Guillemots LIVE at Carling Academy Oxford review + tour dates

Guillemots played downstairs at the Carling Academy Oxford on Monday, March 10th. I’ve seen them play quite a few times, and the set that they played Monday night was possibly one of their best.

Fyfe Dangerfield’s voice was on form, sailing through the high notes – and with Fyfe the notes do tend to get pretty high. Aristazabal Hawkes (Arista) sounded great on bass, MC Magrao, the coolest cat in town on guitar, and of course Greig Stewart, one of my favorite drummers, worked his magic on the skins.

I should have taken more care to write down their set list, but they played songs from ‘Through the Window Pane’ and their new album, ‘Red’. There is a contrast between the two albums, and for me that’s a good thing. They’ve definitely not stuck to the same format for the sophomore release, and I’ll be waiting in anticipation for the third.

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Neil Young live at London Hammersmith Apollo review

So I was rockin’ in the free world last night (March 5, 2008) with my parents as we headed to London to check out Neil Young. I was turned onto Young by my parents who are huge fans and who were keen to share him with me. Having worked my way through his back catalogue I was captivated by Young’s delicate, almost feminine voice and political leanings, so was only too ready to see him live. Consistently name checked as one of the artists to see before you die, the opportunity was a great privilege.

The predominantly male crowd were equally keen – the crowds were heaving to get in, many backs adorned with Neil Young tour T-Shirts of old in tribute to the Canadian legend. The crowd was comprised of many an aging Young acolyte accompanied by their wives, but there were some younger couples present too, which only goes to show the draw this man has across generations. Whatever the age of the audience however, the enthusiasm displayed by the majority of the crowd was infectious. From the minute he stepped on stage he was deluged with requests for songs and cries of ‘We love you Neil!’

The Apollo is a gorgeous venue; it felt rather civilised to take a seat amongst its art deco style interior and take in the surroundings before the artists came on stage. Young’s wife Pegi provided support as people filed in and displayed a beguilingly sweet voice and assured stage presence. However, most people were waiting for the main attraction and Pegi’s performance was akin to musical wallpaper – pleasant enough, but no match for the main act.

The stage itself was decked with scrambled letters which at the end of the gig spelled out Neil, giving it the appearance of a cross between a primary school classroom and motor garage, the latter evidently a nod to Young’s current album ‘Chrome Dreams II’. An artist painted pictures throughout Young’s two sets, all bearing a relation to each song and placed on an artists’ easel for the crowd to admire at the beginning of each track. This was really interesting to watch and a clever and creative idea.

Young himself had an affable stage presence and shuffled about the stage casually, clearly very at ease with himself. His two vastly differing sets gave everyone in the audience a bit of what they fancied: one acoustic and folky set with Young predominantly seated and playing keyboard or guitar in a white suit; the other heavy, energetic and rocky with Young donning a black suit seemingly splattered with paint (and which the artist also painted!).

The acoustic set was lovely and really showcased all that is good about Young’s tremulous, fragile voice – a voice which was the same thirty years ago and still as fresh as it was back then. Comprised mostly of his earlier songs, the highlight of the set was Harvest’s “Old Man” which has added poignancy now it is sung by a 62 year old. “Ambulance Blues”, always a sad song, was also performed with a dignity and respect for his material despite its familiarity; and “Cowgirl in the Sand” was just spellbinding. The whole set was intimate and gentle, with little chat from Neil barring a cheeky wave when an audience member implored him to say something!

The gritty, punkish rock of Young’s second set was in steep contrast to this cosiness and seemed to revive Neil as much as the audience, who stood for many tracks, moving in perfect time to the rhythm of the music with hands punching the air. He’s still got it, that’s for sure!

A stirring “Down By The River” was just incredible, bluesy and dramatic with some brilliant musical performances from his band (including the wife on backing vocals). The band seemed to play as one, and modestly took a backseat to Young’s lead. The sound quality was faultless and he and his band gave tight and confident renditions of all the songs.

Where Young’s voice could seem a little nasal and strained on some of the rockier tracks, this was offset by the way he played guitar, dextrous and full of fervour. Each track was evidence of Young’s unique skill as a guitarist. His every move and gesture displayed utter absorption in and love for his craft. In other words, Young really rocked out.

Notable tracks included the grungy rock of the fun “Dirty Old Man” and the punkish “Hey Hey My My”. I must confess I flagged a little during the twenty minute opus “Ordinary People”, from ‘Chrome Dreams II’. However you couldn’t be churlish and accuse Young of self-indulgence as his passionate performance was further evidence of his musical gift. Plus, he was much more chatty in this half, energised by his pacier songs, and it was lovely to have a little more banter.

All in all this was a great show enjoyed by all – as the rapturous demands for an encore suggested. At over two hours it was great value for money and a wonderful experience. The only issue which mitigated against total pleasure in the evenings performances was the intense heat in the venue.

Two women in nearby rows actually seemed to be nodding off and I can only attribute it to the insane heatwave generated by so many people packed into a venue with absolutely no air conditioning. It actually got unbearable at times and this was a real shame given the otherwise successful night. But to end on a high, as Neil did: Keep on rockin’ in the free world, readers!

Neil Young Official Website

By: Lindsey Davis

Richard Hawley and Guests at the Oxford New Theatre, 5 February – review

I have long been an admirer of Richard Hawley’s and am really pleased that he is finally receiving the recognition he deserves, having previously served on guitar duty with indie underachievers The Longpigs and the wonderful Pulp. His recent albums ‘Coles Corner’ and ‘Lady’s Bridge’ set the bar extremely high for the support act, who managed to pull off preceding such a talent with aplomb.

Support came in the form of Vincent Vincent and the Villains, who were great fun. A London-based four piece who sound like Franz Ferdinand doing the flamenco, they opened with a growler of a track called “Beast”, which was propelled by a heavy bass line and a thudding, insistent drum beat.

Singer Vincent Vincent was extremely charismatic and really won the crowd over, encouraging people to join in with the band for single “On My Own”, providing handclaps alongside drummer Alex Cox’s pulsing beats. This was the most well-known track amongst the audience and its ska-infused rockiness was well received.

New tracks including the next single “Pretty Girl” also met with a positive response and it’s easy to see why. The band are extremely professional, slick musicians who look and play the part. They engaged in lots of tongue-in-cheek rock posturing with their (very spangly) guitars and lead singer Vincent was dressed in what appeared to be a matador’s jacket. Their fifties rock-with-a-twist would be perfectly suited to a Tarentino score and certainly set the mood for Richard Hawley and his band’s cinematic sound. I look forward to hearing their debut album ‘Gospel Bombs’, set for release on 25 February, 2008.

Now for the star attraction … Hawley’s adoption by Radio 2 DJs, 2006 Mercury Prize nomination and 2008 Brit nomination have seen him embraced by a diverse audience stretching far beyond former indie kids like myself. The audience at the New Theatre in Oxford served to prove this, comprised of a huge cross section of people from teenagers all the way up to OAPs! Many a senior citizen seems to like Richard Hawley because he reminds them of Roy Orbison, and as Hawley strode on stage in an immaculately cut silver lounge suit and brylcreemed quiff, he typified a fifties music idol.

The faded opulence of the New Theatre was a fitting venue for his music, especially given that the audience was seated as in ‘the old days’ – I felt transported back in time to a world of stockings, skiffle and the birth of rock and roll. The spinning glitterball atop the stage reinforced this illusion, setting the scene for a memorable night.

Hawley’s lovelorn and wistful songs recall old time courtships backed by landscapes of sweeping strings and Shadows-style guitars. For the tour, the strings were replaced with keyboards and a laptop but there was no discernible difference between the sound on the albums and that generated by the keyboardist. The performance Hawley and his band gave was faultless: tight, assured and full of obvious love for their craft. Plus, the former string player in me always delights in seeing double basses used live: the rockabilly number “Serious” was darn good fun.

Richard Hawley’s seemingly effortless crooning is both seductive and tear-jerking, and he and his band were magnificent. They perfected a sound which matched that on the albums, but without seeming clinical or lacking in passion. The sparkling and hook-laden “Tonight The Streets are Ours” was the exception to this in that it actually seemed to transcend the quality of the original – no mean feat! Accompanied by piano and his band, Hawley gave a spirited performance of the track and never have the lyrics, which afford the working classes a grace and dignity the modern media would prefer them stripped of, resonated more.

He followed this up with a luscious and elegant rendition of “Lady’s Bridge”, which he cheekily informed the audience was “not a euphemism”. Whenever I hear this track I am never clear whether he is singing to a lover or his hometown of Sheffield (Lady’s Bridge is a bridge in Sheffield which separates the poorer areas from the rich), but I feel their conflation makes for a truly emotive song which appeals on both levels. These tracks were placed at the heart of the performance and were for me, the gig’s highlights, along with stunning, harmonica-accompanied covers of “Lonesome Town” and “Lonesome Tonight”. They elegantly evoked a real sense of longing and nostalgia.

Hawley’s timeless love songs and paeans to Sheffield give a grace and elegance to the loves of ordinary people and his performance was in keeping with this. His between-song patter fondly referred to his Nan (for whom “Lady Solitude” was written) and his ‘lass’, all with a down-to-earth and modest demeanor which was utterly charming and genuine. He displayed a great sense of humour and eagerness to engage with the crowd and was also extremely generous towards his band, with whom you can tell he has a great relationship. The rest of the audience obviously agreed with me as we all joined in vociferous demands for an encore. These were rewarded with ‘I told you I’d be back’, and a stonking finale which closed with the gorgeous “The Ocean”, which for one last time allowed us to witness that as well as being a lovely man and talented singer, Hawley is also a fine guitarist. The performance was mind-blowingly epic and is one I will never forget.

Richard Hawley is currently on tour –

February 2008 tour dates:

Wednesday 6th Southampton, Guildhall 02380 632 601
Friday 8th Manchester, Academy 0161 832 111
Saturday 9th Glasgow, ABC 08444 999 990
Monday 11th Leicester, De Montfort Hall 0116 233 3111
Tuesday 12th London, Astoria 0871 231 0821 / 020 7287 0932
Thursday 14th Galway, Roisin Dubh
Friday 15th Dublin, Vicar Street
Saturday 16th Belfast, Mandela Hall
Monday 18th York, Opera House 0870 606 3595
Tuesday 19th Buxton, Opera House 0845 127 2190
Saturday 23rd Festival para Gente Sentada, Cine-Teatro Antonio Lamoso, Santa Maria de Feira, Portugal
Sunday 24th Malaga, Teatro Cervantes


Richard Hawley on Myspace
Richard Hawley Official Website

By: Lindsey Davis