Wednesday, 21 August 2019

On Stage: Yeasayer @ Paradiso

There was a time when Yeasayer were the hippest band on the block, selling out all clubs and wanted by every festival around. They were guaranteed to draw big crowds to their performances, driven by the success of their first two albums. The experimental band from Brooklyn didn't compromise however, refusing to milk that success. Critics and the main stream music world seem to have lost interest and the band is starting to fly under the radar. Their new release Erotic Returns made me curious enough to go check them out again.

Yeasayer at Paradiso Amsterdam, August 19 2019

Playing a club show in the middle of the summer is not really a good for ticket sales. This is the off season for these kind of shows and most bands are earning their money at the summer festivals. Yeasayer did play a few festivals and maybe they just squeezed in the Amsterdam show. They do mention they think it is the best city in the world. I'm not the one to disagree here and it may just be the reason they are playing a more than half empty main hall tonight. This doesn't get the band down in any way though and the foursome are in great spirits.

The core members of the band are keyboard player Chris Keating, guitarist Anand Wilder and bassist Ira Wolf Tuton, while adding other musicians to their live band. I really love the sound of this band, the warm melodies with eastern influences and the great vocals and harmonies. Keating and Wilder are sharing lead vocals, which is pretty rare to have two of those amazing voices. Tuton adds lovely backing vocals and harmonies, possessing a clear falsetto. Live it all sounds just as good, with a well balanced sound mix where you can hear all the details.

Of course the group has a couple of giant hits like '2080' and 'O.N.E' that are incredibly catchy and can make even the biggest stiff move his body. But the band is so much more than that, exploring many musical directions, often not choosing the easy road. The new songs have a great pop sound and sometimes the band even rocks out quite hard. On a song like '24 Hateful Live!' I can't help but hearing distant echoes from Duran Duran. The band is not shying away from some political criticism either, although tonight they will only shortly give their view on their president.

Mostly the band is simply playing their songs in a tight show without many breaks in between them. This is working very well, creating a nice summery atmosphere where most people are moving to the lovely tunes. It does turn into a short night though, since after a three song encore the show is over, lasting not even 75 minutes. Still the band played a 15 song set, which is not bad at all. It is the same set they played at some of the festivals, where the band has to stick to 60 to 75 minutes slots. They definitely are able to fill those slots efficiently. Hopefully it reminds many people of what an amazing band this is, with a unique sound that should be able to please so many. Maybe the band is fine with their current status, but I think they deserve a lot more exposure and I hope the music world won't start to forget about them. I sure won't.

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01. Madder Red
02. Henrietta
03. Ohm Death
04. 2080
05. 24-Hour Hateful Live!
06. Let Me Listen In on You
07. Tightrope
08. Sunrise
09. People I Loved
10. Fluttering in the Floodlights
11. O.N.E.
12. Ecstatic Baby
13. I'll Kiss You Tonight
14. Blue Skies Dandelions
15. Ambling Alp

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Tuesday, 13 August 2019

On Stage: Dead Kennedys @ Melkweg

Apparently this is the time to see legendary punk bands, since after The Damned played Melkweg only a few days ago, now Dead Kennedys are playing on the same spot. The band was one of the front-runners of the hardcore punk in the late seventies and I simply have to see this band.

Dead Kennedys at Melkweg Amsterdam, August 11 2019

As a bonus, another icon from the hardcore punk scene, D.O.A., are playing as support act. Unfortunately we don't make it to the venue on time to catch their show. I really hope to see them some day after all. The nice thing about Dead Kennedys is that three of their members have been playing with the band forever. Only singer Ron Greer is the latest addition and has been with the band since 2006 as their fourth singer. Like The Damned this band has been around for more than four decades, which is quite remarkable.

This didn't have any effect on the level of energy shown on stage. Bassist Klaus Flouride and guitarist East Bay Ray may look a bit static next to the active Greer, but are playing in a lively way nevertheless. I love the surf influences in Ray's guitar playing, who adds a lot of melody to the mostly fast and loud songs.

At the back drummer D.H. Peligro is playing the fast grooves and fills with great ease. The sound mix isn't great though tonight and his drums sound isn't heavy enough or could have used more punch, which is not his fault. I'm not in a bad position sound wise, but drums and guitars could have been balanced better, giving the music a more edgy sound. Fortunately it doesn't have a big effect on the performance and it doesn't take long for a pit to form in front of the stage.

Greer is a singer that will fire up the crowd but also likes to pester them for a bit. Dead Kennedys have always been a political band and Greer is sharing many of their political views. At the same time he's clowning around a bit, telling somewhat awkward stories, only to get under the people's skin. You can hear people grumble about this a bit or yelling the band should start playing. I think it is actually quite entertaining although at times it takes the speed out of the show. His vocals are maybe a bit less heavy but he's able to fill Jello Bafla's big shoes, the original singer of Dead Kennedys.

Fortunately the band doesn't have trouble picking it back up again and their music certainly helps there. They haven't released any new music for a long time, although they did rewrite 'MTV Get Off The Air' to 'MP3 Get Off The Web'. Still their songs haven't lost much of their impact and meaning. A song like 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off' hasn't been more relevant for a long time than nowadays. At the end they play their big hits and the pit grows wilder. 'Holiday In Cambodia' obviously is one of the highlights of the night and ends the first encore. The band returns for 'Chemical Warfare' to extend this wild party for one more song. It's good we still have these bands around that are willing to make a statement, backed up by some furious rock music.

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01. Forward to Death
02. Winnebago Warrior
03. Police Truck
04. Buzzbomb
05. Let's Lynch the Landlord
06. Jock-O-Rama
07. Kill the Poor
08. MP3 Get Off The Web
09. Too Drunk To Fuck
10. Moon Over Marin
11. Nazi Punks Fuck Off
12. California Über Alles
13. Bleed for Me
14. Viva Las Vegas (Elvis Presley cover)
15. Holiday in Cambodia
Encore 2:
16. Chemical Warfare

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Friday, 9 August 2019

On Stage: The Damned @ Melkweg

It's been forty year since The Damned released their famous record Machine Gun Etiquette. They are now touring around to celebrate this iconic album, by playing it in its entirety. It's about time I go see this legendary punk band for myself.

The Damned at Melkweg Amsterdam, August 7 2019

In those forty years a lot has changed, including the line-up of the veteran rockers. A few years ago, bassist Paul Gray rejoined long time and founding members singer Dave Vanian and guitarist Captian Sensible. Gray had been out of the band for a while, but with his return the line-up consists of musicians that have been involved with the band for a long time.

Machine Gun Etiquette showed the variety of the group, exploring new directions besides their powerful punk. The band experimented with psychedelic rock and pop and clearly the album hasn't lost any of its touch, even after four decades. Hearing the entire album live proves it still stands tall The songs still sound very strong and are full of that Damned energy. You can hear this is no ordinary punk band, but one that has a lot more to offer.

They don't stop there tonight of course, but play a lot more songs, including later work. I have to admit I'm not very keen on their goth rock songs, although they paved the way for many bands in that genre. I really like their punk and rock songs though, those little explosive balls of energy, with Captain Sensible shredding away on his guitar. Because man, you'd almost forget that these guys can play! Vanian's baritone voice is deep and clear and doesn't seem to show any wear after all those years. Best of all, they are having so much fun playing together.

Not only are they having fun among each other, cracking jokes, but they are also having fun with the crowd. Especially Captain Sensible and Vanian are bonding with the people at the front. The whole band is playing in a lively way and it turns this show into a punk and rock 'n' roll feast. These guys are true legends indeed and I'm really glad I got to see them.

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