Monday, November 26, 2007

gig reviews: pendulum, cherry ghost, damien rice, foals, air traffic, amy macdonald

I haven't posted any gig reviews up here since Glastonbury, so here: have six at once.

Pendulum, Nottingham Rock City

Always teetering on the edge of fully-fledged mainstream success, with a new band aesthetic Pendulum appear hungrier than ever to achieve it.

The songs previewed here have a new intelligence. It's still drum and bass, but now guitar heavy, seemingly more influenced by the likes of Zeppelin and Muse. That this performance is an all-conquering riot despite only paying brief lip-service to signature-track Slam indicates the strong body of work they have now built up.

It all makes one confident enough to make this prediction: 2008 will be Pendulum's year. 9/10

Cherry Ghost, Nottingham Rescue Rooms

Simon Aldred appears every inch a studio artist.

Throughout his set he speaks only to thank his audience and never veers a note away from his (unquestionably wonderful) source material.
Such an approach then becomes a chore as it is stretched over 80 long minutes.

The crowd never returns favour with more than polite applause, and presumably leave wishing they'd stayed home with their copy of the album. 6/10

Damien Rice, Nottingham Arena

Damien Rice really has no idea how to play arenas. Ignoring several of his best known songs in order to air four b-sides, the casual fan must have started out dumbfounded.

For the obsessive though, it's more a wet dream.

Singing Cannonball unamplified to a pin-drop silent audience, Guillimots-esque reworking and extending of songs, breaking fire regulations and riling the furious stewards by inviting the seated audience to all stand at the stage front...

Afterwards, one thing becomes clear: Damien Rice really knows how to play arenas. 8/10

Foals, Nottingham Rescue Rooms

There is an unprecedented amount of between song chatter amongst the audience for a gig outside of London.

Many have clearly come along to check out the next big thing. Indeed for a band so early in their career headlining the 500 capacity venue seems a tall order.

Aware - and yet slightly fazed by - the challenge, the band power through a raucous 35 minute set that sees most won over. Any longer and their staple dance-punk sound would get tiresome, but in this well sized portion, they're a riot. 8/10

Air Traffic, Nottingham Rescue

Special mention must go to support band The Law, who only turned up 20 minutes before their set time, and put on a similarly botched performance.

For Air Traffic themselves, a dull opening 20 minutes doesn't provide much confidence, but when they belatedly burst into life with Charlotte its as much a relief as a joy.

A storming closing gambit of Empty Space and Shooting Star seals the deal, and if nothing else they're a perfectly amiable way to pass the time waiting for the next Coldplay album. 7/10

Amy MacDonald, Nottingham Social

Amy is doing nothing particularly original with her blend of Radio 2 friendly acoustic pop, but she's doing it better than most purely thanks to the strength of her songs.

Live, she's also helped by a fine line in telling chattering audience members to 'shut the hell up', and a charming stripped down cover of Mr. Brightside which seems purpose built to be played on Jo Whiley's Radio 1 show one day. It all makes for an endearing performance that hints of greater things to come. 8/10

Thursday, November 22, 2007

who'd be england manager?

Christ, can't believe I'm posting a blog about football. It must be a big news day in the sport world.

Seriously though: England, as a competitive force, are permanently screwed. They'll never win a major competition again. Because, realistically who on earth is going to be daft enough to ever take the England Manager's job ever again?

It must rank down there amongst 'traffic warden', 'Blue Peter competition operator' and 'terrorist' for professions where everybody is going scrutinise you and end up hating your guts.

The knives came out for Steve McLaren today, as you might expect. Graham Taylor was Public Enemy #1 after England last failed to qualify for a tournament back in 1993. Other managers have enjoyed relative success then hit a bad patch and had to endure the country turning on them (Glenn Hoddle, Kevin Keegan). Even Sven-Goran Eriksson at the height of his success in the role had to cope with ridiculous amounts of press and public scrutiny into his private life. Only Terry Venables seems to have escaped unscathed from the job in the last 15 years.

So, the question has to be asked: who on earth would be stupid enough to take the England Manager job now? The media scrutiny and willingness to change their opinions as regularly as the wind changes direction means that the best people for the job are going to have the good sense to leave it well alone.