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My freelance writing can now be found at mikeatkinson.wordpress.com.
Recently: VV Brown, Alabama 3, Just Jack, Phantom Band, Frankmusik, Twilight Sad, Slaid Cleaves, Alesha Dixon, Bellowhead, The Unthanks, Dizzee Rascal.
On Thursday September 17th, I danced on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.
Click here to watch, and here to listen.
Friday, December 07, 2007
Rufus! Rufus! Rufus! Does Judy! Judy! Judy! – Live At The London Palladium
132 mins, no extras
Never one to shy away from charges of being precocious, 2006 saw Rufus Wainwright embark on his most ambitiously risky career move to date. Almost unbelievably, the decision was made to re-stage Judy Garland’s famous 1961 show at New York’s Carnegie Hall, in the same 31-song running order, with Wainwright fronting a 36-piece orchestra. One could almost hear the gasps (“Just who does he think he is?”) rising in the throats of Broadway’s old guard.
Thankfully for all concerned, the show turned out to be a huge critical success, earning repeat performances in London, Paris and Los Angeles. This particular recording dates from the second London show, which took place on February 25th, 2007.
Despite the musical lavishness on offer, this is a no-frills record of a straight orchestral show. Although the sound quality is nothing short of stunning, there is little to distract the viewer from Wainwright’s interpretations of classics such as Over The Rainbow and Puttin’ On The Ritz. Needless to say, the performances are immaculate, if perhaps a little introverted and over-reverential for the first hour or so.
Following an impassioned rendition of Noel Coward’s If Love Were All, something inside the singer seems to loosen up. The remainder of the set is performed in a noticeably more relaxed manner, with Rufus finally finding it within himself to reach out and connect with his audience, in true Garland style. A guest appearance from Lorna Luft, the late diva’s daughter, gives the final seal of approval to his efforts.
(Buy the DVD from Amazon UK)
(Watch the preview video)
Black Mountain – Nottingham Rescue Rooms, Thursday December 6.
Black Mountain belong firmly in the latter category. Although lacking any obvious crowd-pleasing showmanship, the five band members radiated a quiet, studious intensity which, in a roundabout sort of way, gave them more genuine stage presence than your average NME-sanctioned posturing ninnies.
The music was rooted in classic late 1960s rock of the heavy, hairy variety, with distinct echoes of The Doors, Neil Young, and Jimi Hendrix – but rather than mining a straightforward retro seam, it had been filtered through the latter-day psychedelia of bands such as Ride, Spiritualized and the Stone Roses. Dense, swirling and intoxicating, it invited to you close your eyes and lose yourself in its epic sweep. (More pretentious publications than this one might use phrases such as “tonal landscapes” and “cathedrals of sound”, but Evening Post readers are sensible enough to see through that sort of guff.)
While material from the band’s forthcoming second album was well received, the loudest cheers were reserved for the killer riffing of Don’t Run Our Hearts Around, from their fine 2005 debut.
(Photograph of Black Mountain in Utrecht on December 2nd 2007 taken by stephanchrk, and reproduced under the terms of a Creative Commons non-commercial attribution licence.)
Thursday, December 06, 2007
From The Jam – Nottingham Rock City, Tuesday December 4.
For anyone who witnessed From The Jam’s triumphant performance at the Rescue Rooms in May, last night came with dangerously high expectations. Could original members Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler, along with vocalist Russell Hastings and second guitarist Dave Moore, rekindle the magic once again, or was that springtime gig a unrepeatable fluke?
This time round, instead of blasting us with an opening salvo of classics, the band bravely eased us in with a couple of album tracks. For the first hour or so, they explored the best of their back catalogue, with an emphasis on the golden 1978-80 mid-period. Rather than being milked for easy nostalgia points, we were reminded that The Jam were always firmly about the music.
As the set progressed, the energy levels increased. B-sides such as The Butterfly Collector and So Sad About Us gave way to the big crowd pleasers: a punchy A-Bomb In Wardour Street, a razor-sharp Start, and the ever-resonant Strange Town. Later and lesser hits were conspicuous by their absence.
By the time we reached The Eton Rifles and Going Underground, Rock City was on fire, as veterans relived their glory days and curious younger admirers got to see what the fuss was all about. Passionately and precisely delivered by Hastings, Paul Weller’s extraordinarily articulate lyrics retained all of their righteous power.
If your idea of a rock anthem extends no further than “Ruby-Ruby-Ruby-Ruby”, then last night was proof positive that, for some of us at least, The Jam will always rule supreme.
(Photographs of Russell Hastings and Bruce Foxton taken on May 12 2007 by Ed Fielding, and reproduced under the terms of a Creative Commons non-commercial attribution licence.)
SwissToni's spot-on review of the same gig.
My review of From The Jam at the Rescue Rooms in May.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Rachel Unthank and the Winterset – The Maze, Nottingham, Sunday November 25.
Rachel Unthank, her younger sister Becky, pianist Belinda O’Hooley and fiddle player Niopha Keegan. Although the Winterset’s roots are in traditional folk, they are not afraid to take influences from more contemporary sources, including sparse, spine-tingling covers of Robert Wyatt’s Sea Song and Antony and the Johnsons’ For Today I Am A Boy.
Combining darkness and joy to sublime effect, the delicacy and grace of the music was offset by warm, self-deprecating comic banter between the performers, and a musical variety which encompassed ukuleles, clog dancing, and impromptu renditions of Christmas classics.
Material from debut album Cruel Sister kept the traditionalists happy, while its more dramatic, boundary-pushing follow-up The Bairns pointed the way forward – both for the Winterset, and indeed for English folk music in general.
(Photograph of Rachel Unthank at the 2007 Cambridge Folk Festival taken by Frank Bach Jensen, and reproduced under the terms of a Creative Commons non-commercial attribution licence.)