Oct 18, 2019

The Flaming Lips @ Sydney Opera House

Joy! Joy! Joy! This is exact reaction I get at every Flaming Lips that I have been to. They are pleasure domes for the mind, the heart and the soul. Recently The Flaming Lips returned to Australia for a special performance at the Sydney Opera House. It was made extra special as they played their classic album 'The Soft Bulletin' in full, 20 years after the release of this spectacular record. So it turned out to be a very special night for everyone lucky to be there.

I was wondering if an Opera House show would be different from a normal Flaming Lips show. Would it be more restrained given the surroundings. Well apart from no dancing animals the answer was no. From the opening strains of 'Race for the Prize' confetti and balloons rained down on an entranced audience. Smiles burst out everywhere. As lead man Wayne Coyne asked people to stand and make noise we were all soon on our feet. Which is where we stayed. 'The Soft Bulletin' is such a brilliant album. It flows beautifully, soft and tender and hard and rocking. It was all so special. The stunning 'What Is the Light? was momentous. 'Waitin' for a Superman' was serene and beautiful. 'The Gash' rocked the house. As the music played balloons were bounced through out the audience. Wayne Coyne even came into the crowd in his inflatable bubble momentarily. We even received an encore of their 'greatest hits', leaving everyone totally satisfied. If you have never attended a Flaming Lips show once in your life I recommend you remedy that situation.

Set List
Also sprach Zarathustra
Race for the Prize
A Spoonful Weighs a Ton
The Spark That Bled
The Spiderbite Song
What Is the Light?
The Observer
Waitin' for a Superman
Suddenly Everything Has Changed
The Gash
Feeling Yourself Disintegrate
Sleeping on the Roof

She Don't Use Jelly
True Love Will Find You in the End (Daniel Johnston cover)
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1

Do You Realize??

Oct 17, 2019

Ty Segall @ Teragram Ballroom, Los Angeles

So my recent US adventure came to a close in Los Angeles to see the mighty Ty Segall and the Freedom Band. I love Ty so much. He represents everything to me in artist. So creative, so explosive, so everything. A few months ago he announced he would be doing a weekly residency at the Teragram Ballroom. Over about 8 Friday nights he would play an album in full plus mystery songs. It's turned out the 'mystery' songs would be his new album in full. 'First Taste' came out in early August and naturally I loved it. Then it worked for me that I would be able to see 'Manipulator' in full. What an opportunity. What a night it turned out to be. 2 hours of pure rock and roll perfection.

So 'First Taste' is a departure of sorts for Ty. The whole album is devoid of guitar, instruments like the bouzouki take centre stage. But holy cow the album still rocks. And live it was explosive. The Freedom Band are just awesome live. And Shannon Lay is now a huge addition to the band. Mikal Cronin does more as well, playing all sorts of instruments and Ty himself plays drums on some songs, so we had double drumming going on a few tracks. This was especially so on 'The Fall', with Ty and Charles Moothart going head to head. I think my favourites though were the sludgy sledgehammer of 'I Worship the Dog' and the huge wigout of 'Self Esteem'. To be honest I would have been satisfied with this alone. But then we received the 2014 classic 'Manipulator' in full. The band switched to traditional mode. Ty strapped on his Travis Bean and away we went. The crowd went beserk. Crowd surfing and stage diving broke out and there was palpable joy in the room. But despite the hectic chaos it always felt safe and respectful. This was evident I thought in the amount of women front and centre. I think this is a good guide to the type of music Ty produces and also that the environment at his shows is conducive to women feeling safe. I loved every minute. What a pleasure to see this album live. It was all spectacular but my absolute loves were 'The Singer' and also 'The Feels'. The band even gave us a short encore, two covers as the clock ticked past midnight. We floated away into the night, content in the knowledge that the king had conquered.

Set List
Ice Plant
The Fall
I Worship the Dog
The Arms
When I Met My Parents Pt. 1
I Sing Them
When I Met My Parents Pt. 3
Self Esteem
Lone Cowboys
Tall Man Skinny Lady
The Singer
It's Over
The Faker
The Clock
Green Belly
The Connection Man
Mister Main
The Hand
Susie Thumb
Don't You Want to Know? (Sue)
The Crawler
Who's Producing You?
The Feels
Stick Around

Cherry Bomb (The Runaways cover)
Cherry Red (The Groundhogs cover)
Titus Andronicus @ Polaris Hall, Portland

In 2010 New Jersey ragged punks Titus Andronicus released an album named 'The Monitor'. It was an explicitly brilliant follow up to their debut and was easily my favourite album of 2010. In fact it has become my favourite album of the entire decade. I was lucky enough to see them live in New York in 2010, a blistering show at Webster Hall, but I hadn't seen them live since. Sadly they have never toured Australia. But on my recent US trip I found a way to work in a live show. Also it was in the great city of Portland. It was totally worth it. They played a lovely venue named Polaris Hall, a beautiful buidling that also hosts parties and weddings.

Lead man Patrick Stickles entered first and played a slow and stirring version of  'To Old Friends and New' before the band joined him. For close to two hours they ripped through their back catalogue including many cuts from their excellent 2019 album in 'An Obelisk'. My favourite being 'Troubleman Unlimited'. It was great to hear older classics too such as the bone splitting 'Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ'. Of course 'The Monitor' songs hit the absolute roof. Especially the monumental epic that is 'The Battle of Hampton Roads'. What a total pleasure to hear this song live again. And Stickles is the perfect front man too. Loquacious and erudite, he totally involved the audience. Now please tour Australia! 

Set List
To Old Friends and New
Just Like Ringing a Bell
Troubleman Unlimited
Fatal Flaw
Ecce Homo
Still Life With Hot Deuce on Silver Platter
Above The Bodega (Local Business)
Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ
On the Street
(I Blame) Society
Dimed Out
Tumult Around the World
The Battle of Hampton Roads
 A More Perfect Union
Titus Andronicus Forever

Oct 16, 2019

Whitney @ Tipitina's, New Orleans

My journey through the US in September took me onto New Orleans. Luckily for me Whitney had announced a show in the Crescent City. The Chicago band released their second album shortly before the show and it's pretty wonderful to be honest. A great follow up to their stellar debut album. So this was set to be a special night.

An added bonus to the night was the support act in Hand Habits. Hand Habits is headed up by Meg Duffy, a truly extraordinary guitarist. Their album this year is also great I think, so it was a great pleasure to see them live. Pity the crowd was pretty awful, so many talking through out. I just don't get why people do this at shows, so little respect for the artist or people trying to listen. It did improve a bit for Whitney, but still disappointing that some people put themselves above the show. Anyway Whitney were still a joy to behold. They write such beautiful melodies and the harmonies just make you float away. The set would comprise basically most of their first two albums and I enjoyed it all thoroughly. The encore itself was sheer perfection with the great new song in 'Used to Be Lonely' and the almost classic now in 'No Woman'.

Set List
No Matter Where We Go
Giving Up
Dave's Song
Friend of Mine
Day & Night
The Falls
Forever Turned Around
Before I Know It
Golden Days
Light Upon the Lake
My Life Alone

Used to Be Lonely
No Woman
Valleys (My Love)
Kevin Morby @ Third Man Records, Nashville

Recently I travelled to the US for two weeks. College Football was the main agenda but I managed to squeeze in quite a few concerts starting with Kevin Morby in Nashville. I have been very lucky to see Kevin Morby a few times now. In Australia, Belgium and also the USA. This year he released his latest album in the shape of 'Oh My God'. Soon followed a full band tour. But this show was part of a duo tour. Firstly he was touring with the wonderful William Tyler. Tyler was great. He is quite simply and extraordinary guitarist. Then Kevin played a stripped back show with his band member Cochemea Gastleum, a wonderful saxophonist.

The venue was Third Man Records, owned by Jack White. It's really a special place. Part record store, part museum, part concert venue and recording studio. Kevin played in what is called The Blue Room, a lovely space with great acoustics. He naturally a good chunk from his wonderful new album. Favourite songs were 'Hail Mary' and 'Piss River'. Kevin is such a beautiful performer. Songs are so generous and warm. Kudos to the crowd too. Extremly attentive with great respect for the artist. The encore was very special too with William Tyler joining Kevin for a rendition of the Silver Jews classic in 'Random Rules'. A tribute to the sadly departed David Berman. A beautiful end to a great night.

Set List
Oh My God
Hail Mary
Piss River
No Halo
O Behold
I Have Been To the Mountain
Harlem River

Random Rules (Silver Jews cover)
Beautiful Strangers

Jul 21, 2019

Local Natives @ Oxford Art Factory

In an age of bland for the masses pop music with easy beats and forgettable lyrics it's a pleasure and a privilege to witness a band that is actually based on the idea of songwriting. A band that not only makes you move but makes you feel. Feel big time. That band is California's very own Local Natives. They should be playing to super sized stadiums but we are very lucky that they can still do small sized club shows. It makes for a personal and wonderful intimate experience. That was Friday night at the Oxford Art Factory. It was their first show in Australia for six years and we welcomed them back with open arms.

Local Natives have ridiculous talent. Their songs are full of passion and beauty and a certain amount of joy. But the big thing about them is their sheer vocal power. They can all sing and they all do. But the two main man are Taylor Rice and Kelsey Ayer. They are front and centre and their voices chime and interweave with great beauty. It's a glorious sight. Whether on an outright rocker like 'Sun Hands' or a joyous ballad like 'Cafe Amarillo'. It's all there. Just simply sublime. And the set list was pitched just right. We had a good selection from this year's excellent 'Violet Street' but they balanced the night with choice cuts from their first three albums. My absolute favourite was the superb 'Colombia'. But to be sure, it was all greatness personified.

Set List
Wide Eyes
I Saw You Close Your Eyes
Megaton Mile
Past Lives
Cafe Amarillo
Heavy Feet
Sun Hands
You & I
Garden of Elysian
Dark Days
When Am I Gonna Lose You

Who Knows, Who Cares

Jun 5, 2019

Sharon Van Etten @ Sydney Opera House

Sharon Van Etten has certainly arrived. We first saw her a few years ago at the Sydney Festival. A shining talent with her acoustic guitar. Fast forward to Saturday night at the Sydney Opera House as part of Vivid and she has exploded into a supernova. After a five year absence Sharon returned this year with a new album in 'Remind Me Tomorrow'. It was and is a captivating album, an expansion of sound. More synths, more upbeat, but still having that signature bare honesty. To see it live was a distinct pleasure to be sure.

Ultimately we would hear all 10 tracks from her new album and they simply exploded live. From the pounding rhythm of 'Comeback Kid' to the roar power of 'Hands' it was all spectacular. 'Hands' was my favourite but you could make a solid case for the emotional heavyweight in 'Seventeen' or the stark beauty of 'Jupiter 4'. Ms Van Etten dominated the stage in her red valour suit. Often she was sans instrument, just her prowling the stage. But there were numbers where she strapped on the guitar or sat down to play keyboard. The latter was especially effective on the solo cover of 'Black Boys on Mopeds'. She was ably backed by her four band members, all professional and gifted in the extreme. A standing ovation led to a welcomed encore which included the powerhouse 'Serpents'. All in all it was a distinct privilege to see such an extreme talent.

Set List
Jupiter 4
Comeback Kid
No One's Easy To Love
One Day
Memorial Day
You Shadow
Black Boys on Mopeds (Sinead O'Connor cover)
Every Time the Sun Comes Up

I Told You Everything
Love More

May 29, 2019

Dirty Three @ Sydney Opera House

Spectacular. Transcendent. Incendiary. These words could describe Dirty Three at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday night, but honestly they still don't probably do justice to the magnificent show we witnessed. A true privilege and pleasure to be there. Dirty Three are an iconic trio formed in Melbourne close to thirty years ago. Their first album was self titled and this year marks the 25 year anniversary of that explosive album. As such it was a great idea to have the band perform the record in full as part of the 2019 Vivid Festival.

The album consists of 7 songs and lasts approximately 45 minutes but this performance took it to nearly double the length. Two reasons. Songs were elongated and expanded to great effect. Best example being the blockbuster opener in 'Indian Love Song'. This song tore the roof off. Powerful and ecstatic to dramatic effect. Then there is Warren Ellis, the talismanic lead man. A true Australian icon. A living national treasure. He takes time between songs to tell rambling stories that take strange paths and unique twists. He comes across as the crazy old uncle in your family. His stories are about life and death, drugs and love and everything in between. But he is much more than that. His violin work is unique and visionary. He cajoles his instrument to produce ungodly sounds. On 'Odd Couple' he even pulled out the piano accordion. But the Dirty Three are more than one man. Jim White is in my opinion the greatest drummer to have ever lived. He can do it all. He can be subtle and bombastic. His ability to draw out sounds is second to none. Then there is the bedrock in Mick Turner. A wonderful guitarist, I think his playing is quite possibly under rated if that is possible. Their night reached a peak in the classic 'Everything's Fucked'. A song that provokes emotional peaks to this day. When the album concluded you could see the band didn't want to stop. So we had the added pleasure of four songs from 'Horse Stories', an album I consider to be their best. What a way to conclude a night from a legendary Australian band.

Set List
Indian Love Song
Better Go Home Soon
Odd Couple
Kim's Dirt
Everything's Fucked
The Last Night
Dirty Equation
1000 Miles
Sue's Last Ride
I Remember a Time When You Used To Love Me

May 22, 2019

Jeff Tweedy @ Metro Theatre

I have seen Wilco countless times over the years. The venerable Chicago band always putting on an excellent show. I even saw Tweedy a couple of years, the band headed by Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer. Monday night though at the Metro Theatre I had the extreme pleasure of seeing the great man himself solo. It was truly solo too. Just Jeff Tweedy armed with a couple of acoustic guitars. For close on two hours he gave a superb performance. Amazing songs, great wit and comedic timing and that special voice that is warm and rich and full of humanity.

Mr Tweedy opened with the classic Wilco song 'Via Chicago' and the night was off and running. He would then proceed to weave and wander through his thirty years of stellar songwriting. Many Wilco songs, but he also gave some tunes from the band that preceded them in Uncle Tupelo. I especially loved 'New Madrid'. Hearing it live it really struck me just how beautiful the melody is. Also on the night were a couple of songs from the Billy Bragg collaboration and of course a number of songs from his two recent solo albums. Of these my particular favourite was 'Having Been Is No Way to Be'. Of the Wilco songs it was impossible not to love them all but special mention goes to 'Hummingbird' and 'Jesus, Etc.', the latter inducing a warm crowd singalong. If the music was sublime and unforgettable then the wit and banter of Jeff elevated the night even further. He is such a great storyteller, armed with an extremely dry wit. His stories of Uncle Tupelo and life on the road were especially welcome. Then the encore just blew me way. 'Misunderstood' (perhaps my favourite Wilco song) followed by the swooning beauty of the Uncle Tupelo classic 'Acuff-Rose'. A very special night in the hands of an American songwriting icon.

Set List
Via Chicago (Wilco song)
Bombs Above
Some Birds
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (Wilco song)
New Madrid (Uncle Tupelo song)
I Know What It's Like
Hummingbird (Wilco song)
Lost Love
Remember the Mountain Bed (Billy Bragg & Wilco cover)
Having Been Is No Way to Be
Jesus, Etc. (Wilco Song)
It Must Be Love (Labi Siffre cover)
I'm the Man Who Loves You (Wilco song)
Let's Go Rain
Impossible Germany (Wilco song)
Passenger Side (Wilco song)
California Stars (Billy Bragg & Wilco cover)

Misunderstood (Wilco song)
Acuff-Rose (Uncle Tupelo song)