Jesus and Mary Chain – Rock City, Nottingham 22.2.15

August 6th, 2018

Anniversary tours come thick and fast. Can it really be 30 years since the JAMC’s debut Psychocandy? Evidently so. This band’s early, short, chaotic, feedback soaked gigs are a thing of legend. It feels utterly wrong for them to play their incendiary album in full, in order, like a museum piece. But that’s what they’re here to do tonight.

For most fans, they never topped their debut, but the first part of tonight’s show is there to remind us that they produced plenty of other fine material. The band did move on from the Phil Spector meets the Velvet Underground noise (more recently adopted by Glasvegas) that they specialised in, to a more classic rock sound. But they never lost that chunky, mesmerising melodic edge, which was fully evident tonight. They open with the glorious April Skies and it’s clear that, with improvements in technology, the band have never sounded better.

The next number, the supremely catchy Head On, was such an influence on Black Francis that many Pixies fans think he wrote it. Then there’s the wonderful Some Candy Talking, followed by the title track of Psychocandy (which was dropped from the album) and a show stopping Reverence, all white light flashing, with its ‘I wanna die like Jesus Christ’ refrain. It’s so good that it might have been better saved for the encore, if this band did encores. Upside Down finishes the half hour ‘hits’ set and they leave the stage, only to return two minutes later.

The drum sounds of Be My Baby heralds the opening of Just Like Honey. The crowd go crazy for the band’s first album, which is performed in full, in order, without any introductions, until the end, when Jim Reid says that he hopes we enjoyed the show and this is the last number.

And it’s fine. Great, in fact. The strobes and smoke make the stage very atmospeheric. The album holds up well. In A Hole and Never Understand are particularly good. But there’s no suspense about what they’ll play next. The crowd’s excitement dissipates after a few numbers, only to revive towards the end with the terrific Trip Me Up. Psychocandy was what people had paid to see and it’s what they got, but, for my money, good though this evening was, a balanced set reflecting the band’s whole career would have been better, more exciting. Too much reverence, maybe.

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Some Candy Talking

Rod Stewart – Nottingham Arena 23.6.16

August 2nd, 2018

Another review that’s dropped off the Nottingham Post website, my fourth (and probably final) time seeing the Pope of Rock (do they call him that?)

Newly knighted Sir Roderick Stewart’s fourth visit to the arena comes in the midst of a short tour of parks and stadiums. He must like Nottingham. He’s coming back to the Motorpoint in December to give us his From Gasoline Alley to Another Country: Hits tour. When was the last time a megastar played Nottingham twice in a year?

Tonight Gasoline Alley is performed by daughter Ruby Stewart and Alyssa Bonagura, who make up the enjoyable country support act Sisterhood. Ruby introduces ‘The Rodfather’. He tells us it’s a privilege to come indoors and be warm. Soon he’s thanking everybody who nominated him for a knighthood.

Hard to believe that, 43 years after I first saw him with the Faces (and he’d been around a few years then) three songs he played at Liverpool Empire are still in his set: Maggie May and You Wear It Well, obviously. The latter gets a restart after the guitarist fluffs the intro. ‘You’re paid a lot of money’, he’s chided. Stay With Me is there, too, though no band but the Faces can do its shambolic funk justice. A highlight of the acoustic set is the poignant Ooh La La. Ronnie Lane’s line I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger only take on greater resonance with the years.

Rod is 71 and his voice isn’t what it was, but it’s not that far off, either. He can still kick a football to the back half of the floor. And he still has us in the palm of his hand. He sits to give us a fine, slow version of Tom Waits’s Downtown Train, then strolls into the crowed to shake hands.

Sadly, only one song remains from 2013’s Time, which saw him return to songwriting, inspired by having explored old memories in ‘Rod’, his entertaining autobiography. Don’t Stop Me Now goes down a storm, but Time’s best songs, It’s Over and Brighton Beach, are absent tonight, their place taken by 80s hits. The backdrop to Rhythm of my Heart does manage to feature a VE Day front page from the Nottingham Evening Post. 1978’s Hot Legs is particularly strong.

Rod is primarily an interpreter. Sam Cooke’s Having A Party kicks off.  Robert Palmer’s Some Guys Have All The Luck follows it. Cat Stevens’ First Cut Is The Deepest shines. Danny Whitten’s I Don’t Talk About It gets a strong rendition. His most popular cover, Sailing, closes the show.

Do Ya Think I’m Sexy, built on a riff by the late, great Bobby Womack, is the sole encore. A ridiculous question for a 71 year old to ask, but Rod has never been afraid of appearing a bit ridiculous. He puts on a cowboy hat and balloons drop from the roof. The curtain goes down, then goes back up a little to reveal the whole band prone on the stage floor, listening to balloons pop like gun-shots. Two hours have rushed by, but he’ll be back for Christmas.

Rod Stewart – Can’t Stop Me Now



Ezra Furman & The Big Moon, Glee, November 18th, 2015

August 1st, 2018

Ezra Furman is exhausted. He’s been touring so long he can no longer remember who he was at the start of the tour, never mind before. He might get confessional, he tells us. That comes later.

His first Nottingham appearance, a 42 minute in-store at Rough Trade in July this year, was a riveting, unforgettable gig. No surprise then, that tonight’s show has long been sold out.

He’s dressed to kill, in pin stripe skirt, black vest and a long string of pearls. Perpetual Motion People is his sixth and best album, the second with the Boyfriends, who accompany him tonight and features heavily.

Furman is twenty-nine, but looks younger, and plays raucous rock’n’roll with exciting hooks that recall doo wop, Lou Reed and early soul. He has a few slow songs, too, like opener Day of the Dog, title track of the first Boyfriends album. It’s introduced with a slow, dramatic drumbeat, then keyboards, before he takes the stage.

The show is intense. Ezra tries to settle in. An enthusiastic crowd wills him on. ‘Now we’re getting into gear,’ he says after a strong Haunted Head. And Maybe God is a Train is emotional. He talks about depression before At the Bottom of the Ocean. The insanely catchy Lousy Connection lifts things back up.

The set climaxes with the wonderful Body Was Made and an even catchier Restless Year. It’s curfew time, but also the end of the tour and the crowd insist on him coming back for a fifteen minute encore. During it, he gets us all to crouch on the floor and rise slowly. For me, the show’s highlight was a cover of the Velvet Underground’s Rock’n’Roll, last played in this city by Lou Reed, on his Berlin tour. Tonight, Ezra proved himself worthy to bear Lou’s torch.

Earlier, Glee’s insistence that punters arrive before start time paid dividends. All woman band The Big Moon were the most exciting, original support I’ve seen this year, playing varied, quirky songs that at times recalled Belly and Sleater Kinney. Watch out for them.

Ezra Furman – Love You So Bad

The Big Moon – Cupid

I’ve seen both acts again since writing the above and am pleased to say they only get better.

Ryley Walker: Rescue Rooms, May 24th, 2017

July 31st, 2018

Less than a year after his Nottingham debut (which I also reviewed), Ryley Walker is back, in a larger venue, with a larger band, but a sparser audience. Whether that’s down to the heat-wave, the football final or the tragedy at Manchester Arena, I don’t know. It can’t be down to the music, for third album Golden Songs That Have Been Sung marked a big step forward for Walker, whose jazz-tinged, improvisatory gigs can be a thing of wonder.

Jam band Health and Beauty are the support and backing group. Whereas last year’s accompanying jazz duo emulated Miles Davis, tonight’s guiding spirit is The Grateful Dead. The four take a while to gel. Two of the three opening numbers are a little clunky in places. That said, drummer Frank Rosaly shines throughout, albeit his jazzy rhythms tend to be too low in the sound mix. He seems to have a dozen cowbells dangling from his lips in opener Sullen Mind. During On the Banks of the Old Kishwaukee he conjures eerie sounds from his cymbal with a violin bow. Funny Thing She Said gets a long, lovely build up. Indeed, only one, somewhat dirge-like, new song comes in at less than ten minutes.

From the fifth number, a mesmerising The Roundabout, Walker is in full swing. Writing about the Glee show, I compared Walker’s jazzy tones to 60s singer/songwriter Tim Hardin, so I was pleased to hear Walker play a drawn out version of his classic If I Were A Carpenter, a song I last heard live sung by its author (that was at, if you’ll indulge me for a moment, the first show I ever reviewed, back in 1975). It’s excellent.

Here’s Hardin’s version, and an instrumental from Ryley’s latest album, Deafman Glance.

Tim Hardin – If I Were a Carpenter

Ryley Walker – Rocks On Rainbow

Georgie Fame, Nottingham Playhouse, March 24th, 2017

July 30th, 2018

Today’s archive review (no longer available online with the Nottingham Post, where it first appeared) is one of the handful I’ve done at the Playhouse, which is a great venue for music. I write about plays for the Post occasionally, but never at the Playhouse, as I’m one if its trustees. However, gigs are put on by outside promoters, so I feel free to write about them.

Georgie Fame, 73, is having a welcome resurgence. 6CD set ‘Survival’ provoked positive reassessments of his key 60s work. He was a Nottingham regular back then, playing the Dungeon, Beachcomber and elsewhere. Younger fans will have seen him play with Van Morrison in the late 80s. He still tours extensively. A visit to the Playhouse eighteen months ago proved so successful that he’s made a rapid return.

Accompanied by sons, James, on drums, and Tristan on guitar , Fame takes the stage in bright pink trousers, for which he apologises. ‘I feel like a poor imitation of Michael Portillo.’ He talks for ten minutes before opening with a fine rendition of Ray Charles’ ‘I Got A Woman.’ This is an evening of reminiscence as much as music, but all the talk is of music: his influences and the people he’s met along the way. For instance, why he was forced to break up the Blue Flames one day but his drummer had a job with a new band called the Jimi Hendrix Experience the next.

Fame, aka Clive Powell, got his silly name from Larry Parnes (as did his old mate, our own Vince Eager, who he’d caught up with the day before). There are good tales about those early days: touring with Eddie Cochran, eighteen months with Billy Fury and how he was added to a tour to fill seats for  a quartet of less popular artists: The Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Little Stevie Wonder and Martha and the Vandellas.

The stories are lovely and the music is better. Despite severe health problems a few years ago, he’s in fine voice. His playing, on a Hammond organ he bought in 1966, covered top to bottom with stickers, is as lively and distinctive as ever.

He plays his biggest hits: Yeah, Yeah; Get Away (‘I don’t call it a song, I call it a pension plan’) and The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde. The biggest treats are more obscure: B side, like Don’t Send Me Flowers in the Graveyard and another number by Floyd Dixon; a Georgia In My Mind that incorporates half a dozen other southern classics; Goffin and King’s The Point of No Return: all terrific. He concludes two tremendous hours with a sublime take on Mose Allison’s Was. A packed house gives a standing ovation to a legend whose love of live music shines as brightly as it ever did.

Georgie Fame – Funny How Time Slips Away (1966)

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