Archive | June, 2012

Comedy Review: Stewart Francis

18 Jun

The Dome: Saturday, June 16

Stewart Francis is comedy antibiotics; the longer you are exposed to him, the less effective he is.

That’s not to say the Canadian master of deadpan, quick-fire one-liners and shameless puns isn’t a first-rate performer when he’s on the money, it’s just that he doesn’t have enough A-grade material to adequately fill an hour-long set.

And that’s something of a problem when he’s trying to fill sizable venues with a new routine every year.

This show, when it veered away from the trademark, free-flowing quips which have made him a panel show star, was something of a disappointment.

A sketch with an imaginary ventriloquist’s dummy was barely tolerable, a visual routine which consisted of him gurning in an attempt to look like a cross between Ed Miliband and a dozy security guard was tame, and while a few musical interludes were amusing enough, they all felt somewhat beneath him.

It wasn’t until the last quarter of the show, when he really started to unleash his cutting one-liners, that the show managed to pick-up any real rhythm or maintain a consistently high quality of output.

When he did get going, though, he was unstoppable. A series of gags about the different people his wife had left him for, for example, was an unrelenting stream of clever puns which showed his mastery of language and pinpoint delivery.

Because his best jokes are so concise and rapidly dispatched, some might say it’s asking too much for him to write a set that maintains such a stellar standard throughout.

But if he wants to surpass the likes of Tim Vine and Milton Jones in the one-liner stakes, he’s going to have to, even if that means easing up on the lucrative tours for a while.

Live Review: Future Of The Left

18 Jun

The Haunt: Wednesday, June 13, 2012

If there’s music for every occasion, then Future of the Left exist for the times when nothing but an almighty wall of noise and lyrics so cutting that they’d slice off your ears will suffice.

As they showed in front of a staunchly partisan crowd, the Welsh four-piece don’t do things by half; they are ear-ringingly loud, unflinchingly intense and totally uncompromising.

High-octane versions of Arming Eritrea and Chin Music were breathlessly belted out at breakneck speed and, even when they toned it down on the likes of Small Bones and Small Bodies, there is no way their onslaught of chain-saw guitar, unrelenting bass and lacerating vocals can be described as anything other than a total sonic assault on the senses.

It’s classic shock and awe tactics, even if the accompanying, blindingly bright strobe lighting was an attack too far. Even the US army’s Torturer-in-Chief would have ruled it was  inhumane and stuck in a couple of energy-saving 40 watt bulbs instead.

That was the only complaint, though, and readily forgiven, especially after they dropped in a couple of classics from former band Mclusky.

The manic mantra-like To Hell With Good Intentions and the chaotic screamer Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues were played with as much venom and passion as when they were first released more than 10 years ago, before they closed with a furious, extended version of Lapsed Catholics which ended with singer Andy Falkous held aloft by the crowd, wide-eyed, shirtless and sweating.

Like his band, it might not be especially pretty, but it’s one hell of a spectacle.

Live Review: Artmagic

3 Jun

The Basement, Friday June 1, 2012

On the face of it, Artmagic is a strange proposition.

Featuring Richard Oakes of Suede – who famously replaced Bernard Butler at the ripe old age of 17 after sending the band a demo with a note saying ‘take me or leave me’ – and producer / vocalist Sean McGhee – who has mixed number one singles for Britney Spears and worked with Robyn and Sugababes – it would appear that they’ve spent most of their musical careers in parallel universes.

United, and on stage in Brighton for only their second show out of London, it soon made perfect sense, even if their classy and clever songs betrayed little about their past achievements.

It’s no surprise, then, that this didn’t sound like Suede, nor was there any shimmering disco pop, but rather a succession of dreamy and instantly impressive songs that appear to have been painstakingly crafted with real care and attention.

McGhee was an enchanting frontman and it was his booming vocals which were the driving force, neatly cushioned by Oakes’ accomplished guitar.

Highlights included forthcoming single Forever in Negative, a swaying, foot-stomper which, while hardly raucous, showed them at their most lively. It might not be at the cutting edge of cool, but it’s an immensely likeable and highly addictive slice of polished pop that ought to find a loving home on the Radio 2 playlist where it can be plugged to the mainstream masses.

At the other end of their scale, Up, is a beautifully delicate, stripped-back song that was played to a hushed awe. Like much of their set, it buries inside your brain so quickly that you’re convinced you’ve known it for years.

It takes real skill and talent to pull that off, two Artmagic attributes that deserve to receiver wider acclaim when their debut album comes out next month. Someone ought to tell Chris Evans, sharpish.

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