a must own album. Favourite track: Walk

5.

I highly recommend you take a walk in the past and enjoy the amazing collaboration of a group of today’s musical legends. Prior to picking this record up, I really didn’t have an album that I can readily compare to this offering (Portishead’s, ‘Dummy’ coming a very distant, closest). It’s happy, it’s sad, it’s chilled and it’s gruesome. The orchestral and theme variation coupled with the musical talent and epic vocals is deeply compelling. From ‘Gorillaz’ and ‘Gnarls Barkley’ to ‘The Black Keys’ and ‘Beck’, Danger Mouse is the gift that just keeps giving. The inclusion of such high profile acts in the cast in, Jack White and, Norah Jones were arguably something of a gamble…it’s a gamble that has paid dividends to the style of this album. It alternates brilliantly between old school cinematic sounds and instrumentals with some wonderful cameos from, White and Jones. Jack White is undoubtedly a musical leader of his time and I haven’t been shy in showing my admiration for what he has given to modern music thus far on this blog. Since, ‘The White Stripes’, ‘Elephant’ sent shock waves across the UK, I have been an avid fan of him and pretty much everything he’s been involved in musically (including his extensive back catalog with the White Stripes). With tens of millions of records sold (complimented with a number of Grammy’s), Norah Jones is clearly talented. This album may well provide the facelift her vocal qualities required and deserve. She channels the wounded hostility similar to that of ‘Portishead's’, Beth Gibbons, but maintains her own softer and more subtle approach. With fifteen tracks comprising this album, some of which are interludes, it’s a sound that cries for filmography such as, ‘The Good, The Bad And The Ugly’, ‘Sin City’ and ‘From Dusk ‘Til Dawn’ to be appended. To a lesser extent, Coen Brothers, ‘No Country for Old Men’ may apply. There’s a reason why this album is the most read topic on my blog to date. Favourite track: Rose With A Broken Neck

6.
Although I never reviewed this album this year, Radiohead blew me away when I saw them in September this year. The album is solid, but the live performance of the album is simply sensational. Tracks like, Feral, Lotus Flower, Bloom and Codex really resonate. I am not the ardent, Radiohead fan that many claim to be, but they surprised me with their abilities in the live setting. This album, along with their previous offering, ‘In Rainbows’ are very high on my play list and I don’t see that stat changing in the near future. Favourite track: Codex



7.
This one took a while to grow on me, but it got there.'Watch the Throne' is a compelling, complex, conflicted album, layered with heavy commentary on class and race. Many of the West co-produced tracks would not sound out of place on, West’s fantastic 2010 album, 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy' which was among my top albums of last year. I’m still unsure about songs such as, ‘Otis’ which do little or nothing to embellish the amazing, Otis Redding track, but sounds like, ‘N’s in Paris’ and ‘Made In America’ really capture the best qualities of Jay-Z and Kanye West. Egos aside, these two produce and combine to cut a top album. Favourite track: No Church In The Wild

8.
The score of Tron: Legacy features an 85-piece orchestra that is intended to be a mixture of orchestral and electronic music. Having been a fan of classic, opera, house and electronic music in various phases of my life, this is an album that works well to combine the diverse elements of each. If the film is in the “worth the watching category, the soundtrack that accompanies is so much more. Daft Punk has long been in my ear buds with, Around the World, One More Time and many others. This album is generally my Monday walk to work music. Favourite track: End of Line

9.
‘Dye It Blonde’ has shades of classic, T-Rex Oasis, Suede, and, John Lennon, but it is far from backwards looking. The albums elements may not be terribly original, but the way they are brought together is a sheer pleasure. It's fantastic to hear an album from a band who begs you to enjoy their music. While the melodic foundation was already evident in the bands self titled debut, producer, Chris Coady deserves some plaudits for transforming a previously rough cut diamond in to a far more polished gem. Favourite track: All Die Young




10.
It’s an album which provides a dozen tracks of scornful criticism, heartbreaking loss and bleak resignation. It’s tragic and yet it’s beautiful. Almost two decades after Harvey’s stubborn debut, ‘Dry’ where she introduced her dissatisfied howls, ‘Let England Shake’ is potentially her best album yet. Over the past twenty years, Harvey has certainly been one of Britain’s most consistently talented songwriters with her work plentiful in terms of darkness and violence. She recently remarked, "My biggest fear would be to replicate something I've done before." Not the case here. ‘Let England Shake’ channels the best of PJ Harvey and results in a bone chillingly haunting, phenomenal album that exudes a songwriter/vocalist at the peak of her powers. A lot has been written of, Harvey of late following her triumph in winning the Mercury Music Prize, but ultimately, her music hasn’t altered that much, it’s merely become more acceptable and trendy. Favourite track: Let England Shake

11.
It was never really in any doubt that Bradley was born to entertain, but in the release of this album at the tender age of 62, he exudes an appetite and skill in songwriting as well. Charles Bradley has spent the majority of his time dreaming of a better life…I think he has arrived with the release of a captivating, raw and candid soul record. There’s really not a weak track on it. Favourite track: The World (Is Going Up In Flames)

That concludes my list for 2011. Some disappoints for me this year included, The Strokes who seem to have more hype than product. Big hits that don’t quite connect with me are the likes of, Foster the People, Fleet Foxes, Wild Flag and Young The Giant. While bands and performers such as, Battles, Bombay Bicycle Club, The Rapture and Gary Clark Jr. are definitely ones I want to hear more of. There were some very decent debutants in, The Vaccines, Yuck, Beady Eye and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and a lot to be thankful music wise in 2011. Hopefully a lot more to look forward to in 2012.  

December 15, 2011

Album Review: The Black Keys - El Camino

First and foremost, I need to thank my good friend and music companion, Jerry for introducing me to this talented duo when I landed on these shores five years ago. The Black Keys’ music is prevalent in my ear buds each week.  Jerry kindly burned me copies of both 2003’s, ‘Thickfreakness’ and 2006’s, ‘Magic Potion’ and I was immediately hooked, purchasing 2008’s, ‘Attack and Release’ instantly upon its release and of course the massive hit that was ‘Brothers’ in 2010 (which ultimately scooped three Grammy’s and sold over a million copies worldwide). Given I am also fond of rap and hip hop, the ‘Blakroc’ album and webisodes are something that I listen to and view frequently (a must listen if you like, The Black Keys and are partial to a bit of hip hop). Blakroc album review here.


When first album, ‘The Big Come Up’ was released in 2002, no one really envisaged that these two geeky white guys from Akron, Ohio with their drums and churlish guitar accompanied by blazing hollers of incoherent romantic frustrations would last a decade or reach the heights that they have…I mean, they cut their third album in an abandoned tire factory and named it ‘Rubber Factory’.


So why the sudden rise in popularity? There are a number of factors. They got their music running across a whole host of ads (Victoria's Secret, American Express and Subaru to name but a few), the talented, Danger Mouse came aboard and helped them figure things out and last year's, ‘Brothers’ had charm and a pop wit that elevated them to their peak with songs like, ‘Tighten Up’ and, ‘Next Girl’. Now we greet ‘El Camino’, which has been hailed in many circles as their best yet (must be hell of a good if that’s the case).


The album kicks off with the fun, ‘Lonely Boy’ which has an amazing video (see below if you haven’t already viewed it one hundred times). The opening guitar riff is quick and playful and the shrilling Hammond organ supplements the mood beautifully. It really sets the tone with a rousing rockabilly rumble on this opener. ‘Dead and Gone’ that follows is home to an almost a ‘Happy Days’ beat on the chorus. Some pretty strong lyrics by Auerbach on this one. Danger Mouse audibly influences with his dashes across ‘El Camino’. This track follows similar chords that underpinned much of his previous project, ‘Rome’.



The ‘Gold on the Ceiling’ riff harks back to glam rock legends, T-Rex. Love the sound to this one which is in the realm of, ‘The Who’ and ‘Led Zeppelin’. The use of keys and a kazoo like sound works well here. It sounds just filthy with it’s the bombastic beat and Auerbach’s howls - “They wannna get my gold on the ceiling, I aint got, just a matter of time, before you steal it, it’s all right, ain’t no God in my heart.” What follows in, ‘Little Black Submarines’ is one of my unexpected favourites from ‘El Camino’. The first half of this song is markedly different to any of The Black Keys previous work, whilst the second have is oh so very familiar. Exactly halfway through the track, a grinding, bluesy guitar riff rips in. It initially has me thinking of R.E.M’s ‘What’s the Frequency Kenneth’? The structure and sounds of the second half sound very, Jack White with a quality jam concluding the track. Carney and Auerbach are truly back in the, ‘Rubber Factory’ spirit here. Auerbach’s shredding on this track beats tops even, ‘Attack and Release’s’ most face melting jams.


The high octane sounds continue on, ‘Money Maker’ as the band really get in to their stride on this album. "I wanna buy some time, but don't have a dime," quips the chorus.  ‘Money Maker’ also sounds comfortingly familiar, with a riff that’s a dead ringer for, ‘The Hives’, ‘Main Offender’. In, ‘Run Right Back’ we’re back to the kind of tune we’ve come to expect of the Akron, Ohio duo and I’m fine with that as this sound is right down my street. It’s the bluesy rock sound that I love. Auerbach’s gravelly voice accompany the tunes perfectly…in the same manner to which, Neil Young and Bob Dylan’s do theirs. Perhaps a bit of a reach forming these kind of comparisons, but I do like the combination of Auerbach’s vocals against the raw blues backdrop.

 
'Sister’ is fraught with an 80’s pulse and sassy kazoo. It’s almost a Billy Jeanesque backbeat in which you feel for drummer, Carney's kit as he bludgeons it so hard. ‘Hell of a Season’ shows a streak of punk in which the combination of crashing cymbals and a lucid bass line sounds a little bit like, ‘Police and Thieves’ from, ‘The Clash’. ‘Stop Stop’ is fairly simplistic with its go-go beat, but an enjoyable track nonetheless. Similar could be said of, ‘’Nova Baby’ that follows. The closer, ‘Mind Eraser’ paints a common picture with the music embedded in curt melody and two-chord patterns. Auerbach's lyrics follow a familiar path - women are trouble, life is not easy and people will take what's yours

This album is the band's seventh studio album, but their first since 2010's massive hit, ‘Brothers’ which effectively elevated them to real rock stardom. A large amount of that rise to fame can be attributed to the hook-laden hit, ‘Tighten Up’ from that record. Incidentally, that was the only track on the album produced by, ‘Danger Mouse’. He produces each and every track on, ‘El Camino’…one plus one equals two. El Camino is a mere forty minutes short, but it’s a blistering forty minutes. With the producers’ featherweight, yet illuminating traces, vocalist and guitarist, Dan Auerbach and drummer, Patrick Carney have refined each track here to the lofty standards of, ‘Tighten Up’. From their basic beginnings recording in Carney’s basement to where they are now, El Camino is a fitting vehicle for their recent successes. Rating 8.5/10

December 11, 2011

BEADY EYE - Terminal 5, NY, 9th December 2011



In terms of an introduction, I think I have more than covered it in my previous album review – http://scoaustin.blogspot.com/2011/03/album-review-beady-eye-different-gear.html and gig review of mid summer - http://scoaustin.blogspot.com/2011/06/beady-eye-webster-hall-ny-23rd-june.html.

I was/am a massive, 'Oasis' fan and am eagerly charting the efforts of both, Noel and Liam in the bands afterlife. Beady Eye's debut album, ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’, was released in February of this year and is a very decent debut which is home to a few real standout tracks. With the collective songwriting efforts of Gallagher, Archer and Bell, the resulting album comes across strongly. They are an experienced threesome and have delivered a solid debut as, 'Beady Eye' which is ultimately, 'Oasis without, Noel'. With a second album in the works and scheduled for release next summer, this is not just a gimmick by the former, 'Oasis' members.
Liam Gallagher and his second band, Beady Eye entered the stage in their swaggering fashion before Liam barked, "good evening New York". Clad in a long winter trenchcoat, scarf and tinted (if not sun) glasses, Liam got started on the sets energetic opening song, 'Four Letter Word'. It's a solid opening track as Gallagher asks for a little more mic and looks very much in the mood. Following this impressive opener, Liam immediately engages his fervent, Terminal 5 audience - "Well you sound like you want to party then, yeah?"

No time for pause as one of my favourites from their recent release rips in, 'Beatles and Stones'. The bass line on this track heavily influenced by, The Who's, 'My Generation'...some might even suggest a direct copy. It's that familair. Again, Liam's vocals are bang on the money. 'Millionaire' that follows is a song that really doesn't grab me. It's one that elder brother, Noel would have sung under the 'Oasis' guise, but simply doesn't suit, Liam. Thankfully, we are back on track with the B-side to, 'The Roller' in 'Two Of A Kind'. This song is catchy as hell and the lyrics are strong as well - "I’m on my way, to save my love, she rides my wave, I swim above. She’s all I need, my summer breeze, she’s in my mind, two of a kind!"

'For Anyone' follows and is another that falls under the 'not a Liam song' bracket as far as I'm concerned. It's a melancholic little track and the beats and strings are well constructed, but there's nothing more to add. These tracks may be a ploy to rest Liam's voice somewhat during a set which would certainly take its toll on the frontman. With 'Three Ring Circus' that follows, he is back to his shrilling and screaming - "Didn’t walk, could’ve run...Ain’t that enough?" The bands strongest song is most certainly, 'The Roller'. This has already reached anthem proportions. It's one that really strikes a note and gets trapped in your head...once it gets in there, it's extremely difficult to get out. Liam delivers it with the ease and attitude that it begs and deserves. Brilliant!

The, Terminal 5 audience were hardly hushed following, 'The Roller' when, Beady Eye followed up the with anoher B-side. This time in the shape of, 'In the Bubble With a Bullet' from 'The Beat Goes On'. This was the first time I had heard the track and it's one I will be downloading shortly. Great to see this band continuing to write and release strong B-sides which was seemingly a habit for, Oasis.

The fast flowing, 'Bring the Light' dedicated to "the City fans if they're in". A reference to Liam's favourtie football team in England, Manchester City. Ultimately they've been crap for the past thirty years, but with a sugar Daddy in ownership, look like a team with real potential. Got to let, Liam have his moment of glory I suppose. With the keys at the forefront, this sounds jazzy, bluesy and rocking. It's like something from decades ago with a twist of the present day. Another of my top tunes from, 'Different Gear, Still Speeding' followed in 'Standing At the Edge of the Noise'. I mean, lyrically, it's not got a lot of substance, but the snarling vocals have memories of Oasis at Loch Lomond, Scotland in 1996 flooding back and shivers running through my spine.

By this point in proceedings, sweat was seaping through Liam's thick winter coat (see photo on the left) and must have had most of the audience wondering why on earth he never took it off. There is promoting your clothing range, 'Pretty Green' and there's negatively displaying it...in this case, I think the latter is true.

Regardless of the sweat, the show went on with 'Kill For a Dream'. Another slower, more chilled out tune to give the lead man a wee break. Some deeper lyrics and a serious vibe. I love, Gem's simple, but effective guitar riff on this one. 'The Beat Goes On' and 'Man of Misery' that follow are very Lennonesque and in the more emotional genre of, Beady Eye's offerings. The former certainly a reference to moving on in life after, Oasis.

As we reach the end of a throughly enoyable set, 'The Morning Son' is simply superb. It's a psychedelic little number, but the echo effect on Liam's vocals work really well. Never as good on the album version with the live version so amazingly strong. One could say the same about the final song of the set, 'Wigwam' which is the closer to the album and often the set closer. Drummer, Sharrock was in his element (although he did drop a fair number of drumticks that he's launched in to the air). In the chorus, the repetition of Liam, "I'm coming up" alongside a military style drumbeat is superb.

The band leave the stage briefly before returning to deliver one more track and their customary swansong, the 'World of Twist' cover, 'Sons of the Stage'. It's not the longest set a band will play with a succint sixteen tracks, but they only have one album and I was happy with what I'd seen and heard (aside from the sweat on Liam's coat...he must have shed 12lbs of sweat).


‘Beady Eye’ are a talented and focused group of musicians with a sterling debut album, clear desire to write good music and perform live around the globe. They enjoy their time on the stage as opposed to the turgid end of, 'Oasis' which was uncomfortable to see and listen to. I for one want more from 'Beady Eye' and I am eager for their follow up to ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’ next year. Rating 8/10 

Set List:
Four Letter Word
Beatles and Stones
Millionaire
Two Of A Kind
For Anyone
Thee Ring Circus
The Roller
In the Bubble With a Bullet
Bring the Light
Standing On the Edge of the Noise
Kill for a Dream
The Beat Goes On
Man of Misery
The Morning Son
Wigwam


Sons of the Stage (World of Twist cover)































December 5, 2011

CHARLES BRADLEY - Bowery Ballroom, NY, 3rd December 2011

 

In my initial review of, Charles Bradley's most recent album, 'No Time for Dreaming' (http://scoaustin.blogspot.com/2011/04/album-review-charles-bradley-no-time.html) I went quite deep in to, Bradley’s life experiences that have had a huge impact on this particular album and his career at large. In short, he was born in Florida, later raised in Brooklyn, NY spending a large part of his formative years on the streets. In the early 60’s, his sister took him to see, James Brown at, 'The Apollo' in Harlem, NY which gripped him and ultimately provided the catalyst to the music career that he now enjoys. Just as things had turned around for the better in his life, disaster struck when his brother was shot and killed by his nephew. The first song of this night’s event is a tribute to his late brother in, 'Heartaches and Pain'.
Prior to the show, what hit me most was the eclectic mix of audience with far more white faces and far younger people than I had anticipated. I was happily surprised to find that soul music still has a depth of popularity and spans the length and breadth of demographics...exactly how it was intended to be.

The six piece supporting cast in the form of saxophone, trumpet, bass guitar, lead guitar, drums and keyboards took to the stage and played a melodic funky soul intro for several minutes to set the tone. More jamming ensued before the enigmatic 63 year old, Charles Bradley took to the stage with his diamante clad, all black outfit and kicked off with the emotional, 'Heartaches and Pain'. The passion in his voice and grimace on his face is pure and real and his vocals are so moving. 'No Time for Dreaming' that follows really is in the realm of the legendary, James Brown. The scream of “gotta get on up, and do your thing” all so familiar. Not so much on the dancing front though...Bradley couldn’t shine the late, Brown’s shoes in that department. 'Loving You, Baby' is extremely powerful. The man has such natural talent and even a brief microphone issue caused no obstacle for the effervescent, Bradley.

'The World (Is Going Up in Flames)' follows with wonderful lyrics. This is a firm favourite with his followers and probably the biggest hit from, ‘No Time for Dreaming’. Bradley almost preaching to us on this one as the keys and horns collaborate to great effect...not to mention the rhythmic plucking on the lead guitar throughout. On the next track, 'How Long', Bradley’s grizzly vocals and energetic ‘dance moves’ combine to display his anguish. He chooses to use his mic stand to enact Jesus Christ on the cross to further exhibit his pain on this song. Great trumpet solo on this by Billy.
The first cover of the evening was up next in the form of, Allman Brothers’, ‘Slip Away’. Charles seeming losing his mind and getting his funk on eclipsing on the “got to got to have it” chorus with the spritely 63 year old ending with the splits before leaving the stage briefly while the band jammed on momentarily. I actually thought that he had hurt himself doing the splits and the rest of the show was in doubt, but thankfully it turned out to be a quick costume change. He soon returned to the stage having swapped his diamante laden shirt and trousers for a musty brown jump suit that only a soul brother such as he can pull off (don’t try it at home people).

‘This Love Aint Big Enough for the Two of Us’ followed and I hadn’t heard this track before tonight. It’s one that, Bradley released a little earlier in his career when he performed as, ‘Charles Bradley and The Bullets’. This track is the definition of ‘funk’ for me. I’m not much of a mover, but many of the, Bowery Ballroom crowd were ‘getting down’ to this one…shaking their hips and bopping away to every beat and guitar chord. With the crowd het up, Bradley then performed a deep down and dirty instrumental while also introducing his talented band. He firstly prompted trumpeter, Billy to give some horn which he dually did, before asking, Tommy on saxophone to “rock your soul”. Flipping it over to the none too amused, Mikey D on organ, Bradley lambasted the coy looking keyboard player saying, “all you did was stick it in” first time around asking him to go again and give it some more. Second time around was acceptable to the ‘in his zone’, Bradley who then turned it over to bass asking, Mike Nad “can I get some fuckin’ bass?” The bass player did not disappoint with some deep bass chords. When lead guitarist, Tom got the shout, he treated the NY crowd to a thrilling rendition of ‘Love theme from the Godfather’ in a Spanish guitar style. He received the biggest cheer before drummer, Pino was asked to provide some funky drama. This ended a fifteen minute long jam that the audience was right in to.

Oddly enough, a song that I had listened to a little earlier in the day, ‘Heart of Gold’ by, Neil Young was up next. The song sounds so different under, Bradley’s tenure, but an enjoyable mix of a classic song nonetheless. The sultry and chilled out, ‘Telephone Song’ was next and brought things down a touch. Again, simple, but effective lyrics by, Bradley – “I'm tired of fighting baby...we don't need to fight no more. Two fools in love”. I really like the riff on ‘I Believe in Your Love’. It’s just a continual four chord riff that appears throughout the sleepy track, but with horns and, Bradley’s vocals added, really hits the spot.
As we get towards the end, Bradley performs, ‘Golden Rule’ before jumping down in to the baying crowd (despite lead guitar, Tom’s head shake of disapproval when, Bradley asked whether he should) and embraces numerous members of a delighted audience. A few minutes later, Bradley and the band reappeared to perform another poignant track, ‘Why is it So Hard’ which is effectively a commentary of the struggles that the singer himself faced for the majority of his live. The elated, Bradley ends a superb show by preaching the Lord’s Prayer, explaining, “When I say these words, I’m talking to you in my Father’s house”.

My only question is “where was Bradley 30 years ago?” He’s a raw, natural talent who is simply born to entertain. It’s not often I attend shows of this musical genre that I thoroughly enjoy, but Bradley has me wanting more. At the tender age of 63, Bradley is an inspiration to many of his peers who perhaps never made it the first time around. He displays an appetite and energy that is so magnetic and warming. If you want to go and see a modern day Brown, Redding, Green or Armstrong, then go and see, Charles Bradley. Rating 7.5/10

Set List:
Heartaches and Pain
No Time for Dreaming
Loving You, Baby
The World (Is Going Up In Flames)  
How Long 
Slip Away (Allman Brothers cover)
This Love Aint Big Enough for the Two of Us
Instrumental
Heart of Gold (Neil Young cover)
Telephone Song
I Believe in Your Love
Golden Rule
Why is it So Hard






November 16, 2011

NOEL GALLAGHER'S HIGH FLYING BIRDS - Beacon Theatre, NY, 15th November 2011


My long burning appeal to all things, ‘Oasis’ began almost two decades ago (God I’m getting old) following the release of their debut album, ‘Definitely Maybe’. It hasn’t really diminished since then. Guitarist and chief songwriter, Noel Gallagher was unarguably at the helm of Britain's biggest band (despite protestations from little brother, Liam, no doubt). Last month, Noel celebrated his solo album debuting at number one on the UK charts (no surprise there). If any one-upmanship was sought, his brother new band, ‘Beady Eye’ only accomplished number three upon the release of ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’ earlier this year.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (from here onward to be referred to as NGHFB) released the self titled album just last week in the US. Of the album, Noel recently said:
"The only thing I was certain of with this album was that 'The Death of You and Me' be the first single. I just thought now wasn't the time for grandstanding. I thought it was time to be a little more cool and calm."

This is a good summation of the album as I have heard it. In my recent review I mentioned that Noel and his birds followed a pretty safe flight path (http://scoaustin.blogspot.com/2011/10/album-review-noel-gallaghers-high.html) and who could blame them if it’s a sound that works?



Gallagher switched between electric and acoustic guitar throughout the concert. His four piece backing band featuring Tim Smith on guitar, Russell Pritchard on bass, Jeremy Stacey on drums and Mike Rowe on keyboards are a talented bunch. I recall seeing the animated, Rowe on keys a good few years ago on the ‘Be Here Now’ tour. NGHFB's ninety odd minutes on stage included a seventeen song set and a three song encore. The set was identical on both nights at the Beacon Theatre. It was a set strewn with ‘Oasis’ tunes. In fact, nine of the twenty tracks performed were ‘Oasis’ tunes. I was led to believe that the band may play a few of the more obscure Oasis tracks, but not the case with anthems like ‘Wonderwall’, ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ and ‘Little by Little’ given an airing.

The ‘If I Had a Gun’ mix (I think by UNKLE) was the last song to play on the intro music (need to look it up…I enjoyed that cut) before Noel and his high flying birds entered stage right. Noel, now the front man, looked focused and in serious mood as he reached for his guitar and kicked off with, ‘(It's Good) To Be Free’, the B-side from ‘Oasis'’ 1994 single, ‘Whatever’. For my money, this is one of the bands strongest singles (and they had a few) which is something of a surprise given the lead track never featured on any of the 'Oasis' albums. Whether or not the opener was specifically chosen as a message that Noel feels good to be free of the shackles of Oasis can only be speculated. One thing is for sure, it is a nice opening with acoustic guitar and the sound in this old Theatre does both the song and vocals justice.

The entire Orchestra section was on their feet from the outset and most of the upper section soon followed suit. Another 'Oasis' song followed in the shape of ‘Mucky Fingers’ from 2005's, ‘Don’t Believe The Truth’. A somewhat strange choice given the songs’ lesser popularity from the extensive 'Oasis' montage, but well delivered nonetheless. Keyboard player, Rowe in particular was going bananas on this track with a Hammond organ sound accompanying Noel’s shrills of “It's alright!”
Song number three and we get our first intro to NGHFB live with the opening track from their new album, ‘Everybody's on the Run’. This is a very close second favourite of mine from the album and the sound doesn’t disappoint at the Beacon. It’s a fantastic live version. Noel’s vocals are stronger than I anticpated and, Stacey on drums again features heavily. Gallagher hits the sweet spot with the well composed and exquisitely delivered lyrics that he is renowned for, “Hang in there love, you gotta hold on…everybody's on the run.” ‘Dream On’ was up next and this as a typical, Noel effort as far as I’m concerned…very much in the realm of, ‘She’s Electric’ from the ‘What’s the Story, Morning Glory?’ era.

The timid to this point, Noel shook hands with a couple of seemingly familiar faces or perhaps Manchester City shirt wearing fans before addressing the crowd at large – “Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen… it’s nice to see some of your own fans for a change”.


The next song comes in the form of ‘If I Had A Gun’ which is something of a ballad. Not quite a ‘Masterplan’ but this sultry effort is certainly a grower. The crashing drum in support is superb and this live version is markedly better than album version. At this point in proceedings, the leather bomber jacket is shed and Noel sports a white shirt for the duration.

The B-side to the bands first single, ‘The Death of You and Me’ follows in the shape of ‘The Good Rebel’. I’ll be honest in saying I haven’t heard this previously, but I liked it in this setting. Very catchy indeed. It's almost folky/country in some sense.

Noel, growing more and more at home in the setting partook in another crowd conversation with someone familiar "where’s your sister tonight? At work? She's a Social Worker? That's more important than seeing me?"

The first single from the album, ‘The Death of You and Me’ was up next. It’s a lazy, sleepy little tune in the same vein as, ‘The Importance of Being Idol’. I didn’t think I was mad about this song, yet I’ve been humming it all day. Again Noel’s vocals impressed as he visibly became more comfortable in this lead man role. We were then treated to a brand new song from the band’s new album set for release next year, ‘Freaky Teeth’. It's a high octane rock tune that is more in line with ‘Oasis’ of old. There’s an element in the song that sounds like the Batman theme tune. Like what I heard of this and plan to scour the net to get a better listen.


The ‘Oasis’ classic that is, ‘Wonderwall’ followed. In an acoustic format and in the, Ryan Adams style (if you’ve not heard the Ryan Adams version, give it a listen) this went down a storm. Now, ‘Wonderwall’ is far from my favourite ‘Oasis’ tune, but live and in this theatre, it sent shivers down my spine. It basically brought the house down. With a brief pause to accept the adulation of a baying audience, Noel morphed the end chords of 'Wonderwall' in to an acoustic version of ‘Supersonic’ from, ‘Definitely Maybe’. This is one of my all time favourite ‘Oasis’ tunes. To a man, everyone sang along.

The band got back to their own music with, '(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine' which is one of my least liked from NGHFB...it's just a little hollow. The same can't be saud of, 'AKA... What a Life!' With drummer, Stacey going like the pistons of a steam train and, Noel delivering the vocals in fine fashion, this was a high point for me. Rowe on keyboards again played more than just a bit part to this house/dance sounding tune.
At this point, Noel introduces his new band. His American guitar player gets big hand and a fair bit of abuse from Noel.

The B side from Oasis' number one hit, 'Some Might Say', called, 'Talk Tonight' was up next. This is up there with, 'Whatever' in terms of the bands strongest single. It's a great little love song and Noel is in his element.
Immediately after, Noel apologises for forgetting to mention guitar players name, "Tim Smith from Atlanta, Georgia...wherever the fuck that is."
'Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks' quickly follows and then, 'AKA...Broken Arrow' which are among the most Oasis sounding of all current NGHFB tracks. There's then a brief wee altercation/discussion with someone in the front rows of the audience before Noel ends it by saying "anyway, these people have paid to see me play fuckin' music if you don't mind"

Another B side from, 'Whatever' is performed in the beautiful, 'Half The World Away' with it's wonderful lyrical content - "my body is young, but my mind is very o-o-old". This is well received by the at this point ecstatic audience in Beacon Theatre. '(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach' ends the set with psychedelic lighting. This one come across extremely well live (again far superior to the album version) and, Noel is now fully warmed up and clearly enjoying his stage.

A short break before the band returned and worked through an encore of 'Oasis' tracks, 'Little By Little', 'The Importance of Being Idle' and closer, 'Don't Look Back In Anger'. The last of which was performed in large parts by the crowd. This is anthemic and again, screams of the Oasis of Noel Gallager as opposed to the Oasis of Liam Gallager e.g. Live Forever, Slide Away. It's a fitting end to an enjoyable performance.

As frontmen, Liam was stoic and snarling, but has now matured and is less agrgresive with his audience in,'Beady Eye'. Noel, who has always been a little quieter and sensible, proved to be affable and somewhat playful with the NYC fans. He certainly appreciated the reception at the end. It was a thoroughly enjoyable show in a fantastic venue. NGHFB have a decent repetoire, all be it limited at the moment. I was slightly perturbed by the high rotation of Oasis tracks and the fact that many of them were hits as opposed to lesser known B sides. It was great to reminisce from my point of view, but I would rather have heard some different mixes of NGHFB tracks or even covers of other bands. At the end of the day, NGHFB have sufficient talents and worthy enough material to pull in crowds worldwide and sell a lot of records. The album is slowly, but surely growing on me. The classic album that some might say it is, it is not for me, but the live performance is solid. Rating 7.5/10

Setlist
(It's Good) To Be Free
Mucky Fingers
Everybody's on the Run
Dream On
If I Had a Gun...
The Good Rebel
The Death of You and Me
Freaky Teeth
Wonderwall
Supersonic
(I Wanna Live in a Dream n My) Record Machine
AKA...What A Life!
Talk Tonight
Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks
AKA...Broken Arrow
Half The World Away
(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach

Encore
Little By Little
The Importance of Being Idle
Don't Look Back In Anger

Credits to Mrs ScoAustin for the photography.

November 3, 2011

THE BLACK ANGELS - Music Hall of WIlliamsburg, BK, 29th October 2011





As a caveat, this review might be somewhat clouded as I opted to ‘go on the Gin’ for the evening. This is something of a rarity in modern times having become well versed on the outcome and trauma that follows the day after. I think I pretty much captured the setlist, but there may be a couple of gaps.


If you are familiar with this blog, you will be well aware that I am a huge fan of these Austinites, 'The Black Angels'. They were fundamental in my inspiration to begin writing this blog in the first place. Having seen them play SXSW twice in two nights back in March, I have since been addicted to playing their music in my ears on an almost daily basis. Subsequently, I have seen them several times since SXSW this year. Living in New York certainly has its benefits in terms of seeing good live music frequently.

On this occasion, I was accompanied by two of my hometown friends, Kevin and, Dave who are largely unfamiliar with the band and the bands music. It can sometimes be tricky seeing a band you have not listened to at any great length and I think this was the case for both of my guests at this gig. Another factor to their discontent was that, ‘The Black Angels’ tend to play loud…very loud (which I love), but I admit that it can diminish the vocals a little and result in a blurb of noise to untrained ears…perhaps it’s just as much a sign of auld age (sorry Dave). One criticism that I do accept is that the band doesn’t really interact with the audience at any point. Generally, I am in the school of thought that the band should play and sing their music as opposed to rant and rave about inane subjects that they feel obliged to cast their opinion on. That said front men such as, Dave Grohl and, Jack White effectively engage with their audiences and it doesn’t take anything away from the music.

Anyway, on to the gig itself for which I will review the highlights as opposed to the entire set (which I have done death in previous reviews).

The band appeared to the smoky and bass driven sound of, ‘Haunting At 1300 McKinley’. The tune from current album, ‘Phosphene Dream’ is a fine choice as the opening song. It sets the tone pretty well for the gig that is to follow. ‘The Sniper’ next. It’s certainly one of my favourite songs from the band. It’s bluesy as hell…just the way I like. The guitar riff flowing throughout is catchy and the vocals from, Maas fit like a glove. ‘Better Off Alone’ starts with the distinctive front man, dawning his usual flat cap and beard, announcing “I feel so low”. This song needs two drummers when performed live as Maas hits his peak.

By the time the band reached close to midpoint of the show, the ‘Angels’ were on fire. ‘Black Grease’ is as bluesy and dirty as one can get. Bass player, Christian Bland is in his element on songs such as these. Meanwhile, Maas is almost caressing his mic with his lifts as he launches the “KILL, KILL, KILL” lyrics. ‘River Of Blood’ that followed was intense and rocking. ‘The Black Angels’ often put me in mind of, ‘The Doors’. None more so than on this track.

I previously listed, ‘The Sniper’ as a firm favourite, nothing beats, ‘Young Men Dead’ for me. This is an epic, ‘Black Angels’ tune. Crashing drums, filthy bass, wonderful lyrics and well addressed vocals. It’s sublime. The screen behind the band caught my attention on this track with a scantily clad (perhaps naked) young woman appearing in the background. This is dark stuff and I like it. Maybe the gin was taking its toll by this point, but by the time the band got to, ‘You On The Run’, I was absorbed by the backing screen. This was freaky stuff. Maybe a reference to the time of year, but it was horror movie scene in the background…something not far from, ‘The Shining’.  The song itself with a monotone and consistent riff behind it was well received by a captured audience.

The ‘Angels’ finished off their loud and proud show with, ‘Bloodhounds On My Trail’, ‘Melanie's Melody’ (performed solo by, Maas) and ‘True Believers’. We left with our ears ringing and my heart was certainly content as it always is when listening to and seeing this band perform. Over the past nine months, they have captured me like no other. Their sound simply ticks all the boxes for me and I literally can’t wait until the next time they visit the Big Apple. It can’t come soon enough. The Elgin boys will probably object, but this is following the high rating trend for, ‘The Black Angels’. Rating: 9/10

As an end note: To wrap up the evening, we continued our drinking binge by closing out a Brooklyn bar in the wee, small hours. We stumbled out on to the street and were unsuccessful in our plight to hail a cab, so we trudged on to the nearest Subway station. En route, I spotted an, Alex Maas lookalike and blurted out, “You’re Black Angles”. Although I don’t remember the full conversation, I was delighted when he stopped to chat. I do recall that he was very humble following my drunken articulation of undying love for him and his band’s music since seeing them at SXSW. He was most grateful and said that they were scheduled to play in both Glasgow and Edinburgh next year. Scottish brethren, I will keep you in the loop.


Set List:

Haunting At 1300 McKinley
The Sniper
Better Off Alone
Telephone
Empire
Yellow Elevator
Black Grease
River of Blood
Bad Vibrations
Young Men Dead
Entrance Song
You On The Run
Phosphene Dream
Bloodhounds On My Trail
Melanie's Melody - Solo Maas
True Believers

I have a feeling they also played, ‘The Prodigal Sun’ and ‘Science Killer’, but in my Tanqueray induced state, I can’t be sure.

October 27, 2011

Album Review: NOEL GALLAGHER'S HIGH FLYING BIRDS - Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds


I know, I know…here he goes again, pedaling more post life, 'Oasis' stuff with, ‘Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’. My deep rooted love for, ‘Oasis’ and keen interest on both siblings' progress in life after the band has already been shared on this blog. It was indeed something of a surprise to me that the loveable rogue that is, Liam jumped ahead of, Noel in releasing new music. In doing so, he made some shrewd acquisitions with the recruitment of former band mates,  Gem Archer and, Andy Bell who are not only valuable for their instrumental talents, but just as much for their song writing capabilities. The, Liam venture of, ‘Beady Eye’ and their debut album, ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’, released earlier this year suitably impressed me scoring a solid 7/10 in my initial review (http://scoaustin.blogspot.com/2011/03/album-review-beady-eye-different-gear.html) and probably now worthy of at least a 7.5.

Noel took a little longer to bring what he has to the table and has partaken in fairly heavy publicity and social media posting as part of the promotion. Not something I’m overly fond of…surely he doesn’t need to make this album release a circus. Released in the UK on 17th October and attaining fairly positive reviews on the whole, the album is set to hit the US on the 8th November, just before Noel embarks on the US leg of his tour. He too has leaned on a few musical friends including former 'Oasis' keyboardist, Mike Rowe, but at the end of the day, this is a solo effort. The peculiar name apparently draws inspiration from the ‘Jefferson Airplane’ song. Ultimately, it’s great to have, Noel back in the game. The penultimate years of 'Oasis' were pretty dark and in all truth, a bit of a drudge. The music, though decent, didn’t get close to the qualities of, ‘Definitely Maybe’ or ‘What’s The Story, Morning Glory?’ This album marks the calm after the storm in which, Noel brings his mournfully upbeat voice and solid lyrical ability. In essence, this album is the sound of a man who is no longer bound by what other band members think and, Noel already has some credibility on the solo front. By their second album, the guitarist was already taking lead vocals and lest we forget the notorious MTV Unplugged episode proved he could do just fine without his brother.

The album begins with a snarling, Noel on, ‘Everybody's on the Run’ – “Hang in there love…you gotta hold on…everybody's on the run”. The drumbeat, backing keyboards and strings on this track are fantastic. It's a very strong start to the album in which the closing strings and piano sounds like the end of a 'Rocky' movie.  ‘Dream On’ that follows is home to a drum beat and tambourine jingle that is oh so familiar to 'Oasis' fans. Noel emphasises his lyrical ability once more with some cleverly constructed lines. It’s in the, ‘She’s Electric’ and ‘Importance of Being Idle’ genre. A  thumping sing-along track that’s chorus of "shout it out for me" might be better applied by the gritty vocals of his younger brother, but it is rather catchy. 


‘If I Had a Gun’ is more in the ballad format of a, Noel love tune. Not up there with the epic, 'Masterplan', but a similar kind of effort and I like it. Apparently this track was previously called, ‘Wonderwall’. I can’t say too much more than that this is typical Noel Gallagher tunage. ‘The Death of You and Me’ carries a bit of a circus feel and though it is also 'catchy', but this is not a favourite of mine. A trombone solo takes the place of guitar and quirky noises appear throughout this, ‘Kinks’ homage. ‘(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine’ begins with the sound of school kids in the playground.  It’s another captivating song with great use of strings combined with guitar. The appearance of a ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ type guitar solo here also takes us back to the best of 'Oasis'.

‘AKA... What a Life!’ starts with a blurred warble of sound, then a steady rhythm kicks in before Noel joins in with “Someday, you might find your hero…some say, you might lose your mind”. This is not too dissimilar to some of the things Noel has done with 'The Chemical Brothers' and others. I love this sound and wish there was far more of it. This is the furthest on offer here from “the usual Noel stuff” with more of a house beat and feel. It has a turbulent piano loop (not unlike Beady Eye’s, ‘Bring The Light’) and Noel's melancholic feelings on twenty years in the limelight. ‘Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks’ has a jazzy feel to it, strings and horns again appearing. It’s toe tapping and decent, but no more than that for me. ‘AKA... Broken Arrow’ is another hark back to, 'Oasis' with well coordinated rhythm and finely attributed lyrics, but for me, we’ve lost the gusto of track 6, ‘AKA... What a Life!’  

I like the build of, ‘(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach’. The slow, but temptuous guitar riff builds with, Noel’s well placed vocals and concluding with some flippant and nonchalant lyrics from the talented songwriter. We come to the end of the ten track solo album with, ‘Stop the Clocks’ which is openly an, 'Oasis' leftover…it’s been knocking around in bootleg form for quite some while. It’s a simple muse about what happens when you die, yet somehow succeeds in being more uplifting than depressing.

We can pretty much put these songs in two three buckets: Oasis throwbacks - ‘If I Had a Gun’, ‘AKA… Broken Arrow’ and ‘(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach’, rock anthems – ‘Everybody’s on the Run’, ‘(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine’ and ‘Stop the Clocks’, and jazzy toe tappers - ‘Dream On’, ‘The Death of You and Me’ and ‘Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks’. The exception to these is my distant favourite, ‘AKA… What a Life’ on which, Noel is well of out of his traditional comfort zone. It suits him well, and he knows it. I hope to hear more of this untraditional, Noel in his forthcoming solo effort with, 'Amorphous Androgynous' which will drop in 2012.

Aside from the jazz styled interludes there’s nothing all that new on this album, and as aforementioned, the second of his solo projects may be a little more ‘out there’. 'Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' follows a safe flight path staying close to the, Noel Gallagher of, 'Oasis' lifespan. He’s provided us with a collection of tracks of which the best can stand proudly alongside ‘The Importance Of Being Idle ’. This review may alter upon seeing him deliver these songs live in the impressive arena of the Beacon Theatre in New York on November 14th. Rating 7/10

The album in it’s entirety can be streamed here - http://soundcloud.com/piasbelgium/sets/noel-gallaghers-high-flying/s-bEO8h

October 23, 2011

PORTUGAL. THE MAN - Terminal 5, NY, 20th October


Having been introduced to, ‘Portugal. The Man’ in March of this year and listened to their music fairly heavily since then, their music can best be described as psychedelic pop rock. That said, there are some diversions that has one second guessing. It’s fair to say that, Portugal. The Man are not that easy to tie down to a genre.

Recent album, ‘In The Mountain In The Cloud’ (reviewed here in July - http://scoaustin.blogspot.com/2011/07/album-review-portugal-man-in-mountain.html) heralds the bands half dozen mark in terms of albums. Notably, this is the band first on, Atlantic Records. Rolling on from the momentum sparked by their rise in 2006, and significant radio play of, ‘People Say’ from, ‘The Satanic Satanist’ in ‘09, ‘In The Mountain In The Cloud’ continues the intense release cycle of one album per year. This feat is made all the more remarkable when you account for the band’s hectic road schedule. They have played over 800 shows ranging from freight elevators and small record stores to huge festivals like, Bonnaroo. ‘In The Mountain In The Cloud’ is arguably the first recording by the band that captures their onstage energy fully. That onstage energy will be further discussed in this review.


Smoke galore and ping pong ball type lights strewn across the Terminal 5 stage, ‘Portugal. The Man’ took the stage barely visible in the cloud of smoke. The band opened with the first track from their latest album, ‘So American’. I really like this tune which begins with soft, high pitch keys before developing in to a sweet little guitar riff in which lead man, Gourley howls, “so who broke the rules? Who broke the rules? Who broke the rules” to begin the chorus. Before continuing with further new material, the band ripped through four tracks of previous releases.  ‘Work All Day’ from ‘09 release, ‘The Satanic Satanist’ emphasizing that the band were going to mix it up and ultimately run the gamut of their spectrum of albums. This one has the rhythm of a steam train in motion. ‘The Devil’ (which I had never heard before as I haven’t given their debut album a listen yet) kicked off with drummer, Jason Sechrist leading the crowd applause to assist with the tribal beat before leading beautifully in to a surprise rendition of, ‘The Beatles’, ‘Helter Skelter’. The cut over was impressive and the version was okay if not sublime.

With the crowd already in fervent mood, ‘AKA M80 The Wolf’ was next up. Just when you think you’ve nailed the band to a genre, this song comes along and destroys that feeling. This tune is more in the, PJ Harvey, Flaming Lips, Bjork style. It works though. ‘The Woods’ swiftly follows and I love the filthy guitar riff in the middle of this tune. It’s like, Hendrix meets Zeppelin. The song itself is fairly aggressive and although I’m not sure about the lyrics, it sounds like a political rant. The mood is softened a little by another of the offerings from the recent release in, ‘Head Is a Flame’. I suspect this is as high pitched as, Gourley can go. Another surprise cover again mixed in beautifully came in the form of the ‘Mott the Hoople’s’, ‘All The Young Dudes’. Good stuff and perhaps some further insight to the band’s influences. 

Another track from debut album (which I’m going to have to give more of a listen), ‘Waiter: “You Vultures!” in the shape of ‘Elephants’. A crashing beat in which an animated, Gourley jammed out intensely throughout. There was a lot of jamming during this set and why not? Another massive shift to the more recent stuff in, ‘Floating’ which is a very well composed and constructed piece by a perhaps more experienced and talented, Portugal. The Man. ‘All Your Light’ kicks in with a dark and moody organ that belongs in a horror movie and the track itself with backing vocals from, Ryan Neighbors sounds like something from, David Bowie or, Talking Heads. It’s one of my favourite tracks on the current album and the live version extended that status.

‘1989’ was the first track played from, ‘Censored Colors’. There is a plethora of sounds on this one from keyboards, synth, guitars and strings. This is a band who doesn’t mind getting complex. ‘Do You’ and ‘Everyone is Golden’ that follow are another of my all time favourite songs from the band. They are a little more simplistic, but if any sound ever does epitomize this band, these could well be it. Perhaps this is driven by the fact that these hail from the album I’ve heard most since my first experience of the band at SXSW. They’re happy go lucky songs that provide a feel good factor when listening.


   
‘Got It All’ from the current release is simply amazing live. If the previous songs provided ‘feel good’, this takes it to ecstatic proportions. For me, a certain highlight of the set, “we’ll shake shake shake the night away”. I am sure I felt my normally rigid hips swaying to this one (Jerry and KLowe may be able to confirm). ‘Mornings’ shares the tribal type beat of, ‘The Devil’ previously and it’s another wonderful vocal display by, Gourley who has some wonderful lyrics in his repertoire and insatiable vocal chords. The cosmic sounding, ‘The Sun’ led us towards the sets end. More smoke churned from the smoke machines before ‘Senseless’ with it’s, “what is a man to do?” chorus and ‘Sleep Forever’ with its gentle and aptly sleepy tune concluded the show momentarily.

The crowed bayed for more and weren’t disappointed when the band reappeared for a five track encore which again featured some old, some new and yet another surprise cover. ‘Created’ was first up with, Gourley taking the mic in his soft and sultry manner on this harmonizing track from, ‘Censored Colors’.  This was followed by the phenomenal, ‘People Say’ which actually starts out with a riff that reminds me of a Rod Stewart song (don’t know which one. It’s just familiar as I grew up on his stuff thanks to my Mum who adores Rod). This is epic, ‘Portugal. The Man’. One of the songs that really grabbed me when I saw them for the first time at SXSW. This morphed in to a track that was, for me, the biggest surprise of the evening. A rendition of, ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ from my all time favourite band, Oasis. Not the best track from the Manchester band in my opinion, but a well worked version from, ‘Portugal. The Man’ that had the Terminal 5 crowd signing along in delight.
 
‘Guns and Dogs’ was next up before ‘Chicago’ closed proceedings. This, another song that I had never heard before was like two songs within a song. It was frantic, loud and fast from the outset. Something like a ‘Rage Against The Machine’ tune with crashing drum beats and aggressive lyrics before submerging in to a calming melody and then jamming out again to conclude a superb show. The crowd needed some persuasion to leave, but eventually left with smiles on their faces.


With no specific roots, this band offers an huge capacity to alter audibly…perhaps something that some of their peers can offer. Gourley, who oftentimes pens the songs from isolated locations such as his parents’ home in Alaska recently noted that “Even if I’m writing a song by myself, it’s constantly written around what the band does and around the things that they like.” 

Following a brilliant hour and a half plus set including a five song encore that incorporated a clever mix of their hit, ‘People Say’ into a cover of Oasis’, ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ there’s no doubt that this band have found the recipe of success. Perhaps the recent move to, Atlantic Records is a factor in this. Thousands of bands play the big apple each week (particularly when CMJ is on), but only few capture a crowd like, ‘Portugal. The Man does’. In this, their biggest headlining show to date, the were extremely humbled and honoured…those who attended probably feel the same. Rating 8/10

Set List:

So American 
Work All Day 
The Devil
Helter Skelter
AKA M80 The Wolf
The Woods 
Head Is a Flame (Cool With It) 
All The Young Dudes
Elephants 
Floating (Time Isn't Working My Side) 
All Your Light
1989/Our Way 
Do You 
Everyone Is Golden 
Got It All
Mornings 
The Sun 
Senseless 
Sleep Forever 

Encore:

Created 
People Say 
Don't Look Back In Anger
Guns and Dogs 
Chicago