Monday, 30 June 2008
Radiohead are one of the greatest bands of our time. I could finish the review there but i'll continue because this show was full of so many memorable moments that they should be discussed at length.
After a heavy morning's rain (so torrential that it leaked through the roof of our bus), we expected a wash-out but amazingly, prophetically, the sun came out. The LCCG is a great venue. HUGE. Arriving at 4pm, the time the gates opened, we were lucky enough to be greeted by a smiling Thom Yorke who waved at the incoming crowd from a private box in one of the stands.
The Greenwood borthers also popped there heads out from time to time which was another surreal moment. They seemed equally has happy to see us.
Support was provided by young electro-rockers MGMT and the rather pretentious BAT FOR LASHES and both managed to get a positive response from the crowd. We spotted Thom Yorke dancing from his private box during MGMT's song "Electric Feel" which provoked more of the crowd to start gyrating to its funky pulsating rythm.
Ok, frig all this build up, lets get down to business: RADIOHEAD came out at 8.15pm and blew everyone away with a set that featured 26 songs from across multiple albums even going as far back as "The Bends".
Opening with the trip-hop infused "15 Step" from last year's "In Rainbows" the Oxford boys held the crowd from start to finish, barely pausing for breath in the full 2 hours. The moment that will live on forever in my memory was the double punch of my two favourite Radiohead songs played back to back: "Everything In Its Right Place" and "Fake Plastic Trees". I felt my eyes well up as "Fake Plastic Trees" reached its crescendo after the soaring guitar shred. Thom sang perfectly and his fragile, touching lyrics remain in my mind.
"She looks like the real thing, She tastes like the real thing... My fake plastic love..."
The main set ended with the guitar-laden "Bodysnatchers" and the band walked off to chants of "we want more" from the crowd. As expected the band came back for an encore. And what an encore. Opening with a hauntingly delicate version of "Videotape" they then moved into the edgy "Myxomatosis" which ended with Thom bowing to the adoring shouts of the crowd and recieving their applause with his arms outstretched. They left the stage again after remarkable performances of their "OK Computer" classics "Paranoid Android" and "Kharma Police"
And then they returned. There was an audible gasp from the crowd as the opening notes of "Pyramid Song" echoed over the speakers. Micheal, who was also at the gig, named this moment as his favourite of the night and only at a concert jam-packed with memorable moments could anyone argue with him. The second encore finished with "Idioteque" which caused a mass rave to erupt in the crowd as Thom danced like he was having a seizure on stage. It was a wonderful end to a wonderful gig and as I looked around i saw thousands of smiles staring up at the stage. a
The lights went out and then, to the roar of the crowd, the band returned once more."We still have time left before we turn into pumpkins. Or mice or whatever the fuck it is," Thom muttered, getting a laugh from the 20, 000 people in front of him. The band played one last song for the adoring crowd, the aptly named "Lucky".
It was a concert that obliterated my high expectaions. I found myself staring in sheer awe at the spectacle in front of me: 5 multi-talented artists performing 26 of the most beautifully written, original songs in recent history to an army of fans accompanied by a world-class light-show and stage set-up.
To quote the lyrics of the song "Videotape",
"No matter what happens now, You shoudn't be afraid, Because I know that today has been, The most beautiful day I've ever seen..."
All I Need
The National Anthem
Jigsaw Falling Into Place
Bangers ‘n Mash
Everything In Its Right Place
Fake Plastic Trees
Verdict: ***** (5/5) - Did you expect anything less?
Sunday, 22 June 2008
It's here, it's finally here. "Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust" is the 5th album from acclaimed Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Rós and it sparkles with a magic befitting a band of their calibre. From the up-temp opening tracks of "Gobbledigook" and "Inní mér syngur vitleysingur" to the majestic "Ára bátur" and the haunting loneliness of "Fljótavík", the album soars with a beauty that in terms of emotional grip, holds the listener like very few other bands are capable of.
Each song holds its own and although some of them arguably stick to the tried and tested formula from Takk... it is clear that this is a band who show no signs of losing their power to produce top quality music. I think Micheal's review (see below) has already said what I mostly want to say but I think its for the best. I could rant on endlessly about "Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust" and it would still not do it justice.
A few weeks ago I wondered which band would live up to the hype: Coldplay or Sigur Rós. As a fan of both i hoped for an even tie but it is clear now that the Icelandic quartet have delivered an album that quite easily blows Viva La Vida out of the water. Go buy it now.
Verdict: ***** (5/5) (Editor's Choice: June 08)
Friday, 20 June 2008
After 3 long years, the kings have returned. X&Y, their last album, was a worldwide smash success but nevertheless it was arguably flawed, peppered with too much filler. For every Square One or Fix You there was a Swallowed By The Sea. The formula was wearing thin and not a band to sit on their laurels, Coldplay went into deep hibernation. Over the past 3 years they have travelled the globe seeking inspiration and rejuvination. Bringing in frequent U2 collaborator Brian Eno to produce the new matrial, Coldplay have attempted to inject a freshness into their sound and to a certain degree, it has worked.
Lets begin by stating that Viva La Vida is unmistakably Coldplay. Those expecting a drastic departure will be disappointed. There may only be one "anthem" so to speak (the title track) but apart from that, its very much the album you'd expect. It begins with the nice instrumental "Life in Technicolor" before sliding into the solemn "Cemeteries of London". So far so good but unfortunately the following tracks "Lost!" and "42" fail to hit the mark, mired by poor lyrics and rather bland composition. With the amount of tracks apparently on the cutting room floor, you wonder how these two made it onto the album. "Lovers in Japan / Reign of love" is the first of the albums much talked about double-tracks. Essentially 2 songs stuck together to make it better value for iTunes customers, they add a bit of variety to the pack. However, "Lovers in Japan" is another by-the-numbers track and the tinge of disappointment with the album is becoming more apparent.
But fear not, for the rest of the album picks up somewhat. "Yes / Chinese Sleep Chant" is much more interesting. With Chris Martin's low vocals, "Yes" becomes almost a deliberate counterpart to the standard Coldplay fare. Its edgy and cynical (as edgy and cynical as you can get for Chris Martin) and when it gives way to the shoegaze fuzz of "Chinese Sleep Chant", you begin to feel that maybe they are capable of breaking out of their stereotype.
The singles "Viva La Vida" and "Violet Hill" follow next and are the best tracks on the album. The title track soars with a contagious energy and synth pulse that propels the song through its orchestral crescendoes and church bells. "Violet Hill" is a starkly contrasting song which is by turns aggressive and fragile. Guitars wail like bomb warnings and add a satisfying crunch to Martin's rather impressive (for once) lyrics. The delicate piano outro of the song adds a tragic beauty to the preceeding anger and places the song in the upper echelons of Coldplay's work.
Strawberry Swing is a chirpy, upbeat song with a laid-back atmosphere that lends itself so well to the lyrical themes. If ever a song made you think of lying down on the grass on a summer's day this is it. Martin sings with a smile on his face and it shines through on the track. The final track "Death And All His Friends / The Escapist" starts slow as a piano ballad but then builds into a typical Coldplay anthem which would rock stadiums everywhere if it wasnt for the fact that its short run-time and album-closer composition deliberately and smartly removes this mandate. The hidden track "The Escapist" features the same instrumental as the opening track only this time with added lyrics. It is very short but a nice little epilogue to the album.
So all in all? Well its a good album. Heck in some respects I may love it. It rewards repeat listens and when taken in its entirety, is a much more varied album than previous efforts. There are moments of greatness on here but they cant disguise a few misfires that unfortunately prevent the album from becoming the revolution it sought to be. There is something missing. Songs like "Lost!" should not have made the cut, especially when compared to the singles. Taken on a song by song basis, its easy to see the faults but Coldplay dont want you to listen to individual songs. They crafted an album for album-listener and in that respect, its a success.
Verdict: *** (3/5)
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
With a degree of anti-climax and counter-anticipation, Sigur-Rós casually released their fifth EP Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust for streaming onto their official website and with music in my ears I listened endlessly. Sigur Rós have, in the past demonstated their unique ability to rise above regular notions of music genres and indeed their fifth album is emblematic of this transcendentalism as they scurrilously venture in and out of the epic songwriting of ágætis byrjun into the progressive production of ( ) and still manage to retain the mainstream buzz of takk…
The Album opens with the quirky and outrageous Gobbledigook and inní mér syngur vitleysingur these 2 tracks bristle of up tempo hippie joviality and are rather indicative of the offering of Hoppípolla from Takk… However Sigur Rós soon strap the reigns upon the album and establish a new tone by góðan daginn and from here we are given the chance to once again revel in the delights of Sigur Rós’ simply masterful control of the art of song writing. The album from this point on marks a return to early Sigur Rós as they throw conventionalism out the window and settle into their more comfortable realm of songwriting taking the listener from the sublime to the epic to the cinematic (especially in ára bátur) and back again in a journey of solemnity, intensity and unpredictability.
If criticism was to be offered to this album at all it would be that it does not push the boundary as far as one would expect Sigur Rós to push it. As a result of this the album is riddled with nuances of takk… and this leaves it rather lethargic in places. At times Jonsí’s vocals are not up to the quality that one would expect and thus in parts left this listener almost willing him on to hit notes that were meant to be there but were not coming across.
However, in light of the overall mastery of the album the above criticisms are dwarfed by the sheer magnitude of it voluminous beauty. The album is a return to a classical, epic Sigur Rós that will please die hard fans, with retention of listenable main stream quality that will please radio producers. It is as eclectic as it is eccentric as happy as it is sad, as epic as it is acoustic. Sigur Rós have tried to play a hard balancing act, it seems they have won.