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Hidden Door Festival, Leith Theatre, Edinburgh - Opening Night

Tonight was a triumph, albeit with a slightly odd running order making for a disjointed start.
 
The billing of Gwenno, Dream Wife and Nadine Shah together was an excellent mix of the new and the maturing. Only the placing of Stina Tweeddale (one half of Honeyblood) as the second act rather cooled things off after the initial fine start.
 
Gwenno and band were on sharp at 19:00 and turned in a great performance, full of anecdotal chat, very well received renditions of tracks from current album Le Kov (including the audience chanting along in Cornish about cheese) and earlier material. Clearly pleased to be part of the festival she was full of good cheer and thoroughly at home in the excellent venue.
 
Change over times were decent tonight, with some contemporary dance going on on the auditorium floor at a couple of points just to divert the attention. Doubtless this would have proved difficult if the event had sold out. Stina Tweeddale was therefore not too long in coming onstage to do her best with solo versions of some Honeyblood tracks. To her credit she at least kept it electric. Shorn of their drum parts, however, the tunes too often didn't do the business (unlike when seen here). As the opening act or in a more intimate setting she'd have been fine but, whether to meet a promise to appear or whatever, this wasn't the most inspired programming.
 
Thankfully the threads of excitement remaining from Gwenno & gang's performance were easily grasped & pulled tight by Dream Wife. Currently on the crest of a wave the quartet were brimming with energy and all too happy to unleash it upon the appreciative crowd. Obviously relishing the space afforded by the theatre's stage singer Rakel Mjöll in particular bounded about its entirety, striking balletic poses now and again when returning briefly to a standstill. Less controversial than sometimes reported when headlining they stuck pretty much to entertaining, with just a brief attempt to conflate the social mores of not quite 100 years ago as reflected backstage at the theatre (changing rooms denoted by gender as well as place in the company - instrumentalist, singer etc.) with modern gender bias. Depends I suppose who you're happy disrobing in front of at work although I doubt it's a free-for-all at the Royal Lyceum or elsewhere.
 
I last saw Nadine Shah in 2015 (here) but she seems to have undergone something of a change, into a rather more vampish stage presence (although in no way camp or pretentious). Being fed up singing "about my crap lovelife" maybe has something to do with that. Current album Holiday Destination is though (probably) her most political to date so all black attire, Doc Martins and a serious bob make more sense. Coupled with her easy engagement with the audience and clear pleasure at finally playing Edinburgh she and the band could do no wrong, evening managing to mention the negative aspects of nationalism without getting heckled before later eliciting a resounding cheer for deriding Brexit. All in this was the performance we deserved after the mostly great work put in to prime us for it and it capped off a great introduction for those of us who'd not previously partaken of the festival's musical programme.
 
Special mention should be given here to the lighting onstage at Leith Theatre. A lot of thought has clearly gone in to the displays used during the performances and that, coupled with the very well mixed and balanced sound (helped along by the great acoustics) contributed a lot to the overall show. Further evidence that there could have been some great shows staged here in the 30 years of it's ludicrous period of disuse but a very positive pointer to what can be achieved from now on. Well done to all concerned.
 
Hidden Door continues until June 03 - further details here.
 
Further photographs from this part of it can be found here.
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TRNSMT Festival Preview

 

TRNSMT Festival is back for a second round this summer, with the likes of Stereophonics, Liam Gallagher, Arctic Monkeys and more spanning over two weekends.

Last year, TRNSMT hit the ground running with a stellar line-up including Kasabian, Radiohead and Scotland’s own Biffy Clyro.

Taking over Glasgow Green for five days this June and July, festival organisers have extended the event beyond a three-day weekend: June 29 – July 1 with additional dates on July 6 and 8.

As well as headline acts like Queen and The Killers, the extensive 2018 line-up ensures there is something for every festival goer on the Main Stage and King Tut’s Stage.

More acts are still to be announced, but here is the line-up so far:

Friday June 29

Main Stage – Stereophonics, The Script, James Bay, Kodaline, Jessie J, Picture This

King Tut’s Stage - Tom Walker, Pale Waves, Marmozets, Anteros, Sam Fender, The Ninth Wave

Saturday June 30

Main Stage - Liam Gallagher, Courteeners, Wolf Alice, Krept X Konan, Shed Seven, Gerry Cinnamon

King Tut’s Stage - The Sherlocks, Iamddb, Kyle Falconer (Full band), The Snuts, Bas

Sunday July 1

Main Stage - Arctic Monkeys, Interpol, Blossoms, Nothing But Thieves, Declan McKenna, Miles Kane, Tom Grennan

King Tut’s Stage – Sigrid, King No-one, Dermot Kennedy, Confidence Man, The Magic Gang, Island

Friday July 6

Main Stage - Queen + Adam Lambert, Texas, The Darkness, The Temperance Movement

King Tut’s Stage - TBC

Sunday July 8

Main Stage - The Killers, CHVRCHES, Franz Ferdinand, Friendly Fires, Jessie Ware, Lewis Capaldi, Hudson Taylor

King Tut’s Stage - Nina Nesbitt, Walking on Cars, Jane Weaver, Gang of Youths, Juanita Stein

Tickets for TRNSMT can be purchased here, with a variety single day, VIP and bundles available.

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Edinburgh International Festival Finalises Contemporary Music Line-up

As mentioned in our initial news piece covering the Edinburgh International Festival programme launch the contemporary music element was only to be finalised on May 02. As that was yesterday the full line-up is now available.

Joining the already publicised John Grant & St. Vincent shows in the city during August the Edinburgh Gin Seaside-sponsored Light On The Shore performances will feature shows from homegrown talent in the shape of Mogwai, The Vaselines, The Jesus And Mary Chain, King Creosote, Django Django, C. Duncan, Karine Polwart, Honeyblood, Spinning Coin, Happy Meals, Fire Engines, The Pastels, Sacred Paws, The Van Ts and Bossy Love

Guest curators Neu! Reekie! play host to Lydia Lunch and Michael Rother, along with poet Linton Kwesi Johnson whilst electronic-folk pioneers Lau oversee a home and away list of performers in their Lau-Land presentation - Joan As Police Woman, Egyptian electronica artist Nadah El Shazly, folk singer Alasdair Roberts, the psychedelic sound of James Holden, the traditional pipes of Rona Lightfoot and Brighde Chaimbuel, chamber-folk quartet RANT, acapella traditional singers Landless and the Whitburn Band.

Performances will take place across 14 nights at the Leith Theatre, which is re-emerging after 30 years of neglect thanks to the ongoing efforts of the Leith Theatre Trust and Hidden Door festival. As well as Edinburgh Gin Seaside the programme of events is supported by the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund, Leith-based technical partners Black Light and The Warehouse, and in association with the National Museum of Scotland’s exhibition Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop.

Tickets and further information for all performances can be found here from 10:00 on 04/5/18.

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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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