Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Pixies Live At The Marquee Cork. 30/6/2014.

Frank Black

Boston favourites, The Pixies, a band I have waited 25 years to see play live, finally came to play in my neck of the woods last Monday night. I was naturally apprehensive at first as to would they still cut it as a live band after all these years.
The big surprise on the night was the presence of a mostly younger audience, which I did not expect, many who would not have even been born in the late eighties or early 1990's.
Too much alcohol and teenage angst was not something I was somehow expecting to witness at a Pixies gig these days, however it seems there is a new resurgence of interest in this bands music today.
The original line up is the same today, except for the absence of bassist Kim Deal, replaced now by Paz Lenchantin.
Just after 9pm the band entered the stage to a rousing version of 'Debaser', by now standing near the front of the stage proved somewhat unbearable because of the recklessness of some of the crowd's juvenile antics.
Beer spilling,pushing and shoving and blatant smoking (despite a smoking ban) was not what I signed up for, so I pushed well back from the front position I was holding to appreciate the music with less obstructions.

Joey Santiago
The band were in flying form as they thralled through a fine set of all the songs any fan would have wanted to hear from their back catalogue. Highlights included greats such as 'Cactus', 'Wave Of Mutilation', 'Where Is My Mind', 'Tame', the list goes on and on, in fact they played a total of 27 songs throughout the 90 minutes onstage. Frank Black's lead vocals as familiar as ever,  crashed through incredible guitar work by Joey Santiago. At one point Santiago toyed with no less than 3 guitars demonstrating his skills at playing different riffs on all instruments.
Paz Lenchantin
Argentinian born Paz Lenchantin fits the band perfectly as the latest replacement bassist. New to the line up as the second replacement after Kim Deal's departure. Her CV to date has included  work with Silver Jews, Queen's Of The Stone Age and Jenny Lewis. David Lovering, magnificent on drumming duties also did some fine backing vocals on 'La La Love You'.
David Lovering

Despite some media criticism about The Pixies last album 'Indie Cindy' released last year after several years of a break, the band certainly are still dynamite as a live act . New creativity might no longer be their greatest point but their legacy from the 80's and 90's has stood the test of time as I witnessed at this Cork show. The Pixies were one of those bands that gave us fresh hope during a time when MTV and daytime radio dominated the airwaves with continuous dross. Listening again to such albums as 'Surfer Rosa' and 'Doolittle' today I am reminded of their greatness, this night I realised my taste in music thankfully hasn't changed much at all since my childhood.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Robert Plant And The Sensational Space Shifters Live At The Marquee Cork. 25/6/2014.

Robert Plant Live At The Marquee Cork.

Last Wednesday evening Robert Plant and his latest offering of musicians known as The Sensational Space Shifters rolled into Cork as part of the long line of gigs held at the annual Marquee festival.
After publicly making it clear that Led Zeppelin would never again tour as a band, Plant has taken his own direction several times, notably with his solo career and his collaboration with Alison Krauss.
Zeppelin fans however will not be disappointed with what is to offer with the latest live shows.
To my delight and I think everybody else's, the first choice of song was 'Baby I'm Going To Leave You' a track from the first Zeppelin long player all of 45 years ago.
Despite the huge time span since the hey days of Zeppelin in the late 60's and 70's the former frontman seemed as energetic and dynamic as ever. There is a certain spine tingling chill that you get watching such a legend of rock a few meters before your eyes.
The voice with perhaps a few octaves lower is still outstandingly powerful and never faltered throughout the set. Lead guitarist Justin Adams an accomplished producer and all round multifaceted musician was mind blowing at times with his range of abilities. The familiar riff of 'Whole Lotta Love' rang through from his guitar sending the crowd into a frenzy as the show got better and better. 'Black Dog' was given a more tamed down makeover, laced with hints of African influences thanks to Juldeh Camara and his skills with an instrument called a Ritti which is a one stringed traditional violin.
A beautiful rendition of 'Going To California' was another stand out moment, at times it was hard not to wonder was this all a dream. This night for me diminished any notions that Plant could have taken the wrong road by not continuing to tour with Led Zeppelin after the 2007 reunion concert in London.
Instead I think me has moved on graciously while remolding his career wisely, his latest band couldn't have been selected more perfectly. This was a night we will remember for a long, long time.

'lullaby and....The Ceaseless Roar' is the title of the forthcoming album which will be released in September, also there is a return trip to Ireland and the U.K in November for more live dates.  'Rainbow' is one of the tracks from the new album.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Frank Fairfied Live At The Grand Social Dublin 18/01/2014.

The first gig I attended this year was at  Dublin's Grand Social, located on lower Liffey Street to see the great American folk artist Frank Fairfield last month.
I've mentioned this Californian man before on a few occasions on this blog since discovering  his music on an Uncut magazine promo CD over 3 years ago. I was also lucky enough to see his performance at The End Of The Road Festival in Dorset in  2012 which I must add was a bona fida highlight of that weekend.
If you listen to Fairfield's self titled debut album from 2009, you will be hard pushed to find a more stripped back or raw recording from this century . It comes as no surprise that this man is an avid collector of vintage 78rpm records, he seems to live and breathe and play in a style from a bygone era.
His latest release 'Duncan and Brady' is a 7" vinyl available through Jack White's label Third Man Records.
Taking in Kilkenny and Dundalk on a short stopover of a European tour, Frank completed his 3rd Irish date in the capital city upstairs in The Loft venue of The Grand Social.
Something extraordinary happens when this man takes the stage because despite his sometimes conspicuous shyness, he soon becomes enraptured in the music that flows from his guitar, fiddle or banjo.
The crowd tonight were a mix of age groups, some perhaps were just curious to check this guy out without knowing much of his work while many more were well familiar with him.
It was clear that Fairfield was enjoying his time in Ireland, mentioning that he had met 'so many sweet people along the way'. 15 minutes of so into his set tonight  left few punters unable to keep their feet from tapping against the wooden floor. At one point while tuning his fiddle, one of his bow strings broke, he politely excused himself and walked backstage to retrieve a spare one from a box much to his and everyone else's amusement.
There was time too for requests, most notable, 'Old Paint' a beautiful cowboy ballad that someone from the crowd wisely suggested him to play. Holding the fiddle down low to his breast, while singing in that distinctively raspy American voice, Fairfield seemed like a character from an 1800's gold rush era film.
Clearly he had won over an amount of new followers tonight as almost everyone stood up from their seats to applaud loudly as his time on stage came to a close.
Afterwards he kindly waited around to chat with the people there and stand for photos and sign some Cd's.
I got to shake his hand and shyly mumble some words of appreciation on his return to Ireland, I hope he understood that I was so glad to be there tonight.
I was fortunate enough to get him to autograph a copy of 'Turn Me Loose' a CD compilation curated by himself of some of his favourite 78 rpm's, a unique collection of Anglo-American vernacular pieces selected from the gramophone era. You will find this collection on the Tompkins Square record label along with his debut album and his follow up 'Out On The Open West'.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Waterboys Live At The INEC Killarney 21-December-2013.

So another new year unfolds and already there are high expectations for the upcoming gigs throughout 2014 across Ireland. The annual marquee concerts in Cork city for example promises to be something special this year with such big names as Robert Plant, Neil Young and The Pixies duly confirmed to play.
No doubt in the coming months , there will be an array of many more gigs announced to satisfy a plenitude of ticket buyers. The festivals too, like The Electric Picnic should no doubt do justice to their tremendous reputation by announcing yet another stellar line up this time around.
Looking back, 2013 was quite a year of exceptional gigs, most of the ones I attended have been mentioned in this blog in one form or other.
Perhaps it feels a little late to mention the last gig I was lucky enough to get to at the close of 2013, but better late than never I guess.
The by now legendary Waterboys did a short tour of Ireland during December to celebrate the 25th anniversary  of the release of the 'Fisherman's Blues' album.  
This coincided with a release of a remarkable 6 CD box set compilation of songs from the 'Fisherman's Blues' sessions aptly titled 'Fisherman's Box'. Surely one of the most expansive celebrations of a single record ,it could be more wisely viewed as a companion piece to that period of where the band were musically during that time.  
Every recording from those sessions are finally available on this fine collection, including remasters and alternative versions of songs, along with covers of influential songs that inspired the creativity of such a record.

December 21st was the Killarney date and despite the awful weather, it was more than a worthwhile trip that night to one of the most picturesque towns in Ireland.
If  there was to be a downside to the night, it has to mentioned that unfortunately due to somewhat unknown reasons the gig was announced as a 'sit down' performance. This news came just hours before the show, despite a number of standing tickets been previously sold.
This certainly became a subject of discussion among long time fans in the adjacent bar as to how the gig would unfold. Many people there had clearly remembered more rousing times at Waterboy's concerts some years earlier without such restrictions as being told to stay seated.
In retrospect, sitting down didn't upset too many in the end as Mike Scott and co dazzled with a most inspiring set. Highlights were aplenty throughout, like their take on the Hank William's penned 'I'm So Lonesome...' or the gorgeous reworking of Bob Dylan's 'Girl From The North Country'.
Steve Wickham's fiddle playing was majestic in moments, confirming his importance to this raggle taggle union that defined The Waterboys sound during the 'Fisherman's Blues' period.
This is a band who have been unafraid to take different directions throughout their long path, but in my opinion 'Fisherman's Blues' was their finest moment. It was an album that incorporated Irish trad with British folk music, a rediscovery of roots combined with  beautiful, mystical songwriting.
25 years later, to hear these songs played live was more than just a great reassurance of a fine album, it was a confirmation that it had stood the test of time.
Mike Scott's presence onstage that night had me transfixed especially, clearly he is a lyrical craftsman first and foremost  but is committed to delivering a faultlessly tight rendition of every song.
At one point while introducing a song with a very heartfelt recollection of how the 'Fisherman's Blues' sessions came about, he was abruptly interrupted by a call from the crowd to play some randomly chosen request. His prompt response was something on the lines of 'shut the fuck up, I am trying to tell a story here', to the hearty amusement of the other 99 per cent looking on. Moments like this can sometimes be boundlessly funny to witness adding to the spontaneity of what a live show has to offer over listening to a recording. By the time the celebrated album's title track was rolled out, there were few people able to sit sensibly in their seats anymore, with many making a rush towards the front of the stage. The band who were by now evidently caught up in the moment, subsequently embraced the enthusiasm played out  before them.
Renditions of  'We Will Not Be Lovers' 'Sweet Thing' 'When Will We Be Married' could not have been performed more beautifully, there were two encores also which included the all too familiar hit 'The Whole Of The Moon'. Without any hurry to leave the stage Mike Scott and his ensemble lined out in appreciated pose, providing plenty of photo opportunities for anyone there. The album cover of 'Fisherman's Blues' came to mind as they sat there in that reconstructed position, this was 25 years later and that music was very much still alive, a magical moment. Of course The Waterboys, have disbanded, regrouped and changed members on several occasions since 1988, however that particular chapter in time was unquestionably there greatest. 
To be in Killarney this night reliving such a memory was something very special, a reminder perhaps that we are a staggering quarter of a century further into time but we are still appreciating that same fine music today.
This was a remarkable gig in many respects, Scott's voice has not altered even slightly, the entire line up have aged gracefully and they have perfected their playing even further.I have dusted off my copy of 'Fisherman's Blues' since that night and it has been spinning on repeat pretty much every day since.