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Friday, 28 June 2013

The Who : LG Arena Birmingham Setlist & Review June 28 2013

They hoped they’d die before they got old but on Friday night bus pass rockers Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend picked up their guitars and played ­– if not quite like yesterday then not far short of it.

Daltrey, an improbably buff 69, and Townshend – still windmilling power chords at the age of 68 – are touring 1973 mods and rockers concept album Quadrophenia, a difficult child at the best of times.

Perfectionist Pete has never been happy with his rock opera in live concert, describing earlier outings in his recent autobiography as shambolic and repeatedly failing to live up to the potential of the period pop piece.

So the news that Daltrey had persuaded him to give it another go came as something of a surprise. Whether the current tour will live up to his high expectations only time will tell, although the 15,000 fans went home happy.

The trouble with playing a double album – and not one of your best – in its entirety, and in track order to boot, is that there will inevitably be peaks and troughs, and there are more troughs than peaks in Quadrophenia.

So while the diehard faithful will lap up every song, the less committed have to show patience, especially when the band do not deign to speak to the audience until they have finished serving the main course.

Opener The Real Me promises much with its Who hallmarks, but it feels a long time until The Punk And The Godfather scales similar heights, and kid brother Simon Townshend sings a surprisingly strong Dirty Jobs.

Archive images of the band smashing their instruments during Helpless Dancer only serve to suggest how tame the new generation band seems. It’s fully 45 minutes before a rousing 5:15 finally ignites the crowd, complete with a film footage bass solo from the late John Entwistle.

Then it’s hit and miss again, the bluesy Drowned taking things back to basics and Bell Boy boasting the dearly departed Keith Moon’s madcap vocal, again captured on film. Daltrey watches his old friend as if mesmerised.

The Rock is backed by film of social revolution from Vietnam to Pussy Riot, earning Margaret Thatcher a chorus of booing from the audience. Diana, Princess of Wales later gets a similar reaction. “What are you?” asks Townshend. “All Irish?”

Throughout the gig there have been striking images on the video wall behind the band, ranging from early Who gigs to newsreel of the Blitz, rationing, the beach confrontations of the 60s and footage of Brighton Pier in flames. 

Trouble is, at times they've been more eye-catching than the band.

Love Reign O’er Me brings Quadrophenia to a close, microphone-twirling Daltrey in fine voice. And it’s then that the gig finally moves up the gears with a short greatest hits setlist tagged on to the end.

Who Are You, You Better You Bet and Pinball Wizard have the arena rocking. The mighty Baba O’Riley brings the house down, taking well-heeled fans back out into the teenage wasteland.

Won’t Get Fooled Again is the inevitable, fist-pumping, singalong finale. One of rock’s greatest anthems, it brings out the best in The Who, sweeping aside the claims of much younger pretenders to the throne.

Good gig, then, but they were better when they played the NIA a few years back with a joyous celebratory setlist not confined by the zoot suit straitjacket of Quadrophenia.


I Am The Sea
The Real Me
Cut My Hair
The Punk And The Godfather
I’m One
The Dirty Jobs
Helpless Dancer
Is It In My Head?
I’ve Had Enough
Sea And Sand
Bell Boy
Doctor Jimmy
The Rock
Love Reign O’er Me
Who Are You
You Better You Bet
Pinball Wizard
Baby O’Riley
Won’t Get Fooled Again
Tea & Theatre

Monday, 17 June 2013

Rammstein : Download 2013 review and setlist

Ah, Rammstein.

So infuriating.

When they hit that industrial metal groove, there are few bands better.

They're tight as a drum. A bloody big, loud drum.

Once a Rammstein riff takes off, it's as inexorable as a Metallica jam.

And so it proved yet again at Download.

From the firework-fuelled drum shots of Ich Tu Dir Weh the set was an unashamed crowd-pleaser. They even set themselves on fire earlier than usual.

Feuer Frei, Asche Zu Asche, Benzin, Links 2-3-4. They're irresistible.

And yet... And yet...

Aren't the rock and roll panto pieces beginning to grate?

There are only so many times you can drag out the cooking pot. And the schoolboy smut just demeans a band of Rammstein's stature.

Pussy, anyone?

Yes, it was a good gig. But only good when it should have been great.

On the drive back home, I left the Rammstein playlist on shuffle.

It sounded brutal. The way Rammstein should sound.

So c'mon guys, ditch the dildo, start writing adult songs again (as in grown-up, not adult entertainment, that is). Get back to basics.

Them maybe, just maybe, Rammstein will be a metal band to be reckoned with again.

Earlier in the day at Download, Corey's Stone Sour showed how it should be done, with a set worthy of the headline spot.

He takes his music seriously. And it shows.

’Ich Tu Dir Weh’

‘Wollt Ihr Das Bett In Flammen Sehen?’

‘Keine Lust’


‘Asche Zu Asche’

‘Feuer Frei!’

‘Mein Teil’

‘Ohne Dich’

‘Wiener Blut’

‘Du Riechst So Gut’


‘Links 2-3-4’

‘Du Hast’

‘Bück Dich’

‘Ich Will’

‘Mein Herz Brennt’



Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Neil Young & Crazy Horse : LG Arena, Birmingham Review and Setlist June 11 2013

TUESDAY June 11, 2013. Write it down in your diary. Neil Young smiled.

The ornery ol’ Canadian cuss beamed like a smitten schoolboy as the reunited Crazy Horse riffed vocally on fan favourite Fuckin’ Up.

Before launching into the song he’d asked the capacity crowd at the LG Arena: “Rock and roll or Cortez?” in a tone which suggested they couldn’t have both, not with scheduled stage time running out.

But, hell, he was enjoying himself. In the end, he did do both, restoring a mighty Cortez The Killer to the setlist and more, stretching an epic gig to the two and a half hour mark.

Even at the close, as the covers came down, he looked ready to rock on.

Touring with Crazy Horse for the first time in years, Young took his cues from the past. The giant Fender amps and Back To The Future scientists were straight from 1978’s Rust Never Sleeps tour.

The upcoming live Alchemy album will finish a trilogy comprising 1978’s Live Rust and 1990’s Weld.

Cue continuity not just in stage setting but also in the setlist, valiant veterans from those campaigns rubbing shoulders seamlessly with new kids on the block from the recent Psychedelic Pill.

Now 67, and famously uncompromising, Young was in a mood to please. Entering the stage under the Union Jack, and to the strains of the National Anthem, hand held on heart, he seemed invigorated.

Something remarkable seems to happen when he’s back in the company of Crazy Horse cohorts Billy Talbot, Frank Sampredo and Ralph Molina. They hit an irresistible groove which allows extended improvisation.

Right from the opening Love To Burn, walking  in the valley of hearts, Young’s guitar was spitting and sputtering, feedback-fuelled and hungry for more. Surfer Joe And Moe The Sleaze continued in the same vein.

First of the newcomers, Psychedelic Pill, set the scene for early highlight Walk Like A Giant, the lament for the failed summer of love stretching into 20 minutes or more, ending in angry, apocalyptic brutality.

Litter blew across the stage throughout the song. Whenever it ran out, a roadie emptied another carrier bag full. You could see what he was getting at, but perhaps the budget ran out.

With Woodstock’s dove of peace fluttering behind the band, they restored balance with Hole In The Sky harmonies before a solo double delight, Young strumming Heart Of Gold and Dylan’s Blowing In The Wind.

He transferred to piano for the subtle Singer Without A Song, then cranked up the amps again for a lengthy Ramada Inn, the latter a reflection on growing old but not really one of his best.

Then, remarkably, he moved up the gears. A rocked up Cinnamon Girl, a playful Fuckin’ Up, classic Cortez The Killer and Buffalo Springfield’s short, sharp and sweet Mr Soul built up momentum.

The crowd found release in set closer Hey Hey My My (Into The Black). It was touch and go for a while, with repeated calls for Rockin’ In The Free World, but the choice was spot on. Rock and roll will never die.

Way past scheduled set time, they came back on to encore with a full-length Powderfinger. Last buses? Last trains? Car park crush? No-one cared. Nobody moved. Nobody wanted to leave.

Rust never sleeps, you know.


Love To Burn

Surfer Joe And Moe The Sleaze

Psychedelic Pill

Walk Like A Giant

Hole In The Sky

Heart Of Gold

Blowin’ In The Wind

Singer Without A Song

Ramada Inn

Cinnamon Girl

Fuckin’ Up

Cortez The Killer

Mr Soul

Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)


Saturday, 8 June 2013

Black Sabbath : 13 review and video

They’re back. Black Monday marks the return of Black Sabbath.

Titled simply 13, it is the first studio album to boast the classic line-up of Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler since 1978’s Never Say Die, after which Ozzy walked out.

Only drummer Bill Ward is absent, after refusing to take part amid contractual wrangles, his place taken by Rage Against The Machine’s Brad Wilk.

At the production helm is Rick Rubin, a man with a habit of getting the best out of artists who haven’t been hitting highspots in the later stages of their careers, Neil Diamond and the late Johnny Cash among them.

“I have to admit that it’s not what I expected,” says guitarist Iommi, who lives in Lapworth these days. “In a good way, that is. I could never have imagined that the album would turn out so well, but it has.

“I think it sits comfortably with our first three albums – Black Sabbath, Paranoid and Master Of Reality. We wanted it to sound like the way we played in our early days, back to basics, and we recorded pretty much all of it almost live as a band.

“We didn’t want to go through the usual trip of recording the drums, the guitars and the vocals separately. So we played together.”

Word is that this is intended as a farewell, and that the line-up will not record again after a world tour which stops off at Birmingham’s LG Arena on December 20 and again at the city’s National Indoor Arena on December 22. Don’t be so sure...

Here’s the track-by-track verdict:

End Of The Beginning

Sabbath’s return is announced by an explosive power chord leading into a four-note mirror image riff as Ozzy pleads: “Is this the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end?”

It’s a classic Sabbath plod for close on three minutes until a faster rock and roll riff kicks in, topped by a tightly controlled guitar solo one minute spitting more bullets than a Kalashnikov, the next sparingly melodic.

“All right, OK,” chants Ozzy as the song winds down, a surefire stadium response ploy. It’s old school Sabbath but dressed in crisp contemporary production rather than the muddy mixes of old.

God Is Dead

The album’s longest track, at almost nine minutes, boasts a similar reverse riff to the opener but is a more doomy, gloomy affair.

“Is God alive or is God dead?” sings Ozzy before rambling on about “rivers of evil through the dying land” and warning that “sinners will be damned” somehow stretching the last word into three Brummie syllables.

It’s inspired by the 9/11 terror attack on the World Trade Centre, not that you’d necessarily know it.

Again, there are time changes aplenty, including a kickass stop-start boogie which gets the adrenaline flowing round about the three-quarter mark, and a near-progressive riff at the close that is destined to defeat Guitar Hero wannabes.


Easily accessible and radio-friendly, Loser ups the pace, driven by Geezer Butler’s bass and Brad Wilk’s tight drumming. Classic Sabbath hallmarks are still in evidence but it’s the album’s most lightweight contender.

Just when you think you’ve got it figured as a good highway song, Tony Iommi pulls the rug from under your feet with a tricky riff and searing solo.


Remember Planet Caravan from the Paranoid album back in 1970? Well, here it is again. Sort of.

Opening with Ozzy’s manic laughter, it’s all acoustic guitar and bongo percussion given a psychedelic twist. Think the sort of songs Led Zeppelin offered on their third album but without the blues roots.

Iommi’s flanged guitar adds to the period piece, until he breaks into some Wes Montgomery-style jazz licks. If you listen again to early Sabbath, there’s a surprising amount of jazz amid the monolithic metal.

Age Of Reason

Stadium rock drumbeats herald another huge riff on the album’s best track. “Always felt there would be trouble,” sighs Ozzy, perhaps mindful of Iommi’s lymphoma diagnosis, Bill Ward’s departure and his own addiction.

Musically the most ambitious outing here, there are tricksy time turnarounds, and Wilks adds drum fills all over the place much in the way that Ward once wandered. There’s a tighter middle section that smacks of his day job in Rage Against The Machine.

It’s a song Sabbath fans Metallica would love to cover, old school but shiny new at the same time. Iommi tops it off with a clean, stylish solo set against the murmurings of a heavenly choir.

Live Forever

Phew! What a scorcher! Opening like Iron Man, this motors along like a runaway Eddie Stobart truck before slowing down for Ozzy’s anguished “I don’t want to live forever but I don’t want to die!”

The troubled frontman has rarely sung better in recent years, and is in far better form than on his ill-advised outing with Slash a couple of years back. It’s short but sweet – by Sabbath standards – at under five minutes.

You could imagine this having been released around the time the Sabs stormed the charts with Paranoid, and Deep Purple replied with Black Night.

Damaged Soul

Sabbath board the TARDIS and make an unashamed trip in time right back to their beginnings.

It’s a slow, slow riff shot through with the blues, even adding blues harp to the nostalgia. It’s also the first track to escape the polished production process, more organic than the rest.

“Satan is waiting for the righteous to fall,” whines Ozzy and there’s an Iommi solo so natural, warts and all, that it sounds it was done in one take, just like the old days. Diehards will love it, newcomers may be unconvinced.

Dear Father

The album closes with a chilling tale of child abuse, seemingly condemnation of the sex scandals that have dogged the Catholic church.

“You preyed upon my flesh then prayed for my soul,” seethes Ozzy.

But, and here’s the surprise, it’s actually the most melodic song on the album, with an unlikely hook that might have emerged from The Beatles’ classic White Album sessions.

That wouldn’t be enough, of course, so there’s another runaway riff in the mid-section of the song, which finally closes to the sound of thunder and rail amid which a church bell mournfully tolls.

Back to where the Black Sabbath story started in 1970. Full circle, goodnight.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Billy Bragg: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon June 2 2013 review

He may have mellowed musically in recent years but don’t be deceived. In middle age, Billy Bragg is still a political firebrand, fighting tooth and nail for the causes he believes in – warning that to regard him as some sort of cuddly comedian is a mistake.

In the intimate confines of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the between songs banter was littered with references to the death of Margaret Thatcher, the Government policies that have broken Britain, and the pressures brought to bear on the working man.

He blasted tabloid media cynicism, returning the weary anger of post-Hillsborough Don’t Buy The Sun to the setllist; he celebrated equality, and the price that has to be paid, in the rousing rock and roll of Sexuality.

Recession ills were addressed several times, most poignantly in Woody Guthrie’s I Ain’t Got No Home. He condemned both the murder of drummer Lee Rigby, and the reaction of the BNP and EDL with Guthrie’s All You Fascists Are Bound To Lose and the urgent There Will Be A Reckoning.

Not that it was all politics and polemic. Songs from the Tooth And Nail album dealt with growing older, Handyman Blues and Goodbye Goodbye among them. Tank Park Salute, tribute to his cancer victim father, was deeply moving.

He rocked out, too, with fan favourites such as You Woke Up My Neighbourhood and another Guthrie song culled from those Mermaid Avenue sessions with Wilco, My Flying Saucer.

The latter, he said, carried the dream of an alternate universe where Woody Guthrie and Buddy Holly cheated death and invented country rock before Roger McGuinn and his Byrds, plugging in while Bob Dylan was still in short pants.

But Bragg regards himself not as a folk or country singer, despite much of his music grown from the roots of both, but rather a soulman, serving up a sublime Swallow My Pride, with gorgeous Steve Cropper-styled guitar from CJ Hillman to prove the point.

At the close, he told the audience that the real enemy was neither capitalism nor conservatism, but rather the cynicism we all carry within, the feeling of ‘Why bother? Nothing will change?” before launching in to Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards.

This was Bragg at the top of his game in a venue which perfectly complemented more than two hours of songs spanning his entire career. There must surely be more gigs at the home of the Bard.

William Shakespeare would have approved.