THE STRANGLERS | 14.03.2019 | Newcastle O2 Academy | REVIEW and PHOTOS

THE STRANGLERS | 14.03.2019 | Newcastle O2 Academy | REVIEW and PHOTOS

The Stranglers – 14th March 2019 – Newcastle O2 Academy

The Stranglers – 14th March 2019 – Newcastle O2 Academy

By Gordon Armstrong (G’s Gig Shots)

It’s been a week short of one year since they were last here but The Stranglers don’t rest on their laurels and are back with a new set to keep the fans bouncing. The stage is set up to resemble a kind of industrial warehouse with huge air con fans and oil drums and a neon sign on the backdrop displays No More Heroes, a phrase sadly becoming truer every week!

Jean Jacques Burnel as cool as ever has a huge smile on his face as he walks over to his bass and the band belt out Tank to get the night underway! It’s a set well mixed with old and new but such is the strength of the songs every one of them is a “banger” as the kids say these days 😉

Rattus Norvegicus is visited for the first of 5 times tonight with a blistering version of Get A Grip (On Yourself) but the set covers all eras not just living in the past. The band are heading into their fifth decade looking and sounding stronger than ever with newer songs like Man On The Moon, This Song and Water sitting perfectly with older favourites Duchess and that dirty bass led classic Peaches. It was great to hear Princess of the Street bringing the tempo down a bit with some fantastic guitar and keyboard work from Baz and Dave.

I’ve always felt Greenfield’s keyboard sound is an important part of the Stranglers identity rather than just background and Something Better Change is a perfect example of this. Of course, the hits are there (Golden Brown, Always The Sun, etc) but for me Hey (Rise Of The Robots) and Bring On The Nubiles were my particular highlights in this 24 song set.

I have friends who go to many of the gigs each tour and as Burnel punches the shit out of his bass before that ever familiar intro to No More Heroes I can see why and even as a casual fan I’m already thinking I can’t wait to see them again next time as they certainly show no signs of stopping and just get better every time.

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BROTHER ALI | 15.03.2019 | Newcastle Think Tank | PHOTOS

BROTHER ALI | 15.03.2019 | Newcastle Think Tank | PHOTOS

Brother Ali – 15th March 2019 – Newcastle Think Tank

By Gordon Armstrong (G’s Gig Shots)

I am in no way qualified to do a full in-depth review of this gig as I don’t think I could do it justice. But I will say it was one of the best hip-hop gigs I’ve been to in a long time. From Minneapolis, Brother Ali’s socially conscious lyrics strike a chord but he also spreads the word of peace and love. I personally got a distinct Michael Franti (Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and Spearhead) kind of vibe, which can never be a bad thing. I can only say if you like your hip hop go see Brother Ali.

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SLOW READERS CLUB | 09.03.2019 | Sunderland Independent | REVIEW and PHOTOS

SLOW READERS CLUB | 09.03.2019 | Sunderland Independent | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Slow Readers Club – 9th March 2019 – Sunderland Independent

Slow Readers Club – 9th March 2019 – Sunderland Independent

By Gav Wyatt (G.Wyatt photography)

I’ve never been to the Independent before so I didn’t quite know what to expect! This is a venue that has seen acts such as Kasabian, Glasvegas, The Zutons and The Maccabees play here so I was so surprised at how compact the room was.

I had arrived just as the support act were playing out their final tune and fought my way through a packed out crowd to as close to the front as possible, because it was so packed there was no access to the front of stage so taking photos was going to be challenging as I’m not the tallest of blokes, but I stayed in the crowd whilst the band completed their set up and enjoyed the crowd singing along in unison to The Smiths ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’ before the band coming onto the stage to Donna summers 12” version of ‘I Feel Love’ (one of my all time favourite tracks)

The band received an excellent welcome onto the stage from the crowd with chants of ‘Readers’ which was repeated at different intervals right through the set, Luckily I manage to get a spot to the side of the stage to get photos just after the opening track ‘Fool for your philosophy’

I’d never even heard of this band before tonight so I was amazed at how good they were, they have just gone full time and have spent many years perfecting their sound and performance and the crowd loved it, I could have quite easily closed my eyes and imagined myself deep in a crowd of thousands as the sun is setting on a summer day at a festival with the warm glow on the back of my neck and the crowd singing back anthemic tune after anthemic tune from the Readers.

Don’t get me wrong, the small venue and packed out crowd of the Independent played the perfect role on the night but I was staggered as to why I’m not watching them play in a bigger venue and I know they have played the odd big stage and festival, but if they keep doing what they are doing then I’m sure they will have invitations to appear on the festival scene flooding in.

Setlist

  • Fool For Your Philosophy
  • Lives Never Known
  • Lunatic
  • Cavalcade
  • Start Again
  • Lost Boys
  • Forever in your Debt
  • Sirens
  • Supernatural
  • You opened up my heart
  • Plant the Seed
  • The Wait
  • Block out the Sun
  • Feet on Fire
  • I saw a Hhost
  • On the T.V.

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NINE INCH NAILS  | 25 Years of The Downward Spiral | FEATURE

NINE INCH NAILS | 25 Years of The Downward Spiral | FEATURE

25 Years of The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails | Feature

Feature and photos by Jimmy Hutchinson

It starts with a brutal blow; then another, and another. 23 seconds in, everything explodes: ‘I am the voice inside your head (and I control you)’. Welcome to the world of The Downward Spiral.

Brian Eno described the experience of listening to Iggy Pop’s 1977 album The Idiot as ‘like having your head encased in concrete’. ‘Mr. Self Destruct’ borrows that approach and then builds a factory over the top. But it’s not all sonic chaos – there is a brief but dramatic shift in dynamics halfway through the song, and after four and a half minutes it collapses to pave the way for the comparatively melodic ‘Piggy’.

It’s the constantly changing moods and dynamics of this album that keep it entertaining – and still surprising – after 25 years. As aggressive as some pieces can be (‘Big Man with a Gun’), The Downward Spiral has plenty of quiet (‘A Warm Place’), fragile (‘Hurt’) and downright weird (‘March of the Pigs’) moments that make it a compelling experience.

Inspired by the emerging industrial scene, Trent Reznor founded Nine Inch Nails in Ohio in 1988, and later assembled a live band to tour debut album Pretty Hate Machine. Subsequent E.P. Broken marked a significant change in direction, intended to reflect the band’s live aggression (and also Reznor’s frustration with original label TVT). The band’s second full-length release is a concept album about ‘someone who sheds everything around them to a potential nothingness’, gradually abandoning their ‘career, religion, relationship, belief and so on’.

Musically, The Downward Spiral continues Broken’s use of layers of distorted guitars and synthesizers, but also features more traditional instruments such as acoustic guitar and piano, and heavy use of sampling and computer editing. As such, its principal ‘instrument’ is the recording studio, and there are plenty of unusual compositional touches.

As dense as the instrumentation and as manic as the time signatures on ‘March of the Pigs’, it abruptly dissolves into a gentle piano coda – twice. The programmed synths and beats of ‘Ruiner’ give way to wind sound effects and a raucous guitar solo from guest Adrian Belew. And infamous hit single ‘Closer’ is such a masterpiece of multitrack mixing that it’s almost easy to forget its ‘controversial’ chorus and promotional video.

Reznor’s wide palette of sounds is complemented by his varied approach to vocals: sometimes a hysterical scream, sometimes a barely audible whisper. The album is also incredibly well structured: each track segues into the next – at times jarringly, and at others with immense subtlety. It’s impossible to imagine the melancholic final notes of ‘A Warm Place’ (which borrows liberally from Bowie’s ‘Crystal Japan’) without the gradual intrusion of the hissing reeds that introduce ‘Eraser’.

Apple Music is currently describing the album as a ‘bold, no-look dive into the abyss’ – but for all its abrasive textures, The Downward Spiral is not short on melodies or hooks. ‘Piggy’ is driven by a walking bass that anchors the song, despite the occasional bursts of noise and an enjoyably chaotic drum solo (played by Reznor himself). ‘Hurt’ has gained fame outside of the album, but the cover versions usually remove its dissonant tritone – the most unique element of the song. The 14 album tracks were fertile enough ground for multiple remix releases, including the March of the Pigs and Closer to God singles, and two international variants of the Further Down the Spiral album.

The Downward Spiral was a colossal success, in an era when the mainstream was ‘salivating over melodramatic angst’. It sold nearly 119,000 copies in its first week, and ultimately over four million copies worldwide. The band stole the show at Woodstock ’94, covered head to foot in mud, and even won themselves a mention in the ‘Homperpalooza’ episode of The Simpsons. With success came pressure to tour and record a follow-up. It took Trent Reznor five years to release The Fragile – but that’s another story.

The ‘Definitive Edition’ of The Downward Spiral was released on 180-gram vinyl in 2016 (pictured). It includes an essay by John Doran. You can still order a copy on nin.com.

KT TUNSTALL | LAUREL | 11.03.2019 |  Gateshead Sage | REVIEW and PHOTOS

KT TUNSTALL | LAUREL | 11.03.2019 | Gateshead Sage | REVIEW and PHOTOS

KT Tunstall and Laurel – 11th March 2019 – Gateshead Sage

Review and photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

What I absolutely love about both the support act and headliner on this night is that there are no airs and graces but pure passion and appreciation of being able to do what they do for an audience that has gathered, who are also just as appreciative of what they see before them. With each drop of the ‘f-bomb’ it is done so with so much love.

Laurel is starting to make a name for herself and has been touring the more intimate venues for a few years. She admits that she is a huge fan of headliner KT Tunstall and is thriving on every moment given to her. The last three times I have seen her the crowds have been somewhat rowdier but the Sage crowd is quite a contrast that the first ‘f-bomb’ of the night is dropped as she is amazed by the attentiveness. The only time it gets really loud is when she and her band shout the ‘yeah’ bit in Lovesick.

Laurel has an instant connection with the crowd that when she introduces South Coast someone asks where she is from. Jokingly her instant reply is ‘the south coast,’ but then she says Plymouth and the crowd cheer which is some feat as this gig is in the North East. The volume is tripled as she introduces the last song Adored as the audience want her to stay a longer. Showing their appreciation at the interval there is a never ending queue for her at the merch stand.

KT Tunstall – 11th March 2019 – Gateshead Sage

A booming ‘Hey Micky’ comes as the room darkens then appears the lady of the night KT Tunstall and with a quick hello the members of her band join her to open with the song that is wrote on her white guitar, Uummannaq Song. She narrates that we are in a Sage shaped space ship travelling to the furthest side of the world before starting ‘Other Side Of The World.’ Tunstall is quite clever like this and we get these soundbites throughout the night that lead into her songs. There is also a personal connection in that she talks of the rivers of “Gateshead and surrounding areas” reminding her of home as well as those “clear blue skies then stepping out and it’s like fuuuccckkk!” She maybe LA based now, but she still talks like a true Scot.

There is so much energy in the air and true or not the band slip off twice for their ‘beer break’ and Tunstall is on the stage alone, just her with a guitar, a loop pedal and a tambourine then later a harmonica. She says most people probably spent their hard on cash to see her because of the song that has now become a ‘karaoke classic’ that she couldn’t be more proud of as she can now buy a few rounds of drink. The way she plays Black Horse And The Cherry Tree is one of those special moments where it feel like it is just you and her in the room even when the room is clapping along leading into the band coming back and a mash-up huge loud mash up with the classic hit Black Betty is played.

Although Tunstall has a stellar back catalogue we also get some from her latest release Wax with Little Red Thread being a personal favourite on the night visually. We get back-to-back of The Night That Bowie Died, Dark Side Of Me and The Mountain as she asks for us all to just get lost in the music. Besides the claps in between each song the room obliges and is still as we let her do her thing. What a moment. But being KT Tunstall we go out on a with the heavy rockier song ‘The Healer’ before she is off and the crowd call for her back.

The crowd is rewarded with ‘Invisible Empire’ and a rendition of Tom Petty’s ‘Won’t Back Down,’ which makes the room still and silent once again and it is such a beautiful moment. I could watch and listen to Tunstall perform this way all night but her vibrant soul is also something to be witnessed and it probably couldn’t be more fitting that the night ends with ‘Suddenly I See’ and those that were sitting before that were invited to stand earlier in the night were right up on their feet with everybody else in the room. If only Sage had room for those big streamers this was the moment for them as the band leave the stage and Tunstall runs and hand slaps those at the front with a big shout of “we totally love ya.” That feeling is echoed back to her as the venue empties.

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SLEAFORD MODS | 01.03.2019 | Newcastle Boiler Shop | REVIEW and PHOTOS

SLEAFORD MODS | 01.03.2019 | Newcastle Boiler Shop | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Sleaford Mods – 1st March 2019 – Newcastle Boiler Shop

Sleaford Mods - 1st March 2019 - Newcastle Boiler Shop
Sleaford Mods – 1st March 2019 – Newcastle Boiler Shop

Review by Donna Wyatt. Photos by Gav Wyatt (G.Wyatt photography)

We are standing in a packed, sold out Boiler Shop waiting for what is likely our top played current band in our household, the Sleaford Mods. Supported by LIINES, we had only managed to catch the last couple of songs due to having to trek back to our car to dispose of my backpack that was not allowed into the venue due to a recent policy change, but what we did hear was rocking, bassy and full of energy leaving us wishing a bag hadn’t caused such a controversy. So heads up if you are Boiler Shop bound!

I had been introduced to the Sleaford’s a few years earlier by a friend and I had been instantly hooked by the raw punk style fury and dripping sarcasm, spitting disaffected contempt and council estate life, corruptness and characters that I’d met on more than one occasion. This band blew me away with just how hooked into my generation they were, just how sick of all the shit and weary we are, voices sore from shouting. I instantly introduced them to the Mister knowing he was about to fall hard for this band, and I wasn’t disappointed as he ate the music alive. We had the pleasure of the front row at Beatherder festival 2017 where Sleafords headlined and watching the Mister dressed as Dorothy Gale dancing and singing with pure unadulterated joy to these lads will be one of my most enduring life memories. Fast forward 2 years and here we are again, front row poised and even headier having had the pleasure of popping along to the record signing and meeting Jason and Andrew earlier that day.

Sleaford Mods - 1st March 2019 - Newcastle Boiler Shop
Sleaford Mods – 1st March 2019 – Newcastle Boiler Shop

Andrew takes up his stance with the laptop and a beer, and spends the night looking like he’s having the time of his life, his stripped back beats that encapsulates hip hop, rave, electronica and pop but somehow weaves the same sarcastic humour as Jason’s lyrics with quirky notes and kazoo sprinkled into the mix, and you’ve gotta love anyone who gets a kazoo in there.

Jason is in full character as he belts out his performance with the skilled art of a poet. It would be easy to dismiss him as an angry post-punk performer but his clever play on words and sharp observations on the current state of affairs, his utter contempt and downright piss taking humour speaks to me more as a keen and talented writer who would be as likely to write a best seller as a top ten hit. His melodic voice goes from gentle and soulful up to furious screaming energy that can dissipate into silly humour dripping with searing sarcasm. At one point Jason proclaims how delighted and thankful they were that the album had reached number 9 in the charts, but I couldn’t help but laugh my tits off at just how much it sounded to my ears that this was a pure piss take and in reality they couldn’t give a damn toss about a number in a chart that means fuck all to our generation now.

To my utter delight when the set ended the guys exited stage left and were done. There was no encore and I liked that very much. Is there anything more wanky than jumping off stage and back on again for that one more song?

You may think Sleaford Mods are a bit marmite, but team Wyatt are big marmite fans!

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THE PINEAPPLE THIEF | Bruce Soord talks about 2019 UK tour and more | INTERVIEW

THE PINEAPPLE THIEF | Bruce Soord talks about 2019 UK tour and more | INTERVIEW

The Pineapple Thief – Interview

Graeme J. Baty had a quick chat with Bruce Soord about the 2019 UK tour ahead of their appearance at Newcastle O2 Academy on the 20th March 2019.

UK and European tour is imminent. What kind of setlist can we what can we expect? Mostly new material or will you explore the back catalogue too?

It’s mainly songs from our last two albums since Gavin Harrison joined on drums. But we’ve thrown in 4 or 5 old tunes too, which have been great fun to spruce up.

Latest album Dissolution came out last year. How’ve you found the reaction to it?

We are all really pleased! Although I’ve learned not to trawl the web to check out comments as it’s can really mess with your head and put a downer on your day.

It feels like a very densely layered album, I keep hearing new things with each play, which is amazing! Are the songs crafted in the studio or is it more organic?

Thanks. Come to think of it, the way we craft our songs is pretty organic even though there is a massive contradiction in how we go about it. We are all working remotely in our own studios, but we connect daily using the internet so it’s not as sterile as it sounds. Gavin and I work together closely in the early stages of songwriting. It’s basically like having a jam together in a sweaty rehearsal studio but without the pressure of coming up with something killer instantly. I am sure many bands will relate to the ‘30 minute jam in E’ syndrome when trying to write together on the spot.

2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the band, is this correct? Will there be any special event to celebrate? What has been the highlight of the 20 years?

It’s a bit weird because this all started as a very small solo project, and remained so for many years before things started to get going (including getting a band together to play live). I never focussed on ‘making it’, I was just obsessed with making music. Signing to Kscope in 2007 was a massive moment for us, as was Gavin Harrison coming on board in 2015 when we recorded ‘Your Wilderness’.  Gav has a lot of fans and a lot of them seemed to relate to what we were doing together.

Although the band has been going for some time the time feels perfect for The Pineapple Thief. Do you feel that you’re gaining a wider audience?

Absolutely – we can see it when we tour. More and more people are turning up. I was chatting with the guys about it the other day. How many bands do you know that finally break through after 12 albums and 20 years? We certainly played the long game.

There’s a very depressing political world in the UK at the moment and the material sounds stronger than ever. Dissolution seems to have evolved in this in this environment. To me, it feels like there’s a lot of escapism in the music and the lyrics. Is this something that influenced the record writing process?

Absolutely. Everything that has happened in the world over the past 2 years and how it has played out over social media and online blogs and news sites has been really disheartening. I am still hopeful we will look back on this era and realise it was a disaster but thank god we all saw sense eventually. It can’t carry on like this surely?

Gavin Harrison seems to have injected some creative magic has his input influenced the material and your own songwriting?

It’s great having someone like Gavin as a writing partner. He comes up with creative ideas I would never have considered, which is a songwriter’s dream (when you are all on the same page).  And having one of the best drummers in the world in your band is certainly a positive!

Any shows on the tour that you are really looking forward to?

Bristol is the last show of this run and it’s as close to a local show I am going to get for me.  There will be quite a few familiar faces in the audience. Come to think of it, that will freak me out. So maybe it’s the one dreading the most!

What got you started as a band? And what was the pivotal thing that got you into music?

When I was 13 or 14, I went to my mates house. His dad had a massive record collection. Mainly 70s rock and prog rock. We spent the day playing records on his fancy turntable. That got me absolutely hooked on music.

How would you describe your music to people? And how has the sound evolved over the years?

I just say ‘rock’. Over the years it’s become more defined and musically we’ve all got a lot better at our art. Apart from Gav maybe as he’s been at the top for a long time…

Name the first record you ever bought?

‘Eye of the Tiger’ 7 inch.

Name the album that you’ve played to death

‘Sea Change’ by Beck

Name the first gig you attended

I used to love going to local gigs in my hometown of Yeovil. It had a very vibrant scene in the 90s. I think my first ‘proper’ gig was INXS!

If you could be in any band, past or present who would it be?

Supertramp I reckon… Or maybe Duran Duran when they were superstars.

SIGRID | GEORGE EZRA | 07.03.2019 | Newcastle Arena | REVIEW

SIGRID | GEORGE EZRA | 07.03.2019 | Newcastle Arena | REVIEW

Sigrid and George Ezra – 7th March 2019 – Newcastle Utilita Arena

Review by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

Fresh off the release of her debut album and kicking off the arena tour for George Ezra, we really did get a SUCKER PUNCH on the opening night at Newcastle Arena with Sigrid.

With her band dressed in black, Scandi-Pop sensation Sigrid is plainly dressed in blue jeans and a white t-shirt but her performance was far from plain. With the majority of the SOLD OUT crowd already filling out the venue there is a loud roar as she greets them with a ‘what’s up?’ And into the title track of her debut album which just so happens to be released at midnight after this show She announces this third song into the set and the crowd erupt with just as much excitement as she goes into the Madonna like opening of Don’t Feel Like Crying. After this performance I’d be surprised if half if not more didn’t wait up til midnight to stream its release as they were bouncing in the floor area just as much as she was running from one end of the stage to the other and taking every opportunity to take to the little square platforms that are also on the stage too.

Her energy is infectious. She seems to wear a constant smile throughout her whole set and that is also infectious. Whether you were familiar with Sigrid before seeing her open for George Ezra or not, you cannot help but be put under her spell. Her tunes are catchy enough to have you bopping around which the crowd on the floor do and with an artist like Sigrid it is a great experience to be able to watch her enjoy every second performing for us.

She runs through a strong half-hour set which includes EP songs that have made the album such as Schedules and Don’t Kill My Vibe. Both these actually show there are quite a lot of Sigrid fans in attendance and they sure were getting value for money as although she was the support act of the night it felt like it could have been her own headline show. She rounds up her set in style as the whole seating audience is on their feet and most of them are singing along to her recent hit Strangers, which is electrifying.

George Ezra himself puts on a stunning show. There is a curtain hiding his staging as Sigrid performs but as showtime comes it drops to full on screams to reveal a ‘big room’ complete with huge windows, potted plants and even a gramophone player. I have always been impressed with Ezra’s voice but I have never really been set alight with his live performances from what I’ve seen on television but I was proved well and truly wrong with this opening night of his headline sell out arena tour. His storytelling between numbers is hilarious and he even gives us some dance moves. His backing band are just as pumped as he is and jump around as much as they could too. The brass section are a real talking point of the night and they also lend themselves to some stunning backing vocals. We are given songs from both his first album and his second album and landscapes of sunsets and sunrises and even a blood moon come through the ‘windows’ and we are event treated to a bit of a carnival feel.

So, if like myself you think, “that George Ezra, well he can sing like and has catchy tunes but not much else,” be prepared to have your mind changed as this night, with both Sigrid and Ezra is close to what a perfect big production show is. The atmosphere was amazing as both artists and their bands gave us electrifying performances and I am now very gutted I missed out on Ezra’s more intimate show at the Newcastle Academy at the end of last year but luckily I can still catch Sigrid when she comes in November at the end of this year.