Live Reviews

The Chaos Engine + Guests
Red Sky Coven - Exeter

Infest 2000 - Bradford
Mission - Live in Bristol
All About Eve - Live in Bath
New Model Army - Live in Bristol

The Chaos Engine + Guests - Gloucester Guildhall - Saturday May 26th
Six bands for a fiver - sounded like a good deal to me especially considering the line-up so a wander up the M5 was called for. Nice easy journey up 'north' laughing at all the people trying to head south in caravans to the West Country! Arrived at our hotel - wonderfully situated in the middle of Gloucester with a car-park. It however left much to be desired, it appeared to be furnished with nothing newer than at least 20 years old (this included the wallpaper, carpets and dust (nasty brown stuff not the band) and no they weren't antiques either. Fire exit seemed to be rusted shut and the roof outside the very rotten window sill was covered in weeds. A venture into the en-suite bathroom was an experience in itself, we meant to take a photo but due to complications (see below) we didn't get around to it. The bathroom was painted in a kind of lilac/blue with pink tiles, a green sink, white bath, purple toilet, green/black carpet, yellow/black curtains, a floral coloured bog brush holder and some weird psychedelic painted dustbin. I've lived in a number of student houses in my time and never ever have I seen anything so uncoordinated - I've thrown up better colour schemes.

Anyway deciding we could live with it for one night as at least the bed sheets seemed clean we ventured into Gloucester for a wander. Odd sort of place Gloucester, been a while since I was last there wandering around giving out flyers for a night at the now defunct 'Roundabout' club, almost a main city in size and type of shops but very much market town in attitude and feel. Got a few odd looks off some of the natives, bought some odds and ends and went to the foodhall in Eastgate (?) Shopping centre for lunch which was dire, had a wander around the Cathedral and then back to the hotel for a siesta from the sun. Sent a text message to Lee Chaos via DUST asking for a decent pub to go to for pre-gig drinkies and was recommended the Brunswick. So time for a bath and get ready - cue worst bit of hotel - the hot taps came out with lots of brown 'bits' in the water - wandered down to reception and was told 'oh it often does that it's in the old bit you see'. We were offered another room which we took - which was decorated in a slightly better style and the water was clean (although the towels had holes in them!). So stayed as we didn't really want to end up on the streets with the alarming number of homeless people in Gloucester which Andy claims are bused in from Bristol. After a wander around and asking a fair few people we finally found the 'Brunswick' and decided that the suggestion was a major wind-up as the place was full of people in dinner-jackets and women in long flowing dresses, and casino tables set up. We were just about to leave when a group of goths appeared and wandered up to the bar. It seems that they were having a James Bond theme night!

Finished our and turned up at the Guildhall about 8:30 to find that things were running to time (whatever next beer tasting good in pint glasses, Thatcher coming out in support of Tony Blair?!) and we had missed Arkam Asylum which was a great shame.

Skinflowers - I've got a couple of tracks by these guys which I thought were good but live they blew me away - not my favourite style of music but it was done so well and with obvious passion and enjoyment you'd have to be a philistine not to enjoy it. Comparisons with Radiohead are inevitable but they have much more to offer personally I thought there were bits of Violent Femmes in there as well. Best of all they had crafted songs and the ability to play well together and live some great innovative bass playing going there as well.

Elyzium - not a WASP factory band but something of local heroes judging by the crowd reaction. Female vocalist who knew just how to play the crowd along and portray the right amounts of innocence and 'tartyness' to wind up all the adoring young lads down the front (bizarrely reminding me of Cerys Matthews (Catatonia) crossed with Gwen Stefani(No Doubt)). The rest of the band seemed to be content to stand there and strum along which was a shame as although there was ability there it wasn't being used and one got the impression they were little more than a backing band.

D-U-S-T - well they just keep getting better and better, despite having a bit of a muddy sound at time they strutted and posed and for all the world looked as if they were playing to 100,000 people. They believe in themselves and it stands out a mile, this backed with strong songs and the right attitude once again makes me think they are destined for far greater things - get to see them now while you can still get tickets.

SWARF - First time I heard these was week ago on a WASP factory sampler and was hugely impressed by the vocals and the songs. On stage the vocals were strong and wonderfully done, it is easy to imagine them playing on Later with Jools Holland or similar and wowing people. Only criticism is that they are boring to watch and visually don't show any of the passion and soulfulness of the vocals even the vocalist seemed to bored at times. Tried describing them to someone today and the best I could come up with was 'goth triphop' but its always nice to struggle to categorise bands. (Fall EP playing as I write this - buy it! its great!)

The Chaos Engine - I've never been a great fan of CE stuff I've seen them a couple of times before and always thought, excellent band, excellent show, but never walked away wanting more, they just didn't float my boat. But tonight was different, whether it was because it was a home-town gig, that the supports were so good or just that having listened to some more of their stuff lately I finally understand the message but I enjoyed it big time. Some excellent visual backdrops throughout from a fairly simple three projector set-up added a lot to the set and complemented the band perfectly.

All in all, Hotel aside (anyone got the HSE address for Gloucester?), it was a wonderful night out well worth the money and not a single band that I would not happily see again preferably sooner than later. Hopefully there will be another one again sometime.

Red Sky Coven - Phoenix Arts Centre, Exeter May 14th 2001
(Submitted to Scene magazine)
Finally after many years I've managed to get to a RSC gig, ok I had to rearrange a flight but these things have to done. The Phoenix is an intimate venue and the free seated tables at the front 'comedy club' style suited the venue and the artists. RSC consist of Justin Sullivan (New Model Army), Joolz (poet/author), Rev Hammer (musician) and Brett Selby (musician), performing on their own or with others and Joolz linking it all as a compere.. Rev Hammer takes the stage first doing his own folk orientated songs as well as some rambling jokes in his own indomitable style. Next up we have Joolz with her anecdotes about life in it many forms as well as readings of poetry, short stories and excepts from her books. Justin Sullivan then takes the stage playing both acoustic versions of NMA songs and other unrecorded works. A break and then we get the same format again in the second half. Ironically the highlights were often when Brett Selby, probably the least known of the performers, joined Justin Sullivan for 'Twilight Hour' with his wonderful electric double bass and his bass backing of Joolz for a new poem 'Holy Medals'. The encore was the whole ensemble doing a foot-stomping version of 'These boots were made for walking'. You know that when a group of performers of this calibre get together you are going to get a good gig and in Exeter they did not disappoint. For further band details and tour/merchandise check out www.newmodelarmy.org

The set-list (please let me know any mistakes as I didn't know all tracks)
Part 1 Joolz intro
RH - Drunkard's Waltz
- 'Old Welsh Soul'
- Long rambling joke about a cow :))
- 'Thief & the fisherman's daughter' (?)
- 'Forever Once More' (with BS on bass)
Joolz - General chat/anecdotes
- 'Under the bridge' - short story
- Reading from start of 'Stone Baby'
Justin Sulivan - 'Changing of the light'
- 'Snelsmore Wood'
- 'Higher Wall'
- 'Twilight Hour' - with Brett on wonderful electric double bass (anybody got a copy of this?)
INTERVAL
Joolz - intro
Rev Hammer - 'Wedding song' (?)
- 'Jack 'o Green' with Brett & Justin
- 'Take it easy' (?) with Brett & Justin
Joolz - chat/anecdotes (hope the cat is better)
- 'Spoons' short story
- 'Holy medals' with Brett on electric DB
- 'Musket, fife and drum' with RH & JS
Justin Sullivan - 'Home'
- 'Leeds Road 3am'
- 'You weren't there' (backing track with JS singing and harmonica)
- 'Stranger'
- 'R&R' (with BS)
ENCORE - everyone doing 'These boots were made for walking'

 

The Mission - Fleece and Firkin, Bristol - Wednesday 9th September 2000

The Mission, (Particularly 'Serpents Kiss') were one of the bands that opened my eyes to the goth scene back in about '86, having much the same effect on me as getting 'Complete Madness', 'Coup d'etat' by the Plasmatics or Kiss' 'Destroyer'. All albums I remember fondly as they opened my eyes to new and exciting scenes. I've never seen the Mission before (at least not that I can remember) so part of me was looking forward to seeing them. Another part of me hates the fact that when there are loads of new, exciting and vibrant bands out there playing their hearts out to three people and a dog - it takes an old band desperate for cash to come and bash out the same old tunes to pull people to a gig. So to a full house out came the The Mission, kicking off with 'Wasteland' and moving straight into 'Beyond the Pale' the most striking thing for me was the poor quality of the sound, nice clear drums but everything else was a bit of a soup. It wasn't until about a third of the way through that it started sounding half decent and even then Wayne Hussey's voice kept fading in and out. First set was an hour long, highlight being 'Tower of Strength' which started off with just Wayne, guitar and backing track before the rest of the band joined in, a passable attempt at a Pyramid down the front getting one person up to level three and lots of people on shoulders waving bits. During the first new track I scribbled down that it sounded a lot like 'Raising Cain' or another old track I couldn't put my finger on, ironically at the end Wayne announced that 'that was a new one - sounds just like a mixture of the old ones doesn't it!' Two fifteen minute encores and that was it time for motorway and home. On the whole as entertainment it was OK, but technically it was very poor. The band who even with the current line up have played dozens of gigs looked as if they could do with a fortnight in a rehearsal studio. It was good to hear, what are great songs, but to be fair it could have been a tribute band doing it and it would have been much the same especially considering the aforementioned voice/sound problems. There was no hunger, no sparkle, no feeling that they were out there to work and entertain us. They can rest on the back catalogue for a while but ultimately any band needs to move forward with new exciting music. Although I don't regret going I probably wouldn't bother again.

 

All About Eve (acoustic) - Michael Tippett Centre, Bath - Feb 18th
(originally printed in Scene magazine)

It has been nearly 10 years since I last saw AAE, in those days an AAE gig would draw out a huge cross section of the alternative crowd fuelled on all sorts of substances. This gig was the antithesis of this, the Michael Tippett centre is an art centre, superb acoustics but all seated and no drinks allowed, it was probably the same audience but they now all looked settled down with families. AAE were performing an acoustic set, Julianne Regan singing, Marty Willson-piper on guitar/12 string and Andy Cousins on bass/guitar. Opening up with 'Scarlet' and continuing into 'More than the blues' they alternated upbeat songs with the mellow ones and talked in between each track to themselves or to the audience creating a very intimate gig. All the songs were AAE originals except for 'Will I start to bleed' originally done by J-A Regan's solo project Mice. The first half ended with a wonderful rendition of 'Appletree Man' leaving us to scurry off to the bar in the 20minute interval ! 'Never promise (anyone for ever)' opened up the second half and all to soon we at the last song of the set, the inimitable 'Martha's Harbour' they returned for two encores, 'Wild hearted woman' and 'Share it with me'. Musically the band was superb and the venue suited them, although in my opinion they spent too much time talking between the tracks. Website

 

New Model Army - Anson Rooms, Bristol - 01.03.00
(originally printed in Scene magazine)

Nearly twenty years of making and playing music and still NMA play gigs with a freshness and enjoyment that are matched by very few bands. Whether it is the ability of the band, the bittersweet sentiments of the songs or just the passion of the crowd, NMA sum up the very essence of what a live performance is all about. Tonight's show had songs from every album from those twenty years. Tracks from the latest album 'Eight' such as 'Flying Through The Smoke' and 'You Weren't There' fitted in comfortably with old classics like 'Purity' or 'Vengeance' which was dedicated to Joerg Heider. New or old the songs all sounded fresh and vibrant, Justin Sullivan and the rest of the band looked happy and relaxed and seemed to be enjoying every minute. Highlights were a new version of 'Notice Me' and probably the best known NMA track 'Vagabonds' which in response to Justin's remark of 'Do I look like a f*cking violin player' got the whole crowd singing and humming the violin intro for him! 'Here Comes The War' brought the usual 'whirling dervishes' a few pyramids were built and the usual sweaty bouncing that is normally reserved for the hardcore few seemed to embrace over half the hall. This was NMA on top form, playing like this they look as if they could continue for another twenty years. They may be past their heyday in terms of sales but in quality and relevance they are constantly improving. Website