Category Archives: Live Music

Enter Shikari

Enter Shikari – live review

Over the course of the last few days I have been lucky enough to attend Enter Shikari‘s shows in Nottingham and Bournemouth.  Regular readers will know that I believe Enter Shikari are the best live band on the planet right now and the shows in Nottingham and Bournemouth show exactly why.

I drove the 200 miles to Nottingham on Saturday with very high expectations.  Those expectations were matched and surpassed.  Enter Shikari quite simply smashed it, they hit the ball right out of the park.

Enter Shikari are perfectionist’s and spent the hours before the show reprogramming lighting sequences and thrashing out ways to improve on what they had done in Glasgow and Edinburgh on the previous evenings.

Enter Shikari BMTH-10

 

You would be forgiven for thinking that in the days of incredible light shows, amazing sound and the use of computers there is little that we haven’t already seen at rock concerts.  You would be wrong.   Enter Shikari’s innovate. Whether it is in their music, their lighting or in there sound Enter Shikari are always looking for a way to do things better.

This tour sees Enter Shikari introduce surround sound into their live performances.  I’m not talking a couple of speakers added at the back of the vast cavern that is Nottingham’s 10,000 capacity Motorpoint arena.  I’m talking true surround sound, elements of songs assaulting you from behind something that really came to the fore during phenomenal renditions of “The One True Colour” and the recently released “Redshift.”

The film clips on the enormous screen behind the band added to the sense of theatre and were carefully produced to add a visual element to the song if you can drag your eyes away from the spectacle that an Enter Shikari performance already provides.

Enter Shikari BMTH-7

As the show continued Enter Shikari encouraged us to absorb the spectacle in it’s entirety when Reynolds disappeared to reappear at a piano on an elevated platform situated within the sound desk enclosure in the centre of the arena whilst the rest of the band remained on stage.  Admittedly there were a few technical hitches during this section of the show in Nottingham but this was put right for last nights show in Bournemouth.

We even had a comedy moment when at the beginning of “Ghandi Mate, Ghandi” Enter Shikari had the audience singing along to Robbie Williams “Angels.”  It may seem a little bizarre, Enter Shikari are a very long way from Robbie Williams, but in my view it shows a band that are more than willing to have a laugh amidst songs that frequently tackle the really big issues of the day.

Make no mistake these shows elevated Enter Shikari from simply being the best live band around at the moment.  In my opinion this tour takes Enter Shikari to a totally new level.  In over 40 years of attending live gigs and festivals I estimate I have seen somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 bands.  These shows earn Enter Shikari the right to be seen in the same light as some of the best performances I have ever seen.  I would go as far as to say that only the first time I saw Springsteen perform sits ahead of Enter Shikari in terms of totally absorbing, jaw-dropping brilliance.

Enter Shikari have come up the hard way, they have played the pub gigs and moved purposefully to filling arena’s.  Enter Shikari’s band members, Rou Reynolds, Rob Rolfe, Rory Clewlow and Chris Batten are all just hitting 30-years-old.  They are approaching the peak of their creativity and if ever a band were destined for stadium rock and major festival headline slots it is Enter Shikari.

Enter Shikari BMTH-13

After the Bournemouth show the UK leg wraps up with shows in Cardiff, Wrexham, Manchester and Alexandra Palace in London.  There are a limited number of tickets available for all but Wrexham.  If you are anywhere near any of these venues I urge you to get along to a show if you possibly can.

Support on both nights was from Hackney based Punk and Ska collective  The King Blues who were stunning during their short sets on both evenings.

Philadelphia based pop-punk outfit The Wonder Years rounded out a superb evening entertainment.

Bowling for Soup – O2 Bournemouth 12 Feb 2016

Friday night saw me head off to Bournemouth O2 Academy for an evenings entertainment that I confidently predict will not be bettered this year.  Bowling For Soup,  The Dolly Rots, Lacey and MC Lars put on a very special evening of pop-punk entertainment.  Here are a handful of my photographs from the evening.  I will be putting a full review on louder Than War later today.  Be sure to check it out.

Hozier - Portsmouth

Hozier- Portsmouth 4th Feb 2016 – Photos

I popped over to Portsmouth last night to photograph Hozier.  I need to get my review of the gig written but in the meantime here are a few photographs to whet your appetite.

A Party At The Fleece – Bristol

I don’t often head to Bristol for gigs.  Frustratingly the city has an incredible live music culture but it is so difficult to get to from Dorset.  The journey is under 70 miles but it can easily take 3-hours to do the drive.  In reality this rules out travelling to a gig and coming home the same night.  The thought of driving 70 miles, late at night on some of the worst roads in the country doesn’t bear thinking about.

This was a gig that we almost didn’t go to because we are off on holiday on Monday but in the end the allure of a brilliant line-up and the prospect of meeting up with some great friends just before we go away proved too great.

After sorting our hotel and grabbing a bite to eat it was time to head off to the Seven Stars for a few pints before the music started.  It was wonderful to see so many friends had made the trip and we were soon chatting and laughing together as we renewed old friendships and made new  ones.

What a great line-up of artists the fleece had for us.  The evening was kicked off by the irrepressible Doozer McDooze.  You can’t help but love Doozer.  His enthusiasm, sense of fun and clever lyrics bring a smile to every face in the room.  Doozer’s song “I Don’t Wanna Go Home”  has been adopted as a festival anthem by those of us who love grassroots festivals.  Tonight Doozer brought the house down as every voice in the room joined in singing the anthem at the top of their voices.

You cannot fail to enjoy yourself when Doozer plays and so tonight proved once again.  Doozer set the scene for a Kent invasion of the west country and laid the foundations for a fantastic evenings entertainment.  Next up were another festival favourite act, Hobo Jones and The Junkyard Dogs.

I have lost count of the number of times I have seen the Hobo’s this year but they never fail to entertain.  The “godfathers of Skunk” are so amusing with their blend of madcap covers interspersed with often self-deprecating humour.  The jokes may be familiar but they never seem to lose their currency largely because the boys facial expressions and the audience reaction is enough to keep you laughing.  Davey Malone is an expert at playing to the audience and as a result the performance always seems fresh.

Hobo Jones at the fleece

That’s not to say that the Hobo’s can’t produce a moment that brings a lump to your throat.  They did so last night with their version of  “Fairytale Of New York” which was dedicated to Kirsty MacColl on the 15th Anniversary of her tragic death.

Next up on the night was another man of Kent the simply incredible Funke and The Two Tone Baby.  Funke and Gaz Brookfield have just been out on tour together and in their journeys up and down the country they sold out over half of the dates, quite a feat for two independent artists.

Funke is in my opinion one of the best songwriters I have ever heard, his lyrics are complex and occasionally surreal.  His mix of guitar, harmonica and voice and creative use of loop pedals creates a unique soundscape rooted in the blues but thoroughly modern and absorbing.  The crowd were  bouncing throughout Funke’s set and by the end we were all as exhausted as he was.  The mild weather, a packed house and the energy coming from the stage ensured that by the end of his set Funke had the crowd dripping with sweat as we all jumped and bounced along with him.

I was so hot by the end of Funke’s set that I had to get outside for a sit down and some fresh air.  Whilst I was outside Gaz Brookfield opened his set with his now traditional “land Pirates Life.”  On dashing back inside I found that the venue was absolutely rammed, so packed that I couldn’t get anywhere near close enough to take any decent photographs.

As any fan of Brookfield knows Gaz doesn’t know how to give anything less than 100% and tonight was no exception.  As a rule Brookfield plays solo or with Ben Wain on fiddle but tonight we were treated to a full band performance as Gaz was joined by The Company Of Thieves.

Gaz’s performance as always was flawless and we were treated to an exceptional set as we were treated to favourites like Under The Table, Diabetes Blues, Ode To Ozzy and the Ballad Of Elizabeth Duke and Godless Man.

Brookfield’s performances are always high energy and entertaining.  He is always an incredibly engaging performer but I thought the addition of a full band added something to the show.  Of course the addition of a band is always going to add depth and vibrancy to the sound but there was more to it that just that.

I felt that Gaz enjoyed sharing the stage, the interaction between Gaz and the members of the band added an additional sense of theatre.

I am delighted to have made the trip to Bristol, I enjoyed a quite brilliant evenings entertainment among friends and kindred spirits, what more could you possibly wish for?

Greenleaf – Brixton O2 Academy

Greenleaf is a Swedish band created, as a sideproject, in late 1999/early 2000 by Tommi Holappa (Dozer), Daniel Lidén (Demon Cleaner) and Bengt Bäcke (record producer/studio engineer, Dozer, Demon Cleaner, Lowrider). In 2003 Daniel joined Dozer, making 3 of the 4 Dozers members also members of Greenleaf.  

I caught their short set on Saturday evening where they were supporting Clutch and Bombus at Brixton academy.  Whilst they only had a 30-minute set I was more than impressed by what I saw.

Sadly the lighting at the Academy  was pretty dire for both support bands so i apologise for the quality of my photos.  Greenleaf are very much a band in the finest tradition of Scandanavian rock bands.  They are well worth checking out should you get the opportunity.

Check out the video to get a flavour of what you are missing.

Clutch - Brixton Academy

Clutch – Brixton Academy – 12/12/15

I had something of a late night last night travelling back from Brixton Academy to home in Dorset but it really was worth the trip.

I could not believe the volume of traffic in London at 11pm, it took me 45 minutes to travel eight miles as a result of traffic lights and the volume of traffic.  Thankfully I don’t live in a large city.

Anyway, Brixton Academy is a real old school rock venue and we were treated to an incredible evening entertainment by Swedish bands Greenleaf and Bombus.  Of course the main course was the fantastic Clutch who treated us to a set full of passion and energy.  High-voltage rock and roll indeed.

The only downside of Brixton Academy was that the lighting was absolutely dreadful for the support bands.  is it really too much to ask for a little bit of front lighting?  The lighting was excellent for Clutch so there is no reason that we couldn’t have had the same for the support.  Anyway, some photos for you to enjoy.

Fall Out Boy - Bournemouth

Fall Out Boy: Bournemouth – live review

Fall Out Boy

Bournemouth International Centre

10 October 2015

What do you get when you mix a long established pop punk band with a UK hip-hop artist and a couple of alt-dance acts?  Alan Ewart went along to the Bournemouth International Centre to find out and discovered a damn fine evenings entertainment.

Back in February this year my son asked me to buy tickets for Fall Out Boy’s gig in Bournemouth for him and his mates.  Being an obedient parent I complied and last night saw me packing my camera and heading off to bournemouth’s international centre with four 17-year-olds.  I have to confess I was a little bemused when I looked up the acts that were supporting Fall Out Boy.  UK hip-hop star Professor Green was obviously already familiar to me but both Matt & Kim and Charley Marley were new to me.  It is hard to categorise the later two acts but I guess you would plump for Alternative Dance  if you were pushed.

Professor Green

Professor Green

My interest was piqued when Fall Out Boy’s UK PR company dropped me a note advising me not to miss Matt & Kim as they are great to photograph.  As a result we were at the venue nice an early to catch all four bands.

I guess it is a sure sign that you are getting older when your kids are amongst the oldest at a gig.  I may be an old fart but, as i keep telling my son, at least I’m not a boring old fart.   The vast majority of the crowd were under 21 and female which I guess goes with the territory when it comes to “pop-punk” music these days.  I was a little surprised that most of the audience seemed to know all the words to Charley Marley’s songs, especially given that I had never heard of him before.  His dance groove was not my bag but he went down really well with the audience who were bouncing and singing along to his four or five song set.  To his credit he was very entertaining and very energetic.

Matt & Kim also fell into that sort of dance groove but in a different way.  They were a massively entertaining duo with Matt playing the Mac Book Pro and Kim playing drums and thrilling the crowd with her antics.  Kim was on top of the drums, leaping around the platform and even went onto the hands of the crowd to shake her booty during one of their songs.  Whilst this is certainly not my kind of music you can’t help but be entertained by Matt and Kim.

Matt & Kim

Matt And Kim

I have seen Professor Green a couple of times over the course of this summer and again he is entertaining and one of the best around at what he does.  His backing singer was excellent and his set was packed full of crowd pleasing sing-alongs.

The main event was of course Fall Out Boy.  The Chicago based pop-punk heroes have been around since 2001 and have an extensive back catalogue to draw on.  I must confess that their most recent album American Beauty/American Psycho left me a little cold as it is most definitely more pop than punk.  That said I try not to write something off until I hear it live and to be fair the seven songs from American Beauty did come over better live than on disc.

The show opened with a video screen that spread the width of the stage as a Cathe style news reel played.  The crowd went totally nuts as the screen was raised to reveal the band.  Front man Patrick Stump and Bass man Pete Wentz were straight into their stride as the bounded around the stage leaping onto little platforms and waving their guitars around.  Starting out with sing-along favourites like Sugar We’re Going Down and The Phoenix got the crowd onside quickly and the concert seemed to be really into it’s stride when the video screens came down and the band disappeared.

I must confess I was confused.  From my position at the side of the stage I could see that roadies were running around resetting aspects of the stage and then we were treated to something I have never seen before.  A separate small stage had been set up at the back of the vast room and Stump, Went and Joe Trohman popped up to play a couple of acoustic numbers.  This was the sort of creativity that was evident throughout a show that was full of surprises and entertaining from first note to last.  We even had on stage fireworks complete with explosions that almost gave me a heart attack.

Fall Out Boy

Fall Out Boy

The video screens at the rear of the stage and above the stage ensured that everyone had a great view of on-stage proceedings and I must say the camera work and light show were the best that I have seen in a very long time.  After no fewer than 20 songs Fall Out Boy left the stage after nothing more than a mumbled “thanks” from stump.  They returned about a minute later to play a two song encore with “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark” and “Saturday.”

With a total of four acts in evidence, a set of just over 90 minutes from the headliners, a superb set list, a ton of energy and the best light show I have seen in a very long time this was an incredibly good evenings entertainment.  I would rate the evening a solid 9/10.  It’s hard to imagine a better way to spend a Saturday evening.

Incidentally all of the kids agreed that it was one of the best shows they had ever seen.

Bring Me The Horizon - Alexandra Palace

Bring Me The Horizon – Alexandra Palace

Bring Me The Horizon have just concluded their most memorable tour to date. The release of their new album “That’s The Spirit” completely morphed the five-piece bands sound, straying from their roots of metal-core to a less agressive style that fulfils frontman Oli Sykes’ wish to be able “to sing it through the rooftops”. Despite the drastic change in genre, the bands loyal fans persevered and evidently loved the album as much as it’s incredible predeccesor “Sempiternal” and quickly became their most successful album in history.

On the 28th November 2015 the Sheffield hardcore gods graced Ally Pally with two other recent breakthrough bands PVRIS and Neck Deep. The masses gathered outside the venue hours before the doors were opened despite the horrific rain and wind (Quite suiting to the album cover). As the floodgates opened, 10,000 youngsters painted in merchandise darted into the magical venue, anticipation was rising as PVRIS were greeted by a roar of appreciation, the American rock band have proved themselves time and time again amongst the current powerhouses of the scene and tonight was no different. The arena was absolutely rocking, literally, the amount of people singer Lynn Gunn got jumping was overwhelming for the best of us. It may have been as a result of nerves or exhaustion but I couldn’t help but notice a slight lack of passion from the band, don’t get me wrong, they put on a pretty good show but I do not believe that they embraced the magnitude of an event like this, you’re playing Alexandra Palace with Bring Me The Horizon! Show some enthusiasm!

Bring Me The Horizon - Alexandra Palace

British pop-punk front-runners Neck Deep were next on the bill, in just one year the boys from Wrexham have gone from quiet Blink-182 fan-boys to superstars with the pop-punk scene in the palm of their hands. Just over a year ago I saw them in the smallest stage at Reading 2014 and tonight, they bring their fiery sound to the packed out Ally Pally. Neck Deep immediately leave their mark on the masses with the explosively performed first song off their new album, “Life’s Not Out To Get You”, “Citizens of Earth”. Sam Carter, from hardcore elites Architects made a surprise appearance and certainly added a punch to the set. As always, Neck Deep played a energy-filled fantastic set with fan favourites such as “A part of me” and “Can’t kick up the roots” that warmed the crowd up for what had the makings of a memorable night.

Bring Me The Horizon - Alexandra Palace

After an eager wait, Bring Me The Horizon finally took their places on the stage and were greeted by a sea of 10’000 adrenaline filled fans ready to tear the roof off the building. The first song of their set was suitably the first song on “That’s the spirit”, Doomed. Honestly, Oli didn’t even have to sing, every member of that crowd seemed to know every single lyric. This was especially shown as Happy Song begun with the new albums signature slogan “S-P-I-R-I-T, Spirit, lets hear it!”, it was echoed around the room as Oli did what he does best, open up the biggest mosh-pits possible, the crowd lost their minds as the breakdowns of Happy Song and Go to Hell, for Heaven’s sake unleashed the intense spectacle that is always a Bring Me The Horizon show.

Oli expertly works the crowd as the familiar sounds of House of Wolves and the old rarity that is Chelsea Smile echoes throughout, every single track takes the arena by storm, the floor is bouncing and the crowd is certainly not for the faint hearted. Throne and Shadow Moses unifies the whole room in a stunning display of community. The band is determined to give every person in the crowd the night of their lives, old hardcore fans will be satisfied with the additions to the setlist of Chelsea Smile and Blessed with a Curse whilst new fans will enjoy the new album dominating the setlist, with songs from Sempiternal too.

Bring Me The Horizon - Alexandra Palace

Oli describes the show as “The best night of our fucking lives” and i’m sure many of the 10’000 sweat-soaked observers would agree. Bring Me The Horizon close the show with my personal favourite, Drown, an emotional and passionate song that makes you want to scream it from the damn rooftops. It was incredible, it perfectly summed up the show, from the mesmerising visuals, to the flawless showmanship and musical prowess Bring Me The Horizon once again did not fail to put on a hell of a show. For those few hours every person in that room was isolated from the world and knew the unity that the music brings them, that’s what music is all about.

All Words By Ryan Ewart.

Will Varley – Interview and Review

Acoustic Singer-Songwriter Will Varley is a hot prospect right now.  Sound Of Summer caught up with Varley to talk about signing to Xtra Mile records, his new album and touring with Frank Turner.

I first came across Will Varley at Dorset’s Larmer Tree Festival back in 2014.  I recall being impressed with his singing and guitar work but I was rushing around between stages and didn’t really have the opportunity to absorb Varley’s vibe.

Around this time last year I caught Varley’s set at Portsmouth’s Wedgwood rooms in support of Beans and Toast.  As a result I took away his really enjoyable second album “As The Crow Flies” and as a result I have been a fan ever since.  I was thrilled to have the chance to catch up with Varley shortly before his performance in support of Frank Turner at Southampton’s O2 Guildhall on Saturday 7th November.

Will Varley

What strikes you about Varley is that he is warm, humorous, friendly and unassuming both on and off stage.  His music very much reflects his personality.  Varley is a thinker, by turns funny then serious, open, relaxed and candid.

I started out by asking Varley about signing to Xtra Mile and having the opportunity to tour with Frank Turner.  It was clear that Will values the opportunities that have opened up to him but he is unashamedly ambitious too.

Varley told me that “being on Xtra Mile is fantastic for me.  They have the ability to dedicate resources to promotion, tours and so on but Smugglers records who put out my first two records were fantastic too.  Smugglers is more of a musical collective and everyone there is also in a band so they are stretched a bit more thinly but they are a great group of people.  I will always be grateful to Smugglers and will do all I can to support them but Xtra Mile is an exciting new step for me.”

Varley’s first release on Xtra Mile “Postcards From Ursa Minor” dropped last week and I wanted to talk to Will about that and to find out about the process he goes through when pulling an album together.  One of the most hard-hitting songs on the album is “The Man Who Fell To Earth.”  The song tells the tail of the North African immigrant who stowed away in the landing gear space of an aircraft and fell to his death when the undercarriage was lowered for the aircrafts landing at London’s Heathrow airport.  The song really plays on your emotions and I was fascinated to hear Will Say that it almost didn’t make the album.

Varley says “that song took for ever to write.  It is the story of a mans life and it is hard to believe that someone could be so desperate as to try to get into the UK in the way he did.  It sums up everything that is wrong with our attitude to immigration.  I kept going through phases of saying ‘I don’t want to put this story in a song’ but at other times I knew that I would be doing the guy a disservice.  It was incredibly difficult to write so I am glad that the story comes out as I intended.  I can’t understand why we have this obsession with owning a bit of land.”

I put it to varley that his albums tell the contemporary tale of the artists experiences through the years.  This was very much something that Varley recognises but he tells me that this isn’t a conscious thing.  Instead it tends to be “just how things come out.”

Will says “I am constantly writing and sometimes a song just comes to me and I can have the bones down in about 10 minutes.  It is then a case of playing around to get it sounding like I want it to.  I would love to say that I sat down a year and a half ago and said ‘here is my big idea’ but that isn’t the case.  I just write all the time and when I have enough songs for an album I record it.  Of course I have to work on sequencing and so on to try to ensure the album has a nice flow but it tends to be a fairly organic process.  I sometimes have a couple of structural songs so perhaps that carries over into the next album.”

Will confesses that Postcards From Ursa Minor is his personal favourite of his albums.  It is perhaps a little more textural and sophisticated than his previous work.  The addition of strings and keyboards adds a richness to the sound on this album without losing the strip backed acoustic vibe.

Will Varley

Varley is taking his album on tour early in the New Year and I for one will be making every effort to get along to see him headline.  Varley already has a great back catalogue to draw on and it will be great to see him showcase his work rather than playing the truncated sets that supporting other artists allows.

Onstage Will Varley is every bit as engaging as he is off it.  As you would expect the bulk of his short set features songs from the new release but Will did manage to include a couple of tracks from previous releases.  The crowd in Southampton warmed to Will immediately, it is hard not to when you can see that he plays with a smile on his face and is so enthusiastic about what he does.  Material like “Talking Cat Blues” and “I Got This e-mail” are crowd favourites that allow Varley to showcase his more amusing side.

For me at least it is Varley’s biggest strength that he can run you through a huge range of emotion, either across an album, or as was the case here during a 25 minute live set.  Will has that rare talent that gets under the listeners skin, you identify with his storytelling and you suddenly find that his music really matters.  This is no pop-wannabe trotting out bad rhymes and false platitudes.  This is an incredibly gifted songwriter who provides an engaging social commentary with real style.

I think that Varley has found a natural home for his talent at Extra Mile.  With their support and his talent I really do expect to see Varley become more widely known.  His hard work and determination certainly deserve every success.

Eagles Of Death Metal

Eagles Of Death Metal

The chances are that, unless you are a fan of Metal Music, you may never have heard of the Eagles Of Death Metal prior to Friday November 13th 2015.  The Eagles of Death Metal have been around since 1998 but they sit within a niche genre and outside of the mainstream.

Eagles of Death Metal were formed by Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone age fame and by Jesse Hughes.  They are the bands permanent members but Homme rarely gets to perform with the band as a result of his commitments to other bands.

Despite the name Eagles of Death Metal do not actually play Death Metal music.  Instead Eagles of Death metal play an altogether more complex blend of rock music.

Sadly Eagles of Death Metal will now forever be associated with last Friday’s atrocities in Paris.  Eagles of Death metal were on stage in a packed Bataclan theatre when death came calling.  At least 89 Eagles of Death Metal fans died when terrorists stormed the theatre with guns, explosives and suicide vests.

Sadly Eagles of Death metal’s merchandise manager Nick Alexander, 36, from Colchester, Essex, was confirmed as one of the first Brit’s to die in the rampage.

It seems barely credible that so many people could be massacred simply enjoying a rock concert.  As many of you know I spend a lot of my time working as a gig photographer and this atrocity could so easily have happened at any of the shows were I am happily taking photographs.  I can’t pretend that these atrocities do not have me worried, but I will continue to do what I love.

I am certain that this atrocity will have hit the Eagles of Death metal very hard.  How do you come to terms with the fact that so many of your fans were murdered just enjoying one of your shows.

I hope that Eagles of Death Metal somehow find the strength to continue to perform.  It is perhaps the biggest tribute that Eagles of Death Metal could pay to those who died.

My thoughts are with the Eagles of Death Metal, the people of Paris and everyone affected by this atrocity.

Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll