Archive | March, 2011

Live Review: Josh T Pearson

31 Mar

Josh T Pearson

Brighton Ballroom, Wednesday, March 29 2011

Tonight has been a long time coming. A decade ago Texan Josh T Pearson was the frighteningly mutton-chopped front man of Lift To Experience, a band which unleashed a torrent of noise as he manically and devoutly predicted the end of the world on the classic cult album, The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads.

Then he disappeared.

He’s spent the intervening years losing his faith, questioning his sanity and wallowing in the misery of a short-lived marriage, before detailing every last fear, tear and sigh on his phenomenal debut solo release, The Last of the Country Gentlemen.

Clad in black and with just an acoustic guitar, right from the gentle strumming of opener Sweetheart I Ain’t your Christ, he plays to reverential silence. It’s minimal yet epic, simple yet spine-tingling.

With his long hair, unkempt beard and wide-eyed stares, there is more than a touch of the preacher about him. Perhaps that’s why he can throw in a mantra-like cover of Boney M’s Rivers of Babylon and make it a sound like the most natural song in the world, when it should sound absurd

Half way through his ‘depressing country songs’ Pearson decides we need some comedy.

He invites jokes from the audience before telling a few awful ones of his own. For someone whose songs are so bleak, bitter and frankly disturbed, he is relaxed, self-deprecating, witty and immensely likeable.

‘Now for some more smash hits he quips’ as he effortlessly moves from lame Minnie Mouse gags to the dreamy and haunting Country Dumb.

Amid a backdrop of fragile guitar, he eerily whispers in his Southern drawl ‘we’re the kind who always need a saviour’.

If that’s true, then it looks like the 200 people here have found one in him as the set ends with a mass singalong to Devil’s on the Run. ‘Now let’s have some fun’ everyone sings. Let’s hope he can too.


Live Review: Jesca Hoop

23 Mar

Jesca Hoop

Jesca Hoop, Brighton Ballroom, Monday, March 21, 2011

Californian singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop moved to Manchester a few years back and while the northern skies haven’t dampened her chirpy demeanour, new tracks suggest it has added a darker dimension to her songwriting.

Hoop has had enough celebrity backing to kickstart her career; Tom Waits, whose children she used to look after is a big fan, as is Elbow frontman Guy Garvey. But tonight proves she has enough top rate material, wit and story-telling panache to pull in crowds on talent alone.

She wastes no time in spilling her soul to the audience. She introduces Whispering Light by telling us it’s about how she taught her cancer stricken, Mormon mum to smoke cannabis for pain relief. It was the last time they spoke.

She then skips through a jaunty, hour-long set armed with just a guitar and aided by a backing singer. But this isn’t easy listening. Her sound is far too complex for that. This is largely because of a mischievous desire to cram more ideas into single tracks than many attempt on an entire album and her astounding vocal range . Her voice is deep and soulful, irratic and shouty, swooning and sultry, and this is often within the same song.

The darker edges are clearly evident on new track City Bird where her trademark schizophrenic style is replaced with a gritty realism and more conventional sound, but to no less impressive effect. Hoop is a rare talent; she’s musically ambitious, lyrically gifted and a born entertainer. And on a Monday night in March, there really isn’t much more you could ask for.

Live Review: Hannah Peel

20 Mar
Hannah Peel

Hannah Peel



Brighton Ballroom: Wednesday, March 16 2011.


Sounds as well as appearances can be deceptive. For someone so
endearingly nervous as she chats between songs, multi-instrumentalist
singer songwriter Hannah Peel has a remarkable stage presence when
playing live

Likewise, while on the surface tonight’s songs from debut album ‘The
Broken Wave’ appear gentle and soothing, her subtle melodies hide
bolder, wonderfully descriptive lyrics dealing with broken hearts,
loneliness and death.

The folksie ‘Don’t Kiss The Broken One’ is a warning for the lovelorn
everywhere, while ‘The Almond Tree’, despite its lilting tune, is
lyrically concerned with murder and burial.

‘You Call This Your Home’, a bitter sweet ballad which Richard Hawley
would be happy to call his own, soars and stands out tonight but the
major highlights come on tracks such as ‘Unwound’ where Peel creates
delicate, fairytale-like sounds from her music box to expertly seam
together the piano, guitar and drums from her live band.

What makes her truly special, however, is her shy yet charming and
chatty style as she talks to the audience. ‘Thanks for coming, I’m not
sure how you’ve all heard of me’ she says at one point. On tonight’s
showing, she’d better get used to this level of attention.

Live Review: The Naked and Famous

10 Mar

The Naked and Famous: Shattering preconceptions


Digital: Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Naked and Famous are neither naked nor particularly famous…what they are though is the epitome of cool right now.

These five stylish Kiwis are the latest darlings of the music press despite arriving on these shores with little more than two MGMT-esque singles and the screen-friendly looks of T4 presenters.

So they should be awful, right? Wrong.

Tonight the five piece, on the last date of their UK tour, provide a masterclass in ruthlessly shattering preconceptions.

Having heard a few tracks on MySpace, I’m sure I wasn’t the only person here expecting saccharine synths and lightweight pop tunes, but what we got was something far heavier, and much more absorbing.

The opener, ‘Passive Me, Aggressive You’, was a tour de force of ribcage rattling bass and contrasting harmonies as boy/girl vocalists Thom Powers and Alisa Xayalith destroyed lame comparisons to the xx , proving they are more Jenny And Johnny with a nuclear weapon slung over their shoulders.

Singles ‘Young Blood’ and ‘Punching in a Dream’ are pop perfection but they are interspersed by several darker, brooding numbers which play havoc with your expectations. One minute they thrill with delicate keys and sultry vocals, the next they are destroyed by a juggernaut of rhythm and enough fuzzy feedback to put My Bloody Valentine to shame.

The Naked and Famous are pop pioneers, electro experimentalists and a brash, bass-heavy dance  act, all rounded into one. They even have the audacity to dedicate their encore to anyone who hasn’t enjoyed their set. Unsurprisingly, no-one bites, no-one heckles and no-one leaves. It’s a job very well done.

Live Review: Trophy Wife

3 Mar

The Hope: Wednesday, March 2 2011

For reasons known only to themselves, Oxford’s Trophy Wife choose to describe their music as ‘ambitionless office disco’.

The phrase smacks of nine-to-five tedium in an open-plan hell hole where the only sound is soulless piped music in the lift, and it is a world away from adequately reflecting the captivating and at times exhilarating live show witnessed tonight.

In a 30 minute set they display a depth of sound rare for a band who have only just released their second single.

Debut release ‘Microlight’ is a sassy slice of downbeat electro pop with a looping disco beat fusing together brooding synths, chiming guitars and disconnected vocals.

Foot-tapper ‘The Quiet Earth’  reveals the band’s live pedigree as it’s catapulted out of its radio-friendly slumber by throbbing bass and an infectious hook, but it’s their cover of Joanna Newsom’s ‘The Book of Right On’ which steals the show.

It sees singer Jody Prewett shake off his detached coolness to lead a pulsating five-minute finale reminiscent of Delphic at their euphoric best.

They might be dire at self-description, but on this showing Trophy Wife are the band most likely to get the indie kids dancing at festivals this summer.

Gig Listings: Week beginning February 28

2 Mar

Trophy Wife: The Oxford trio play The Hope on Wednesday


Monday, February 28

Liam Grundy: Greys: £11.00

Tuesday, March 1

Band Of Skulls: Green Door Store: £11.00

Glamour Of The Kill: Audio: £7.50

Anna Calvi: Komedia: SOLD OUT

Wednesday, March 2

Trophy Wife: Hope: £5.50

Thursday, March 3

Vessels: Jam: £7.00

Penguins Kill Polar Bears: Green Door: £5.50

Friday, March 4

The Beat: Concorde: £17.50

Detroit Social Club: Jam: £6.50

Silent Disco: Concorde: £8.50

Former Ghosts: Green Door Store: £8.50

Johnny Cash Tribute: Komedia: £13.00

Saturday, March 5

Darwin Deez: Concorde: SOLD OUT

Donkey Pitch: Jam: £5.50

Sunday, March 6

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus: Concorde: £9.50

Does It Offend You, Yeah?: Coalition: £11.00

Aidan Moffat: Duke Of Yorks: £11.00

Three Blind Wolves: Hope: £3.50

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