Jurassic 5 All Nighter – Chali 2na, Krafty Kuts, Mr Thing and DJ Nu-Mark

Let’s take you back to the concrete streets
Original beats with real live mc’s
Playground tactics
No rabbit in a hat tricks
Just that classic
Rap s**t from Jurassic

It was concrete streets that introduced me to Jurassic 5, and still Power in Numbers is one of my all time favourite albums. The 4 MC’s running the track, passing the lyrics between them like a relay baton, some times mid line, some times all holding it at once. Their rap was understandable not undecipherable and the beats from Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark were for me the embodiment of great Hip Hop.

It was always Chali 2na’s deep baritone voice that I loved, although the interplay between all the rappers were what made J5 so good, the track didn’t seem complete until Chali rumbled in, so while I wasn’t sure what it would be like to see him on his own, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see him live, and then see Nu-Mark at the after party.

I arrived just as A Skillz was finishing the warm up, and shortly after Krafty Kuts and Chali 2na came out onto the stage to a welcome louder than seemed possible from the size of the crowd. Playing old school Hip Hop with Chali rapping over the top the crowd were bouncing and dancing from the opening tune. Although there were a number of phones in the air recording bit and pieces, when Chali implored the crowd to put their hands high nearly every one did, something that seems to be becoming rarer these days.

I didn’t know all the songs that they did, but they in no way lessened the sheer pleasure of hearing him rap, and at one point he busted out the robot which was loudly appreciated by the crowd.

The highlight though was Krafty Kuts playing a new track, It Ain’t My Fault which features Chali and MC Dynamite, who guested. Watching Dynamite and 2na interact on the stage, and the smile on 2na’s face, it felt that as good as he is on his own, Chali misses the rest of the J5 crew on stage to interact and share the flow with. At one point he told the crowd that J5 was his past, his present and his future, and as much as he is clearly enjoying working with Krafty Kuts, it almost feels like a fling, until the time comes for a full on re-union.

He finished with concrete streets and Krafty blasted out Bob Marley’s Could You Be Loved that brought the house down and was a fitting end to a gig filled withgreat tunes.
As people flowed out the doors, making their way down through Islington to Nu-Mark, Chali jumped down to the barriers and patiently chatted and took photo’s with the crowd, about 20 minutes later I has my own photo and headed out into the night.

I walked into the Runnin’ by the Pharcyde at the after party  as Mr Thing scratched and turntabled his way through a large portion of the Tribe Called Quest back catalogue and some Hip Hop classics. Nu-Mark came on at half 1 and switched it up a notch, and switched the styles to play some brilliant beats mixed in with old school classics, and a slice of disco. I spent the entire time dancing in amongst the crowd who all had the same appreciation as I did for the music.

At 3am I finally stood still, aching all over, with a free CD from Nu-Mark and another photo. My knees hurt, my legs hurt but it was worth it, the whole night had been filled with great beats still reverberating through my head as I headed home through the concrete streets.


Catfish and the Bottlemen

I’d never actually heard of Catfish and the Bottlemen before my mate asked if I fancied wandering down to Brixton Academy to watch them. I called them up on youtube and watched the video for Hourglass, marvelling at how much the lead singer looked like Ewan McGregor, oh, it is Ewan McGregor. Loved the song though, so I listened to more, Pacifier, Cocoon, Business. I loved all of these as well. They are really good. Apparently the critics reviews have been mixed, but then, who listens to critics anyway? I’ve never really understood the point of them, it’s so subjective, if I was the only person in the world who loved a band, I would still buy their music and go to their shows, now that would be intimate. Anyhoo, here are a band who have a lot of emotion and energy, whose lyrics give away their youthful attitude (there are times when I can’t escape the feeling that they’ve just come straight from a smoke and a fumble behind the bike sheds) and who apparently sound like the Artic Monkeys and the Cribs to name but a couple.

So we got to the Academy just after half 8, queued up for 20 minutes for a pint of Tuborg, probably the worst lager in the world, and hustled half way down to the front, annoying some Welsh dude who looked like Jesus and seemed to have been standing in his spot since the doors opened and didn’t expect anyone to stand in front of him. We moved to the side. I looked around, I felt like I was in the middle of a school trip. “We are old enough to be everyone’s parents” I whispered to my mate, indeed the few people who we weren’t old enough to have fathered, were in fact the fathers of the ones we could have done. “We’re about twice the age of the band” he whispered back as they swaggered on stage to a rendition of Helter Skelter.

Opening with Rango, the crowd were rocking from the start. I couldn’t sing as I didn’t know the songs, but the crowd knew them, they sung them, they were on shoulders, looking around at their mates shouting and waving their arms. I jumped and clapped though, when the songs came on that I recognised, I got caught up in the infectious atmosphere as the odd pint of beer went arching overhead. Pacifier, Business and Kathleen were big songs, almost anthems, but it was Homesick that blew the roof off, the whole crowd (except me) sung the first verse with the band backing, and it was one of the loudest sing-along’s I have every heard, then the whole of Brixton Academy (including me) jumped to the chorus. There was an acoustic version of hourglass which I sung along to as I did to Cocoon, as they played their debut album, The Balcony, to a sold out audience at Brixton who knew every word.

Afterwards, as we streamed out into the mild Brixton night I couldn’t quite place how I felt, it was a great gig from a brilliant band but I had felt sort of detached. It wasn’t until this morning I realised that it’s because I didn’t know the songs. But not only that, while I was looking around at the kids around me, these songs had meanings for them already, and while I was a generation older, their love and energy took my back to my youth, going to gigs with groups of mates, singing along to songs that had impacted my life, had got me over an ex or soundtracked a holiday, and that’s what Catfish and the Bottlemen do so well, their short, sharp, punching songs will be tied to memories of their biggest fans for years to come, and that is the sign of a great album from a great band.


Joy to the city – Josh Ritter live at Village Underground

We almost didn’t make it, a fire and epic power cut left my tickets stranded in my drawer, and apparently we couldn’t get back into the building until today.  In the end my manager got in and rescued the tickets, I text my waiting mate at the pub..we are all set.

An hour later we were standing in the crowd with a can of piston head beer in our hands, sweating, listening to the soulful, Nina Simone-esque voice (Listen to it’s cold out here) of Bhi Bhiman, who, fully suited and booted, must have been sweating even more than the crowd, still he ended with a whistle led cover of Walk of Life and the crowd, a comfortable sell out for Village Underground, were cooking nicely.

Southern Pacifica opened a set that seemed to go of forever, and that I didn’t want to end. I always think a sign of a good artist / band is when their voice sounds live, exactly the same as it does on CD / Download / Vinyl (delete according to age), and Josh Ritter’s raw silk vocals rolled out like chocolate over the band.  Good man followed and I was singing along, perhaps only slightly less excited than Josh himself, who had a grin so big on his face his eyes were shut.  Primarily for the release of the Beast in it’s Tracks album, there was a lot of The Animal years, including Lillian, Egypt, a raucous Wolves and  my favourite of the album, a beautiful One More Mouth.

“Can we turn the lights down…lower…lower…turn them right down” bathed in two soft spotlights, accompanied by the piano Josh softly sung The Curse to a hushed crowd. There were tears in my eyes at the end, a guy in front of us had both his mates with their arms around him.  I heard my mates voice from just behind me “I’m glad you’re in front of me, at least you can’t see me crying”.  I’ve never had a reaction like that at a gig, even with songs that have a much more personal meaning to my life.

Evil Eye, Hopeful, New Lover (on par with The Airborne Toxic Event’s sometime around midnight as the greatest break up song ever, the last verse of New Lover conveys everything), Bonfire, The Appleblossom rag and Joy to you Baby all got a run out from the Beast in it’s Tracks, at one point he stood at the front of the stage and sung without the mic, the crowd heard it over the appreciative hush of watching a master at work.
He has an easy manner with the crowd, enjoying the warm reception, and even responding to advice..”Take your pants off” someone shouted after he said how hot it was. .”I was raised very conservatively, I’ve got 3 pairs on…habit”.

Towards the end there was just one song left I wanted to hear, I wanted to shout it out, to beg for it to be played, and then I heard it kick in, the last song, I turned around and hugged my mate.  My favourite Ritter song, one of my favourite love songs ever.  I sung the first lines to a girl behind me, I sung the rest to the air, loving every strum and drumbeat of Kathleen until it finished to a thoroughly deserved round of applause.  They said their goodbyes, the crowd demanded more.  The encore included long shadows and at the end another rapturous send off for a consummate musician and showman, and we streamed out into the cool night air.20130724_195026


Meat Loaf – Last At Bat tour at the O2

Words were missed, vocals were slowed down so he could keep time, the backing singers took up the mantle for some lines altogether, You took the words right out of my mouth seemed cut short, but..but underneath all the signs of age and a wild life, the consummate showman, and the voice, the voice was still there.  True it didn’t break out all the time, but when it did, the power and glory was all there.  Meat Loaf is not one to merely sing, he belts out his lyrics with passion and gusto, and to me (and this was my first Meat gig so I would be intrigued to know if he’s always sung like that) at times on the stage at the O2 last night, Meat Loaf the showman seemed to dig deep to rip his voice from his ageing body.
“I’m gonna aim for 1978, I’m not sure I’m gonna make it” came his honest promise before Two out of Three.
“We love you Meat Loaf!” came the response from the crowd, seeing past the sixty five year old man laying down his soul on the stage, it gave him energy,

The greatest hits portion included Dead Ringer for Love and Objects in the rear view mirror but the main event, Bat out of Hell was the draw, that’s what the O2 had come to see, and the Loaf did not disappoint.  Video clips featuring Jim Steinman, a younger Meat Loaf, Ellen Foley and others introduced each song. Thirty five years after it was released Bat out of Hell has just re-charted, coming in at number nine, the same spot it peaked at before, the album itself is older than me, so were most of the crowd.  A young guy across the aisle looked incredibly bemused, while his girlfriend danced beside him, when I saw him again, he was mouthing the words to heaven can wait, we were mere onlookers though to a good portion of the crowd, (slightly) older couples singing along to every word, any number of memories pinged back from each and every song.

A giant inflatable bat appeared over the stage during the first song, followed by an inflatable women’s torso with two arms coming around to cup her breasts during paradise by the dashboard light, which was belted through like he was back in his thirties.  What made the gig was For Crying out Loud, Meat Loaf broke down during the introduction explaining why he hardly ever plays it in his shows.  He started singing, eyes closed, pouring out everything to the mic.  After that the band left the stage.  There had to be an encore, he hadn’t played I’d do anything for love, but I couldn’t see how he could have anything left.  But this is Meat Loaf.  He came back out to the epic intro to I’d do anything and belted out his only UK number 1, to a faithful crowd wishing a warm and wonderful good bye to one of Rock’s greatest showmen.

M83 at Brixton Academy

I’d never heard of M83 until a couple of weeks ago, “I’ve got a couple of tickets if you want to go and see them at Brixton, check out Midnight city and let me know” said the text from my mate, who is like a personal ticketmaster (with taste).

I did, and I did.  Midnight city is an awesome song, a bit like MGMT.  But better.  And the video was fantastic, I loved it and the follow up video for Reunion.  The video for Steve McQueen was not quite as good, but the song was.  I downloaded the album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming and watched the two videos non-stop up until the gig, last Thursday.  Heading out of Brixton tube I at least seemed to know more than one of the touts, “tickets for M82 buyorsell” he touted, before someone pointed out he’d lost a number somewhere.

Inside Brixton we had a beer, then a Jungfrau bomb, the barmaid battering me down on my insistence for a Jaegar Bomb (less to drink and less chance of needing a Jimmy Riddle half way through) as it was cheaper.  We headed down the right hand side (for some reason it’s always clear my mate advised, and he was right) to fairly near the front and settled down amongst the fans.
The show was brilliant, I couldn’t tell you many of the songs, barring the three I mentioned above, I recognised some off the album, including Intro and the epic Wait (a favourite of the guy in front of us who went crazy through every song, he must be their number one fan).  The energised and uplifting Reunion was about the 3rd one in and they finished with Midnight City, which got the biggest response of the night before a pumping encore ended two years of touring for a superb band.  If you like a bit of electro pop (and French at that, No one does electro or disco like the French) then I highly recommend them.

Oooooh-oooh-oooh-ooooooh (That was me singing the riff to Midnight city, it sounded better, although my voice may have been a little too high).

Website here

A Different Kind of Fix (Bombay Bicycle Club live at the Ally Pally, 28th April)

So before Feb I’d never been to the Ally Pally.  It has taken me 3 gigs on the bounce to come to the conclusion that it’s a pants venue for a gig.  Luckily for me, I’d saved the best for last.

Bombay Bicycle Club headlined their biggest gig to date, and it will be nothing short of a crime if they don’t sell out more venues like this.
I loved the first album, I loved the second album, I love the third album.  Despite the fact I still think they are all 14, even 3 years after I first saw them at Lovebox, I love the fact that they are a very talented band, and I love Jack Steadman’s voice.

For some reason the 4 of us just stayed at the back, shuffling our feet and watching the kids, couples and assorted crowdsters.  Before it started I was reminiscing about when I went to see Macy Gray, over 10 years ago I was right at the front at the forum, now I was a the back.  My friend commented that all we had to look forward to would be spending our gigs near, or constantly in, the toilets.

Luckily for us at that point the rousing intro of How Can You Swallow so Much Sleep slide the band onto the stage and into the show.  Your eyes and Leave it followed from A Different Kind of Fix, before Dust on the ground and Bad Timing completed a energised introduction.

Rinse me down and Ivy & Gold represented the beautiful acoustic album Flaws, and Cancel on Me and Open House were dusted down and given an airing from their The Boy I Used To Be EP, as well as Evening/Morning.  Lights Out / Words Out and Beggars featured before Jack Steadman sat at the piano and wrenched out Still from the keys.

The band joined him back on stage and kicked into a saxophone fueled Always Like This, with the brass pumping up the joy in the song but not completely obliterating the melancholy that rides underneath before The Giantess and The Emergency Contraception Blues closed the main set.

If I was on a high after the main set, I kicked up a notch when the first bars of shuffle kicked off the encore, this song is one that always makes me smile and dance without fail.  What If was their sending off after a magnificent performance and not my own tiredness, the driving rain or trek back home could wipe the smile off my face.

Quantic and Alice (and Freddy) (Koko 2nd May)

“Where is he?”
My friend was too short to see the stage at Koko, but although I could see the stage, I couldn’t see Freddy, he’d jumped down into the crowd.
I turned to my left, the crowd parted like the red sea and Freddy was there, glistening in sweat, shouting and throwing his arms up as he led a conga line around the floor.

The last time I came to see Quantic and his Combo Barbaro it was supposed to be at Koko but it was moved to the Scala.  I didn’t get Freddy’s surname then, but he was back with Alfredito Linares on piano and Fernando Silva on Bass.  They were joined by the mighty mighty voice of Alice Russell, who also brought along her long time strings collaborator, Mike Simmonds.
The first song with Alice was  I’ll keep my light in my window with Alfredito’s nimble fingers plinking their way through like a wave on the bow of Alice’s powerhouse voice.  It was followed by Magdalena, a latin tinged sunny, 60’s soul number.  Su Suzy, with it’s guitar and piano licks inducing the hips of the crowd to sway, I’d Cry a good old fashioned strings v keys duel, and Look around the corner, along with a couple of classic Quantic tracks including the funk filled Pushin’ on.

As usual people were too busy thrusting their phones in the air to actually clap.  Maybe I’m just getting old but I miss the sound and feel of a whole crowd clapping along.
I had worried whether my friend would enjoy it, as she hadn’t heard of either Quantic or Alice, but at the end she revealed all.
“I did enjoy it, and you can tell because I didn’t get my phone out all night”.  Next time I just need to get her clapping.

I do personally prefer the Tradition in Transition album.  While I love Alice’s voice, there are too few songs I really love (such as Hurry on Now), but seeing both of them on stage performing was something I was not going to miss, and it was worth it.
I did wonder if Flat Cap and his Mrs from Ireland I met at the Scala had come over again, but I did find Freddy’s surname this time, Colorado.

QuanticandAlice website here