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Mark Knopfler playing in Glasgow is like a homecoming for him and he certainly enjoyed himself. In fact, he had enjoyed himself on the previous night too at band member John McCusker’s birthday bash, but if any of the band was under the weather then it didn’t show and a set of Celtic influenced solo songs and a dusting of classic Dire Straits tracks had the audience in the palm of their hands. Knopfler has surrounded himself with some of the UK’s top musicians - the band were all multi-instrumentalists and could turn their hand to any genre as blues, jazz, country and rock were all served up with the same passion and dexterity - and it was a real pleasure to listen to the art of the instrumentalist. Songs from the latest album, Privateering, were well received with the eponymous title track and ‘Gator Blood’ highlights. However, the most applause was saved for old Dire Straits classics like ‘Romeo & Juliet’, ‘Telegraph Road’ and the final encore of ‘Local Hero’. It’s 35 years since I first saw Mark Knopfler play with Dire Straits and his prowess on the guitar has not waned one little bit. We were promised an ‘Evening With Mark Knopfler’ and that is exactly what we got.
De La Warr Pavillion Bexhill-On-Sea
It’s not often that you get a chance to see a genuine, honest-to-goodness legend in real life (especially down this end of the world where nowhere enough people actually venture), but that’s what we have on offer in Bexhill tonight, and initial worries that Eddy will be a wrinkled has-been are quickly nixed – although to be fair he is certainly, erm, weathered - as he not only looks the business, but also plays up a proper storm running the gamut of his extensive back catalogue with the help of Richard Hawley’s band (and with whom he is currently recording new material) Hawley himself watching from the wings and joining the great man for ‘Girl On Death Row’ and ‘Still Is The Night’ and you can actually feel a palpable thrill run through the audience when we finally get ‘Peter Gunn’, and I get another tick in my 'legendary performers I have now actually seen' book.
The Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
Gone is the shy young man who I saw at The Ferry in Glasgow a few years ago. These days, Joe Bonamassa sports a sharp suit, has a light show and has arrived on the big stage.
Opening with perennial favourite, Rory Gallagher’s ‘Cradle Rock’ he peppered the evening with songs from his latest album, Black Rock, along with titles from his already burgeoning back catalogue. The new songs such as ‘Steal Your Heart Away’ and ‘Three Times A Fool’ sat easily alongside older favourites ‘Sloe Gin’, ‘The Ballad Of John Henry’ and ‘If Heartaches Were Nickels’. At times he was hunched over his guitar as if in his own little world only to throw his head back in the ecstasy of the vital note.
Joe’s Scottish girlfriend, Sandi Thom, came on for part of the well deserved encore and the two of them produced a completely different, but still excellent, version of ‘Bird On The Wire’.
So I’ve seen Joe Bonamassa go from a very small venue with less than 100 in the audience to a slightly larger hall and on to the premiere venue in Glasgow with over 2,000 in the crowd, but one thing has remained constant and that is his talent and when you go to one of his gigs you know you are in the presence of someone special.
Corinne Bailey Rae
De La Warr Pavillion Bexhill-On-Sea
There is something a little ghoulish about tramping around in other peoples tragedies, and there is certainly a slight feeling of that tonight as we are all here to hear Rae play tracks not only from her award winning eponymous debut but also her more recent album The Sea, at least some of which was written about the tragic death of her husband, and fellow musician, Jason Rae in 2008. It’s not all toe-curlingly glum mind – although there are some genuinely moving moments, with Rae turning away from the audience, eyes closed in sombre reverie – but she smiles often (and for those of you interested in such things, yes she is drop dead gorgeous), she also sings beautifully, and, much to the delight of the crowd plays old faves like ‘Put Your Records On’, ‘Till It Happens To You’ and ‘Just Like A Star’, which are all given breezy airings, and you have to hope that including a version of Doris Day’s ‘Que Sera Sera’ in the encore means she is, albeit slowly, beginning the healing process.
Walter Trout & Mitch Laddie
The Ferry, Glasgow
It’s October so it must be Walter Trout in Glasgow. Walter and his superb band just keep coming back to Scotland and they sound better each year. This time he brought his Provogue stable mate Mitch Laddie with him and young Mitch opened up the evening superbly. Showcasing songs from his debut album, This Time Around, the 19 year old held the crowd in the palm of his hand at times, the future is bright for this young North Easterner.
Walter Trout arrived onstage to announce that we were honoured to have a local celebrity in the audience and proceeded to introduce Fat Bastard from the Austin Powers movies. Of course, this turned out to be larger than life drummer Michael Leasure. After a couple of impressions from the big man the band, with the ever-smiling Sammy Avila on keyboards, launched into the show with Walter bringing us a number of tracks from his latest album, Common Ground, as well as many from his extensive back catalogue. The new songs such as ‘May Be A Fool’, ‘Common Ground’ and ‘Wrapped Up In The Blues’ were all well received and when added to Walter’s wicked wit it all added up to a great evening. Walter certainly knows how to play to a Scots crowd as when there was a problem with one of the speakers he announced 'you may take our monitors but you’ll never take our freedom', adding ‘Loch Lomond’ and ‘Scotland The Brave’ to his encore to finish off a show that was over two hours long. However, I think that Walter and the band could have played all night and you know what, I could have listened all night too.
Southbank Centre London
...Well, two concerts from the ten-day season curated by folk-rock legend Richard Thompson, to be precise. After jazz titan Ornette Coleman’s experimentally-inclined Meltdown 2009, this year’s event
presented a more accessible programme, albeit one characterised by the festival’s enduring emphasis on eclecticism and collaboration. TM-Online caught two shows, beginning with a melodically-fulsome double-header of the Leisure Society and the Duckworth Lewis Method. The former peaked with a gorgeous version of 2009’s seasonal gem, ‘Last of the Melting Snow’, but the DLM’s set was a complete triumph as Duckworth (Pugwash’s Thomas Walsh) and Lewis (Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon) led a five-piece band and guests through a warm and banter-laden rendition of their eponymous cricket-celebrating debut. One of those rare gigs that sends everyone out into the night with a smile playing ‘round their lips. Two nights later, Loudon Wainwright III also delivered his fair share of laughs in a joint concert with ‘Mr Meltdown’ himself, Richard Thompson. Both solo sets were good, but the brief combined run of old country/blues standards at the end was a joy and you wished they could have spent more time on stage together. Still, it’s a minor caveat about a week that clearly amounted to one of the finest Meltdowns ever staged.
UNKLE + Heritage Orchestra
De la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-On-Sea
Having been to the last of these little Heritage Orchestra collaborations at the De La Warr (a fascinating night with Beardyman, DJ Switch and Gabriel Prokofiev (see below - Ed )), I was expecting great things tonight - which turned out to be the hottest night of the year, something us portly folks find a little trying (I even had to take a walk around the De La Warr balcony half way through the two hour set to cool down, lovely sea view mind). We weren’t disappointed as UNKLE, fresh from the release of their fourth full-length album Where Did the Night Fall, and The Heritage Orchestra did some serious justice to their extensive back catalogue (having worked together previously on ‘Trouble in Paradise’, End Titles…Stories for Film, End Titles…Redux and four tracks on the new album). A mixture of new and old material kept the sweltering audience glued to their seats in more ways than one, and whilst it’s hard to pick any particular high point the take on ‘Lonely Soul’, after a false start, is particularly mesmerising. This sort of thing is a bugger to pull off, choreographing vocals, samples, orchestra, electronics and visuals, but UNKLE , conductor Jules Buckley and The Heritage Orchestra managed just that with no little aplomb tonight.
Scroobius Pip vs. Dan Le Sac
Concorde 2, Brighton
An article in a grown up music magazine recently ran a humorous article which posited the notion that artists with moustaches were experimental and interesting whilst those with beards were indulgent and dull (i.e. who wants to listen to bloated fat beardy Jim Morrison when you can instead cut a rug to handlebar sporting punk art terrorist Billy Childish). Obviously whoever wrote this particular fluff piece hasn’t seen hippity hoppity mouth monkey Beardyman doing his vocal aerobatics or tonight’s master of ceremonies Scroobius Pip in full flow (those who have yet to do so need to check the man’s stylish raps out ), and whilst Bin Laden beards are not exactly in full effect tonight – especially gratifying given that a large portion of the audience are lady people – everyone jammed into the Concorde’s Victorian environs are totally in step with Mr Le Sac’s bowel worrying bass and Mr Pip’s positive, socio-politically right-on vibe (people looking for bitches, gats and ho’s are shit out of luck). In all honesty there doesn’t seem to be an enormous amount more mileage to be had in their current direction but at the moment it is definitely a case of if it ain’t broke, and right now it ain’t!
Michael J Fitzgerald
The Engine Room, Brighton
Stylistically pitched somewhere between the great war - when men were men, sporting handlebar soup-strainers you could hang shirts on, and ladies were nurses, housewives or not the sort you’d take home to your mother – and the great musical revolution of 1977, artist, musician, poet and gloriously awkward cuss Billy Childish ploughs a wayward furrow entirely of his own. A gentleman punk-rocker who positively delights in filching tunes and his more luddite flights of fancy – talking with pride about his, less than cutting edge, PA tonight he insists ‘if you can’t hear you are too far up the back, if it’s too loud you are too near the front’ - but who, and he won’t thank me for saying so, is in fact more musically proficient than he would lead us to believe, with the same sort of comfortable, easy-going rapport with his audience as that other notably raucous Billy, Mr Bragg. In fact the audience, who clearly view tonights Engine Room show as more of a happening than a ‘gig’, was the most eclectic I have encountered: punks, wasters, goths, mods, rockers, burlesque weirdoes, tramps, artisans, cowboys and really old people (hmm not sure about that particular sub-genre - Ed), dash it all there were even some people who dressed up for the occasion. Best night out most of us had experienced in a bloody age what!
Lord Kitchener Sink
The Albert, Brighton
TotalMusic-Online favourites Vessels made a low-key appearance down our neck of the woods prompting an excellent turn out for a Monday evening and a surprisingly young audience – in fact I struggled to find one single beardy, balding, middle-aged muso 'type' in the whole building (that would just be you then Si? – Ed). Five band members and a multiplicity of instrumentation are barely wedged onto the stage, amps tops balanced on their sides to allow for the double drum kit set-up, various members carefully tip-toeing amongst the carnage to swap instruments and stage positions. Let’s not mince words here, these buggers can really play, they’re not only technically proficient but also exhibit great delicacy and a laudably cavalier attitude concerning how to play seemingly familiar instruments (a violin bow on the bass guitar being but one obvious example). This was a truly majestic performance balancing towering noise with hushed intimacy, the band at one point executing the best full stop to the end of a song ever, moving from ferocious cacophony to cavernous silence on a hydrogen proton. Needless to say this elicited enormous respect from the crowd (during one quiet passage orders at the bar were actually being delivered in whispers). It put me in mind of Talk Talk's more adventurous moments or Sigur Ros in full flow, whereby one is transported beyond the ordinary and it was all over far too soon due to licensing constraints. It’s only a matter of time before they are in your area, miss them at your peril
Heritage Orchestra + DJ Switch, Gabriel Prokofiev & Beardyman
De la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-On-Sea
First up can we big up the venue? [oh go on then – Ed] ‘cos if you have yet to visit the modernist masterpiece that is the De La Warr Pavillion in Bexhill - the first welded steel frame building in this country fact fans – which for those of you not au fait with this end of the country is a bit like London’s south bank for the south coast, then do yourselves a favour and do so, because it’s not unfair to say that this sort of show would not exist in this neck of the woods without the patronage of a venue like the DLWP. Basically an evening of experimental ‘let’s see happenstance’ featuring the Heritage Orchestra and several guests which, let’s be honest hit the nail squarely on the head almost as often as it walloped its own collective thumb. Best of the bunch was the Beardyman link up (although there was certainly much to admire in the turntable trickery of DJ Switch), which was helped in no small part by the beardy ones charismatic performance and a willingness to really push at the possibilities, perhaps not surprising when his own live work consists almost entirely of improvised vocal beatboxery of the most jaw dropping kind. So, mixed results but an altogether worthwhile experiment, more like this please.
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