Tag Archives: London

Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam at Union Chapel, London 3/3/17

I must confess that my introduction to the music of seminal psychedelic-tinged band Traffic was via the cover of Hole In My Shoe by Neil out of The Young Ones (Nigel Planer) in 1984. The end of the sixties was then only 15 years previously but, culturally, it seemed like a million years away. While everyone in my year at sixth form found Hole In My Shoe utterly hilarious, it did tempt me into finding out more about the original and taping a copy of a ‘Best of Traffic’ compilation LP that I borrowed from Preston Record Library.  On the album I found not only the original, still very quirky, Hole In My Shoe but a load of other treasures: Dear Mr Fantasy, Medicated Goo, 40,000 Headmen and more.

Traffic split in 1975 and Dave Mason had already left several years before. However, having enjoyed seeing Traffic’s Steve Winwood in 2013 I jumped at the chance to see Mason when his Traffic Jam tour-dates were announced – his first UK tour since the seventies he tells us tonight.

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It’s the aforementioned Mr Winwood who is most closely associated with Traffic’s legacy in Britain these days, so it’s really welcome to see Dave Mason publicly celebrating the part he played in this iconic band. The first part of the set focuses on the Traffic era, including 40,000 Headmen, Medicated Goo, Dear Mr Fantasy and Feelin’ Alright. After a short break the second half of the show focuses on both Mason’s post-Traffic career but also his influences that inspired him to get into the music in the first place, with a pounding, soaring tribute to Hank Marvin in the shape of a cover of The Shadows’ Apache. Another tribute was to Jimi Hendrix, with a stunning version of All Along The Watchtower (the Dylan song that Hendrix made his own and which Mason played acoustic guitar on.)

Mason’s voice is in fine form and he gives us some outstanding lead guitar throughout the set but special praise should also go to his keyboard player, Tony Patler, who provides some perfectly evocative Hammond tonight, as well as some really rich, bluesy vocals. My only minor complaint was about the impact of the building’s acoustics. Union Chapel can be a wonderfully iconic venue but, sitting near the back, I did find the echo of the drums a bit clattery and overwhelming in this cavernous Victorian chapel at times. However, having purchased his current ‘Traffic Jam’ album, recorded live at the New York City Winery (which Mason later signed for me) I am pleased to report a much superior sound mix and can really enjoy the contributions of all four musicians.

And what of Hole In My Shoe, Mason’s quirky sitar-based hit that led me to discovering Traffic in the first place? He hasn’t played it in years and hasn’t touched a sitar in years either, mainly because he would struggle to get down on the floor to play it these days he tells us…

Sitar or no sitar, it was a great performance tonight and it’s good to see Dave Mason rightfully staking his claim in the Traffic legacy in his home country once again.

Setlist:

40,000 Headmen (Traffic)
Pearly Queen (Traffic)
Medicated Goo (Traffic)
The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (Traffic)
Rock and Roll Stew (Traffic)
Dear Mr. Fantasy (Traffic)
Feelin’ Alright (Traffic)

< INTERVAL >

World in Changes (from ‘Alone Together’)
We Just Disagree (from ‘Let It Flow’)
Look at You Look at Me (from ‘Alone Together’)
Apache (Shadows cover)
Good 2 U (from ’26 Letters 12 Notes’)
Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave (from ‘Alone Together’)
All Along the Watchtower (Jimi Hendrix/Bob Dylan cover)
Only You Know and I Know (from ‘Alone Together’)

http://www.davemasonmusic.com/home

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Daria Kulesh at Cecil Sharp House 23/2/17 (Album launch: ‘Long Lost Home’)

Folk singer Daria Kulesh, Russian-born but British-based, has not chosen an easy subject matter for her newly-released solo album Long Lost Home, which is being formally launched at Cecil Sharp House tonight. But it’s an absolutely fascinating one and, as we find throughout the performance of all twelve songs from the album tonight, it is also a deeply moving one.

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Long Lost Home tells the story of Ingushetia (or the Ingush Republic). It is now a republic within the Russian Federation, bordering Chechnya, but it’s one with a dark and tragic history. On 23 February 1944 (exactly 73 years ago from tonight’s performance) Ingush civilians were falsely accused of collaborating with the Nazis and the entire population were either deported or shot under the orders of Stalin. Ingushetia was the lost homeland of Kurlesh’s maternal grandmother. And it was through her grandmother that Kulesh was to learn so much of her ancestral home and the tragedies within it but also the everyday lives and loves of some of her ancestors, a number of whom are brought movingly to life once more in Kulesh’s songs.

Possessing a beautiful clear voice that is both powerful and pure, Kulesh is immediately able to connect emotionally with her audience as the lives of the characters in her songs unfold. Musically, she’s supported by a fine cast of musicians, both on the album and on stage. Kulesh herself plays the shruti box (Indian drone instrument) but we also have a rich tapestry of sounds from traditional Russian/Kulesh stringed instruments through to the dulcimer and the double bass and even, for one song, the Scottish bagpipes.

Yes, much of the subject matter has a darkness to it. However, as Kulesh herself emphasises there’s also a spirit of hope and humanity and kindness to these songs. The last song of the album Only Begun ends on a very optimistic note. It’s not quite the end though. Kulesh and her colleagues are called back on stage for an encore. As an added bonus, Timur Dzeytov, a traditional Ingush musician who accompanies Kulesh on the album and here tonight, also plays a couple of Ingush dance numbers, complete with some impromptu Ingush dancing, to round off the launch of Long Lost Home.

Daria Kulesh can be proud of what she’s achieved here, both through her very unique contribution to the UK folk scene and through this perfectly fitting and timely celebration of Ingush culture and history.

http://www.daria-kulesh.co.uk/

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Black Sabbath at the O2 31/1/17

How do you end the most iconic heavy metal band of all time?

At one point, a couple of decades after their 70s heyday, it looked liked it might be with a constantly changing cast of replacement musicians, declining album sales, less than enthusiastic ticket sales and something of a whimper rather than a bang. But, following an initial reunion in the late 90s, a mega-successful album with ‘13’ and a hugely successful world tour which reunited three of the original four members in 2013/4, fans hoped that there would at least be one more opportunity to say a final farewell, even in spite of a hugely worrying lymphoma diagnosis for Tony Iommi.

So here we have it: The End – Black Sabbath’s final farewell tour which reaches it’s ultimate conclusion with a couple of dates at London’s O2 and two final concerts in the band’s home city of Birmingham. And it’s every bit as magnificent, spellbinding and heavy as Black Sabbath should be. From the familiar doom-laden chords of the opening ‘Black Sabbath’ to the unforgettable riff of ‘Paranoid’ for the encore, every single minute of this concert was special. Geezer Butler delivers those unmistakable bass-lines, Tony Iommi delivers that unmistakable crunching guitar and Ozzy Osbourne delivers those unmistakable wailing vocals – the essential and unchangeable ingredients that make Black Sabbath what it is. Yes, it’s a shame that Bill Ward is not here to participate in this final tour but drummer, Tony Clufetos, does an absolutely outstanding job with immense energy. I doubt, really, whether anyone could have done it better.

Ozzy, as always, is a fascinating character. Between songs he shuffles around the stage like the mumbling, slightly bewildered figure TV viewers came to love so much. But the second a song starts he is instantly transformed into the wailing, demonic rock god that fans of the ultimate heavy metal band have always known.

My first ever live experience of Black Sabbath was with Bev Bevan out of ELO on drums and Ian Gillan out of Deep Purple on vocals, encoring with Smoke On The Water (?!) How fitting that what is likely to be my last has Tony, Geezer and Ozzy performing Sabbath exactly the way it should be performed. It was an absolutely magnificent performance, stunning setlist and suitably evocative special effects. The atmosphere at the O2, which can be a bit lacking at times however good a band is, was absolutely electric from start to finish.

Whatever happens now this band has made it’s mark on rock music a billion times over and their contribution will not be forgotten. Thank you Black Sabbath.

Setlist:
Black Sabbath
Fairies Wear Boots
Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes
After Forever
Into the Void
Snowblind
War Pigs
Behind the Wall of Sleep
N.I.B.
Hand of Doom
Rat Salad
Iron Man
Dirty Women
Children of the Grave
Paranoid

http://www.blacksabbath.com/

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Previous review:

Black Sabbath at Hyde Park

Introducing: Josiah Mortimer – folk/acoustic singer-songwriter

While I mainly write about established artists on here I do like to focus on some less well-known emerging talent from time to time. One such artist I catch up with is singer-songwriter Josiah Mortimer playing a support slot in The Monarch in Camden for Southampton-based rising star, Seán McGowan.

Mortimer is first on the bill tonight but pretty soon he has the audience on side with a good selection of songs which combine angry social commentary with sensitive and empathetic delivery and some nice acoustic guitar-playing.

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He’s a talented songwriter but throws in a couple of well-chosen covers, too. Clearly, this is a young man who has been on many, many demos and so the choice of ‘We Shall Overcome’ may not be a huge surprise but his gently defiant delivery gives it a freshness and a potency that makes it more than just another obvious staple from the protest anthem songbook.

Another cover is far more of a surprise. I’ve long been familiar with the lefty, pro-environmental credentials of ‘Jerusalem’ ever since our school history teacher, Mr Holden, told us the back-story to it some time in the early 80s. Mortimer, too, is also well aware of the song’s provenance and, keen to “rescue it from the Tories”, he’s transformed Blake’s words from stirring, patriotic hymn to thoughtful, reflective ballad.

The song that really gets the audience joining in loudly and enthusiastically tonight, though, is one of Mortimer’s own. Written just last month ‘Letter To America’ is a musical riposte to Donald Trump’s election victory. The sing-along chorus “build a wall, build a wall, around the White House” is a sentiment the audience don’t need much encouragement to sign up to.

Mortimer tells me he’s been writing songs since he was 13 and that they “started getting pretty good” by the time he began performing in public at 16. He has recorded three EPs and successfully crowdfunded his first professional release Luddite Ballads in 2015.

Beginning his musical career in Cornwall originally, he’s now based in London. Working full-time for a major national pressure group, heaps of political activism on top and a part-time journalism course to fit in as well, you may wonder how he finds the time to write, record and gig. But somehow he does and his Soundcloud page reveals an impressive selection of songs. If you want to hear some biting political commentary from an intelligent and eloquent singer-songwriter then Josiah Mortimer is well worth checking out.

Josiah Mortimer was playing the Monarch in Camden on 13/12/16

Listen to more of his songs on Soundcloud here

And you can visit his Facebook page here

Review: The Hendrix Flat at 23 Brook Street, London

One of the things that has long frustrated me about London is how little effort it puts into celebrating it’s rock ‘n’ roll heritage (certainly compared to Liverpool). This is in spite of London being (after Memphis the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll) probably the most important city on the entire planet in terms of rock history when one considers the number of globally influential bands who either formed in this city, built their reputation in this city or recorded in this city.

Hopefully, things are starting to change and that’s why, I was delighted to see Jimi Hendrix’s flat at 23 Brook Street, where he lived between July 1968 and March 1969, being restored and opened to the public this year.

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By a quirk of fate it’s right next door to the home of George Frideric Handel who live here between 1723 and 1759 . Fr years the old Hendrix flat had just been used as a storage annexe but now both homes are open to the public as part of a single visitor attraction.

The first part of the tour is the Handel house. It was interesting to find out more about the man, his music and his home.

I confess to not knowing a huge amount about Handel, prior to this visit. In fact, this quote from Hendrix in the later part of the exhibition sums it up nicely for me:

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The second part of the tour starts with an exhibition, devoted to Hendrix, on the third floor of number 25 which includes his acoustic guitar, stage-wear and other displays. It was really fascinating to learn more about his early career in the segregation-era US, prior to being discovered and brought to London for his big breakthrough by manager Chas Chandler (who would go on to manage some more heroes of mine: Slade).

After the initial exhibition you then walk through into number 23 and enter the Hendrix flat itself. In the modest sized flat the largest room which was Hendrix’s living room-cum bedroom has been lovingly restored with exact replicas of furniture, soft furnishings and a whole bundle of belongings he had in the flat at the time, including all the records Hendrix had in his collection there.

The website for the house gives some useful background:

The flat on the upper floors of 23 Brook Street was found by Jimi’s girlfriend Kathy Etchingham from an advert in one of the London evening newspapers in June 1968 while he was in New York. He moved in briefly in July before returning to the United States for an extensive tour. He spent some time decorating the flat to his own taste, including purchasing curtains and cushions from the nearby John Lewis department store, as well as ornaments and knickknacks from Portobello Road market and elsewhere. He told Kathy that this was ‘my first real home of my own’.

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It really felt like walking straight into a slice of late 60s life and because so many photos exist of Hendrix in that flat, they have been able to do an amazing job on recreating it exactly as it was. It was a weekday and wasn’t hugely busy when I visited and the experience was made all the more fascinating by a lovely and amazingly helpful and informative guide. She was one of those rare people who seem to confound the old saying about the 60s by both remembering them (in great detail) and being there. She had loads of information to share, both on the recent challenge of restoring the flat and of Hendrix’s day to day life in it back in the late 60s, not to mention talking me through his life on the road and his many musical influences as we knelt on the floor and flipped through his recreated record collection together: Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, lots of old American blues recordings and many more.

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For anyone interested in rock history who wants to get that bit closer to the life of Mr James Marshall Hendrix then the Hendrix flat is a must-see on any visit to London.

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Visit the Handel and Hendrix House website here

Ian Hunter at Shepherd’s Bush Empire 11/11/16

77 and still putting out great albums, I’ve been eagerly anticipating each new Ian Hunter release for around three decades now. Fingers Crossed, Ian’s latest album with his superb Rant Band came out in September and it’s great to be seeing Hunter performing songs from that album live so soon afterwards.

A raunchy, rocky ‘That’s When The Trouble Starts’, opens the set, also the opening track on the new album. Over the next couple of hours we get several of the other new ones, too, including the lovely new piano ballad ‘Fingers Crossed’ and ‘Ghosts’ which is Hunter’s reflection on a visit to Sun Studio. Having, visited there myself earlier this year I completely relate to the evocative magic conjured up by the lyrics “All the wonders of the word assembled here to jam..”

‘Dandy’ is Hunter’s tribute to David Bowie, the man who was so alarmed to hear that Mott The Hoople was on the verge of splitting up after being a constant live draw but failing to shift many records, he offered to give them a hit, gifted them ‘All The Young Dudes’ and the rest is history. An affectionate, melancholic, Bowie-esque singalong it name-checks various Bowie songs: “Dandy – you’re the prettiest star. There ain’t no life on Mars. But we always thought there might be…”

Other songs from his more recent career also make there way into the set. ‘When I’m President’, his caustic take on US politics seemed particularly apt tonight as we all still try to comprehend the future in the light of this week’s presidential election results.

In his solo career Hunter has never been one simply to rest on past glories and has always sought to introduce new material into his set. But at the same time, however, it wouldn’t be an Ian Hunter concert without a selection of vintage classics interspersed with the newer material. From the Ian Hunter solo back catalogue ‘Once Bitten Twice Shy’, ‘Cleveland Rocks’ and ‘All American Alien Boy’ each made an appearance, while from the Mott The Hoople archive we got storming versions of ‘Honaloochie Boogie’, ‘All The Way From Memphis’ and ‘All The Young Dudes’.

The Rant Band are on great form, as ever. Ian Hunter continues to be both a great rock and roll performer, as ever, and a thought-provoking singer-songwriter, as ever. Let’s hope there’s a good few more tours in him yet.

http://ianhunter.com/main/

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Related reviews:
Ian Hunter at Minehead 2016
Ian Hunter at Shepherds Bush Empire 2014

Saxon / Fastway / Girlschool at Shepherd’s Bush Empire 5/11/16

So it’s another trip to London and another trip to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire for New Wave Of British Heavy Metal veterans Saxon, who are currently headlining a tour that also includes includes Fastway and Girlschool.

Girlschool are first up and deliver a great opening set. Even those unfamiliar with pretty much anything the band have put out since the 80s would find lots to like here. I always thought Girlschool’s brand of heavy metal worked best for them when they channelled their inner glam-pop sensibilities (something they always acknowledged was a key influence) and delivered songs that were loud, hard and heavy but laden with unmissable hooks, catchy choruses and memorable riffs. And for much of the set that’s exactly what we get: old favourites like Demolition Boys, Hit and Run, Emergency and (Gun cover) the fantastic Race With The Devil. Fitting very much into that template, too, is new song Come The Revolution, from their latest album: 2015’s Guilty as Sin.

Even thirty-odd years after Girlschool formed all-female rock bands are few and far between but well done the women of Girlschool for keeping the flag flying all these years and for doing it so brilliantly in 2016. A definite thumbs up from me.

Girlschool setlist
Demolition Boys
Hit and Run
Come the Revolution
Take It Like a Band
Future Flash
Watch Your Step
Race with the Devil
Emergency

http://www.girlschool.co.uk/

When Fastway was launched in 1983 a heavy rock supergroup was in the offing, featuring former members of Motörhead, UFO, and Humble Pie. Pete Way of UFO left before they even made their first album and, incredible a guitarist though ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke undoubtedly is, the band never really stayed on my musical radar. But at least that allowed me to approach their set tonight with a completely open mind. And my verdict: probably among the most talented performers of all three bands this evening. Eddie Clarke is an awesome guitarist, in particular, and Toby Jepsom (lead singer since 2007) has a great voice and a charismatic stage presence. And all the musicians had a good musical vibe and worked well on stage together. But… and this is a big but … compared to the other two bands this evening with their fistfuls of songs that are always imprinted on your brain and you can sing in the shower, this lot simply don’t reach that bar. In spite of some superb musicianship and a great stage presence having a great set of songs is, for me, a crucial component in distinguishing a good rock band from a truly exceptional one. However, Eddie Clarke’s greatest moment of the night is yet to come.

Fastway setlist:
Misunderstood
All Fired Up
Another Day
Deliver Me
Telephone
Heft!
Feel Me, Touch Me (Do Anything You Want)
Easy Livin’

http://www.fastwayofficial.com/site/

By the time Saxon come on at around 9pm every last square inch of floorspace in the Shepherds Bush Empire is completely rammed. I like being part of a sell-out audience in a packed venue but this bordered on being too close for comfort. Perhaps it’s a welcome sign that Saxon need to start booking bigger venues for their next tour.

Now Saxon have had their ups and downs over the years. After the initial wave of early 80s success, they never managed to attain the dizzy stadium-filling heights of their contemporaries like Iron Maiden (though personally I think Saxon are by far the superior band). Saxon risked being derided as heavy metal has-beens and written off as a bit of a joke. A much publicised documentary in 2007 saw them at constant loggerheads with Harvey Goldsmith as he took up the challenge to help restore the band’s popularity. But whether the band took on board any of Goldsmith’s advice or not it inevitably lead them to reflect on their music and their career. There’s been a significant change around in fortunes since and their bloody-minded determination to carry on serving their old fans as well as looking to gain a next generation of new ones has seen them through.

The album currently being toured Battering Ram stands up well against any of their early classics and it’s great to hear the album’s title track open the set. The album has been played and played on my stereo and so songs like The Devil’s Footprint and Queen of Hearts have become familiar old friends to me now and sit well in the set alongside earlier material. The last third of the set, however, is a non-stop run-through of those early Saxon classics: And The Bands Played On, Dallas 1PM, Wheels of Steel . It’s briefly broken for one of those ‘need-to-be-there’ moments when Eddie Clarke returns to the stage for a cover of his old band’s Ace of Spades as Saxon’s very special tribute to Lemmy Kilmister. Then it’s on with more timeless classics: 747 (Strangers in the Night), Denim and Leather and Princess of the Night.

Saxon in 2016 deliver the old material as good as they ever did, produce truly stunning new material and perform with a confidence and authority as befits one of British rock’s truly great bands. Just book a bigger venue next time, Biff!

Saxon setlist:
Battering Ram
Let Me Feel Your Power
Sacrifice
Solid Ball of Rock
Never Surrender
Crusader
Stand Up and Be Counted
The Devil’s Footprint
Strong Arm of the Law
Killing Ground
The Eagle Has Landed
Queen of Hearts
And the Bands Played On
Dallas 1 PM
Wheels of Steel
Ace of Spades (with Eddie Clarke)
747 (Strangers in the Night)
Denim and Leather
Princess of the Night

http://www.saxon747.com/

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Related review:
Saxon – album review: Battering Ram

AC/DC at The Olympic Stadium, London 4/6/16

After successfully purchasing two tickets for this AC/DC gig the minute they went on sale last December I was gutted to later learn that a number of dates were being pulled because of Brian Johnson’s hearing problems, but also mystified to read in the announcement that they hoped to resume the tour “likely with a guest vocalist.” Just how was that going to work out?

A huge amount of controversy ensued about the way Brian Johnson had been treated, about whether the band was right to carry on and if (in the light of also losing founder, Malcolm Young, and drummer, Phil Rudd) the dignified thing was to call it a day once and for all and put the AC/DC name to rest. The subsequent rumours and then confirmation that it was to be Axl Rose replacing Johnson for the remainder of this tour merely stoked the controversy even further.

And now, as I’m standing in the Olympic Stadium watching the Axl Rose-fronted AC/DC, I’m reminded of something that my dad said to me at the time of Bon Scott’s death when I was just 13: “They might find another singer but no-one is ever going to sound as dirty as Bon Scott.” That’s not to berate Brian Johnson, who was a hugely powerful vocalist who delivered some brilliant rock anthems and who embodied the spirit of AC/DC for well over three decades. But he had a different style of vocal delivery to his predecessor and as I’m listening to Axl Rose belting out the likes of Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and High Voltage I can’t help feeling he’s absolutely nailing those old Bon Scott tunes and bringing back some of that elusive “dirtiness” that my dad was always looking for. Perhaps, especially given I’d seen a brilliant AC/DC set at Wembley Stadium last year with Brian Johnson still at the helm, I’d probably have liked a few more Scott era classics in the set-list but that’s a minor quibble. Rose handles both the Scott and Johnson material with aplomb.

Musically, the band are as together as ever: blinding solos from Angus Young, crunching rhythm from Stevie Young (Malcolm’s successor), ever reliable bass-lines from Cliff Williams and powerhouse drumming from Chris Slade. The effects are all present and correct, too: the over the top lighting show, the crazy video shorts, the clanging bell, the firing cannons…

I’m genuinely pleased that I approached this gig in a spirit of optimism and open-mindedness. Axl Rose would certainly never have been my immediate thought for a replacement frontman for AC/DC. But he and the rest of the band gave us a night to remember. A credible band with a credible lead singer delivering a truly astonishing show. Long live AC/DC.

Setlist:
Rock or Bust
Shoot to Thrill
Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be
Back in Black
Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Rock ‘n’ Roll Damnation
Thunderstruck
High Voltage
Rock ‘n’ Roll Train
Hells Bells
Given the Dog a Bone
If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)
Sin City
You Shook Me All Night Long
Shot Down in Flames
Have a Drink on Me
T.N.T.
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock
Highway to Hell
Riff Raff
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

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http://www.acdc.com/

Previous review: AC/DC at Wembley

Brian Wilson at The London Palladium 20/5/16

The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds remains one of the most iconic records of all time and demonstrated just how far the rock’n’roll sounds of the early 60s beat era groups could evolve in such a short space of time. It celebrates it’s 50th anniversary since its release this month so what better way to celebrate my own 50th birthday than going to to see Brian Wilson perform Pet Sounds in full.

The first half of the show sees Wilson, his touring band and special guests run through a whole slew of Beach Boys classics: Heroes and Villains, California Girls, I Get Around, Surfer Girl, Wild Honey and many more. The sound is lush and full. Original Beach Boy, Al Jardine, demonstrates what amazing shape his voice is still in more than half a century after first appearing on Beach Boys records. Former Beach Boys touring guitarist, Blondie Chaplin, also provides some nifty lead guitar work.

The charismatic stage presence of some performers dominates every moment of their live show, regardless of who happens to be sharing the stage with them. For the introspective and softly spoken, Brian Wilson, however, you certainly don’t get that. Although billed as a solo tour it’s very much a band performance and he’s clearly happy to let a number of his colleagues share the limelight. But as he sits at his grand piano you do get a real sense of Wilson’s presence being the creative glue that holds the whole thing together.

After a short break the second set resumes with the band performing the whole of the Pet Sounds album in full. Pet Sounds contains some of the most memorable songs of the slower, more reflective side of the Beach Boys (as opposed to the “girls and cars” side): Wouldn’t It Be Nice, Sloop John B, I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times, Caroline No… The album is rightly celebrated for its lush soundscapes and its hugely ambitious range of instrumentation and musical textures. And I’m struck tonight by just how much love and attention has gone into replicating those sounds of fifty years ago here on stage tonight: the horns, the percussion, the glockenspiel.

For the encore Brian and the band return to the stage for a magnificent Good Vibrations, followed by an energetic and hugely enjoyable run-through of party hits like Help Me Rhonda, Barbara Ann and Surfin’ USA.

For that most American of musicians from that most American of bands, Britain has always had a soft spot Brian Wilson. Indeed, when Pet Sounds first came out it was much better received over here than in the States. And for all his natural awkwardness on stage it’s clear that Wilson does have a special love for performing to London audiences and that mutual love is on display, once again, tonight.

Setlist:

Our Prayer
Heroes and Villains
California Girls
Dance, Dance, Dance
I Get Around
Shut Down
Little Deuce Coupe
Little Honda
In My Room
Surfer Girl
Don’t Worry Baby
Wake the World
Add Some Music to Your Day
Do It Again
One Kind of Love
Wild Honey
Funky Pretty
Sail On, Sailor
Wouldn’t It Be Nice
You Still Believe in Me
That’s Not Me
Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder
I’m Waiting for the Day
Let’s Go Away for Awhile
Sloop John B
God Only Knows
I Know There’s an Answer
Here Today
I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times
Pet Sounds
Caroline, No
Good Vibrations
All Summer Long
Help Me, Rhonda
Barbara Ann
Surfin’ U.S.A.
Fun, Fun, Fun
Love and Mercy

http://www.brianwilson.com/

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Review: The Rolling Stones ‘Exhibitionism’ at The Saatchi Gallery

I’ve been to a few rock music archive exhibitions over the years and thought I knew the score. A room or two of old programmes, concert posters and record covers, a few old stage costumes here and there, perhaps a guitar or two and then you’re ushered into a room to watch an video that you could probably have found at home doing a quick search on Youtube.

With Exhibitionism, however, The Stones have set the bar extremely high and in the process of taking over The Saatchi Gallery have utterly rewritten the template for what a successful rock memorabilia exhibition should look like. At £24 per ticket it’s not exactly cheap but for any Stones fan, or indeed any follower of rock history, it represents excellent value for money. Room after room after room is laid out with absolutely fascinating archives that go way beyond the old “concert posters and record sleeves in glasses cases” approach. It’s beautifully themed and gives a fascinating insight into the life of one of the world’s most iconic rock n roll bands over the past five and a bit decades. There’s a recreation of the Edith Grove flat that Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones shared in the early days, gloriously capturing all the hideous squalor of sixties bedsit-land. There’s a recreation of the recording studio where they recorded some of their classics and there are huge and extensive displays of guitars and other instruments, meticulously archived original recording contracts and legal documentation and a fascinating display of stage costumes through the decades. I was struck by how pristine and smart the bands sixties suits still look compared to how bedraggled and tatty some of Mick Jagger’s nineties stage outfits now appear. Clearly, they don’t make em like they used to.

For me, however, one of the most poignant moments was walking into the room set out as an exact replica of the Stones backstage area: the admin, the technical gizmos, Mick Jagger’s make-up tent… For a minute it really felt like you had walked in on something very, very private that few get to see.

Allow at least ninety minutes to properly take in all of the exhibition. If you are so inclined you can then spend an exorbitant amount of money in the gift shop but I consoled myself with a £3.99 branded re-usable Exhibitionism shopping bag. A little souvenir of an exhibition that has set a new global standard in rock ‘n’ roll archives.

http://www.saatchigallery.com/current/rolling_stones.php

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