Tag Archives: live gigs

Gryphon – Union Chapel, London – 29th May, 2015

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Gryphon, the 1970s, medieval folk-prog band, announced earlier this year that there would be a short tour of the UK. I’m not sure what prompted the tour (they didn’t mention in the promotional blurbs about it being a 40th anniversary of the release of the excellent Raindance album), but maybe they felt it was time to fire up the crumhorns and malleted drums again. They did play a one-off reunion show at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 2009 – but I wasn’t fortunate to get tickets to that one. I was determined to see one of the 2015 gigs and ordered a set of two for the Union Chapel show in London.

I met up with another Gryphon fan (Pixie did say that she wasn’t really up for the trek to The Big Smoke) and his missus near Soho and we drank a couple of pints at a pub I hadn’t been to – then grabbed a quick tube journey to Islington. I was hungry, so my friend’s wife and I ordered some grub at a Weatherspoons joint, almost right across the road from Union Chapel. The show was meant to start promptly at eight p.m., so we rocked up just before then.

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No sooner had we chosen a pew (literally, it is a still-used place of worship and the seating is in the pews), then the boys filed out to the stage to generous applause. It’s quite a lovely venue – high ceilings and stained-glass windows give a ‘sacred’ air, but somehow, it’s oddly secular at the same time. The band were arranged in front of the massive pulpit, with Richard Harvey on the right side of the stage, sat at a keyboard and Brian Gulland and drummer Dave Oberle on the left. Sandwiched in between were guitarist Graeme Taylor and multi-instrumentalist Graham Preskett. Bassist Jonathan Davie was a bit to the back, behind Gulland.

They opened with an energetic “Renaissance Dance Medley“, which never appeared on an LP – but was played in a BBC session in 1974. They followed that with a nice version of “The Astrologer“, from the first Gryphon LP, released in 1973. Gulland and Oberle traded vocals, as the characters in the song, and the rest of the group backed them through the tricky melody. A lively “Kemp’s Jig” was next, also from the first album. In fact, as Harvey announced in-between tunes, most of the first set would be from the debut. After a really spooky rendition of “The Unquiet Grave” (the tone of the song heightened by the concert setting), Graeme Taylor performed a guitar solo in a ‘mock-classical fashion’, as he put it, called “Crossing The Stiles” (also, you guessed it, from the first album). “Juniper Suite” followed, with Gulland deftly moving from bass crumhorn to harmonium and back. The first set concluded with “Dubbel Dutch“, the lone choice from their second LP, “Midnight Mushrumps“, first released in 1974.

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There was a 20-minute interval for people to head to the bar, or the toilets (or both). We got back to our pews in time for the second set to begin with “Midnight Mushrumps“, the entire 18-minute piece. It was so great hearing it live and almost note-perfect (actually, it may have been, as I’ve only listened to it a small number of times). Gulland again switched between crumhorn and bassoon and Harvey would swap his keyboard for a tin whistle. Spell-binding stuff! An ‘unreleased’ song followed. It’s called “Ashes“, written by Graeme Taylor during the “Raindance” sessions in 1975. Transatlantic Records decided it didn’t fit the album and it was cut from the LP. It was eventually released on the “Gryphon – The Collection II” CD. A nice wistful tune, Brian explained that Graeme wrote it on a nice spring day near to a river, where the recording studio was located it definitely has that vibe to it. It was then “Red Queen To Gryphon Three” time, which I was excited about, as it’s my fave Gryphon LP. First up was a really nice “Lament“, played beautifully, then a “muddle-y” (Harvey’s word) of “Red Queen…” themes. It was great seeing the interplay, particularly between Gulland and Harvey. I didn’t quite catch the title of the final tune in the set, I heard Harvey say something about “our roots” and thought he announced the tune as “Yulattis“, but it may have been “Estampie“, from the first album. No matter, ‘cos it was a great little jam.

The encore was an extended version of “Le Cabrioleur Et Dans Le Mouchoir“, from “Raindance” – it had a nice little rave-up at the coda, with Gulland firing out blasts from a trombone. The crowd (including myself) were on their feet for an ovation. So glad I was able to see them live! The fan I attended the concert with is an old friend of the group and he was able to get me into the after-party in the upstairs floor/bar of the chapel. I said “Hello” to Brian and Graeme and had brief chats with Dave Oberle and Jonathan Davie. Richard Harvey talked for a moment with the bloke I went to the show with, but I didn’t get to talk with him. We left quite late and the tubes had all finished by then, so I got a cab back to Victoria Station, and a coach back to Oxford. All in all, a brilliant show and night! Here’s to hoping they’ll do it again soon (with maybe an Oxford show thrown in).

Set-list:

First Set

Renaissance Dance Medley

The Astrologer

Kemp’s Jig

The Unquiet Grave

Crossing The Stiles (Greame Taylor solo)

Juniper Suite

Dubbel Dutch

Second Set

Midnight Mushrumps

Ashes

Lament

“Red Queen To Gryphon Three muddley”

“Eulatis” (Estampie?)

Encore

Le Cabriolet Et Dans Le Mouchoir

Stewart Lee – “A Room With A Stew” – Oxford Playhouse – March 31st, 2015

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Stewart Lee appeared in Oxford again, with his new “work-in-progress” shows, titled (by the awesome Alan Moore, apparently) “A Room With A Stew“. The last time I saw him was at the New Theatre on the “Carpet Remnant World” tour, a few years ago. I wish I could remember a lot of it, but all I can recall are the YouTube comments bit, the budget Scooby-Doo episode (after the Tories ransacked the show’s budget) and his reference to Dr Strangely Strange‘s “Heavy Petting” LP. I do recall enjoying the gig a lot and was excited when the missus found out he was going to be at The Playhouse.

The missus had to pass on the show, due to a really bad chest cough, so I went with her brother, his wife and an old work-mate. We had decent seats, in the stalls, about seven rows from the stage. John Coltrane‘s version of “My Favorite Things” was piped through the in-house speakers as the crowd settled into its seats. Eventually, the lights dimmed a bit, a stage announcement was made and the man walked out to applause.

He explained that the two sets of the show would be broken into segments, as he was working on material for the newest series of his Comedy Vehicle programme, which was picked up for more episodes. The first bit consisted of Lee poking fun at the right-wing media pundits, who ask why no left-wing comedians ridicule ‘the Muslims’. He dove-tailed that with a shot at popular comics who use tired “observational comedy” (he did a funny bit where he pretended to run around the stage – in a Lee Mack or Michael McIntyre way) as the main part of their humour. In the end, Lee just said “How ’bout those Muslims you see these days?” There was a (possibly fictional – sometimes you can’t tell with Stew) story about a Muslim woman, who sat on a copy of the Jehovah’s Witness magazine, “The Watchtower”, on a bus. He diverted into other topics during the telling of the story, like Twitter-spying and Nigel Fart-age, before finishing the entire bit with a really funny and lengthy punchline (which I can’t recall completely at the moment).

The ‘second half’ of the first set started with a story about himself being urinated on by a group of bullies at his school. This led him, he suggested (in a Freudian way), to want to entertain people. He reasoned that on some level, as the bullies were laughing at him, he was ‘entertaining’ them. More off-shoots of the central premise followed, including a urine-based aphorism that his family used and a story about his grandfather, a World War II veteran, attempting to wee on flies in a Maltese gents room – pretending they were German aircraft. He said, with a lot of gravitas, “For some of those guys, the war never ended”. When the crowd failed to laugh at that line – Lee went into a (jokey) tirade about how comedians are under-appreciated and shouting “it’s crowds like you that tied the noose around Robin Williams‘s neck!” The hilarious faux-crowd-berating continued for another few minutes and then Lee bounded off-stage for the intermission.

The second half of the show involved surplus England flags, various bodily fluids and hanging England flags outside his home to dry and the impression it made on his neighbours. I won’t spell it out graphically – but I think you can piece the bit together from that. The funniest bits were him calling his cat “Paul Nuttall From UKIP” and referring to lustful feelings as “Nigel Farage is on the campaign trail”. There was also a part where he told how one of his friends looked very “Venezualan” (earlier in the show, he asked for a name of a country that would seem benign to the crowd) – a funny riff on how xenophobes view ‘foreigners’. He described how his friend would wear strange clothes (he came up with some fantastical outfits), listen to weird Venezualan music on Radio Three (he launched into an improvised record-scratching, high-pitched vocal and animal noise sound for about 5 minutes) and how, in the end, everyone but Lee’s friend knew he was ‘Venezualan’.

Lee finished with a short section that he referred to as an ‘encore’, but he did say at the beginning of the show that he wouldn’t leave the stage and walk back on. It was a short fragment of a bit about clients of sex workers leaving used condoms around the street and sometimes in Lee’s garden. I can’t recall the final punch-line, but it had to do with Lee’s wife and feminism, but in a praising way, not an obnoxious one.

I found the second half wasn’t quite as tight as the first – but to be fair, even these later shows on the tour are still opportunities for Lee to hone the material. In any case, I had a great time and it’s always good to see Stew – even when he’s mock-berating me for showing up to watch him.

Busy Week: Mark Thomas – The North Wall, Summertown – 15th Oct./The Orb – O2 Academy, Oxford – 16th October, 2014

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Pixie and I actually had somewhat of an active social life this past week, as we caught leftie comedian Mark Thomas in action at The North Wall theatre, a tiny venue in Summertown on Wednesday night (15th October). The next night, we were at the O2 Academy in Oxford, to see The Orb on the current leg of the group’s 25th Anniversary Tour.

Thomas started his show by praising the hall. “I love this fucking space”, he exclaimed a few times – “I feel like there should be a priest hole somewhere”, he added. After that, he went into a few random riffs on what he’s been up to, while promising that “the second half is fucking great”. He had a competition to find a definition of “Farage” (which he insisted be pronounced “fair-idge”, not “far-odge”, like the media do). He chose the best one – which was the residue you find at the bottom of a food waste bin. He also hawked stickers saying “Daily Mail Free Zone” to place on trains and coaches. The first set was quite short, only about a half-hour or so.

The second set centred around Thomas’s work and protests with the C.A.A.T. (or Campaign Against The Arms Trade). The main subject is a fellow activist called “Martin” – Thomas never says his surname and we were never quite if his first name is even Martin. Martin was a convert to the anti-arms trade cause, after working in the trade for a long while. Thomas talked of how dedicated Martin was and the amount of time he spent organising and helping with protests. He cleverly used videos of fellow activists and ‘talked’ with them about Martin. All was well, until a rumour started circulating that Martin wasn’t quite what he seemed. An audit of C.A.A.T.’s computers turned up evidence that Martin was spying for B.A.E. Systems, the UK’s largest arms manufacturer.

Thomas and a few staunch supporters of Martin refused to believe the allegations and Thomas even went so far as to shout denials to the organisation’s leaders. Somehow, though, to Thomas, something wasn’t quite right about Martin and he was eventually convinced to read the file on the audit. The evidence looked incontravertible and Thomas was forced to change his opinion of Martin. In the end, Thomas, despite many efforts, couldn’t get Martin to admit to what he had done. He closed the show with more videos of fellow activists who had also been spied on by either corporations or goverment agencies. It widened the show’s scope from personal betrayal to the enormous implication of spying going on in society at the moment.

The Orb have been on their 25th Anniversary tour since mid-2013 and the show stopped in Oxford on 16th October. The group, at the moment, is a duo of original member (and the only constant one) Alex Paterson – sorta the Robert Fripp of The Orb, with Thomas Fehlmann, who joined up around the time of “U.F.Orb”, released in 1992. To my surprise, the show was on the upper floor of the O2 Academy. It’s a smaller space and makes for a more intimate setting. We missed the support act – I think it was someone called Nick Hooper. He had the usual laptop/sampler set-up and was winding down his set as we walked in.

After a short-ish interval – Paterson and Fehlmann took centre stage where their gear was set up. I suspect most of the first half were tunes from the latest album (released in 2012), Orbserver In The Star House – a collaboration with dub reggae legend, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. I don’t have “Orbserver…” yet, so I didn’t recognise anything until Pat Metheny‘s sampled guitar notes floated into the mix, signalling their classic “Little Fluffy Clouds“. A nice “Towers Of Dub” followed and a surprise “Toxygene” made it into the set. “Blue Room” was dusted off with a harder-edge beat than the studio version and “Assassin” made an appearance as well.

I also remember a re-working of Pink Floyd‘s “One Of These Days“, mainly using the bass riff and layered sounds. “A Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain…” was announced by way of the Minnie Riperton sample, but it wasn’t its usual epic length. The nearly two-hour set wound down with what I think was “Ball Of Fire” off of “Orbserver…” (based on the spoken-word sample in it). Paterson and Fehlmann left the stage and the crowd stamped and shouted for an encore, but the house lights switched on and we all shuffled out into the street. A decent show – fairly stripped back compared to the shows of twenty or even fifteen years ago. The duo kept things moving along nicely and there weren’t any dull moments. The mix wasn’t the best, but then the acoustics in that space have never been, in my experience, ideal. A lot of the spoken-word samples were difficult to hear, so some of the depth of the Orb sound was lost. Aside from that, it was good to see the boys out on the road, bringing a bit of psychedelic ambient dance music to the faithful.

Mark Thomas: Cuckooed – North Wall, Summertown

First set: “What I’ve Been Up To” – including “Farage” & playing gigs in strange venues

Second set: “Cuckooed” (a tale of betrayal)

The Orb – 25th Anniversary Tour –  O2 Academy, Oxford:

Africa

Soulman

(not sure)

(not sure)

Little Fluffy Clouds

Assassin

Towers Of Dub

Toxygene

Blue Room

One Of These Days (Pink Floyd remix)

A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain…

(not sure)

Ball Of Fire

–no encore–

Kate Bush – ‘Before The Dawn’ – Hammersmith Apollo – September 12, 2014

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Thousands of words have already been posted and typed and printed about Kate Bush‘s ‘comeback’ shows in London, her first full concerts since the “Tour Of Life” in 1979. Here’s a few more. When she announced the shows in February of this year – it seemed like a hoax. After all, you never can really trust some stories on the internet. I received an e-mail a little while later, with a ‘pre-sale’ code for tickets. I’ve been a big fan of her music since the early 1990s and I didn’t want to pass up the chance to see her live, especially given her reluctance to perform in concert.

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A guy I worked with has multiple laptops and said he’d scored tickets to very in-demand shows in the past, so I asked him if he could try to get Kate tickets for me. He agreed and to my amazement, got two tickets for the 12th September show!! It cost me a good bottle of wine, but to me, more than worth it. The months ticked by, rumours about special guests were floated around, as well as set list guesses. I wanted everything to be a surprise, so I conscientiously avoided blogs, newspaper articles and teevee coverage – even after the opening show, on 26th August.

Finally, the day arrived – I grabbed the tickets and met my friend in Oxford, for the trip to London. The shows are at the Hammersmith Apollo (or the “Eventim Apollo”, as it’s called now), the very same hall where “The Tour Of Life” show debuted. Kate said she was initially put off playing there, as it had become quite run-down over the years, but changed her mind when she found it was to be completely refurbished early in 2014. We arrived in Notting Hill Gate late in the afternoon and grabbed a quick lunch. We hopped on a bus down to where the venue is, but ended up walking some of the way, as traffic was pretty bad around there.

My friend is partially-sighted and had his guide dog with him. He had phoned the venue to check if they would look after her, while we were watching the show. The staff were quite nice and agreed to do so. We were able to avoid the queue outside and head in to drop off ‘Molly’ (the guide dog). While we were inside, I cheekily asked if we could check the merch table. They said it was fine and so I bought a T-shirt and programme. After that, it was time for a couple of pints in a local pub – then back to the Apollo for the concert!

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Our seats were in the upper circle, nearly at the back. The Apollo’s a small-ish venue, so there’s not really any bad seats, per se. Kate had requested that people not take photos or film during the show and it was good to see everyone around us leaving the kit shut off. The stage itself, for the opening, was fairly sparse – two drum kits, a couple of keyboards and guitar and bass set-ups. Above the stage at the back, diamond shapes were arranged in a triangular pattern. The lights dimmed, the band walked onstage and started playing. Not long after, followed by a line of backing singers, Kate sashayed onstage to the rhythm of the tune, which turned out to be “Lily” (first released on “The Red Shoes“, in 1993 – then re-recorded for the “Director’s Cut” compilation, released in 2011). Her voice is still in fine form, even if she can’t quite hit the real high notes anymore. The reception was rapturous and then she ripped into “Hounds Of Love“, the title track from her 1985 (and most well known) album – the place just exploded. She seemed to relish singing it again and the backing band were top-notch. After “Hounds”, she took things down a notch with a nice “Joanni“, from the “Aerial” album, released in 2005. “Top Of The City“, another “Red Shoes” track re-worked for the “Director’s Cut”, followed – the diamond shapes were used cleverly in that one. They were lit up to resemble skyscrapers at night. Somewhat expected, “Running Up That Hill” (also from “Hounds Of Love”) was next and yet again, the crowd were delighted and the tune cooked. I wasn’t sure what she would sing next – I was still thinking maybe “Army Dreamers” or “Breathing” (from her “Never For Ever” album, released in 1980). Instead, she chose “King Of The Mountain“, the only single from “Aerial”, released in 2005. The end section became a rave-up and the band kicked into high gear. At the very end, one of the drummers got a bull-roarer out and after creating its eerie drone sound, the stage went dark.

A film of a man calling the coast guard about a ship in distress started up and then I realised she was going to perform the entire “Ninth Wave” section off of ‘Hounds Of Love’. The song cycle takes up side 2 (of the LP), or the second half of the CD, if that’s what you’ve got. A screen at the back of the stage showed Kate floating in water and the image would ‘mime’ with Kate’s actual vocal, which was quite clever. During “Under Ice“, a frozen sofa, lamp and TV appeared on-stage. The back-up singers wore fish-skeleton costumes and at one point, ‘workmen’ walked out and pretended to cut a hold in the stage. “Waking The Witch” featured a priest and the fish-people. I couldn’t tell if the vocal was live, as I suspect getting that ‘stutter’ effect would be difficult in a concert setting. Before “Watching You Without Me“, a surreal living room set glided onto the stage. It looked almost like the cutaway of a ship’s cabin, and it would bob slowly back and forth, as if it were on the sea. A domestic scene was played between a father and son (with Kate’s son Bertie playing the youth). Kate suddenly appeared in the room and then the song commenced. “Jig Of Life” was a rave-up, with the crowd clapping along with the Irish rhythm. Kate’s brother John‘s face appeared on the frozen TV screen to recite the poem that features at the coda. A life-size buoy prop became the centre-piece for “Hello Earth” and for the extended coda, she was carried from the stage, down a ramp, by the fish skeleton people. “The Morning Fog” was simply stunning, the whole band lined up across the stage and when Kate sang “D’you know what…I love you better now“, the crowd roared. The interval was announced and I was still processing what I had just seen. It was incredible – one of my favourite pieces of music performed in concert – worth the ticket price alone.

The second set was also an extended suite – this time “A Sky Of Honey“, the second disc (or LP, if you’re lucky enough to have a copy without paying £200 for it) of “Aerial”. The props for this set included a massive wooden door, lowered to the stage, a wooden puppet manipulated to act like a small boy and a screen made to look like a large painting. While it’s not quite as dynamic as “The Ninth Wave”, the tempo does pick up during the “Sunset” section, which builds into a flamenco-flavoured jam and Kate even let out an “Arrrriba!”. Bertie, who played the part of “The Painter” (originally voiced by Rolf Harris on the album – but as he’s had his….troubles lately…), narrated an extra bit about the moonrise. “Somewhere In Between” picked up the pace again and then the final two sections brought back the ambient feel. The final part, the title track, was another build-up. The band donned bird masks and moved around the stage with Kate. She was chased away, then the stage went dark with the band still chugging away. Suddenly, the panels of the door opened and there was Kate, floating, with huge black wings on her back. It lasted a few seconds and the stage went dark again.

The lights came on, Kate and the band shuffled off-stage. She walked out on her own and to prove she can still do the “girl-and-her-piano” act, played a lovely “Among Angels“, the only song from the “50 Words For Snow” album in the set list. The band returned for the final tune of the night, a rousing version of “Cloudbusting“, first released on “Hounds..” The house lights came on after the ovations and applause died down and we all made our way out of the venue.

The verdict? Well, I enjoyed the show immensely. I’ve seen films of the “Tour Of Life” show in ’79 and while Kate is far less ‘active’ on-stage these days, she still has loads of presence and mostly lets her voice carry the music. She’s retained her sense of the theatrical, as amply demonstrated in the “Ninth Wave” section. For those who showed up to hear the very early stuff – you’ll be in for disappointment – there’s nothing in the set from the first four albums…that’s right, no “Wuthering Heights” or “Wow” or “Babooshka“. I suppose I can’t blame her – her voice can’t really hit the higher registers needed for those tunes and she’s probably sick to death of W.H.

I’m just glad she took the plunge and decided to play live again – mostly by encouragement from Bertie, so hats off to him! it seems to have gone well, so hopefully it won’t be another long stretch of years to see her again.

Set list – 13th September, 2014:

“ACT I”

Lily
Hounds Of Love
Joanni
Running Up That Hill
Top Of The City
King Of The Mountain

~”The Ninth Wave“:
And Dream Of Sheep
Under Ice
Waking The Witch
“Domestic Interlude”
Watching You Without Me
Jig Of Life
Hello Earth
The Morning Fog

“ACT II”

~”A Sky Of Honey“:
Prelude
Prologue
The Architect’s Dream
The Painter’s Link
Sunset
Aerial Tal
Somewhere In Between
“Moonrise Introduction” (Bertie McIntosh solo)
Nocturn
Aerial

Encore:
Among Angels (Kate solo on piano)
Cloudbusting

We Were Here! Orbital – The O2 Academy, Oxford – 13th December 2012

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I’ve been an Orbital fan since the spring/summer of 1995, when, thinking their stuff was an off-shoot of The Orb‘s ambient techno. I bought the “Snivilisation” album and woooooah, it definitely wasn’t what I was expecting. It’s far more beat-driven than The Orb (at least, at the time) and much harsher in places. It took me a few listens, but then I was hooked. I bought all of the back catalogue, which was two full-length albums. The EPs were really tough to get in the States and if you did score them, the import prices were pretty outrageous.

Then came “In Sides” in 1996 – which was released as a double CD. The second disc was a combined release of the “Times Fly” and “Sad But True” EPs, themselves having hit the shelves in 1995. “In Sides” was sorta their prog-rock album – long tracks with some having multiple sections within the tracks. “The Middle Of Nowhere” followed in 1999 and “The Altogether” was released in 2001. By 2004, Orbital announced they were splitting up, after releasing the somewhat disappointing “Blue Album“. The split almost implied they would re-group at some point, but we fans were never sure.

The boys played a few reunion shows in the past couple of years and everything seemed to go well. They announced late in 2011 that they had returned to the studio and were making a brand-new record. They even posted video diaries of the progress of the recording. In April of this year, “Wonky” was dropped and most reviews have been very positive. To me, it’s an excellent album – maybe not quite reaching the dizzying heights of “The Brown Album” or “In Sides”, but for a couple of guys going on 25 years as a duo, it’s pretty damn good!

I never got to see them live – they never played Connecticut, not as far as I’m aware and it seemed to be too much effort to go to NYC or Boston. They closest they came was on the “Community Service” U.S. tour in summer 1999. They played the Palladium Theatre in Worcester, Mass in July of that year. I’ve found a live recording of the show since and I really wish I’d been to see it. Pixie spotted the notice on the Oxford O2 Academy website that Orbital were going to play there on their winter 2012 tour and asked if I wanted to go…

We arrived in time at the O2 Academy to catch support act Nathan Fake, who took up his spot stage left with a laptop and mixing console. His set consisted of around 45 minutes of pleasant enough Aphex Twin-ish electronica…all synth sweeps and fast beats.  He bopped along to the beats and would occasionally reach over to the mixer and tweak the mix, making a snare-roll sound or adjust the speed. I don’t know the names of the tracks – but they all flowed one into another. The first ‘suite’ lasted about a half-hour and the second for roughly 15 to 20 minutes.

The Hartnoll brothers took the stage a bit later and if I may say so, played a blinder! They opted for “Time Becomes” as their walk-on..er…music, then ripped into an energized “One Big Moment” (which also opens ‘Wonky’). O.B.M. is fast becoming my fave tune on the new record – it’s a classic Orbital anthem. They then led into “Halcyon + On + On“. I’d have thought they would have saved this for later in the set, but nope – they forged ahead, even adding in the (now familiar) mix of Belinda Carlisle‘s “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” and Bon Jovi‘s “You Give Love A Bad Name“. “Straight Sun” and “Distractions“, both from ‘Wonky’ followed, with the dazzling lights flashing and the back-projected videos providing an excellent visual accompaniment.

“Distractions” segued into my other fave new track,Beelzedub“. It’s Orbital’s ‘dubstep’ tune – but for my money, beats out the young’uns at their own game. The vids showed various banker-types, George W. Bush, as the beats and synths were jacked up to punishing volume – the crowd surged along with the rhythms. “Never“, from ‘Wonky’ followed, leading into a surprise (and lovely) “Belfast“, all the way from Orbital first full-length, giving a bit of respite from the faster tunes and jackhammer rhythms.

Another highlight for me was “Impact” – one of my all-time fave Orbital tracks – it also gave a the boys a chance to crank the volume and get the bodies dancing! So good! The title track from the new album came next, with a recording of Lady Leshurr‘s vocals weaving it’s way through the demented synth riffs. An extended “Are We Here?“, from ‘Snivilisation’, followed, with Alison Goldfrapp‘s vocals in the mix. The best bit was toward the end of the tune, when they added a sample from The Carpenters‘ “Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft” in – it worked perfectly with the rhythm and they even had the ol’ ‘bouncing-ball-with-the-lyrics’ on the screen! Their re-working of the “Doctor Who” theme – a live staple for a long while now, closed the main set. It was good, but not necessarily a surprise and I would’ve preferred a track from “In Sides” or “The Middle Of Nowhere” instead.

Phil & Paul obliged the crowd with not one…but two encores!! The first was an excellent “Chime” (you knew they weren’t to going to skip that one). It’s comforting, somehow, to know that they still don’t mind trotting it out after all this time. The final tune of the night was the final track from ‘Wonky’, called “Where Is It Going?“. I admit that by then, I was tired from all the bopping around (especially during “Impact”) and the body heat from the crowd made me a bit woozy – so it was nice just to chill a bit and listen as the music drifted from the speakers. The house lights came up as the boys left the stage and off into the cold December night we went.

Setlist (Orbital):

Time Becomes

One Big Moment

Halcyon (incl. “Heaven Is A Place On Earth & “You Give Love A Bad Name”)

Straight Sun

Distractions

Beelzedub

Never

Belfast

Impact (the earth is burning)

Wonky

Are We Here? (incl. “Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft”)

Encore 1: Chime

Encore 2: Where Is It Going?

Julian Cope – The O2 Academy, Oxford – 12th October, 2012

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I’ll tell ya’s – I’ve been a regular social butterfly the past couple of weeks. Caught “Love And Information” in London and then, just last Friday, Pixie and I saw Julian Cope at the O2 in Oxford.

I’d never seen him live before, so I was looking forward to the show. Copey’s not as crazed as he was back in the late 80s/early 90s – still, he’s one of those guys where you don’t really know what to expect. He could do a drone-metal show with a full band, an ambient show with a few keyboards, or an acoustic folkie-type show. This tour it’s the latter, we found out when we got to the venue. The stage was pretty bare, aside from an electronic keyboard sat on a mellotron (a real one!), a few mic stands and a huge bass drum with the inscription “You Can’t Beat Your Brain For Good Entertainment” on the front.

The support act was Anton Barbeau, an American psychedelic folkie (and cousin of actress Adrienne). He played a nice little set and with his elfin stature and springy hair, reminded me at times of Tyrannosaurus Rex-era Marc Bolan. The highlights for me were the set opener, “This Is Why They Call Me Guru 7” and a country-ish tune with “Trouble” in the title (should’ve written them down). The songs are well-crafted and the Robyn Hitchcock lyrical comparisons seem pretty spot-on, though Barbeau’s songs seem far less exploratory (psychologically) than Hitchcock’s. I kinda wish he knew a couple of extra chords as well – two of the songs he played (in a row) had the exact chord structure. The final tune, “The Banana Song“, has a catchy melody and Barbeau did an amusing bit where he sang between two mics – one of which had an echo effect, so his voice would almost pan around the room from the echoed mic. He’s also playing with ex-Soft Boys (to further the Robyn connection) members Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor in Three Minute Tease. Barbeau announced that they were playing an in-store gig at the Truck Records shop the following day, but I didn’t make it down there.

The Cope took the stage with an acoustic guitar, after an introduction by a bloke called Fido-X of Cope’s side-band, Black Sheep. Fido’s a tall, biker-looking dude who could double as a Motorhead roadie. Cope was dressed in his general’s cap, leather vest, aviator shades, khaki shorts and leather boots. His hair is cut short at the moment and with all the rest of the gear, he looked like Douglas MacArthur on the set of a Mad Max film. He tore into the opening tune, a cracking version of “Raving On The Moor”, from his newest album, Psychedelic Revolution. His voice was in fine form and he had a cool, feedback-y/flange-y effect on the acoustic which gave it a growling tone. For the rest of the set, he would play a few tunes on the acoustic, then amble over to the mellotron/digital keyboard set-up for a tune. The set covered songs off of “Psychedelic Revolution”, but surprisingly he dipped into various places in his back catalogue – even his former early 80s new-wave psychedelic band, The Teardrop Explodes (a nice, droney version of “The Great Dominions“, played on the digital keyboard). He also played a couple of songs from his (arguably) best solo record, Peggy Suicide and one from the 1992 follow-up, Jehovahkill. He even dipped back into his first solo album, Fried, with a spirited version of “O King Of Chaos” – another keyboard excursion.

Cope still likes to interact with the punters, too. He’d talk about what he’s been up to and any shouted asides from the crowd would be met with a witty riposte or a quick assent. Of course, there’s always the uber-fan who has to try and out-do everyone else. There was one guy who was almost trying to have a conversation with him, while he was on-stage, throughout most of the show. I kept waiting for either Cope or someone near to the uber-fan to tell him to shut the fuck up, but it never happened. The best bit of Julian’s on-stage chats was when he was discussing the “Droolian/Skellington“-era and he was at the Island Records offices. He ran into Paul Morley, journalist and half-owner of the ZTT label and Morley asked Cope: “How are you puttin’ out all these fookin’ records?” Cope imitated Morley in a near-perfect Manc accent. Had me laughing for ages.

The final tune in the main set was “Robert Mitchum” (from “Droolian”), which featured a funny dig at Axl Rose (who, according to Cope, ruined the whistling solo forever). He re-appeared shortly after with Fido-X and Doggen (another Black Sheep member) and played a short encore. The highlight was a rocking version of “Out Of My Mind On Dope And Speed“, which got the crowd singing and bopping along. The Cope then waved goodbye and the house lights came on.

I would recommend that you catch any remaining shows, but Julian announced that it was the final night of the tour. He is doing a couple of appearances for his Copendium project – but I don’t think he’s doing any more gigs for the rest of the year. Glad we caught this show – it was well worth it!

Set list (Julian Cope):

Raving On The Moor

Soul Desert

Cromwell In Ireland (with Fido-X on bass drum)

Mother, Where Is My Father? (David Peel cover – with Fido-X on bass drum)

As The Beer Flows Over Me

The Great Dominions

Autogeddon Blues

Double Vegetation

I’m Your Daddy

Pristeen (with Doggen on bongos)

Stone Circles ‘N’ You (with Doggen on bongos)

Psychedelic Revolution

Screaming Secrets

I’m Living In The Room They Found Saddam In

Jellypop Perky Jean

Julian H. Cope (with Doggen on bongos)

Unisex Cathedral In D (with Doggen on bongos)

O King Of Chaos

Head Hung Low

Sunspots

Greatness & Perfection Of Love

Robert Mitchum

Encore:

Out Of My Mind On Dope & Speed

Richard Herring/Stephen Carlin – The Cellar, Oxford – 4th June, 2012

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Pixie had bought the tickets a while back. It was tough to believe the gig was here. I nearly forgot about it a couple of times.

Richard Herring, in case you’ve not heard of him, is a stand-up comedian who started out on his own, in Oxford, in the early 90s. He was then part of a double-act with the excellent Stewart Lee for a while. They decided to split the act up and he (and Stewart) has been performing in solo shows since.

Herring has titled the show we saw “Talking Cock”, a sort-of male answer to the Vagina Monologues. The title makes it sound crude, but Herring throws in enough history and male inadequacy asides to make the show almost educational in spots.

He was perfoming the show at The Cellar in Oxford, as a preview/warm-up for the Edinburgh Festival – so it was a treat to see it in an unpolished (mind the pun?) form. Herring had the second half of the show, which started with Scottish comic Stephen Carlin.

Carlin was also previewing his latest Edinburgh show, called “Pandas and Penguins”. The main gist was the difference between the two species, and how to classify English and Scottish people according to their similarities to either pandas or penguins. Carlin has a laid-back delivery style and his observations seemed pretty spot-on. The funniest bits were the anecdote about having to get his parents drunk to let them know he was quitting drinking (his imitations of his parents’ voices reminded me a lot of Rab C. Nesbitt), and him talking about his girlfriend leaving him for no-one. At one point, the amplifier over-heated and the mic cut out. Carlin had been talking about paranoia and it was almost a perfect synchronicity with his act. A few times he tried to remember where in the act he was, but he played the delays off smoothly. It’d be cool to see the finished show sometime.

Richard Herring’s act had more flow – but he’s also performed bits of this show before. The joke about the loo graffiti, which still cracked me up –  I’d seen him tell it on one of his television appearances. Same for the joke about how to tell the size of a man’s penis. Most of the set-ups come from answers to an online questionnaire that Herring has on his website. As the cliched phrase goes, “most of this stuff writes itself”, but Herring deftly weaves the goofy answers, as well as the more personal, almost confessional ones, into the act as a whole. Along with adding in various slang terms for the male member: “meat thermometer”, “flesh silo”, etc.

It all winds down with Herring exhorting the men in the audience to shout “I love my cock!” He then tries to get the crowd saying “I love my cock and your cock!”, with a lessened result. I really enjoyed the show and it reinforces the idea that sexuality seems to have a very wide spectrum, even when just discussing one physical part of it.