Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Queens Hall, Edinburgh, 28th Sept 2014

Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Everyone will have probably heard Sophie's earlier works from her days as a disco diva. You will definitely know Murder on the Dance Floor, but there are about 4 or 5 other tracks from the late 1990's/early 2000s that you will have tapped your toe to on Radio 2, or if you're old enough, strutted your stuff to, on the dance floor - e.g. her cover of Cher's "Take Me Home"

There have been a number of collaborations and albums since that time, which I have to confess I have not really heard in detail, but the release of Wanderlust in Jan 2014 definitely did catch my ear. All the songs on the Wanderlust album were co-written by Ed Harcourt, who also produced the album, and his input has been beneficial in my humble opinion.

At the allotted time (21:00 ish) the band took their places, the packed Queen's Hall audience went wild as Sophie skipped on, dressed in red (matching the initial lighting). She said "Hi Edinburgh" and went on to talk about enjoying her previous Scottish gig at Oran Mor earlier this year. Many of the die-hard fans at the front had been there too, and cheered enthusiastically. 

The band launched into Birth Of An Empire, an eastern sounding film-score-sort-of-song. The vocals were good, and the keyboards and twin violins made this a great opener.
Until the Stars Collide was next, highlighting just how good Sophie's vocals are live. 

In the next break, Ellis-Bextor took time to chat about life on the tour bus (a very large dark-windowed vehicle parked just outside the Queen's Hall) and the previous night's drink fuelled conga injury to Ed Harcourt. He raised his hand and smiled sheepishly.
She also made a self depreciating reference to her appearance on Strictly Come Dancing and said that her stage moves had not improved despite intensive training last year. 

In fact, she worked the stage very well, always quirky and flirty, keeping the crowd entertained, moving very confidently and providing excellent vocals throughout. 

Runaway Daydreamer, The Deer And The Wolf and Young Blood that followed were all considerably better than the album versions, and When The Storm Has Blown Over was simply beautiful. You could see why Sophie and this group line-up had won Best Live Act prize at the AIM Awards in Sept 2014.

The crowd were then given the opportunity to choose between a Britpop or 80s cover. The choices were:  Do You Remember the First Time? (Pulp) or True Faith (New Order). There was no contest in the mind of the audience, and the version of True Faith they performed was really excellent - I wish there was some web footage to share here.

Another cover, this time an Ed Harcourt track from his album Lustre provided an opportunity for Ed to take lead vocals with Sophie backing him. 

A seriously rocking version of 13 Little Dolls had the crowd bouncing, followed by Love Is A Camera and Cry To The Beat Of The Band, this completed the first set. Sophie dashed off, the band played on to complete "Beat Of The Band", and then they too retired.

Disco Negligee
They all returned after much audience noise. Sophie had slipped into "something more comfortable" (a disco negligee I think) and gave us a fabulous rolling medley of all the disco hits ending with "Murder".  The Queen's Hall was jumping and sweaty hot, especially at the front of the stage. Finally they came to a finish and both Sophie and Ed dashed off stage, while the rest of the band took the tumultuous applause.

But still no house lights. Would there be another encore?

Sophie and Ed unplugged
Suddenly there was cheer from further back in the hall, and there were Ed and Sophie standing in the middle of the crowd, at the mixing desk, on a raised platform. 
The crowd went wild, but eventually quietened down after much shushing, as Ed strummed the guitar and Sophie began to sing Interlude:
It's clearly plain to see
The sun is breaking through the clouds
I'm falling through a dream

You could have heard a pin drop (with the exception of the drunken muppet next to me who felt the need to scream "We love you Sophie" half way through the song. 

Surprisingly excellent gig (well it was for me, as I'd never seen Ms Ellis-Bextor perform live before) and the adoring audience left at speed to be first in line at the merchandise stall, where Sophie had offered earlier to give kisses and sign anything we wanted. Glorious night.


Sophie Ellis-Bextor – vocals
Seton Daunt – guitar
Ed Harcourt – backing vocals, guitar, keyboards
Richard Jones – bass
Gita Langley – violin
Rosie Langley – violin 

Birth Of An Empire
Until The Stars Collide
Runaway Daydreamer
The Deer And The Wolf
Young Blood
When The Storm Has Blown Over
True Faith (New Order cover)
Wrong Side Of The Sun
When the Lost Don't Want to Be Found (Ed Harcourt cover)
13 Little Dolls
Love Is A Camera
Cry To The Beat Of The Band
----- encore ----
Take Me Home 
Lady (Hear Me Tonight)
Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)
Sing It Back
Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer)
Murder On The Dancefloor
--- final track ---
Interlude (Acoustic Sophie and Ed)

Ella The Bird 

The support was Ella The Bird  - the new alter-ego of Siobhan Wilson, and having seen her perform a couple of times before, I was looking forward to her set. 
She came on quietly, and proceeded to bring a hush to the Queen's Hall.

Ella The Bird (formerly known as Siobhan Wilson)
The first half of her 6 song set was performed at the keyboard, including a lovely heart-breaking version of Joni Mitchell's Case Of You.
Her gentle voice, breathy and intimate, soared at times to bring smiles of delight from the audience.
She then picked up her guitar for the remainder and finished off with the crowd pleasing favourite All Dressed Up. 

Need more info on the full setlist

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

First Aid Kit and Jo Rose

Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow. 16th Sept 2014

This was my first ever visit to the Old Fruitmarket venue in the Candleriggs area of Glasgow. Beautiful venue and pretty good acoustics.
Old Fruitmarket

First Aid Kit

Indie/folk band First Aid Kit consists of Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg, who have been gathering fans since the release of 'Drunken Trees' EPs in 2009. They then released two albums ‘The Big Black and The Blue’ and ‘The Lion’s Roar’. I first heard them on a late night Radio 6 Music playlists back in 2010 performing Screw Me Up And Throw Away, and made a note to find out more about them (* See note at bottom and comments related to this track)
First Aid Kit

This tour is to promote their latest album ‘Stay Gold’ released in June 2014.
The lineup for this gig was:
Klara Söderberg - Vocals, guitar
Johanna Söderberg - Vocals, keyboard
Melvyn Duffy - Pedal steel, guitar
Niclas Lindström - Drums

The two men in the band, Melvyn and Niclas came on to a recorded backing tune, more ambient than anything else, and settled into their seats, gradually adding some steel guitar and drums to the mix before Johanna and Klara burst onto the stage.

The venue was pretty full and their arrival was greeted enthusiastically by the very mixed crowd. I was quite impressed by the 1970s (and dare I say Abba) inspired outfits :-)
They kicked off their set with Stay Gold, the title track from the new album and also the wording on Klara's very new guitar strap. It was a good start - the sound was great, the harmonies excellent, and Melvyn's pedal steel guitar was glorious (note to self - investigate more Melvyn Duffy).

Klara tends to take the lead in crowd interaction, and after the opener she thanked Jo Rose for opening for them, and mentioned that he was ok (see details below). She talked about the beauty of the venue, their new album produced by Mike Mogis and introduced the band.

Blue was next with such beautiful harmonies. They are, in my opinion, more country than folk, but the new album definitely mixes up the genres a little more than previous offerings.

The Waitress Song sounded like a sweetly sung diary entry:
I could move to a small town, and become a waitress
Say my name was Stacey and I was figuring things out
See, my baby, he left me and I don't feel like staying here tonight

It's hard to explain the attraction of First Aid Kit to someone who has never heard them, but the next couple of tracks would be a good place to start. Shattered and Hollow, and Cedar Wood have melody and harmonies to die for. At several points the pedal steel and the soaring harmonies made me think of an unlikely alliance between Gram Parsons and the Cocteau Twins.

It was hot, damn hot, in the Old Fruitmarket and Klara took a break to swig from a 2 litre bottle of "sugar free" Irn Bru, much to the delight of the crowd. She passed the bottle to Johanna, saying "we can't get this in Sweden - have a taste". Johanna impressed everyone by drinking the best part of a litre!

Klara and Irn Bru

The next track was Ghost Town and they did this from the front of the stage, no microphones, and guitar unplugged. This was obviously a well rehearsed move, the vocals were strong, and slowly but surely the crowd began to sing along until by the end Klara let the audience do some on their own! This was one of the real highlights of their set, and it sent shivers down my spine.

Johanna and Klara unplugged
My Silver Lining was good, but there was a fluffed line or two. In the Hearts of Men didn't start at all, as Johanna lost the intro and asked to do something else, but these were very minor and the rest of the performance was polished perfection.

One of the other highlights was the Jack White cover Love Interruption. Melvyn abandoned his pedal steel for some real rock guitar and the crowd were jumping.

The Lion's Roar was an uptempo finish to the initial set, and they rounded off the encores with their cover of Paul Simon's America, Master Pretender and Emmylou, a real crowd pleaser.

Stay Gold
King of the World
Waitress song
Shattered and Hollow
In the Hearts of Men (abandoned)
Cedar Wood
Ghost town
My Silver Lining
Love Interruption (Jack White cover)
Heaven Knows
The Lion's Roar
-- Encore --
America (Paul Simon cover)
Master Pretender
* Screw Me Up and Throw Away is not by Johanna and Klara, but rather a Spanish duo of the same name (Agnès Aran and Carles Querol). So I was mistaken when I began to investigate the Swedish duo on the strength of this late night listening, however the internet is full of references attributing the song to the Swedish Duo. Anyway, thanks to my anonymous contributor for pointing this out.

Jo Rose

Jo Thomas Rose is a singer-songwriter from Manchester. He was previously a member of the alternative rock band Fear of Music. His debut solo album Spurs was released on 21 August 2014. 

Jo Rose

Jo has recently been working closely with Klara of the Kit on a few projects, and I did hear from someone in the crowd (obviously someone with a lot more music related info than me) that there is a romantic connection between the two.

He came on stage to a warm, but not rapturous, welcome, and chatted away quite happily for a while. Jo is quite quietly spoken (more American than Manchester), but really did engage with the audience. He talked about the new album and how it was available for download or as a CD from the merchandise stand at the back. He even mentioned that we might download it from bit torrent or another freebie download site, but he hoped not. He mentioned that Klara (from the Kit) was on a couple of the tracks.

Thoughtful, and often clever lyrics, a good voice (belied by his soft spoken tones) and some neat acoustic guitar made this a perfect opener for First Aid Kit. 

I really enjoyed his set, particularly The King Of Your Blue Eyes and I'm Yr Kamera

However, after saying he'd see everyone at the merchandise stand a little later (no need to buy, happy to shoot the breeze) he seemed a little distressed, constantly touching his head or adjusting the mike stand, and mid-way through his final song, he collapsed onto the stage, face first onto his still strapped on guitar. Turns out he is epileptic, and this was a short fit, possibly brought on by the heat in the hall. 
There was a long break while the medics (from the venue and the crowd) attended to Jo, and then he was lifted into a standing position supported by the stage crew to much applause from the crowd and helped off stage.

This appeared later on his Twitter feed:

Without You
The Maiden name
King Of Your Blue Eyes
Another Name For Mercy
Terrible liar
I'm Yr Kamera
Balcony Doors