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Erasure, Olympia Theatre, Dublin

 

It’s Erasure, so we’ll skip the introductions, right?! Tonight is the first of three dates in Dame Street’s grand old lady, The Olympia Theatre. It’s a real treat to see them play a series of shows in a smaller, more elegant venue, rather than another gig in the arena down the road. The original run was postponed when Andy Bell took ill in January, but they are back and getting ready for an American tour. The audience sing along enthusiastically with the warm up tape of The Human League and Eurythmics. Their fellow Londoners, Ekkoes, are the ideal support act for the venerable popsters. The quartet are young, attractive, and heavily influenced by tonight’s main act, as well as by Vince Clarke’s former comrades in Depeche Mode, and ‘80s electropop in general.

The theme tune from Tales Of The Unexpected comes over the tannoy and Clarke and Bell emerge onto the fluorescent framed stage; the backing singers on risers either side of the pair. ‘Oh L’Amour’ elicits a rapturous response and Bell apologises for the delay, “A couple of hours is diva behaviour but three weeks is pushing it”. The set spans their entire career: from their debut single, ‘Who Needs Love Like That’, right up to their latest offering, the Brexit and Trump inspired 'World Be Gone'. Their songwriting is remarkably consistent and new tracks like ‘Sweet Summer Loving’ sit seamlessly alongside ‘Blue Savannah’ and ‘Victim Of Love’.

Clarke remains inscrutable as he punches in sounds, and strums a guitar, on a platform two metres above the flamboyant focal point that is Andy Bell. Bell’s voice isn’t as spectacular as it was when he was a young man but he has written the new songs to suit how he sounds now, and the backing singers bolster the ‘80s and ‘90s tunes when needed.

A cover of Blondie’s ‘Atomic’ signals a change of gear and the crowd rise as one in acknowledgement of both the New York discopunks and the legendary pop stars in front of us. As Bell strips down to a skintight onesie, (it’s reassuring to see him strut around confidently with a paunch), ‘Stop!’ sees the energy hit a new high. ‘Love You To The Sky’ and ‘Always’ raise the temperature to summertime levels.

 

‘Sometimes’ hasn’t aged a day since its initial release in 1986, and raises the roof before the band leave the stage. When they return for the encore of ‘A Little Respect’, it’s on an equal footing, with the quartet at the lip of the stage; Clarke holding his acoustic guitar. In just over 90 minutes, they have raced through over three decades of hits. It’s a noticeably older crowd, many keep their coats on throughout, but the power of the performance, and undeniable genius of the tunes, has everyone out of their seats, singing and dancing. It’s a masterclass in how to be a pop band.

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The Lovely Eggs, The Cluny, Newcastle

Photo: Hana Harrison

Line ups like this are few and far between, staunch DIY flag bearers The Lovely Eggs are currently travelling their way across the country playing to sold out crowds. Add to this Porky The Poet (better known as Phil Jupitus) and tonight Teesside duo Mouses who open the show in typically emphatic style. With both Ste and Nathan occupying the front of the stage they tear through an exceptionally raucous set.

It’s a set that is packed with new tracks that have this exuberant crowd bouncing along, but you really cannot go past some of their older tracks such as ‘Green’. We do always wind up questioning why this pair aren’t one of the biggest bands in the country though, their unbridled madness and infallible enthusiasm really sets up the evenings proceedings. As Ste ends their set in the crowd, Mouses certainly leave a good impression tonight. 

Porky The Poet is then announced to the crowd and on walks Jupitus, what follows is a witty jaunt through a variety of music related topics, such as tours with Madness and the rather brilliant rant about Fat Mods better known as Paul Weller fans. Some of whom were even present in this evenings crowd, whilst it might have been uncomfortable for them, the rest of us certainly enjoyed Jupitus’ quips. 

His charm and wit filling the room with appreciative laughter alongside appreciative silence, something which is all too often difficult to come by at these sort of shows. The inclusion of spoken word adds that little something extra to tonight’s show and it is very welcomed as The Lovely Eggs are hardly known for doing things by the book. Something which is undoubtedly evident throughout tonight’s set.

The pair take to the stage to a rapturous reception and open with ‘I’m With You’, and from there it’s a wild jaunt through their as yet unreleased This Is Eggland as well as a plethora of old favourites. The likes of ‘Wiggy Giggy’ receives as much adoration as ‘Goofin’ Around (In Lancashire)'. However, you cannot beat a sold out crowd screaming along to the brilliant ‘People Are Twats’ at the top of their voices.

There is something so wonderfully British about this duo, they seem to have the feelings of the downtrodden hacked off underclasses down to a tee. Both ‘Dickhead’ and ‘Fuck It’ are definite favourites of ours tonight, yet there is also the downright bizarre from the duo with the likes of ‘Magic Onion’ being another favourite of ours. 

The pair pull off shambolic nonsense with such existential brilliance it makes everything more entertaining, with Jupitus even returning to the stage at one point whilst they fixed their equipment. In all honesty though no one really cared if they screwed up a bit, The Lovely Eggs brought the party to another sold out crowd and everyone truly loved it. One of the most endearing and exciting bands in the country right now a truly exceptional show from the duo!

 

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Stoat, Underground, Dublin

It's been about 15 years since I last saw Stoat playing live. After a lengthy hiatus, and over a decade since their debut album, Future Come And Get Me, the follow-up is released today. Located down a dark and foreboding, rubbish strewn alleyway, Dublin’s newest music venue, the appropriately named Underground, is rammed tight with fans old and new. It's a long, narrow, airless room that exists in its own microclimate; 25 degrees warmer than the February weather outside. In other words, it's exactly the type of venue that would have existed 15 years ago.

Stoat's tall tales and witty lyrics, accompanied by sophisticated mathpunk instrumentation was an inspiration to a generation of underground bands. At a time when guitar music is incredibly unfashionable, Try Not To Think About It is exactly what Irish music needs right now. They introduce themselves with a keyboard and soprano saxophone instrumental before hitting the ground with an oldie in the shape of nonsense poem ‘Acunamanacana’. The kick pedal breaks during comeback single ‘Talk Radio Makes Me Feel Alone’ but is swiftly replaced and take-two passes without a hitch. The intertwining riffs and vocals sound more grungy and scabrous live.

Album opener, ‘Trampolina’, has the room singing along like The Saw Doctors doing a song written for them by Jarvis Cocker. The swagger of ‘Don't Play No Game That I Can Win’ is offset by the punk pathetique of ‘Oh Happy Day’ while ‘Try Not To Think About It’ encapsulates the creeping dread, ennui and rationalisations of midlife. Current single ‘Dog King’ closes the main set with a gypsy punk stomp. It's the quickest hour of 2018 so far and despite vociferous demands, and in proper punk style, the band decline an encore. Welcome back, Stoat, you have been missed.

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Preview: Mogwai, Albert Hall, Manchester

Arguably a band who need little introduction, Glasgow post-rock monoliths Mogwai have been melting fans’ faces since their inception while simultaneously changing people’s perceptions about what instrumental music should sound like. Now 23 years and nine studio albums in to their career, the four-piece show no sign of slowing down, or indeed, even mellowing out.

With last year’s incendiary album Every Country’s Sun seeing the band’s focus shift from the soundtrack work they’d recently busied themselves with, back to the expansive sprawling post-rock of their best loved records it was clear that the uncompromising Mogwai they fell in love with were back.

It was also obvious that a tour was going to follow, and in a testament to the band’s enduring appeal, many of the shows have sold out in advance, including the first night at Manchester’s iconic Albert Hall; a venue ever bit as imposing as the band it will host this Friday and Sunday evening.

Tickets available here.

 

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Do It Wrong

Proving that two wrongs do in fact make it right Liverpool's Wrong Festival alldayer returns on the final Saturday of April, for the ridiculously cheap price of £25 (or £20 if you get in early enough). Given that you'd likely normally pay that (or pretty close) to see headliners Future Of The Left alone the fact you're also getting the legendary Damo Suzuki in collaboration with local psych merchants Mugstar, Manchester's psych juggernaut Gnod (much enjoyed by us previously in Liverpool here) as well as the might of Hey Colossus and a plethora of top notch up and coming acts across the event's three North Docks venues then this has to be one of the best value for money musical gatherings in the UK in 2018.

Wrong is the brainchild of Liverpool record label Loner Noise. With a line-up featuring over 30 international acts it will build on the platform created at last year's successful debut outing to further promote the acts of the Freakscene both old and new. Lasting from the early afternoon until the wee hours of the next day it will confirm it's place as a vital addition to the world festival circuit.      

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Good Grief/The Rock Trust Alldayer, The Biscuit Factory, Edinburgh

 

Staged in aid of The Rock Trust, with all profits going towards fighting youth homelessness, Good Grief's all dayer offered up seven bands for a tenner - a bargain & no mistake. Unfortunately for the event it ended up taking place on one of the coldest & dampest days of the winter, in an unheated venue (a recurring issue for the seat-of-the-pants Biscuit Factory).

Sound-wise though all the bands enjoyed good, clear production and the turnaround between acts was achieved with the minimum of fuss so, despite the need for the audience to constantly move one way or another just to maintain circulation & everyone staying fully coated & begloved the lulls between performances were decently short (indeed Breakfast Muff were happy to go on 20 minutes earlier than scheduled, possibly to put everyone out of their misery that bit sooner).

Smooth Dad & The Community were already in full flow when we arrived and their choppy brand of indie, coupled with wry observational quips between the songs, went down well with the audience. Things were musically off to an encouraging start.

A start which, given the aghast looks on the faces of many attendees, faltered somewhat with the next band up, Rainham Sheds. Despite the charm of the improvised stand created for the band's tiny keyboard (a child's high chair comprising the lower part of it) the strident vocal assault unleashed by their wandering singer came as a bit of a shock & was certainly at odds with the previous act's tones. The band's energy & commitment definitely can't be faulted and if they'd been a metal act in the right setting no one would have batted an eyelid. As it was we took the earliest opportunity to brave the cold again and walked to nearby pub The Village to get some heat and save our ears.  

Upon returning to The Biscuit Factory it was possible to buy a pizza from a van outside, thus providing me with some cardboard underfoot to take the edge off the freezing concrete floor. Jack Lee were the day's third band and very good they were too. Unfortunately two of the group have to return to Australia (for reasons not gone into) therefore this was their last gig for the foreseeable future. As they seem to have been Edinburgh-based it was a shame to think we'd not previously managed to hear or see them but they have at least recorded an album so the experience can be had by all.

Fourth up (&, it has to be pointed out, the final act we stuck around for due to the ongoing cold) were Breakfast Muff, a perennial favourite who failed to disappoint. Including a number of new songs in their set the trio were as charming and funny as ever, particularly around the issue of keeping the bass in tune. Always a joy to watch in action they rattled through their set with only one underplayed number being dropped due to it being so fresh as to not have fully bedded into their musical brains. Sure it'll see the light of day soon enough.

All in then this was good value for money, despite us sacking off the final three acts and proof positive that Good Grief know what they're doing when it comes to organising shows. A venue with radiators would though be a better option next time around. 

Find out more about The Rock Trust here.

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