Friday, November 20, 2009

Concert Review: Mark Kozelek - Andrews Lane, Dublin, July 2009

Catching up with my concert reviews again! We had previously seen Mark Kozelek last year with his wonderful band Sun Kil Moon. It was a full band show, the sound was wonderful and the band evoked Crazy Horse in their prime with long drawn-out indulgent numbers.

This time it was just Kozelek solo, with a guitar. Anybody who's seen him before knew what to expect, and he was no different this time. He treated us to solo versions of mainly Sun Kil Moon songs (Blue Orchids in particular being a highpoint), while staying away for the most part from Red House Painters songs, barring one or two of their less celebrated songs. His voice as usual was treated with masses of reverb, which was disconcerting for a few first-timers I ran into.

He played a couple of new songs which were met with rapturous applause, after which he said "it wasn't THAT good". His between song chatter was, as usual, dripping with attitude. It's as if he has to be like that otherwise people would mistake him for a sensitive soul considering how emotive many of his songs can be. He also found time to pay tribute to Michael Jackson, playing I'll Be There in his own inimitable style, where he takes a song and transforms it into his own acoustic style.

Enjoyable, though not for the uninitiated.

Concert Reviews: Morrissey – April/May 2009

I’ve had a long history of listening to Morrissey, ever since I discovered the Smiths in the 1980s. Although he’s playing in Dublin next Monday, I can’t justify shelling out to see him again, having seen him twice in 2 provinces in Ireland this year!

Despite his disappointing Years of Refusal album, I eagerly headed west to Leisureland in Salthill to see Morrissey live once again. On approaching the venue we were met with the overwhelming smell of… chlorine! (Leisureland has an amusement park, gym and swimming pool on the premises). The venue was a bit rough and ready but we were not disappointed by the band, though they absolutely bludgeoned through the opening song, This Charming Man. Most of the songs were rendered in a semi-rockabilly style, which worked excellently on all the rest of the songs.

Predictably, Morrissey was adored by all and sundry. Not for him the old “I am sick and I am dull and I am plain”, he’s quite fond of himself these days, and it shows. The highpoint of this was when during ‘Let Me Kiss You’ he opens his shirt and removes it at the point when he sings “and then you open your eyes and see someone you physically despise”. Theatre in the extreme, yet it works. The set was sprinkled with a few Smiths classics, apart from This Charming Man they played How Soon Is Now, Girlfriend In a Coma, Ask and Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others.

Morrissey’s voice is in fine form these days, and really shined on the slower songs like Seasick, Yet Docked. I was lucky enough to get to go to Belfast a couple of days later. The venue this time was in the Waterfront which was a lot posher! The set was similar though it was great to see him again. Later that night we had a few drinks in the hotel bar and ran into Boz Boorer, guitarist and collaborator with Morrissey. As we were heading to bed that night at about 4am, he teased us, calling us lightweights!

Making Lists and Ranking Music – Sad or Sound?

Around this time of year, magazines and websites heavily feature music lists, discussing albums of the year and the like. It’s especially prevalent this year as we examine album of the decade etc. But the question is : is the concept of ranking music fundamentally flawed? Who is to decide that, for example, Gillian Welch is ‘better’ than Interpol?

In my view it’s a question of mood. It might seem obvious, but the albums that suit a winter’s evening seldom work on a Friday in summer. Also psychological factors come into play, sometimes one might listen to celebratory music but other times we need something to give us solace from the desperation we feel. Different albums to do these disparate jobs.

The concept of ‘star rankings’ or marks out of 10 for albums is slightly different. The reasons for giving Gillian Welch 8 out of 10 will differ from giving Interpol 4 stars out of 5. However what’s important in my view is getting a high or low score, far too many reviews award the ‘on the fence’ score of 3 stars out of 5. What does this tell as about the reviewers opinion? That he or she didn’t notice the album playing? Or if they did, that it didn’t move them in any way? Doesn’t the most innocuous, inoffensive music actually fail completely due to its inoffensiveness?? (It should be noted that none of my reviews contain ratings – double copout by me?)

Anyway, back to list-making. I have to be honest and say that, allowing for my previous reservations, I love reading these meaningless music lists. Checking through the Top 50 and seeing which albums I own, looking for vindication, and identifying the overrated perennials. The lists also act as a reminder of overlooked gems which I already own, but haven’t listened to in a while, and also a signpost of future purchases.

All this article is really doing is making a long-winded excuse for me to predictably follow every other magazine and website and list my personal favourites of 2009, and also of the decade. I can feel the internet buzzing with anticipation.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Concert Review: Mark Eitzel in the Village, Dublin - 11th November 2009

I'm shocked and ashamed to discover that this is my first Eitzel/AMC related post on this blog. I'd better come clean and admit that I have been a fan of American Music Club for 10-15 years and happen to think Mr. Eitzel is a bit of a genius. Or some might say, sad b**t**d music.

Was really and truly in the mood for this gig. I'm enjoying his latest album, Klamath which is very much framed by electronics (more about this in a future post). This gig promised to be a rather different affair, as it featured just him and a piano player (Marc Capelle?).

It was a dark, November rainy night, perfect for this gig. The Guinness was flowing and anticipation was high. The support was a fairly nondescript guy playing guitar, but Mark followed shortly afterwards. He was in fine voice, starting off with 'I Left My Heart in San Francisco' which set the mood quite nicely. The music was great, but the inter-song rambling was equally entertaining, though he seemed to have gaybashing on his mind (!) as he swigged his pint of lager. It was heartening how well his guitar-based songs transferred to just him and a piano. One great song after another followed, some of the highlights were Myopic Books, Last Harbour and the newer songs - Blood On My Hands and I Live In This Place, which stood up well amongst the classics.

Thankfully he came back out and did 2 more songs, the last of which he introduced as wanting the audience to go home happy and have the best sex of their lives. Then he said 'this is a song about my mother who died of cancer,' and played Nightwatchman.

I was really and truly, charmed. One sad aspect, which was commented on elsewhere but needs to be repeated here, is that there was a table right in the middle in front of the stage which had a 'Reserved' sign on it. Nobody sat at it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Concert Review: Hope Sandoval at Vicar Street in Dublin

For once, this was a gig I wasn't particularly looking forward to. It took place on Halloween night, which meant braving Dublin city centre on a Saturday night, not something I'm fond of.

The gig was relatively full, which surprised me a little. The support band were exactly what you would expect sound-wise, very mellow and country tinged, though not bad. They were called Dirt Blue Jeans, though somebody said later they looked more like refugees from Almost Famous!

In fact, the support band was made up of members of Hope's band, the Warm Inventions (who played the first song with Halloween masks!). The gig failed to spark really. Hope Sandoval looked the part but she refused to engage with the audience and spent much of the gig not even looking at the audience. The music was very same-y, mellow, drifting along quite pleasantly. However the set was dominated by her new album (Through the Devil Softly), which doesn't grab me very much, with very few standout tracks at all.

She spent most of her time studiously ignoring the audience while intermittently bashing away at a xylophone (quite good actually) but the whole thing left me cold. Though I must admit, I was in the minority. I had hoped that seeing her live might pull me into the album, but it hasn't happened.