Wednesday 21 September 2016

The Best Kanye Lyrics you haven't heard - EXPLICIT CONTENT

Image result for kanye west pablo

Whatever the most recent media rumbling about Kanye, whatever latest churlish outburst or bold statement, it is undeniable that Mr. West has made a towering impression on the music industry over the past fifteen years or so.

Whether it is creating mind-bogglingly catchy beats like 'Lucifer' for Jay-Z or taking the best part of Hip-Hop royalty to Hawaii to produce 'All of the Lights,' Kanye musically, sonically and creatively has changed rap music forever. What often gets forgotten through all the hyperbole and brassiness is the fact that Kanye is also sharp to the point of bloodshed lyrically. At other times he can be so poor it's cringe-worthy; comparing separated parents at a basketball game to the horrors and brutality of South Africa's apartheid era, springs naturally to mind. There is also the opening to 'Father Stretch My Hands,' a beautiful and powerful symphonic tune, sadly not matched by the song's graphic and pretentious opening gambit.

However, it is important to focus on the positives that Kanye's words bring to the world; heaven knows there is enough out there that disparage him, not that he cares. Underneath the hubris, bravado and fanfare there is a genuine artist; a genuine lyricist. To try and regain some clarity through the madness, these are my favourite Kanye lyrics you may never have heard, explained in full.

And I always find something wrong
You been putting up with my shit for
Way too long
So gifted at finding what I don't like the most
Some think it's time for us to have
A toast

Runaway, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Ok, so a number of readers will know this one, but I feel it's an important one to start with. Here Kanye's braggadocio style is dropped completely as he raps about his failed relationship with ex, Amber Rose. Kanye in a moment of quiet reflection delves into the human and more importantly male psyche, pointing out its basic flaws. He concurs that his partner puts up with a lot of his crap, before going onto explain how he always finds what he doesn't want, in this case being lured to send explicit photos to another female admirer. Rather than fight back with contempt and vitriol, Kanye accepts his failings and raises a toast to them.

I know she likes chocolate men
She got more niggas off than Cochran

On Sight, Yeezus

This song is littered with sharp-witted, searing insights but this particular couplet is in reference to Kanye's wife, Kim Kardashian and more pertinently aimed at her white ex-husband Kris Humphreys. Kanye makes the fairly trite point that she seems to be more enamoured with black men at this juncture of Kim K's well-documented life. He goes on to reference lawyer Ray Cochran, famed for getting many black men acquitted, most notably Oj Simpson. Kanye makes the double entendre between his wife 'getting them off' in a sexual manner and Cochran doing so in a legal sense. Brutal, but funny.

We Don't Care, The College Dropout

One of the reasons people seem to love 'The Old Kanye' is his focus on social issues and insights into black, working class culture (All Falls Down). Here Kanye opens his debut record by slaughtering the education system and indeed the teachers who judged Kanye for being 'slow.' He makes the point about after-school programmes being ceased wrongly before attacking the educators and attitudes to those who are not academic. In addition, he references Chicago drug dealer lingo ('rocks, blow, weed, park'), a phrase used to inform potential buyers what was purchasable at the time. Here Kanye is depicting how some people in black communities may not be academically smart, but use 'street smarts' to get themselves out of poverty. Entrepreneurial, huh?

Now we all aint gonna be American Idols, but you can at least grab a camera shoot a viral

Power (remix), G.O.O.D. Friday bootlegs

A fairly straightforward one here. Kanye beseeches all of us rather than sit around and watch derivative Saturday night TV, or indeed aspire to be on such a show, get out there and create something yourself.

All of the Lights, MBDTF

Here, Kanye places himself into the shoes of a man who comes home to find his other half in bed with someone else. Deary me. A fight and separation ensue. Kanye, before having children of his own or indeed a wife, manages to succinctly depict the woes facing his protagonist. Again, he manages to use rhyme and inflection to humorous effect by listing the people he has upset by his antics.

Dark Fantasy, MBDT

Following on from the death of his mother and the break-up with Amber Rose, Kanye is battling his demons. He manages to put himself (as he does so well, so often), into the shoes of the average joe and the issues we face. Kanye is sad and upset and thus reaches for the bottle. However, what's harder to deal with the pain in his heart, or the pain in his head the following day? Hmmm.......

Hell of a Life, MBDTF

Kanye was at his most wild and reckless in this period of his career. Here he tells the allegory of having a marriage with a porn star over the course of one night. The song works fantastically and leaves Kanye realising that he doesn't need the trappings of the wild life, in his own words 'pussy and religion' are all he needs. Kanye makes the valid point that it is wrong that the lady's 'price' would go down i.e. she would be less marketable, if she had sex with him.  He then goes on to support her over-sexualised lifestyle by mocking those who are sexually inhibited. In other words, are those who find it very easy to judge actually in a position to do so, due to their lack of experience/knowledge? An interesting point for hypothesis.

Don’t do no press but I guess the most press kit
Plus, yo, my bitch make your bitch look like precious

Mercy, Cruel Summer

Here we see angry Kanye return, with a hint of acerbic wit to boot. Kanye famously stopped doing any press for a variety of reasons. Kanye makes the point that despite not doing any press, he still gets the most. In addition, he references 'press kit' a tool journalists use to get access to stars. Kanye is his very own 'press kit.' Kanye goes on to reference the film 'Precious' about an overweight, black teen from the projects, saying his other half (Kim K) ...well, I'm sure you get it.

I got two white russians but I also need some drinks

Blazin, Pink Friday (Nicki Minaj)

Simple and effective, a throwaway line, celebrating Kanye's virility and attraction to the opposite success, as well as his obvious celebrity lifestyle.

Face it, Jerome get more time than Brandon
 And at the airport they check all through my bag
And tell me that it’s random
But we stay winning, this week has been a bad massage
I need a happy ending and a new beginning
And a new fitted, and some job opportunities that's lucrative

Gorgeous, MBDTF

Kanye references the injustice between black and white, using stereotypical names from each race. He alludes to the fact that blacks are still unfairly treated, a topic which needs no more highlighting in the current climate #blacklivesmatter.

Kanye doesn't let this get him down though, using the metaphor of a massage for his bad week. As such he needs a new suit fitting (he loves clothes don't you know), more money and of course a 'happy ending,' as per certain, stereotypical dodgy massage parlours.  Bless.

Spaceship, The College Dropout

From his eponymous debut album, here we see Kanye in full flow. Kanye notoriously worked at the Gap and uses this as a reference point for how he perceives inequality. He goes 'ghetto' by threatening to attack the manager before stealing from the cash register. He then talks about stealing from shops (we've all been there, eh? Sorry Mum...), and being patted down by aggressive security guards, yet when some black customers walk in he finds himself maneuvered back to the front of the store by his over-zealous and ethnically-sensitive manager.

Monster, MBDTF
The real skill here is the use of inflection, intonation and rhythm. In fact, it needs to be heard really. Also there is a brilliant verse by Nicki Minaj on this track for largely the same reasons. Kanye talks about his girth which obviously has caused his female companion issues in their oral sexual encounters. He uses word play and double meaning here playing off the idea of oral sex, with academic achievement. All very clever, if not the most highbrow. However, he goes on to say something mildly prophetic as he talks about the future and how he lives in it, a claim he has made many times over and if you are a Kanye fan and watched his impact on the industry, technology etc. first hand, you can only really agree with him. The final line is blunt and a shout out to his 'haters.' Whether you love him or loathe him, we are lucky to have him.

Got staples on my dick. Why?
Fucking centrefolds
I swear to God she's so cold
Got a nigga in Miami wearing winter clothes
I got my fur on feeling like Jerome
She got her fur too we got our his and hers on

Illest Motherfucker Alive, Watch The Throne

My final and perhaps favourite Kanye line. You see, I love his arrogance. I love the fact he won’t settle for life on the treadmill. He demands the best for himself and of all his subjects. But this is Kanye in witty-braggadocio mode and it's marvellous. Kanye uses an explicit metaphor to explain that he is having lots of sex with pin-up girls and centrefolds. He then flips the script, complaining how her aloof coldness means he needs to wear his fur in the Miami heat, to keep out her wintry iciness. He references 80's American TV show Martin and the pimp Jerome who is seen in his fur, before making the double entendre that his girl also had her 'fur too,' however, she of course will be naked. 

So, this article has been a long time in the making and hopefully it highlights rap is still relevant and why Kanye is not only a visionary sonically and visually, but also is relevant and interesting lyrically as well.  I hope it inspires some people to go and check out the songs. I hope as well that people reading this won’t allow the media's presentation of this entrepreneur cloud their judgement of him. In Kanye's own words 'most people are slowed down by the perception of themselves. If you're taught you can't do anything, you won’t do anything. I was taught I can do everything.'

Tuesday 7 July 2015

Haters, YOU are Kanye West - Glastonbury review

Kanye West does not care about you.

He is not interested in your Mum loaning you the money for your big adventure, for your life affirming foray into the great unknown. He doesn't care about your nights out in Brixton, drinking over-priced cocktails in jars, or you growing up on the mean streets of SW19.

He doesn't care that you got Nobby, Roddy, Sammy and Fran to hold the phones so you can try and weed your way into Glasto's broad arms for one last hurrah, with the guys, with the gals you know - for old times sake.

One of my peers on facebook stated 'he would throw a bottle of piss in kanye's face if he saw him.' I questioned him - he told me he knew nothing about him,but read about his show in the Guardian.

The truth about Kanye's performance at Glastonbury is that it didn't all go to plan. Lee Nelson did what Lee Nelson does appealing to the sub-average and caused a break in flow. There were clear problems with the earpiece and the PA that took time to resolve and effected the set. Also, watching the crowd sing every word to 'Gold digger' or 'All Falls Down' it certainly appeared that the crowd enjoyed themselves, despite the ongoing faults. But I am not convinced the music and the set are what the social media trolls are incandescent with rage about

Kanye West believes completely and totally in the timelessness and commercial appeal of a number of his songs. He also believes in the ground-breaking and game changing grandeur of others. He doesn't care about you sitting indoors on a Saturday night with your £8 bottle of wine, feeling more and more cross as Kanye doesn't show the requisite 'respect' for our flagship summer festival.

He isn't sorry that RiRi and Hova were not special guests and brought together for the 33rd time for 'Run This Town.' I guess when you work with the greatest artists and creatives on a daily basis, bringing them out for the Surrey commuter belt's entertainment is not high on his priority list.

The point is that honestly and truthfully, Kanye West does not care what you think. As stated in his recent Q interview, he has over "20 things" on the go at any one time. He didn't expand on this, but given that this is the man who enticed Paul McCartney into Rap Music, for not just one song, for three songs, the 'things' are probably big. They are probably game changing, they probably make Saturday night at Glastonbury seem well....irrelevant?

I can sense the fervour rising in the hinterlands. The backpackers, the Ukippers and the bandwagon jumpers effervescent with anger. I have witnessed this misplaced acrimony on Facebook and Twitter, there are 134,000 people who signed a petition, outraged that this man was allowed to perform. And why? Arrogance and ignorance. But aren't those the same negatives we pick out in Kanye West?

Thanks to the media, we have a subjective and disproportionate view of the real world. To put it in layman's terms you get about 15% of the full picture - you get the picture the corporations want you to see. The media create monsters because monsters are scary, interesting and most importantly they sell (see Pete Doherty - although no-one batted an eyelid at his triumphant return on Friday night - mercifully, the media have moved on here).

The creation of Kimye, Taylorgate, 'The greatest rock star on the planet' are all products of the media, taken out of context and designed to create a subjective viewpoint of our Saturday night headliner. His achievements are irrelevant - that is not what the haters want to hear.

So why did the white middle classes flock to social media to condemn Kanye on Saturday night? Because his set encountered difficulties? Or there was no real stage performance? Maybe because you are a rock n' roll fan and you can't stand rap? All these are possibilities.

The main reason why Kanye caused such a furore, is possibly because he exhibits the same traits that you do. Because damning someone based on a subjective media profile exhibits ignorance. To discount his performance or creative genius because of his arrogance is arrogant. So in essence haters, the same flaws that turn you off Kanye West are the same failings you are demonstrating. In other words, you are Kanye West (without the talent and success, of course).

In other more gentle words and to attempt to end this piece positively, we are all flawed. Kanye West would be the first to mention his and the endless issues that seem to cloud people's perceptions of him. It was Barack Obama who called him a 'jackass' after the Taylor Swift incident. Now Kanye has a direct line and speaks to the President regularly. How many of us can say we have turned a situation around that spectacularly?

Kanye West is human and he is often wrong, as we all can be at times on our respective journeys. However, he knows how to love himself and respect what he has done in this world. If we all could exhibit more of those traits, perhaps there would be more love, more creativity and most importantly, less hate.

The subconscious is a funny, old thing and in the words of Deepak Chopra people are doing their best on the level of consciousness they are at. That said, conformity is easy. Nations are ruled via conformity. Conform to work, to social norms, to condemning those that are different.

Kanye West is different and whether you like it or not, he maybe beyond the understanding of this time. I hear you scoff, but he wouldn't be the first visionary to be scorned in his own lifetime and revered long after.

Sunday 11 January 2015

The Gaslight Anthem - November 22nd, Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff

When I booked the tickets for this show I couldn't have been more excited. Our favourite band, off the back of their most accomplished release to date. Of course, it would have been more practical to see them in London, but why not make a weekend of it? Two tickets, a road trip, a night in a secluded country pub, Gaslight for entertainment. The stars align. 

In the week leading up to the show, my situation changed immeasurably. Gaslight ceased to be our favourite band and became my favourite band. This is what they were eight years ago at the start of a journey. Well, it became obvious that they were that again. My favourite band. 

Life has a funny way of imitating art and I too would stare down the same demons that lead singer Brian Fallon had to. Thirty-four years old and facing divorce, betrayal and heartbreak, it appeared  I would be on a similar voyage. So the options were clear. Travel to Wales in the bleak midwinter: no car, alone, at great cost and see my favourite band. Or take the advice that was thrown at me that week and "don't go, whats the point? It would be cheaper and easier if you didn't." So I packed up an overnight bag and off I went. 

I must say there is something quite liberating about doing things solo. Human beings are creatures of habit and our programming suggests we should be together, with others. After all, you are classed as a 'loser' if you do things on your own. I have a good friend who has spent most of his life in London, single and he urged me to face the demons, enjoy the struggle and go to the show. I did and it was not easy but boy, was it worth it. 

Firstly, the venue. On a night that would be nourishment for the soul, it was sadly a little...soulless? The sound was extremely impressive and the band felt closer than your average arena yet like all mid-range venues, character was lacking. This is a band I have seen own Brixton Academy with their punk guitars creating sonic soundscapes that will live with me forever. So this would be different. 

As the band came on I was halfcut and emotional. Defiantly, I was here though. No-one could take that from me but I was nervous of the songs, wondering what abyss Fallon's poignant pen would drive me into.

The band opened with the fitting 'Have Mercy' which then roared into a blistering '59 Sound.' Lights flashed, guitar's crunched and the world briefly looked the way I remembered it. 

One of the abiding memories I have of the show is Brian's perma-grin; he really enjoyed his job. But how could he? How do these words match the smiling, hopeful man standing in front of his crowd, delivering through the heartache? How many times had he belted out this song, was he not tired of these very chords? 

He was clearly not and maintained a tight ship throughout the show, directing his band through a number of tracks from 'Get Hurt' before the iconic '45' sent the crowd into rapture. 
Fallon interacted regularly, most notably starting a campaign (unsuccessfully) to get Noel Fielding to the venue. This was a man revived, recharged and clearly ready to live again. Hope, I spy. 

If you love the Gaslight Anthem, you love the Gaslight Anthem, its that simple. The words tug on your heartstrings and the soulful Americana takes you to a fairytale dreamland, where Maria serves the drinks and Johnny drives you home in his Papa's pickup truck. The evening was like a dream, a moment in time. Spellbinding, powerful, ebullient.

The band played 28 songs. That's right, 28. B-Sides like 'Halloween' made the set and also old classics '1930' and 'We Came to Dance,' all greeted with the same degree of exuberance and delight from an adoring crowd. 

I was indeed mesmerised and amazed at how tight the band are, the quality of the songs and the passion of the frontman. I did not want the show to end but after the best part of two hours, the final chords of 'The Backseat' played out and I knew the cold, Cardiff night awaited me. I was not sure what else did out there and as I made my way through the plethora of chip boxes and WKD bottles strewn throughout the centre, I knew I would be ok. Yes, I was a few hundred quid down, thanks to a remarkable amount of travelling, I was anxious to be in a city so full of people yet be completely on my own, however hope springs eternal. I knew I would always have the music and I will always have the songs, no matter what life throws at me. 

Getting back on my feet was a journey but I believe this night was perennial in sparking hope and starting the momentum. I know now, 'I'd been shaking in the hands of someone who had finally had enough,' but I also knew there 'was someone out there feeling just like I feel.'
Thanks Brian, Thanks Gaslight. 

Sunday 21 September 2014

Songs of Innocence - U2

May I just temper this review with the information that I have always loved and adored U2. During my formative years, they taught me about the world outside of my reach. The Joshua Tree needs no introduction and driving through the Mojave Desert with the opening bars of 'Where the Streets have no Name' pouring out of the radio like liquid gold, will live with me forever.

Then came the powerhouse of Achtung Baby, the necessary change of direction with its Eastern bloc allure and masterful craftsmanship. Zooropa, once again took the band in another more dance-driven direction, blowing my mind in the process and this avenue was further explored on 1997's Pop. Just when you thought the band were out of steam, they deliver an Eastern-fused classic in the form of No Line on the Horizon, proving that U2 can still be relevant in today's saturated market.

And I guess that is the expectation from a band so renowned for defying genre, yet managing to remain true to themselves. Unfortunately, Songs of Innocence does not live up to its predecessors in any way, shape or form. That is not to say, it is a bad album, yet by this band's high standards, it flatters to deceive.

The album begins with the quintessential U2 stadium rocker a la Vertigo, Beautiful Day and Elevation. However 'The Miracle of Joey Ramone' lacks the power and memorability we have come to expect. The verse weaves it's way to a weak chorus and the track feels like it never really gets out of third gear. 

'Every Breaking Wave' is a mid-paced brooder, borrowing heavily from The Joshua Tree's 'With or Without You.' A good song but again despite several listens and much good will, it never reaches its full potential.

The same could easily be said for 'Song for Someone' which is the traditional U2 ballad, but again fails to make the emotional impression of say 'One' or 'Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own.'

Two of the albums stronger tracks are 'Iris' and 'Volcano.' The former again dipping into the trusty formula of Edge's ringing guitar and the rhythm section as always do themselves proud. However Bono's monotone vocal and the endless 'woo-oo-ing' in the chorus, leave a fairly unsatisfying taste in the mouth.
'Volcano' feels like it could be from 'War' or a B-side from an early Concrete Blonde album. A mid-paced grower that explodes into life in the coda with the line, 'You are rock n'roll' and it is this that typifies the issues with 'Songs of Innocence' for me because it is not really rock n' roll. If it is, its the safe version you play in your car when your Mum is in the passenger seat. 

U2 rely heavily on the successes of the past with this record, borrowing and rehashing the groundbreaking sounds that made them what they are. However on this revisit, U2 are no longer defying the odds or indeed, breaking new ground. 

It felt for me, a lifelong fan of the band, like watching a film you loved when you were a kid again. There was excitement, anticipation a real desire for it to be as good as it was the first time around. However, by the end you wonder why you made all the fuss in the first place.

To it's credit it is tightly produced by Dangermouse. Sadly, Penfold's tactical vision appears to be missing. 'Cedarwood Road' is a move away from the archetypal 'U2 sound' and is a fairly satisfying rocky dirge and the album ends with 'The Troubles' a Lana Del Rey-esque soul tune, that dare I say it, lacks any real soul. 

It was a tricky one to write for me this, as I feel like I have just sold out my brother for stealing food to feed me. U2 were the band that defined my formative years and I will always thank them for that. But like Frank Lampard scoring Man City's equaliser against his beloved Chelsea, this U2 album feels like a bit of an own goal. 

Thursday 21 August 2014

Get Hurt - The Gaslight Anthem

The Gaslight Anthem maintain and even augment their status as America's rock n' roll darlings with perhaps their finest album to date. 
This is indeed high praise as it is hardly as if they have been sitting on their laurels during their ten year career. Sink or Swim burst onto the scene with it's raw, punky sound. This was followed by seminal LP The '59 Sound, which won the hearts and minds of a majority of listeners. American Slang continued in much the same vein, while Handwritten was brilliant at times and less memorable in parts also. One thematic trend that has underpinned the Anthem, has been their pointedly american sound and the continuation of the Jersey-style, gritty rock n'roll. For the die-hard fans, this theme remains, albeit in a slightly more diluted format than previous offerings. 

The talk before release (and there was a lot of it), was that the band was trying something new, sonically/musically etc. 'See this band do things they have never done before!' read one e-mail that hit the inbox before it's release; I am still unsure of what it is they mean. The music is slightly different in parts, yet in all honesty, this is clearly still The Gaslight Anthem and what the fans love about them.

The album opens with the raw, brooding 'Stay Vicious' which although is a little heavier and darker than usual, retains a lot of integral Gaslight qualities. Not least, the lyrics where Brian Fallon roars out, 'the arms that used to hold me, well now they have done me harm.' This is the underlying theme of this record; lost love, betrayal and indeed pain. We are of course talking about an album entitled Get Hurt where the front cover depicts a large inverted heart. 

Something is most certainly amiss in the world of GTA, as we begin to learn quickly. In case the listener was in any doubt, Fallon continues, 'I feel just like a murder, I feel just like a gun, I have been shaking in the hands of somebody who has finally had enough.' They say despair breeds creativity, with this album, I have to concur. 

The powerful verse bleeds into a stripped down beautiful chorus where Fallon whispers, 'your black heels kick out the beat of my heart in perfect time.' This is a man who has indeed got hurt and as much as I wish Brian Fallon all the best, the music has been fuel-injected as a consequence.

'1000 Years' is another mid-paced rocky number that keeps the energy of the album up, containing a beautiful refrain and a better chorus. 
The pace of the album changes, however the tone remains the same with title track, 'Get Hurt.' A pioneering ballad that explodes into life where Fallon explains, 'I came to get hurt, might as well do your worst to me,' a shot perhaps at the lover who has ended his relationship. 

The pace returns with another highlight, 'Stray Paper,' which commences with Fallon screaming, 'You better never tell nobody but God, all the things I have seen.' The pattern is indeed emerging of the wounded lovelorn balladeer and this album is his cathartic response. Fallon however is not holding back, where on 2012's Handwritten, he sang about 'too much blood on the page,' this time he spits, 'all my love becomes blood on stray paper.' How times have changed. 

The direct approach continues on 'Rollin' And Tumblin' another foot-stomping corker, where the singer discusses his subject's friends, 'I heard that they been calling me the Great Depression...' A clear, reference to the Economic Downturn when the Stock Market crashed in 1929. He continues the self-deprecating tone and cyclical pattern of the lyrics at the end of the song, where he concludes, ' I hope you got all my letters, signed the Great Depression.' A nod to the misery and depression, he has been labelled with exuding. 

'Red Violins,' 'Selected Poems' and Ain't that a Shame' are solid, rocky album tracks. 'Red Violins' is a grower despite being one of the least exciting songs on the album and 'Aint That A Shame' contains the immortal line, 'I am vicious now honey, cruel and insatiable,' another response to the ever-present theme of the album and the despair the listener is privy to.

'Break your Heart' is the standard Gaslight ballad and does not disappoint  but the album sparks back into life with closer, 'Dark Places.' The final ode to the love he has lost, Fallon delves deep into the heart of the relationship and muses over a powerful,  harmonized sound why it all wrong.

'How many nights did I crash against the waves?' He asks, before digressing, 'I changed and changed and kept on saying, one of these days something inside is going to break.' Perhaps this is a final paean to his love, perhaps he is sounding it's death knell. Either way the album ends on a blistering, emotive high.

Get Hurt, is a powerhouse of songwriting and lyrical brilliance. Just when you think a band have reached the end of the line, as Brian says himself, he didn't think there were any more Gaslight songs, there are and they sound better than ever.

This album is the sound of a boxer up against the ropes, taking the hits and giving their best shots back.  Luckily for music fans the boxer happens to be possibly the greatest songwriter of our generation and the shots hit their target every time. 

Long live The Gaslight Anthem, they have done it again! 


Saturday 26 April 2014

The rise of British Sea Power - Folkestone Quarterhouse April 18th

In a market becoming increasingly difficult to retain autonomy, British Sea Power do just that with flair and guile. The band's thirteenth show in fourteen days, saw them make a triumphant visit to the Kentish harbour town of Folkestone and was a major success for a number of reasons. Firstly they confirmed for me (and the number of hardcore fans that made the journey) that they truly are architects of their own destiny. There is no subterfuge, no radio friendly unit shifters in this set. The Power do as they please, whether it's Sigur Ros-esque emotive balladeering or teasing the crowd with quasi-threats of quitting; they own the stage and captivate their crowd.
It was also a success as not many bands come to Folkestone these days. East is east after all and if the visit is made, it is usually to the Leas Cliff Hall. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but the Quarterhouse is a splendid venue which deserves greater recognition. Modern and compact, oozing out pink neon and is testament to the ongoing regeneration in the local area. The venue though small, exhibited excellent sound quality and was able to handle BSP's notoriously impressive live display.They are after all, a group at the peak of their powers and enjoying every moment.

The group's performance is not so much an assault on the senses but a rekindling of them. Olive trees glimmer with fairy lights as archaic images flash in front of you. In some respects, you feel like you could be in a Sicilian orange grove sipping on a limoncello, such is the grace of the stage show.
This is typified by the slowburning, instrumental opener 'Heavenly Waters' that ebbs and flows into a confident crescendo of guitar, drums et al. The band continue to glide through their set with aplomb. These are master craftsmen after all, steering the way through old classics such as 'It Ended on an Oily Stage' and 'Carrion' while also playing newer offerings such as the mid-paced 'Machineries of Joy' and 'Zeus.'

The set reaches a heady climax during the foot-stomping 'Remember Me' and pro-immigration sing along 'Waving Flags' then again changing pace for a powerful rendition of 'The Great Skua.' Before you know it, the band are off and saying their goodbyes and the intense following has fizzed into life, demanding more. And more is what you get at a British Sea Power gig. More tunes, more chanting and more...bears. That's right folks, before the crowd have time to lay eyes on the intense finale the Wilkinson brothers are offering up, Ursine ultra, an 8 foot black bear, is making his way though the crowd and towards us with surprising speed. He is accompanied by a smaller, yet still impressive polar bear much to the delight of the pogo-ing, elated crowd around me. I was just thankful I was sober as panic may well have set in had a whiff of the barmaid's apron been taken.
All that we had time for was a visceral version of 'No Lucifer' and Jan Wilkinson throwing himself into the crowd to be ably surfed to the back of the Quarterhouse auditorium and carefully returned, before the band were linking arms and bowing to the grateful crowd at the end of another successful show and tour.
If you haven't seen British Sea Power, I highly recommend it. As a band they represent traditional British quirkiness and are at the peak of their powers, Even if they are not your particular cup of earl grey, where else in Britain would you find yourself dancing with an 8 foot black bear on a Saturday evening?

Tuesday 17 December 2013

"What do you expect for £25?" The Libertines Reunion - Hackney Empire, April 12th 2007

Did you know that One Direction have their third autobiography out in time for Christmas? I watched a brief news clip of semi-pubescent girls screaming and crying, whilst Harry with his hairspray hair et al, bowled into a room waving the book in question. I mean, can it get any worse? Is there a clearer insult to British music than these clowns having a third, successful book out? It is apparently called "Where We Are" and documents, well you guessed it. 

What can these cocky, little gobshites actually have to tell us that is insightful or has any meaning? "I was a mouthy little prat at school, then some record company bigwig saw that I could dance and sing at the same time without falling over. The rest, thanks to the terrifying state of modern music, is history."

As such, I wanted to talk about a night that had all the beautific, poignancy for me as some of the greatest shows of the modern era. U2 at Slane Castle, Oasis at Knebworth, The Led Zep reunion all had great significance, as did Peter Doherty and Friends at the Hackney Empire on April 12th. Granted the title does not have the same tub-thumping wow-factor but for a small and hardcore following, the planets aligned to perfectness, for just one night only. 

This was Peter's second night at the Empire, Hackney being his spiritual home since the fall out the drugs, the 'shambles etc. The first night he had performed, duetting mainly with Alan Wass and Burt Jansch before being joined by the likes of Kate Moss (his then girlfriend), The General and rapper Lethal Bizzle for an eclectic set.  

The buzz surrounding the second night was that their could, potentially, be a Libertines reunion on the cards. This would have been the first reunion since the problematic split of Carl and Peter in late 2004 and something of course fans still pine for, even as we move into 2014 (for the record - the pair have not been in contact for at least 6 months sadly). 
I was holding my breath and a rather inebriated Wass, regaled us with stories in the pub behind the venue in the lead up to the show. He also performed a few tracks with the enigmatic frontman in the first half of the set, while one of Peter's many 'friends' painted a large, swirling picture as the music played beside him on stage. Quite bizarre. 

The crowd were of course seated and well behaved, but the acoustic show tranquillity was beginning to grate on me and I headed to the bar for further lubrication. I remember Peter tuning his acoustic guitar, before announcing to the crowd, "You have been waiting for this moment. Carlos Barat!" Cue a cacophony of screams and cheers as people got to their feet and made their way to the stage. Sadly though, Peter was just jesting, or so it seemed. "What do you expect for £25?" joked Peter, who despite the fuggy haze of addiction, is always able to pull out a dry quip when required. 

A moment passed, then from the left-hand corner of the stage, Carl Barat sauntered on wearing a rather dapper Dior Homme suit and a grey trilby, much to the elation of the Hackney crowd. It was like watching an Old-Beatles video, people climbed over one another, forgetting theatre protocols to snap on their phones and be part of this moment in British music history. 

One thing of note, was that as soon as Carl arrived there was a bond, bonhomie (call it what you will) between the artists that unfortunately has not been witnessed since. They were glad to do this ad-hoc show and it most certainly showed in the setlist that followed. Armed with just two guitars, but a theatre full of adoration and good will, they ripped through a set, comprising a number from 'Legs 11' and 'Up The Bracket,' with only 'What Katie Did' (a song Carl wrote for Peter) making it from their latter material.  

 The set list played was: 

'What A Waster'
'Death On The Stairs'
'The Good Old Days'
'What Katie Did'
'Dilly Boys'
'Seven Deadly Sins'
'Tell The King'
'Don't Look Back Into The Sun'
'Dream A Little Dream Of Me'
'Time For Heroes'
'The Delaney'

The songs were purely fan favourites and it showed how much, the pair wanted or even needed to play them after two or more years in the wilderness. Lets not forget, these two were the future of British music. They saved us from Oasis and derivative, dull, coke-addled British rock tripe. They were genuine, they cared and tonight that was all that mattered. 

It was a night of romance and nostalgia. Carl tap-danced his way through 'Dream a Little Dream...' 'Seven Deadly Sins' was played with heart and soul, 'The Good Old Days' felt rather than an ode to regret, a paean to a new future. A song of hope. 

Peter and Carl disappeared after an emotional 'Albion' a song rumoured to have been featuring on the third Libs album, before the band famously imploded. They returned for a raucous version of 'The Delaney' as the crowd jumped and danced wildly as if it was 2002 all over again. 

Finally, Peter and Carl left the stage arm in arm, triumphant, with the world once again at their very feet. A buoyant, jubilant crowd raced around to the back of the venue, where the boys continued the show, with an acoustic version of 'Cant Stand Me Now,' the crowd outside now a good 300-strong all singing along in fine fettle. Kate Moss made an appearance at the window smiling; the world as they say, was at one. 

The night was of course beautiful because it signified hope. Like Gatsby's 'orgiastic future' represented by the green light, The founding Libertines ,arm in arm, beer in hand, representing that perhaps all rock n' roll feuds, no matter how bitter, can be overcome. 
Sadly to this day, we still wait for the long-term reunion the fans want. We are now knocking on the door of 2014. Peter lives in Paris and with Babyshambles returning triumphantly with 'Prequel...' it still seems unlikely. It appears that both parties have ruled out another money-spinning summer like 2010, but while there is still fire in Carl's belly and breath in Pete's lungs, there is a green light, a hope that The Good Old Days, may yet return.