My So Called Live

In which I attempt to breathe some life into my poor, neglected blog by talking about some gigs I’ve been to in the past couple of weeks or so.

23/10/10: Yeasayer @ Newcastle Academy

Trying to guess gig timings can be a crapshoot at the best of times, but Pete and I thought that there would be no way we’d miss Yeasayer if we turned up at about half 8. Apparently not! They’re halfway through their first song by the time we get into the building, which has to make this one of the earliest headline sets I’ve seen in a long time. There’s also the problem that the band don’t really seem like they can be arsed – sure, they’re good enough, and the closing one-two of ‘O.N.E’ and ‘Ambling Alp’ is admittedly brilliant, but overall the show is lacking something to make it feel really spectacular.

30/10/10: Hotter Than Hell (KISS Tribute) @ The Duchess, York

As you may have guessed, I certainly wasn’t at this show of my own volition. You may already have read about how much I hate tribute bands in general, and these guys proved to be no exception. Here’s a list of things that were wrong with them.

– They were 45 minutes late on stage.
– The lead singer attempted to disguise his Northern Irish accent with an increasingly squeaky American one.
– They played 30 minutes over their curfew.
– They were unrelentingly shit, utterly cringeworthy and completely unforgivable. GIVE UP.

31/10/10: The Black Keys & The Walkmen @ Leeds Academy

This was the first time I’d ever been in the seated area of Leeds Academy, and it wasn’t as bad as I feared. Sure, you lose a bit of the atmosphere but it still sounds good, and I didn’t mind not having to stand the whole time (clearly I am getting old). The Walkmen are first up and manage to play for over half an hour before someone shouts “PLAY THE RAT!” – then when they do play it, the same person shouts “PLAY IT AGAIN!” This is indicative of the problem with The Walkmen – namely, that ‘The Rat’ stands head and shoulders over everything else they play. Not that everything else they play is bad, it’s just not as good as those 4 minutes of howling vitriol.

The Black Keys suffer from no such problems, however. On many of their new songs, their sound is augmented by additional keyboards and bass – but even when it’s just the two of them the combination of searing guitar riffs and big, booming drums make them instantly appealing. I didn’t know all that many songs going into the show, but I left thoroughly impressed with the band’s heavy, intense rock ‘n’ roll style.

01/11/10: !!! & The Hundred In The Hands @ The Cockpit, Leeds

This is one of those instances of “come for the support band, stay for the headliner” – I saw The Hundred In The Hands at Green Man and was impressed enough to want to see them again. Unfortunately, they appear have been mugged by the soundman – their drum machine and synths are completely overpowering, while the guitar and vocals are barely audible. It’s a shame, because the likes of ‘Pigeons’ and ‘Commotion’ are brilliant on record, but they have any subtlety and nuance stripped from them tonight. ‘Young Aren’t Young’ seems to be the only song to break free of the heavy-handed mixing, giving us at least some indication of what the band *should* sound like.

!!! (aka chk chk chk) quickly blow that disappointment away with their energetic slices of punk-funk. Frontman Nick Offer’s enthusiastic dancing is infectious, and soon the whole room is moving in time to the band’s silky-smooth rhythms – this is dirty, sexy music and to be honest if you’re not dancing or otherwise moving in some shape or form then you probably don’t have a pulse. !!! don’t just make me glad that I showed up – they make me glad to be alive.

06/11/10: Peter Kay & Rick Astley @ The O2 Arena, London

I had been told to keep the 6th November free for a (post-)birthday surprise in London. I figured out that we were going to the O2 Arena while we were on the tube, but I still didn’t know that I was going to see Peter Kay until I walked inside. The tickets say that we should be in our seats at 7:30 pm prompt, so we dutifully make our way there in good time. The lights go down, and… Rick Astley walks on stage. I feel like I’ve been Rickrolled in real life. Astley makes his way through some lesser-known hits(?) from his back catalogue before performing a medley of London-based hits, including the likes of The Who, The Clash, The Rolling Stones and Pet Shop Boys, as well as more recent hits from Lily Allen and, er, Duffy (ok, it was ‘Warwick Avenue’ so I guess it works). The medley only comes to a halt when the Eastenders theme tune is played over the speakers, to which Astley asks “are you taking the piss?” He then finishes, of course, with ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, and the Rickroll is complete.

I hadn’t realised that Peter Kay had been away from the live arena for so long, but according to the (overpriced and typo-ridden) programme he hasn’t toured since 2003. I suppose that’s down to all the TV work he’s been doing in between times, but tonight is Peter Kay back doing what he arguably does best – stand-up comedy. As such, this is hardly a sea change for Kay, with the show largely revolving around his northern-skewed, observational, slightly physical comedy – and yes, there are still jokes about his Nan, Uncle Knobhead, and garlic bread, but they’re new jokes rather than just re-hashes so it’s fine. There’s also a hilarious section based around mis-heard song lyrics towards the end of the show that will probably make the inevitable DVD a worthwhile purchase on its own. Overall, it turned out to be a pretty good surprise!


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