Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Joan as Police Woman, Brighton, 21 June 2019

I was not going to do a review of this Joan as Police Woman gig as regular readers have probably read all they need to about our numerous audience experiences, most recently last year in Vienna. Indeed, I was not particularly excited about this “Joanthology” tour as it was billd as a solo set. Joan Wasser’s bands have, consistently, been excellent, worthy of critical review in their own right, and extraordinarily complementary to her vocals.

So convinced was I that it would be a disappointment, I did not attempt to write a set-list or get too close (the venue, a church, had unhelpful seating – we’ve never sat down at a JasPW gig before). Having said that, never before have we seen a grand piano on the set. Wasser’s keyboards are ordinarily electric/electronic and configured for standing only. So, all different. The audience was largely made up of Wasser devotees, and one get’s the impression that very quickly she felt at ease and amongst friends. I sense one needs to have that feeling when alone on stage. Indeed, she was conscious that there was part of the audience staring down on her from a balcony, prompting the comment after her first song, “I hope none of you people are piano teachers”.

So, Joanthology is Wasser’s self-curated “best of” album. A triple, with the third CD consisting of tracks taken from BBC sessions. We actually have yet to listen to these, having purchased the album a couple of weeks’ earlier. So, not much was new. Joanthology has a few new offerings. One of which is a song called “What a World”. Now having seen JasPW numerous times, this song is familiar. Though it turns out that Wasser performed this song for a few years before she decided it was largely unperformable. The absence of the song from the repertoire and its failure to appear on any of her albums did not pass by her most devoted followers who, apparently, badgered her to do something with the song. Or, as Wasser explained, to rework it into something that she could like.

Wasser was also drawn, disarmingly, to develop the story around “Real Life”. It is a love letter sent to a bloke she wanted to get to know better. The thing is, he was about 6000 miles away, so it was hardly ideal. Suffice to say, it did not quite work, but have a listen and pick out the lyrics that might have had an impact on the recipient.

Anecdotes aside, this is probably the most accomplished we have ever seen JasPW. Completely in control, at ease and beguiling the audience to a person. Whilst we did not have the best position in the church (churches have posts and generally lack raised seating or stages), it did not really matter. Wasser’s vocals just danced around her rearranged songs and curated set. She had to be on top form to pull this off. She was on top form.

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Much ado about Bingo, Brighton Fringe Festival, 26 May 2019

I first encountered Lorraine Bowen probably about 15 years’ ago at the Brighton Fringe Festival topping the bill in an evening of cabaret in the extraordinary Spiegeltent. Her act revolves around sing-a-long tunes accompanied by her casio keyboard mounted on an ironing board. Her biggest hit, the Crumble Song, has now, apparently, been translated into scores of languages, two of which, Italian and Japanese, were demonstrated in this performance.

We last saw Lorraine Bowen on a barge on the Thames in 2011 where she performed Polyester Fiesta, a show celebrating 70 years’ of that most maligned of fabrics. I recall we complied with the dress code and won a prize for having done so. More polyester. So it was no surprise that there was lots of polyester on show for this curious – but huge fun – late evening in the Bosco tent (a variant of the Spiegeltent without the spiegels). This was a celebration of bingo – wrapped up in the music and sweets of the 1970s, with a bit of Shakespeare thrown in. There was audience participation, naturally, and prizes ranging from authentic signed photos of Shakespeare himself, packets of Smash potato, a tube of Smarties and a Curley Wurley. You get the idea!

Our host, Boogaloo Stu (Derek Daniels, left) played the ubiquitous night club compere of the 1970s. He was accompanied by pianist, Ronnie Hazelhorn (the surname might be wrong, but I presume he was named after the ever-present 1970s composer, Ronnie Hazelhurst), who was a sensation. On entering the auditorium, everyone received a bingo card and a pen. The card had a combination of 1970s song titles (for example, Save all your Kisses for Me), advertisement jingles (A Finger of Fudge) and Shakespeare plays (Hamlet). Daniels sang all of these as he waited for a line, then two lines, and finally a full house to be called. It was a live “Stars on 45” medley. For those of us who lived through this decade, it was wonderfully cringeworthy. As the words came so easily. There was also a section called Shakespeare or Shakin’ Stevens. This was more difficult than it sounds!

Lorraine Bowen provided a couple of interludes. She sang her Polyester song with audience help. She also revealed a magical London map dress. What she did with Croydon has to be seen to be believed. And of course, the Crumble Song. The Finale was a celebration of Clacton-on-Sea (right).

The show lasted about 80 minutes. It was great. Pure escapism made by three very talented performers. Daniels, in particular, who even managed Wuthering Heights! Eyes Down!

 

Dead Can Dance, Hammersmith Apollo, 4 May 2019

It was bucket list time again. I’ve been listening to DCD for many years, always beguiled by Lisa Gerrard’s extraordinary contralto, and Brendan Perry’s velvet baritone. Plus those instruments. And there they are in front of us in that cathedral of music, the Hammersmith Apollo, probably my favourite concert hall. The best seats we could get were upstairs in the circle, but nowhere in this venue is too far away from the stage. It is not a stadium. The acoustics are great – at least good enough for my tinnitus-trashed hearing.

They arrived on stage promptly, Gerrard wearing her trademark flowing robe, quasi-beehive hair and lots of spangly things. Perry doesn’t even try to compete; though the female keyboard player equally wears a long flowing dress, just enough to complement Gerrard and not to out-do. There are five other male players, three dedicated to percussion, another keyboard player and bass. But this lot are multi-instrumentalists and vocalists of the highest order.

I did not try to create my own set list, but I think this one from Nantes is about right. I was wondering two things before seeing them. First, would this be the Dionysus tour – a promotion for their current album which, although good, probably will not go down as their best? Second, will they be generous? The answers were no and yes. In fact, they played only “Dance of the Bacchantes” from Dionysus. The audience were attentive, knowledgeable and appreciative. Gerrard started cautiously. I don’t know much about singing, but voices are delicate things and when one has one like Gerrard’s, I suppose they need warming up before the owner lets rip on songs like “Sanvean” and “Avartar”.

The same could not be said of Perry whose opener, “Anywhere out of the World”, set the pace like a football team trying to tire out the opposition rather than outwit them on the field. His voice started to break up about half way through the set, he left the stage seeking some palliative. “My voice is fucked”, he said as he departed. On his return, the treatment seemed to have been effective. He got through “The Carnival is Over” a song about freaks in the circus visiting his childhood home in East London in the 1970s. As the set list shows, there were two encores. Perhaps one too many for Perry. And this is very much the start of the tour. Fingers crossed for him (a couple of nights’ rest) and future audiences.

That aside, this was one of the most memorable musical performances I can remember, The players generate a consummate sound, very much appreciated by Gerrad who, like a conductor of an orchestra, asks the audience to applaud particular players and sections at the end of the piece. The DCD percussion section is clearly integral. For my untrained ear they were beat perfect.

Two hours in total. Pure pleasure for us, hard work for them.

Those song lyrics

When I was a kid, recorded music was everything. All my pocket money went into buying singles, much to the chagrin of my father. But music was never about the lyrics, more the melody and rhythm. I loved American soul and disco. It is only in my later years that I have revisited some of those tunes…and cringed at the lyrics.

Let’s start with the SOS Band (left). What a beautiful noise. “Just be good to me“, somehow back in 1983 this was alright to dance to. Cutting through the addictive melody, it is the story of a woman who knows that her partner may not be ideal. “I don’t care about your other girls, just be good to me”. And then, “People always telling me, you’re a user, I don’t care what you do to them, just be good to me.” This is a song, at best, celebrating a ghastly lover and certainly not a song to be sung with a great smile on one’s face, but there you go. Incidentally, it is not all bad with the SOS Band, “Do it right“, which preceded “Just be good to me”, has all the ingredients, including lyrics!

Next up, Moments and the Whatnaughts (right), Girls. Another catchy tune with terrible lyrics. Try this: “I’d like to be on an island; With five or six of them fine ones; Even one that ain’t good lookin’; They’re the ones that do the best cookin'”. I did hear that right, there is a correlation between not being good looking and being able to cook? I sense the three Moments and Whatnaughts are all good at cookin’? Their dress sense, also leaves a lot to be desired.

And then there is the voice of Lou Rawls (left). I remember “You’ll never find another love like mine” charting back in 1976 (I was 12, so I am forgiven). What a voice. The sound of Philadelphia. Effortless. But let’s not think about the lyrics. I might be pushing this too far. I always start it with the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. OK his partner is going (maybe gone). Sad, for sure. At first it is a great celebration of what they had, but then it starts getting dark and creepy. “I am not trying to make you stay, baby”…er, yes you are. Then come the threats, oh yes, you’ve made a big mistake: “Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh (you’re gonna miss my lovin’), Late in the midnight hour, baby (you’re gonna miss my lovin’), When it’s cold outside (you’re gonna miss my lovin’)”. And just to rub it in: “You’ll never see what you’ve found in me, You’ll keep searching and searching your whole life through.”

And it still goes on. Listening to Gregory Porter from his album, “Take me to the alley” (2015), there is a track called “Don’t be a fool”. Here we go: “I broke your heart, now and before; But I won’t do it anymore; Trust in me and fall in love again”. Er, so not only has the protagonist done this more than once “now and before”, he then proclaims that he will not do it again and to trust him! Why did Gregory Porter write this song?

The antidote to all of this, of course, is Gloria Gaynor (right) with the anthemic “I will survive”. “Weren’t you the one who tried to break me with goodbye?, Did you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die? Oh, no, not I, I will survive.” And there is also the best bit of practical advice for people in this situation. Change the locks.

More positives on this voyage of rediscovery: The Brothers Johnson, Stomp, Shalamar (all), Nile Rogers (take your pick) and my absolute favourite funk record: Dazz by Brick.

And wasn’t Soul Train extraordinary?

 

 

Images:

SOS Band: A&M Records

Lou Rawls: Source (WP:NFCC#4)

Gloria Gaynor: still from music video, Youtube

Soultrain: Unknown

 

 

 

Joan as Police Woman, Vienna, 31 March 2018 and Hove, 23 April 2018

We are regulars at Joan as Police Woman gigs. I think this is about our fifth time, though the first outside of the UK. All bar one of these share one thing in common: the intimacy of the venue. Intimacy enables Joan Wasser to play to her key strength: emotion. The venue matters, therefore. Last time we saw her, in her collaboration with Benjamin Lazar Davis in Brighton, UK, the venue was rammed and the bar was simply in the way. Tonight was perfect, though as bizarre as they come. At the Ottaker Brauerei (a real working brewery) one might have expected the bar to be in the way again. But no, the bar has its own room and the concert space is what it says on the can. Space. Nothing fancy – a dark hole with steel girders. Perfect for Joan as Police Woman (seemingly she has performed there twice before).

l-r Parker Kindred, Jacob Silver, Joan Wasser, Eric Lane and Jared Samuels

By contrast, The Old Market in Hove, UK, is rather less industrial. Once it was a market hall, but as venue it is versatile, fully furbished, though with visible wooden beams holding up the roof. I think it was her first time at the Old Market (having previously also appeared at Brighton’s Concorde 2, if I am not mistaken). It did not matter, the intimacy was there. The audience engaged, though clearly the band, coming to the end of a comprehensive European tour, were admitting their weariness. For some bands, this could easily lead to fractiousness; but these musicians seem very much at ease with one another. It was a much more relaxed performance than Vienna.

Now this was the Damned Devotion tour. Dammed Devotion is her latest solo album and it is worthy of a collection to add to her existing body of work. Actually, it was not until seeing Joan as Police Woman in Vienna that I realised how different this album is from its predecessors. The big clue came in the stage setup – three sets of keyboards – not seen before. We were reassured to see her long-time percussionist, Parker Kindred (left), mount the stage. He was intricately supported by bassist, Jacob Silver. Together they kept an order to the proceedings; Kindred’s timing is impeccable and it was great to be close enough to spend time watching a master caress and cajole a drum kit. It was also the first time that I have listened to a band from the drum kit outwards. By which I mean, the beats come first, followed by bass, keyboard and vocals. And with Joan as Police Woman live, that seemed to make sense.

And that is another reason why Damned Devotion is different, Kindred gets his moment to let rip on Joan’s uncharacteristic “dance track”, Steed (for Jean Genet).   I’ve never heard Wasser sing so high at such tempo and with so much noise

Wasser with Jared Samuel in background

behind her, not only Kindred’s percussion, but also two sets of keyboards played by Jared Samuel and Eric Lane. Equally, Wasser must rightly assert herself. On her album, Classic, I always celebrate her divinity captured in the song The Magic: “And I find I am face to face with none other than me; I’ve got the mirror up against the marquee; And all it reads is, I am fine, I am divine; But there is a wild side going on behind the sign”. We got it in the set, of course, but it is now complemented by her lastest self-anthem, The Silence with its clear lyric “My body, my choice, her body, her choice”. The Magic is subtle in tone, if not lyric. The Silence is neither.

This is a tour to promote The Damned Devotion, it is certainly not a greatest hits. Though it was good to hear Eternal Flame, the song that introduced me to Joan as Police Woman back in 2005 with its beachy-kitsch video. And there is one other addition to the repertoire. What is it Like to be You?, Wasser tells the audience, in a peculiarly revelatory exchange with the audience, is about her deeply missed father who passed away a couple of years ago. Of course, she is not the only daughter to fail to ask questions of a parent before they die. Wasser laments this with her father and captures her lament in this song. This is doubly intimate and it is why venues matter.

Benjamin Clementine, Munich, 19 November 2017

We first encountered Benjamin Clementine as winner of the Mercury Prize in 2015. We sat through the BBC4 awards show with its cod-suspense. We quickly purchased the winning album, At Least For Now, and we entered a world of alienation, busking in Paris, discovery and extraordinary vocal and piano ranges wonderfully unsymmetrical. This was extended somewhat when we saw him play the Somerset House summer concert in 2016. He was then taciturn, thoughtful, shy and beguiling.

The anticipation of the new album, I tell a Fly (left), was high. To read that his record company had sought a conventional album; i.e. commercial, and he had effectively told them it was either his album and not their’s, only added to the anticipation. The album, largely about refugees (and flies), does not disappoint. The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis’ review can be found here. Though I imagine the record company was less than delighted. Where are the love songs?

He then appeared on Later with Jools Holland October 2017; a necessary launchpad for a new work. His performance was, to say the least, unusual. He was joined by his long-term percussionist collaborator, Alexis Bossard and a bunch of clothes-less mannequins. They seemed like a major distraction; not least because some of them were children. So, on entering the auditorium of the 2700-seat Munich Gasteig, a shiver went down my spine when 13 mannequins, the majority representing pregnant women, were dotted around the stage.

On time, Clementine walked on stage and waited like a conductor for silence attention, before starting his unaccompanied intro (right). He was then joined by the percussionist and bass guitarist. Interestingly, he started with a song from his first album, Condolence. Maybe a crowd-pleaser before embarking on his themed segment – One awkward fish, By the Ports of Europe, God save the jungle and Phantom of Aleppo/Billy the bully. All great songs and delivered note-perfect. It is the commentary that is troubling. It’s not the content, per se. This is an album about refugees, outsiderism and war. The violence meted out in Aleppo is clearly important and his engagement with the child-representing mannequins act as a visual prop. And presumably the mannequined pregnant women the children yet to be born? His own explanation is that they represent time. That left me a shade confused.

Once through this section, we got another extended address in preparation for his song, I won’t complain. This is a tour to make money. The Gasteig is not an intimate venue. It was about two-thirds full. Before returning to the UK the tour has two more concert halls to add to the previous night’s Elb Philharmonie (left) in Hamburg, about which he had much to say. It cost a lot of money. It had no food. This latter point seemed to be a metaphor. It was expensive to get in. So why had he played there? Presumably to make as much money as possible. The album’s non-commercial content probably means that the value is in live performance? Maybe just a contradiction?

After 90 minutes, off they went to rapturous applause. And then back for a three-song encore – Ave dreamer, Box of stones (be prepared to sing along) and finally – and with hindsight not surprisingly –  Nemesis.

This concert has troubled me. I was not entertained. I trust Clementine didn’t intend me to be entertained. He’s a man on a mission, and it’s one that I wholly endorse. But three things I can say. First, the songs speak loud enough on their own. Second, the mannequins, take them away. Third, my partner who shared the experience with me that night does not share my analysis and discomfort. This is not written to put anyone off going to see him, indeed before the tour ends, the show will be performed in Brighton, UK, the town in which I work. We are still deliberating whether to go to see him.

Midnight Oil, Hammersmith Apollo, 23 July 2017

The music of Midnight Oil is part of my youth/early adulthood. There was a time when Antipodean music was all the rage with the likes of Icehouse, Men at Work, INXS and Split Endz. Midnight Oil also belonged to a rare popular genre of protest rock. Here one found The Jam, The Clash, Elvis Costello, Chumbawamba and Latin Quarter whose Album, Modern Times, still reverberates, having been exposed to it on a rather-poor quality Radio Caroline incarnation just-about audible in Hull. These were also the days when I used to read music papers and look at the gig list and see the Hammersmith Odeon hosting countless familiar names. It was a long way from home and I never travelled a long way from home. Like the ferries from Hull that also eluded me, now was the time to go to this art decor temple of sound and vision (below right).

Being Australian, however, Midnight Oil had this additional quality – a familiarly unfamiliar history. I was once in a school musical (I was perhaps 8 years’ old) where I had to choose to be either a cowboy or an indian. The downside of the latter was that as part of the make-up, one had to be covered in dissolved Oxo in order to get a darker skin tone. Those who know me, know only too well that I dislike being sticky or being face painted, or whatever.  The idea of having Oxo painted onto my skin may have swayed my decision to be a cowboy. Not a bit of it. It was a few years later, prompted by Midnight Oil’s song, Beds are Burning, that I realised why I had elected to undergo the Oxo treatment. Indians were indigenous people pushed to extermination by, largely, white settlers. With guns.

Beds are Burning is not an ernest song; one of the problems I find with regular protest music. It is a stonking rousing tune that you can dance to. And probably should. Beds are Burning, and the album from which it comes, Diesel and Dust, is a body of work (which dominated this gig), but it is not the whole story. The lead singer, Peter Garrett, forced the band to break up in 2002 on his decision to enter politics and become a senator in the Australian Parliament (he was eventually elected under a Labor banner in 2004). But seemingly their early career relied on live performances due to the controversial nature of their lyrics and Garrett’s particular brand of outspokenness which rendered regular airtime difficult to garner. Thirteen years’ after the break, Midnight Oil are reformed and doing a world tour under a largely original lineup of Garrett, Rob Hirst – drums, vocalsJim Moginie – lead guitars, keyboards; and Martin Rotsey – lead guitars. The band’s bassist is Bones Hillman.

Beds are Burning got the audience to its feet after the relatively quiet and contemplative start with Outside World, even though the venue was all-seat. It was a bit of an anthem-after-anthem performancePut Down That Weapon, Dreamworld, Bullroarer, Sell My Soul, Ships of Freedom, Power and the Passion, Blue Sky Mine and the final encore, Best of Both Worlds. Just under two hours in total giving plenty of time to watch as well as absorb the music. What does one observe? Garrett has always been a striking figure – tall, bald and charismatic. Rob Hirst, from what I understand has, not surprisingly, been the beating heart of the band on drums and vocals. So much so that they are lugging around a giant metal corrugated bin (right) that comes into its own when he gets his rock-set drum solo during Power and the Passion – goodness knows where he gets the energy from. Moginie and Rotsey concentrate on guitarship – both being leads (Moginie is also the band’s keyboardist). Feasible, one senses, from an over-familiarity with one another, Garrett’s quirks and Hirst’s direction/conducting. This was great stuff. Another bit of my cultural history retrieved and shared with my beloved.

 

 

Pond, Concorde 2, Brighton, 15 June 2017

Who or what is Pond? Let me quote Wikipedia: “Featuring a revolving line-up, the band currently consists of Nick Allbrook, Jay Watson, Joe Ryan and Jamie Terry. Pond often shares its members with fellow Australian psychedelic rock band Tame Impala. Jay Watson is a full member of both acts, while Pond band leader Nick Allbrook contributed to both bands from 2009 until 2013. Current Tame Impala members Kevin Parker, Cam Avery and Julien Barbagallo are all former members of Pond, with Parker continuing to work with the band as its record producer.” The other member who I trust was on stage on Thursday was James Ireland on drums?

According to Douglas Adams in the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,  the loudest band in the universe is Disaster Area, a plutonium rock band; probably not only the loudest band in the universe, but the loudest noise of any kind. Pond come second. Just.

I reviewed their 6th album, Man It Feels Like Space Again, a couple of years ago. Everything I said there is valid for this gig. The songs are probably not that meaningful. The lyrics are hard to hear let alone understand – originally I had thought it was Nick Allbrook’s limited voice, but I was wrong on that. He belted out the lyrics, but the other four just went for it as well. The melodies are there, the song structures are a mixture of classic symmetrics and asymmetric mini operas. Key changes galore. Compelling.

Allbrook is a performer like no other. He is a small package with a compensating stage presence. Be warned, he will throw himself into the audience with a confidence that only comes with extended youth (he’s a nightmare for venue security trying to temper audience exuberance). His guitar is one of the most beaten-up specimens that I have ever seen. I contrast his guitar husbandry with that of Richard Hawley who employs a guitar dresser to tune and pollish them before each performance.

What else did they play? A few tracks from the new album including 3000 Megatons and Sweep me off My Feet. Both wrap themselves around you – they are a Phil Spector wall of sound without the commercial hang-ups. Whilst I’d love everyone to love Pond, please don’t like them enough to force them into bigger venues. When Allbrook sweats, I need to feel that, too.

 

Dean Friedman, Hastings, 9 May 2017

I was alerted to Dean Friedman’s appearance by the White Rock Theatre only five days before, but it was a no-brainer. Of all of my teenage/early 20s influences (ELO, Devo, Blondie, Kate Bush, The Smiths), Dean Friedman is the one that provided the yearning for adulthood. The notion of love between the sheets tormented me. And that woman, Lydia, accommodating that toothbrush, dissolved away my frontal lobe. Then there was that room where a cuckoo clock tells you that you are reflected in all of the things you own. I had a cuckoo clock (but no rocking chair).

I had seen him once before at the Hull Truck Theatre, at least 35 years ago. I am generally reluctant to revisit the past. I made an important exception here. And took the opportunity to introduce my beloved to this world.

The stage hosted a grand piano, a Yamaha keyboard and a guitar. And him. Each song has its own story – and not always the obvious one. The Shopping Bag Ladies were part of Friedman’s daily commute to New York. Company, was influenced by Paul McCartney’s Blackbird (to find out how, you have to go to the show or attend one of his song-writing workshops). He did not say too much about the S&M song, but it was great to hear it. Ariel captures that youthful exuberance of discovery, being “high” and the softness of the mouth. Only Dean Friedman wrote lyrics like that, at least in my world at that time.

There is a new album available today. It is called 12 Tunes and we were introduced to a number of the songs from it. Whilst youth is long gone, the use of song to capture life’s ongoing magic and frustrations is still in Friedman’s gift. “We must have done something right” he sings in reference to his child rearing. On being too busy he asks “how does everyone do it?”. The loss of an old friend – his guitar – “This guitar can’t hold a tune no more”. Clever, witty, metaphorical, reflective.

And so to the dark side. Early in the set there was a song about a former girlfriend that he was happy to see go. It was not complementary in tone or language. It reminded me of John Cooper Clarke’s brilliant Twat. I was not expecting that. Then he lulled us into a false sense of security about neighbourly relations. To paraphrase, if we cannot get on with our neighbours, how are we supposed to get on with people from other countries? Before unleashing a wonderfully vicious song about bad neighbours and escalating tensions. Revenge, even.

Talking of which, I remember Tim Minchin discussing one of his revenge songs written about a journalist who gave him a particularly bad review, the effect of which can be significant. Power without responsibility. Friedman regaled the audience about a phone call that he got from a friend in the UK telling  him there was a song on an album by a bizarrely-named band, Half Man, Half Biscuit, entitled The Bastard Son of Dean Friedman. The essence of this song is that the narrator has to deal with learning of his origins and coping with the ridicule and shame. That same album contained a song with a lyric “why is Rod Hull alive – and getting paid as well?” Older British Readers will know what that means. Friedman, suffice to say, was in good company.

It was not absolutely clear in the first instance whether Friedman was flattered or hurt by the Bastard Son. But his song riposte had light touches and humour. Or at least the way I heard it. I think that was the point of Nigel Blackwell’s/Half Man’s original song?

I end my review with a reflection on a song that captures what Dean Friedman does best. Gone, understandably, is Ariel’s manic, rapid heart beating sprint and replaced by a matured reflection on the really important things. Prompted by the question from a stranger at a party – something which Friedman seems to eschew – “what do you do”? The answer, “I’m Dean Friedman” should be enough. But he put the answer into a mischievous song. Brilliantly. His job is to make his beloved happy (secure, loved, warm, dry,  etc.). It’s a bit contrived, we all know that. And it should be true.

Talking of being contrived, here is a picture (right) of me with Dean Friedman.

The tour continues culminating in appearances at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

Grandaddy – finally

I am a little bit too late sometimes to the party. Somewhere I heard that Grandaddy had sort-of reformed and were doing some shows. Into the ether I went, discovered that they were playing in Brighton, UK, and tried to buy tickets. Sold out. Next option, Brussels’ Ancienne Belgique, 5 April. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

And what did I know about Grandaddy? Well, eventually I made the link between Jason Lytle – whose solo album, The Department of Disappearance (right) I’d bought a few years’ earlier – and Grandaddy. Lytle has a distinctive voice, so it did not take much to make the connection once heard. And I’m a sucker for lumberjack shirts.

I’ve also got into the frame of mind that I missed too many good gigs when I was younger thinking that there would always be another chance. I’m not so sure now. Hence the nonsense of going to Brussels.

So, in preparation for the gig, I bought the new album, Last Place, which the Guardian newspaper described as “solid rather than spectacular”. Apparently, I should have bought the first two albums, these were the dizzy heights. At the gig, I suspect Lytle himself recognised this and played extensively from them. A greying, largely male, audience was appreciative of this. It was anything but a sales push on Last Place.

That said, there are a number of tracks which, I suspect, Lytle himself regards as up to the mark. Much of it is disconcerting. So, I don’t wanna live here any more has the preceding line, “I’ve just moved here”. Seemingly autobiographical – Lytle moved from Montana to Oregon (in the Trumpian world, both sound places to avoid) and perhaps regretted it. Many of us have had that feeling, at least between houses if not states. Keeping up the melancholy, This is the Part a journey to Oregon living maybe? “This is the part, Some call a broken heart; Put down the phone, There’s no one coming home.” Ah yes, this is 2000s world where there are still landline phones. The backdrop for the band on stage is a film depicting this world full of freight trains, trucks, cement factories and a lot of wilderness.

Let’s go upbeat? The Way We Won’t is that pop song. Trademark melody, synth and guitar. The accompanying video, however, has a twist. Lyrically, I’m baffled. Maybe it is culturally too far away from me? “Less than an hour past control tower, On a big box store roof; Cinnamon smell and holiday sales, Why would we ever move?” Oh, I don’t know. I could find a reason.

The gig, wonderful. Lytle’s voice is not the strongest and it needed a bit more amplification. He’s also not the most charismatic on stage and did not even introduce the band members apart from Shaun who’d stood in at last minute on guitar (photo top left, far left).