Five gigs, a funeral and a birthday
Clearly, like the next Dr Who, I am having delusions of grandeur and think I am the new Hugh Grant. Well, I do say f**k a lot, but he’s a tad better looking and more talented than I am (for tad, read truckload). But rather than write about five gigs separately, I thought I’d try and bundle this up into one little piece. Hope this works, and that you enjoy!
So, as Mrs JO’B returned from her trip away this month, I had a busy couple of weeks coming up – bad planning and rescheduled gigs (the pandemic means I still have a confusing gig diary to navigate as gigs are finally happening that I booked back in 2019).
You’ve got to fight for you right to listen quietly, as Beastie Boys almost said (missing seeing Midlake, The Roundhouse, London, 6th April 2022)
So, first week of April, I was due to see Midlake at The Roundhouse, with my friend Mo. We saw Midlake back in 2007 at Shepherd's Bush Empire. Whilst I can be very gobby, I am cautious and prudent enough to avoid starting a fight. Not just because violence is never the answer (I'm talking to you Will Smith...), but it's also because I will inevitably lose...I am no fighter.
Yet that evening back in February 2007, I got cross. Really cross. Two men were chatting loudly during the band's set. Their talking wasn't drowned out by the squalling heavy rock guitars because there were none. It irritated the f*** out of me, because this was a band who played intricate, delicate, great, acoustic chilled music.
So, I confronted them, shouted I think. They looked hacked off and I had a sudden Spidey-sense that I may have f***ed up. I told them that we needed to settle this with a dance off. I think I even pulled a couple of moves. This made them laugh, the moment was diffused and we settled back into watching the gig, even chatting with the guys between songs and having a drink.
This was due to be the first time we've seen them in 15 years. Since then, they have released three albums, including For The Sake Of Bethel Woods, released last month. 2010's The Courage Of Others was prog/psych/folk - its hooded monk album cover looked alarming like a Jethro Tull record. Oh dear. However, 2013's Antiphon was a bit more muscular, a bit more Mercury Rev and a lot better that the finger-in-the-ear flute rock nonsense of its predecessor. Mercifully, the new album builds on Antiphon, rather than go back to the hooded prog-folk. We are looking forward to it and I promise myself I won’t get arsey if the same two geezers are there yapping loudly during the gig.
However, it’s not to be as I get a call the day before to say my lovely aunt has died. I am not going to write about that, it’s private. Suffice to say, I immediately booked flights back to Ireland to say goodbye. She was the nicest, smiliest woman you could ever imagine and the last of that generation from my mum’s family. And the morning after my mum died, she gave me the biggest hug you could ever imagine, and I really needed it. I’ll always love and remember her for that. Some things are more important than gigs, even to me.
We’ll see Midlake next time, but do check out For The Sake Of Bethel Woods, it's rather fine.
Diamond Hoo Ha Wife (Gaz Coombes, The Lexington, London, 14th April 2022)
I make sure I am back from Ireland to welcome back Mrs JO’B after nearly 8 weeks away, which is lovely. And I manage to snaffle her a ticket to join me and my friend Vincent to see Gaz Coombes at The Lexington. Mrs JO’B and I have Gaz listed as one of the singers / bands that if they play London, we go. Johnny Marr, Maximo Park, Rose Elinor Dougall, Gaz Combes, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – if they play, we’re there. They are all splendid live.
That said, I nearly f***ed up with Gaz. The Lexington is brilliant and tiny. If Gaz was playing there, this would sell out in seconds. I had it in my diary, had the link ready in my calendar at work. But 10.00 am came and went when the tickets went on sale and I was stuck in a meeting that overran and didn’t see my calendar reminders. When I get back to my desk, the tickets are gone. Vincent texts me to say minutes later he has two tickets and do I want to go? I say yes and ‘fess up to Mrs JO’B, but put myself down on the waiting list, with little hope of this paying off.
However, the day I get back from New York, an email pops into my inbox saying I have an hour to buy a ticket that has become available, before it’s passed down the waiting list to the next person. Despite jetlag, I am more on it this time and buy it immediately. Yay!
We meet Vincent at The Lexington and grab a beer. As we queue at the bar, there is a guy with full on Gaz hair, dressed exactly as if he is in the video for Alright. Red t-shirt, cheeky monkey hair, the lot. I give him a double take, in case Gaz has really taken the Supergrass reunion to its extreme or is having a mid-life crisis. But it‘s not him, just a very nice uber-fan. And his teeth appear nice and clean, so it’s all good.
We head up to catch fabulous support band, Piney Gir, who we’ve seen several times, playing headline in her own right and supporting Gaz. She’s a regular in his backing band, bringing a quirky California soul/folk feel to his Oxford vibe. Her set includes new song, Alchemy Hand, which is fabulous.
The venue is full when Gaz comes unassumingly on stage. This is his first solo gig since 2019, and since then he has been away touring with a reformed Supergrass, and then stuck like so many musicians, trapped by the pandemic. We have seen Supergrass, just before the first lockdown kicked in – I have never been to a more rammed gig at Ally Pally in my life. It wasn’t just that people were delighted to hear Supergrass again, but I think we all knew what was coming so whilst we were still allowed to get out and about, we all took the risk. Supergrass were on fire that night, but I really do prefer Gaz’s solo stuff these days. Supergrass is nostalgia, whilst Matador and World’s Strongest Man are firmly looking forward.
During lockdown and since, he’s recorded a new album, but tonight is mainly his first chance in three years to play his own material and get comfortable being back as a solo artist on stage. So the set focuses on his last two albums, with a quick nod to his debut, Here Come The Bombs, and standalone single (which he’s never played live) Salamander.
The set opens with Gaz at the keyboard for Matador, the title track of his second album, and one of my favourites. He flits between acoustic and keys, backed by loops, samples and occasionally Piney and her band.
However, like the Midlake gig back in 2007, there are a group of people hellbent on talking through the gig. One even decides he can play drums on the bar loudly as Gaz delivers another delicate acoustic song. Fortunately, enough people give him daggers that he stops, though he and his little threesome seem unable to order a drink quietly – and shame on The Lexington’s bar staff for loudly chatting back to them during a song. I despair, but avoid near fights or dance-offs. But really, learn some respect for the artist (see Musicians want us to pay closer attention at gigs. Let’s do them the courtesy by @laurasnapes).
Despite this, it's a great gig and Gaz plays two new songs – Sonny The Strong is great, but This Love is the standout, accompanied by Piney Gir, her guitarist and backing singers. It’s languid, cool, funky, soulful – I am really looking forward to the new album!
No Supergrass songs and he just doesn’t need them. His solo material is strong enough not to. A great night, and we head off, a little tiddly as it’s my birthday eve!
They say it’s your birthday! (52 is the new 25)
I celebrate my birthday, with Mrs JO’B, then some friends, lots of music, and, as Mrs JO’B came home via Dubai, a surprising amount of Arabic funk! Who knew this existed, but then again, why wouldn’t it? Some of it’s rather good, I shall report properly at some stage. A fab day eating pie (obviously) at the Holborn Pie Room, courtesy of Mrs JO'B. I am spoilt rotten.
The Boo Radleys...And Me (The Boo Radleys, Prysm, Kingston, 18th April 2022)
Let's be honest, this was unexpected. We didn't expect an album from The Boo Radleys again. We certainly didn't expect one from them without songwriter Martin Carr. And we definitely didn't expect it to be this good. But it is!
Keep On With Falling is a fantastic record, and having seen them at their great comeback gig back in October at The MOTH Club, we decide to head down to Kingston for an album launch show at PRYSM, promoted by local record shop, Banquet Records.
Although the venue looks worryingly empty when they take the stage, it soon fills up. Intentions are clearly marked out by their entry music – Pepperland from the Yellow Submarine soundtrack. There’s a definite Beatlesy sound to their new poppy album, and live they are a joy to behold.
Belting through Barney (…and me) and Wish I Was Skinny from Giant Steps, they clearly mean business. The band have been expanded, joined by a fabulous trumpet and keyboard player, so they are less reliant on samples for this show. The sound is bigger, more impactful and they look ecstatic just to be there. They are all clearly playing this tour on a short break from their day jobs. This is not some pension boosting, come back for cash tour but three guys regniting their creativity and making some great music. As with the last show, the new songs stand tall alongside the old classics, especially You And Me (with a clear nod to New Order’s Leave Me Alone), A Full Syringe And Memories Of You and I’ve Had Enough I’m Out.
And I am delighted they have extended the set to include Lazy Day (one minute and 34 seconds of absolute joy) and Spaniard, which the trumpet player smashes, making it sound like the greatest Clint Eastwood film theme song ever.
Sice, their hilarious lead singer, smiles up to his daughter who’s running the merch desk throughout the show – there is so much joy coming from the stage, it’s hard to describe and it’s infectious. As they close the set with Lazarus, one guy takes to the front, turning to face the crowd, and leading a one man rave with some enthusiastic jumping up and down (probably unwise at our age). It’s all great fun.
Alcohol(free)holiday (Teenage Fanclub, Union Chapel, Islington, 19th April 2022)
Mrs JO’B takes me to see Teenage Fanclub the next evening at the Union Chapel in Islington. It’s a church so it’s a booze free gig, which is no bad thing as it’s a school night.
I’ve seen the Fanclub many, many times, but this is the first since Gerry Love, one of their three singers and songwriters, left the band. Their first album without him, Endless Arcade, is great, better than I might have hoped. So we are looking forward to the gig. Mrs JO’B spots a man sitting next to us in a Boo Radleys t-shirt and asks if he was at the gig last night? He was indeed, and we swap notes - he wasn’t sure before he went along what they would be like without Martin either, but by the end of the show he was sold. Excellent taste, clearly.
The Fanclub are supported by Norwegian band Frøkedal And Familien – I am dubious at first, but their singer/guitar player and backing singer/violinist are great, especially the second song. It rocks out, but I feel the singer is held back by terrible keyboards and a kiss-curled geography teacher on acoustic guitar, his bland folk holding back the grunge rock beast she really could be.
They play a song inspired by black metal, which sounds interesting, but starts off like a church hymn - black metal as reimagined by Julie Andrews perhaps? It’s actually quite good, but I think the singer, Anne Lise Frøkedal, would be better without the band.
Their last song sounds alarmingly like tambourine shaking, born again Christian rock nonsense. But the crowd love them – there are whistles, lots of claps, even a standing ovation in some quarters, so what do I know? Very little it would seem.
The main act soon take to the stage – no fuss, no intro music, they just walk onstage, say a quick hello and launch straight into two new songs from the latest album. The songs, Home and Endless Arcade, its title track, are great, crackling along in their usual jangly way. Gerry leaving has not provoked some radical change in direction. It’s the same old stuff – they are becoming the Status Quo of indie, as I have said before.
The show is lovely, warm, friendly, relaxed, fun. Though the eschew playing any of Gerry’s songs, they play a mix of tunes from across their various albums. The guy in front of me shouts to turn up the guitars, and whilst that would normally annoy me, I know what he means. It’s all just a little too gentle, too relaxed, too understated. A bit more showmanship, a bit more taking it seriously and rocking out more would be welcomed, not discussing problems with your trousers.
That said, they occasionally hit the rock button and I’m In Love motors along and sounds really fresh, Alcoholiday is storming, and The Concept is a stone cold classic. We leave early as they play an encore of two songs left off their classic album Songs From Northern Britain, and miss the inevitable closer Everything Flows. It’s bad form, but Mrs JO’B starts her new job the next day and I am knackered. It’s been great, but more energy from the band would be better – take a leaf from The Boo Radleys’ book.
He wears denim wherever he goes (Lloyd Cole, Cadogan Halls, 21st April 2022)
We finally see the lovely Lloyd Cole, deadpan and double denim clad. Unlike the majority of the audience, I have read the website and emails, and know that Lloyd effectively supports himself; the second half he is joined on stage by Neil Clark, guitarist from Lloyd’s erstwhile band, The Commotions.
As Saffron, my lovely friend, is unable to join us, Nick makes the drive down from Leamington. He knows he has to be here early and is bang on time, as we grab a quick pint before the show. We marvel at the rich people who surround us in a quiet pub round the corner from the gig. Bad tans and too much cash and entitlement oozes from the table next to where we stand, so we move outside and wonder how much of a flat we could afford here around Sloane Square. We think we can afford a window, and possible the accompanying ledge….
Cadogan Hall is beautiful, but the stage is imposing as Lloyd strolls on solo, kicking off proceedings at 7.30pm with Past Imperfect from his 2000 album with The Negatives, that snuck out to little press attention back then, yet is full of splendid tunes. By the third song he plays one of my favourite tunes, Rattlesnakes. It’s slowed down and stately. As people start to arrive, he informs them that yes, they have missed Rattlesnakes. His humour is drier than the best Martini.
Through his solo set, he bemoans the disaster that is Brexit and tells, rather than asks, the audience if they voted for it, they must know this themselves by now. He plays a cracking version of My Bag, and strums an awkward chord during Vin Ordinaire, cheekily informing the audience afterwards that this is in fact exactly as that chord is meant to sound.
The tour is entitled Rattlesnakes to Violins, the former his debut album with The Commotions, the latter, his last solo album, an experiment with electronica. I am not that keen on the last album, but respect the artist experimenting and playing a completely different style to his usual music. The setlist is true to the tour title, playing songs from the vast majority of his albums.
Neil Clark joins him for the second set, and watching these two old partners play together is beautiful. Opening the second set with Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?, I am transported to my teenage years, clutching a copy of the album and sticking pictures of Lloyd on my bedroom wall, along with lyric sheets carefully cut out of Smash Hits. I eventually discover who Eve Marie Saint and Simone de Beauvoir are, not easy at 14 in Dartford.
Lloyd and Neil play a medley, which Lloyd earnestly instructs the audience and any budding musicians that it is unacceptable to play medleys until you are at least 55. Perfect Skin and Jennifer She Said again hurtle me back to a past, with unrequited crushes on girls called Louise and Jenny. Fortunately, no basements or tattoos were involved.
Nick and I speedily rush for a swift, but very necessary, toilet break before the encore, and have to sit at the back (proper theatre rules here at Cadogan Hall) for the last two songs, but it’s all good. No Blue Skies and Forest Fire excel, even without the electric guitars.
Lloyd thanks those who have funded his Patreon account, saving him from hard times during lockdown, and informs us that this may now be enough to have a proper band tour next time around – me and Mrs JO’B saw him in in London with the Leopards back in 2016 and they were cracking so fingers crossed for a full band show next time around….or even a Commotions tour? Though that would have to take in his solo material, which I love just as much. Who knows?
Stay safe, x
If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy:
· Raging Bull – a look back at Gaz Coombes’ Matador
· The Boo Radleys, The Moth Club, London, 30th October 2021
· Teenage Fanclub - Endless Arcade