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It wouldn’t be a new Blonde Redhead album without debate over the merits of the evolution of their sound. I'm getting into it, and the tracks play fantastically live.

The Verlaines in support. Reassuringly diverse, and fun.

It feels like they're getting that old hypnotic euphoria out of their new material now, which is a plus.

I'm not stuck in the past. I'm just saying, a few more 'In An Expression...' tracks wouldn't go amiss, is all.

Still fantastic.

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Amanda Palmer's probably my favourite web self-publicist, like a sugar-fuelled Seth Godin with a weakness for show tunes.

This show was largely co-conspirators and cover versions, which turned out well.

She knows how to pick her support acts slash backing bands, and it was a reminder that she can also hammer out those keys.

And there's her better half, for literary relief, reading about megafauna.

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The New Pornographers are fantastic.

I’ve managed to skip a couple of albums, but it was still a great show. The enthusiasm mashes together with wilful obtuse lyrics, like a rush of incoherent nostalgia.

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The Butthole Surfers might not be your first choice of a good band to play along with children, but it works reassuringly well.

The Paul Green School of Rock Music trains kids up with musical skills and stagecraft then puts them on for real, actual gigs.

The support act is a touring group of the “best of” the school's pupils, and they also join in during the headline act.

It's genuinely entertaining to see people who've been trained in stagecraft as well as musicianship, and even the massive section in the audience for parents didn't make it feel gimmicky.

Obviously they kept the back-projected crashes-and-surgery footage. Kids love that stuff, and Gibby is everyone's favourite uncle.

Get Electriclarryland if you want some easy listening, or Locust Abortion Technician if you're more into trying to like something other people will physically hate. Then, read 'Our Band Could Be Your Life' for more insight into their posterising worldview.

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More Frank Black, still trading under his Black Francis brand, at Koko.

This was the whole of Bluefinger with a few extras thrown in, including a couple of tracks from Svn Fngrs.

Much more relaxed than last time — he’s back on guitar, too.

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It’s a double-bill old gig roundup post, starting with The Dandy Warhols at the Electric Ballroom. It’s a blurry picture, but then they’re almost as blurry in person. More than almost any band I like they seem like a scam; an evasive formula that’s going to entertain me at least until I figure out the trick. Try Thirteen Tales and take time for the whole thing.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen Richard Thompson playing with a band, and it was a great show. The new material sparkled, the classics are always good and with a band and material that good the extended jams are welcome.

Start anywhere, pretty much. The last three electric albums have been particularly good and best-of Action Packed is a broad cheat-sheet if you like your music extra-modern, but he’s been recording solo material for around thirty-five years now if you feel like a little more range.

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Post-Pixies reunion, post-Nashville albums, Frank Black’s reinvented himself again with Bluefinger. It’s been leaked well in advance of the scheduled September release and it was good to hear so much of the new material live.

After opening with a few solo tracks he’s been leaving the guitar alone for this tour. A disciplined show — no banter, straight through a whole lot of songs and finishing on time with no encore.

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Cargo’s neat - it’s small capacity, in east London and under a tunnel. All good.

And Kid Carpet’s pretty good as well - here as a support act, but getting one of the best receptions I’ve seen in a while. He does the whole transition from fake-shambolic to total crowd control without ever shedding his charm. I guess I heard ‘Jump’ back when John Peel was playing it, so it’s only really taken me a couple of years to get up to speed there.

While Electric Six aren’t just a great live rock band backed by a flock of danceable, culturally-aware hits and fronted by a creepy shouting staring man, that’s certainly where their strengths lie.

They’re at least as much fun as you’d expect.

(And I guess Ha Ha Hammersmith was pretty good too.)

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Blonde Redhead, at Koko, touring for ‘23’.

The new album hasn’t totally clicked yet for me. Pitchfork say 7.0 and I agree with that number and their reasoning. Other reviews use phrases like “Listen to 23 enough.” I’m looking forward to it rewarding my effort the same way as their previous albums.

I could have done with a few older songs and I could especially have done with less use of backing tracks. They’ve clearly got great live chops and there’s no shame in showing that off in its purest form.

Tiny Mix Tapes say “Blonde Redhead are like that mopey, distant girl who fascinates you more and more even as she edges slowly away, preferring her privacy over your constant company.” It’s a lovely turn of phrase, and maybe also commentary on the merits of turning in deconstructions of past relationships as album reviews.

Either way, there are hidden depths in there, and that common thread of hypnotic rhythm and cadence that runs through it all.

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Checking back, it looks like well over a year since I last saw Kristin Hersh, and significantly longer for seeing her with a band. For this tour, she’s backed by the Fifty Foot Wave line up and the McCarricks.

The new album’s great: moving in some new directions without being a total departure.

The sound at Koko isn’t fantastic, but hearing Your Dirty Answer with a full band was pretty good.

It was good to hear a rearranged Me and My Charms, too. It really suited the band, and kept it sounding fresh.

Disco ball!

(Someone else’s proper photos here - a real camera and rented lenses, apparently.)

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Last year I only went to the cinema fourteen times. For 2006, I made extra effort — once a week.

Part of the appeal of regular cinema-going is seeing bad films and still getting something out of it. It helps with a sense of perspective, and with building film literacy. Going once a week also forces you to broaden your definition of “watchable”, which turned up a few gems.

A big list of what I watched )

In summary, I enjoy foreign films about death and CGI films for children.

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Cracker, at the Borderline, with [livejournal.com profile] oneplusme. They’re showing off Greenland, their first new album in a fair while.

pictures and commentary )
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I haven’t seen Live for, literally, years (I guess since Electric Ballroom on 1999-07-01, so just shy of seven years). I managed to get tickets for me and [livejournal.com profile] oneplusme (review) through Scarlet Mist. I’ve had mixed results selling but, overall, got to see a sold-out show for face value without giving anything to touts. It’s a nice piece of social software, too – constant reminders that, hey, you can always do something else, that face-value isn’t negotiable, and that there’s no buy-side queueing. I really hope it’s still doing well next time I need to get, or shift, tickets.

Support was Kharma 45.

Better than they needed to be, although still more obvious as a set of influences than what novelty they’re bringing.

Live have been a band for a little bit more of their lives than they spent not being a band, which is kind of weird to think about.

Ed Kowalczyk is just so ridiculously enthusiastic. If you were simple-minded enough to be comparing bald frontmen of bands I’ve seen recently, he’s the polar opposite of Maynard James Keenan. There’s constant eye contact with the audience, absolutely no cynicism, and cheerleading of audience singing. I can believe that he’s sincere, but not that he’s also wholly grounded in reality.

And yeah, he does like taking his top off and leering, so let’s just give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s all in good fun.

Throwing Copper is, deservedly, their most successful album. The rest all have something to offer, but often marred by a lack of focus. At their best, though, it’s soaring, euphoric stuff, and veering very close to Christian Rock without too much danger of becoming Creed.

Seems like the last couple of albums were a little misdirected, but what they played from Songs from Black Mountain sounded like it was worth a bit more attention.

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No cameras for a Tool gig, eh?

Okay, then. Check out the Toolshed.down.net Flickr pool instead. It’s a good visual show. No lasers or fireworks, but a real treasure-trove of illustrations, with dancers and little plasticine puppets and disembodied mouths licking CG eyeballs, and it’s all on big screens and properly synchronized because they’re big now.

Very very loud, with a great view from the front of the balcony, and an excellent setlist as well. Nothing too self-indulgent from the new album and a good spread of older material.

If you don’t know Tool then there’s a very good chance that you hate them – they go out of their way to be perverse in a way that delights the fans but can only serve to annoy everyone else. Ænima’s probably the break-even point as they moved from rock to progressive. It’s fantastic, of course, but if you’re not much into metal then you’ll need to put in a fair few listens.

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I’m not ashamed to say, I really like AFI. (Clarification: slightly ashamed.) They started off as Misfits wannabes, and are now making the natural transition into an all-goth Offspring/Depeche Mode tribute act gunning for Green Day’s mall success. In a good way!

Camera tip: just set your ISO wildly, then point directly at bright lights. Seriously, great opening lighting.

Davey Havok (“Havok is not only straight edge but also vegan”) is super-enthusiastic about screaming and running around. Good value.

They played a half-and-half split with a lot of old material, which got a great response, and tracks from their most recent, and breakthrough, album Sing the Sorrow. It’s a whole lot of fun to listen to.

Cure covers, an audience that likes to play dress-up (going to rock gigs dressed as a cycle courier? Genius!), and irresistable sing-alongs. In a very true sense, we really do “all form one dark flame.” Suspend your sense of irony wherever you can.

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A lot of people seem to like Spoon.

I haven’t managed to make time for them yet – hopefully, having seen them live, I’ll be able to make the connection when I do.

You already know that I like the New Pornographers.

It’s the first time I’ve been to Koko in Camden. It’s a fantastic venue – built as a theatre in 1900, and still apparently retaining much of the internal structure. Lots of levels, lots of balconies; spacious and intimate at the same time.

Also, tried out my earplugs. I’ve become far too used to a little bit of pain at the start of gigs, and acclimatising is hardly doing my ears any good. They worked really well – taking out the volume meant I could appreciate detail I’d have missed otherwise, and it would be nice to have a little bit longer before I go totally deaf.

David Cross appeared in the video for Use It. You want to be like David Cross, don’t you?

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I always thought of TV on the Radio as last-year-but-one’s Arcade Fire, except they didn’t blow up in quite the same way. They’ve got a similarly exciting live vibe, though, and will fill you with delight.

They performed at the ICA recently, which sold out too fast for me – reviews suggest that I missed out. This gig was at ULU, another great little venue.

Kyp Malone has fantastic hair. Tunde Adebimpe is so enthusiastic that you will do what he tells you to. David Andrew Sitek is always up to some kind of hijinks. The rest of the live band are no slouches, either.

“We were going to play Staring At The Sun accoustic for this tour.”
(audience cheers)
“What are you cheering for? That would be terrible!”

You don’t have a megaphone, and now you’re wondering why.

New album out this year. Apparently the internet-leaked version is sounding like the best thing ever, although it’s supposedly not the final mix.

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The Dresden Dolls put on a fun show. Amanda Palmer seems hugely ambitious, as well as neurotically self-conscious, but the progression from the first to the second album does a great job of moving from her lifetime archive of personal songs to some pretty good songwriting.

Yeah, an “aerialist” as warm-up act. (Between support and main.) The audience loved this, especially as we saw that it was turning into something far more impressive than some lass in a leotard shimmying up and down the curtains.

Sat at either side of the stage, and with a fairly nuanced dynamic.

Brian Viglione’s a fantastic drummer. Obviously there’s the frenetic rhythm-keeping, but he’s also in on the caberet aspect with some neat gurning and reacting to Amanda. And a bowler hat (not pictured).

Amanda pretty much kept to her seat. (No dancing?)

T-shirt says “Die, Hipster Scum!” (“Hipster” costume?)

(Check out Lnr’s report of the Cambridge gig if you like words.)

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You know, I haven’t been to a small gig for a while. Low key, low expectations but the knowledge that we’re just that little bit ahead of the game: that’ll be Clearlake, with the Ralfe Band as support.

Like many enthusiastic support acts, the Ralfe Band are at least as exciting as anything I’ve seen. Folk-meets-klezmer, with a whole bunch of grinning. An album buy later, and we’ll see how good they are sober.

My half-brother’s funny though, yeah?

I’ve been kind-of-into Clearlake since picking up Wonder If The Snow Will Settle on a Domino compilation. It’s really good, and second album Cedars is just that little bit cleverer and ambiguous enough to leave you thinking that little bit more. (Live up-tempo versions of slow tracks? That’ll do, Pegg!)

Current single Neon pulls off a similar trick – it’s understated and profound in a way that a number of successful acts very much aren’t.

100 Club is my new favourite tiny Oxford Street venue, too.

Upcoming

Dresden Dolls, TV on the Radio, New Pornographers and Tool. Hurrah for mainstream US acts!

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