The Gathering – Sleepy Buildings

Sleepy Buildings came as a between albums surprise for fans and remains the best present the band has given us. It ranks highly in my opinion with the best live albums ever –    it has all the trademarks of a classic live recording- passion, fan favorites, inspired performances, the odd mistake which add to the overall gig. This was a semi-acoustic show for fans at the Lux Theatre in 2003 with a couple of bonus songs from their British live shows. I was lucky enough to see them at Glastonbury and while that was a much livelier show the acoustic nature of this show means everything is more mellow, more laid back, and more personal. The small crowd gives a sense of intimacy and the songs chosen vary wildly from their respective original versions. Some of these new takes feel at times better than the way they are usually performed but naturally that is subjective. This is a must for fans and I would strongly encourage anyone remotely interested in the band or anyone who wants to try something new to invest in this; you won’t be disappointed.

`Locked Away’ opens the album softly just Anneke’s voice and some background acoustic guitar. Pianos and tambourine soon follow giving this a much different feel to what we are used to. This sets the tone for the whole show- everything is subtle and underplayed quite amazing considering how complex some of the originals are. The irony is that while those originals were so ambitious, it was equally ambitious trying to strip them down. And for anyone wondering, Anneke sounds even better live than on record.

`Saturnine’ is taken from `If Then Else’ a highly melodic and at times bitter song, here featuring some fantastic bass and stunning vocals. Here, like most of the album most of the instruments are close to being drowned out by the sheer power and emotion of Anneke’s singing. This is one of her best performances of the show but there is also some simple backing guitar which covers any blank spaces. Towards the end the non acoustic parts come through with some nice synthesizer and keyboard piano playing, but never once does it get heavy; it remains chilled, blissful.

`Amity’ comes again from `If The Else’, a simple piano led song with Anneke singing multi layered melodies. While the vocals are great and the song itself is good, lending a typically dark tone to proceedings, it doesn’t stand out as much as others here. The lyrics are nice and clear here though and the guitars have a nice ghostly effect.

`The Mirror Waters’ is taken from the V festival and is one of three songs taken from pre- Anneke days so it almost seems like a new song. I like the different take on the song, Anneke sings with her usual effervescence, and the backing music and organs are excellent. The lyrics actually stand out here, given a new reality via Anneke’s performance. The song builds through several loud and quiet parts before descending into a minute of typical Anneke `ooh ahhs’.

`Red Is A Slow Colour’ retains the threatening mood of the original but changes the drumming and loud guitars for some latter-day Gathering effect work and soft strumming. Again it gives Anneke another chance to shine, proving that she could sing anything and make it sound angelic. Once again there is an extended outro of `oohs’.

`Sleepy Buildings’ was a new song written for this performance- a simple Anneke with piano song. It has quite a bouncy, upbeat feel to it and seems a little strange surrounded by these other songs. It isn’t exactly out-of-place, it just has an oddness about it. Still a good song though, maybe we’ll see it again some time in the future.

`Travel’ comes in with the full force of the band, an epic acoustic here which is just as good as the original. If anything this version has more melody, more sadness to it as it lacks the heavy guitars and experimental noise. It is rare to have an acoustic song this lengthy in a live performance but it works every second (perhaps cheating with some added electric guitars and keyboards). Anneke does some great shouting for the final part of the song, topping off a fine performance.

`Shrink’ never really sounds different in any performance of it that I’ve heard. An ultra heavy thrash version of it might be interesting. Here it is as fragile and beautiful as ever, Anneke belts out the vocals rather than the more hushed take on `Nighttime Birds’. This doesn’t take away from the haunting sensation that will inevitably creep up and down your spine upon hearing, and I like the way the climbing piano melody fits in with the riff in the next song’s introduction.

`In Motion Pt II’ here is among my favourite Gathering songs, and it may be Anneke’s best vocal display. Control, moving from gentle to brutal, from weakness to utter desperation, her range is unending and the number emotions she is able to convey are just as moving as the emotions themselves. I challenge anyone not to feel a shudder of admiration when they hear the chorus come in. The musicians give equally strong displays, with subtle keyboards to effective backing guitars; this is as perfect as music can be.

`Stonegarden’ is another re-worked early song, but this time I don’t feel it is as effective. It opens strongly enough with keyboards and Anneke’s first line. Perhaps the song simply works better with lower range male vocals, the verses don’t have too memorable melodies although the time shifts are good. As with every song here it is essential listening as I’m sure this will turn out to be someone’s favourite.

`My Electricity’ has never been one of my favourites in any incarnation though here it is as good as any take I’ve heard. It is in no way a bad song, it just doesn’t do much for me. This sees Anneke and Rene’s guitar without any external interference and of course it works. When you have such talented people, everything works.

`Eleanor’ is still one of the band’s most popular songs, the opening sounds usually accompanied by a giant roar from the crowd. This version is cut down as far as it is possible to go, with light guitars and piano. Anneke sings in a softer way giving the song a new feel and at times it sounds more vicious and sadistic with those creeping pianos. As usual I’m almost certainly reading too far into things but either way this incarnation is especially good. We don’t even miss the blast beats.

`Marooned’ in this gig is perfect; gorgeous vocals, almost unnoticeable guitars, computerized drums, and a very light backing organ sound. The lyrics are highlighted here and we can sense the desolation and despondency of the lonely narrator. The no-one’s home phone sound is put to good use and everything sounds complete as if it was written to always be played this way.

`Like Fountains’ closes the album- the final V song, and the final pre-Anneke song. It may also be the best song on the album. Most of the song it is simply Anneke singing over some sparse piano, and you can tell not a word was spoken in the crowd while this was being played. The multi verses build up to a Tori Amos style chorus, heartbreaking, melodic, soft, yet full of conviction. To finish an album as good as this on such a high is something special.

Anyone unsure of The Gathering’s genius should buy this. Knowing what they can do in the recording studio, and seeing it all being thrown out the window before picking up the pieces and creating something new and equally brilliant is a gift few if any other bands have achieved. The only tragedy is that this, and the band are largely unheard of. For those who already fans, and for those who have just clicked `add to basket’- your ears will rarely hear something as good. DVD please?

*Originally written in 2009

Manic Street Preachers – Ulster Hall, Belfast, 21st September 2013

Great Scott!
Great Scott!

I’m getting old; That’s the message of the downbeat new Manics album Rewind The Film and it’s also the message of the concert, and of this review. The band is at that point in their careers, and their lives, where regrets are overpowering ambitions, and the past is glorious when compared with the tedium of the present and the futility of the future. However, that has never been a reason to stop great artists from producing some of their greatest work – Rewind The Film may not be the band’s best work, but it is certainly not a dip in form from their recent well-received albums. The music is deliberately quiet, not as hugely produced as Postcards or as bombastic as Journal so I was intrigued by how these new tracks would work on stage, played to raucous fans by a band known for their high kicking, high energy performances. Would the crowd react well? Would those songs be used as an excuse for a toilet break? Read on for the startling conclusion!

It had been a few years since I had last seen the Manics, after their excellent show at The Ulster Hall for the Journal tour and their Tennant’s Vital show (which I watched for free from my bedroom window). Since then I’ve had 2 children, moved out of the city, and entered my 30s, kicking and screaming. Getting old. Looking back. It’s difficult for me getting to concerts, or out of the house at all these days, what with looking for babysitters, thinking about the hour-long drive there and back, parking, justifying forking out the money when it could be spent on the kids etc, being arsed to actually get up and do something rather than living to fall asleep. You know what I mean.

I made it to the city around 6pm and met a few friends from school for drinks beforehand. Naturally, talk turned to school, who we had seen recently. I learned another guy from my year had killed himself. He wasn’t the first. I didn’t know him well, but the old useless cliché of ‘he didn’t seem the type’ was straining to come from my lips. I was the type. I met an old friend from work. I met my best mate from Primary School (for those who don’t understand, the school we attend from age 5 – 11).  As I looked around at the crowd I saw a majority of older faces, older at least than me. I’d never seen this before at a Manics gig, or at least I’d never noticed. I did notice a lack of feather-boad, mascara-smeared, slashed and burned Richey/Nicky devotees. Maybe they were at Dublin.

As idiot detractors are fond of pointing out, The Manics are now a Radio 2 band. I’m sure they have their Radio 1 moments too (I haven’t listened since Mark and Lard left) but that may point towards a new group of fans; previously, you had a rough split between the Richey era diehard fans, the Topshop wearing crowd who only know a handful of the singles, and the people like me who love everything. Now we have a new subset of older fans who enjoy… I don’t know really – any ideas? They were swaying their arms during A Design For Life, and looked bewildered during Revol. I wonder if that crowd is listening to the lyrics as well as the music.

Apologies to Cate Le Bon (no relation to Simon…) but I decided to stay outside the main hall near the booze and merchandise area chatting with friends. We could hear you though. I didn’t know anything about you before the album was announced, but you sounded nicely tormented at the show. I headed for my seat once Cate left the stage (yes, I know, sitting at a Manics gig is a fairly serious crime, but with driving to the show I had my coat, wallet, keys and other assorted crap on my person and I didn’t want to be standing in a feverish crowd for a few hours, melting. So I withdrew, retreated from my friends, and was assimilated into a crowd of older people to the right of James, and waited for the first song to hit.

This tour has seen the band walking out to new instrumental track Manorbier. The band have been dabbling with instrumentals for quite a few years now, but I haven’t heard one I would rate highly yet. Horse Under Starlight is probably my favourite, and it was recorded many years back. Still, it’s a nice idea to come out to your own music, but I’m still waiting for someone to use music from the Conan The Barbarian soundtrack. Still, the intro merged nicely with the first song, the eternal Motorcycle Emptiness. A fan favourite, even for fans who have never heard it (whatever that means) it’s always well received live, and makes for a great first song. Even better, it was followed up with one of my personal favourites (and my favourite from TIMTTMY) Ready For Drowning. The most perfectly circular song ever written, I’ve never understood why more fans don’t hold it in high regard. TIMTTMY contains Nicky’s best lyrics, and some of the most overtly emotional playing from James, and that cascading pre-chorus riff if like the walls of a decade of pain crumbling away. It’s another track well suited to the live arena.

After a strong one-two intro, the band powered into a duo of pop anthems with Your Love Alone Is Not Enough and new single Show Me The Wonder. Both received an encouraging reception from the crowd, and it was wonderful to see the band and audience relishing the back and forth lyrical turns. Anthem For A Lost Cause was up next, a song which critics had been unfairly trying to compare to A Design For Life before the latest album was released. This one did quiet the audience down quite a bit, not surprising as the album had only been out a week and only the most hardcore of fans would have had time to get to know it with any level of intimacy. The band once again picked things up with a pair of hits, with the string bombast of (It’s Not War) Just The End Of Love and the ever-popular You Stole The Sun From My Heart. I always moan about the latter when I see the band live, as they always seem to play it. Naturally it’s a crowd-pleaser, with a chorus begging to be screamed to a sigh, but there are a few singles I’d dearly love to see life before the band (or me) call it a day (Life Becoming A Landslide at the top of the list). However, I’m always first to leap about like a broken Ian Curtis when it’s played, moaning or not.

The band slowed things down once more with a pair of new tracks which feature guest vocal talents on the record. Cate Le Bon joined Nicky live on stage for a tender 4 Lonely Roads while James tried out some fantastic deeper vocals with Rewind The Film. I did notice a large number of people making their way out for a booze/fag/piss break at this point. By recent Manics standards this is a long song, and depending on my mood it either overstays its welcome, or just about manages to not drag. I do love the melodies, and I do love that twiddling guitar part, but it feels like there is a little too much repetition in there, or some seconds which could be cut. Having said that, it was good fun to see James, one of the most underrated vocalists there has ever been (and one who manages to remain unique in rock music) doing things a bit differently here.
You Love Us was up next, and built the crowd into a frenzy as always – even the statuesque, close to throwing herself off the balcony, goth beside me cracked a smile in the opening chords. I think. If You Tolerate This… followed and ensured the crowd had a chance to stretch their vocal cords a little. This led to the obligatory James solo set, starting with my favourite song from the new album This Sullen Welsh Heart a song which belongs in a Shane Meadows film, or at least the Welsh equivalent. If there’s one song that has been haunting my wife over the recent weeks it’s ‘I don’t want my children to grow up like me’, as I sing it whilst making lunch, wandering from room to room, moaning about how much Great British Bake-Off she has on the free-view, blocking me from recording Film 4. It would have been a more poignant moment had more of the crowd known the song, not the case for Can’t Take My Eyes Off You which James played next as a bonus for messing up a lyric. Rounding up this set was The Everlasting, a much derided song by certain sections of fans but one which I’ve always adored thanks to the swarming strings and a tugging, stretching guitar solo. The whole thing is so desperately sad and true.
Another personal favourite was up next, arguably their best album opener Elvis Impersonator. The sudden change from acoustic to LOUD is a classic moment in the band’s history, and played here it signaled the end of the acoustic set and the move into the final series of hits. Revol was the only entry from The Holy Bible played all night which likely will have annoyed some, but most of those songs would not have fit well with the mood of the night, or the tour. Tsunami continued the crowd-pleasing anthems and Kevin Carter threatened to cause irreparable damage to the balcony area due to copious pogo-ing. 30 Year War got a fairly strong response, a call to action which hopefully some of the crowd took out of the venue and home – hopefully a few were still asking themselves ‘what is to be done’ the next day.
Finally, the band gave their triumphant send-off with a guitar-hero intro to Motown Junk, and a typically stonking Design For Life which had the drunks in full, awful voice outside the venue as they slouched towards their next target. Apparently some in the crowd were shouting for an encore. Youngsters, eh?
Were you at the show? Did you see them on this tour elsewhere? Let us know in the comments!

Bands I’ve Seen Live – G

Gemma Hayes: I’ve been in love with Gemma Hayes since I first heard Let A Good Thing Go way back in 01/02. It just so happened then that the first time I saw her live was at my first visit to the Glastonbury Festival. She put on a terrific afternoon show featuring one of my favourote live moments ever.

To set the scene- some live performers fly through their set without giving the audience a second thought, while others put on a bombastic show with a ‘Hello, Wembley’ here or there. Others though are happy to chat and banter with the crowd, and depending on the size and drunkeness of the crowd, and the confidence of the performer, this does not always end well. By afternoon the many thousands were already 3/4’s cut thanks to various cider mixtures, but the glorious sunshine and kick ass music kept everyone happy. Gemma is known to be quite chatty during performances, often answering questions and comments shrieked at her, but for this performance one bald, rugby player looking type kept heckling her. Nothing offensive, you understand, and everyone was taking it in a good natured way. It started from the usual chanting of ‘you rock!!’ and somehow moved onto the subject of booze. He was shouting questions at her, and she was laughing and answering, until the question of drinking whiskey came up. Gemma made some comment about enjoying whiskey every now and then and the crowd thought that would be the end of it. But no; materializing from nowhere (as frequently happens at Glastonbury) a bottle of Whiskey appeared which baldy proceeded to the stage with. Offering Gemma a drink, she obliged and sunk a shot to the rapturous applause and ‘chug chug chugs’ of the crowd. I got (non-digital) photos which I must find and upload.

I’ve seen Gemma 3 other times around Belfast, and each time there is similar interaction with the audience. She is always super friendly, chatty, and most importantly consistently brilliant. Many of her album tracks are soft, gentle, breathy affairs, but when played live they can transform into either a distorted rock/noise fusion or cuttingly tender moments. Live renditions of Hanging On are always raccuous, while gentle pieces like Easy On The Eye and Evening Sun are pin-dropping. I can only implore any readers out there to grab her albums and catch her if she’s playing anywhere within 200 miles of your house. For now, here’s a Belfast pic:

Gemma Hayes

Guns ‘n’ Roses: The first band I ever got into, back when I was 6 or 7 or younger, G’n’R introduce me to guitars, rock, metal; basically they introduced me to music and shaped by tastes as a music lover. Of course, by the time I was of the age to start attending concerts, the band I loved was long gone. Rumours of Chinese Democracy and reforming were brought up every year, but aside from the odd movie single or South American live show, nothing ever happened. Until it did happen. G’N’R arrived in Dublin in a fury of hype- was Axl popping off to an oxygen tent between songs, what special guests were there, would they even show on time etc etc. I made my way down on The Venue bus, met up with some friends, and watched as Axl and the gang came on stage right on time. Blasting through every song you could wish for (except my all time favourite Think About You) it was about as perfect a gig as you could expect from the new line up. There was the usual banter, a few tracks from the then unreleased Chinese Democracy were played, and a great time was had by all. The RDS is a bit of a duff venue (pardon the double pun) but even that couldn’t take anything away from a special night and day.

David Gray: I never got David Gray. I mean I understand that bland, inoffensive music has it’s place but just not anywhere near my ears. Of course, i’m probably missing something given the acclaim of albums like White Ladder, but anytime I see that head bopping from side to side I get a sudden urge to pop it off. Likewise, that awful Babylon song has caused my ears to vomit on at least 3 separate situations. So why did you see him live then, asshole, you may rightly ask. Well, Glastonbury again, and my friends were casual fans. I thought I would give him a chance. Like Coldplay, Gray can perform and whip up the crowd, but when all it takes to whip up a crowd of his fans is a couple of head bops that isn’t really saying much. I’m sure many people who were there would say it was a great gig- a variety of hits were played, blah blah bland. Yeah, not my sort of thing.

The Gathering: Phew, we can finish on a high. Honestly, I didn’t know a lot about The Gathering when I saw them at Glastonbury (but they have since become my favourite band on the strength of that performance). I knew of them, I knew that the were a female fronted metal band, and I think I may have heard Leaves and Strange Machines before but hadn’t paid too much attention. They were touring as promotion for new album Souvenirs which saw a further departure from the style of music which made them famous. I saw quite far back from the stage for the whole show and let the dark, ambient moods flow through my soul. The weaving of the melodies with Gilmour-esque guitars, foreboding bass, and of course the nearest-thing-to-God-on-Earth vocals of Van Giersbergen were a revelati0n. Suffice to say, when I got back to normality I snapped up every album, starting with Souvenirs and was hooked. All there is left for me to say is- buy any of their albums now- I’d recommed Mandylion, How TO Measure A Planet, or Sleepy Buildings to start. All epic, all different, all the best thing you’ll ever hear.

Bands I’ve Seen Live – F

Out of the bands I’ve seen beginning with the letter F, there is really only one band I would pay to see, although I wouldn’t have any problem seeing any of them again with the exception of Fat Boy Slim, as that would be horrific.

Funeral For A Friend – I’ve seen these guys a couple of times, always as an opening act of some description. I don’t have anything against them like many people do; yes they are a little whiney but they don’t wear their ‘mummy doesn’t love me’ angst on their sleeves as much as some of their ilk like to, and they seem to pump out the odd decent tune.

Foo Fighters – The band I would pay to see, but given that I’ve had the opportunity to see them several times and only actually paid to see them at a festival, that isn’t saying much. I’ve always like them, right from the start, but I’ve never been a fan; I’ve never bought any of their albums or actively sought them out, but their direct approach to rock and their direct link to Nirvana lends them a special place in my musical thoughts. I saw them at Slane and they were excellent, and I would recommend any rock fans to see them at least once.

Feeder – I don’t have anything against Feeder, I really don’t. It’s just that they’re not very good. I mean, they’ve been around forever but don’t have a lot to show for it. They have a handful of good singles, a handful of very annoying ones, and probably a tonne of decent tracks I’ll never get round to hearing. They are always energetic, and at least they can find a good hook for what songs I’ve heard, but nothing is particularly memorable.

Faithless – Growing up in the nineties I was forced to see my beloded rock and metal genre fall by the wayside as dance music largely took over. As with any genre, metal, dance (all country is terrible) there are an overabundance of useful talents, and only a sprinkling of genuinely great groups. Even to my young, naive thumping bass hating ears, it was obvious that Faithless fell into the latter camp. When I eventually saw them it was a great show with them commanding the crowd as well as any band I’ve ever seen.

Fat Boy Slim – On the other end of the scale are atrocities like this. Hello boeys and gruls, here am a song I am didn’t not ryhte. I put som noyses of myselph banggin a pan aginst an other pan and maid it a number 1!

The Flaming Lips – I saw this lot at Glastonbury not long after the release of Yoshimi which was an instant critical darling. I appreciate the sentiment and the their live shows are always a spectacle, but again they are a band I haven’t got into. To be fair though, I never really gave them a chance so perhaps it is time to do a discography download and see what I’ve been missing. I did get some great, non digital pics of their gig though, just as the sun was setting behind the Pyramid Stage.

Tori Amos- Belfast November 2011

Night Of Hunters

I saw, I heard, and it was good. Nearing the end of the Night Of Hunters Tour, and following a rave reviewed performance at the Royal Albert Hall, Tori landed in Belfast on 11/8/11 for her first concert here since 1994. She was reminded of this fact during the Meet and Greet and embarrassedly mentioned it during the show. Speaking of meet and greets, I didn’t get into the city early enough and so missed the opportunity to ask any silly questions- ‘Who does your hair?; How powerful are orange knickers?; Wanna come back to mine? And so on.

I arrived around 6.30, chucked the car into a space (possibly reserved for buses) outside St George’s market, and traipsed round to Victoria’s Bar (formerly The Advocate) to meet other gig-goers. Only 6 were in my group, and we are all sitting in different parts of The Waterfront. I was on the top floor, row 2 but as I headed for the stairs a Top Man model looking type said that due to low capacity the top section was closed and I would be re-seated. Into the middle section I went, and was promptly seated beside two older women. Chatting about recent sets, albums, and the fact that no-one we knew knew who Tori Amos was took us up to the support act- Mark Hole. This jaunty English character gestured like a Shakespeare Company Stalwart to my general annoyance, although thankfully his songs were pleasant enough- bitter and sad songs of love spliced with their meanings and stories about his recently made ex- girlfriend.

After this ended I got an excited call from one of my friends who just happened to get moved to the front row, within pant throwing distance of the Bösendorfer. Lucky git. Anyway, around 9, Tori’s string Quartet- Apollon Musagète stepped on to the state as the lights dimmed. A few painful moments later Tori bounced on, stood in the spotlight, and saluted us in her own special way before sitting down and launching into new album opener ‘ShatteringSea’.

You’re never going to please every fan, and with 12 albums and a million covers and b-sides, it’s likely your favourite song will be missed. Not that Tori fans would care too much as we’re a pretty ravenous bunch. Having spent some time on I knew that Tori wasn’t sticking to any fixed list of tracks, mixing as much as possible but starting and closing with the same tracks. I was hoping for Northern Lad and Sugar, but alas. We did however get tracks from most of her albums including 4 from her latest release.

The setting was odd, at times Tori was a lone figure on stage, and no matter where I looked I saw empty seats. The main hall seemed pretty full, but due to the top half being closed I don’t imagine we’ll see her coming back. I knew there wouldn’t be that many Tori fans fromUlstertoMunster, but surely there are enough to fill The Waterfront Hall? Between songs there was little time for banter- we did get a couple of a capella interludes where Tori sang us a short story, but she only spoke to us a few times. Not to start any rumours, but a friend said that he did not see her usually omnipresent husband in attendance.

Every time; Every time I have been to a concert recently I have forgotten my cameras. So apologies for not peppering these words with blurry pics of Amos spread legged between two pianos. Her playing was mostly perfect and punctuated with the usual graphic movements and stances, whilst her voice sent most of the crowd into frenzied tears at at least one point. For me, her playing of The Rose (played at my wedding) blending into Winter was ahigh point. With one encore taking the tally up to 24 songs, we certainly had a long, strong show. I see that Dublin had a much varied set the following night, even getting A Sorta Fairytale, Little Eathquakes, and Precious Things which we missed out on. I could be petty and say I preferred their setlist, but then I would be being petty.

As the front rows (including my friend) rushed the stage for the encore, the crowd picked up their energy and Tori bounced through finale Big Wheel as we chanted M-I-L-F along to her commands. Like a wrestler entering the arena, Tori ran along the stage to shake hands with the fans (including you know who) before disappearing into the night. You know who proceeded to leap on stage and rip the setlist from underneath the table, complete with scratched writing in felt tip including the mysterious track known as ‘Tori Says Hello’…

All in all this was a great night, and as I raced up the M2 towards the coast to try to get home before 1:00 am, no-one passed me. Just me, the night, and for some reason, Ride The Lightning blaring on the stereo.

Tori Amos; Waterfront Hall; 11/8/2011:

 Shattering Sea

Seaside (Solo)


Velvet Revolution (Solo)

Girl Disappearing


Pancake (Solo)

Father Lucifer (Solo)

The Rose (Solo)



Star Whisperer

Angels (Solo)

Your Cloud (Solo)

Way Down (Solo)

Cloud On My Tongue

Spring Haze




A Multitude of Shades

Baker Baker



Big Wheel

Tori Waterfront

Bands I’ve Seen Live- D

Dragonforce: Definitely a love ’em or hate ’em band, Dragonforce nevertheless know how to put on a great live show. Low on set paraphenalia, it’s all about how they translate their studio work onto the stage, and if it’s even possible. Having seen them twice I can answer that with a resounding yes- all that fancy, twiddly guitar wanking that makes teens explode in delight, fury, and jealousy in their bedrooms, they recreate flawlessly on stage. As musicians they can’t be faulted technically, and while the nonsense lyrics about fighting dragons with your brothers while the fire burns are suitably singalong enough to make you forget the silliness of what you’re actually saying. Between songs (first time round) there was a high level of banter between the band, joking, swearing, all the expected entertaining metal stuff. Second time round they were only a support band and it was their new singer’s first show- less joking, a few vocal issues, and a shorter, less impressive show. Still good, but clearly most people have tired of the fact that they aren’t trying anything new.

The Doves: This English band never quite hit the heights that some of their peers reached, at home or State-side. I was a fan of their first two records and quite happy to watch them in early evening Glastonbury. A good set heightened by the atmosphere and some over enthusiastic fans made this a memorable moment, even better as we danced in the light rain to Catch The Sun as the day’s last light faded.

The Darkness: I saw these guys just before they hit the big time. They were already a bit of a joke and a cliche, but there was something oddly refreshing about them. Plus they good play and put a strong melody against some interesting lyrics. The best moment was their high speed version of Street Spirit, completely changing the song into something which no-one thought it could be against the scorching backdrop of a South England morning.

Def Leppard: I grew up in the 80s, I watched MTV, I was a rock/grunge/metal kid. Def Leppard were on my radar and I liked the singles from Hysteria and Pyromania but even at that young age I knew that there was something different between them and Guns and Roses, between them and Nirvana- in other words between the bands that I really loved. Something smelly. Something cheesy. So yeah, as time went on I realised that they weren’t really very good. I saw them because Alice Cooper was semi-supporting them. A lot of the tracks I didn’t know and felt very samey and had that cheesy feeling I remembered. Plus there were a lot of drunk women who seemed to absolutely adore them but chatted amongst themselves during Alice Cooper. And that, my invisible friends, is a crime punishable only by having a litre of iced coke thrown at them from 2 rows behind and kicked down the stairs. Their husbands on the other hand played with their phones throughout both. That punishment is death.

Bands I’ve Seen Live- C

Coldplay: With their bland rip offs of Bends era Radiohead, you would be excused for thinking that Coldplay are crap live. And you’d be half right- they’re still performing thier own songs after all. Maybe it was the energy of the crowd, maybe it was the fact that when I saw them at Glastonbury they hadn’t yet become huge, but they put on a decent show.  Thinking back now though it may have been the pear cider. I wouldn’t pay to see them now- in fact, you couldn’t give me a ticket.

The Charlatans: I wish I remembered more of this. I was never a fan of the whole British indie/madchester scene- most of the bands were pouting ponces caring more about fashion than silly things like music, instruments, or lyrics. The Charlatans were one of the better bands though and have plenty of hits.

The Coral: On the other side of Lancashire lies Liverpool, home of The Beatles, King Kenny, Stevie G, Robbie Fowler. The Coral went against most of what other bands were doing at the time, aiming for madcap pop melodies instead of bland stuttering guitars. Critically acclaimed albums never led to great commercial success, so any American music fans reading- have a listen! Anyway, their show was punchy, full of singalong and dancealong hits, and had even those who didn’t know the songs bopping along.

Cooper Temple Clause: A band of invention and great potential, they never really amounted to much. And although I’ve been told I did indeed see them live, I don’t remember any of this. Don’t blame the cider.

Bands I’ve Seen Live- B

Bullet For My Valentine: I’ve seen these guys a couple of times as support for bigger, better bands. I only know/knew a handful of their songs and they seem to have caused a split in the metal community- some are die-hard fans, others proclaim them as either not metal or for being too commercial. I don’t know or care enough about them to give an opinion. They were loud, fast, and the crowd seemed to enjoy each show.

Ian Brown: The Stones’ frontman seems to be to go to man as a support act these days. He’s done some great solo stuff, and his work with the Stone Roses is legendary so you can be sure that any rock crowd will be happy enough to see him. He is a bit of a tool though. I’ve seen him as support, and as a main festival act, and his shows always have that Mancunian bravado- he struts through his songs as if on a conveyer belt, but all we want to hear is I Am The Resurrection.

Bush: It’s a little known fact that when Gavin Rossdale isn’t joyously watching Tennis with his bored as a corpse wife Gwen Stefani, he writes and performs the odd song with his band, Bush. I saw these guys at Glastonbury- a harmless show, full of energy, we all sang along to Swallowed before going on our way in search of more Pear Cider.

Badly Drawn Boy: It’s a little known fact that when BDB isn’t busy deciding what hat to wear that he makes music. I saw this young man at Glastonbury. I wasn’t a huge fan before. I’m not a fan now. I don’t like hats.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Glastonbury again. I’d heard their first album a few times and it didn’t grab me- sure they had guitars and tried to look cool, but it all seemed to soft. It was like seeing someone who claims to be a kick ass martial artist cuddling up on the sofa with a cup of lemon tea and a cuddly toy so that they could watch Glee in peace.

Bands I’ve Seen Live: A

I’m going to organise this by first letter, starting with A:

Alabama 3: I saw these boys at Glastonbury on a scorching June morning. It almost set the scene for a day/weekend of debauchery with their funky rock/country drunken musings finding a happy fit with many fellow revelers. Of course I only knew of them through The Sopranos, but it was a laid back morning set which I could appreciate from a distance, whilst my first (fourth) pear cider of the morning washed down my breakfast.

Alabama 3
Alabama 3

Ash: Everyone from Northern Ireland has seen Ash live, most of us at least 8 times. It’s not that they’re that good, it’s just that they were all we had. They still perform several hundred shows here each year, but they haven’t had a hit in a long time. I’m doing them misservice- they are still the best band this unholy land have produced in a long time. Anyone who mentions Snow Patrol and their sub Coldplay embarassments will get a slap. Snow Patrol are as worthless as a terrorist. Ash knew how to make a nice pop/punk/rock single and with classics like Goldfinger and Girl From Mars, they always put on a good show, complete with more drunken singalongs.


Acid Mothers Temple: Now we’re talking. I saw these guys in The Pavillion- a Belfast pub/bar/club- the perfect place to witness a bunch of crazy Japanese post-hippies play their wacky jazz/rock/psychadelic fusions and close the night by inserting a guitar into the rafters. A great collection of songs had me dancing groin to groin (face) with the band by myself, whilst the rest of the crowd sat bemused at the farce unravelling before them. Seriously, what did you expect from a band with that name? Releasing a meagre 3 albums every year, you should catch them while you can. And, like me, dance along with a bottle of the cheapest red wine you can find, swooning for 18 minutes of ‘Pink Lady Lemonade’, possibly the greatest song ever (whilst drunk on said wine).

Nightman feeling the ill effects of proximity to wine and stars
Nightman feeling the ill effects of proximity to wine and stars

Alice Cooper: I’ve been an Alice Cooper fan since I could first walk. Trash was the first album I ever bought. I quickly grabbed his back catalogue and swallowed every word, and aside from Manic Street Preachers, GNR, and Michael Jackson, no-one else has had such an impact on my own songwriting. I never thought I would ever get to see him, but this year, finally, I got the chance. He was only a support act to a band who will remain unnamed until I get to that letter, but he blew everyone else off the stage with a mini show. Everyone shold have Killer and Hey Stoopid in their collection, showing the two most prominent sides of the man’s oevre- the early progressive blues style, and the later metal leanings.


Who is the best artist beginning with ‘A’ that you have seen live? Where and when was it? Which artist did you want to see but never had the chance?

Now updated with Setlists!

Alice Cooper – Odyssey Arena 2011

The Black Widow

Brutal Planet

I’m Eighteen

Billion Dollar Babies

No More Mr Nice Guy

Is It My Body

I’ll Bite Your Face Off

Cold Ethyl

Feedin My Frankenstein



Wicked Young Man


I Love The Dead

School’s Out