Wednesday, 12 June 2019

On Stage: Eddie Vedder @ AFAS Live

Photo by Ferdy Damman

About two years ago Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder was doing a solo tour. I love Pearl Jam and I love Eddie, but prices for tickets were steep. Of course it sold out in no time, so I had to get tickets on Ticketswap when I decided I wanted to go after all, despite the high price. After the show I was really happy that I got to see him, since it was a wonderful show. This year Vedder was visiting again and prices were even higher (probably because of Dutch VAT changes), but this time I wasn't going to pass on them, since I knew it was going to be worth it.

Eddie Vedder at AFAS Live Amsterdam, June 9 2019

I didn't get the most expensive tickets, for the so called Blackbox, but slightly cheaper ones and we find ourselves sitting on the stands all the way at the back. These are not great seats, but I hope we can see it properly anyway. The setting is pretty much the same as last time and Glen Hansard is opening the night. I liked the Irish musician last time and again I'm impressed with his sincere songs and heartful performance. I really need to properly check out his music this time. It turns out the seats are really quite far off though and it is hard to see the singer's face clearly.

Photo by Ferdy Damman

Fortunately this time there's a big screen hanging at the back, and after Eddie Vedder himself has walked on the stage and played a few songs, the screen switches on and we can finally see him properly. Sometimes the screen shows some kind of monitor with the live images, or just some visuals supporting the music. But it's good to see the charismatic Vedder's expressions when he's playing. Like expected he's playing many covers, songs by Neil Young, Pink Floyd, and an emotional salute to Tom Petty. Many Pearl Jam songs get the acoustic treatment, big ones like 'Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town' and 'Porch', but also some more rare ones like 'Wishlist' and 'Lukin'.

The Dutch Red Limo String Quartet has been invited again after joining him on his last European tour and play a lot more songs this time. The arrangements are beautiful and the Quartet give the songs a completely different twist that is perfect for this night. When Vedder leaves the stage for the first time, the Quartet return by themselves and play a lovely version of 'Alive'. You know Vedder isn't finished of course, far from it. During the stunning version of 'Better Man', E-Street sax player Jake Clemons joins him, taking the song to new dimensions. Glen Hansard joins for a few songs, and since Vedder, Hansard and Clemons recorded some Springsteen songs in the past, it is a perfect moment to play a few live. 'Drive All Night' and 'Open All Night' are good choices and I'm sure The Boss would love them.

Vedder's biggest solo hit 'Hard Sun' closes the first encore and you know there's still one song missing. So yes, he returns for 'Rockin' in the Free World', a familiar closer of his solo and Pearl Jam shows. He invites all his guests on stage. Even the two lucky ladies from the audience, Glen Hansard did a song with during his support show, rock along with Vedder for this cheerful ending. You just got to love Vedder for the way he plays music, with or without Pearl Jam. Of course he also talks about politics for a short while and shares his view of the world. It is always brief and it never takes away the focus from the music that always comes first. For the rest he just shares short stories, like about the time in 1992 in Utrecht, when a young woman gave him a lift on the back of her bike to his hotel. Nick Cave told us a few weeks back during his 'Conversations With...' show, he always tries to stay authentic as an artist. I think Eddie Vedder has always stayed authentic too and his music and personality are very inspiring. Despite the high ticket prices it was totally worth again.

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01. Keep Me in Your Heart (Warren Zevon cover)
02. The Needle and the Damage Done (Neil Young cover)
03. I Am Mine (Pearl Jam song)
04. Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town (Pearl Jam song)
05. Indifference (Pearl Jam song)
06. Brain Damage (Pink Floyd cover)
07. Sometimes (Pearl Jam song)
08. Wishlist (Pearl Jam song)
09. Without You
10. Can't Keep (Pearl Jam song) (with Red Limo String Quartet)
11. Sleeping by Myself (with Red Limo String Quartet)
12. Guaranteed (with Red Limo String Quartet)
13. Far Behind
14. Rise
15. Wildflowers (Tom Petty cover)
16. Man of the Hour (Pearl Jam song)
17. Lukin (Pearl Jam song)
18. Porch (Pearl Jam song)
19. Alive (Pearl Jam song) (with Red Limo String Quartet only)
20. Just Breathe (Pearl Jam song) (with Red Limo String Quartet)
21. The End (Pearl Jam song) (with Red Limo String Quartet)
22. Better Man (Pearl Jam song) (with Jake Clemons)
23. Song of Good Hope (Glen Hansard cover) (with Glen Hansard)
24. Sleepless Nights (The Everly Brothers cover) (with Glen Hansard)
25. Society (Jerry Hannan cover)
26. Drive All Night (Bruce Springsteen cover) (with Jake Clemons)
27. Open All Night (Bruce Springsteen cover)
28. Hard Sun (Indio cover)
29. Rockin' in the Free World (Neil Young cover)

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Tuesday, 11 June 2019

On Stage: The Good, The Bad & The Queen @ Paradiso

I've probably written it here before, that Damon Albarn is one my musical heroes. Almost everything he touches is gold in my eyes and I think he's one of the best songwriters and musicians of the past couple of decades. I was thrilled to hear The Good, The Bad & The Queen were back with a second album Merrie Land after ten years of silence and a tour that would pass through my hometown.

The Good, The Bad & The Queen at Paradiso Amsterdam, June 6 2019

Not only does this band have Damon Albarn, it also has one of my drummer heroes Tony Allen behind the kit. To top it off there's Paul Simonon on bass, who used to play for The Clash, and Simon Tong, former guitarist for The Verve. The latter two are playing a lot with Albarn, including Gorillaz. Yes, that's not a bad group together I'd say. Set to a backdrop of a classic London scene, some table lamps spread around the stage and some string lights hanging above, the mood couldn't be more perfect tonight in Paradiso. When the band steps onto the stage you can see they are eager to play and all the ingredients are in place for a beautiful night.

Even better, the night turns into a magical one with a group that sounds better than ever, has a lot of fun playing together and has an incredible collection of songs. On stage they have a couple of reinforcements, to do justice to their music. They made only two albums, but quality definitely is more important than quantity in this case, since both records are full of little gems. This is not Blur or Gorillaz, that have some insane bangers to knock out. These songs are a bit harder and require you to really dig in. However tonight this is not a problem at all, since Albarn will drag you into this melancholic world.

Both albums are critical of London and England as a whole, where Merrie Land draws inspiration from the Brexit vote. That doesn't mean this is a political heavy night. Albarn does touch on the subject a few times, but for the rest the music is speaking. You can see he is used to the biggest stages, since he's exploring every corner of this smaller stage that is already filled with musicians and equipment. It's as if he wants to sing to everyone individually, wants to look everyone into the eye and wants to dance with everyone here tonight. There even turns out to be a whole string section on the balcony above us, I found out only after the concert.

The small group of youngsters in front of the stage, who are probably his fellow country men, draw a big smile on his face every time they jump up and down singing along every word in every song. This is the wonderful vibe in here tonight, that only keeps getting better. The setlist is split in half, serving Merrie Land before and after a short intermezzo the songs of The Good, The Bad & The Queen. Almost all songs of both albums are being played here tonight. The slow songs turn into lush intimate moments, while the more up tempo ones keep the party going.

Albarn is constantly looking for contact with the rest of the band. Tony Allen seems to be smiling for the entire set and Simonon is a delight to watch, how he is handling his bass, swinging back and forth. Tong is focused on his guitar mostly, but is definitely in the moment. I can only watch these musicians in awe and try to absorb every second. After more than one and a half hours the band take a bow to receive their well deserved round of applause. This is one of those exceptional nights that I'll always remember and will treasure for ever.

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01. Merrie Land
02. Gun to the Head
03. Nineteen Seventeen
04. The Great Fire
05. Lady Boston
06. The Truce of Twilight
07. Ribbons
08. The Last Man to Leave
09. The Poison Tree
10. History Song
11. 80's Life
12. Kingdom of Doom
13. Herculean
14. The Bunting Song
15. Nature Springs
16. A Soldier's Tale
17. Three Changes
18. Green Fields
19. The Good, The Bad & The Queen

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Monday, 10 June 2019

Best Kept Secret Festival 2019 Day 3

Yesterday was a long day with lots of music, although I didn't even make my eighteen bands, not even close. My feet started to object against all the walking and standing. Today is a shorter day and I can take it slow. It promises to be a tropical day, so we need to hydrate. Beer is mostly water right?

Best Kept Secret 2019 Day 3, June 2 2019

Julia Holter

I listened to some of Julia Holter's music and quite liked her experimental and jazzy songs. This could be a nice way to start the day. However after a short while I notice this is not for me. It's definitely her more experimental side, but it is too slow for me. I simply don't like music that is difficult, just to be difficult. It doesn't mean I can't enjoy complex or experimental music, because I certainly can. I just can't watch music that is too much about being complex, which seems to be the case here. So after a while I leave and hurry to stage Five.

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At stage Five Lewsberg are at the end of their set. I have seen this band a few times before and like their music a lot. The nice ringing guitars, the talk singing, the groovy krautrock, the subtle solos, it's all so well done. But at the same time I just can't get around the apathetic stage act. I know it's all just an act, where singer Arie van Vliet is sometimes addressing the crowd in a cool, formal way as well. But somehow it just doesn't appeal to me, even when the music is that good. I want some kind of connection to happen between audience and artist, in any kind of way. Today this doesn't work for me, maybe because I wasn't there from the start.

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We stick around at this stage while the temperature is getting tropical. It is just right for the next band playing here, Romperayo from Colombia. Their insane mix of Afro-Colombian traditional rhythms and cumbia are perfect for dancing and cold beers. Drummer Pedro Ojeda, who you may know from Los Pirañas, is the driving force behind those rhythms. The groovy bass adds some seventies funk and the guitar mixes in some psychedelica. Finally the keyboard adds little layers of sound effects, playful organs and some tropical vibes. Everyone in the tent is dancing to this colourful band. Some songs come dangerously close to too much cheesiness, but the band is able to avoid it in the end.

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Whispering Sons

After dancing to some Colombian sun, it's time for Belgian darkness. Whispering Sons won Belgian music competition Humo's Rock Rally a few years back, where some of the biggest Belgian bands saw their career take off. The young band plays dark new wave and post-punk songs, that have an industrial sound. They are sometimes described as the Belgian Sisters of Mercy, which is not a bad reference. Even on this sunny day, the band's music doesn't miss its effect. Singer Fenne Kuppens is the absolute centre point of attention. Her low dark voice is a perfect match with the music and her stage appearance is stunning, singing her lyrics full of expression in a theatrical way. She knows how to balance it very well, so it never gets too much and stays completely honest. It is clear most of the people here are equally impressed, since the tent stays full and after playing the last song the band is greeted with a well meant roaring round of applause.

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Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

Another nineties comeback was announced this week: Pavement are coming back. The band influenced so many bands and nowadays young bands still draw inspiration from the illustrious Californian group. Today one if its core members Stephen Malkmus is performing with his band The Jicks. It is different from Pavement, but not too much. His music consists of well written compact indie rock songs, with a nineties vibe. However today these tunes are performed in a quite uninspired way. Malkmus is kind of playing on auto pilot, even though The Jicks seem to be trying. Maybe it's the temperature but it all comes across as too lifeless to really enjoy.

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Kurt Vile & The Violators

On the main stage Kurt Vile is looking much more inspired. You know he isn't exactly a happy camper like Mac DeMarco yesterday, but his indie rock and folk sounds convincing today. As a former guitarist of The War On Drugs his music doesn't wander off too much from his former band. You can hear where it's all coming from. His songs are slowly passing by with lots of guitar solos, something that is perfect for the hot stage he's playing, in front of people that appear to be standing in a blistering desert. It shows that you can still play a convincing and inspired show despite an unmoved stage presence.

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The Raconteurs

We have to leave Kurt Vile early since we don't want to miss anything from The Raconteurs. Their return was great news and I was looking forward to his show today a lot. And boy, I am not disappointed to put it mildly. It's as if they have unleashed a bunch of caged tigers (yes, weak safari park reference intended) and the band fly into it with great power. We get to hear a couple of new songs and some golden oldies. Jack White says they wish they could play longer, which is obvious. They want to make every second of this performance count and don't waste any time in between. It's great to see the chemistry in this band, where they are looking at each other, walk towards each other and are simply having a blast. I love the combination of Brendan Benson's lovely, warm and calm voice, and Jack White's high, hoarse and somewhat hysterical vocals. Within no time the last chords of 'Steady As She Goes' have sounded and the band is finished. This was an hour of absolute rock heaven and I can't wait for a headlining concert hopefully to be announced soon.

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A thunderstorm is on its way to the festival site, but we don't need any other excuse to be at Interpol's show. It's part of the same tour I saw last year, which proved the band has returned to their best form. Tonight they steadily work their way through their setlist again, playing songs off their last album and EP together with some of their big hits. Like always singer Paul Banks keeps his distance, wearing sunglasses for the entire show. His thundering voice sounds strong and clear though. This band from New York has so many good songs, that never fail to impress or miss their effect. Again the band plays very tight, although I have the feeling it is not as tight as last year's show. This could just be an unjustified feeling and the fact that it is a shorter set. I still enjoy it a lot and let myself get carried away by their gloomy rock music.

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Christine & The Queens

When we get outside, the thunderstorm has passed and cooled of the festival site. When we walk onto the field in front of the main stage, it looks quit empty. Fortunately people were only hiding from the storm and are slowly returning for the closing act of the festival. It may have raised an eyebrow here and there, but I think Christine & The Queens is very good choice. She has impressed many people lately with well written pop songs and spectacular live performances. She proves it tonight with a live show that is well performed, very lively and also contains a message. Chris, as she calls herself now, mentions this is a judgement free area tonight, where no one will be judged for who they are, but everyone should be able to completely be themselves. It is a very relevant message today and one that comes across effectively.

The show is very well done, with dancers flying around the stage in stunning choreographed dancing, where Chris is always the centre point. Pieces of eighties music like Janet Jackson are mixed in and I can surely see the resemblance to that era. Her voice is clear and strong, seemingly singing and dancing with great ease. A piece of David Bowie's 'Heroes' finds its way into the show and it sounds wonderful. She addresses the crowd regularly, where you feel there's a real connection. It's hard not to connect because she's doing it with so much passion, enthusiasm and heart. It is a live show that has so much to offer and is high on entertainment that it is spot on as a closing headliner for this year's edition. Well done Chris and well done Best Kept Secret.

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This year's edition may not have been as perfect as last year's where every band seemed to excel. However something that is not entirely perfect can just be as good because the highs are more obvious. Maybe even better? It doesn't matter, since what counts is that it was another wonderful edition and we surely will return next year.

All Pictures

Best Kept Secret Festival 2019 Day 1
Best Kept Secret Festival 2019 Day 2

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