Katy B @ Shepherd's Bush Empire

Easy pleased me


A Katy B gig is not what I would typically cover, but here I am.
I would also like to make clear that I don't have any particular favours for the Empire, I just happen to work there. And I see about 80% of the gigs; therefore a high number of Empire reviews.
Let us begin... Given the share of publicity that has been given to fairly new singer/songwriter Katy B - along with the other talented Londoner of the r&b-soul-etc ilk, Jessie J - I had to see for myself what she had to offer.
The set was impressive on its own, with a giant screen as a backdrop plus an additional construction, with a double set of stairs on either end. When Katy came out, ready to set the crowd on fire, it kinda put me off. If there's something guaranteed to piss me off at a gig, is mass clapping and mid-song cheering. And she did everything to get it - and in high volume.
But despite her typical diva-before-the-crowds techniques, Katy is such a girl-next-door figure making the stage - and the venue whole -  her home. A truly beautiful r&b-and-the-lot voice rang across the three levels of the Empire.
And her love for what she does made me, quite simply, like her songs - Easy Please Me, Lights On (the hit single feat. Ms Dynamite), Katy On A Mission (ain't she?). Well, for a light night out, at least (or a backing soundtrack while at work).
All in all, better than I thought. Cheers.

Review (with photography borrowed from the web) by Danai Molocha.

Aisha Orazbayeva @ The Star of Kings

Fiddler in the basement


A typically eclectic musical evening, organized by Nonclassical label, opened with electronic sounds by DJ Richard Lannoy.
Swiss percussionist Serge Vuille soon silenced all chatter with whimsical pieces by Donatoni and Cage, for vibraphone and snare drum respectively.  Ripping off pieces of tape from a drum membrane couldn't help but draw attention; but it was performed with a faultless sense of timing, and fit perfectly into his harmonious puzzle.
Standing alone in front of the Star of Kings basement's bare brick walls, violinist Aisha Orazbayeva impressively mastered pieces by Feldman and Donatoni,  blending idiosyncratic intensity and esoteric beauty. Her debut album Outside, which was being celebrated this night, was movingly represented by a Russian acappella song. And for the grand finale violinist Eloisa Fleur Thom joined her in a Bartok violin duet, rich in sonic colour and melodic tones.
As always with Nonclassical events, the atmosphere was decisively laid back, but full of adventurous, thought-provoking sounds.

Review and photography by Danai Molocha for www.liveatyourlocal.org.uk.

Other Lives @ Shepherd's Bush Empire

Other headliners...


 First of all, the night headlined the English indie rockers Chapel Club. Second, was the place that Oklahoma's melody masters Other Lives appeared on stage (after boring and, frankly, what-the-hell-are-they-doing-here-? first support band Elephant. Their recorded staff doesn't sound that bad, by the way...).
A few days after Other Lives' performance at Iceland's Airwaves (the festival you just have to go to), they came to London second in line - and boy did they deserve the top spot!
Powerfully intricate, soulful folk harmonies were woven together by means of guitars, percussion, cello and keys in a modern fairy tale of real life beauty and drama. Excerpts from their sophomore album Tamer Animals, like For 12 or Dust Bowl III don't purposefully try any tricks to steal your attention - but, humbly, they are king.
Quite simply, these guys are gorgeous.
For whoever, sadly, man, wasn't there, check out their live craftsmanship at www.otherlives.com, via the indie super-blog's hearya.com live sessions.

Review (with photography kindly borrowed again from the web) by Danai Molocha

Snippets - Shepherd's Bush Empire

Snow Patrol 05/09/11 
Gotta hand it to that Gary Lightbody. He took over with his guitar since the very start and kept ridiculing this special gig, which translates to competition winners/VIP only - in a good way. The guy has a sense of humour. 
As there was no support band, he warmed up a packed up Empire in an intimate acoustic performance. And as the band followed, he kept up his stint as an improv stand-up comedian. 
I wouldn't say I'm into any of the Snow Patrol highlights that were heard, and lawfully sang along by hundreds - Run, Chasing Cars, Just Say Yes etc, etc. Call them cheesy, call them romantic, they ain't my thing. But, somehow, Called Out in the Dark manages to move me.
We are listening, Gary, and we're not blind. You're alright...
Joan as Police Woman 09/09/11 
A weird case of an artist, in my case. There's the voice - sensual, sexy, deep. The songwriting - Furious, To Be Lonely; the violin - The Dambuilders, Antony and the Johnsons; Rufus, Lou Reed. All kinds of collaborations and a bunch of albums with dignity and soul. 
But when that Stevie Wonder spirit kicks in, I can't help but get pissed. 
Wasser can be unconventional, a badass, she can different. But singles like Chemmie, from her latest fourth album The Deep Field, bring up that erotic mumbling which, far from a much welcome courtship, makes me vomit. She even somehow managed to make Buckley (junior) as close to repulsive as he can get, by inspiring songs like Everybody Here Wants You - the one that had him "soulfully" whining and moaning instead of performing in that breathtaking rollercoaster of a voice he usually does.
Anyways... she knows music, she has the band, I just wish she let out more the no nonsense, bold, original chick I believe she is and give us something a little more brash. 
Oh...and change at last that crap of a name. Nothing good can ever come from anything that comprises the word Policewoman. Unless it starts with Attack A...
Nerina Pallot 06/10/11  
What do Joan Wasser and Nerina Pallot have in common, apart from four albums and imaginatively orchestrated songwriting? 
They both left their previous shows at the Empire crying, apparently. And they looked equally grateful that their present performances were joined by an audience attentive, kind and... not as scarce as I suspect it was the last time.
Nerina makes for an abundant performer - sweet, clever, funny and, of course, with a handful of beautiful, rich melodies and a competent band. A softy and indifferent for a big chunk of the time; but when she hits it, piano or guitar-wise, she does it well. Her recently released Year of the Wolf produced rather... cute singles like Put Your Hands Up; and all the way back to her debut (which she revisited while trying to please the last demanding fan) there were attractive harmonies and feeling there. A red backdrop and a sparse set of lights coloured the Empire stage.
Nerina's world can be a deceptively naive fairytale at times; it's good she can balance it with a glimpse on "war and misery" here and there.
All in all, Mrs Pallot, not that bad...
Iron and Wine 10/10/11
Samuel Beam's stage outfit accesorized with a full live band, courtesy of his London-New York-Montreal-Toronto tour. His fourth album Kiss Each Other Clean, released earlier this year, expectedly provided a main axe, while older highlights (Boy With A Coin, House By The Sea etc.) reminded me why so many people were there to see him.
Not that I get it.. I found Flightless Bird, American Mouth - his Twilight hit - pretty awful, and while I'm afraid of coming dangerously close to those two old guys from Muppet Show with my grumpy objections in the above snippets, I have to say it:
I often find Beam an exceptional songwriter and his melodies this October Monday night, from time to time, gave me the chills. But then there was that  lady duo in the backing vocals, those ultra-folk cameos and the general softness in Beam's voice that turned everything into butter. I am no arranger, but he pissed me off so bad I was tempted to take them and add a sinister dark streak, make them a little bit more menacing. They could be grand...
Instead, it's like he's scared of any real excitement; God forbid if he makes them anything but overwhelmingly mellow! He soaks them into music conditioner. He irons the big feeling flat and intoxicates us, in truth, with conservative harmonies, as if terrified that any real intensity will be a deal-breaker.
The live was good, by the way; if you like butter. But I can't help but feel dissapointed. It must be all the cholesterol...

Review (with photography borrowed from the web) by Danai Molocha, aka rockets4solitude

Eleanor Friedberger @ Rough Trade West

Dear Eleanor...


There was a time when Eleanor Friedberger didn't look that dear to me - like when I interviewed her, prior to a Fiery Furnaces Athens gig, a couple of years ago. It was a phone interview and it definitely couldn't say a lot (though, so many times, it really does); she was being either close to snobbish or rather shy, but she chose to deal with it with a sheer veil of kind-of-arrogant distance.

And then, there was that brother of hers, Matthew, who typically takes the role of the unapproachable, shy one onstage, but he was actually the warm, casual bloke who fired all the jokes in "real life".

Let me declare here that I love the Fiery Furnaces - the more whimsical and wacky, the better.
Eleanor's solo debut Last Summer took things a lot further, on the simple side. So, to begin with, there was a downside from where I stood. But there is her immediacy and sophistication as we know it and nothing concerning the Furnaces and their members really ever looks for the easy way out.
There, at Rough Trade West, she was limited to a tiny space right in front of the till (weren't we all? The shop ends almost where it begins...!). And as she came face-to-face with her audience, stripped of everything but a guitar, a monitor and an amp, the walls crumbled.

She looked vulnerable (how could she escape it?) and even though she never turned particularly open or chatty (and she didn't have to be..), she wasn't really far - literally or metaphorically. The unavoidable intimacy only added to the fragility of her songs, in a slightly needed, in this case, Eleanor soul squash.
Lacking the rest of their instrumentation, I can't say I found them particularly unique - Early Earthquake, My Mistakes and winner I Won't Fall Apart On You Tonight; didn't see much of a difference.
But, if anything, she kept you interested in what she had to say.
I would very much prefer, personally, to go back to more Fiery Furnac-esque complications; but this is her thing. And from what I heard (and saw) there are fans out there.
Finally, it's up to you.

Review and photography by Danai Molocha, aka rockets4solitude.