Tag Archives: live music

Live review: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club + Immigrant Union – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane – 17/11/13

It’s hard to believe that Californian rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has been in existence since 1998. For me, their near-perfect blend of neo-psychedelia and barely-restrained garage-rock aggression transcends time and trends, owing to the fact that throughout their seven album, fifteen year career they haven’t ever tried to be anyone but themselves. Originally on the line-up of the now deceased Harvest Festival, the band delighted their Australian fans by swiftly responding to the cancellation of their festival shows and announcing a headlining tour of their own. Tonight’s result is that Brisbane gets to experience Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in West End’s The Hi-Fi. Game on.

An already quite full venue greets support act Immigrant Union; a band of mish-mashed styles (both musically and hair-wise), featuring Dandy Warhols’ drummer Brent DeBoer on frontman duties. Written descriptions of their music often feature the word ‘folk’, but tonight’s performance is a quite exhilarating mix of bluesy roots and country, with extended jams only being beaten in length by the awesome hair of singer-guitarist Bob Harrow.

Lighting in a now packed Hi-Fi is sparse and ominous as the effortlessly cool trio of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club walk onto the stage, amid reverberating roars of welcome and gasps of shock (come on, people) at guitarist/vocalist Peter Hayes having a solitary cigarette perched on his guitar neck, the light trail of smoke heading ceiling-wards from the red-hot tip while reflecting the light and adding to his already smooth exterior.

Starting with the grand ‘Hate The Taste’, the trio build a monumental sound from their respective instruments, before heading into ‘Beat The Devil’s Tattoo’ and a cover of ‘Let The Day Begin’ by bassist Robert Been’s father’s band The Call. Switching styles, instruments, pace, and groove comes easy to the three-piece throughout, as an ecstatic crowd are treated to the likes of ‘Ain’t No Easy Way’, ‘Screaming Gun’ and ‘Conscience Killer’, before a final blast of scathing, fiercely powerful guitar rock with ‘Spread Your Love’.

Obviously an encore is called for, and BRMC oblige with a further four-song outing, including ‘Whatever Happened To My Rock ‘n’ Roll (Punk Song)’. With pounded ears, a sense of dark elation, and the foreboding doom of the working week ahead, we make for home. What a bloody great gig.

Live review: Cody Chesnutt + The Cheap Fakes – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane – 20/10/13

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Some gigs promise much but deliver little. Fewer promise little but deliver much. Probably even fewer again promise much and deliver even more. But what type would tonight’s gig be? This particular Atlanta new-age soul brother – whose new record evokes smooth and dreamy mental images of Prince, Marvin Gaye and Southern-fried gospel – is in town for one night only, and for a soul gig in Brisbane on a Sunday night, perhaps expectations shouldn’t be high.

Enter Cody Chesnutt; a man who will take your expectations of the gig, the evening, and even your life, and lift them tenfold. Tonight, he would not only deliver more than could have reasonably been expected; tonight he’d take this Brisbane audience to church.

Support for tonight comes partly in the form of Brisbane’s own ska-party real-deals, Cheap Fakes. The classy six-piece run through an entertaining set of tight, danceable ska jams that instantly makes Sunday night feel like a Saturday again, as the dreaded Monday blues are fought off with vigour. Starting with ‘All I Know’, the six-piece led by engaging frontman Hayden Andrews are stylish and smooth and as the sound builds and each member solos like their lives depend on it, the audience knows they’re no fakes. Andrews announces the fact that “We’re really honoured to be supporting Cody Chesnutt. He’s been one of our favourite artists since his first album. You guys are in for a treat.”

Treat indeed. After a lengthy setup time, the impossibly cool Cody Chesnutt and his band of four take to the stage; the man himself in trademark blue army helmet and red cardigan, looking lean, mean, and ready to rock our worlds. Not content to rely on older, more familiar material, the set is comprised of songs mostly taken from his latest album, Landing On A Hundred, and lacks nothing for it. “Do you wanna listen to some soul music tonight? Let me hear you say YEAH!” he screams, and the audience respond from the off.

Starting with ‘Everybody’s Brother’ with it’s anthemic chorus, Chesnutt proves himself immediately to be a worker of crowds of the highest order as he has us eating out of his hands within minutes of being on the stage. As we sing “no turning back” loudly, then softly, then loudly again at his direction, Chesnutt grins, poses, sweats and beats around the stage with the energy of a man half his age, and we know we’re in for a pretty special night. This music is the very essence of soul, and Chesnutt knows the importance of putting everything into it and leaving nothing in the tank.

‘What Kind of Cool (Will We Think of Next)’ is next, and this is where his band of hand-picked musicians get their first chance to truly shine as they solo. It’s also apparent at this stage that this will be one of those gigs that goes for ninety minutes but only features about seven or eight songs, as the band jam and songs melt into the fabric of each other and back out again. ‘More Than A Wedding Day’ is next, and Chesnutt explains it is his favourite of the album, being the song that comes closest to describing his recent redemption and acceptance of family responsibilities and dedication to his craft, followed by ‘Where Is All The Money Going?”, which allows Chesnutt to flaunt the range of his vocals and once again lead the crowd in a sing-along. “Even a whisper is powerful,” he declares, “Because everyone in this room is united right now.” Never a truer word.

One of the most monumental roars I’ve ever heard in the Hi-Fi brings the singer back for an encore, and as he walks through the audience shaking hands and hugging strangers, there’s not a face in the house that doesn’t have a big goofy grin plastered across it. Cody Chesnutt is a man who knows how to deliver.

Live review: Blondie – Waterfront Hall, Belfast – 26th June 2013

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It’s a deliciously warm summer evening in my hometown; the kind that makes it seem that the sun won’t ever go down. In Belfast for the first time in about five years; I’m arguing with a taxi driver as we do about seventy miles per hour along the carriageway. He foolishly but stubbornly reckons Blondie were the first band to release a rap record, while I’m certain ‘Rapper’s Delight’ at least came before, even if it wasn’t the first. And weren’t Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five knocking around before either of them? I’m not sure on that one, so decide to keep it in my back pocket in the event of this debate heating up.

A dismissive “nah,” is all he’s got when I repeatedly make my argument that 1979 demonstrably came before 1981, and that elements of rap have been seen throughout reggae, jazz, and other forms of music well before front-woman Debbie Harry was even thought of, and also who-fucking-cares-anyway-can’t-we-all-just-enjoy-the-fucking-tunes. So, it’s with this sense of infuriation that I arrive at the Waterfront Hall to catch the classic new-wave band, now in their thirty-ninth year. Cheers, cabbie.

Thankfully, Blondie are way too much of a class act to let a smartass taxi driver spoil the vibe. The 2500-seater venue is full to capacity, and although the age-range of the audience is generally in the ballpark of those old enough to have enjoyed the band in their heyday, the energy level and atmosphere are high and buzzing, in that order. With an act that is obviously honed to perfection, the sextet take to the stage exactly on time, with Harry stealing the limelight with her trademark platinum blonde hair and an interesting red catsuit type number. It’s only about halfway through opener ‘One Way Or Another’ that surely every member of this – by now bouncing – crowd is reminded of what an original, and classic band this is.

Harry, from the off, is immeasurably infectious, and at 68 has lost none of the sex appeal that was such a trademark of the band in the late ’70s and early ’80s. She is a front-woman who is never boring, always visually engaging, and still has the pipes to fill out a venue of this size. Maybe it was her years spent working as a Playboy bunny, or simply a naturally engaging personality that taught her the need to not simply stand, but to always have a stance. Look up the ‘Heart of Glass’ video for example, and she’s not just standing behind the mic, but she’s there, hand on hip, one knee pushed forward, gently swaying her hips in an almost hypnotic motion. She also knows when to take a back seat and let guitarist Chris Stein or drummer Clem Burke’s sounds come to the fore. Did I mention that word class, already? Or the fact she influenced just about every white female vocalist who came after her?

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Newer songs mix with old dependables, with ‘Hanging on the Telephone’, ‘A Rose By Any Name’, and ‘The Tide Is High’ following in quick succession, with the Waterfront audience now looking like unwilling participants in a mass epileptic fit in a retirement village, before Harry announces “there’s something here that’s big, wet, and wild: Mr. Chris Stein on the guitar!” Oh Debbie, you’re a tease and you know it.

A couple of unannounced new tracks are fired off to a relatively muted response, as token youngster Tommy Kessler engages in some impressive axe shredding, with the predictable result of several hundred middle-aged women now hanging on his every move, and the scene being set nicely for the biggest cheer of the night, which comes during the first few notes of ‘Atomic’.

Closer ‘Heart of Glass’ is perhaps Blondie’s best-known song, and at the time of writing was considered to be nothing more than another album track by the band, hence its position tucked three-quarters of the way down the track-list of Parallel Lines. Clem Burke proves himself to still be a hard-hitting drum machine during the final tracks, as the Belfast crowd loses its collective marbles, and Harry and co. strut off-stage for a towel down and a cold drink.

An energetic encore featuring new song ‘Take Me In The Night’, ‘Call Me’, a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Relax’, and finale ‘Dreaming’ brings a fine night of entertainment to a close, and the band leave the stage for the last time to the sounds of near-deafening appreciation.

For those seeing the band for the first time, it’s a glorious moment, and for those seeing them for a second or maybe third time, it’s probably even more so. While the hits get the biggest response, this is a band with plenty of mileage remaining, and with new songs being written constantly, they aren’t happy to rely on their past. While songs like ‘Atomic’ probably won’t ever be bettered, it’s exciting to think that Blondie are going to give it a damn good try.