16 Sep 2012
in Music, Reviews Tags: 02 Academy, Candy, Leeds, robbie williams
Robbie Williams is back and I was one of the first people to witness it. Lucky enough to get my hands on tickets to see him this Tuesday I leapt at the chance. He has put on ‘intimate’ gigs across the country and the only way to get tickets was through ballot. Even then you had to go through a covert James Bond style mission to pick it up at the door with your credit card and ID!
I am a massive Robbie fan and have been since he split from Take That all those years ago. Having said that heading into the packed O2 Academy it is clear that some women will practically fight to get a good vantage point. After a near run in with a very angry woman protecting her boyfriend’s ‘space’ we found a good slot to the side of the crowd and fortunately could still see, despite the variety of tall people dotted around.
He started off with the classic Let Me Entertain you and it took the first three songs for him to get going. Then in full swing, he held banter with the crowd, joked about the failings of Rudebox and even did a shout out to a couple in the front row. I had seen him six years ago during his last tour and to be honest had been a little disappointed. Since then I saw him again during the Take That tour and he was back to the Robbie of years gone by. Again on Tuesday it was the charismatic, slightly needy, but full of energy Robbie that we all love to love.
He jumped / danced around the stage and then at one point gestured to the crowd that maybe he was getting a bit too old for all this energy. He observed that it felt a little like Dad dancing (from where I was stood it looked all right!) but stated it wasn’t as bad as George Michael in the Olympics closing ceremony. Reassuring the crowd there were no hard feelings he mixed Freedom into the end of one of his songs, which sounded incredible and had me jumping up and down even more. To highlight how he hadn’t quite past it, he took on the press up challenge. Over the past couple of nights Usher and then Olly Murs have attempted to do 40 press ups on stage and so with the crowd counting his every bounce he got nearer 50.
This was just before he leaped into Candy, his new song, but had to stop a couple of bars in to recover. This is what makes him so likeable, appearing down to earth on the stage and relatable for the audience. He was a born performer and the stage is definitely the best place for him.
Candy has the great feelings of a pop song with some ridiculous lyrics, but has more of a summery feel to it and it’s a shame that it couldn’t have been released a little earlier. As well as playing Candy and then finishing on another track from the new album, Losers, he played all of the great hits. Rock DJ had all the hands in the air and the penultimate song was Angels which had everyone swaying and singing along.
Although I wouldn’t class the O2 Academy as an ‘intimate’ gig as there were over 2,000 people there, I would say it was fantastic to see him in such an environment. He clicked with the audience and just proved that he’s back to his old self.
Minus the drugs and plus a wife and expectant child he seems to have recovered from a couple of years ago. Whether or not his new album does as well as he wants remains to be seen, but hopefully he will ditch the massive arena tours and keep with the more affordable and ‘intimate’ gigs.
08 May 2012
in Music, Reviews Tags: emeli sande, Leeds, O2 academy
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to get tickets to see Emeli Sande, live at the O2 Academy. True to form she has one of the most fantastic voices I have heard for a long time. Since her collaboration with Professor Green and their performance on The X Factor she seems to have gone from strength to strength and reading her back story you have to be a little bit inspired. Starting of studying medicine she gave it all up for the volatile music industry and I am guessing that I join a number of others when I say I’m glad she did.
She came out and gave her all to each individual song, clearly proving she has a strong set of lungs on her. Added to this her gospel routes emerged with a soul element complimenting it all. She was pitch perfect for the whole performance, and filled the O2 with her incredible voice. However I imagine that she would sound even more great in a smaller, intimate venue. As well as showing that she warrants her recent success she had a bit of banter with the crowd, explaining a bit about some of the songs and her history as training to be a doctor. Climb mountains was amazing and had the whole audience singing along to her tune.
Emeli defintiely has a certain sound attributed to her, with most of her tunes being quite slow and relaxing. However a couple into the set she said she would liven it up a bit with a reggae number, which even though the temp had increased it was still quite slow. This can’t be given as criticism though because every sound she makes is pure perfection, with not a bad note for the whole performance.
Her songs and lyrics have a certain type of escapism which came to life when you saw her. She took the crowd on a journey and reminded me of what music can do. She takes you to a different place, somewhere that is not quite real, which is done through her lyrics and emotion. However it is not so unrealistic that you can’t relate to what she is singing about. Throughout the whole gig I was transported to thinking about why I loved music so much and how a piece of music can evoke so much emotion. She has the power in her voice to take you to somewhere and I imagine she has a different effect on everybody listening which is an impressive thought as the O2 was so busy on the Thursday night.
As well as her voice, the band compliment her well. She is definitely at her best with a live band right behind her and proves that the reality shows that are out at the moment are not a patch on the real thing. I can’t wait to hear what she does next.
06 Mar 2012
in Music, Reviews Tags: Brudenell social club, charlene soraia, Leeds
The Brudenell never fails to deliver a brilliant gig and last Friday night (24th February) was no exception. Charlene Soraia suits the venue perfectly, with the acoustics matching her chilled out and relaxed tones. It seemed fitting that she was performing on Friday, a reward to the working week.
With wine in hand, we manoeuvred ourselves to a good vantage point ready for her guitar and voice to wave over the crowd. She started and instantly I was transported to a sunny place, you could close your eyes and be in somewhere like California, by the beach as her voice rolled over you. However she failed to capture the entire audience, with still quite a bit of chatting at the back of the crowd. Although it didn’t distract from the performance, I felt close to saying something.
The Brudenell lends itself to chilled singers, with such an intimate setting but it was clear that Charlene was a bit nervous. She calmed down and relaxed into the gig, talking to the audience along the way. Her extensive knowledge of stars was impressive and it did make me wonder what goes on in the heads of song writers. She was quite a sexual performer, putting in pure emotion into every note and effortlessly playing the guitar. The well known cover ‘Wherever You Will Go’ that has given her a boost into fame brought a tear to my eye. She sings with pure emotion and makes you feel what she is feeling, or at least projects that onto her audience. At this point you could hear a pin drop, with her really capturing the audience. It was just a shame that this was half way through the gig and she hadn’t been able to create this almost eerie atmosphere with her initial songs. From then until the end of the gig she made me want more and the whole audience was caught under her spell.
Before coming to the gig I had drawn comparisons of Charlene with Benjamin Francis Leftwich, a gig I had seen last year at the Brudenell too. They fit themselves into the same chilled out and relaxed genre of singer/song writers and both guitar players. However that is where the similarities end. Benjamin appeared more effortless, but Charlene made up for her nerves towards the end of the gig making the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. She definitely beat my expectations by the end of the gig and I hope that she keeps climbing the ladder of success because with a voice like that it is definitely deserved.
12 Feb 2012
in Films, Reviews Tags: films, warhorse
A story of triumph, courage and faith War Horse combines everything that makes an epic film. Fortunate enough to have watched the theatre production, I came to the cinema with quite a few expectations of the story, how they would portray Joey (the horse) and how they could tap into the raw emotion that was so evident on stage.
The film in total is quite long, and they could have cut certain elements to make the experience a bit snappier, but for me it needed every detail. You needed to witness the struggle of Joey and Albie before he was carted of to war and then again the numerous, harrowing encounters of the horse. You needed to see the relationship that Albie has with his father, and then the father with the mother. Critics have commented on the length and it is understandable, but in order to join the journey of the horse, totally necessary.
Speilberg has managed to personify the experience of the horse, taking the viewer on a miraculous journey like no other. You are given an insight into the UK just prior to the First World War. Normally I am not a real fan of war films, but this was very different. You saw the war through the eyes of a horse joining together with the human force. The first scene of the war was the English cavalry charging at a German camp. On first impression it looked as though the English had it, until the Germans started to retreat to the bushes and started operating their marching guns, killing many of the vulnerable English men on horses. This is the start of Joey’s journey into the war and his time fighting before he finds Albie again.
One of the overall themes of the film is kindness. Even when Joey is stuck on no mans land enemies come together to free him and act in an gentlemanly manner as they flip a coin to decide who will keep him. It is a fresh reminder that the war is full of stories like this and rarely are they told.
Most of the film is quite dark and at times disturbing, not in an obvious sense, but in some of the underlying undertones. However there are light moments, that substantially lift the mood coupled with some very sad parts. If you watch this film and a lump is not generated in your throat I would suggest that you are sub human!
I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys a feel good movie. Filmed beautifully, with imaginative cinematography the film is definitely for people who are looking to appreciate beauty. It is ultimately a film about a boy and a horse, but so much more when you delve into the history of the war and the impact it had on Great Britain.
23 Nov 2011
in Music, Reviews Tags: Cockpit, Leeds, The Ting Tings
After two years without touring and very little publicity The Ting Tings have returned with their first gig at the Cockpit on Monday night. I have always been a massive fan and last year when Hands was released in October 2010 there was quite a bit of anticipation as to what the album would bring. Then as the weeks rolled on nothing appeared it was just assumed that they were either taking another break or just not ready for a full return. Now, it would seem, they have re-arrived with a bang and quite a different sound.
It was by chance that I discovered they were playing on the Saturday as there has been hardly any publicity around them but fortunately there were still tickets available. They opened the show with a brand new song, that had the energy true to The Ting Tings but quite different with an electro, rock sound. However it may not have been the best opener for a crowd that was eagerly anticipating something familiar. This was followed by their new track Hang it Up, which has a much punk rockier vibe than any of their older tunes. In fact all of their new tracks have a strong beat with sounds of the 80s dance scene shining through. Half way through their set they played one track that Katie White, lead singer, told us was written whilst on a mountain in Ibiza and it definitely had the dance components that only Ibiza can generate. Added to a multitude of sounds made with their keyboards, drums and guitars was an impressive light show adding to the charged atmosphere, making for a great show.
As well as their new songs they played some of the old songs, including Shut Up and Let me Go as well a personal favourite of mine, Fruit Machine. They play these with the same energy that they put into the new ones, recognising that their fans will want to hang on to some of the old. The contrast of old and new was very apparent with the more familiar tracks feeling more enthused with pop than the new rock / punk sound. Even though the pair have had such a long break there is obvious support for them which can only continue to grow. Surprisingly the crowd was quite diverse with a mix of young and older.
The whole set was performed with a crazy amount of energy, with Katie throwing herself and pretty much anything she could get her hands on around the stage. They were playing in the big room, meaning that you can quite comfortably get to the front of the stage and at one point she launched herself into the crowd. She oozes cool and has an infectious care free attitude. There was one point where she bangs a massive drum and on her last hit lets it collide to the ground. This was alongside her discarding her guitars, just throwing them to the ground after the song had finished. She performs like a old school rock star, but accompanies it all with a striking voice. On Monday she appeared a little unsure to start off with at first, but relaxed into the gig and seemed pleasantly surprised at the crowd reaction. Jules de Martino adds a certain calm to Katie’s manicness. He shines through with pure musical talent, as for most of the gig he takes up seat playing the drums and singing. This is intertwined with a bit of guitar playing and then taking over the keyboards for some of the new stuff. A certain amount of respect is commanded by him as he much more than just the drummer. Added to the pair was a guitarist who came onto play one song with the pair, stealing the show with some amazing guitar riffs.
The night can only be summarised as a little crazy, mental and unhinged. Their return, although not making front press news, I am sure will gather more ground in the coming months. This low key return to the UK music scene may have been tactical to try out their new stuff on audiences up and down the country, or it may just be a culmination of 2 years out of the circuit. Both Jules and Katie looked as though they belonged on that stage and nowhere else, which really does beg the question as to where on earth they’ve been.
31 Oct 2011
in Music, Reviews Tags: 02 Academy, halloween, Jessie J, Leeds
It’s Sunday night and the eve before Halloween. There are a couple of options, including preparing for the trick and treaters that tomorrow will bring, lazing on the sofa to watch the X Factor results show. Or heading to the 02 Academy to watch Jessie J. I chose the later and heading there with my little brother was prepared for a more exciting evening than spending it sat on the sofa.
She stepped out onto stage wearing one of her infamous bodysocks in black. Keeping in tie with the Halloween theme there were pumpkin balloons, the band dressed in skeleton outfits and Jessie with black make up and red touches to her backcombed hair. Suitably in the mood for all things spooky as soon as she opened her mouth the room was filled with such a powerful voice. She really does have a set of pipes on her, belting out every note. Her energy and vibrancy spread throughout the crowd whilst she jumped around throwing a few shapes.
Most of the show the songs were Jessie J’s but every now and again she would throw in a track from a different artist, including Luther Vandross, Never too Much. She delivered all of them with a certain element of pazazz. Jessie has a great talent in merging together her song writing abilities with such an amazing voice. As well as playing most of her debut album she played a few old ones such as Technology and My Shadow. Technology was about how people should start being humans and not rely so much on their phones etc. Ironic because everyone in the room was taking pictures and videos on their smart phones, but still a catchy tune. My Shadow took a more sombre turn, as Jessie explained it was about people that had been lost but will always be there with you. She appears vulnerable, building up to a big crescendo letting the audience into raw emotion. This was accompanied by the lights acting as stars, just adding to the atmosphere in the 02.
She didn’t falter throughout the performance ending on a high note with her thanking the band. The whole band were faultless throughout the gig. All standing out at various moments with amazing drums and skilful guitar playing. The backing singers were immense and complimented Jessie well. There is no real pinpointing Jessie J’s particular genre which is probably directly related to her success and will continue to be so.
24 Oct 2011
in Music, Reviews Tags: benjamin francis leftwich, Brudenell social club, Leeds
Recently it has occurred to me that I have been a bit lazy with my posts, so I thought I’d give you an update. As well as searching for a house to buy the music scene has lit up again in Leeds so cue going to a few gigs.
Last week I was lucky enough to meet Benjamin Francis Leftwich at the Brudenell, a self-confessed singer songwriter who was remarkably normal and humble. With his laid back approach to life and general aura you really wouldn’t expect him to be someone who is doing so well and who is clearly marked for a great year. As well as an interview with him done for Leeds Music Scene and can be found here I did a little review of the gig.
My review pretty much says it all, but what is difficult to explain in words is his remarkable ability to control and hold a room. His voice commands quietness and you feel almost transfixed watching him. Added to this was his ability to ‘let you in’ and by this I mean that the words in his songs obviously mean so much to him and come from a raw place emotionally whether happy or sad. You could almost equate it to opening up a window into his soul and for the 45 minutes that he stands on stage you feel a sort of connection.
Benjamin is relatively local, originating from York and so when I spoke to him I asked him about some other bands he’d recommend. His choice, the Sorry Kisses. I will do a bit of a piece about them soon as they have their own unique thing going on and well worth a listen if you want to try something a bit different.
10 Oct 2011
in Food, Reviews Tags: Bianco, Cattlegrid, Chini, Leeds, restaurants
It’s Friday night, there are no plans to speak of but you fancy going out for dinner. Leeds is packed full of restaurants but recently I have been drawn to those tucked away that you might not know about.
A couple of months ago we purchased a tasetcard and with this comes access to an array of places for half the price (or thereabouts). Through this we have found Bianco a traditional Italian serving the most delicious risotto. It’s family ethos is clear when you walk through the door with a cheery welcome and relaxed enviornment. Situated just behind the hospital you might not know it exists, unless you were looking for it. Recently I have found that when eating at some of the bigger chains there is a bit of a feeling to rush you in and out of the restaurant as you are taking up valuable table space, regardless of whether or not you are paying for a meal. However at Bianco you were able to leisurely choose what you wanted, sample the wine and be treated as you would expect. The risotto was with salmon and was so light, but filling at the same time that I am definitely due a trip back there in the near future.
As well as Bianco the tastecard has helped us uncover a yummy Indian, Chini, situated right at the top of town. Opposite from the Grand theatre and next door to Mojos again you wouldn’t suspect that an Indian worth visiting was there. Serving the traditional dishes, without fail, I always opt for a korma. Some of the places I have tried in Leeds has served it spicy, which is not acceptable when you are expecting something creamy and definitely not so hot you can’t finish it. Chini appears a bit run down from the outside and with menus that have seen a better day, but other than that the service is superb and again allow you to get on with eating rather than hassling and trying to clear away when you’re half way through. If you prefer a spicier option it is worth asking for it spicy as they do tend to err on the side of caution. This suits me, but you may want to try something a bit hotter.
Our final find was not through the tastecard, but word of mouth. Recently there have been murmurings of this Cattlegrid. Situated behind the Corn Exchange it is a place for the meat lovers. Serving the biggest burgers with exciting combinations, I opted for one with feta cheese and salad, the meat is cooked to perfection. The portion sizes are fit for Kings and very reasonably priced. As well as a burger either beef, chicken or flat mushroom for vegeterians you can choose a selection of ribs, variety of cuts from a cow such as rump, sirloin, t-bone, or if you are feeling healthy then a salad. Even though there are vegetarian options this is the place for meat eaters. It’s décor is filled with where your meat has come from, i.e. the cut from the cow and kitted out in the style of an American diner. Although I have only been for dinner I have heard that it does a great lunch deal and so should be checked out if this sounds like your dream place.
Whether it be a Friday night or just an excuse to do something a bit different it is well worth finding somewhere other than the big chains, because so far my experience has been great food and excellent service. When we uncover some other of Leeds gems I will be sure to update my findings.
06 Sep 2011
in Music, Reviews Tags: Athlete, Bingley Music Live, chase and status
It’s that time of year again where Chris and I pack our raincoats and sunglasses and head to Bingley’s Myrtle Park.
Now in our 3rd year of visiting the event we were excited for a couple of days in the park listening to some great bands. Year on year they make the line up even bigger and so this year we went to the whole event including the Friday night. However I was more looking forward to the main event on Saturday and Sunday.
Festivals always offer something different in that you will discover music you just weren’t expecting. I found this in Jon Fratelli and his band – creating new music that had everyone bopping up and down to their indie beat. I will definitely be looking out for them a bit more in the future as he has a sort of stage presence that makes you want to watch not only him but the whole band. As well as being pleasantly surprised here I didn’t expect to be wowed so much by Athlete. They were much calmer to most of the other bands playing, but so emotional singing with real feeling. The other, less known artist, that attracted attention was Daley with one of the most amazing voices I have heard in a long time. I can only hope that the right PR attention comes his way to boost him into the charts.
As well as discovering the unexpected there were a couple of people I was looking forward to including Eliza Doolittle. She was tiny on the stage, but belted out every number, including a cover of Bruno Mars’ ‘Grenade’ with such energy and enthusiasm that was definitely impressive. Maximo Park were also great to watch with the front man jumping about the stage like a truly crazy person but wowing the whole crowd. To end it all were Chase and Status on the Sunday evening who topped of the whole weekend with a truly amazing performance. They had the whole crowd bopping and bouncing which was amazing.
I can’t wait for next year’s line up and true to form I think that we will both be heading down. The only thing that was a bit disappointing was the early start and then the very early finish so we’ll see how next year turns out.
08 Aug 2011
in Music, Reviews Tags: Leeds, O2 academy, The Music
My motto on Friday night was most definitely ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’ in the style of jumping up and down like a crazy person and singing along to The Music in their penultimate gig at the O2 Academy.
I am nowhere near a die hard fan, but after been given a few albums started to create a few favourites in the form of Breakin and Strength in Numbers alongside a few others which I was looking forward to hearing on the night. Unfortunately I only got to hear the latter, but all the tunes played on the night were amazing. The gig was always going to be a good one as they are Yorkshire born and bred, been on the scene over the last 10 years and ending an era. The band have decided to go their separate ways but already Robert Harvey, lead singer and frontman, has been working with Mike Skinner so although it’s the end of The Music as we know it their presence will still be felt in other projects.
As we entered the O2 on Friday I was struck by the amount of men and lack of women, and so ensure the madness with crowd surfing and beer being thrown at every opportunity. Before the band started up I had already been given a decent beer shower, and this didn’t really stop throughout the gig, but we found a bit more space at the side minus quite so many sweaty men. With the crowd as buzzing as they were it did make the atmosphere electric, with everyone hanging on their every word and singing along to all the songs.
They lived up to their albums, sounding much better live with their great ability to work up to a real crescendo in every track. They would start of with a soft sound building right up to massive drums and big guitars. As they came on for their encore they erupted in some proper jamming with all of them on stage giving it everything they had. Leeds has definitely lost a great band because you don’t often hear musicians as good as them, but they end on a high with these departing gigs.