May had set itself up as a big gig month, well big in terms of numbers of gigs.
First up were the Enid, a band who have gone from strength to strength over the last few years. It's the second or third time I've seen them in the last couple of years, and whats become clear is that their vocalist (Joe Payne) has taken over effectively conducting the band which has made them much tighter. He's also a brilliant vocalist, with an excellent range and very smooth transition into his falsetto.
Excellent gig. and I their most recent album, Invicta, is a superb combination of symphonic with hints of rock. Buy it from the band.
Next up was a brace of Phoenix Foundation gigs. We trundled up to Liverpool, discovered good coffee and great beer around Parr Street. The venue, Kazimier, is small, quirky, and throughly recommended. James was support, or rather Lawrence Arabia, who was on fine form - crowd seemed to enjoy him, except the rather pissed Liverpudlians. I can thoroughly recommend his new album, The Sparrow, it's quirky, interesting, and sweet. BBC review here. So to the Phoenix lads, my major issue with their recent gigs has been their professionalism - an ironic thing to complain about - but I do love the early gigs where the excitement was added to with (a) are they all playing the same thing and (b) will they all finish at the same time?
The Liverpool gig was similar to this, although not by the boys' choice - a bunch of rather inebriated chaps were wanting specific songs, and ruining their setlist, but adding to the cool vibe. Enjoyed it.
Pottered along to the Glam show at the Tate Liverpool the next day, it seemed to lack focus and context, but enjoyable.
The PB London gig was in a larger venue, no Lawrence (sadly), but by god did they go off. Strong kiwi contingent, but seemed a large number of locals - huzzah.
Next up, Knopfler in Cardiff. I've raved about his new album, Privateering, and I like Cardiff. Good pubs, inclduing The Goat Major, who do a very good line in pies (hear that Mr Thompson?). And the Cardiff Art Gallery, really is superb.
So the gig, I've seen Knopfler a few times now, first time with Dire Straits, and the others as a solo act. This was a seated stadium gig (Arena Motorspot in the Cardiff central area), and sadly it showed. The band, who were brilliant, weren't really given their lead and so seemed to lack passion - except for a couple of pieces where they could do what they wanted. Some of it was sublime, and the new album sounded good and bluesy brilliant, but over all I felt it was a bit flat. Enjoyable, but not memorable. Not enough to make me buy a copy of the concert at £25.
Back to Lboro, and across to Leicester for The Handsome Family. Again, a bit of a favourite live. And this time they had a real drummer, rather than the *dodgy* drum machine they've had previously. This made a difference, stopping Brett playing with the machine was a good move. The banter is still brilliant, and the songs are dark, twisted, funny and great. Really enjoyed the gig, and it looks like I might pick up the new album shortly...dammit.
And down to London for Iron and Wine. Pottered along to the Bowie exhibition at the V&A, which was crowded, and enjoyable, but to be honest I'm still not taken with Bowie as a musician, but came away with appreciation of his contribution as an artist (does that make sense?). But probably worth getting the V&A membership for, particularly as I pottered along to the treasures of the Russian and English courts exhibition, which I enjoyed far more than the Bowie (to be honest).
So iron and wine, hmmm, grumble, he had a big band with him almost trying to swing the songs - and having seen him before, I don't think it worked. I thought the intimacy of the songs was lost. The newer stuff worked better, but songs such as Jezebel, was a nightmare for me.
On the strength of this concert, I didn't buy the album. I will spin it on Spotify, but I'm not rushing. Felt a bit grumpy after this gig for the lack of vibe I'd had from the albums, and the gig I'd been to.