Sunday, 16 December 2018

On Stage: Mauro Pawlowski & Braaknoot Ensemble @ Paradiso Tolhuistuin

At the end of the sixties Dutch musician Boudewijn de Groot released Nacht & Ontij, a very experimental album that people found really hard to like. However now it is regarded a classic. It is a story about a witches' sabbath, backed up by music and songs, or actually the whole album is one piece of music. Now Mauro Pawlowski and the Braaknoot Ensemble are performing this musical piece, half a century later.

Mauro Pawlowski & Braaknoot Ensemble at Paradiso Tolhuistuin, December 13 2018

It feels a bit weird writing about this in English, since Boudewijn de Groot and his work are such a big part of Dutch musical history, but are probably not known outside the low lands. I already saw this performance at the Into The Great Wide Open festival earlier this year, but because we met some friends at that moment I couldn't really pay attention. Tonight I can really focus on this show that was orchestrated for the Motel Mozaïque festival and is now touring around some clubs. Mauro Pawlowski is probably best known for his time as guitar played for dEUS, but is no stranger to experimental music.

He has gathered a group of skilled musicians around him to play this crazy story of a gathering of witches. Belgian actress and singer Lore Dejonckheere is the one that had to study all the lines of the story, but is exactly right for the story telling and vocals. The rest of the band are playing the mysterious music backed up by even more psychedelic and strange visuals. In these mostly dark surroundings the group create a sinister atmosphere that totally fits the subject.

It works very well and the musicians pull you into this dark and mysterious world with exciting music that sometimes is whisper-soft but then swells up to rocking and thundering levels. It proves what a talented musician Boudewijn de Groot is, who happens to be in the audience tonight as well. He must have felt proud of his amazing music and of this fantastic group playing his cult piece in such an epic way.

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Thursday, 13 December 2018

On Stage: A Perfect Circle @ AFAS Live

Maynard James Keenan requires a lot of patience from his fans. Tool keeps us waiting for a new album and live dates, although next year the long waiting comes to an end. A Perfect Circle kept us waiting for some time too, but released a new LP Eat The Elephant earlier this year. They already played the Pinkpop festival and now return for a headline show in Amsterdam.

A Perfect Circle at AFAS Live, December 9 2018

At the Pinkpop festival in June they were playing in broad daylight, which made it hard for their light show to really impress. Now in this venue they make use of the dark environment and the light show comes to full swing. This means the video screens on the small risers and the screens hanging from the ceiling like pieces of glass (or icicles), are bright and clear. The images used on those screens combine with the big screen at the back, where mostly abstract visuals are used to set the mood for a song. For the rest the musicians are mostly scarcely lit and are moving around in the shade. Keenan is nothing more than a dark image at the back and it is hard to see the moves he's making on his riser, like he did at Pinkpop. Billy Howerdell is at the front but also mostly in the shade. Drummer Jeff Friedl is probably the best visible one, on his high riser and with at least a bit of light on him.

This is exactly like they want it of course. It is now allowed to use cameras or phones in any way, enforced by security, so I didn't bring mine (which explains the pictures from Pinkpop being used here). It results in an interesting shadow play together with a dark and gloomy show. A Perfect Circle always had slow rock songs, that don't rely on big eruptions but are getting under your skin. I like this slow, mellow but still heavy sound, a lot. Live the band knows exactly how to reproduce this sound and even can emphasize it with concentrated playing. In the beginning the sounds seems a bit pale, but after a couple of songs I can hear the balance shifting and it gets better. It isn't really crisp but at least the heavy sounds comes across more effectively. Some of the new songs need a bit of time to really sink in, but by now I really like them. Even the strange synth rich 'Hourglass' sounds familiar by now.

There's hardly any talking in between songs and in almost two hours, the bands steadily work their way through twenty songs, including the Brinsley Schwarz cover '(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace, Love and Understanding' and AC/DC's 'Dog Eat Dog' dedicated to Malcolm Young and other people Keenan and co. admire and appreciate. The band knows how to suck you into their musical world and the time flies by as I watch fascinated. The group closes the night with 'Delicious', where Maynard steps into the light for the first time, thanking the crowd and telling security to step down to let people do whatever with their camera of phone. He walks off stage while hundreds of phones light up in the air for a few shots of the last minute of the show. A show that was dark, a bit distant, but at the same time intriguing and well performed, kind of like the band itself.

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01. Eat the Elephant
02. Disillusioned
03. The Hollow
04. Weak and Powerless
05. So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
06. Rose
07. Thomas
08. (What's So Funny 'bout) Peace, Love and Understanding
09. Vanishing
10. The Noose
11. 3 Libras (All Main Courses Mix)
12. The Contrarian
13. TalkTalk
14. Hourglass
15. The Doomed
16. Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums
17. Judith
18. Dog Eat Dog
19. The Package
20. Delicious

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Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Come As You Are 2018 @ Effenaar

I am old enough to have experienced the nineties in all its glory, but was able to miss out on seeing bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam in the flesh. Fortunately I caught up with them later on although I never got to see Nirvana or Alice in Chains with Layne Staley. Effenaar Eindhoven makes us relive those days with bands from that era and new bands who were inspired by music from that time.

Come As You Are at Effenaar Eindhoven, December 8 2018

We join the other grey and bald members of our generation while Dutch band Drive By Wire are about to close their show. We get to see a couple of songs by this band, but it is too short to get a really good impression of them.


We head to the small hall for Belgian rockers dirk. The four young men are clearly drawing inspiration from bands like Nirvana and early Foo Fighters, with plenty of tongue in cheek. The band is clearly here to entertain us and work hard for that. But it is hard to make this middle aged crowd move although a few give it a try. It's not the band's fault who have plenty to offer. They are still all over the place with their sound, but for now that is a good thing. I enjoyed this band from start to finish and hope to see them again.

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Green Lizard Tribute To The 90s

In those nineties there was this cool Dutch band Green Lizard who played heavy rock songs and released a pretty good album. I always enjoyed this band, and saw their brief return a few years back. Tonight they are playing all those songs that formed the soundtrack of my early years as an adult: Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Alice in Chains. They found a great singer in Matthias Bastiaan van Beek, who comes freakishly close to Kurt Cobain, both in looks as in sound. Urban Dance Squad singer Rudeboy joins them occasionally as special guest playing some of the biggest hits from his old illustrious band. Thanks for that wonderful trip down memory lane boys!

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I'm pretty fired up by now and can't wait to meet up with that crazy band Tusky. You can't go wrong with these guys who are always playing like their life depends on it. They are trying to form a circle pit again, but have to accept that these old timers in here have no clue what it is. It doesn't get them down, but only motivates them more to get this crowd to move. In the end their punk rock songs go down well and definitely succeed in spreading their good vibes again.

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Admiral Freebee

I was really happy that Admiral Freebee also is part of this bill. I love this artist's music and his approach to it, where he alway goes his own way. He is in a soulful mood today and brought an amazing band including a horns section. His show turns into a warm soul and rhythm and blues show, with a groovy band and an inspired Admiral. I never can't get enough of this wonderful artist and can't wait for his new LP to drop.

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Birth Of Joy

To me Birth of Joy is one of the best Dutch rock bands of this moment and I am sad that they are about to quit. But I'm also happy to see them live tonight and bid them farewell in January at their last show. No time for sadness though, since these guys rock this joint to pieces. The wild guitar and organ driven rock music, with the incredible groovy drums, are simply irresistible. I can't believe they are playing the small hall and I can imagine this is one of the reasons they are calling it quits. This band should have been playing the big stages in this country instead.

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Soundgarden Lives

One of the big bands of the nineties was Soundgarden of course and they are one of my favourite groups of that era. Chris Cornell surely was a unique rock singer and I'm still sad he is no longer there. If any band can do justice to the Soundgarden music, it is Navarone. That group indeed knows how to recreate their heavy and groovy sound. I know some of those songs are not easy to play, but this band makes it look so easy. With their amazing singer Merijn van Haren they come really close to the nineties giants. Guest singer Caroline Westendorp from rock band The Charm The Fury does a decent job too. However the singer whose name I didn't get, playing big hit 'Blackhole Sun', totally misses the whole vibe of the song and thinks he can leave an impression by trying some rock howls. Soundgarden was a lot more than that mate. Fortunately our own Anneke van Giersbergen shows that you can make those songs completely your own with a beautiful acoustic performance of Audioslave's 'Like A Stone'. Later she joins van Haren for an amazing version of Temple of the Dog's 'Hunger Strike' until that one singer joins them again and almost destroys the moment.

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This has been such a wonderful day with great music and a lot of fun. The bands all showed a lot of heart and although the crowd was maybe hard to get moving, the vibe was completely right. Count me in for next year.

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Thursday, 6 December 2018

On Stage: Editors @ TivoliVredenburg

It's been a long time since Editors played small venues. Nowadays they play large arenas and are headlining major festivals. So when they announced a string of shows in small venues I made sure to get tickets. Time to meet the band up close.

Editors at TivoliVredenburg Utrecht, December 3 2018

We sure are close to the stage this time. The sold out main hall of TivoliVredenburg holds around 2000 people tonight and we are only a couple of rows from the front, a few meters away from the stage. Andy Burrows warms up the crowd with a somewhat mellow set, a bit too mellow and on the safe side I think. Only when his buddy Tom Smith himself joins him for one song, the venue gets a bit loud. For the rest everyone is eagerly awaiting the main act.

Bassist Russell Leetch is right in front of us on the stage and I can actually look him in the eyes, which turns out to be great. Now I can see how much he is enjoying playing. Like the rest of the band he is definitely having a good time, being able to really connect with people in the crowd. Editors play a greatest hits set with a few songs from their last LP Violence scattered in between.

I still like the songs of the first three albums the most, which is obvious again tonight. The music of the last couple of albums, sounds really inflated and blunt compared to older songs like 'All Sparks', 'Munich' or 'Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors'. Some of the newer songs are aimed at sing-alongs in big arenas. Of course the fans are in for that and many people around me are singing everything word by word.

It is nice though to see this band stripped back to the bare essentials again as they prove what makes them so big in the first place. It is the way they are tightly playing their dark music, concentrated and full of passion. Of course singer Tom Smith adds the icing on the cake with his impressive baritone voice and lively performance. The way he feels the music and presents it is always a delight to watch.

And it is really nice to see it all happening from almost front row. You do notice the band is used to playing huge crowds, since every move they make is big, like their newer music. That makes sense of course since it is not possible to entertain a big crowd with small gestures. This has been a unique night with a unique band, that ends with a happy performance of 'Nothing' together with Andy Burrows.

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01. The Boxer
02. Sugar
03. Hallelujah (So Low)
04. All Sparks
05. An End Has a Start
06. Fingers in the Factories
07. Darkness at the Door
08. Salvation
09. Violence
10. No Harm
11. Bullets
12. A Ton of Love
13. Formaldehyde
14. Nothingness
15. Ocean of Night
16. Blood
17. Papillon
18. Magazine
19. Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors
20. Cold
21. The Racing Rats
22. Munich
23. Nothing

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Wednesday, 5 December 2018

On Stage: Ryley Walker @ Tolhuistuin

Ever since I got pleasantly surprised by Ryley Walker at the Into The Great Wide Open Festival a few years back, I've been wanting to visit one of his shows. I did get to see him a few times at festivals again but now I'm finally able to catch him at a full headliner show.

Ryley Walker at Paradiso Tolhuistuin Amsterdam, December 2 2018

It's the combination of well written psych rock songs and the jazzy classic rock vibe that I like about Walker's music. He brought an excellent band with him on stage again, with not one but two drummers. You never can have enough drummers of course. Walker's been a busy bee this year and released two albums: Deafman Glance and The Lillywhite Sessions, a reimagining of the long lost Dave Matthews Band album. With those new albums he adds another bunch of beauties to his catalogue and has now a lot to choose from.

It's not like he needs a lot of songs, since the way he and his band stretch out the songs, they don't need more than a dozen. Not that you will hear me complain about that, because every song ends up in a blissful jam of epic proportions with two drummers that are totally complementary and guitars that are playfully swirling around each other. Walker will lead his band into a song on top of a theme before they let it fan out into free prog rock like pieces. It never gets fiddly though or too complicated as sometimes is the case, where musicians simply are showing off. No not at all, it always is tasteful and a band effort where eventually they will return to the theme again. At the end Jaimie Branch joins the group on stage to add lovely trumpet parts to a wonderful and intense song.

Walker does spend a lot of time in between songs tuning his guitar. Or maybe it is just an excuse for him to have a little chat, mostly about the local Dutch fast food cuisine (bitterballen) or his aspirations to star in a beer commercial. Yes, Walker is quite a funny guy, although it sometimes loses the momentum in the show. But you can forgive him those long breaks, since he does connect with the audience in a relaxed way, which brings a light touch to this night. For the rest you simply can only surrender yourself to the stunning performance by these incredible musicians and the amazing talent of Ryley Walker.

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