Feb 25, 2018

The National @ Sydney Opera House Forecourt

I am always a little surprised and bewildered at the level The National have reached. Not that they are playing football stadiums but they are playing large venues and winning major awards (even a Grammy!). Their music is subtle and deep but also a little sombre and introspective so it's pleasing to me that they have reached a fairly sizable audience. Wednesday night was the first of two back to back sold out shows at the Sydney Opera House Forecourt. They played the same venue four years and whilst this show wasn't quite at that level it was naturally still a great night. A testament to the greatness that is The National.

In 2017 the band released their latest album in 'Sleep Well Beast' and whilst I really enjoyed it I thought it lacked the spark of their previous great work. Of course naturally they would play a fair chunk from the album, in fact they opened the night with four tunes from it. The one that received the greatest noise was 'The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness'. Later on 'Day I Die' would also go down a treat but it was older songs that were best received. Such as the euphoric 'Bloodbuzz Ohio' or the crowd rousing 'Conversation 16'. It was really exciting to see them reach down deep in their bag of tricks for old classics like 'Wasp Nest' and Secret Meeting'. By the time they finished up with 'Fake Empire' we were all totally in the hands of the band. Of course the encore was great although Matt Berninger's voice was getting a bit rough especially during the loudness that is 'Mr November'. When they finally closed with 'About Today' it was a satisfied crowd indeed.

Set List
Nobody Else Will Be There
The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness
Walk It Back
Guilty Party
Don't Swallow the Cap
Bloodbuzz Ohio
Squalor Victoria
I Need My Girl
This Is The Last Time
Wasp Nest
Secret Meeting
Conversation 16
I'll Still Destroy You
Born to Beg
Secret Meeting
Slow Show
Carin at the Liquor Store
Day I Die
Fake Empire

Mr. November
Terrible Love
About Today

Feb 8, 2018

The War on Drugs @ Enmore Theatre

The War on Drugs are a virtuoso display of the wizardry of guitars. Their music is enormous but also full of smaller details. Each song is multi layered and progresses to a point of breaking beauty. It's not really immediate music but it must have struck a chord as their audience keeps growing. I guess that must be the result if you keep releasing such excellent music. Their last two albums are just truly superb, the latest one even winning a Grammy for Best Rock Album. So they now reached the level where they can sell out the Enmore Theatre two nights in a row. I attended the first night on Tuesday night and it was a spectacular night. The only slight drawback being that the set was fully loaded with the last two albums. But of course that's still a pretty great thing considering how great those two albums are. There is the euphoric burst of 'Holding On', the blasting hold of 'Under the Pressure', the boldness and enormity of 'An Ocean in Between the Waves' and the sheer beauty of 'Strangest Thing'. And then so much more. For example the acoustic beauty of 'In Reverse'. And so on and so on. It's quite gratifying to see such music find such an ecstatic audience.

Set List
In Chains
An Ocean in Between the Waves
Strangest Thing
Nothing to Find
Knocked Down
Accidentally Like a Martyr (Warren Zevon cover)
Red Eyes
Thinking of a Place
Holding On
Under the Pressure
In Reverse

Eyes to the Wind

Feb 6, 2018

Sydney Laneway Festival 2018

Sydney's Laneway Festival on Sunday was once again an enjoyable experience packed with great music and a friendly vibe. The food vendors have really gone up a notch and the spacious grounds make for a relaxed and fun time. For the first time since 2012 it wasn't totally sold out. Probably because the line up lacked a huge headliner but the programme was packed with quality and variation. Something for everyone for sure. My highlight was (Sandy) Alex G (pictured above). Alex G from Philadelphia released one of my favourite albums of 2017 and it was great to see him live for the first time. His brand of melodic and off kilter rock is quite infectious. I will be very interested to see where his career takes him. I didn't stay for the greatness of The War on Drugs as I am seeing them Tuesday night at the Enmore Theatre. But I did Australia's very own Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever who were wonderful. Their cascading and rollicking guitars with big melodies made for a great way to spend Sunday afternoon. Highly recommended to see them live.

The biggest surprise of the day for me were London's Wolf Alice. I have listened to some of their music but it didn't really appeal to me. A little to basic and A to B. But live they were ferocious and hugely impressive. Great power and huge builds and crashes. Their drummer and guitarists were great but it was singer Ellie Rowsell who really stole the show. What a talent she is. They truly completed a great day for me.

Feb 4, 2018

Best Albums Of 2017

2017 marked the return of Canada and one band in particular. That band was Wolf Parade, close to my most beloved band of all time. When they went on hiatus seven years ago I was pretty sad. Three albums and a slew of amazing live shows just didn't seem enough. But they were back and after an EP in 2016 they released a new album in 2017. 'Cry Cry Cry' would turn out to be my favourite album of the year. I can't say it was technically the best as the albums by Fleet Foxes and Kevin Morby were perhaps better but it was MY favourite and I just loved it. The boys were back and how! But Canada was back too. Some artists with a long time between drinks came back with stellar efforts. Feist, Do Make Say Think and Broken Social Scene in particular. Arcade Fire also returned but their album was a major disappointment. Not so Destroyer who delivered the goods yet again.

Ty Segall released yet another album and it was wonderful, whilst Father John Misty and The War on Drugs just pushed the envelope a little further. In the hip-hop field Vince Staples and Kendrick Lamar really stood out from the pack. Locally The Smith Street Band released my favourite Australian album. Gang of Youths got all the hype but it was the boys from Melbourne that truly delivered.

1. Cry Cry Cry-Wolf Parade
2. Crack-Up-Fleet Foxes
3. City Music-Kevin Morby
4. Ty Segall-Ty Segall
5. A Deeper Understanding-The War On Drugs
6. Pure Comedy-Father John Misty
7. Stubborn Persistent Illusions-Do Make Say Think
8. Big Fish Theory-Vince Staples
9. Half-Light-Rostam
10. DAMN.-Kendrick Lamar
11. Ken-Destroyer
12. Luciferian Towers-Godspeed You! Black Emperor
13. Painted Ruins-Grizzly Bear
14. More Scared of You Than You are of Me-The Smith Street Band
15. Dirty Projectors-Dirty Projectors
16. Hot Thoughts-Spoon
17. Hug Of Thunder-Broken Social Scene
18. Capacity-Big Thief
19. The Wild-The Rural Alberta Advantage
20. Love Is Love-Woods
21. Pleasure-Feist
22. Infinite Worlds-Vagabon
23. Hang-Foxygen
24. Light Information-Chad VanGaalen
25. Sleep Well Beast-The National
26. A Crow Looked at Me-Mount Eerie
27. TFCF-Liars
28. Poor David's Almanack-David Rawlings
29. Rocket- (Sandy) Alex G
30. Life Without Sound-Cloud Nothings
31. Popular Manipulations-The Districts
32. Memory of a Cut Off Head-OCS
33. Coils-Ramona Falls
34. Orc-Oh Sees
35. Times Infinity Volume Two-The Dears
36. We All Want the Same Things-Craig Finn
37. Whiteout Conditions-The New Pornographers
38. Moh Lhean-Why?
39. Bad Posture-John Andrews & the Yawns
40. Out in the Storm-Waxahatchee
41. Go Farther In Lightness-Gang of Youths
42. Rock n Roll Consciousness-Thurston Moore
43. In Mind-Real Estate
44. Hatteras Night, A Good Luck Charm-Will Johnson
45. No Shape-Perfume Genius
46. The Tourist-Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
47. Everything Now-Arcade Fire
48. Last Place-Grandaddy
49. Hard Love-Strand of Oaks
50. World Eater-Blanck Mass

Feb 3, 2018

Father John Misty @ Enmore Theatre

Father John Misty, otherwise known as Josh Tillman, is the consummate performer. Engaging, passionate, funny and a voice as pure as you would find. And even though this would be the sixth time that I have seen him live I don't think I would ever tire of seeing him live. He is just that good!

Wednesday night at the Enmore Theatre was yet another magical show. Song after song of melody and beauty. This show was a little different from his show just last July. That show was very heavy on his latest album in 'Pure Comedy'. This show differed in starting out with a swag of great songs from his first two albums. Particularly happy with the choice of  'Only Son of the Ladiesman'. It wasn't until the tenth song that we heard a 'Pure Comedy' cut in the shape of the mesmeric 'Total Entertainment Forever'. All in all it was a great set list showing all of his skills as a performer, songwriter and singer. We even received an 'acceptance speech' for his Grammy Award for Best Packaging won during the week. As expected it was cutting and sarcastic and funny. Judging by some of the comments on the internet I think many people misread Josh Tillman. I just don't think they get satire. He is super intelligent and super caring. It's just all done through a layer of sarcasm and comedy. They mistake confidence for arrogance. I welcome it. It's what makes him such a magnetic performer. One never to be missed.

Set List
I Love You, Honeybear
Nancy From Now On
Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)
Only Son of the Ladiesman
Misty's Nightmares 1 & 2
The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt.
Funtimes in Babylon
Strange Encounter
Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow
Total Entertainment Forever
Bored in the USA
Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution
Ballad of the Dying Man
True Affection
I'm Writing a Novel
Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings
Pure Comedy

When You're Smiling and Astride Me
Real Love Baby
So I'm Growing Old on Magic Mountain
Holy Shit
The Ideal Husband