Wednesday, 4 March 2015

On Stage: Helemaal Melkweg

Amsterdam venue the Melkweg has its own festival where you're able to wander through the whole building and experience the broad cultural spectrum they have to offer. It's an evening filled with music, movies, theater and expositions. One of the bands playing tonight New Cool Collective happens to be one of my favourites, so I don't need a lot of persuasion to join my friends.

Helemaal Melkweg festival at Melkweg Amsterdam, February 28 2015

The festival is off to an early start which is hard to make so we arrive at the venue just before New Cool Collective is about to start.

New Cool Collective
Last year the jazz collective released two albums, one with Dutch singer Guus Meeuwis and one by itself. That last one is in line with the rest of their catalogue and the focus of tonight's performance. The groovy record gets the best live treatment you can get as is to be expected from this unique band. Even though the festival has sold out, it spreads the visitors out all over the place which means the big hall isn't overcrowded like with sold out shows. Instead we can move close to the stage and have a great view on everything that is happening.

The band is tight as usual and impresses once again with their stunning play, swinging solos and the sheer joy of playing together. Fortunately they are allowed to play quite a long set which enables every single one of them to shine in the spot light. For me this band's performance makes this night more that worth it.

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But it's not over yet. This night is only just beginning. Unfortunately the Dubioza Kolektiv is playing at the same time as New Cool Collective but also has filled up the small hall completely. It looks like they threw quite a party since we see sweaty people with big smiles afterwards.

Memphis Soul Revue
Instead we catch the end of the Memphis Soul Revue which has a top notch band and some great singers lined up. By the time we get there we see Tameka "Big Baby" Goodman, background singer for Snoop Dogg, kick off her part of the show. Her big appearance and strong voice are impressive, carrying plenty of soul. In between Peter Corn is singing a few songs, but his voice doesn't appeal to me. By playing only soul standards it also never really gets very exciting but instead even becomesa bit boring. It feels like watching a very good cover band doing their routine, so we decide to have a beer instead.

Fortunately there's one more performance scheduled. Amsterdam band TenTemPiés are closing the live part of the program tonight. Although they are a band from this country, there music is a lot more exotic, which is no wonder with the Chilean influences in this group. Their cheerful music and enthusiastic performance starts Spring early this year. The crowd is more than willing to join in on the sunny festivities and so the festival goes out on a high.

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But it's not over yet. There's more dancing to do during the Jazzbop event where there are only happy faces showing and bottles of beer. Great combo of course.

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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

On Stage: Together Pangea

Some bands really know how to impress once they play their music live on stage. Californian band Together Pangea is one of those bands, that once they climb the stage know how to transform their catchy garage rock songs into crowd killers. They proved that last year with their legendary performance at Vera in Groningen. Now they were playing my hometown.

Together Pangea at Melkweg Amsterdam, February 22 2015

The quartet already did an extensive club tour last year in support of their latest album Badillac, that is full of short catchy rock tunes. Right from the start half of the hall starts to jump and won't stop until the band leaves the stage about an hour later. They have developed a great sound and are much more than your average garage rock band. Although all the ingredients are there, they add more subtleties and especially melody to the mix.

This is already obvious when you listen to their records, but on stage the songs come alive even more and become more organic. The band doesn't take long breaks in between and together with the short length of the songs the performance gains a lot of momentum. This adds to the energetic atmosphere and together with the positive vibe the band sends out, it results in an exciting show.

The new album has plenty of great moments of its own and live, songs like 'Sick Shit', 'Alive' and 'River' are working very effectively as well. Throughout the show youngsters climb the stage, are crowd surfing and the pit never dies down. And when the singer loses his shoe when he jumps in the crowd, you know it was a good night.

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Friday, 20 February 2015

Spinning: D'Angelo - Black Messiah

A very tough period began for Michael Archer, or D'Angelo as we know him, following his second album Voodoo in 2001. He wasn't happy with his sex symbol status and retreated from the spot lights. After that, personal drama and problems started piling up with booze and drugs, several arrests and to make matters worse he was heavily injured in a car accident. In this turbulent period he tried to work on a new record, but after many unclear and contradicting notices no one really believed in it any more. Therefore the sudden release of Black Messiah at the end of last year was a complete surprise.

D'Angelo - Black Messiah (Sony Music)

D'Angelo thought it was necessary to advance the release after the controversial verdict in the Ferguson case. This comes as no surprise when you listen to the record, where many songs are politically charged. '1000 Deaths' starts with a sound bite from the 'The Murder of Fred Hampton' documentary, about the Black Panthers member who was killed by the police in 1971. It gives the song a topical background all of a sudden, where a grim D'Angelo sings:
"Locked and loaded up, and I know the drill. They're going to send me over the hill"
But he says we shouldn't misinterpret the album's title, because he doesn't regard himself to be a black Messiah, nor does the album refer to one. No, the title is about all of us, it's about people who stand up for change.

This could lead you to think the record has become very heavy on the heart and the music is less important. It couldn't be farther from the truth, since D'Angelo mostly endorses his musical capabilities and shows he has a unique talent. The music is a of a high quality in every aspect, the compositions, instrumentation and arrangements are spot on. Where needed small accents are added or omitted. His typical, sometimes distorted Prince-like way of singing has enough credibility and emotion, giving the songs plenty of soul.

The group of musicians that are cooperating as The Vanguard have been chosen with care as well and are perfect for the job. The extremely tight grooves by drummer ?eustlove and bassist Pino Palladino give the songs the right amount of funk and swing like in 'Betray My Heart'. The skills of jazz trumpet player and composer Roy Hargrove and P-Funk member Kendra Foster are used on a large part of the LP, where Foster co wrote many of the songs.

It turns Black Messiah into a very rich album, that is much more than just a good R&B record. It transcends a single genre like soul, hiphop, funk or jazz and instead forges them together into a wonderful mix. You can hear this in the catchy 'Sugah Daddy', the grooving 'Till It's Done (Tutu)' or the relaxed and slow 'The Door'. D'Angelo recorded a timeless album, one that people will still listen to in decades to come and which will then still sound just as fresh, which is a real achievement.

This review has been published on Festivalinfo in Dutch over here.

Listen to 'The Hum' on Spotify.

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