Sunday, 21 October 2018

On Stage: Daniel Lohues @ Patronaat

Twenty years ago, Dutch troubadour Daniel Lohues was in a fun rock band called Skik. They had quite some success but Lohues has wandered into different directions since then, exploring his blues side and for the past decade playing wonderful folk music in theatres. I like Lohues a lot, who is a very skilled and creative song writer with lots of musical talent and a gentle attitude. During the recording of his last album, he noticed he had a lot of fun playing in an electric band again so he decided to do a little tour.

Daniel Lohues at Patronaat Haarlem, October 19 2018

For this occasion he changed the arrangements of his mostly acoustic solo songs, always in his local dialect, so they are suitable to play for a rock band. They don't need a lot of changing, since tonight proves his songs are so strong they can be easily played by a full band without losing their edge. Lohues also chose them wisely, where he knows some of the more light weight ones are perfect to rock out to and some of his most delicate ones can be turned into beautiful ballads.

Of course the blues is never far away either, where his blues adventure quite some time ago pays off again. Lohues and his band are clearly having a hell of a time throwing smiles around to each other and the big man himself plays his solos with a huge grin, now and then making funny faces. He gathered a bunch of amazing musicians around him, that he got to know throughout his impressive career.

The audience is clearly old enough to know him from his Skik times, when he was still a young rocker, living a boy's dream. Every Skik song is greeted with loud cheers and makes the crowd dance to the fierce rock songs. Now he's the veteran musician, who has seen every side of the business and was able to find a way to make a good living out of it and still stay true to himself. Nowadays he's writing the music he wants to for himself and other musicians and is a respected producer. And whenever he wants to rock hard again he just gathers his friends for a night of good old fun rock and roll.

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Monday, 15 October 2018

On Stage: Graveyard @ Melkweg

A few years ago Swedish rock band Graveyard went through some hard times and eventually even called it quits. I really like the band so I was disappointed the group couldn't go on. But then only a year later suddenly they regrouped and started playing again. Now there's a follow up album Peace and the band are touring Europe, which brings them to Amsterdam once more.

Graveyard at Melkweg Amsterdam, October 12 2018

Before they disbanded the band was able to sell out the big hall of the Melkweg and were ready for the next step to bigger venues. Now they are playing the small hall which is not completely sold out although it is almost full. It is striking to see that only a small pause can kill your momentum, even though the band has not lost their game.

Since the foursome keeps doing what they have been doing all the time: playing genuine and honest hard rock and blues songs with a lot of heart. I like their ability to rock hard and loud while at the same time play gorgeous touching ballads. It is wonderful to watch singer Joakim Nilsson sing those songs so convincing, pouring everything he has in it. Mostly with his eyes closed and his head bent to the side, he's totally in the moment, forgetting everything around him.

It never gets soggy though, since the band shifts into the highest gear often as well, rocking hard. It is these smooth changes and dynamics, combined with a very tight band, that makes this band so good. The new songs aren't too different from the rest, maybe even a bit heavier. I can't imagine this band won't grow any bigger again and move to larger venues the next time they will be visiting. I just hope they will stick around and keep visiting my home town.

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01. Walk On
02. Please Don't
03. The Fox
04. Hisingen Blues
05. Uncomfortably Numb
06. Cold Love
07. Buying Truth (Tack & Förlåt)
08. Hard Times Lovin'
09. An Industry of Murder
10. From a Hole in the Wall
11. Bird of Paradise
12. Goliath
13. Magnetic Shunk
14. Low (I Wouldn’t Mind)
15. Ain't Fit to Live Here
16. The Siren

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Wednesday, 10 October 2018

On Stage: U2 @ Ziggo Dome

I've been a U2 fan for many years and attended every tour since the Lovetown Tour back in 1990. But they lost me musically long time ago and after the 360 tour I thought I had seen enough. So three years back when U2 released Songs of Innocence and kind of pushed it down our throats I decided to skip the accompanying Innocence + Experience tour, but was sorry I did after reading the reviews. I kind of found back my love for the band after last year's The Joshua Tree tour. When they released Songs of Experience that same year, I really wanted to see the accompanying Experience + Innocence tour.

U2 at Ziggo Dome Amsterdam, October 8 2018

That alone is quite an effort since it's not so easy getting tickets to a concert of one of the biggest rocks bands in the world playing a relatively small venue for such a big band. Fortunately I managed to land a few tickets and so we find ourselves at the Ziggo Dome on a Monday night, staring at something that looks like a narrow long cage. Of course this is U2 so when the concert takes off, the cage turns out to be a bridge with huge screens to either side. The band appears on the bridge to kick it off with a new song 'The Blackout'.

The bridge can go up and down, tilt so it becomes a slope and it connects the main stage with a smaller round stage at the other end. The huge screens flash on sometimes to show accompanying images or colours or to send some of the political messages the band always has been known for. It is a spectacular setup, but it does take away the focus from the band. I see many people watching the screens to their side while the band is playing on the main stage in front of them. But of course U2 has never been a band to keep things small.

I do like the story they are trying to tell about these four Irish boys that started a band, became bigger than anything else and even flew too close to the sun at one point. While Bono tells this story he's not shying away from self-criticism, even bringing back MacPhisto. So we have a big show, a story, but what about the music? It is clear their finest musical years have been long gone and the new songs mostly are mediocre attempts to stay in pace with the current music scene. 'Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way' sounds modern and has a beautiful theme, but simply doesn't even come close to the likes of 'Acrobat' or 'New Year's Day'. It sounds more like a filler song on an album by a band trying to be Coldplay.

Their most outstanding album Achtung Baby is heavily represented tonight, which makes sense since it holds their most daring and exciting music. During 'Pride (In The Name Of Love)' the members of the band couldn't be further apart with Bono all the way on the small round stage, Adam Clayton and The Edge on small risers to either side of the floor and Larry Mullen Jr. remaining on stage all by himself. I happen to be only a few meters away from The Edge which is very nice of course but at the same time it feels a bit awkward to see the member so wide apart, fully detached from each other.

It is clear this band still is at its best when playing their finest songs. Not necessarily their biggest hits but simply their best music. Unfortunately in all fairness there are only a few songs coming out of the past two decades that are part of that. However new song '13 (There Is A Light)', with Bono holding on to a big light bulb, proves the band hasn't completely lost their ability to write a good honest song. Maybe one day they can come up with an album again that is full of these little gems. In the end most fans here tonight don't care about all of this and got what they came for: a spectacular show by a band that still is one of the biggest ones around playing some of their favourite songs. And I am mostly one of them.

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01. The Blackout
02. Lights of Home
03. I Will Follow
04. All Because of You
05. Beautiful Day
06. Zoo Station
07. Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
08. Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
09. Elevation
10. Vertigo
11. Even Better Than the Real Thing
12. Acrobat
13. You're the Best Thing About Me
14. Summer of Love
15. Pride (In the Name of Love)
16. Get Out of Your Own Way
17. New Year's Day
18. City of Blinding Lights
19. One
20. Love Is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way
21. 13 (There Is a Light)

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