I gave them a second chance and did they ever come through: definitely a top SXSW show – they and I are kindred spirits on some unrealistic level – in appearance, the men in the band are composed professionals in their little black suits but I was attracted to the burgeoning chaos and deviltry and insane genius expressed in their lanky loping (the guitarist) and the blue eyeliner of the glimmering and leering lead singer with a comfortable voice – there were two other guys (drummer and keyboardist?…sorry! this was my very last show of SXSW and I was a zombie) and a totally disparate gorgeous blonde swanky girl who also sang – they reek of Britain and they reek of drug history – technically, their sound is not outrageous but the twists therein are delicious – they lyrics are also smart and creative – as I said, I pursue them because they are the creators of one of my favorite songs of 2008: “Lottery Winners on Acid” (which they closed with) but they genuinely have a free-wheeling chamber pop sound that is smart and world-weary but hopeful – I really really like this band
really solid – chamber pop – Radiohead-esque but lighter and goofier – distinguished by a plinking xylophone (? – maybe… we were looking for a place to rest our weary feet at this point… but this was a band that was on my list through hearsay only) – had the look of British lads but looked them up and they\”re California surfers which I\”ll accept as fact
a return to the shoegazer label – three girls who made me giggle because they were so self-conscious and wobbly as rock stars – a sad statement on what a white middle-class upbringing does to a girl – had a pop sound but also a few more rocking songs
we were aswim in young hipsters with aching heads (at least me) – I had suffered through 2 or 3 unremarkable bands and was not even moved to take notes, which is a bad sign in a Dara – this band was the first with a distinctive sound – shoegazer a la Bloody Valentine – noise pop – mildly droney – quite liked them – NPR-recommended
This was the only band that I insisted on seeing today because I adore adore adore “Lottery Winners on Acid” (and that’s all I know from the band) and I dragged my poor friends away from downtown and was very embarrassed to arrive to hundreds of empty chairs and a lone sad singer/songwriter on a giant stage by himself. I was confused confused confused and heard him mumble something about The Crimea. Upon further investigation, it was determined that he was the only member of the band who had successfully arrived in the United States and he was carrying on with the show. It was terrible boring basic singer/songwriter material, but he was plucky and cute in his porkpie hat, and I tried to be impressed. And spent most of my time apologizing to and over-explaining to bitter friends. Then, upon further further investigation, it was determined that he was actually the bass player from the band! No wonder it sounded nothing like the band. In other notes of interest, his girlfriend was reported to be a heroin-addict looking woman which fits what I suspected were heroin references in the only song I know from them.
the Chronicle was correct to classify this band within the cream of Austin – they are infectious plus interesting enough to be enduring – the lead singer is inexpressibly darling and delicious, in his dark elfish-ness with a T Rex voice and mischievous knowing smiles – with his voice and a competent band, every audience I\”ve seen has been unable to not dance – which was unfortunate in the case of this crowd: the drunk college artistes stumbling around in their European knee-length jean shorts and vintage cowboy shirts were amusing but the thought of the middle-aged couple grinding in New Age slow motion with their general total lack of sexiness and 80s perms still puts me in an uncomfortable place between admiration for out-there sex and personal aversion
James was transcendent. The sound problems from the night before were fixed (if anything, they overcompensated by lowering the mics too far down) but everything about this show was otherwordly. The band came out and launched into Laid and from there wove a number of hits and fan favorites among their new material. It was clear that their fans were out in force tonight. People in the audience knew the words to every song, even the relatively obscure Lullaby and enthusiastically sang along to the new tracks, of which my favorite tonight was Whiteboy with Tim Booth wagging his finger along to the audience.
Of the new material, Oh My Heart featured an addictive James harmonies between lead singer Tim Booth and uber-saxophonist Andy Diagram (who hadn’t worked with the band since Seven). Waterfall, which was released as a single on iTunes ahead of the U.S. release of the album, is heavenly in the live setting. And the slow burn intro of I Wanna Go Home builds the entire song to a crescendo that comes crashing down with the last line “My heart is dying, dying.”
Booth introduced Upside by saying, “This is the sound of a breaking heart.” During the song, a planned pause stretched for over a minute while Booth sat patiently like a statue and the crowd went crazy. Finally, he shushed everyone to hear the melody that was playing softly to cue the song back up. He introduced Hey Ma, the new album’s title track, by saying that all politicians should have to resign the day after they declare war because “they failed as politicians.” They started Hey Ma and had to abort because of a mishap with Larry Gott’s guitar. But he just picked up another and Booth joked, “we aren’t allowed to play a political song tonight,” before they started the song from the beginning.
It was, quite frankly, a monstrous concert for such a intimate venue clocking in at a little over two hours. Sometimes closed the main set with a five-plus minute sing a long between the bandmates and the crowd, just chanting “Sometimes, when I look in your eyes I can see your soul.”
James came back on stage for an extended encore. During She’s a Star, Tim Booth went into the audience to touch hands, never missing a beat to the song. He went up in to the upstairs area of the venue and then came back down to the main floor and hopped on to the bar and sang much of the song from there. It’s unclear whether they planned to play anything after Born of Frustration but Booth asked if anyone had a train to catch (well…probably someone did, though no one would admit it). They played Lullaby, then launched in Don’t Wait That Long and finally, played Come Home.
There’s a story there too. Last night, (though I thought it was insignificant at the time) early in the set, a guy in the audience asked if he could play guitar on Come Home. Tim Booth looked at him and said, “Sure, if it was on our setlist. Are you going to be here tomorrow night?”
Well, and that guy, one Jonah Soolman, was in the audience again tonight and was invited on stage to play Come Home. Saul Davies gamely handed off the guitar and banged a tambourine during the song. Jonah was fucking ecstatic, and rightly so. Transcendent. There’s no other word for it.
Oh My Heart
Ring the Bells
I Wanna Go Home
Out to Get You
She’s a Star
Born of Frustration
Don’t Wait That Long
Posted by Andrew on 15th September 2008 in Britpop
Swans again. Yeech.
We arrived towards the end of Unkle Bob’s set – completely accidentally. The show started a half hour earlier than the night before. Still grossly underimpressed from the 2 1/2 songs we heard, including that damn swan song Swans. I met one member of the band after the show and he offered me an Unkle Bob pin. Yeah. I didn’t tell him I couldn’t even be bothered to trash his band in my review.
James last played in the United States 10 years ago and telling my friends that I was going to see James evoked the same response all around. “James who?”
I discovered James on 120 Minutes in 1991, and MTV show dedicated to what was then off the mainstream music videos. The song was Sit Down which for a while became their hallmark. Nowadays, the only song anybody stateside knows is Laid (you’d know if you heard it) but James has had a stellar almost 30-year career in the U.K. A return to the U.S. began tonight in Boston, MA.
The band opened with Say Something which immediately got the crowd shouting along to the chorus. “Say something, say something, I’ve shown you everything.” They mixed in a number of new songs including the bursting Oh My Heart and Whiteboy. James has a talent for making their sound larger than life and on no other track were they more transcendent than the gorgeous and plaintive I Wanna Go Home.
For their past material, they stayed mostly on their better known songs, Out to Get You, a stripped down version of Sit Down and She’s a Star. The audience seemed to know the words to everything, new and old.
The band had to forgo a soundcheck due to electronic problems before the show, and it was noticeable at times, particularly in the vocals. But that aside, it’s nice to see them on this side of the Atlantic. Their sound and vigor with which they put on a show hasn’t dulled one bit. And it was notable that this line-up, including Andy Diagram, was the same line-up that recorded Gold Mother and Seven. It was awesome to see them together again.
Posted by Andrew on 14th September 2008 in Britpop
Unkle Bob, imported from the Scotland for their first U.S. tour dates, opened for the band James. Unkle Bob is perhaps loosely best known for their track Swans a contribution to the TV soundtrack for Grey’s Anatomy.
The band’s set was bland alternative rock. There was nothing particularly bad about it, but the songs were just kind of generic. Clocking in at 30 minutes, their set was to the point. The Hit Parade was a highlight, if you need to have one. Put a Record On was also a good showing and they ended their set with a substantial jam but otherwise, the set was memorable for being exactly unmemorable.
not as dirty (“music for the unwashed and well-read” as they say) as I remembered them “darling curly haired middle-aged member still smoked on stage but nobody else did” think the vision I have of them all living together in a trailer in a incessant jam session is just that (a vision), easy to pick out the member who sang on the cover of Gin and Juice with his highish irreverent voice, had them classified in my head as hard bluegrass but totally inaccurate, covered a huge range of styles on a generally “rootsy” (as they said) foundation, started off with strong twinges of Cajun but depending on who sang veered toward British invasion, Southern rock, etc. etc., they’re a more countrified Grateful Dead, you should know that guitars, mandolins, bass, accordions, keyboards, drums, fiddles, banjos, lap steels are employed
good musicians with a shoegaze vibe, the shaggy haired guy’s voice just bored me to tears and annoyed me a little – made me think of slightly psychedelic-whining indie pop bands from the 90s whom I never liked THEN the guy with the 70s moustache sang and the band was transformed into a jangly 60s pop band with Marc Bolan from T Rex fronting and everybody was set to dancing – his high-pitched keen has some serious sort of magic
Bounding on stage in curly locks and playing air guitar before picking up his real one, from the opening song of his hour-long opening set for Sheryl Crow, I wanted to hate James Blunt. He’s smarmy, this one. Everything about his set was overdone, from the fist pumping, the come hithers to the crowd, even jumping into the crowd and skipping along to the back the arena to high-five people in the audience. No song just ended, they all ended with flourish. Ironically, his radio hit You’re Beautiful was the most understated song of the night.
The music wasn’t technically rotten, but there is no getting around his showmanship. Carry You Home was so over the top emotive, it was like licking a romance novel. Same Mistake was better, and in between there were some carefully crafted moments of musical exuberance. He finished the set with 1973, his other hit, which I found moderately tolerable as a live tune (the studio version is like wet newspaper).
continuing on in the shoegaze theme, these guys did a nice job musically but there was some disjunct with the vocalist – just didn’t fit – it was either his voice or the sound but think it was the former – maybe the voice was too prevalent in the music and too undreamy
reminded me why I love the shoegaze, with sweet melodies and escapism all wrapped up in fuzzy noise, she basically played songs and they were good but if I were to be a DJ I would mix and mesh a little bit more, something besides standing up there in my cowboy boots and silly dress
unassuming look but quite good, Rockboy pointed out that you don\”t often see a female on lead guitar (usually it\”s bass) and she was darling and pouty too, the rest were baseball capped average joes but they enthusiastically played noise-pop, bit of a shoegazer sound
shoegaze with Sabbath riffs, Kyuss and the Beta Band, as good as I remembered and so young, Asian girl on bass is too cool, found out later that on the Chronicle\”s top local bands list, black boy in the audience paid tribute by falling to the ground and spasming at the end of the show
A great surprise! My little coffeshop man\”s band. He had told me they were influenced by the Beatles and I told him that I didn\”t believe him with his sleeve tattoos but he wasn\”t lying. He USED to be in a rockabilly band in Orange County but then he got married, had kids, etc., etc. He told me later that they sucked ass this day because they were getting all feedback up on the stage.
enjoyed them as shamelessly as the older women in the audience danced to them, pretty good cover band, did a set of oldie goodies Beatles and then changed clothes for the psychedelic Beatles\” set, supposedly sometimes to do a set of British invasion band covers
very excited to see them (unable to at SXSW due to lines) because compared to The Stone Roses, more similar to last two bands than Stone Roses but no complaints because all three were high quality and satisfying-complex and depthy, decided the band was distinct in their sense of pacing-just wonderful pauses and draws and beat-keeping-but the lead vocalist was a big drawback as he’d fall into that scream-voice that emo bands have adopted from hardcore: the whine scream
Our seats were away from the speakers tonight, and Rufus Wainwright benefited the most. His vocal stylings were gorgeous and the words were easier to understand. He still filled his hour with aimless comments, dedicating “Pretty Things” to Boston architecture, and introducing “Beauty Mark” as an ode to mother, by telling a story about how his SAT scores weren’t good enough to get into Columbia University. He still made comments about his hair after noticing his image on the projection screen, and this time you knew he wasn’t kidding.
His strongest moments were songs that had failed him the other night. Here “Vibrate” was poignant and backed by Guster “One Man Guy” was soaring homage to his father. He made peace with his guitar and played a gorgeous version of “Want” and a glorious rendition of “California.” He found his stride playing the songs the crowd knew best (two of three strongest responses were his soundtrack contributions.) The best moment? “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk” was a theatrical masterpiece.
Rufus Wainwright Setlist
Complainte De La Butte
One Man Guy (with Guster)
April Fools (with Guster)
Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk
Dinner at Eight
a blooming pop-indie band from Scotland?, not my genre of choice but they are a fine example from the genre, depth and professionalism evident, all cuties in that fey British look, sound like MusicGod’s Onus B Johnson during one song which is good, lucky to see them free and with free beer so no complaints
Posted by Andrew on 3rd October 2003 in Britpop, Pop
Dido did an acoustic set that showed off her awesome voice, and I’ll forgive her that song about Mary because the rest of the six song set was excellent. She started with her new single, “White Flag”, managed to cover “Thank You” and “Here with Me” along with some stuff off of her new album. Her songs sound remarkably the same whether full band or acoustic and that’s just the way I like it.
Portland, Oregon, spinning-squirrels rock, very bouncy but complicated and tight, singer has that flasetto (?) upnoting voice (like a child’s almost?), some cross between 90s alt-play-rock, child hymns and Grateful Dead and Euro pop, hard to describe, loved them, look at how well my description matched Chronicle’s “the toast of the retro pop revival, complete with precision keyboards and swirly guitars”