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Public Service Broadcasting - Live At Brixton

After missing Public Service Broadcasting twice in Glasgow, once in Edinburgh, and after opting not to go to their show at the National Space Centre, I was getting disappointed with my track record seeing this band, a band whose music I was in awe at. When their largest headline date to date was announced in London, I was in Barcelona for a few months studying, and whilst I did look up flights to attend sense eventually prevailed.

Watching and listening to Live At Brixton therefore helps to reduce my sadness whilst waiting for their return to Glasgow, although as a service announcement of my own I should probably let you know that the previous two CD/DVD live albums I enjoyed were Green Day’s Bullet In A Bible and Linkin Park’s Live In Texas, so you know what to expect from this review.

In its entirety, the seventeen-track set played that night spans the band’s career so far, drawing tracks from both albums and their original war-themed EP. Opening like the most recent album The Race For Space, Kennedy’s inspiring words fade in to the bleep of Sputnik, as a large model of that first satellite graces centre stage for the whole performance with dazzling lights. If you’ve seen the band live, you’ll know about their usual audio-visual stage arrangement and novel method of crowd interaction, so I’ll leave that for your enjoyment later, rather than spoiling the whole thing.

Next is a run of older tracks, featuring the incendiary ‘Signal 30’ and soaring ‘Night Mail’, both obvious crowd favourites as the “drop” in both kicks them into some vigorous dancing. Existing as a duo usually, the wealth of additional personnel involved in making this show the breathtaking spectacle it is is impressive. From the usual brass accompaniment to backing singers to string arrangements… all crammed onto the Brixton Academy stage for maximum musical impact.

After some shy words from one half of the band – J. Willgoose, Esq. – the crowd is introduced to the “voice of Public Service Broadcasting”, and then a triumphant end to the set begins… with five tracks left. The enthralling ‘The Other Side’ kicks things off, with the closing duo of ‘Gagarin’ and ‘Everest’ seeing the emergence of shiny jacket and some killer dance moves.

Confetti cannons bring proceedings to a close, and this show is a deserved triumph for the band whose two albums have been generously received by fans and critics alike. A euphoric night of celebration if ever there was one, immortalised forever in a live album, to be enjoy and relived by fans – and even the band if they were so inclined – time and time again. Public Service Broadcasting’s music and performances are a spectacle, and this show is no exception, with the air of celebration giving these recordings an edge over their original, record-forming counterparts.

Live at Brixton is available from iTunes and Amazon.

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Gary Numan - Android In LA LA Land

 

“At the end of the 1970s a nervy young musician topped the music charts...

He quickly became one of the most famous men on the planet...

Three decades of ground-breaking and hugely influential music would follow...

Then six long years of silence...Until now.”

Android In LA LA Land is about the breaking of that silence. It’s shot as a semi-bio and semi-fly on the wall documentary by filmmakers Rob Alexander and Steve Read. It follows Gary Numan as he leaves the safe and leafy suburbs of southern England to transport himself and family to LA LA land.

This is something Numan has always wanted to do at various points in his musical career. A career that has seen him at the very top and also in the depths of musical despair. His dramatic rise to fame in the late 1970s and early 1980s saw him conquer the world. Yet his ease with fame and all its trappings was never something he ever really dealt with. His recent diagnosis with Asperger’s syndrome explains the problems he faced in an industry that at the time would not have understood his condition or more importantly even cared. The media was always quick to label had him down as a freak. “Is Numan Human?” was one headline, with another paper going as far to say he shouldn’t have even been born.

However we now find him embarking on a new life and plans for making his new studio album Splinter.

This transformation has been made possible in part due to his wife Gemma. She was a lifelong ‘Numanoid’ and even stalked Gary through his early career.  She gives a fascinating insight to the life of a dedicated fan and then her own part in beginning the resurgence of his career. At a time when he was suffering from severe depression and facing bankruptcy she convinced him to get back into the studio and back on the stage. This was done via Numan acting almost as a recluse and releasing the works himself as he confirms that during this time he had no record company that would touch him.

However the strength of his fan base allowed him to justify making these albums and helped to form a new-found love for touring and an ever younger, growing number of fans. Now it’s time to get back to what he does best and he realises that the United States is a great opportunity to tap into. He also mentions that he would ideally like to work on movie scores and again LA is a perfect setting for this.

It helps that he is moving to a modern day castle complete with tunnels and secret corridors which his three daughters Raven, Persia and Echo are obviously excited about. That and the new swimming pool. Although not quite able to explain what dad does, they can confirm that he sings but doesn’t go to work like a proper job, he doesn’t work in buildings he just sits at home and sings.  

Work on the Splinter album is soon underway in his new home studio. We gain a fascinating insight into his recording methods and how he creates sound to vocals. This is then whisked off to production in London and the album starts to be built. Gary speaks openly about the pressure of building an album and the sounds he hopes to create. The panic in the process and what he started with and what he hoped to achieve changes and evolves over the process.

We then follow the journey through to the mastering of the final album. He reflects that this album feels completely different from anything in the last 30 years. He openly admits to panicking about its reception and confirms that if this doesn’t go well then he simply won’t know what to do. Speaking in very open and candid terms Numan attempts to describe what fame is actually like.

“It’s like watching a speeding train fly past you on a platform, you stick out your hands and you are rushed away…everything’s a blur… at some point you lose your grip and fall off and you find yourself alone, battered and lost …"

The album is a huge success and gives him his highest position in a UK album chart in over 30 years. The following European and North American tours are equally successful and his conquering of his new hometown is captured in a live album released this year Here In The Black : Live At Hollywood Forever Cemetery. His return brings his career to an almost full circle. He is now selling out venues in the UK and a new album is due out next year. This film shows his vulnerability along with his charm. He is very open about his past and the mistakes he made with his family. Now he’s in a place that allows him to simply work on what he wants to do. Settled in the Hollywood hills with his studio and family he is ready for another train to race towards him.

Here In The Black is available from iTunes.

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Lee Scratch Perry, Vision Of Paradise Premiere, Duke Of York Cinema, Brighton

Most birthday parties are dismal, dull affairs with poor cake and screaming kids. Imagine how boring our own 80th birthday would be like.

However if you are a musical legend, and I use the word legend in its proper context, your birthday parties are somewhat different.

Lee Scratch Perry has been producing and making records for close to 60 years. We have been lucky enough to get a premier of his new film that celebrates the last decade of his life and his vision for the future. To say he is young at heart is to do him a severe injustice.

His film Vision Of Paradise is a dream for any reggae or indeed music fan as it takes us behind the scene of his creative process, which is unlike any artist we know. His sheer brilliance and at times bonkers approach to music production is unparalleled. He almost seems to be to feel every note and echo and has a spiritual connection to some higher purpose.

The documentary claims to be his life, his history and his story. Perry himself is here to conquer all vampires and a host of talking heads from some of the main producers in the business pay homage to a guy that brought colour into their world. Yet this is more than just another documentary of a legend. This feels like this is Perry almost last attempt to make us see the world in his eyes. To understand the beauty of nature and how corruption and money are temporary and yet how music can transcend all barriers. The film is part documentary, part story and his visions are played out using colourful cartoon imagery. It is a feast for the eyes and the ears that enriches the soul.

It is amazing to see the sheer amazement from fellow musicians about how someone with the very basic technology produced and is still producing music, dubs, echoes, rhythms and sounds which are unique to him and still amaze and puzzle our ears. These productions have lasted decades and are still as fresh and as relevant as they were the day he made them.

These sounds came from the famous Black Arc Studio which Perry set up as a production centre. He would latter burn it down in one of his erratic periods with Perry thinking that evil spirits which he cited as money and greed had taken over the studio. So the film shows some footage from his productive 1970s period and then we are shown into Perry’s home for a never before seen glimpse into his life and times.

If you like your musicians as true artists then this is for you, if you like music then this is for you. If you have never heard of him then this is for you. As the great creator himself says in the closing moments of the film.

"Words give I the power to say anything/Words give I the power to control the universe

There is no reason for God to grow up for God must be a child forever."

We left the Duke Of York feeling closer and educated into a world vision from one of the true legend in modern music. No amount of cold or rain could dampen our spirits as we had just been educated by the wonder of Mr Lee Scratch Perry.

Vision Of Paradise will be available to stream via iTunes, Amazon Prime and Netflix from the April 8.  

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DVD Review: The Rolling Stones - Crossfire Hurricane

The Rolling Stones - Crossfire Hurricanes

It’s sometimes easy to forget that The Rolling Stones are even a band any more. They seem more like a monument, a piece of nostalgia with little value in the modern world, like typewriters or Betamax. So when the first incarnation of the Stones roar out some belting blues numbers in the opening minutes of this film it seems like an impressive, even vital piece of film-making. This is an illusion created by the band’s modern day image; Mick is singing about things a man his age should really keep to himself, Ronnie is peering out of gossip columns looking like a perverted crow, while Charlie and Keith have mostly disappeared from the public view into what we can only assume are some bloody big houses.

But once the sensation of “holy shit, they really were great” wears off, the documentary’s flaws come thick and fast. In fact the main problem with this film is made clear to the viewer within a matter of seconds: there is no new footage. The interview with the band, which is the focus of the two hour feature, is done without any talking heads or any other visual representation.

It’s lucky then, that the interview itself is quite good. The band don’t reveal anything to make it required listening, but Mick and Keith are their usual charming selves and the addition of Mick Taylor gives a valuable perspective on their most artistically rewarding period. They are especially interesting on the subject of Brian Jones, who was the band’s founder and a talented multi-instrumentalist up until his death in 1969. They are also on top form when discussing the now infamous Altamont free concert, where a mixture of overcrowding and of the presence of Hells’ Angels as security led to the stabbing of fan Meredith Hunter during a performance of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’. Unfortunately for Crossfire Hurricane, the event was covered so well by the earlier, powerful documentary Gimme Shelter that it casts a large shadow over this section of the picture.

Another issue that arises from the interview-based narrative is that the film can only really cover what the band felt like talking about at the time, which means there are major gaps in their musical history. Considering that a large part of the film is about Brian Jones, it seems a great shame that the albums that featured his best playing (Aftermath, Between the Buttons, Their Satanic Majesties Request) are almost entirely ignored. Indeed, with the sole exception of a great scene showing Mick and Keith penning their first self-written song ‘Tell Me’, the same can be said for any section of their discography which isn’t part of their regular live set.

It therefore fails to do what any documentary should strive to do: teach us something new. If you only know the Stones for their major hits there is little you will learn from this picture, which can only serve to frustrate those who care, and bore those who don’t. Crossfire Hurricane hasn’t the material to show us anything new about the men involved, nor the drive to teach anything new about the music. It exists to give people a helpful reminder of their big hits in time for the release of their latest greatest hits album Grrr and, in that task, it serves as an inoffensive but unremarkable success.

The Rolling Stones – Crossfire Hurricane is available on amazon and iTunes now.

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