Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Nick Cave

Edinburgh Playhouse 28th April 2015

Although based in Brighton these days, Nick Cave gigs north of the border in the UK are few and far between. The last one was in the now sadly defunct Picture House in Edinburgh's Lothian Road during 2009. 

With no support band and a relatively early 20:00 start time, there is a growing murmur of anticipation that turns to applause from the capacity crowd at Edinburgh's Playhouse Theatre as the PA quietens down and the house lights dim.
Despite being billed as a solo tour, Cave's 4-piece band (guitarist and violinist Warren Ellis, bass player Martyn Casey, drummer Thomas Wydler and keyboard player Barry Adamson) are The Bad Seeds in all but name. They take up their places first and start the bass rumble of ‘Water’s Edge’. 
Nick  Cave strolls onto the stage, dressed in his usual dark suit, to a tumultuous welcome.

Critics talk of Cave's "magnetic stage presence" but unless you see the man live, you don't appreciate how captivating he is. With elaborate hand gestures even while playing the piano, spasming off his grand-piano stool during the crashing chords of Red Right Hand, or slow strolls along the front of the extended stage, microphone in hand, pointed shoes just hanging over the edge, crouching down to touch the fingertips of adoring fans, he has the audience in the palm of his hand. 
In genial mood and jousting verbally with the audience, Cave responds to someone in the crowd who shouts "We love you" with "I love you too. Well... I'm think I'm learning to love you" and cracks a smile.
I love you too. Well... I'm think I'm learning to love you
The stage setting is heavy with dark velvet drapery and little hanging firefly lights stretching out into the auditorium, adding to the atmosphere. Cave's music is full of emotional intensity, with lyrical obsessions covering death, religion, love and violence. 'I Let Love In' is excellent and is no exception:
Well, I've been bound and gagged and I've been terrorised
And I've been castrated and I've been lobotomized
But never has my tormentor come in such a cunning disguise

Cave's stage presence is such that it’s easy to forget the considerable talents of his band, until you are faced with Warren Ellis’ guitar solo on 'Mermaids' or his violin on 'From Her To Eternity', Barry Adamson's subtle keyboards on 'Breathless' or the rhythm section on 'Water’s Edge'.

During the intense Higgs Boson Blues, Cave is crouched right on the edge of the stage crooning "Can you feel my hearbeat - Boom Boom Boom" over and over to a couple of lady admirers in the front row, their arms held up towards him. His voice lowers as he repeats "Boom Boom Boom" until it's just a stage whisper. Someone in the crowd yells "Yeah!" really loudly and breaks the tension. Unimpressed, but not at all fazed, Cave responds with a hissing "Boom Boom Boom, Motherf*cker!" to cheers from the crowd.

His ostentatious discarding of the sheet notes on the completion of each song, and the interplay with the other band members (a gesture here, a finger point there) illustrate his irrepressible showmanship. He even pokes fun at himself in his amusingly slapdash xylophone accompaniment to Up Jumped the Devil.
Take it away Warren...
Highlights for me are a mixture of Cave solo pieces on piano - Love Letter, The Ship Song, Mercy Seat, and the full band songs - Mermaids, From Her to Eternity and the set closer Jubilee Street.

The encores (and there were 7 songs in all) see Cave leafing through the a swathe of notes and sheet music trying to choose some favorites to perform. He asks Thomas Wydler, the drummer "What's that song - you know the one where the audience singalong?". The informal nature of the choices and lack of a predefined set-list for the encores makes you feel part of a private performance, and Cave doesn't let us down. Every one is a gem. Finally finishing on the slightly pessimistic, but with echoes of Shrek, track: People Ain't No Good. 

This was almost 2.5 hours of sheer entertainment and musical excellence. Full of sections of pure romance but never too far from a garage punk riff. The mixture of intensity, audience participation and stagecraft is everything you would expect from a Nick Cave live experience.

Water's Edge 
The Weeping Song 
Red Right Hand 
Brompton Oratory 
Higgs Boson Blues 
The Ship Song 
From Her to Eternity 
I Let Love In 
Love Letter 
Into My Arms 
Up Jumped the Devil 
We No Who U R 
Black Hair 
The Mercy Seat 
Jubilee Street 

And No More Shall We Part 
God Is in the House 
Avalanche (Leonard Cohen cover)
Jack the Ripper 
The Lyre of Orpheus 

Encore 2:
People Ain't No Good 

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Hemulens

Wednesday 1 April @ Electric Circus, Edinburgh

Under the auspices of Creative Scotland's Youth Music Initiative, these 3 bands were able to record and launch their music.

The Hemulens

The Hemulens are an Edinburgh based indie band, with members hailing from Scotland, England and Sweden. The band comprises Lewis Lauder (vocals + guitar), Robin Murphy (vocals + guitar), Matilda Sandahl (bass) and Gordon Shearer (drums).

Formed in early 2014, this gig was the promotional launch of their debut single, released 30th March. The single features two songs – Some Kinds of People [Lauder] and She Said [Murphy]. Both were recorded in December 2014 at Castlesound Studios in Edinburgh and produced by Craig Ross (Broken Records).
I'd heard the preview versions of both the tracks and was impressed enough to immediately buy tickets for this gig.
Debut single released 30th March 2015
The Electric Circus was not as busy as I had hoped for The Hemulens, but with the place more than half full, they took to the stage and quickly set up their gear.  Tight timelines with 3 bands in an evening and no roadies to assist, they were ready in 5 mins. 

First song was Look Left Step Right. Loud powerful intro, followed by some restrained vocals and guitar and then full band participation, including ooh ooh ooh backing vocals. Lovely Rickenbacker guitar work and lead vocals from Robin Murphy.
Lewis Lauder, Gordon Shearer, Matilda Sandahl and Robin Murphy 
Having two lead vocalists, and two main songwriters, The Hemulens setlist is quite varied, not in quality, which for a relatively new band is consistently high, but rather in delivery. Murphy's voice is the more melodic, but Lauder has an angst in his voice reminiscent of Tom Verlaine and Television. Shearer's exuberant drumming and Sandahl's understated Gretsch bass both underpin a really tight playing unit. 

The thing that stands them apart, from many other indie bands on the scene just now, is the quality of the songwriting. 

Highlights for me were Eve's Dressed In Red (definitely future single material), and the single launch tracks She Said and Some Kinds Of People.  Some Kinds Of People had glorious Gibson guitar riffs and vocals, while She Said had a lovely driving rhythm, more good guitar work and a slightly more melancholic feel, but drew the crowd closer.

The track Kane, which Murphy announces as "this is one of our newest songs" was wonderful. If this is the standard of their new material, I can't wait for the next release.

Bearing in mind that I'd only heard brief previews of two songs before this gig, I was really impressed. On this showing The Hemulens already have enough quality material to release a good album. A point which I mentioned to Robin Murphy after the gig. He said they'd love to - they just need the money and the time together to do it. 

Help them out and buy the single here https://thehemulens.bandcamp.com/ and when they're headlining bigger venues in the future, you'll be able to impress your friends with "Oh yeah, I've known about The Hemulens since early 2015 - I've got their first single!"

(please feel free to add corrections in comments)
Look Left Step Right
It's Not Easy
Eve's Dressed In Red
She Said
Some Kinds Of People 


Empire By Day  

Empire By Day are an emerging four-piece from Edinburgh. The band consists of Conor Joss on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Scott Cowie on lead guitar, Kieran Lewis on bass and Cameron Barnett on drums. They previously released their Silver Linings EP in July 2014 but this was the launch of their new single Mirrors released 23 March 2015

Empire By Day were the headliners at this gig to launch their new single Mirrors, and had a good following of friends and family. There was some good natured banter as the lads took to the stage, but they didn't waste time launching into Fade Out, from their 2014 Silver Linings EP. 

All their songs provided interesting degrees of light and shade, with quiet interludes of minimal guitar and melodic vocal harmony breaking up the powerful bass, drum and guitar riff driven sections. Scott Cowie's riffs and Conor Joss's vocals regularly provided melodic catchy hooks. 
Got Me Down, Young and Mirrors were my favourite songs on the night.

Mirrors reminded me of The Blue Nile in style and vocal delivery, and the guitar sequence on Got Me Down could have been a Two Door Cinema Club tribute, but there is no hint of deliberate emulation, the lads always put their unique stamp on each song. 

Smile of the evening was when bass player Kieran shouted something to the cheery hecklers, but we couldn't quite hear what he said. Conor Joss responded "I don't know what he said, but it was Kieran so it probably wasn't funny". Cue "Oohs!" from the crowd.

Empire By Day are destined to be better known. Try to catch them while they're still playing the small venues. 

Fade Out
Got Me Down


The Causeway Trio

Causeway Trio are a three-piece band from Edinburgh blending Scottish traditional music with a diverse range of influences, from jazz, gospel and rock to 20th century classical, minimalism and Eastern European folk. Some examples here

Pàdruig Morrison hails from the Outer Hebrides island of North Uist, where he was raised playing accordion and speaking Gaelic, developing a knowledge of traditional music from an early age. By contrast, classical guitarist Peter Thornton honed his skills in an eclectic mixture of acts, including a Christian metal outfit and playing trombone for several big bands. The jazz component comes courtesy of pianist and percussionist, David Swan.

Peter Thornton, David Swan and Pàdruig Morrison
They took to the stage quietly and, as the opening act, played to a fairly sparse crowd. Which was a shame as they provided some beautiful music and very eclectic sounds. 
Pàdruig Morrison did most of the chatting, mentioning what the songs were called and which of the trio had written them.

They often played 3 or 4 songs which segued into one longer piece of music, almost like movements in a symphony. They provided a real roller-coaster of influences, as mentioned above, but the compositions which stood out for me were the ones with jazz and Eastern European folk influences.

Glorious stuff, and when they provided combined vocal harmonies on the last song Hay Bales, the audience were enthusiastic in their support. 

Listen here http://www.causewaytrio.com/#!music/c9as