Arcade Fire, Amsterdam, Paradiso

Final FantasyWe already published a review of Arcade Fire’s Funeral in 2004, but after seeing them again live only recently, we felt another few words about this excellent band were well in order.

Amsterdam, Paradiso. A young looking fellow enters the stage with a violin, explaining how he was late, because he had to defend Bloc Party. Owen Pallett is his name, and his solo act is called Final Fantasy, but in general he is probably better known as Arcade Fire’s violin player, or, incidentally, the Hidden Camera’s violin player.

His sound is original, refreshing and new. The violin used in every possible way, sometimes coming awfully close to being abused. I get visions of Warren Ellis, plucking the strings, using the pickups as microphone, alas, the works. All in all, a very enjoyable support act.Arcade Fire

Then it’s Arcade Fire’s turn, filling up the stage with no less than seven people. Sparks start flying right away, rhythm joins up, a splash of theatre, a dash of chaos and an unlimited supply of enthusiasm. A crash helmet becomes a drum machine, while strings and straps break, only to end up in the back of the audience, followed by a microphone stand

Most interesting to see is how often the bands changes around their musical duties. One moment this person is playing the drums, the next moment someone entirely different has taken up that task, while the former drummer is suddenly playing the guitar or the bass…

Arcade FireIn short, they bring the old church to its knees with an extremely strong gig. Unpretentious, simply doing what they do, being who they are, without falling into the over styled, over hyped indie band scenario. Or? To the casual onlooker, they may seem to be overhyped, with David Bowie calling their album the best of the year 2004, and journalists raving about them. Yet, they are not. The difference with Arcade Fire is that they actually manage to live up to the hype.
In the end, their live set ends up portraying them even better than their already fabulous recorded sound. If you do get a chance to see them, by all means, do.

All pictures (c) ~E/

Maria McKee – Peddlin’ Dreams

peddlindreams.jpg Here’s a tip for people who perhaps got into U2 during the Joshua Tree tour and dug that scene that involved The BoDeans, Maria McKee, Robbie Robertson and the Dalton Brothers. If you wondered what happened to Maria and why you haven’t heard from her recently: she isn’t signed to a major and has been putting our albums on her own label for the last couple of years.

Amazingly, this means she’s putting out MORE material than before. Most notably, 2003’s superbly bombastic – and yes, I mean that in a good way – High Dive. (If you were expecting more of that… you’re out of luck.)

Last year, she released Live in Hamburg CD, and now she’s back with a new studio album, Peddlin’ Dreams. Fans of her ‘old’ sound (the Lone Justice years and her eponymous debut album) should be quite happy with it.

On Peddlin’ Dreams Maria left the reigns firmly in her husband Jim Akin’s hands. She wasn’t involved in production, just showed up in their home studio whenever Akin thought the mood was right for a particular song.

Which means we get 12 more or less spontaneously recorded tunes showcasing Maria’s still beautiful voice. Folksy, ‘country rock’ type songs full of yearning and Americana with delightful, unexpected melodic twists and heartfelt vocals.

My only problem with the album is that maybe Maria sounds a little too too comfortable on some of the songs, not as hungry and driven as on her other albums. Could be a side effect of recording in the home setting?

But then there’s the joy of the last song on the disc, ‘(You don’t know) How Glad I Am,’ which evokes 60’s chansons, Piaf and Dusty Springfield and is reminiscent of classic McKee songs like Panic Beach. And though there’s no ‘Wheels’, or ‘Breathe’ and this may not be the ‘one’ Maria Mckee album you should own, Peddlin’ Dreams is a very welcome addition to my collection at least and more proof that Maria’s one of those what critics tend to call ‘criminally underestimated’ artists.

One more note of praise: the CD booklet, the perfect example of how an independently released album doesn’t have to look like arse.

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Declan O’Rourke – Since Kyabram

Declan O'Rourke - Since Kyabram David Gray, Damien Rice, Paddy Casey… they make me yawn, they do. It would be easy to draw the conclusion that I’m not a keen singer/songwriter enthusiast. And you’d have a point, there. Still, here I am, pimping an Irish singer/songwriter.

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Robi Draco Rosa – Mad Love

robi_draco_rosa.jpg So he sounds a little like Sting and he was in Menudo with Ricky Martin. Nobody’s perfect. Besides penning ‘La Vida Loca’ and the simply awful ‘She bangs’ Robi Draco Rosa can write perfect, sultry tragic and obsessive love songs. He proves it on his solo album Mad Love which, apart from U2’s latest, must be my most played album of 2004. Which for any singer sounding as much like Sting as he does is an amazing feat, let me tell you.

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British Sea Power

Decline of British Sea Power Sometimes you run into these bands, and from the moment they play their very first chords, you get captured in their sound.

British Sea Power is such a band.

I was lucky enough to get to see them again recently, at Rough Trade’s showcase night at the Paradiso, Amsterdam, one of the most pleasant venues I know.

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Rough Trade Night, Paradiso, Amsterdam

If you happen to be in Amsterdam this upcoming weekend, you could do worse than dropping in the Paradiso saturday night. On Saturday the 27th of November, Rough Trade Records will take over this beautiful church converted into club, which helped break many an artist break in the Netherlands.

The “Rough Trade Night” will feature British Sea Power and most of the almost ethereal Low as well as the Delays, Eastern Lane, David Kitt and Baxter Dury.

British Sea Power we definitely found an interesting band the first time I saw them in a similar setting, and I’m quite happy to see them again. Low initially captured our interest after the “In the Fishtank” EP they did with the Dirty Three. Their gig I saw at the Paradiso a while ago was nothing short of amazing, with nearly every member of the audience practially holding their breath at the fragility of their sound. Then there’s the Delays. They’ve been raved about and people have recommended them to me, but I’m afraid they totally failed to capture me at the Isle of Wight Festival earlier this year. Hopefully the small club setting will do them more justice this time around. Eastern Lane, David Kitt and Baxter Dury all come with their own recommendations, that they’ll hopefully live upto. I personally can’t wait for this “rising star” studded night for a mere 12,50.

Additionally, Fabchannel are doing a webcast of the night.

Bloc Party – Banquet E.P.

blocparty.jpg The music people listen to when they are teenagers is just the best evah, they think. Nothing can top it — especially not anything that’s current. It is balls, basically. We just are more jaded as we grow older. To help 40+ curmudgeons such as myself get in touch with contemporary music, we now have the new new wave. Back comb your hair and squeeze your body into those bondage pants. The arrival of Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, Interpol, The Dears, The Stills and The Rapture, has made you want to dig out your The Cure, Smiths and Joy Division albums. Bloc Party , described by MTV as South London art-punkers, and who am I to argue, take their influences and run with ’em: the best of The Cure with the punchiest Joy Division/New Order, and the choppiest Gang of Four. Bloc Party are blessed with a singer who has a voice that carries beautifully, especially on the phones disco edit of ‘Banquet’. ‘I’m on fire, I’m on fire,’ he proclaims. They are. This excellent E.P. is a good introduction to the band and will carry you over to the street release of their album ‘Silent Alarm’ next year.

Banquet E.P (USA) // Banquet E.P. (U.K.)

The Arcade Fire – Funeral

The Arcade Fire, FUNERALIf the phrase “indie rock” makes your skin crawl, and you feel an instinctive shock of revulsion, then congratulations, for you are my sibling. At times, it’s almost embarassing how mainstream my tastes can be. But good music is good music, and while The Arcade Fire couldn’t be more indie-rock if they tried — they’re like a French-Canadian Modest Mouse with Cat Power on occasional guest vocals, and they have a freaking accordion player — they’ve also recorded a really, really, really great album. I recommend Funeral largely because I think U2 fans would find a lot to love in it; the singing’s a bit reedy, but the music is always lush and unafraid to be expansive and epic — “Wake Up” gives even the biggest anthems on HTDAAB a run for their money — and lyrically, they’re startlingly poignant and extremely imaginative. And this is only their debut album — you’re likely to hear a lot more about them in the future.

Buy Funeral from Amazon, or read the reviews at Metacritic.

Nick Cave, Théâtre de la Mutualité, Paris

Nick Cave, Auditorium Di Milano, February 2004 I’ve always gone slightly overboard with things, so when a Paris based friend of mine mentioned back in May that Nick Cave was due to play Paris in November, I jumped on the opportunity and bought a ticket straight away. I like Paris, enjoy watching and listening to Nick Cave, if only for violin player Warren Ellis (whose band the Dirty Three is amongst my ultimate favourites, but I’ll rant about them some other time), so sure, why not?

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Joseph O’Connor – Star of the Sea

Star of the Sea.jpg Star of the Sea tells the story of the passengers on a ship sailing from Ireland to New York in the winter of 1847. Among them refugees from the potato famine, an Anglo-irish Lord and his family, a budding novelist, a maharaja and a murderer.

Even before the ship sets sail, one or two unfortunate passengers die of hunger whilke others succumb to disease on board. It’s all carefully noted in the ship’s log by her captain.

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