State Magazine » Live Review Music news, reviews, photos, features, films. Wed, 02 Sep 2015 20:10:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Premieres and podcasts from Ireland's foremost music site. State Magazine yes State Magazine (State Magazine) Music news, reviews, photos, features, films. State Magazine Sufjan Stevens — The Helix, Dublin - "We've come to expect nothing conventional from Stevens..." Tue, 01 Sep 2015 10:06:49 +0000 The Helix in one of north Dublin’s suburbs is a strange place to find yourself attending a gig. Surrounded by DCU’s sprawling campus, which itself has been the centre of numerous student gigs, rag weeks, freshers whatevers, etc., the sense that this is a ‘grown up gig’ never quite leaves your mind. Arriving slightly behind schedule State was refused entry until after the first song, a perfectly understandable request no doubt directly from Mr. Stevens himself, but it’s as if we’re attending a performance rather than a gig. Semantics, maybe. Pertinent, definitely.

It’s a subdued atmosphere as Stevens and his backing band solemnly and dutifully play through his new album. ‘Death With Dignity’ and ‘Should Have Known Better’ making early impression on a crowd who seem almost primed with sense of reverential expectancy, all wide eyed with clasped hands. There literally isn’t a sound between songs, applause obviously, but aside from that there is nothing. It’s eerie to say the least. Portentous and strange to say more.

Carrie & Lowell is played almost in sequence. If you weren’t au fait with it you’ll probably find yourself sucked into it’s lulls and swells without even knowing it. The tracks are mesmeric in the extreme, whether you feel like singing along or not (mainly not). Before ‘Sisters’, ‘Vesuvius’ and ‘Bucket of Gold’ bring the set proper to a close there is a full-on Dean Blunt moment of deep, deep electronic pulse with nothing but spinning mirror-balls providing light.

An encore brings some slightly more familiar songs and the giddy little utterances from people as they recognise them speaks volumes. We’ve come to expect nothing conventional from Stevens and as his tale of hiking and rainbows in Dublin ends, there is more shock at the fact that he spoke than anything else. ‘For the Widows in Paradise…’, arguably the night’s highlight, there are a few ill-judged shouts of appreciation. Even when being praised Stevens looks awkward and uncomfortable; his dancing says differently but he doesn’t respond to the shouts of “I love you” from the front row. Finishing with ‘Chicago’ and with a theatrical bow to boot, Sufjan Stevens leaves the stage with a wry and appreciative smile.

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Sufjan Stevens was photographed by Kieran Frost for

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Kíla —Whelans, Dublin - "Transcending the now..." Fri, 28 Aug 2015 15:17:48 +0000 Do you remember your first time? That moment when your innocence was lost? When you stepped across that line, that Rubicon that couldn’t be uncrossed? A formative, life changing rite of passage that meant you would never be quite the same again. My moment of de-flowering found me leaning against a canteen wall out in UCD in the halcyon days of the early ’90s. Way back when nobody had an arse in their trousers, all one had for warmth was a threadbare lumberjack shirt on ones back, a pair of docks on the feet for ballast (to stop the slightest breeze from blowing your skinny ass away), a 2 litre of Linden in one hand and a dog on a string in the other. Ah, simpler times for simpler people.

I was but a lowly fresh faced undergrad out for a nights frolicking and merriment, when I was caught unawares and waylaid by a gang of marauding troubadours from South County Dublin. An innocent lad fresh from the bog, I didn’t stand a chance against their wily charms and otherworldly experience. Like a lamb to the slaughter they took full advantage of me on that fateful night.

Yep, we all remember our first time. That moment when a band shook us to the core. When they reached out and hit us full square in the solar plexus, forging an indelible connection. Our eureka moment. All others, and there were to be many others, would pale in comparison. For me it was that night out in Belfield, the first time I had my tiny little mind, body and soul blown by Kíla.

Those raggle taggle gypsies ensnared and enchanted me with their heady fusion of trad, folk, Afro and god only knows what else they threw into the mix. Even at that early stage in their career they were more than a match for those who had pioneered and blazed the trail of Celtic music before them. They were more relevant, global and forward looking than Planxty, less laddish-cock-rock than the Horslips and they had more chops, wit and groove about them than even the mighty Moving Hearts. I was pulled in right from the get-go and they quickly became my go-to band for a bit of the auld craic, damhsa agus ceol. I’ve lost count of how many times I saw them over the next few years, the madness and badness all blurring into one. But I can honestly say that I have never seen them phone it in and that every gig was a great night out that usually  involved copious amounts booze, good times and whatever you’re having yourself.

But, like the good Catholic lad that I am, I lapsed and myself and Kíla parted ways. Not so much an excommunication or a divorce, more like a growing apart. They kept on doing their thing, getting bigger and better at it, and I got caught up in the things that “grownups” are supposed to get caught up in. So it’s with a wee bit of trepidation and a lot of anticipation that this Citizen State finds himself once more in a packed sweaty room, this time Whelans, waiting for Kíla to take to the stage. As I look around, I see a few vaguely familiar faces and a lot of not so familiar, the old vanguard mixing it up with the new.

Kíla assume position and take to the boards with their usual quasi-shambolic seemingly haphazard grace and we’re invited to summon the perennially tardy Dee to stage (somethings never change). Finally, with all eight members sardined on stage, they open with ‘Half Eight/Leath ina dhiaidh a hOcht’ and we’re off. There are a couple of members in absentia tonight; most notably Eoin Dillon isn’t present for piping and whistle duties. His place is ably filled by “James from Shankhill”. And whilst Eoin’s loss is akin to Richards not playing a Stones gig, James is more than up to the task and the looks of delight and disbelief in equal measures on his face are quite infectious.

‘Suas Sios’ follows and the musical moves from simmering to bubbling as Kíla move up through the gears and up the ante.. The pace slackens as we’re invited by Ronan to “talk quietly a little quieter” as they showcase the first of two pieces tonight from the soundtrack of ‘Song of the Sea’. Dutiful attentiveness over and the audience are rewarded with the proggy ‘The Length of Space’. If Neu! ever did a trad piece it would surely have sounded like this. At this stage the dance floor of Whelan’s is a-slithering and a-sliding. The tops of pints ending up splashed and sloshed on the floor, as the good people of planet Kíla, the dancers and chancers, the wasters and the wasted, get their collective freaks on. You could power a small city for a year on the energy being generated by both the band and audience here tonight.

Proceedings continue at a fair clip and climax pre-encore with ‘The Skinhead Reels’ and I swear to Sweet Baby Jesus they almost lift the roof the place. Despite their nods to modernity, there’s something ancient, pagan and intrinsically Celtic about Kíla. They tap into your primordial core as they brew up their musical maelstrom. They reach into your soul and lift you up, transcending the now. The lines between performers and audience blur as they feed of us and we feed of them. Each party driving the other onwards and upwards, inescapably bound together as we become enraptured in the carnival-esque cycle of the ceili. After a quick breather they return with ‘Tog e Go Bog e’. The interplay between Ronan’s direct style of sean-nos nua and his cohorts plaintive vocal responses prove to be as evocative as ever. It’s a perfect ending to what has been an almost perfect evening.

If Kíla didn’t exist we’d have to invent them and we would fail miserably for there’s more magic, mischief and melody between their jigs and reels, Horatio, than are dreamt of in our philosophy. But they do exist and our lives are all the better for it. Go raibh maith agaibh a cairde and see you soon!

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Deerhoof – The Black Box, Belfast - "Admirers have long maintained that no two Deerhoof shows are the same." Thu, 27 Aug 2015 08:43:53 +0000 “That drummer’s on the right side of mental” a friend observes as we watch Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier attack his drum-kit with the relentless, cheerful ferocity of a man with an axe, a vendetta and a spare half hour to kill.

It’s maybe an interesting distinction to make from the “wrong” side of mental, but she’s only reacting to the sheer hypnotic mania of his playing. Saunier’s seemingly crazed syncopated/ dislocated barrage is the engorged spleen of the Deerhoof sound. At the turn of a sixpence, they’ll segue from this frantic Can-with-the-heavy-blues drum-pummelling to mellifluous rhythms, light and regular. That’s when the theatrically diminutive Satomi’s sing-song vocals flutter over the music, like a creepy child reciting long best forgotten nursery rhymes. 

Over 12 albums and 20 odd (very odd) years, Deerhoof are a band who haven’t been afraid to “mix it up”. Cheerfully slashing and crashing styles with such mischievous abandon, that it’s downright endearing. Their wilful refusal to play the rock game (it’s more scissors paper rock in their case) means that they haven’t sanded down the edges of their sound, album after album, like most of their “alternative” contemporaries. Instead, they’ve cleaved to the quaint notion that sounds can and should collide uncomfortably. And collide they do tonight – often several times within the notional bounds of one of their songs.

With the mighty twin guitars of John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez throwing sonic shapes on stage, from atonal chainsaw through barbed wire noise to lolloping Peter Gunn Theme blues attacks, they’re constantly and endlessly interesting. For all their jazz tendencies, there’s also lot of wholesomely conventional riffage contained within the rattle bag of Deerhoof’s sound. In the midst of this warm cacophony, it is the professionally deranged Saunier and the sweetly subversive Satomi that don’t so much steal the show, as openly purloin it in plain view. 

Admirers have long maintained that no two Deerhoof shows are the same. That’s as much to do with the band’s audience interactions as it is with their healthy disrespect of the “set text” of the studio recordings.

Between winning, expertly deconstructed songs like ‘Paradise Girls’ and ‘Perfect Me’, Saunier’s anti-stand-up ramblings at the mike are something of an arresting oddity. Whether he’s taking about his nerves in that slightly whiny affected Emo Philips drawl or babbling thus: “None of the Toronto shows that I’ve ever played have I seen James there. Marie was busy in college… Rory – get your act together man…” it’s all part of the art of the thing.

Equally, Satomi’s idea of a traditional sing along involves getting the somewhat reserved crowd singing “Panda Panda Panda China!” along to the deceptively arrhythmic ‘Panda Panda Panda’ is as awkwardly absurdist as it sounds. It’s part of an encore that also includes an uplifting ‘Oh Bummer’ which concludes in a beautiful feedback loop and ‘Mirror Monster’ – all squelchy, crunching bass, and Satomi’s freewheeling arms, like a mini-air traffic controller. The rapt not rapturous crowd politely calls for more.

“Mixing together! Belfast is ok! But much quieter than last night!” She sweetly taunts us in our semi-soporific awe, but like a lot of Deerhoof tonight, you’re unsure whether it’s just more performance or point of view. We don’t mind either way with an hour and a half of this band.

“I want to put her in my pocket” my enthusiastic female friend pipes up again, in another slightly unfortunate if spontaneous reaction to the wonders on the stage.  But as Deerhoof proved again at The Black Box, you’d be as likely to trouser mercury.

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Mini Mansions – The Workman’s, Dublin - "While their stage may be small, their sound is anything but..." Tue, 25 Aug 2015 23:32:39 +0000 A Monday night slot in one of Dublin’s smallest live venues may not sound hugely appealing to some, but apparently no one told Mini Mansions. Widely praised on their last visit to the capital back in early March – supporting Royal Blood at The Olympia – the Californian trio know exactly what’s expected of them on their return, and they’re in no mood to disappoint.

While the argument could be made that a gig as roundly advertised and quick selling as this would have suited a larger arena, it is one that’s promptly thrown out the window once the band starts to play. ‘Double Visions’, one of the many intensely rhythmic tracks from the excellent The Great Pretenders album, makes for an electrifying opening, with Michael Shuman, Zach Dawes, and Tyler Parkford all displaying their musical and vocal talents in wonderful symmetry. This is followed, much to the glee of the already bouncing Workman’s crowd, by the dainty, upbeat vibes of single release ‘Death Is A Girl’, a song that encapsulates the band’s experimental inclinations as much as their melodic prowess.

While their stage may be small, their sound is anything but as Mini Mansions, now fully announced, treat us to a riveting, thoroughly accomplished performance based as much on delicacy as it is on hard-hitting rhythms. Watching the raucous, multi-instrumental talents of Shuman, combined with Parkford’s whimsical synth and Dawes’ thrusting, at times manic, bass-playing, it’s difficult not to get excited.

Whether they’re blowing us away with explosive noise-rock screamers like ‘Geronimo’, ‘Honey, I’m Home’, and ‘Mirror Mountain’, soothing us into submission with the weirdly mellow sounds of ‘Creeps’ and ‘Heart of Stone’, or enlightening us with impromptu, yet wholly inspired, cover versions of Sparks’ ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and Blondie’s ‘Heart Of Glass’, Mini Mansions emanate an assured level of coolness and charisma that most modern bands could only dream of.

Seemingly oblivious to the uncomfortable humidity levels building in the heavily cramped room, the band remain perfectly poised. A slick rendition of radio-favourite ‘Vertigo’ nicely paves the way for a riveting conclusion that includes a mellow-as-you-like performance of a Brian Wilson-less ‘Any Emotions’, followed by the unmistakably catchy sounds of bombastic album opener ‘Freakout!’

Given the scale of the gig an encore seems unlikely, but in spite of Shuman’s sly admission that the band don’t know any more songs, enigmatic debut album favourite ‘Majik Marker’ provides a fittingly zany conclusion to what has been an intensely captivating performance.

Mini Mansions shot for State by Olga Kuzmenko.

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Paloma Faith – Custom House Sq. Belfast - Winning hearts and minds Fri, 21 Aug 2015 10:00:51 +0000 “She’s not bad.”

“Eh? She’s a bit better than ‘not bad’, sure she’s on fire lad!”


“Yeeeooooo’s right!!!”

It’s true, fellow concert goer – Paloma Faith most certainly knows how to ignite a crowd. So much so, in fact, that the wanton intensity of that signature Paloma ’60s sound must be all too much for a few attendees and we’ll leave that at that.

Bursting on to the stage in Belfast’s historic Custom House Square, Paloma’s urgency seems to first infect her back-up singers –they frantically shimmy in time with our main act and it rubs off on the eight-piece band; standing still is not an option and the brass section give it their all as this introduction transforms into an invigorating spectacle. Did we mention that a lyric hasn’t yet crossed Paloma’s lips?

That’s one of the most inviting elements of this performance. There is little breathing time shared between Paloma Faith and her band – it’s all go, all of the time and despite the content of some of the songs that drip with melancholia and heartbreak – Paloma conducts her audience and musicians, not with hands or theory, but with a soulful enthusiasm that’s surprisingly adept. Vocally confident, Paloma struts, jumps and slides around her arena as the hits roll out, one after another.

Here’s the thing. For a non-fan, this is a surprise. Paloma Faith is that singer who’s been on the Buzzcocks mucking about with Noel Fielding. The singer who’d usually prompt a switching of stations on a wireless that for the past few years has seemed saturated with nostalgia-laden retro pop. But not tonight. Tonight, a different side of this artist shines through and it’s commanding, if not opinion-changing.

Truly a vision of a bygone era, Paloma stands tall and bellows ‘Only Love Can Hurt Like This’, ‘Can’t Rely On You’ and for some reason, a very adequate cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’ that sees a fervent reaction from the fathers and grandfathers chaperoning their young brood to this open air event. Honestly, it rocked. As does the fact that Paloma takes the time to introduce every member of her on-stage entourage and prompts them to improvise a little with their instruments. They’re good at what they do, wailing on guitars and tinkling keys to put their stamp on what’s more or less the Paloma show.

And deservedly so, this has been relentless. The admission that a new album will see the light of day soon and bear more in common with the rendition of ‘Purple Haze’ than her drum’n’bass encore (Sigma’s ‘Changing’) would exacts a distinct wall of yelps and hollers that convey excitement and praise.

Sipping on tea, Paloma Faith is surely spent after tonight’s bold and compelling performance and not only has she enjoyed a loyal fanbase here this evening, but likely changed a few minds.

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Sun Kil Moon – National Concert Hall, Dublin - The Kozelek Conundrum Mon, 10 Aug 2015 15:50:50 +0000 How much you enjoy a Sun Kil Moon gig these days depends on where you stand regarding Mark Kozelek’s recent acts of on-stage self-sabotage. Over the past year, his wholly unnecessary ongoing feud with The War On Drugs and calling a crowd at a music festival a “bunch of fucking hillbillies” could be viewed as comical and frivolous rather than genuinely offensive but his “bitch” jibe at Guardian journalist Laura Snapes at a recent London gig had more off-colour undertones.

Notable music hacks and fans had had enough and decided to stop listening to his music and long-reads were written online about Kozelek’s supposed nasty side but it gives tonight’s show in the plush and sensible surroundings of the National Concert Hall an added edge. What will he say or do to offend the easily offended? As it turns out, not much. The worst it gets is when he takes a potshot at The Edge’s over-reliance on effects pedals. In fact, Kozelek isn’t all that nasty at all, something he is at pains to point out about himself as having a rough-edged charm and that self-deprecation has always been present in his music and live performances.

For the first two songs, ‘Hey You Bastard, I’m Still Here’ and ‘Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes’, Kozelek – with his back to the audience – opportunistically takes command of the venue’s organ, adding a layer of gravitas to two songs that barely need it in the first place. His three patient bandmates are bathed in a dark purple glow on the stage below him, barely visible.  When he joins them, he surveys the first few rows and seems genuinely displeased that, yet again, his audience is made up of mostly thirty and forty-something males. “Get a fucking girlfriend!” he pleads with them and proceeds to count the ratio of men to women in the first row, which only adds to his frustration.

Whatever your views on Kozelek, at least he takes a keen interest in the make-up of his audience and his surroundings. After a somewhat erratic first hour, the show gathers momentum with the confessional story-songs from 2014’s acclaimed Benji album, ‘Carissa’, ‘I Watched The Song Remains The Same’ and the searingly direct ‘I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love’ proving to be the highlights of a three-hour set.  There is a tender tribute to Nick Cave’s recent bereavement with a powerful cover of Cave’s ‘The Weeping Song’. It is delivered perfectly – its conventional, linear structure in stark relief to the unpredictable nature of Kozelek’s own work. During the encore there is a rare, under-rehearsed outing for ‘Carry Me, Ohio’. It contains that unbearably beautiful line: “I’ve burned through so many lovers/So why do I still burn for you?”

It’s sometimes hard to reconcile such lyrical sweetness with the guy who said female journalists just want to “fuck him” and wrote the song ‘War on Drugs, Suck My Cock’ but it’s that old Kozelek conundrum that continues to perplex us all. 

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Ed Sheeran – Croke Park, Dublin - "Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it...." Mon, 27 Jul 2015 11:08:58 +0000 So this is what the mainstream looks like. While charts and record sales may be a nebulous concept, pick your way through the streets leading to GAA headquarters and you get a sense how a platinum album translates in real life. Which means virtually the same as any other large scale Irish show – be it the Script, U2, One Direction, even Bruce Springsteen (and we wouldn’t be surprised if most of the hats and flags balanced on wonky tables everywhere read Garth rather than Ed a year or so ago). The fact that it’s Ed Sheeran that they’ve come to see is still a strange one though. From open mic nights and grime collaborations to studied musicianship and as many shows as he could find to play, he’s not your typical global megastar.

Nor is he your typical stadium act. This is basically the same kind of show as you’ll have seen at any point in his career – one scruffy bloke, a couple of acoustic guitars and an array of loop pedals (exactly the same set up that we saw in a local pub the other night, in fact). It’s a very dressed up version, for sure, but the success of the night still rests on one pair of shoulders. The task has been beyond others before (see 1D here last summer) and, in truth, Sheeran isn’t really up to it either.

The best you can probably expect from shows like this is a big opening, grand finale and a couple of key moments in-between. We don’t really get the first part and those mid set highs are a little short on the ground too. While his dedication to the one man band cause is to be admired, it often fails to cut through in the great outdoors – robbing the songs of a much needed punch. ‘Bloodstream’ manages to connect though, as does the ‘Don’t’ / ‘No Diggity’ / ‘Nina’ medley, and for a while it looks like this might work. Even his Hobbit soundtrack contribution ‘I See Fire’ sounds pretty good.

What the show really needs though is a spot of crowd pleasing and so, for the second night running, Kodaline pop up to wild applause. Clearly another act that the mainstream have taken to their hearts, for us the comparison just makes Sheeran more of a cherishable anomaly. While he stands there grinning with his mop of dishevelled ginger hair, his Irish guests preen and pose their way through the deathly dull ‘All I Want’. At least Glenn Hansard is more on his wavelength, although we could have done without the pub singalong of ‘The Auld Triangle’ and ‘Molly Malone’ – especially when Friday night had seen more restrained readings of ‘Raglan Road’ and ‘The Parting Glass’.

The encore is a swift, stops pulling blast through ‘I Need You, You Don’t Need Me’ and ‘Sing’ that sees the stadium finally explode into life, but – like so many moments in the music industry – just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. For all his “isn’t this amazing” chat, you suspect that Ed Sheeran was just as happy playing in Whelans during the week, or at his two unannounced slots (including Other Voices) at Latitude Festival the weekend before. It’s part of what makes him such an intriguing artist, hats and flags or no hats and flags. With his own label on the way and creative freedom surely on the table, he could well have his cake and eat it.

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Anton Newcombe & Tess Parks – Sugar Club, Dublin - " couldn't ask for a more evocative pairing" Fri, 17 Jul 2015 11:28:53 +0000 As the main man in the acid-fried Brian Jonestown Massacre, Anton Newcombe was a cult figure. He was three parts genius, one part relic, two parts victim of his own volition. As the lead name in Anton Newcombe & Tess Parks (we have no idea why, Parks is the star of the show) he is a band-leader and main songwriter but as a pair they are everything you want them to be – sleazy, fucked-up, detached – all the cool things Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Harry Nilsson and Keith Moon were in the ’60s and ’70s. Specifically those four because as you watch Newcombe and Parks on stage you couldn’t ask for a more evocative pairing where matters of – and I hate this – “cool” are concerned. Eugh.

Anyway, they arrive onstage just after 9pm and after some Mark E. Smith tinkering with everybody’s rigs the gig begins. The most overused cliché in music journalism is probably ‘launched into’. That didn’t happen. Newcombe and Parks don’t launch into anything, they saunter, fall, stagger and roll into songs. Their album, I Declare Nothing, having just been released, provides the entirety of the set’s content and not one of the songs sounds like it could be launched, such is the acoustic, dry, crackling groove each one creates. They don’t ever sound as if they could be launched above 4 feet but they each house the power to completely grab you and shroud you like a straight-jacket. Heads bobbing, shoulders swaying, Parks growling like a caged beast and the crowd are locked in. The only time Newcombe opens his mouth is to sing the odd backing vocal or to talk to the 4-piece band (6 including the front paring) but Tess Parks has no problem with the crowd. “Come on, friends. Drink, dance, join us” she implores to the Sugar Club. The crowd slowly leave their waited-tables and shuffle to the front of the venue which in turn brings out the very best in the band. As the feedback screams at you and the organ whirls into life Parks’ voice becomes the load-bearing pillar at the centre of each song and for anybody unaware of who she was before now, well, we’re not going to forget it any time soon.

As for Anton Newcombe, it would appear that he has finally found a band he can be part of. He WAS the Brian Jonestown Massacre, he gave birth to bands who became bigger than his and saw the Dandy Warhols not just steal his thunder, more club him across the head with his own guitar and steal his soul. Finally he has fulfilled the potential everybody saw in him and doesn’t look like he’s killing himself to achieve the most meager inch of ground. He still looks, tetchy, that’s not going to change, but his calm, assured and dare we say it contented demeanour would suggest that this union with Tess Parks could be the most fruitful of his career. He is a throwback in all the right ways and music needs people like Anton Newcombe so let’s be grateful that we have the actual Anton Newcombe.

Anton Newcombe & Tess Parks photographed for State by Kieran Frost.

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Noel Gallagher – Live At The Marquee, Cork - A fitting tribute Thu, 16 Jul 2015 16:25:45 +0000 At 8 pm, support act The Academic shuffle on to stage. These four young men from Mullingar have a proven talent for songwriting and having seen them on several occasions we can honestly say it’s a pleasure to see them back in The Marquee; the last occasion having supported the Pixies.

The kick drum is loud enough to rattle organs while lead singer Craig Fitzgerald soars above the crowd, his vocals reverberating around the Marquee. Debut single ‘Different’ was an obvious highlight but lesser known tracks like ‘Bear Claws’ provide an ample reaction. Say what you want about the youth and vigour of these lads but our money is on their hooks – before last night we wouldn’t have been able to sing any song, but as soon as that first chorus finishes it seems as though you’ve been singing it for years.

And, after what seems like an eternity listening to playback, the lights dim and the Mancunian rock-legend takes to the stage accompanied by his High Flying Birds. Opening with two tracks from their debut, Noel barely glances at the audience as he plays through ‘(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach’ and ‘Everybody’s On The Run’.

For many, Noel Gallagher is a memory of more vibrant times for rock music and the industry. Gauging the age of the audience, it’s easy to see that not only are they of the Oasis era but that many are still caught in the time machine; nevertheless, the ageing legion know every word to every track. ‘Lock All The Doors’ is NGHFB’s latest single and was apparently over 20 years in the making; “This song was never released by Oasis, but the chorus is so fucking brilliant I never gave up on it” Noel told NME. It’s abundantly clear that Gallagher’s success resides not in his performance but in his penmanship – having written some of the best anthems of the last 30 years, it’s only reasonable to assume he would continue to do so after Oasis and Chasing Yesterday is a fine example of that.

‘In The Heat Of The Moment’, ‘Riverman’ and ‘The Mexican’ are all hard-hitting tracks which are interlaced between a generous offering of Oasis classics. “I assume we’re all Oasis fans here?” Noel asks as the opening chords of ‘Fade Away’ are played. At times it’s hard to tell whether the frontman is really enjoying himself or just going through the motions and whilst stopping between several songs to chat with the front row, one occasion sees a ‘local comedian’ ask “Where’s Liam?” Quick as a whip, the frontman retorts, “Liam’s at home lookin’ at himself in the mirror…unfortunately he’s still not as big a c*nt as you are. Imagine that, imagine being a bigger c*nt than that kid. That blows my mind.” The interaction knocks him off-balance as he proceeds to introduce ‘Dream On’ as ‘The Importance of Being Idle’, but we’ll forgive him this time. 

The crowd reach the height of frenzy for those sing-along tracks which could never be omitted, ‘Champagne Supernova’, ‘Whatever’ and an encore of ‘The Masterplan’ allow us to take vocal control as the rain beats upon the tent outside. The penultimate track of the evening an encore of  ‘AKA…What A Life’ is followed with a final word of gratitude, “it’s been an absolute pleasure playing here, thank you all very much.”

It’s his last words that really show the pride imbued in the music he has created. “Are you ready for our last song? It’s the best one anyway…” and with that, the opening bars of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ ring through the Marquee for what is undoubtedly the biggest Karaoke moment we’ve heard all year in the venue; a fitting tribute to the big top that has given us an amazing run of live music.

It’s been an outstanding year for Live At The Marquee and will undoubtedly be capitalised upon next year but what really struck us was the affinity a lot of bands hold for Cork. It would be easy to claim all those who played were the usual platitudinal, location sycophants but that’s dispelled when you hear the likes of Glen Hansard harking back to his days in Nancy Spains and Sir Henry’s or Noel Gallagher’s memories of Pairc Ui Chaoimh. It’s clear that Cork is a city many artists respect, and, looking forward we’re spoiled for choice with Sounds from a Safe Harbour, Folk Fest and the famous Jazz Festival all arriving in the coming months.

Noel Gallagher photographed for State by Jakob Bekker-Hansen

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Nick Oliveri – Voodoo Lounge, Dublin - " understated yet invigorating kick-start to the week." Thu, 16 Jul 2015 10:30:36 +0000 The man with the most envied shriek in the music business, Nick Oliveri has always been something of a force of nature. It is now 11 years since the former bassist’s controversial exit from international rock superstars Queens Of The Stone Age, and while his old band are continuing to sell out arenas worldwide, Oliveri seems content strutting his stuff on the club circuit.

“My version of acoustic is Death Acoustic!” he bellows as he makes his entrance to an austere Voodoo Lounge stage, announcing his acoustic show based around the live album of the same name. Fully aware of his musical limitations, something he willingly admits to at the start of his set, Oliveri makes full use of his volatile stage presence and incomparable vocal barrages; he jokingly refers to being a “bit coarse” at one point, to bring an otherwise sparse one-man show to life.

Fans of Josh Homme may be loathe to admit, but Oliveri was very much the driving force behind a large percentage of the early QOTSA and Kyuss material, an actuality he demonstrates as he bludgeons his way through acoustic renditions of  ‘Green Machine’, ‘Autopilot’, ‘Another Love song’, ‘….Millionaire’ and ‘Gonna Leave You’, a song he sardonically reminds us he wrote about his ex-wife (the less said about that the better). A willing crowd pleaser, Oliveri probably goes a step too far with the pleasantries by inviting everyone on stage to assist him with Rated R favourite ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer’ – something that probably sounded better in his head than what actually proceeded – but nonetheless manages to keep the audience amused with his frequent quips about drugs, alcohol and girls.

While emphatic performances of ‘The Bloody Hammer’ and new record ‘The Doors Invented Rock n Roll’ keep the fires burning, the gig noticeably lulls as the novelty wears off, the audience beginning to get the impression they’re at a low-key, if extremely vociferous, acoustic tribute act as opposed to a rock concert. Thankfully though, he livens up proceedings before the end with boisterous renditions of The Ramones’ ‘Endless Vacation’ and G.G. Allin’s fittingly sleazy ‘Outlaw Scumfuc’, providing him with ample opportunity to unleash his trademark unhinged aggression.

Following a facetious introduction of his non-existent band, Oliveri’s “encore” (although he never actually leaves the stage) sees him taking audience requests prior to breaking into his own ‘Four Corners’, KYUS classic ‘Love Has Passed Me By’, and ‘Eccentric Man’ by The Groundhogs. A muddled conclusion maybe, but the crowd seem content they’ve gotten what they came for – an understated yet invigorating kick-start to the week.

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The Frames – Live At The Marquee, Cork - Keeping the dream alive Tue, 14 Jul 2015 12:19:48 +0000 Celebrating 25 years as a band is quite a milestone but to do so in front of three sold-out audiences who can recite your lyrics verbatim even more-so. Standing in the audience for The Frames at Live at The Marquee is a sight to behold. Having performed twice last week at Iveagh Gardens, this is not only their last hurrah for celebration but also one of the last concerts to be held this year at the Cork summer festival.

Opening with slow burner ‘Dream Awake’ from Burn The Maps, the crowd build in anticipation as the band transition to the heavy hitting chorus and are welcomed by the sold out Cork audience with a rousing applause. Wasting no time, Hansard immediately starts ‘God Bless Mom’ [Cork, as he sang it] and packs the track with as many references to the accent and the likes of Montenotte to amuse the natives. Over the course of the next 2 hours, the crowd easily overpower The Frames in volume as they bellow lyrics back at the band.

Classics like ‘7 Day Mile’, ‘Angel At My Table’, ‘Lay Me Down’ and ‘Rent Day Blues’ all result in Hansard retiring from the microphone as the chorus’ echoe through the marquee. In fact, there are few songs which aren’t fan favourites; The Frames take very good care of their legion and having seen them on several occasions, we’re confident that their set list for Live at the Marquee is one of the strongest ever. The most famous, ‘Revelate’, ‘Pavement Tune’ and ‘Fitzcarraldo’ all come at the halfway mark of the evening before Colm Mac Con Iomaire and his violin take to the front of the stage to perform a moving instrumental piece using a loop pedal to build upon a beautiful melody – nicely accenting the performance as a whole.

When The Frames return, Glen introduces a face few may have seen on stage before; it’s that of Irish director and original bassist, John Carney. Having originally played on Another Love Song, Carney went on to write and direct ‘Bachelors Walk’ and ‘Once’ to name a few. Walking on stage, guitar in hand, Carney still has a sense of rhythm for the songs he helped hone and does a good job with ‘The Dancer’ and ‘Before You Go’ from their debut album before the group transition into ‘Star Star’ and ‘Charlie & The Chocolate Factory’. The night ends with a performance of Mic Christopher’s ‘Hey Day’, dedicated to the late friend of Hansard, and is followed by a rousing encore of The Auld Triangle.

One of the biggest factors of The Frames success is their love of music as a form of expression – and not only the need to keep that form alive but to share it and repeat it. There’s a certain sense of romance seldom seen from other Irish bands which reiterates that The Frames are an Irish treasure. I once heard that Glen Hansard had a dream that a great Irish library burned to the ground; he woke up the next morning to learn that Liam Clancy had died. Whether it’s true or not, it’s that wonderful charm and cultural pride embedded in The Frames which has seen them through this last 25 years and no doubt will get them through the next.

The Frames photographed at the Marquee Cork by Peter O’Hanlon

]]> 0 St Vincent – Iveagh Gardens, Dublin - "This generation’s Bowie is here...." Mon, 13 Jul 2015 20:05:11 +0000 It rains, the sound is bad and it’s full of scenesters. That’s the mantra of the increasingly vocal sector besmirching the name of outdoor gigs. A glance up at the soupy broth replacing the summer sky this evening, a part of you wants to agree and leave the oasis of Iveagh Gardens to see who’s playing the front bar in Whelans. But you don’t. You wait because this generation’s Bowie is here. Her and Danish support act Mew will seduce and electrify, your heart tells you. The rain will be an inconsequential spittle. There will be no place for that tedious “rain failed to dampen spirits” line here. And maybe, this time, you’ll be right.

It seems to be going to plan as Mew go about their business with all the efficiency and cleanliness you’d expect from four chiselled Scandinavians. Studio-quality renditions of ‘Am I Wry’, ‘Special’ and the helixing vocals of ‘The Zookeeper’s Boy’ all sound the result of a ‘play’ button somewhere backstage, they are so faithful. Alas, this is just a simple combination of good live mixing and hardened gig-fitness. It’s usually our preference to have the non-album colours come across in the live scenario but today it feels somehow fitting for these poppiest proponents of prog-rock.

As crowds go, Mew’s “small but attentive” lot are swelled by St Vincent’s “hipsterfied all-sorts”, many of whom are initially too cool to fully lose it when Annie Clark slinks on stage like the second coming of Ziggy Stardust. This doesn’t last, however, and it’s only a couple of songs in before they’ve been beguiled by Anni-B Parson’s android choreography, the insistent throb of Clark’s immaculate three piece backing band or the centrifugal force of the entire shebang – Clark herself.

Let’s take a moment to digest what we have before us because it’s a rare and exotic species indeed. The electro-pixie look of the 2014 leg of this tour has been ditched and in its wake comes something that is equal parts Joan Jett, Edward Scissorhands and Catwoman. There is an oozing, vampish sexual arsenal behind every footstep but it is when she’s in the throes of another crunching, unruly guitar workout or rolling down the rear-stage riser that you begin to suspect a proper enigma has crash-landed on earth.

Opener ‘Birth In Reverse’ is a robotic ballet of tick-tocking shimmies with guitarist/keyboardist Toko Yasuda. Clark is bathed in golds, purples and blues as she takes to the riser for the widescreen sway of ‘Prince Johnny’, and it is from up here, statuesque before the congregation, that ‘Cheerleader’’s languid climaxes see the air above the audience get punched. ‘Bring Me Your Loves’ shows off a guitar tone as distinctive as any Josh Homme or Jack White. Listen carefully and you’ll hear State and thousands of others sighing.

Yes, it’s been a splendid coup indeed for the outdoor concert experience. By the time of the encore, State has learned of a new-born child that was recently named after this goddess of cool. And there, up on the stage, we continue to watch entranced as Clark is wheeled out on a psychiatrist’s lounger for ‘The Party’. We hope they never find a cure for her.

St Vincent photographed for State by Olga Kuzmenko. Find Hilary on Twitter @HAWhiteK

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Chic — Iveagh Gardens, Dublin - Summer was here... Mon, 13 Jul 2015 16:27:53 +0000 Continuing this season’s run of shows at the Iveagh Gardens, it was the turn of Chic featuring Nile Rodgers tonight. This time round they are doing two shows, with the second down in the Marquee in Cork, fresh from a run of dates in the UK. Very much a feel good atmosphere pervaded the gardens, with the intimate surroundings giving the feeling of a band setting up to play in your admittedly grand back yard. Chic & Nile Rodgers are a regular on these shores, so much so that it’s a wonder Rodgers doesn’t apply for some sort of residency. The Irish love this band and it’s easy to see why, it’s possible to go to an entire Summer of Irish weddings and hear nothing but Chic & Nile Rodgers written / produced / performed songs. That’s a bit of an exaggeration but not much of one. Rodgers could probably make a run for the presidency and do quite well.

The rain thankfully holds off, it makes a half-hearted attempt to dampen the spirits of revelers before the show but is roundly ignored and takes its business elsewhere. A relaxed Nile Rodgers strolls nonchalantly onto the stage a good 2-3 minutes before the band, holding what looks like a video camera, exchanging pleasantries with the crowd. Finally the band arrive, striking in white, and take up their positions and the official announcement is made.

Straight out of the traps Rodger’s guitar shimmers through the brass section as the band launches into an avalanche of disco favourites. Kicking off with ‘Everybody Dance’ they’re straight into ‘Dance Dance Dance’. The band settle into the evening with some extended soloing on ‘I Want Your Love. The next two hours is a showcase of Nile Rodgers and Chic’s 40 odd years in music, with Sister Sledge and Diana Ross firm favourites in the Chic stable. They even make Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’ listenable, no mean feat…

The band are in great form and Rodgers, well known for his love of performing, is clearly enjoying himself. This is a man who’s reaction on being told he had aggressive prostate cancer in 2010, was to walk out the door and do a string of shows in Italy before discussing his options with his doctor. Thankfully cancer free since 2013, a fact he alluded to later in the show, he upped his work rate considerably, most recently displaying his guitar chops on Daft Punks mega-hit ‘Get Lucky’, demonstrating that he’s not just a relic from yesteryear but still a potent force in contemporary music.

A Slightly reworked ‘Get Lucky’ itself comes late in the show to a rapturous reception. Rodger’s makes a good fist of Stevie Ray Vaughans guitar parts in ‘Lets Dance’, with soulful vocals provided by Chic’s newest member, the drummer Biscuit. The show hits its concluding notes with a low key start to the song everybody thinks of when they think Chic, ‘Le Freak’, concluding with a rendition of ‘Good Times’. Indeed it was.

Chic at Iveagh Gardens were photographed for State by Olga Kuzmenko

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Roskilde Festival 2015 – Day 4, Saturday - Reached such heights Sun, 12 Jul 2015 13:42:08 +0000 It’s hard to know if the human is built for four days at this level of festival-going. Day and night after day and night, Roskilde served up some seriously good music and in such an atmosphere (and the fortunate great weather) that you don’t want any day to end. All other Roskilde festivals we’ve been to ended on Sunday but this year the festival has moved back a day leaving Saturday as the closing day, and also leaving Saturday night as a big one instead of the Sundays of old where you scarpered after the main act.

The festival also prides itself on engaging beyond the music. As previously mentioned there is community engagement out in the campsites and on-site everything from recycling to food is considered. Many amazing food establishments have set up here including Michelin star Thai food from Kiin Kiin, which had one of the longer lines but an €8 dinner from them was well worth the wait.

Their art zone too is so far beyond the washing-machine-pyramid nonsense of other festivals. Maser created an area last year and this year there are some beautiful structures to escape the festival in/on and, our favourite, The Human Library. You show up during the day and look through the catalogue of human books – people that frequently end up stigmatised or prejudiced for various reasons. You can decide to check out a ‘book’ if available and so you end up having 30 mins to talk to a muslim woman, a stripper, a wheelchair-bound man; all manner of people, etc. who form this library and are available there on site. It’s a stunning way of getting one-on-one answers to questions you might never normally ask.

We leave the library for the comfort of Warm Graves, a Leipzig trio who we discovered on the official festival Spotify playlist. 1pm is an early start on the fourth day but the sun is keeping us awake anyhow, so, fed and well-watered we slip into echoey pop cast in many shades of grey. It’s a dark but nicely paced start to things and while the singer strains too much to shout-sing live, this is not the case on record. They close with ‘Rouleaux’ and it rises into a pounding peak with the keys player standing up on his stool and the drummer attempting to puncture his skins. It brings us out in a grin and we air drum our way out of the tent when it’s all over.

Girl Band show no mercy to the delicate when they bring the noise to Pavillion in the hot mid-afternoon. The tent slowly gets busier, Dara Kiely’s droll delivery and screaming and tearing at his shirt just sucking them in. Discordant on the surface over more complex beats, it’s tough to keep focussed on it at this hour and we require a few momentary trips out into the air for some mental space. They make it somewhat more comfortable via ‘Lawman’ and we happily leave it there with some time to cruise by Whomadewho’s huge show in the Arena tent – an array of searchlights across the stage and the in-tent atmosphere is fairly electric. When Danes get a chance to play a festival they probably all grew up with they always seem to bring an extra wallop to their shows, so it’s always a pleasure to watch these ‘local’ bands and the reactions they get.

There’s a sizeable crowd out to see the sizeable Nicki Minaj sing and touch herself in equal measure. A white cloth-covered riser pushes the four dancers and Minaj to the front – almost like their space on the stage was an afterthought. With the musicians almost hidden, back, up and above them, it’s a stage show that looks like they’re playing in front of the gear of the next act. Assuming Minaj was singing live, her voice was in great form but she has none of the connection of Florence or Pharrell, instead relying on attitude rather than stagecraft which just doesn’t carry today.

To more humble situations we continue over to just one man, an array of pianos and a pair of shorts. Nils Frahm is uber polite and promises to bring us a beefier set to suit the setting. The also-polite crowd could have sat through much more of his down-the-rabbit-hole piano solo work but boosted electronic versions of his work is stuff to get lost in and his final descent to cutting loose at the grand piano is a perfect whirlpool to throw the heart and mind into.

We’re tormented that we won’t have time to get to see Clark on the yet-to-visit Apollo stage out in the campsite but the big gun is rolling on stage soon. Last year we had the Stones so a Beatle makes perfect sense to peak this year’s festival. Thus Sir Paul McCartney takes to the stage with ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ to begin what would be a 39-song epic performance.

We watch the beginning from afar, seated with drink in hand but as it hits ‘The Long and Winding Road’ we have to get closer, working our way to a group of friends in the middle of the field. It’s certainly thrilling seeing him perform Beatles songs with a band at the top of their game – as you’d expect – and it turns even better when he sings ‘Blackbird’ alone and the floor beneath him rises up. As he ascends, a digital waterfall flows down the sides of the square risen section. The theme and melody of the song make it almost anthemic and the place is silent. His between-song banter is amusing and somewhat cheesy, yet uncloaked in any pomp that one of the planet’s longest serving genuine pop stars could possibly carry.

There’s a beautiful intro about his relationship with John Lennon before ‘Here Today’. ‘Lady Madonna’, ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘Something’ (“let’s hear it for George!”) and on we go as it gets dark and our group of friends are all together for the first time in the whole festival. People are fetching drinks from the bars and returning laden. ‘Band on the Run’, ‘Back in the U.S.S.R.’ (cue brilliant Kremlin anecdotes), then ‘Let it Be’. Affecting from any angle, it takes us back to learning it in primary school. And then, as we’re in our wistful reverie, “When you were young and your heart was an open book…”. This is the one WE want. Focussed on the stage, just a few lights on the band under the night sky and “say live and let… die” BOOM – the stage explodes in a ball of fire. BOOM. Side stage next. BOOM. BOOM. Stage again. And then, when the song breaks proper, every firework in Europe fires from high over the speakers, a borealis of pop and fizz. And calm for that bit. And then it happens all over again. Like a hundred funfairs distilled into three minutes for a kid raised on Sean Connery Bond films whose first single was ‘Pipes of Peace’ and it makes for a tattoo’d moment on the back of four days of long-form festival joy.

And no better a cigarette after such explosions as ‘Hey Jude’. You and your pals, all together in a field with 80,000 others and a Beatle. We sing our fking lungs out.

This rush of new energy can be given a home in a few various tents still running. We walk on air to the Arena stage to see Africa Express run through an endless supply of musicians, on-the-spot collaborations and Damon Albarn appearing and reappearing. First Aid Kit are on as we arrive, and Trentemøller brings a killer song to life on stage. Albarn is treating the stage like the best smoky musicians-after-hours hang-out club. There’s some interesting stuff popping up but because it’s so sprawling we feel our one hour there is enough. Especially when our watch tells us that though our own Kodaline are closing the Avalon stage, we would make our first foray to the campsite’s Apollo stage to close our year with Jamie XX.

The stage was a glorified inflatable pumpkin in years before but this year it’s a huge, gleaming cube of light, with a mirrorball beaming out across the arena. The space is bracketed in bars and food stands and we have some restorative pizza while watching from afar. Many electronic acts rebuild their tracks live to almost imperceptible differences but Mr. Smith is weaving all sorts of electronic strands throughout. Tracks from his new album get slowly interspersed with other music and nothing ever quite lands on its recorded sound. It’s live remixing of a sort, but in it you can follow the threads of tracks in and out and in again and it’s captivating.

In this technically off-site bastion, the atmosphere amongst the final hours of the festival is amazing. People are swapping cigarettes for the last of the beers (well, the bars are still open as it nears 4am). People you pass one or twice each Roskilde are now chatting to you and dragging you by the hand deeper into the crowd to meet their friends. Then in the balmy air with a brand new instant crew, a thread with Romy XX’s voice on it flicks in and out and when it eventually turns into ‘Loud Places’ it feels like we’ve been crop dusted in MDMA. No finer 4am-in-a-festival-field song has been released this year. Bass in the ribcage. Palms to the stars and that one cigarette you allow yourself a year hanging from your mouth, and, by coincidence, a fireworks show behind us from the main stage as Danish rapper Suspekt finishes. Despite all the stimulants it’s this moment of community and music that’s the finest in the world. Jamie XX is grinning and we’re embracing in the fields. It’s even bigger than what Roskilde call their ‘Orange Feeling’. McCartney would surely approve. It’s probably love.

Exhausted, we have to cross the site to get home. At the same time Damon Albarn is being escorted off stage. Who could blame him not wanting to leave Roskilde? We pass our regular bar, Stauning, and as we prepare to pass, a vision of an Irishman we know appears at the bar and so it is that yes, there IS time for one more. We sit and dissect and laugh about the days and the moment we’re in. The sun comes up and with cocktails STILL emerging from behind the 5am bar, we pop on the sunglasses and make that final 200m walk to home with all the colour and the spin filling our heads.

Paul McCartney photographed for State by Jakob Bekker-Hansen.

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The Libertines — 3Arena, Dublin - Exquisitely ramshackle. Fri, 10 Jul 2015 23:22:02 +0000 The two most striking things about the Libertines‘ return to Ireland are the leap in quality – from half-arsed vagabonds to exquisitely ramshackle – and the adoration of the capacity crowd. In the first instance, these lads never claimed to be Pink Floyd; they play fast and loose and very, very intensely. There are mistakes and meandering chops but they seem to be brought about in the spur of the moment rather than by design. Getting carried away with it is par for the course. Secondly, their whole existence seemed to be a litany of disasters and the odd glimpse of what makes them special. From Peter Doherty’s self-destruction to the squabbling between band-mates, people identified with this and held up their rakish charm like lighters in the air at a Sting concert. So with all of that in mind, a slightly skeptical State is fully expecting to come, bear witness to the theatrics and sneak out before somebody gets sick or falls off stage.

Within ten minutes it’s clear what this band is all about, there is nothing but energy coming from the stage, no vomit and no flailing bodies. Gary Powell’s drumming is the very definition of powerhouse – there is nothing but sheer force behind that kit and so it will be for the next ninety minutes. John Hassall doesn’t put a foot wrong but hardly sets the world alight. Carl Barât and Peter Doherty, however, make such heady aesthetic soup that you cannot take your eyes off them for fear of missing something. Doherty’s lurching frame shambling from side to side as Barât stands, knees pointing inwards, twitching like a schoolboy needing a piss. It doesn’t sound great but the ever present twang and clatter of their guitars, along with the Cockney rabble voices, well, you get the picture. They look and sound every inch the Libertines they’ve named themselves after.

Their set is a fairly comprehensive overview of their patchy career, ‘The Delaney’, ‘Time For Heroes’ and ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’ all feature early and sound great. As cups of beer go flying overhead provide the only distraction from the stage, the frantic heaving of the crowd starts to resemble a pulsating heart. ‘What Katie Did’ and ‘Boys in the Band’ come spewing from the speakers like flares and as somebody somehow managed to squeeze a marriage proposal onto the setlist before ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’, how apt! Shane MacGowan, briefly, appears on stage to introduce the band’s encore and gets a deserving reaction from the crowd, and we get to hear one of the tracks from their upcoming album, Anthems for Doomed Youth. Generally speaking this is all you’re ever likely to get from the Libertines. Fully charged with pathos, venom and energy, their songs sound excellent. Wherever they’ve found this new vigour, let us hope that the well never runs dry and having witnessed them at their lowest, and now their peak, there is truly no comparison. They may still be barely cohesive, but that’s the beauty, exquisitely ramshackle indeed.

The Libertines photographed by Paulo Nuno.

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Roskilde Festival 2015 – Day 3, Friday - On the third day we rose again Wed, 08 Jul 2015 15:52:32 +0000 It’s full daylight bright when we wake at 6am but the sandman allows us to drift off again ’til a more respectable hour; one which skips us past Kronos Quartet’s midday slot. It’s now over 48 hours since we have literally seen a cloud, the dusty site clean again after its nighttime overhaul. It’s not just on-site that the festival experience is happening – camping is mostly done in named and themed areas and many are off-the-cuff as groups of friends set up tents around a pagoda, others are more organised like the Dream City user-driven creative camp. Here you are asked to contribute to elevate the experience of the festival. You propose, and give time to your camp’s project, use the powertools and equipment there and build something for the rest of the camp to enjoy. This attitude lifts camps out of a mass of badly-placed-tents-as-sleeping-units-for-drinkers and creates mini communities. It’s this sense of community which brings many out to pitch tents for days before the official gates open.

With the sun high and a cold sugary soda in our hands we give our morning to the previously unseen. We arrive at Pavilion to listen to Broken Twin’s mellow, orchestrated songs. We get a phone call and walk outside the tent to take it, where we stumble into an old friend. Next thing there are three of us sitting outside the tent on a blanket, with sunscreen, and the ideal mellowness of Majke Voss Romme’s torch songs washing out. The band are tight and raise her recorded bedroom-quiet songs to pounding heartbreakers, curing fears and ills.

Next door in Avalon Susanne Sundfør’s synth pop, and voice especially, is sliced from the DNA of the ’80s and veers easily into goose-bump, soprano highs. Kwabs then offers a different type of church as his confident soul slowly fills the tent and you’d easily be forgiven for not knowing if it was a Friday or a Sunday.

The gravitational pull of Kendrick Lamar is so great that bodies are flocking from all over the site and the camps to the main Orange Stage. He’s telling us all he’s going to bring us the best party, and everyone is chilled enough to roll along with this and it’s SO easy to get into a good mood here. In bright daylight he can’t rely on a stageshow to carry this, nor does he. As we skirt the outside of the packed main site, everyone to the distant wooden bleachers is grinning and bouncing. Relentlessly lifting the spirits, an indelible moment is watching about 70,000 arms bounce to ‘Money Tree’ in the evening sun.

His show was such a belter that two acts in distant tent stages refused to go on until he was over. Gretchen Peters began 30 mins late and loud enough to make us wonder what the problem was. A very accessible brand of country, each song deserves its own True Detective intro sequence to soundtrack. ‘Blackbirds’ is a standout discovery before we move next tent over to first cast our eyes upon Einstürzende Neubauten. Gothic in the same field as Cave and his Bad Seeds, and industrial – quite literally as a bucket empties metal shards down upon the stage from three metres up. Intense and fairly captivating, it fought valiantly against the heat of this scorched summer day.

The last time Disclosure played Roskilde two years ago it was a highlight, playing late on the inflatable Apollo stage out in the campsites. This year they have the main stage to themselves and this may be where some cracks are showing. They have the punch of sound, and certainly possess the catalogue for this vast main arena, but they are playing the self-same show. Two fun brothers triggering all their tracks rather than playing much was great the first time but they have added nothing but a very tall riser. Where’s the bigger show these guys can certainly afford to bring? No guest vocals, every one a sample, and the animated singing faces can’t connect on the same level as a live vocal. When you are this big, and you’re playing one of Europe’s biggest festivals maybe look at bringing a live angle to bear in the music, and for Christ’s sake just buy Hannah Reid a plane ticket. We’d go crazy for that! Help us lose our minds, lads.

At this point in the day, in the ‘weekend’ (it’s still only Friday) you can really feel the strain of the constant moving and standing from your heels up to your backside and short of going home to bed (paha) it’s best to sit in a bar, or on a bench tracking down a late meal and a never ending supply of cocktails or cold ones (bars stay open till 4am, Irish festival goers take note. Clearly the Danes can be trusted to drink responsibly).

But like all good cars, when the red light goes on, the tank isn’t really empty. Not with the sun raising our endorphins all day. And we are tempted to get a look at Mew, a massive band in Denmark but splashing only a little internationally. No-one loves their own like the Danes and it’s a serious spirit lifter to see the wide Orange Stage area covered to the corners, and finally under a night sky. Guitar driven pop at a very high level, you’re sucked into the glowing mood of the band as they bathe in this massive showing. Jonas Bjerre is a baby-faced frontman, his gormless look and big eyes balanced with a powerful high voice. Every light is utilised, every song carried up and out and you couldn’t feel any more at one with the Danish people if you woke up with a mermaid.

Buzzing on a beautifully full day, cloaked in still-balmy evening air, you can’t just go home you know? Much safer to sit it out with friends until you can safely go home in daylight and if someone puts a Nina Bang cocktail from Stauning Bar in front of you well so be it.

Mew photographed for State by Jakob Bekker-Hansen. 

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AC/DC – Aviva Stadium, Dublin - Hells Bells Mon, 06 Jul 2015 08:45:58 +0000 As the Juggernaut that is the AC/DC Rock or Bust tour rolls into Dublin it can only mean one, two, four things; bells, cannons, inflatable dolls and rock hard riffery. On one of the finest evenings of the year the faithful make their way to the Aviva Stadium in anticipation of what is surely a highlight of the rock calendar.

It’s been an interesting and no doubt turbulent few years for AC/DC; one which saw the retirement of Malcolm Young due to the onset of serious illness, years of hard living having finally and sadly caught up with him. More bizarrely, ex-drummer Phil Rudd found himself in front of the beak in New Zealand for apparently, eh, being too hardcore, let’s say. The most serious charge against him having since been dropped, the ongoing legal issues have meant that AC/DC are touring with their drummer from the early ’90s, Chris Slade, with the Young brothers’ nephew Stevie Young replacing Malcolm and long-time bassist Cliff Williams completing the line-up.

But while Malcolm, described as the businessman of the band and the main riff-writer once held sway at the backline, front of house has nearly always been about Angus Young and Brian Johnson. Exploding onto the stage in front of a line of Marshall stacks, Angus, still in his school uniform and Johnson, still with a voice like a disused quarry, open with an ecstatically received performance of the title track of last year’s album Rock Or Bust.

From here on it’s a selection of mainly classics with some newer songs thrown in for good measure. The seminal ‘Back in Black’ comes early in the set. Thirty minutes and 6 songs in the band hit their stride with ‘Thunderstruck’ and fully settle into delivering a rock master-class. They can do no wrong as they pump out undeniable classic after classic, ‘High Voltage’, ‘Hells Bells’ accompanied, as always, by a huge bell hanging from the stage roof. It’s notable that on this occasion Johnson declined to swing from the bell, perhaps in deference to his 67 years. Angus delivers a somewhat shortened but still blistering face-melter on ‘Let There Be Rock, although thankfully he’s dropped the striptease from the act. The band bow out for the evening with ‘For Those About To Rock’, complete with cannons firing. If this is to be their final performance, they’ve gone out with an unholy bang.

AC/DC and Vintage Trouble photographed by Paulo Nuno.


ACDC 1 state ACDC 2 state ACDC 3 state ACDC 4 state ACDC 5 state ACDC 6 state ACDC 7 state Vintage Trouble 1 state Vintage Trouble 2 state Vintage Trouble 3 state Vintage Trouble 4 state Vintage Trouble state ]]> 1
Neil Diamond — 3Arena, Dublin - "You can keep Jesus Christ. That was Neil Diamond... truly the 'King of the Jews" - Alan Partridge Sun, 05 Jul 2015 10:27:30 +0000 You can say what you want about Neil Diamond but you can’t deny that there’s a little bit of class underneath all that sequinned, hair-sprayed cheese. From his thinning grey hair down to his soft-shoe shuffle, pumps the blood of a showman and after what must be tens of thousands of live shows he still wants you to feel his appreciation. But there is still a lot of cheese to get through, that’s not going to change.

‘Forever in Blue Jeans’, ‘America’, ‘I’m A Believer’, ‘Red Red Wine’, ‘The Art of Love’, ‘Sweet Caroline’, ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You’, ‘Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon’, and ‘Hello Again’ are the hits and he plays them. They are good and so they should be, anything less would have been unthinkable and let’s be honest, for the average non-devotee of the Brooklyn crooner there would be no other reason to see him live. His voice is unmistakable and now irrevocably moulded by time. He is 74 years old after-all (“all this screaming from women makes me feel like I’m 70 again”, well played, sir) but he isn’t here to win over any new fans or set the world on fire, he’s here to wheel out the classics and give us the chance to sing along freely and passionately. The video montages during ‘Brooklyn Roads’ and ‘Coming to America’ are diced and spliced home movies depicting a very young Diamond playing with his parents and sibling and tell the tale of his family’s migration to the US. As the reel catches up with real time, a greying, older, more contemplative vision of him is shown. It portrays Diamond in a light you might not actually have considered previously and the measure of poignancy it gives the songs is not to be discounted. Underneath all the schmaltz you’ll see the life of an extraordinary songwriter and do not be surprised if it alters how you’ll hear his music.

He might not be everybody’s cup of tea, and there is probably an element of sneery disregard for a man you can imagine your Grandmother saying something like “he’s very nice” about. But he still records new music and it still sounds like Neil Diamond, so you have to ask yourself what’s wrong with him hamming it up for his audience? What’s wrong with enjoying these songs which are undeniable classics? Sure if Fleetwood Mac, The Who and AC/DC can shamelessly engage their shtick at their age, why can’t Neil Diamond? Afterall, he is possibly the only artist ever to have his work covered by both Elvis and The Fonz.

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Roskilde Festival 2015 – Day 2, Thursday - Ladies' day Sat, 04 Jul 2015 12:32:02 +0000 We kept a lid on it the previous night so our heads are good but our legs are already feeling the effects of a walking/standing routine. Yet today is a marathon of good things. We spend the morning sitting, sipping some Danish fizzy orange and watch our friends drink their newly invented cold press iced Irish coffee, which is surprisingly drinkable at 2pm. The skies are still cloudless and with the weather climbing into the mid-to high 20s we are keeping whiskey off the menu for the moment.

Taking a punt on one song we heard, we land over to the small Gloria stage. An intimate room, it hasn’t quite gotten as sweaty as it can do and Ezra Furman also takes a little warming up. From Chicago, his croaky, high voice and giggly theatrics bring a little of vaudeville to, say, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Lipsticked and skinny, in a little red dress, he does settle into the show as he rolls through the long set. The sound is big and brassy thanks to a rock-solid band and a saxophone powerhouse beside him, a buff fellow with shocking pink hair. It’s cheery, and somewhat carnivalesque in its indie slant and like a waterslide into the day. Plus his ‘My Zero’, the song that tempted us there, is storming.

As smartly attired, yet in the more traditional rock star’s black suit, Father John Misty goes straight from nothing to feverish in the Avalon tent – a place bejewelled with huge squares of rigging and lights which we’d see at full effect later in the day. The sound is as close to perfect, a big warm enveloping thing. Misty is similar. He’s straight into the crowd from the off. On his knees for half of it. He’s up on the drum kit too, and faultlessly bringing the wide, rammed tent into his room.

Outside there’s a cold beer to be rescued from the many queueless Tuborg bars and as we cross the main field it’s Ryan Adams filling that gap in the day when traditionally only mad dogs and Englishmen stand out under the unrelenting sun. It’s either a breeze or Adams balmy rock but we have a chilled moment of pause, leaning on a barrier with with ‘Come Pick Me Up’ washing around us.

It’s six and as the day slightly cools St. Vincent’s stage awaits, with close to 13,000 people in the Arena. Our favourite festival tent anywhere, when you hit it right here you feel it all the way to the back of your neck. Annie Clark is sight for sore eyes, she appears in a perforated black cat suit, white guitar and a look you could set your watch by. She rules this guitar like a monarch and within minutes has shredded all the mornings music to pieces. She floats about the stage on heels, like a perfected android. She knows all about show, yet is above a cheap thrill and so far beyond a rock gig. Completely given over to her, she clambers onto a security guards shoulders before taking in a tour of the front row with guitar – picking up inflatable headwear on the way before having a feint at the closing. Insert row of heart emoji here.

But the heart was to be fed more. First of the Irish interest was Soak in Gloria’s cosy setting. There’s lines and lines out the entrances, a few fellas with a tricolour disappointed at not getting in. Inside, the place is packed and the polite Danes are at their best. But though Soak’s songs have that gentleness to them, the expert live band set-up and meatier sound of the new album. Through a great venue sound and lights, Bridie just captivates and from ‘Blud’ onwards everyone is rapt. ‘B a noBody’ is shivery. We’re flushing and smiling too and it plays out so well, this full tent in the middle of Denmark’s rock festival and everyone swooning to Soak.

Florence Welch knows how to dress for the weather (white linen) and also has her festival crowd-pleasing down to a T. Some of ‘Lungs’ big hits make early appearances on the main Orange stage and she’s another one straight into the pit, and the crowd. Maybe it’s a way of getting out from under the hot lights but whatever it was it spurned a thousand selfie-with Instagram posts from the Danish front row. From the extrovert to the introvert, Mike Hadreas has before hidden behind his piano, sitting low on stages but now he it bringing a bolder Perfume Genius to the fore and he’s standing tall. Still, he twists his mic lead nervously and you can’t tell if his facial expressions are because of feedback or his inner on-stage demons. All this is overcome throughout, to an audience both jocks, nerds and the middle ground of young, pretty Danes relaxing in the sun just outside the tent. (Lots of references from the stages about the attractiveness of the gen pop today.) Hadreas coaxes a cheerier festival feeling from his often heart-wrenching songs, and it was ‘Hood’ whose pounding peaks and bare-piano drops encapsulated it, warm and strong.

Back in Pavillion and Jungle have use a curtain to cover the stage pre-show. Packed back to the tent pegs there’s a we’re-ready-to-dance-now excitement around. When it openes and they pour into ‘Platoon’ it’s a party. The huge lighting rig is a stunning array of searchlights and all manner of beams on chase patterns that you could dance to on their own. It’s the palms-up hour of the day, every single corner of the tent dancing – modesty is nearly always the first to leave – and when ‘Busy Earnin’’ brings its inevitable peak you can feel a tent of endorphins kick right in.

At least the three lads with rather more success and money than you might expect put that cash back into a stage show and hiring the best lighting engineer you can get. Muse have what looks like the best rock show. They have the biggest confetti bombs and even throw out huge black balloons to bounce about the crowd. They are still a bit ‘everybody now’ in parts and have stuck to a tight formula from day one but your eyes won’t be bored. Plus, that kid inside State that still puts up band posters gets a sort of Cirque-du-Soleil-with-guitars thrill out of ‘Starlight’ and ‘Time is Running Out’, bombastic and loud across the vast site.

A true test of the kind of person you are appears when you face Die Antwoord. We were fascinated but very, very scared. They make Slipknot look like a kids party. Displaying true tattooed commitment to his concept, Ninja appears in a yellow animal suit, tying it off to reveal his torso, inked like DeNiro in Cape Fear. Yolandi is up and down the stepped DJ desk where their cartoonishly deformed dj mans the music. It’s seriously polarising but there’s tens of thousands along for the ride at the Orange stage. No Muse-like come-all-ye action here, you’re in constant threat of Yolandi physically hurting you and Ninja providing the coup de grace. They certainly bring their hardcore take on fear through harsh-accented hip-hop-of-sorts to the main stage expanses, though it might be a bit too conceptual to engage with. Still, you can’t deny the fun of ‘Rich Bitch’ etc. and the theatre at work behind it.

Out of nowhere our second wind comes just in time for the last call. Spilling into Arena we’re off to catch Hot Chip close down Thursday, which at 2am on this packed day is just what we need. It’s a Hot Chip Dance Classics set. Over an hour of dancing, everyone in amazing form. The band are cannoning out the hits ‘Over and Over’, ‘One Life Stand’, ‘Ready for the Floor’. Their touring drummer Sarah Jones is a fulcrum, and the happiest sight, smiling from under her baseball cap and raising the beats of the more tempered songs up a level. Nothing lest than the perfect closing act, they never drop the ball and for next level joy to box off the night, it’s a cover of Springsteen’s ’Dancing in the Dark’. We are set up for either tents or more cocktails, common sense and carpe diems and after a show, and a day, like that – who could be sensible.

 St. Vincent photographed for State by Jakob Bekker-Hansen


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Roskilde Festival 2015 – Day 1, Wednesday - Mr Blue Sky Fri, 03 Jul 2015 09:22:46 +0000 The corner of Europe’s heatwave is perfectly timed to brush off the west side of Denmark, throwing perfect blue skies over the festival site as we approach. A lucky weekend, the festival is now synonymous with good weather but you won’t beat mid-20’s and cloudless. This year, the festival has been been pulled back to run Wed – Sat instead of the Thurs – Sun of previous years. It means one more day to take off work for the salaried wanting to go, but means nothing to the tens of thousands of fresh graduates who have been queuing over last weekend to just get onto the campsite on Monday.

Giving an ear to the official Spotify playlist for the festival last week, we liked the sound of locals Communions and walked through the warm site to the furthest stage – Pavillion – to let them open our long weekend. Picking up every ’90s trope from Slowdive to Chapterhouse, it’s a combination that works fairly well, if a bit unfiltered and while the songs they write are anthemic to some extent, they do fall a little flat without recognisability.

Perhaps we need King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard to psych us into this sprawling festival. Long, almost endless wig-outs from the off from four or more guitars licking away. The Australians just disappeared into a swirling sea straight out of the traps and while there were some already-swirling young Danes lost in it completely, we were cheered but had yet to click in. We first saw them in a cinema in wintery Iceland and were overjoyed, but in the early evening heat we left them for the reliability of a burger and beer nearby and were happy listening to them on the breeze instead. We did a walk-past Noel Gallagher who was mid-‘Masterplan’ – yet these days it’s hardly enough to steer you into the tent with so much else on offer.

An unfortunate clash was what we faced next, as we were keen to see both Honningbarna and Pharrell. The State team split and as one half was approaching the Norwegians there looked to be some security issue. The stage was full of audience members and one was climbing high up the rigging on one side. On closer inspection it was frontman Edvard Valberg doing the climbing and the crowd were being beckoned up by the band. When he descended and grabbed his cello, the band burst into action and the whole stage just went loo-la. These guys have never let us down and will deserve statues built in their honour some day.

Meanwhile, the perfect summer high is pouring out from the Orange stage. Pharrell, with his polite, take-home-to-your-mother attitude, has tapped into the rich seam of gold at Roskilde. While he hasn’t brought a Dubai-sized stage show, he has brought dancers having fun, a small stage invasion of boys, a large stage invasion of pretty ladies and he covers enough ground to look everyone in the whites of their eyes – shouting-out to the back and sides and bringing everyone into the party. There’s a burst of ‘Milkshake’, of ‘Hot in Herre’, and there’s the throwback party favourite of N*E*R*D’s ‘Lapdance’. But if you want to even imagine the extent of the summery lift that he brought in the second part, just feast on the idea of ‘Lose Yourself to Dance’ falling into ‘Hollaback Girl’ through ’Drop It Like It’s Hot’, ‘Blurred Lines’, ‘Get Lucky’ and ‘Happy’ and a confetti gattling-gun fired up and over the tens of thousands.

While this was happening the War on Drugs were giving a fairly intense show but through sound so muddy that you could barely recognise the beginning of songs, and the guitar lick at the break of ‘In Reverse’ was completely lost. Having seen them three times now, we stood there while Pharrell was painting colours across the site, somewhat sad at our decision to move. As so often at festivals, where choice and FOMO will eat you up, it’s better the devil you have never seen before. Still and all, it’s hard to feel anything but warm and fuzzy as the bars bustle till the early hours, and you feel that it’s only at Roskilde where you’ll meet a Dane, with a mother from Belfast, who looks for all the world like a white Forrest Whittaker. It’s never boring here, that’s certain.

Pharrell photographed for State by Jakob Bekker-Hansen.

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Northside Festival – Aarhus, Denmark - Review and gallery from Denmark's fast-growing sustainable music festival. Thu, 02 Jul 2015 16:01:09 +0000 It’s Friday, the first day of State’s third year at Northside and we’re blessed with sun, no wind and 20 degrees. And, the music program isn’t bad either.  With circles around names like José Gonzales, Death Cab for Cutie, Mø, FKA Twigs, Alt-J and Grace Jones for tonight, the final piece of this puzzle is a pint – seeing how Northside is one of the more “grown-up” festivals. Organic beers, cocktail bars, wine bars, a champagne and oyster bar; we’re certainly enjoying the upper echelons of festival-going.

Last year, Ry X featured as the opening act and it seems the festival is repeating the soft beginning with a quiet and beautiful performance courtesy of Swedish singer José Gonzalez, followed by Danish pop & soul singer Barbara Moleko (a replacement for Earl Sweatshirt who cancelled at the last minute). Later in the afternoon we make a beeline for Death Cab For Cutie in the Blue Stage to give us an able mix of old and new material.

And so, tanked up on our very “grown-up”, craft-brewery organic beer and a famed Northside burger in hand, we decide between Alt-J and FKA Twigs who are tragically scheduled at the same time. We decide on the latter, who after a few hiccups, enters the stage in a transparent, white gown beset with a dramatic green cape. FKA Twigs’ fragile falsetto works seductively, making for a beautiful contrast to the heavy bass driven beats that spur her on. With ‘Video Girl’ and her sensual dancing we’re transfixed and intrigued after just two tracks, but after the fifth we’re firmly in the palm of her hand.

State are soon in for a similar experience as we head for Grace Jones (67 and performing topless, go Grace!). Wearing nothing bar high-pants and white striped body-paint, Jones’ performance immediately tows the line between concert and sideshow, but she persists with the party mentality and eventually we’ve joined her in the festivities. Her charm and eclectic style are hard to resist as we dance to her smoky, heavily-partied out vocals; she gives us the gory details with her tales of a wild-lifestyle lived between songs.

Jones rounds off our evening accordingly, and given our “mature” festival etiquette, it’s off to the hotel for a lovely wash, a lovely sleep in a real bed and a fresh start to the day that lies ahead.  No camping for State at Northside, we’ll have you know.  We awake on Saturday to find the gorgeous weather has abandoned us and for the rest of the day the rain comes’a’pouring.  Fortunately, we’ve come prepared in our rubber boots, knit-sweaters and raincoats and it’s a pleasure to see a lot of young, up-and-coming Danish bands like Broken Twin, S!vas, Scarlet Pleasure and The Minds of 99 filling the stage on this gloomy afternoon.

Again though, we’re plagued by the scheduling dilemma. Antony and the Johnsons on the main stage or Wolf Alice on the smaller P6 Beat stage? We follow our hearts to Antony and the Johnsons who are accompanied by the local Aarhus symphonic orchestra. It makes for a poignant experience as the rain becomes a befitting backdrop for Antony Hegarty’s melancholia-drenched songs, although, we’re needing a pick me up by the time he’s finished and what could be better than some Icelandic house from GusGus and the legendary Underworld to finish off Saturday with serious techno?  Not a lot. 

Sunday, and the last day of the festival, we’re immediately met by Trash-Talkers (charity volunteers who help in keeping the refuse to a minumum).   It’s all part of Northside’s strong, sustainable ethic that a lot of other festivals would do well to take heed of.  We’re enthused for today’s music program and thankfully it’s a packed schedule with all manner of genres. Soul, folk, alternative-rock, blues-rock, electronic, pop and the classic singer-songwriter vibe all see the stage throughout the day.

Firstly, American soul band St. Paul and the Broken Bones give us the perfect start to Sunday and we soon forget the miserable weather of the previous day.  In Denmark they talk a lot about the weather, so State are happy to report that it didn’t rain, but was a little colder.  We’re not advocating a new career path, but we just like to make sure you know the facts. The weather facts. On a different note, it’s time for John Grant and it’s clear he has a lot of love for Denmark.  He’s vocal about it between tracks and clearly glad to be here; presumably as much as we are given Grant’s warm and energetic performances of his epic and melodic ballads before a rapturous rendition of ‘Pale Green Ghosts’.

In a similar vein, Matthew E White plays for 40 minutes with his band and focuses on latest release Fresh Blood, albeit with the same kind of stripped-back sensibility we saw with Grant.  It’s a compact performance and the joy White and band obviously take in performing is infectious.

Alas, our perfect Sunday start doesn’t quite survive in the afternoon and we’re a little bit disappointed at the performances by George Ezra and Calexico.  We have a lot of time for these guys, but something just doesn’t click today and Ezra doesn’t quite live up to the hype that surrounds him while Calexico appear quite sullen – there’s a certain enthusiasm lacking on and in front of the stage.

Maybe it was us, maybe it was the three-day hangovers kicking in early, but we’re looking for revival and it isn’t until the last act of the day that we’re reinvigorated.  It is, of course, up to the Black Keys and it does, of course, work.  Their dirty, blues-rock sound is straight out of the garage and they do it so perfectly that our recovery is nothing short of miraculous.  Frankly, it was the best possible ending to a fantastic Northside Festival 2015, but it wasn’t the best Northside we’ve been to.  There’s always room for improvement and State are confident Northside will do so as we look forward to returning next year.


MØ - Johanne Teglgård Olsen© Wu-Tang Clan - foto- Johanne Teglgård Olsen© Matthew E. White - Photograph Peter Kirkegaard Calexico - Photograph Peter Kirkegaard The Minds Of 99 - Photograph Peter Kirkegaard copy The Jesus And Mary Chain - Photograph Peter Kirkegaard The Minds Of 99 - Photograph Peter Kirkegaard GeorgeEzra_Photo_AnnaTarpKlode©-1-3 ScarletPleasure_Photo_AnnaTarpKlode©-1-3 Alt-J_Photo_AnnaTarpKlode©-1-9 antony and the johnsons --- Photo Morten Rygaard© BenHoward_Photo_AnnaTarpKlode©-1-5 benhoward2_copyright_stinerasmussen E_GeorgeEzra_Photo_AnnaTarpKlode©-1-5 Interpol - ©Thorsten Iversen - 1 Interpol - ©Thorsten Iversen - 6 John Grant - ©Thorsten Iversen - 3 Jose Gonzales_Photo_AnnaTarpKlode©-1-6 Placebo - ©Thorsten Iversen - 3 S!vas - ©Thorsten Iversen - 6 S!vas - Publikum - ©Thorsten Iversen - 1 Seasick Steve - ©Thorsten Iversen - 3 Seasick Steve - Publikum - ©Thorsten Iversen - 4 The Black Keys - ©Thorsten Iversen - 4 Underworld - Jonatan Nothlev ©_2 Wolf Alice ny. Bea Brix © Wolf Alice ny. Fotograf Bea Brix © ]]> 0
Taylor Swift – 3Arena, Dublin - The new queen of pop touches the sky Wed, 01 Jul 2015 16:05:37 +0000 “You are watching the greatest living pop star on the planet”. Taylor Swift doesn’t actually utter those words tonight, as a second night in Dublin brings the European leg of her 1989 World Tour to a close, but you would forgive her for any feelings of satisfaction. Six years after her big night at the VMAs was brought crashing down, the narrative of last weekend is one that few could have imagined. While she was wowing the masses at London’s Hyde Park, down the road a certain rapper was collapsing under the weight of his ego. It’s symbolic of the way her career has exploded since the release of 1989 last year, a commercial leap and turn around in public and critical opinion that would have been hard to imagine during the days of ‘Trouble’ and ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’.

Spend a night in her company and it’s easy to see why. This is not just one of the best pop shows we’ve probably ever been too, not just one of the best arena experiences but one of the best gigs period. A spectacular in every sense of the word, it’s an all singing, all dancing extravaganza and, while such an approach has become the norm at this end of the musical spectrum, none have managed to do it with such charm or style. The opening sensory blitz of ‘Welcome To New York’ out of the way (complete with each audience member’s flashing wristband going haywire), it’s only three numbers before the first of the big hitters arrives in the form of ‘Blank Space’, the walkway that cuts through the venue allowing Swift the opportunity to get up close in personal with the majority of the crowd at some point. It’s followed by a dark, brooding tune that sounds familiar, even if we can’t place it at first. Then the “cold hard ground” lyric kicks in and you realise that it’s ‘Trouble’, reimagined in a Marilyn Manson fashion that is utterly fabulous.

The message is clear, the Taylor that you thought you knew is gone and she might not ever be coming back. She states as much by taking ‘Love Story’ and updating it to fit the 1989 palette, electronic pop where once was country. A good song’s a good song though, and the new version is a winner. As is this new, improved Taylor Swift. She neatly sidesteps any of the off stage issues that have arisen over the years to talk to her adoring audience about more personal matters. As sweet as they come, you almost believe her when she says that she recognises some of the faces from Instagram and online chats, and that she knew they just had to finish the European tour in Dublin, Ireland (nothing to do with standard touring logistics then), the monologues given an even more schmaltzy feel by the cheesy backing keyboards that accompany them. Any more weighty issues are left to the recurring video messages from a series of high profile friends – some people we’ve never heard of plus really quite witty interjections from Haim, Lena Dunham and Cara Delevigne – about how great their celebrity pal is.

A total pro who knows exactly where the cameras are at all times and what smile or sideways glance, the doubts that maybe she’s just a cog in this well oiled machine are banished as she strides down the – now elevated – walkway strumming an acoustic guitar, she delivers a solo acoustic version of Red’s ‘Holy Ground’ that is as powerful as it is simple, reminiscent of her marvellous Civil Wars collaboration and a hint that the old, Nashville Taylor still lurks somewhere. Then she name checks Imogen Heap before ‘Clean’ and jumps onto a keyboard for the aforementioned ‘Love Story’.

From then on in, it’s gold all the way. ‘Bad Blood’ gives way to a metal version of ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’, led by the singer on electric guitar against a ‘Seven Nation Army’ aping video projection. Then it’s another costume change and behind the piano to point out that those who criticise her writing style for being “basic” (as bitter as she gets), a wistfully epic ‘Wildest Dreams’, a mighty sprint through ‘Out Of The Woods’, another video testimony and then, inevitably, the whole room getting onto its feet for ‘Shake It Off’, the singer and dancers hoofing it up old style as the walkway spins in the air and the confetti tumbles from the roof.

A few weeks ago, when we discussed Swift and the rest of the pop pack on the State podcast, the opinion was that there would never be another artist who – in terms of longevity – could put together a career to match the likes of Madonna, Michael Jackson or Bruce Springsteen. As we wake the next morning to find our wristband still glowing, a tangible reminder of the night before, you have to wonder if Taylor Swift might be the exception that proves the rule.

Taylor Swift photographed for State by Olga Kuzmenko. See more here.

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Manu Chao — The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham - Crowd control Mon, 29 Jun 2015 20:32:39 +0000 Quite where to begin with Manu Chao is a mystery. For the thousands of manic, boisterous fans in the grounds of IMMA on Saturday night you can only start and end with his music. At no point do the hardcore at the front of the crowd stop jumping and and at no point does he stop encouraging them. Some music transcends lyrical meaning and without daring to decipher Chao’s words of wisdom – State doesn’t speak Spanish that well, we’ll freely admit – we can only imagine that it was something special going on. King of the Bongo somehow seems like a cheap title for a man this revered.

The punk element is every bit as prevalent in the little Spanish Frenchman’s music. His family history is remarkable and only a fool could overlook that tonight is more shouty and Communist-tinged than Joe Strummer and Karl Marx in a fist-fight with the Baader-Meinhof Gang. Chao and his band pack a serious punch and their Latin inspired sound only highlights the contrast in musical styles they have on their palette; a little trill here, salsa there, merengue to follow. Blood and thunder after that. Arriving onstage at precisely 8.30, the little revolutionary is all fists in the air, neck veins popping, spittle flying and eyes bulging as he generates near-mass hysteria. “Fuck off, rain”, even the weather get’s a talking to.

His hype man looks like your Da on holidays and is doing everything in his power to get people whipped into a storm. He doesn’t have to try hard and he settles back into his day-job as keyboardist as the flags come out. Cuba, Spain, Catalonia, Ireland, Argentina, Che Guevara and Gonzo from the Muppets all represented in a space no bigger than 10 square meters. We should all bring more flags to outdoor gigs. Flags and cheery camaraderie. The band are great, as are the songs, but the crowd are a thing of wonder and you just can’t ignore it. It’s a silly thing, but it’s still a thing nonetheless.

Anyway, ‘King of the Bongo’, ‘Radio Bemba’ and ‘Clandestino’ were joyous to the point of spiritual. Wrapping up after nigh-on two straight hours of manic jumping and bellowing, Manu Chao is a folk-hero of legendary proportions.

Manu Chao photographed for State by Leah Carroll

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Tony Visconti & Woody Woodmansey – The Olympia Theatre, Dublin - "...the bedrock on which the binary stars of glam rock and Bowie’s career were built." Sun, 28 Jun 2015 12:33:10 +0000 Firstly, for the uninitiated, Tony Visconti is not a nut laden biscuit that you might take with your espresso during some down-time in Rome and Woody Woodmansey is not an alliteratively named mascot for one of Ireland’s largest chain of DIY stores.  Rather, Visconti is a producer of legendary, near mythic status. He has guided and cajoled artists such as T-Rex, Thin Lizzy, Boomtown Rats, Iggy Pop, Sparks, Morrissey, Manic Street Preachers, Adam Ant and extensively so with rock’s greatest chameleon, David Bowie. Woody Woodmansey was tub-thumper-in-chief with the The Spiders From Mars, having worked with Bowie until Ziggy, sated after making love to his ego, had to break up the band in a very public manner onstage at the Hammersmith Odeon back in ’73.

At first glance, The Man Who Sold the World, tonight’s focus, seems like an odd choice to be the album from Bowie’s capricious back catalogue to be brought to life by Visconti and Woodmansey.  Hunk Dory or The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars may be more representative of what is deemed quintessential Bowie.  And ‘TMWSTW’, outside of Nirvana’s rendition of the eponymous track on MTV’s Unplugged series back in ’94 (Jesus was it really that long ago?) is often overlooked and consigned to Bowies back pages.  But ‘TMWSTW’, as well as being the first time Visconti, Woodsy and Bowie worked together, was also the bedrock on which the binary stars of glam rock and Bowie’s career were built.

Its dark dystopian themes pre-shadow Bowie’s descent into coked out paranoia. The music’s rough guitar and futuristic sounding moog herald the end of both Bowie’s and society’s dalliance with ’60s psychedelia and the wide-eyed naivety of hippy idealism as the drabness of an Orwellian future looms. Bowie and Britain move from the pastoral to the machine, as the bovver-booted boys get ready to kick the Birkenstocks brigade to touch; the harshness of the music forewarns us of the impending shadow that will cloak most of that generation’s youth.

Tonight, the band is introduced by another survivor of that scene of scenes, the venerable BP Fallon. Beep’s beat-like verbosity and introductions aside and it’s down to business.  The 10 piece band, fronted by Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17) dutifully plays TMWSTW in its entirety and in its original sequence.

There’s no escaping the fact that there’s no Bowie here and that without him the music has lost some of its edge. Additionally, and let’s not forget that other demi-god of the glam-era, Mick Ronson is also permanently absent since his untimely death in ’93. Again the grit and glam of his playing is missed but James Stevenson (GenX, The Cult) and Paul Cuddeford (Ian Hunter, Bob Geldof) are able to conjure enough sorcery to summon Ronson up in spirit.

The assembled performers, despite hailing from very diverse backgrounds both sonically and chronologically are incredibly tight and do the album justice. Their playing breathes life anew into the celebrated opus and Gregory’s vocals and performance do Bowie’s original justice. Thankfully, Gregory doesn’t go down the “tonight Matthew, I’m Ziggy Stardust” route, instead he makes the performance his own, adding shades of Bowie’s distinctive intonation and twang when appropriate.

Album set highlights include the triple edged guitar attack of ‘Black Country Rock’ (3 men to replace Ronson – sounds about right) and an absolutely triumphant version of the titular track during which Gregory’s vocal does indeed shine with starlight. Post TMWSTW set the band continue to delve into Ziggy’s back catalogue and cover ‘Five Years’, ‘Moonage Daydream’ and the crowd pleasing, football terrace sing-along of ‘All the Young Dudes’. ‘Lady Stardust’ sung by Ms. Lisa Ronson (Mick’s daughter) is a low point as she belts it out wedding singer style more akin to an X-Factor audition than one begetting Ziggy’s paean to fellow starman, Marc Bolan. Ms. Ronson also takes centre stage to duet with Gregory on ‘Watch That Man’, another low ensues and the pair’s performance has more ham packed into it than a Michelin starred pork terrine. It looks and sounds like an undercooked Meat Loaf of both the culinary and musical variety.

But all is not lost. Back on terra firma and with the nepotistic turns cast to one side, we’re treated to another sterling vocal performance for ‘Life on Mars’ and a rip roaring ‘Ziggy Stardust’ followed by ‘Changes’ that has the auditorium on their feet before the band depart the stage with Gregory promising a few more tunes if we shout loud enough and we duly oblige. The inevitable encore climaxes with the white-hot heat of ‘Suffragette City’ – wham, bam, thank you mam indeed!

There were many highlights tonight. The band’s changes through the ‘Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud/All The Young Dudes/Oh You Pretty Things’ were simply stunning as the piece segued from song to song with each of the band working as one to make the mercurial changes seemless.  Glenn Gregory is a fine custodian of the Bowie flame too – just the right amounts of humility, showmanship and pastiche ensured that we were spared a karaoke Ziggy-by-numbers.

Mr. Woodmansey has put in a decent shift behind the kit and we begin to wonder if someone has slipped him a little something as he’s been going all night. His performance is faultless, never missing a beat and putting his all into every snare crack or roll on the toms. In contrast, Visconti looked on, slightly bemused and detached from proceedings and apart from a few snippets of chat his presence barely registered.

Throughout his career Bowie has been all about the shock of the new, attempting to define and shape the zeitgeist and I’m not sure how this amble down memory lane sits with that. Rather than looking backwards with our rosies on, Bowie would have us staring into the bright, burning sun of the future. Tonight’s show is just that; it’s a show and by its very nature has its limitations but what saves it from being a mindless old jolly down memory lane is quality. The quality of the music and the quality of the musicians assembled to perform it and tonight that’s enough.

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The Who – 3Arena, Dublin - "Although now 71 and 70 respectively, Daltrey and Townshend show no signs of slowing down..." Sat, 27 Jun 2015 12:54:56 +0000 If only every legendary act from the 60s and 70s – I’m speaking about you Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin – appeased their fans in the same way The Who are doing with their Hits 50! tour. Imagine Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason letting bygones be bygones and heading out for one last global Floyd trek? Or Plant and Page ringing up John Paul Jones to see if he’s on board for one last extended hurrah for old times’ sake? It’s not too much to ask, is it? So The Who – albeit now down to frontman Roger Daltrey and sardonic guitar genius Pete Townshend, along with a host of session musicians – deserve enormous credit for doing just that. Townshend described this tour as all about the “hits, picks, mixes and misses” but in truth it’s an unashamed (mostly) greatest hits show with all the bells and whistles.

The first six songs of the night – ‘I Can’t Explain’, ‘The Seeker’, ‘Who Are You’, ‘The Kids Are Alright’, ‘I Can See For Miles’ and the blistering proto-punk of ‘My Generation’ – are confirmatory of the huge impact the band have had on popular culture. They sound tight, lean and note-perfect. Although now 71 and 70 respectively, Daltrey and Townshend show no signs of slowing down despite Daltrey’s claims that this tour is the “long goodbye.” The frontman’s howl is still firmly intact and Townshend’s signature windmill slamming of his guitar strings is present and correct. Both men are in remarkably fine fettle. Momentum is lost somewhat in the mid section of the show, which may be down to what Townshend referred to as the “misses”, especially during the rock-opera precursor ‘A Quick One, While He’s Away’ but at least we have the slick hi-def big-screen visuals to keep us entertained – all psychedelic collages, ghostly close-ups of deceased members John Entwistle and Keith Moon and shots of the band in their clean-cut heyday.

It’s interesting to watch the interplay between Daltrey and Townshend too; the likeable Daltrey convivial and chatty throughout, his yin to Townshend’s tortured-intellectual yang but Townshend grows more talkative as the night draws to a close, with lengthy introductions to the craft behind his songs and a final proclamation that Dublin is the “best city in the best country with the best people in the world.” Saying this after the celebratory home run of ‘Pinball Wizard’, ‘Baba O’Riley’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ leaves the punters suitably satiated as they file out into a humid night on Dublin’s north wall quay. For a band that ironically once stated they hoped to die before they got old, tonight they played with such youthful zeal that this farewell tour might prove somewhat premature. Let’s hope so.

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