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Deadstring Brothers
King Tut’s Glasgow

Detroit based Deadstring Brothers sent the knowledgeable Glasgow crowd wild when they burst into life with Masha Marjieh in full voice. The set was peppered with songs from their critically acclaimed 2006 album Starving Winter Report and their latest release, Silver Mountain. Sharing the lead vocal was main man Kurt Marschke and his easy going interaction with the crowd went down well although he shouldn’t really have tempted fate by stating that he hadn’t had any whisky thrown at him yet! Guitarist Spencer Cullum is a star in the making and adds that extra touch of class to Marschke’s alt.country songs. The rest of the band are Spencer’s brother Jeff, on bass, E. Travis Harrett on drums and keyboard wizard Pat Kenneally. Highlights for me were 'Lights Go Out', 'Moonlight Only Knows' and 'Meet Me Down At Heavy Load' but there wasn’t a bad one in the whole set.
David Blue

Joe Bonamassa
The Arches, Glasgow

Guitar wizard Joe Bonamassa rolled into Glasgow and filled The Arches with a wall of sound that not many could hope to equal. He said that his love affair with the city started two years ago at The Renfrew Ferry and I was one of the 125 fortunate souls to see him that night, having seen that I’m not surprised that this time around it was an 800 sell out. He has improved his rapport with the crowd although, as usual, some people couldn't staunch their inane chatter during some of the quieter periods, despite Joe pleading with them for silence. His guitar prowess has also improved and, for this reviewer at least, he has now reached the higher echelon of players, the highlight of the night being the title track from his current album, Sloe Gin although 'Don’t Burn Down That Bridge' and 'Another Kind Of Love' also rubber stamped the feeling that we were in the presence of something very special indeed. Throw in an incendiary version of ZZ Top’s 'Just Got Paid' and you can imagine the night we had.
David Blue

The Feeling
Esquires, Bedford.

Arriving at the gig I overheard the doorman saying “It’s bleeding mobbed upstairs” and he wasn’t far wrong, the first night, of their first tour, and their first song ‘Want You Now’ eased our expectations wonderfully. By mid set the beautifully crafted ‘Rose’ hooked even the local metal-heads, and was immediately followed by the fantastically weird chord changes of the Beatlesque ‘Never Be Lonely’, the four part vocal harmonies flowing from start to finish. So how do they sound? Think early Elton John – well, the Elton we all ‘used’ to like - think Supertramp with a bit of The Carpenters innocence sprinkled over the top or The Super Furry Animals’ ‘Juxtapozed With U’ or ‘Northern Lites’, but with a real Englishness to it. Weird mixture I know, but it works. Great big hook filled tunes with damned good choruses, beautifully sung, the sort of music that if we all surrendered to it, would probably do us a lot of good (you can find out more about The Feeling here). The show finally winds up with a full on, almost heavy, version of the new single ‘Sewn’, just brilliant, if this is the sound of what's to come from the new boys on the block, then I for one can’t wait to hear their debut album, Twelve Stops And Home. No wonder Radio 1’s Chris Moyles is shouting from the rooftops about them, trust me, you won’t be disappointed you may even, like me, come away a fan.
Ian Roberts

Simple Minds
Astoria, London

The days of multi-platinum album sales and playing second fiddle to U2 on the arena rock circuit may have passed, but judging by their performance at a packed-out Astoria, Simple Minds remain a formidable live act. A well-paced setlist pairs the best material from recent album Black & White 050505 – which, in its wholescale readoption of synths and electropop textures, harks back to the glory years of New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) – with air-punching versions of old favourites. A fervently loyal audience means that new songs like ‘Home’ and ‘The Jeweller’ receive a response that is almost as enthusiastic as that which greets ‘80s peaks ‘Up on the Catwalk’ and ‘All the Things She Said’. But even the more objective observer would acknowledge their strong live form, drummer Mel Gaynor remaining a powerhouse player and frontman Jim Kerr refusing to let the energy levels dip for a moment.
David Davies

Robyn Hitchcock & the Minus 5/The Eighteenth Day of May
Scala, London

John Cale There are moments during support act – and fast-rising Hannibal Records signees – the Eighteenth Day of May’s set when you could swear that you have just been teleported back to 1967 for a vintage performance by Fairport Convention. Alison Brice’s pure vocal tone and getting-it-together-in-the-country garb have the air of the much-missed Sandy Denny, while guitarist Ben Phillipson is more than adept at essaying some tasty, Richard Thompson-esque lead. Somehow, though, their innate charm and strong songs prevent them from ever veering towards parody – something that could also be said of tonight’s more veteran headliner. Robyn’s Beatles/Barrett/Byrds ‘axis of influences’ has rarely been more apparent than in his current link up with the Minus 5, essentially a hobby band for supergroup escapees, including REM’s Peter Buck and Ministry man Bill Rieflin. Guitars reliably jingle and, indeed, jangle throughout, although rather more murkily than might be desired thanks to the patchy sound. But while Hitchcock’s stage patter is sometimes more entertaining than the actual songs, there are a handful of transcendent moments – particularly ‘Beautiful Queen’, pitched delightfully between blissed-out stoner anthem and sincere declaration of love.
David Davies

John Cale
Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

John Cale“I guess I won, then,” announces John Cale to the small crowd that has made it to the front against the wishes of the venue’s fastidious security contingent. Manning more traditional QEH fare – a Schubert piano recital, say – presumably requires less in the way of heavy action, but you can’t help feeling they’re being a little over-zealous with an audience that’s generally on the portly side of forty. The entirely seated QEH is, in any case, the wrong venue for a gig that finds Cale in his fiercest electric form since the legendary Sabotage tour of the late ‘70s. Back then he was feeding off a small pharmacy of enliveners; now, nearly twenty years clean and well over 60, he is in total command of his extraordinary back catalogue. Accompanied by three superb, New York-based musicians, Cale zeroes in on his ‘vitriol years’ – the phase in the mid ‘70s when, in an unerringly accurate premonition of punk, he married loud guitars with angry evocations of a personal and public life in freefall. In 2005 these songs have never sounded better, and to hear the likes of ‘Guts’ and ‘Helen of Troy’ revived with such force and precision is genuinely thrilling. More recent material is made over in a similar style, so ‘Dancing Undercover’ – a bucolic, violin-tinged number on 1996’s Walking On Locusts – realises its true destiny, becoming a freeway cruising rocker, the highlights from guitar-led new album blackAcetate: – ‘Sold-Motel’ and ‘Perfect’ – blending in seamlessly. A sole Velvets tune, ‘Venus In Furs’, retains its unearthly sheen, while ‘Ship of Fools’ and ‘Set Me Free’ provide gorgeous acoustic respite. But in the main this is Cale reclaiming his alt-rock crown with considerable style. May he return soon – preferably to a venue where we are allowed to stand up.
David Davies

Show Of Hands
The Redoubt, Eastbourne

Tonight’s appearance by Show Of Hands at the Redoubt in Eastbourne (sea defences in days gone by and now a military museum, when not hosting open air shows), is an altogether welcome step along this part of the south coast replacing big band renditions of Land Of Hope & Glory with an altogether less jingoistic trawl through England’s past. Being totally unfamiliar with the SOH back catalogue (something I certainly intend to remedy), the only flashes of immediate recognition are for the odd Dylan or Band cover version but, beyond the instrumental prowess and fine singing voices of both Steve Knightley and Phil Beer, it is the lyrical invention of the original material on offer that remains long after the shows end. To quote a line – albeit totally out of context - from the Band song Arcadian Driftwood (delivered in fine old style tonight by Beer in his solo slot) there’s ‘too much repetition’ drowning the art of lyric writing nowadays, so where a few spare lines of verse and then a minimally populated chorus repeated ad-nauseam often suffice, tonight’s two sets are populated with long-form story-telling; angry, sad, life-affirming and glorious songs, songs that have something to say and say it well. Even a light shower does little to dampen spirits, especially when both men exhibit an unheard of solidarity with their slightly damp audience by leaving the (dry) stage and join us to perform acoustically in the drizzle. Tonight Show Of Hands made a lot of new friends, why not check 'em out and make their acquaintance.
Andy Basire

Todd Rundgren/Joe Jackson/Ethel
Colston Hall, Bristol

Like the bus service many of the faithful rode into town this evening you wait ten years for a Todd Rundgren concert to come along and then lo and behold the bugger turns up twice in very short order (OK, you seldom wait ten years for a bus down here in the west country but on occasion it can seem like it). Unlike last years Liar tour though this visit is in mixed company, a seemingly ill-conceived double header with Joe Jackson and a left field string quartet thrown in for good measure. That it works so well is due in no small part to everyone here being so damn good at what they do, Ethel proving that string quartets aren’t the sole preserve of tea rooms with middle eastern and blues influences punctuating the classical overtones, Joe Jackson rattling out early après-punk classics like Is She Really Going Out With Him through less frenetic hits like Steppin’ Out and beyond and bill topper Rundgren chopping between acoustic guitar, piano and ukulele for a stripped down set which negotiated broken strings (two), idiot hecklers (one) and Rundgren classics (numerous). Even the, generally inadvisable ‘everyone onstage for the finale’ gatherings worked well – especially Jackson’s Got The Time and Rundgren’s Stood Up – leaving the audience heading home happy, and hoping the bus, like a revisit by any of tonight’s acts, wouldn’t be too long in coming.
Kris Tomas

UK/US Folk Connections
Royal Festival Hall, London

“This,” announces Roy Harper towards the end of another Meltdown spectacular, “would take literally millions of pounds to stage again.” Well, perhaps millions might be stretching things a little, but you take his point.Over a long evening, Meltdown 2005 curator Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye, Johnny Marr, Robyn Hitchcock, Bert Jansch, Gruff ‘Super Furries’ Rhys, the aforementioned ‘Hats Off’ and a dozen others take to the stage in endless different permutations to prove just how resilient and versatile folk music really is. It’s difficult to pick a few highlights from an evening rich in never-less-than-intriguing performances, but Lenny Kaye’s solo disinterring of Barbara Allen and the pairing of Robyn Hitchcock and John Paul Jones on The Speed of Things would have to be among them. Johnny Marr acquits himself admirably on a Healers-assisted version of Please Please Let Me Get What I Want, while few hardened folk-watchers will have been unmoved by Bert Jansch’s cover of great lost talent Jackson C. Frank’s Blues Run the Game. It falls to Roy Harper to close the show with a set that encompasses rare ‘60s gems and a nicely brutal assault on‘One Man Rock‘n’Roll Band. Four hours and not a single dud performance – who could ask for more?
David Davies

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