Sunday, 27 November 2016

On Stage: Michael Kiwanuka @ Paradiso

Ever since hearing 'Home Again' I've been a fan of Michael Kiwanuka's music. Especially after seeing him live I am completely sold and have seen him play several times. Last time he show cased a few new songs of his second album that was due to come out. That new record Love & Hate has been out now for a while and shows him successfully exploring new grounds. Time to go check him out again.

Michael Kiwanuka at Paradiso Amsterdam, November 25 2016

The first album Home Again was an excellent soul album, full of beautiful emotional songs. On Love & Hate however Kiwanuka broadens his horizon with psychedelic, folk and americana influences. And so the concert begins with an almost Pink Floyd like intro by his keyboard player while the rest of the band joins him after a few minutes for 'Cold Little Heart', the lead off track of the latest record.

Kiwanuka knows how to create an intimate atmosphere, with his wonderful warm voice and music, but also his modest appearance. No big fuzz about this gentleman, simply a man and his guitar. And an amazing band of course, because let's not forget about the amazing musicians around him. They know exactly when to hold back or add a bit more swing, or occasionally play explosive accents. It must be comfortable for Kiwanauka to be able to rely on a band like this.

The quality and the diversity of the new songs are apparent in the setlist as well. All songs of the new album are lined up tonight, with a few older ones scattered in between. Some of them get a slightly different arrangement, adding some solo's or stretching them for a bit. The first encore ends with a lovely version of 'Love & Hate', where at the end the musicians leave the stage one by one while loud cheers sound, leaving the keyboard player as the last one like at the beginning. But it's not over yet. The band returns and plays a gorgeous version of Prince's 'Sometimes It Snows In April' as an ultimate tribute to the Purple One. A touching end to another wonderful evening with Kiwanuka and his band.

All Pictures

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Setlist: 01. Cold Little Heart
02. One More Night
03. Tell Me a Tale
04. Falling
05. Black Man in a White World
06. I’ll Never Love
07. Always Waiting
08. I’m Getting Ready
09. Rule the World
10. The Final Frame
11. Father's Child
12. Home Again
13. Bones
14. Love & Hate
Encore 2:
15. Sometimes it Snows in April

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Thursday, 24 November 2016

On Stage: Girl Band @ Bitterzoet

At the Into The Great Wide Open festival in 2015 I saw an Irish band play an intense blend of punk and techno. It was an intriguing and impressive performance that asked for more. Unfortunately Girl Band cancelled their European tour later that year but have now returned.

Girl Band at Bitterzoet at November 22 2016

The band opens the night with the Blawan cover of 'Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage', that was hitting me hard over a year ago. It's an impressive opener to another intense show by the Irish quartet. Singer Dara Kiely draws all attention with his screaming vocals and his passionate performance while the rest of the band is playing the wild and energetic music.

And boy, this band is tight! The songs are sometimes short songs, like the mad techno track 'The Last Riddler', that are right in your face. At other times the violent beats are full of twists and can come to a sudden stop. Or they simply are going into every direction like 'Fucking Butter' with that sliding bass line. The band is playing all of them with great ease and very convincingly. Their sound is quite unique and the crowd doesn't know when to dance or when to go completely mental.

It's the kind of music that is dark and can make you a bit uneasy, but at the same time is very hard to resist. It's music full of creativity and energy that is at its best live on a stage. It bags plenty of edge and is rough around the edges and with the techno and dance influences added to the mix the band have found a great combination and there's nothing quite like it. Drummer Adam Faulkner knows how to come up with interesting grooves by using odd time signatures now and then or adding sounds to his drum kit in a clever way. The drum beats are kind of central to the songs and define the music. In the end it's a band you really have to experience preferably live. I'm looking forward to hearing and seeing more from these guys.

All Pictures

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Friday, 18 November 2016

Spinning: Preoccupations - Preoccupations

Canadian band Viet Cong left quite an impression with their dark music on the first record. By spending many hours on stage they are able to play their music live convincingly as well. Until their controversial name was causing a lot of resistance and they were forced to re-brand to Preoccupations. Maybe it was quite naive to choose that initial name in the first place, but it feels like starting over again.

Fortunately that's not the case on the first album with the new name, that comes without a title like their debut, and where all song titles are only one word. It is clear right from opening track 'Anxiety' that the band is still mostly dark and their music a mix of new wave and post-rock with the thundering voice of Matt Flegel, who is chanting his lyrics monotonously. He can rely on a very strong rhythm section who are putting down repeating riffs and grooves in an impressive way, that give the music a threatening and sometimes industrial face. For example 'Zodiac' starts off stormy with drums that like a pile driver hammer the foundation in place.

But this time there are also lighter moments, like on 'Degraded', a new wave song with a nice intro and bass line. Two very short songs go back to back, 'Sense' and 'Forbidden', that are paving the way for the anxious 'Stimulation', a haunting song that keeps repeating the sombre line "there’s nothing you can do ‘cause we’re all dead inside, all gonna die". The amazing 'Fever' closes the album, where you can hear heavy Kraftwerk-like synthesizers and that could easily be used as a soundtrack. The band knows how to use these synthesizer layers in a very effective way in their music.

The more than eleven minutes long 'Memory' summarizes the record at best. After an ominous intro and a dark first half the vibe changes halfway, where the higher vocals of Wolf Parade's Dan Broeckner bring alleviation. Here you can hear the recurring elements again, that demonstrate the power of repetition very well. After two thirds of the song the feedback of guitars are used for a long and oppressive outro. It is typical for Preoccupations and it only asks for more.

Listen to Preoccupations on Spotify:

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