Category Archives: rock music

➤ Truly a once in a lifetime evening of pure joy with David Byrne

Q MAGAZINE’S REVIEW SAID: “This unprecedented mindmeld of modern dance, avant-garde theatre, art installation, soul revue and carnival parade makes the conventional rock show seem as old-fashioned as music hall. Most artists don’t get to reinvent the pop concert once in a lifetime. Byrne has done it twice.” Here’s a brief taste of David Byrne’s sensational American Utopia world tour which during 2018 has played 13 dates in the UK (London, Brighton, Nottingham and Manchester this week) and moves on through Europe to Australia. These innovative concerts have won unprecedented rave reviews from critics on national newspapers and music press: “mind-blowingly meticulous and awe-inspiring”, “arguably the most acclaimed live shows of the year”, “the best live show of all time”. All true IMHO. Byrne’s 22 numbers were drawn from this year’s critically acclaimed album American Utopia, as well as classics from his solo career and the 1970s with the mould-breaking Talking Heads. All were choreographed to create a continuous visual and musical river of rhythm.

We’re happy to borrow the video above, shot by Cazza Gee close-up to the stage at London’s Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith (20.6.18) to convey the joyous free-form energy of the staging by Byrne and his 11-strong band.

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American Utopia: David Byrne with his nimble barefooted 11-strong band, heavily biased towards percussion. Photo by Andrew Whitton

➢ Former Blitz Kid and singer Andy Polaris reviews Byrne’s show in full at his own website, but here are his highlights. . .

The glowing five-star international reviews for David Byrne’s ‘American Utopia’ tour 2018 meant there was genuine and palpable anticipation surging through the 4,000-strong audience packed into the Brighton Centre this week.

The set opened with a vast empty stage, only a small table and chair with a grey-haired casually suited Byrne seated and singing to a plastic brain which he held aloft. He looked like the coolest science teacher explaining its merits, albeit barefoot and to a much more appreciative adult-education class. He was joined onstage by similarly attired backing vocalists Chris Giarmo and Tendayi Kuumba who we quickly realised, along with the rest of the 11-piece band, were agile in their dual role as musicians and dancers. It was the realisation that with Annie-B Parson’s sophisticated and at times elaborate choreography (especially for the backing vocalists) this was far from standard fare. I then remembered the work Byrne did with dancer Twyla Tharp in the 1980s, and realised this show has become a logical next step in the imaginative presentation of his eclectic catalogue. . .

The standouts were many but the surreal when released ‘Once In A Lifetime’ crackled with almost evangelical zeal as Byrne flung himself around on-stage… Against giant dancing shadows like a Busby Berkeley musical number, ‘Blind’ was given brassy punch and brought energetic solos from its talented percussionist pool… The opening guitar chords of ‘Burning Down the House’ did exactly what it said on the label… ‘Everybody’s Coming To My House’ exuded an inclusive party feel which Byrne explained was also matched by his band’s origins from all around the world. Personally I loved ‘Born Under Punches’ and ‘The Great Curve’ because ‘Remain in Light’ is one of my favourite albums. . . / Continued at apolarisview

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American Utopia: David Byrne’s troupe cast dancing shadows during the Talking Heads song Blind. Photo by Andrew Whitton


➢ Dorian Lynskey for Q magazine joins the tour in Paris and talks to the former Talking Heads singer about its genesis

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➤ Hadley v Spandau: Whose superb band is paying tribute to the other?

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The Hadley Band: making magic at the London Palladium

WHEN IS A TRIBUTE BAND NOT A TRIBUTE BAND? And what is it paying tribute to? Tribute to the first band, or to the singer, or to the songs?

When the star vocalist from the band that’s being tributed jumps ship to lead his own new team of musicians, does he become a tribute to himself? When half his live playlist consists of songs written for the first band, he is clearly paying tribute both to those songs written for him and to that band who made them chart hits half a lifetime ago in the Swinging 80s.

This is the conundrum that the former Spandau Ballet vocalist Tony Hadley found himself enacting last week as he sang to a sell-out audience at the UK’s most prestigious home of live entertainment, the London Palladium. His evident pleasure on-stage paid tribute to the songs written for his rich baritone voice and which fit him like favourite gloves. For a full two hours Tony gave a relaxed performance, smiling, waving and calling out to fans in the audience of 2,300.

It was a blast! But why should hearing Hadley in full fig at the mighty Palladium come as a culture shock? After all, his last tour fronting Spandau Ballet only four years ago revealed that the voice was growing magnificent in its maturity. For his own reasons he parted with his band of schoolmates a year ago. When his seven-date Talking to the Moon tour reached London, his presence dominated the stage, and he paced to all sides to josh with the audience and got on down miming to the drums, just as he once did alongside Spandau’s John Keeble.

The fact is that Hadley’s voice was very much the signature of the Spandau sound for 38 years. His former bandmates have recruited Ross Wild as their new vocalist and hit the road with their Next Line tour, also this month. So, with Ross having had to learn the entire repertoire of old hits, does all this now mean that he and the original musicians in Spandau have become the tribute band?!?!

Fans of both factions have been very vocal on social media: Tony’s claimed that his voice has taken the Spandau brand with it into the very tight Tony Hadley Band. At the Palladium, we heard familiar Spandau classics fizzing with new energy and melodic detail – numbers such as Chant No 1 and Only When You Leave moved along at a pace. An acoustic version of I’ll Fly For You delivered quite an electric treat as a seated duet with percussionist Lily Gonzalez.

In the Spandau camp, supporters have welcomed Ross as a rejuvenating new broom after seeing how he has raised the Ballet boys to fighting form. Though his voice has surprising range, it’s his lighter register that has woven gentle poetry into the more emphatic lyrics, for example, in Through the Barricades.

What we can say with confidence is that suddenly Britain boasts two superb bands at the heights of their powers, both refreshing a back catalogue that was in need of new life. If you like this blue-eyed soul music, you have more choice than ever now to enjoy it. And on Monday Spandau gives Ross his big chance to win over more fans at the huge Apollo Hammersmith, as he has already done at five concerts in Italy and Holland.

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Hadley at Palladium: fluffing the lyrics to Chant No 1

MEANWHILE BACK AT HIS PALLADIUM TRIUMPH. . .

❏ Big Tone took care not to spoil the genial mood with any remarks about splitting from Spandau – except laughing loudly after forgetting the words during a high-octane version of Chant No 1, then after finishing Highly Strung, just shrugging “I still don’t know what it’s about”. To Cut A Long Story Short was first to get the mums and dads to their feet. Despite Tony describing the many white-haired couples as “blokes dragged along by wives”, many of those men were happily rocking on their feet and mouthing the lyrics. During Spandau’s chart-topping True, Tony merely pressed the right button to initiate a very funny singalong by everyone present.

Equally impressive was the other half of his set-list which showcased his own consummate solo album Talking to the Moon and other covers. Tone’s giant cadences were most assured on vibrant numbers such as Tonight Belongs to Us, and Every Time, and Skin Deep, and several poignant songs that seemed to echo his own independence: Unwanted, and Take Back Everything, and What Am I? – not forgetting his classy closing number, Sinatra’s That’s Life.

On every level of presentation and execution, the Hadley show was superlative. He was utterly at ease fronting his supporting musicians, each of whom found plenty of sequences to let their individual virtuosity shine. For the record it’s right that they should share the credit for a magnificent evening of sheer music: Tim Bye on drums, Phil Taylor on keyboard, Phil Williams on bass, Richard Barratt on guitar, Simon Willescroft on saxophone, Lily Gonzales on percussion and backing vocals. Tributes all round, in fact!

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Hadley at Palladium: mums and even dads on their feet for Big Tone


➢ Tony Hadley makes further UK appearances in the Stepback The 80s Tour with Bonnie Tyler, Chesney Hawkes, and ABC – and on next year to Holland

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2017, Tony Hadley pulls the plug on Spandau Ballet

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2018, Dad band Spandau preen with pride for Ross their newly adopted son

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➤ Glimpses into the minds of Bowie and his photographer

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David Bowie shot in 1972: Six playful frames from the 20 on the 20×24-inch sheet by Barrie Wentzell / RockArchive in the Contacts exhibition


THE CONTACTS EXHIBITION shows off a unique collection of never before seen contact sheets by some of the world’s greatest music photographers. The contact sheet is the photographer’s first look at what they have captured on camera, printed directly from the negatives or roll of film in the era before digital. One sheet might contain 30 shots taken in succession and thus gives an intimate glimpse into a photographer’s working process and editing choices while also sharing candid moments when an off-guard star is caught larking about.

The exhibition makes a trip worthwhile to St Leonards on Sea in East Sussex where all the prints at the Lucy Bell gallery are for sale. We see enlarged contact sequences of David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Oasis, Joy Division, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits taken by renowned photographers such as Jill Furmanovsky, Barrie Wentzell, Don Hunstein, Michael Putland, Carinthia West, Michael Putland, Andrew Catlin, Matt Anker, Colin N Purvor and Brian Duffy.

➢ Contacts runs at the Lucy Bell gallery in St Leonards on Sea until 29 May 2018

➢ Bob Marley, Björk and David Bowie as you’ve never seen them – reviewed by Sam Wolfson in The Guardian

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2018 ➤ Peel on Smith and The Fall: the band by which all others must be judged

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Songwriter Smith fronting The Fall’s first incarnation in 1977. (Photo © Kevin Cummins)

In tribute to Mark Edward Smith who died today, here’s his biggest fan, the legendary deejay John Peel, who was commissioned to summarise the uniqueness of The Fall in The Sunday Times’s partwork, 1000 Makers of Music, published 25 May 1997:

Nothing in the history of pop has been remotely like the Fall. Mark E Smith is not only the writer of lyrics that often boast more ideas in a verse than most bands contrive for an LP, but is also credited with what is often said about Viz, that it isn’t as funny as it used to be. Fall devotees are accustomed to hearing similar assessments of their favourite band but believe that, through a bewildering number of personnel changes, the Fall remains the band by which all others must be judged. Their dozens of records crawl with anger, insults, waspish poetry and roaring guitar/bass/drums/keyboards-driven music some have styled Manc-a-billy after their home town. We the faithful can argue that anything, from 1979’s Live At the Witch Trials to last year’s The Light User Syndrome, might be the best. Smith’s press interviews – ranting against political correctness and students (the song Hey, Student from the 1994 LP Middle Class Revolt is a Fall classic) – make marvellous reading. (Keywork: Hey, Student.)

➢ Frontman of the post-punk band the Fall notorious for his deadpan black humour – Guardian obituary: “Smith performed with a total of 66 band members on 63 albums”

➢ The Fall’s 12 Essential Tracks – New York Times

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➤ Maxine and Marr: heard the deeply serious tale about the actress and the rock star?

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Maxine Peake and Johnny Marr: “You can’t avoid homelessness in Manchester. It touched us both”

Marr: “There are so many things about being working class that never leave you entirely. A certain gratitude. A kind of humility, whether it’s forced on you or not. You could even call it guilt, I guess: working-class guilt.”

“There is a guilt, yeah,” says Peake. “A friend said to me, ‘Are you sure you’re not a Catholic? ’Cos you’re riddled with guilt.’ It’s tied up with a work ethic. You’ve got to be seen to be grafting for what you’re doing. You know what I mean? Constantly.”

➢ Today’s Guardian interview by John Harris delves into the serious stuff behind a blossoming showbiz friendship:

When the musician Johnny Marr met and the actor Maxine Peake in 2014, they “clicked straight away”, bonding over a mission to bring back socially conscious art. The first fruits of their partnership are now about to be released: a five-minute piece entitled The Priest, which has been turned into a short film, co-directed by Marr, set in the centre of Manchester, as a vivid first-person account of homelessness. Here they talk about shamanic rock stars, working-class guilt and how their spoken-word album about homelessness strives to be a modern Cathy Come Home. . .

Marr says of Peake at one point: “I’ve actually met someone who probably works even more than me, if that’s possible,” and Peake’s résumé suggests he’s not wrong. Next year will see the release of Funny Cow, in which she stars as a female standup trying to push her way through the grimness of 70s Britain, as well as the staging at the Royal Exchange of Queens of the Coal Age, the play Peake has written about the true story of four women resisting the closure of a Yorkshire coalmine. . .

PLUS MARR ON THE M-WORD

Marr says he was “crushed and heartbroken” by the vote for Brexit, whereas his former creative partner Morrissey seemed to rejoice in it. Though Marr has remained firmly on the political left, Morrissey now seems to champion the reactionary right. “I’ve stayed the same. I’ve never changed. But … people tend to forget that it was 30 years ago that we were in a band together. Stop and think about it: 30 years. It’s a long time. So I honestly don’t care very much. . . / Continued at The Guardian online

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