Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Spinning: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree

Losing people that are close to you is inevitable and part of life, but at the same time there are not many things that leave bigger scars on people. Unfortunately I experienced this first hand when I lost people, some of them way too young. Losing one of your children, something I am glad I never had to go through, is probably one of the worst things that can happen to a parent. Singer Nick Cave lost his son while recording his latest record. Needless to say that left its marks on his music.

Cave always had a fascination with death and dark subjects in general and was able to capture that in his music that never fails to intrigue. After such a tragedy it was to be expected that it would somehow end up in the songs he was recording and that this record would not be a light one. The album was released together with the movie 'One More Time With Feeling' that shows him in his moments of grief and mourning, a man trying to pick things up after a devastating loss.

Exactly that is what you can hear back in Skeleton Tree, although part of it was already recorded before the deadly tragedy. It's hard to believe the opening track 'Jesus Alone' was one of the tracks that were already done. The first lines of the LP couldn't be more ominous in this light: "You fell from the sky/Crash landed in a field /Near the river Adur". It's a heavy and gloomy track, that sets the mood for the rest of the album.

The songs are following the same path as the ones on Push The Sky Away but gain even more depth, maybe because of their extra load. The almost spoken-word singing of Nick Cave in 'Rings Of Saturn' is followed by the soul crushing 'Girl In Amber' where he sounds like a broken man backed up by weeping vocals. 'Anthrocene' leads off the second half of a record that seems to go deeper and deeper. You can hear the pain and grief in 'I Need You' which is followed by 'Distant Sky', a song that makes you stop doing whatever you're doing and makes the world stop spinning for a short moment.

It's exactly the feeling you get when you are mourning the loss of a loved one. The big lump in your throat that doesn't seem to go away, that sickening feeling in your stomach, the feeling of being lost in a world that seems detached. A feeling of hopelessness, as if everything just seems to fall out of your hands. Nick Cave obviously is a man who was crushed and tries to pick up himself from the pieces, tries to carry on with that huge wound on his soul. He translated these feelings perfectly into music, arranged beautifully by Warren Ellis and recorded with his Bad Seeds. The album cover, black with some simple text, also expresses this. It's an intense record that cuts deep into your soul and where it's almost impossible to keep your eyes dry. Yet I want to spin it again and again, despite the lump in my throat.

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Wednesday, 14 September 2016

On Stage: Fatoumata Diawara @ Paradiso

A few years ago Malian musician Fatoumata Diawara released her wonderful debut album Fatou that is full of beautiful and personal songs. She visited our country a few times but I was not able to see her yet. Fortunately she returned to Paradiso this month.

Fatoumata Diawara at Paradiso Amsterdam, September 12 2016

Her three piece backing band starts to play to us warm up before Diawara enters the stage. Her charismatic personality and smiling face lights up the big hall of Paradiso. The beginning is modest with a few slow and subdued songs. Her voice is clear and strong and she uses it not only to sing, but also to speak up against issues in Mali and Africa and to preach love and peace. It fits her strong, positive attitude and gives some of the songs, that tell about these issues, more depth.

Slowly the tempo is going up and people start to dance. Diawara not only is a great singer and musician she also knows how to entertain the crowd. She teaches us some African dance moves, asks us to clap to the beat several times and makes sure we stay focused. Her band is never showing off and stays a bit in the background. The swinging and ringing guitar that is playing those characteristic West-African melodies, sounds clear and the rhythm section is tight and groovy.

At the end the music is swinging and funky, so by now almost no one is standing still. Diawara is dancing wildly on stage adding even more to the already energetic performance. Her band members are all getting a moment to shine as well before it is time to say goodbye to this amazing woman. But not before she comes back and leaves us with one more dance.

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Sunday, 11 September 2016

On Stage: New Cool Collective with Mark Reilly @ NSJ Club

The coolest jazz collective on the face of this planet and beyond, New Cool Collective, regularly teams up with artists from every part of the musical spectrum. In the past they played with afrobeat legend Tony Allen, Dutch local hero Guus Meeuwis and Orchestra Baobab's Thierno Koite. Recently they recorded a record, The Things You Love, with no one less than Matt Bianco's Mark Reilly and they are now touring with him.

New Cool Collective and Mark Reilly at North Sea Jazz Club Amsterdam, September 8 2016

Needless to say that this collaboration is guaranteed to be a hot dancing party. The record already proves this with new arrangements of Matt Bianco and New Cool Collective songs but mostly brand new compositions. Captain of the ship is of course Benjamin Herman and the band first starts out with a few of their own songs to warm up. Since this is a hot summer's night, that doesn't take long and Herman quickly introduces Mark Reilly.

Reilly is looking sharp, blending in perfectly with the cool combo. Some wonderful swinging songs follow with Reilly's warm voice fitting the music like they are made for each other. The Matt Bianco classics have been reworked for New Cool Collective without losing their swinging edge. Reilly certainly looks like he's enjoying playing with this brilliant combo.

I forgot how many good songs Matt Bianco wrote. The swinging 'Whose Side Are You On', a brilliant version of 'More Than I Can Bear', both not on the record and of course the smash hit 'Don't Blame It On That Girl'. It's wonderful to hear these great songs come to life again. New songs like 'We Should Be Dancing' and the funky 'Double Stitch' sound even better and get the best of both worlds. The band is not allowed to leave without playing an encore and lays down a couple more sizzling hot songs, leaving the crowd in an overheated state.

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