Declan McKenna- The Hippodrome, Banquet Records, 21/07/2017 (Live Review)

You can’t deny that Declan McKenna works hard. It’s barely even August and he’s already been on two headline UK tours, an international tour, put out a brilliant debut album AND is playing pretty much every significant festival in the UK that you can name and yet his album tour seemed like the most exciting and intimate yet.

On the 21st July 2017- on the evening of album release day- 18-year-old Declan McKenna and his band (the emphasis on age is boring but important because his achievements are so huge) played to an enthusiastic, young crowd for Kingston’s Banquet Records at The Hippodrome. The set- whilst usually only half an hour at a typical Banquet Records release show- was worthy of a full concert title, as it lasted little under an hour. The best part being that he met and signed every single record in the record shop before hand, an appreciated move that made the event extra special (especially as it cost only the price of the CD, which felt like an absolute steal at around ÂŁ10).

McKenna opened with EP favourites ‘Isombard’ and ‘Bethlehem’, before delving into tracks off his debut- What Do You Think About The Car? – as expected at an album release show. McKenna played new tracks at “a pocket sized Declan McKenna gig with allllll his frieeeennndssss”, including ‘Make Me Your Queen’, ‘The Kids Don’t Want to Come Home’ and latest single ‘Humongous’. He played ‘Listen to Your Friends’ after asking “if anyone actually knew that one yet”, which was, surprisingly, met with a roar of applause. The audience sung word for word to all the songs, new and old.  He regularly paused in between and even during songs to check up on the audience who were becoming increasingly squashed in the excitement. He urged everyone to “look out for each other”.

Declan McKenna popped up in all manner of places during the set. He regularly popped up along the front before running around the crowd to the back during an impromptu break-out into The White Stripes ‘Seven Nation Army’ over chants of ‘OOOOH JEREMY COOOORBYNNN’ in the same rhythm. His playing in the middle of the crowd was short lived as he was swamped by fans and anxious security guards who couldn’t quite put their fingers on what he’d do next. His unpredictability made the set even more exciting.

‘Paracetamol’ was, as always, a highlight, as there’s nothing more exciting than a huge sing-a-long  to such a powerful, deep song, but, of course, ‘Brazil’ proved the most energetic closer. No crowd-surfing I’d like to add though. Not this time… I think he’d have been torn apart. The fans were pretty eager!

I’d like more “pocket sized Declan McKenna gigs” please, but I fear they’re only going to get bigger from now on and rightfully so.

 

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Declan McKenna- The Hippodrome, Banquet Records, 21/07/2017 (Live Review)

Paramore, The Royal Albert Hall (19/06/2017)

Paramore played a sold out show at The Royal Albert Hall, in London, on the 19th June 2017, as part of the first leg of their global Tour One tour, in support of their latest album After Laughter, which was released in May. The band were supported by a band called Bleached.

Paramore played a set which felt intimate, despite the venue being filled. It felt like the band were playing comeback shows to a room full of friends. The band opened with ‘Told You So’, from their latest album, whilst the expectant fans swarmed towards the stage ignoring the all-seating layout. The crowd sang the band’s latest songs- including ‘Fake Happy’, ‘Rose Coloured Boy’ and ‘Caught in the Middle’- word for word, as if they had been setlist staples for years. The band seemed happy and comfortable- the happiest they’ve seemed in a long time- and the band seemed relaxed. It’s their first tour since Zac Farro rejoined the band and the stripped back, no fuss stage layout- with an impressive light display- seemed to complement the band’s choice of setlist.

The band threw in a stunning cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’, which showed off the versatility of lead singer Hayley Williams’ voice. The band explained how they’d listened to it a lot during the recording of their latest album. It was a refreshing song choice for a once pop-punk band.

The mix of covers and new tracks peppered into a heap of older tracks, straying from their newer sound. The band played songs from their five album deep back catalogue, including the hit ‘Still Into You’ and Grammy Award winning single ‘Ain’t it Fun’, from their 2013 self-titled album, as well as ‘That’s What You Get’, from their 10 year old album Riot, and ‘Brick By Boring Brick’ from Brand New Eyes. The band didn’t play any songs from their debut album- All We Know is Falling– on this tour, which is understandable as they’re spoilt for choice with popular hits and fan favourites from their other albums.

The band invited fans up to sing Misery Business with them, as they have done for the last few years. The atmosphere is always especially buzzing throughout this part of the set, as fans eagerly anticipate being picked and lucky fans dance around the stage with Williams and co.

Paramore played a three song encore, including a HalfNoise track- ‘Scooby’s in the Back’- from their The Velvet Face EP. Half Noise are Paramore drummer Zac Farro’s other band. This was incredibly well received. They also played ‘Foregiveness’, before ending with their latest single ‘Hard Times’, which felt like a triumphant ending to an immensely successful gig.

This show felt like a special warm up show, teasing something huge that’s to come. It was an absolute treat. The band could’ve sold out venues twice the size or easily played three nights in a row, yet this felt exclusive. I can’t wait to see what they do next because I, for one, will be there.

Paramore, The Royal Albert Hall (19/06/2017)

Circa Waves, Banquet Records, The Hippodrome (16/03/2017)

On the 16th February 2017, Circa Waves played the first of two shows for Banquet Records, at the Hippodrome, Kingston. The band played an all ages set at 7pm, followed by a New Slang show later in the evening. The band signed copies of their latest album, Different Creatures, in the record store before the signing, as the show was in support of their latest album release.

The band played a mixture of songs from both of their albums to an audience of enthusiastic young fans. Fan favourites- such as ‘Fossils’ and ‘Stuck in My Teeth’, from the band’s 2015 debut album, Young Chasers– were nestled between songs from their new release- which had been out nearly a week before the shows. Notably, the band played singles from their new album, such as ‘Wake Up’, the lead single from the album, and ‘Fire That Burns’, their latest single, to eager fans, who knew the songs word for word.

Of course, no Circa Waves gig would be complete without the sun-kissed, indie-rock anthem that is ‘T-Shirt Weather’. It’s a timeless song which continues to shape festival seasons and summers for many. The band played it last and it’s uplifting lyrics and tune juxtaposed the stuffy, dark nightclub they were playing it in. The atmosphere was buzzing. It’s a song which creates a great atmosphere, no matter the size of the crowd or venue- from Glastonbury Festival to the 100-or-so audience of the Hippodrome, in Kingston. The song was the perfect way to round off the triumphant, yet short set.

The Liverpool lads couldn’t have played a more brilliant set. The fans seemed to love the show, singing word-for-word and dancing throughout the 30 minute long set. The album’s pretty great, too. Banquet Record shows are always a treat, but this one seemed something even more special.

Circa Waves tour the UK throughout March/Arpil and Europe throughout April, before embarking on a string of festival dates both nationally and internationally, including Glastonbury Festival, Reading Festival and TRNSMT Festival.

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Circa Waves, Banquet Records, The Hippodrome (16/03/2017)

VANT, Banquet Records in-store, Kingston (23/02/2017)

“We don’t really do acoustic performances” Mattie Vant said as he clambered round half a drum kit and negotiated a stationary cash desk “Anyone got anything they’d like us to play?”.

On the 23rd February 2017, VANT played the first of two shows at Kingston’s Banquet Records. The first show, the one I went to, was an under 18’s, 6pm in-store. The band played a “choose your own” seven song set, followed by an in-store signing and it was beyond brilliant.

A voice from the front shouted “Karma Seeker” before the band chatted about the arrangement and seamlessly broke into the opening bars of Karma Seeker, from their debut album, Dumb Blood, which was released a week prior to the set.  There’s no stage. Just the (full) band on the carpet at the front of a tiny record shop. They continue to pick members of the audience to choose songs for them to play and ended up rattling through a broad selection songs from their debut album and previous EPs, such as ‘Parking Lot’, ‘Lampoon’ and ‘Fly-by Alien’.

The highlight of the set was the “heavy version” of their single ‘Peace and Love’, a particularly poignant and relevant song in today’s world. The full band played along in what could’ve been an arena performance, despite the unusual, quirky, yet overtly charming set up.

After the set, the band- who were equally as brilliant as their set- stayed behind to sign albums and chat to fans. We chatted for a bit about how good the debut album was and how refreshingly different it is and it was great to hear how full of genuine appreciation they were.

This little set really showed the band’s professional versatility and down to earth presence. Their music stands for something understated and under represented by today’s society and that’s what makes it cool (don’t forget their anti-Trump impromptu London sets last November). It’s protest music leaking into the mainstream and it’s brilliant.

VANT, Banquet Records in-store, Kingston (23/02/2017)

Two Door Cinema Club- Alexandra Palace (10/02/2017)

On the 10th February 2017, Two Door Cinema Club played the second of two sold out shows at London’s prestigious Alexandra Palace to top off the end of a triumphant sold out UK tour. Support for the show came from the next generation of indie-rock flag flyers, Sundara Karma (who were also on/about to start a UK tour at the time, in support of their debut album) and London exclusives Circa Waves (seemingly as ‘warm up’ shows for their upcoming UK tour in support of their upcoming album release in March). The band played songs spanning their extensive back catalogue, including many from their latest album, Gameshow.

The band played a similar setlist to that of which they’d be playing for headline sets at festivals and was, of course, fueled by fan favourites and new hits.

The band opened with ‘Cigarettes in the Theater’, from their debut album Tourist History. They quite often open with this song as it’s a good strong way to get the crowd hyped up ready for a night of class music and dancing. They followed it up with the instantly recognizable indie classic ‘What You Know’. The set was laced with those classic songs that audiences love, like ‘I Can Talk’,  ‘Sun’ and the sun-kissed ‘Something Good Can Work’. The audience went wild and the atmosphere was especially incredible because of Ally Pally’s all standing, compact, sold-out audience.

They played plenty of songs from their latest album, which was released last year. They sung the singles ‘Bad Decisions’ and ‘Are We Ready? (Wreck)’, which excited fans new and old. They played other songs from the album, too, including ‘Gameshow’, ‘Lavender’ and ‘Ordinary’. It’s incredible finally getting to hear these songs live after their release, especially when the atmosphere’s buzzing.

Overall, the night was brilliant. The evening was laced with a killer line-up, which played host to some of the finest new and established artists in the industry, plenty of crowd singalong hits and an atmosphere you’d want to save for a rainy day. I can’t wait to see what Two Door Cinema Club do next and look forward to seeing them at many festivals this summer, including headlining Boardmasters and at Reading and Leeds.

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Two Door Cinema Club- Alexandra Palace (10/02/2017)

The 1975- The O2 Arena (16/12/2016)

“I’ve always wanted to say this… Good evening the O2” frontman Matty Healy speaks for the first time on stage, almost breathlessly, between ‘Heart Out’ and ‘Change of Heart’, as the band settle comfortably into the second sold out night at London’s O2 Arena. The Manchester lads appear on stage, suit clad, and perform an effortlessly brilliant and stunningly beautiful two hour set to a packed out arena.

The 1975 played the second of two sold out shows at London’s prestigious O2 Arena on their latest sold out UK arena tour. The Friday night show (this one) was the first of the two shows (and whole tour) to be announced and fully sold out in minutes. These shows are the band’s biggest shows to date and they were again accompanied by label mates The Japanese House. This UK tour tops off a massive year for the band featuring two UK tours (including three sold out shows at Brixton Academy and two sold out shows at the O2 Arena), a stunning number 1 album, a Mercury Prize nomination and plenty of festival sets. They’ve toured almost non-stop for the last year and it has been a rollercoaster ride.

The band played for nearly two whole hours and played songs which spanned across both albums and also previous EPs. Songs like ‘A Change of Heart’ bled seamlessly into songs like ‘Robbers’, whilst the set was sewn together by breathtaking instrumentals, talking and interludes, such as ‘Please Be Naked’ and ‘I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It’, from the latest album of the same name.  The band’s song ‘Milk’ (a hidden track from the ‘Sex’ EP, which can be found at the end of ‘You’, if you’re willing to wait long enough)  was played for the first time in the UK on this tour since 2014, due to fan demand, too.

“It’s been a mental year, hasn’t it?” Matty Healy asks the crowd between ‘Milk’ and ‘Loving Someone’, in reflection of their own year and also 2016 collectively. Matty Healy is known for his onstage speeches (I’m reluctant to in any way call them rants or preaches) and tonight’s speech seemed relevant and, almost, too real. I saw the band play Glastonbury the day after the Brexit vote had been announced where Matty spoke, before ‘Loving Someone’, about the lack of compassion outside of Glastonbury and wanting to encapsulate Glasto spirit and ethos and put it into everyone and everyday life and Matty’s words resonated with me. For some reason tonight’s words had the same effect. People listen to him.

“I’m not here to talk about politics. We’re not here to think about politics. We’re here for a release…” Matty opened “it’s not about fuck Donald Trump that’s the thing…We see loads of young, liberal, compassionate people every night, so this is like our world. This is the world that we see. So when things go at odds of that it’s really confusing and… it makes you really angry and the thing is I know it’s very sad to see all these young voices of progression and change being drowned out by regressive, ideals and bullshit- it’s very sad- and it appears to be paradigms of race and it is about that and it is about gender and it is about age and it is about sexuality, but it’s also about a lot  of those that voted against what we stand for… They feel so, so disenfranchised by both sides of political systems that that felt like the right thing to do, so if we’re young, right, and we’re liberal and we’re compassionate and we’re Muslim and we’re black and we’re gay and we’re whatever, if we are that then it’s out responsibility to be compassionate and to listen to everybody, listen to their concerns and move things forward… and you are our people and we love you so fucking much you have no idea… This song is about loving someone.”

The band played ‘Loving Someone’ under a stage lit with rainbow colours, to symbolise the ‘pride’ flag. This, along with the speech, gave the song a special and important message, hidden within the lyrics. It’s one of the best, stand out songs on the album (if not the year), one which I like very much. It’s lyrics are witty and clever, but resonate. It’s almost a protest song, but one of and for peace.

The band played ‘FallingForYou’, but asked for fans to put down their phones and watch it with their eyes and in the moment, as opposed to on a screen. The band feel as though they’re simultaneously battling against modern life, but aiding it and supporting it perhaps more than all. There’s a definite feeling of wanting people to live in the moment and experience things, but also a ‘change the world’, ‘spread the word’ sort of message. It’s empowering. The arena was lit only by the stage lights and there was not a phone light in sight. This was amazing. A couple got engaged at the end of the song, too, and Matty Healy was one of the first to congratulate them- “good song choice, mate. Nice”- before trying (and failing) to get them on stage and ending up in the crowd for a selfie.

The band played a four song encore of ‘Medicine’, ‘If I Believe’,  ‘Chocolate’ and ‘The Sound’. During ‘Medicine’ the area was lit by lighters and phone torches. It was incredible and visually stunning to see the area lit up this way, as many looked around in awe. It felt intimate. However, ‘The Sound’ was the highlight of the set for me. A song destined for areas. The whole of The O2 Area was jumping with the band as they played for the last time leaving the audience on a high. It was a buzz which took days to shake- not that I had any interest in shaking it- and it was easily one of the best concerts I’ve been to this year.

The 1975’s stage design and craft were brilliant, too. The band’s lit screens were the continuing focal point of the performance. The columns and accompanying screens changed colour sympathetically with the songs, as they have done on previous tours. However, this time The 1975 had light beams and screens either side of the stage so that fans at the back could see because the place was well and truly packed (right up to the top). The set was not just audibly pleasing, it was aesthetically pleasing too and created this immersive experience.

There’s something special in the community spirit of a show by The 1975. Something quite poignant and almost tragic, yet everyone’s brought together by the same thing. Take ‘Robbers’ for example where everyone joins in, without Matty Healy saying anything, by saying “Now everybody’s dead” or, similarly, in ‘FallingForYou’ where the whole crowd collectively sing “I don’t wanna be your friend I wanna kiss your neck”. Each song means something different to everyone and yet everyone is there together not only to celebrate The 1975’s music, something which everyone has in common, but also for their own personal reasons. It’s hard to stay objective about this.

What this show affirmed was The 1975 are made for arenas. They’re an arena band. I saw them play shows at the O2 Kentish Town Forum and at Brixton’s O2 Academy this year and, yes, they were good, but something about them makes them so fascinating on this huge platform. They almost need that. They’re a huge band, arguably one of the biggest, most current bands, and there’s more to it than just good songs. They crave the atmosphere of a huge arena.

Interestingly, The 1975 had been gradually deteriorating throughout the year (in my eyes). I’ve seen them six times this year- which is mad in itself- and each time has been very different. The first time I saw them this year was the first time they had played live since the album had been released at The O2 Kentish Town Forum for a BBC event. They were back and on top form and on their way to another number one album, which had been brilliantly recieved. This, however, slipped over the next few months, where I saw the band play at Radio One’s Big Weekend. The performance was upsettingly awful, somewhat cringe worthy and very embarrassing. In fact, I’d rather not have seen it. It ruined the ideals I had surrounding the band, although they’re only human. They were exhausted, Matty wasn’t allowed to drink or smoke on stage and was very angry, they were a drummer down (George Daniel had dislocated his shoulder) and were given a half hour set paralleling Stormzy, which was mostly spent with Matty mouthing off BBC staff and the institution about the smoking/drinking rules. At this point, I questioned whether the band (or Matty) would make it to the end of the year. Their set at Glastonbury totally redeemed this though and their BBC Radio 1/NME Stage headline performance at Reading Festival further confirmed their triumphant uprising. Their O2 Arena set, however, was unlike anything I’d ever seen them do before. It was stunningly breathtaking. Phenomenal. Matty Healy was on top form and any doubts I’d ever had had gone. They were truly brilliant. I hope this continues and I hope that they have a good break before releasing another album because they’re clearly exhausted. It’s been a year since I saw them play at The Brighton Centre and to go from The Brighton Centre to The O2 in a year is a huge step, but a necessary one. They can do it and they can probably do it better than anyone at the moment.

What’s next for The 1975? I don’t know. World domination, probably. Festival headline slots? Almost definitely. Watch this space. The 1975 aren’t done yet. They’re only just getting started.

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The 1975- The O2 Arena (16/12/2016)

Jamie T, O2 Brixton Academy, 08/10/16

Jamie T played the first of three sold-out shows at the O2 Brixton Academy on the 8th October 2016. The final show (Monday) was postponed for a later date (November 16th) after Treays fell ill. He was supported by psychedelic-rock band The Wytches, who are from Brighton.

Jamie T opened with ‘Power Over Men’, from his latest album Trick, which was released in September. This was a strong start, especially as the song had been previously released as a single. The crowd loved it and were thoroughly warmed up for a rollercoaster ride through the back catalogue of Jamie T.

Treays played many songs from Trick, because the tour was in support of the album, including latest single ‘Tescoland’, the infectiously catchy ‘Tinfoil Boy’ and ‘Soloman Eagle’. The set, however, was not without its oldies, including ‘Rabbit Hole’, ‘368’ and ‘The Man’s Machine’.

No Jamie T set would be complete without the iconic songs that have become synonymous with what makes a Jamie T set set apart from the rest. Jamie T played ‘Sticks ‘n’ Stones’, ‘If You’ve Got The Money’ and (the unbelievably tragic) ‘Sheila’. The crowd went particularly wild when these songs were played and it seemed strangely intimate during these songs. It was special to hear thousands singing these (incredible) songs.

Jamie T played a two song encore of ‘Back in the Game’ and ‘Zombie’. ‘Zombie’ was a brilliant closing song- as it has been for the last couple of years- because it leaves the crowd buzzing, and Brixton was no exception. The crowd went wild with singing, dancing and moshing during Zombie. It was something else.

Jamie T played a set that appealed to the masses. He’s a blatant crowd pleaser, obviously. His rap laced indie-rock is a winner. I expect to see him play a string of festivals next year and would love to see him soar to the top of line-up lists. I can’t wait to see what Jamie T does next.

 

Jamie T, O2 Brixton Academy, 08/10/16