NME Awards 2016: Suede at O2 Forum | Live review

Attendees to Suede’s gig at the O2 Forum last night witnessed one of the best shows the band has provided so far.
Given the energy with which Brett Anderson moved on stage, the singer’s nearly infallible vocals and the fact that songs dating back to 1993 such as Metal Mickey sounded still as fresh as when they were released and first performed, it is hard to believe Suede have been around for so long.

Listed among the acts featured in the NME Awards tour, Suede treated long-standing fans as well as new adepts to an epic two-hour show which consisted of both old hits and new material.

It all began with a spectacle which simultaneously delighted the audience’s visual and hearing senses as the band played their latest record Night Thoughts in its entirety, ‘hidden’ behind a see-through screen on which a short film directed by Roger Sargent was projected.

Initial perplexities regarding this entertainment choice soon gave in to the certainty that the show couldn’t have been devised otherwise as this full-on cinematic experience proved to make perfect sense. Such moving images adroitly matched to each of the tracks that constitute Suede’s ‘rock opera’ added more intensity to the songs’ poignant lyrics and infused their touching melodies with stronger emotions.

The concert could have easily ended there, but it would have been unfair to dismiss twenty-plus years worth of tunes altogether in favour of the recently published record that needs promotion. Last night was also the celebration of a long-lasting career and, once all the frills were disposed of, Suede metaphorically and literally revealed themselves for what they truly are – a band capable of reinvention without forgetting their origins and that still have what it takes to please an adoring crowd all the while having fun themselves.

Anderson seemed So Young, jumping around the stage, getting closer to his fans during favourites like Trash until he physically joined them as he sang For the Strangers. Encouraging the audience to listen and “talk about fuckin’ Eastenders later”, Anderson dedicated an acoustic version of High Rising to those who had been following him and the band throughout Europe over the past two weeks.

During the encore, an acoustic rendition of Everything Will Flow, “a good song from a bad album”, sent shivers down the spine.

Closing up with the whole venue accompanying the band to New Generation, Suede confirmed they still have game.

Verdict: •••••

For further information on Suede, visit here.

 

Jeff Buckley, You and I – exclusive listening

Imagine you’re among the personnel at Sony Music’s headquarters, that you’re envisaging to come up with something special to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Jeff Buckley’s first record Grace and that one day while you’re browsing your archives you come across ten tracks which the composer had recorded in 1993 but had since gone long forgotten. Bingo! This seems like the perfect way to honour Buckley’s intense, if brief career and an extraordinary gift to give to the musician’s fans.

Former Columbia Records A&R and a friend of Buckley’s, producer Steve Berkowitz came all the way from the States to the Sanctum Hotel in London on Wednesday night to present a few lucky ones with a double gift, the first being this previously uncovered seminal work in the form of a new album, You and I, which will be released next March.
This new LP will comprise eight covers of artists as varied as The Smiths, Bukka White and Led Zeppelin, as well as two original songs – the first-ever studio recording of Grace and a brand new track called The Dream of You and I.

The other, no less significant gift which Berkowitz provided us with was an intimate, straight-forward Q&A in which he gave away many stories and fun facts about Jeff Buckley that made everyone feel as if he was still there among us. Berkowitz talked amiably about his friend and protégé, about his short yet successful life before that ill-fated drowning that took him away in 1997. Sharing personal moments and curiosities regarding a composer whose untimely death turned him into a myth actually made Buckley look more like the simple, down-to-earth guy that he really was.

You and I is further proof of this as, just like Berkowitz remarked several times, this collection of renditions of songs made famous by others is not a mere tribute to those artists. Buckley’s versions of Sly & The Family Stone’s Everyday People, Calling You by Jevetta Steele or Louis Jordan’s Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin’ among others are more than just covers – Buckley internalised these tracks and performed them as if they were his own, in his distinctive style. The American composer is heard both screaming and wailing, picking gently on his guitar strings for more melodic tunes and more rapidly for ‘percussive’ songs.

This old, newly mastered material was a surprise so it is better not to reveal too much about it but trust me if I say it will blow your minds.

(Special thanks to Music News for sending me down to the event)

Mew at Village Underground | Live review

Last Monday night, Danish alternative band Mew graced the many people that crowded Village Underground with the first of two special gigs that had been dubbed ‘An evening with Mew featuring both electric and acoustic performances’ and which can easily and righteously be renamed ‘A triumph for Mew’ (for the less familiar with the band A Triumph for Man is the title of their first record).

The band played for nearly two hours, unevenly split in two very different, though equally entertaining, sets comprising material from the new album as well as old hits and b-sides. In the words of bassist Johan Wohlert, only recently back on board after an eight-year hiatus from the band, these specially conceived concerts are a ‘nerve-racking experience’ yet ‘a chance to rediscover some songs in a new light’. It is safe to say the attempt proved successful since unrecognisable versions of tracks such as Why Are You Looking Grave, transformed into a power-ballad, left the audience in awe.

Mew absolutely blew everyone away with both spell-binding, soothing, magical symphonies and energetic, powerful, rocking tunes in a whirlwind of distorted, echoing sounds, heavy guitar riffs mixed with Jonas Bjerre’s alternately shrieking or lower-pitched voice. A cosy venue and the lack of any sort of pretentious props, exception made for some amazing animated videos created by the lead singer and projected on the background screen during the second half of the show, added to the intimate atmosphere that was created by songs like Behind the Drapes, She Came Home for Christmas – the most-voted among the tracks that Mew made available for request – or the mesmerising Comforting Sounds, which closed the gig.

Mew have more than a reason to rejoice and be thankful for as this year they are celebrating twenty years of activity as well as promoting their latest album + –, which came out after a six-year wait, and this live show confirmed that there is no need for extravagance or arrogance in order to be successful. The Danish (now) trio are perhaps underrated but their modesty combined with their excellent music made of smart, intense lyrics and captivating melodies is what fans like most about them, and it is hard not to agree.

Verdict: •••••

For further information on Mew and future tour dates, visit here.

MewVillageUnderground

Francis Ford Coppola for Meet the Media Guru at Teatro Dal Verme (Milan)

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Last Monday night the Dal Verme theatre in Milan hosted a special event organised by Meet the Media Guru which saw the world-famous filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola honour with his presence nearly 1500 people.

Having made cinema history with such movies as the Godfather trilogy, the director was invited to talk about his Italian origins and to promote Basilicata – the region which gave birth to his ancestors. The free happening was a triumph, with the venue reaching full capacity and almost failing to contain the ebullient audience.

After a brief introduction, Coppola was left to speak freely and he captivated everyone with his charismatic storytelling of how he became the person he is and how his talent and passion spread onto his offspring. He went on explaining how much and why he is so attached to his roots, giving away anecdotes and entertaining by means of a naturally flowing, funny and compelling speech that was frequently interrupted by loud clapping.

The second half of the event was dedicated to a Q&A, which apparently turned out to be the longest of all those held until then – Mr Coppola was so enthusiastic that he seemed unstoppable. Many, between fans and journalists, showed appreciation and gratefulness for the director’s work and interrogated him on both serious and trivial matters. Though at times he either misunderstood, forgot or even shrewdly avoided to get to the core of some inconvenient questions, the director answered them all composedly sharing words of wisdom which contented everybody.

It was a pleasant and stimulating event, however its success prompts a dilemma. Coppola suggested that the petroleum which was recently found there should be used to fuel the economy of the Basilicata region but why not start investing on a smaller scale? Had the conference been organised somewhere in Lucania, the area would have benefited from it first of all thanks to the tourism it would have generated, considering that it attracted people from all around the world, and secondly thanks to the event’s resonance. Something to think about for the next time.

Eagles of Death Metal – Zipper Down | Album review

After popping out three records over the course of a half-decade, it has taken seven years this time for Eagles of Death Metal to come back with new material. However, considering the unpretentious yet good quality of Zipper Down, the band can without doubt be forgiven.

Jesse Hughes and the mastermind behind Kyuss first and Queens Of The Stone Age later Josh Homme return with a handful of original songs, plus an interesting take on an 80s cult, which may not be the next big thing but can surely please garage rock fans.

Zipper Down’s tracks all share the similar SoCal feel, they all ooze raw, juicy riffs just like a rare steak and distorted sounds coming through an imaginary warp induced by booze or drugs. Opener Complexity sets the mood for the entire LP, which contains light, playful, unassuming tunes. Silverlake (K.S.O.F.M.) reinforces this theory – Hughes’ amusing interpretation and attitude on the brink of ridiculousness speak for themselves as he sings “I am from Silverlake and therefore I don’t give a damn” and “I’m in a cool band”.
It’s clear that Eagles of Death Metal like what they do, they like doing it well but they like fooling around all the same.

The band mostly bets on fast rhythms, yet do a good job on slower tracks as well like I Love You All The Time. There’s more than a rock ballad to it though. Hughes singing a whole chorus in French doesn’t make it sound as sexy as he might have intended but the comic result is guaranteed.
That’s the trick with this band – EoDM talk about simple things and don’t go too far from the stereotyped imagery usually associated with their musical genre but they do have that extra oomph as they infuse grit, power, sensuality and all that’s in between with a humorous vein that few other groups have. Take for example Got the Power, with its falsetto backing vocals or Skin Tight Boogie, mixing an hypnotic guitar loop with a funny verbal crossfire in which the girl gains the upper hand.

An unexpected cover of Duran Duran’s classic Save a Prayer, where synthesizers are exchanged for cries akin to the Tarzan yell and the pop atmospheres turn into rougher melodies, gives a nice finishing touch to Eagles of Death Metal’s long awaited fourth album – one which won’t disappoint.

Verdict: 3,5

Zipper Down was released on 2nd October, for more information about Eagles of Death Metal and upcoming shows click here.

Biggest Foo Fighters tribute sees 1000 Italian fans simultaneously rock to ‘Learn to Fly’

Last Sunday a thousand between singers and musicians gathered in Cesena, northern Italy, to perform ‘Learn to Fly’ by Foo Fighters all at the same time.
After conceiving the idea in May 2014, Fabio Zaffagnini and the team behind Rockin’1000 worked hard to bring their project to life, organising and finally managing to host a few days ago an unprecedented event which they hope will resonate enough to convince Dave Grohl and co. to eventually schedule a gig in the Romagna region.

It took a year-long of efforts fuelled by dedication and perseverance to overcome the many difficulties obstructing the path to success, but the satisfaction of planners and participators alike make it all worth. Following months of promoting, auditioning, and crowdfunding, the Rockin’1000 team only selected what they deemed to be the best singers, guitarists, bassists and drummers, chose arranger and composer Marco Sabiu to direct the musicians in the Parco Ippodromo and eventually collected the 40,000 Euros they needed to subsidise the event.

Even before the official website unleashed the official video, enthusiastic fans had been bombarding social media with their joy for achieving a similar triumph. Understandably so, for this event not only qualified as the biggest tribute to date that’s been paid to Foo Fighters, there’s a good chance it will be able to persuade the band to grant the fans’ wish they played in Romagna again. Realising this might be complicated, yet there are all the makings for Grohl and his mates to at least seriously consider it.

The band is in fact known for being particularly keen on pleasing their supporters, surprising them with their generosity as it happened after the 2006 Beaconsfield Mine collapse incident when Grohl promised tickets to any Foo Fighters concert upon hearing that the two trapped miners had explicitly asked to have their music put on the MP3 players they were sent down amongst other comforts while waiting to be rescued or, more recently, when they invited an 8-year-old fan onstage to sing Times Like These with them.

While these were spontaneous acts, one wonders if Grohl and co. could remain unmoved by what Rockin’1000 did in their honour. Such devotion probably won’t go unnoticed but we can only wait to see what the Foos will do once they find out about it! In the meantime, fans worldwide are already enjoying taking a peek at what occurred last Sunday. See for yourself in the video below.

[Edit] One day later, Dave ‘Davide’ Grohl has already issued a reply, in his own funny but lovely Italian. Have a look here: A promise

The message loosely translates as “Hi Cesena! It’s Dave, hi… Sorry, I don’t speak Italian, just a little bit…a bit… This video… it’s oh so nice, very nice…thanks a million. We’re coming, I promise! See you soon, thanks a lot. Love you guys, bye!”

Iron and Wine & Ben Bridwell – Sing Into My Mouth | Album review

After what seems to have been years of waiting for the right time, Ben Bridwell’s dream to collaborate with Sam Beam aka Iron & Wine has finally come true. Band of Horses’ lead vocalist and guitarist (Bridwell) joined forces with the indie folk singer-songwriter, a long-time friend also hailing from South Carolina, to give birth to an album of covers.

Sing Into My Mouth sees the two musicians offering their personal rendition of classics and lesser known songs, venturing into genres as diverse as soul, country, new wave and pop amongst others. A surely ambitious project, the experiment is a partial fiasco – the effort on the whole results in a somewhat soporific collection with almost no significant sparks.

The record has a promising start with a heartfelt cover of This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody) by Talking Heads, almost unrecognisable behind the wall of sound created by instruments such as the accordion, the slide guitar and the tambourine. With the addition of both Bridwell and Beam’s tuned, mellow voices, the song gets a complete makeover and enters a new, dreamy dimension – it’s definitely a successful attempt by the two musicians who manage here to leave their mark with an unusual touch.

Coming next is Done This One Before, where the duo ditches the harmonica that characterises the original version in favour of the slide guitar, keeping in tune with the bluegrass style on which they crafted the preceding song and without bringing any substantial innovation. The song’s title seems, in retrospect, like a spooky prophecy.
In the cover of Any Day Woman the piano is no longer prominent, but besides the fact that it’s no lady singing anymore, there is really little difference in the way the track sounds.

It is this homogenous feel that condemns the entire album as a bit uninspired. Beam and Bridwell suffocate the songs under a blanket of tired exercises and it’s a pity considering that Sing Into My Mouth is the product of a long awaited partnership. Instead of being revitalised the songs have been anesthetised and conformed to same musical atmospheres.

No one denies the quality of this material, but it could have used a little more freshness. Perhaps Beam and Bridwell should have taken more time to get into the studio and work harder on this project.

Verdict: 2,5

Sing Into My Mouth was released on 17th July, for more information about Iron & Wine and upcoming shows click here. For more information about Ben Bridwell and upcoming shows with Band of Horses click here.