Category Archives: Gig Reviews

Three Gig Reviews

I’ve been to a few gigs recently and thought it might be worth rounding up my thoughts on them briefly. Writing up individual blog posts for each of them would’ve been a lot of faff, so I thought I’d stick to one post and keep things short and sweet.

Dutch Uncles (09/03/2017, The Fleece in Bristol)
I’ve wanted to see Dutch Uncles live for a while – having missed them on their last tour – and this show at The Fleece (a really beautiful venue) didn’t disappoint.

Big Balloon is one of those albums that feels like its songs have been designed to be played live (basically it has a very live feel to it) and as a result, all of them sounded pretty great. ‘Baskin’’ and ‘Same Plane Dream’ made for a fantastically energetic one-two opener, while lead single ‘Big Balloon’ closed the main set out in a fun way. Despite the album only being out for a month, the band played the new songs with a level of precision that suggested they’d been playing them for years. In the sense that the performances were all pretty seamless (perhaps with the exception of ‘Streetlight’, which lead singer Duncan Wallace abruptly restarted after messing up the lyrics.)

The old songs were solid too, with particularly highlights being the xylophone fuelled ‘Threads’, first album classic ‘Face In’ and ‘Flexxin’, which was accompanied by some of the finest dad-dancing I’ve seen in a while. ‘Dressage’ also made for an incredible closer, with it cumulating in the band making as much noise as they could.

Fantastic gig overall, really impressed.

Diamond Family Archive (13/03/2017, Bread & Roses in Plymouth)
A friend of mine has been pushing me to check out this band for a while, so I decided to go along to one of their gigs. It’s hard to really describe the sound of Diamond Family Archive properly, so I’m just going to drop a link to some of their music at the bottom of this page. They’re a fantastic two-man act, playing a dozen instruments between them, using looping techniques to make the band feel a lot bigger than it is.

The performance was split into two sets, both great. The first set started out subtly with some gentle guitar playing and drumming before things eventually built up and got louder. However, throughout the band retained a chilled-out almost ambient vibe that captured the whole audience’s attention. It was hard at times to tell when one song ended and another began, but that was part of the beauty of the performance; everything flowed naturally. I will definitely make an effort seek out one of the band’s albums now… If you’re looking for something a bit different – they really don’t sound like any other band I can think of – then definitely check these guys out.

Glass Animals (15/03/2017, O2 Academy in Bristol)
I was a pretty big fan of Glass Animals’ last album, How To Be A Human Being, and was glad to finally get to see the songs off it performed live (even if they missed off one of my favourites from the album, ‘Mama’s Gun’).

Frontman Dave Bayley has a wild energy to him that just made the whole performance a total joy. From opener ‘Life Itself’ all the way to the last song of the encore, he never seemed to stand still for a moment. You can really tell when an artist is enthusiastic about their music, and Bayley definitely is. You’ll never see anyone else sing ‘pineapples are in my head’ with such conviction…

It was great to see Glass Animals perform some of the songs from their first album Zaba (‘Gooey’ in particular was great) but it was really the band’s newer songs that stole the show. And with the first album having a very different feel from their second one – having a strong jungle theme to it – the songs from it didn’t fit into the set too smoothly. Pretty much every song from the new album sounded great, though some of the main stand outs were ‘Season 2 Episode 3’ (maybe the best song the band have put out), the crazed ‘Other Side of Paradise’ and main-set closer ‘Agnes’, one of the band’s more downbeat, emotional songs.

Basically, Glass Animals were a lot of fun live. If you like the energy on their albums, rest assured that their live performances are just as crazy, if not more.

 

Review: Catfish & The Bottlemen at Plymouth Pavilions (7/11/2016)

I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of Catfish & The Bottlemen. I’ve tried to get into them – mainly because I know loads of people that love them – but I just find them a bit bland and dull. To put it bluntly, all their songs sound the same, and the sound they share isn’t one I really like that much. It’s all just dreary and moany. They have a few songs I kinda like – ‘Homesick’, ‘Kathleen’, ‘Glasgow’ – but none of them wow me. The most positive attitude I can really have towards a Catfish song is ‘I suppose it’s okay.’

So why the hell am I reviewing one of their gigs? Mainly because they were playing in town. And despite the fact that I’m not the hugest fan, seeing a big band at a big venue is always going to be a fun experience. Even though I was one of the few people who didn’t know every word to every song – I’d say the lead singer handed at least 25% of the gig over to the audience – I still had a fun time.

I saw Bastille at the same venue a couple of weeks ago (even though my review of their latest album wasn’t overly positive) and I thought they were fun too. I’m not saying that the Catfish gig came close to being as good as Pumarosa (who I saw a few weeks ago), but it was kinda like dumb fun. Catfish & The Bottlemen songs often have cheesy choruses that you want to sing along to, especially in a live environment. (‘Oxygen is overrated’ – I mean, come on?) And the songs I did kind of like already sounded even better live. The band even opened with two of my ‘favourites’, ‘Homesick’ and ‘Kathleen’.

Though there were a lot of dreary and dull songs in the middle of the set, some I didn’t care for before did sound pretty good live. The closers to their two albums for example, ‘Tyrants’ and ‘Outside’ have a great climactic feel to them that sounds massive live. (Meanwhile both studio versions of these songs annoy the hell out of me with how they abruptly cut out…)

So while I wouldn’t call myself a convert to the Catfish fanbase, I see the appeal of them a little bit more. I can kind of understand why people love their songs so much – seriously, the crowd were so loud – after hearing them played live. Though to me Catfish are still a pretty average band, and unless they dramatically change up their sound, I don’t think my opinion will ever change. But live – they’re all right.

Review: Pumarosa the Louisiana, Bristol (27/10/2016)

Though they’ve only released a few songs, Pumarosa is a band that feels fullyl formed. Over their three singles, from the epic ‘Priestess’ to the politically driven ‘Honey’, they’ve covered a range of styles, but they all feature the band’s unique voice. I can’t think of an album I’m more excited about at the moment than their upcoming debut.

I’ve never been to the Louisiana before, and I was kind of surprised by how small and humble the place was. The music venue part of it is pretty much just an attic room. It was a change from the big name venues I’ve been to in Bristol – like the O2, the Marble Factory and Colston Hall – but not in a bad way. Though the performance room could only hold a small fraction of the people the O2 could, it made the gig feel so much more intimate. It felt like the line between the audience and the band was more blurred than it would be in a big venue (heck, some of Pumarosa’s members were even stood next to me during the support act.)

And man, were the support act great. I’d never listened to or heard of Peluché before the gig, and I ended up being pretty blown away by their performance. It’s hard to really describe their style of music – their songs have a sort of dreamy feel to them, and often go off on long jazzy instrumental tangents. Though I normally find myself itching to see the headliner when I go to gigs, I did find myself wishing that Peluché’s set could have been just a few songs longer…

When Pumarosa finally took the stage, they didn’t go for a big flashy entrance – they just set up their instruments and started playing. All emphasis was put on the music, which was pretty refreshing.

Lead singer Isabel quickly grabbed the audience’s attention, as the band kicked off their set with ‘Dragonfly’. The combination of her powerful voice and very Kate Bush-esque dance moves made for a pretty fantastic performance. The opening song was followed up by two tunes very familiar to Pumarosa fans – the band’s two latest singles: ‘Cecile’ and ‘Honey’. Both songs sounded fantastic live, ‘Honey’ especially.

The bulk of the set after this was made up of less familiar songs, with ‘Lion’s Den’ being another highlight. Almost all focus was put on Isabel’s voice until the last few moments, when the band exploded into sound. Isabel even took to playing her guitar like a violin by using a drumstick (yes, you read that right.)

The best moment of the set was saved till towards the end. ‘Priestess’, arguably the band’s best song, sounded absolutely amazing live. The eight-minute-long song felt like a journey, and the dancing from the audience – as well as the band – showed that nobody really wanted it to end. As great as the rest of the set was, ‘Priestess’ was just Pumarosa at their peak. Though there have been many gigs I’ve enjoyed this year, I wouldn’t say any of them reached the same heights as the performance of that song.

If you get the chance to see Pumarosa live, do it. I’m pretty certain the band is going to get huge soon, and it’d be silly not to go see them at an intimate venue like the Louisiana while you still can.

Review: Wild Beasts at Motion, Bristol (28/09/2016)

 

I feel like Wild Beasts specifically chose Motion to perform in due to its ‘rougher’ feel compared to Bristol’s other popular venues like the O2. Boy King has a rough, seedy vibe to it, and the place that the band perform in – and how they perform – reflects this.

I think I was more excited for this gig than any other one this year. Not just because Boy King is a great album, but because Wild Beasts have an incredible back catalogue of songs as well. All of their albums are great for different reasons, from the over-the-top flamboyant Limbo, Panto to the low key and sensual Present Tense.

But before Wild Beasts, there were two support acts – Ardyn and Money (who just might have the hardest to Google band name ever). I only knew one Ardyn song going into the gig, ‘The Valley’ (which sounded great live), and thought they delivered a great set. They have a nice folksy style, and I’ll definitely be looking up some more of their stuff in the future.

Money were pretty incredible as well. Frontman Jamie Lee has a mesmerising quality about him, and really managed to hold the audience’s attention well. Their songs have a nice, loose unstructured feel to them… It felt like they were playing songs around a campfire in the middle of the night rather than performing in what was essentially a night club. The only issue I had with these two bands is that they kind of felt like odd choices for supporting Wild Beasts, having very folksy styles compared to the headliner’s more electronic, synth-based sound.

Wild Beasts opened their set with ‘Big Cat’, which sounded huge live. All of the songs on Boy King sound like they’re designed to be played live, and this concert only confirmed that. ‘Big Cat’ and ‘He The Colossus’, two of my least favourite songs from the album, ended up sounding best at the gig. ‘He The Colossus’ in particular was fantastic, exploding into a loud, brash guitar solo at its end. The solo sounded good on the album of course, but live it’s just on another level.

The first half of the set leaned heavily on old songs – something I can’t really complain about. Two Dancers hits ‘Hooting & Howling’ and ‘We Still Got the Taste Dancin’ On Our Tongues’ got great reactions from the audience and rightly so. I found it admirable that Hayden Thorpe still sung the songs with so much passion even after playing them for so many years. Other classics like ‘Mecca’ and ‘Bed of Nails’ also sounded great live, with an extra bit of oomph being added to them to reflect the band’s new style. ‘Wanderlust’ – maybe the band’s biggest hit – got lost in the set a little bit, and really felt like it should have been saved for the encore. Still, it sounded great.

Another easy highlight was ‘Lion’s Share’, the opener from their third album Smother. I really didn’t expect the band to break this one out, and it didn’t really fit in that well amongst all the much louder songs, but it didn’t fail to create a round of deafening applause. It’s maybe the simplest, most stripped down song Wild Beasts have in their library – placing all the weight on Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming’s duelling vocals – and ended up being a nice change of pace.

As old songs were the focus of the set’s first half, the second half was made up of some of the best tracks from Boy King. ‘Tough Guy’ was great as expected – Hayden even concluded the song with a ‘Fuck yeah’ – ‘2BU’ was as haunting and sinister as its album counterpart and ‘Celestial Creatures’, my personal favourite from the new album, sounded fantastic with its otherworldly-sounding synths. I was a little underwhelmed by ‘Alpha Female’, ‘Get My Bang’ didn’t really carry the oomph I think the band were hoping for, and it was slightly disappointing that they didn’t play ‘Dreamliner’, (or anything from Limbo, Panto) but these small blemishes are forgivable in what was a great show. They of course rounded things off with their classic ‘All the King’s Men’, which demonstrated that Tom is every bit as good a vocalist as Hayden. A really brilliant show overall.