Tuesday 28 July 2009

Watts The Top of the World

If you see Jeff "Tain" Watts playing the drums you understand why he earned his nickname "Tain" which is short for mountain. Like a mountain he sits relaxed behind his drum set while his arms seem to be all over the place. In the meantime he's looking around and gives a big smile when one of the band members is giving it all.

Jeff "Tain" Watts Quartet in Bimhuis Amsterdam, July 22 2009 (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)

Watts may be one of the most wanted drummers in the jazz scene right now and for a good reason. He can play killer grooves as he proved with a funky tune but also play great swing or low volume slow tunes. But of course he's at his best when he can play energetic composition that suit his intense style best. He was constantly challenging the other members of the quartet: Marcus Strickland on saxophone, Lawrence Fields on piano and Chris Smith on bass.

They played some tunes of Watts' latest album simply called "Watts" that is a vary diverse album but also compositions of his other albums and songs he wrote for the Branford Marsalis Quartet. Watts introduced the band and the songs at the beginning of each set so they didn't have to interrupt the set itself. He proves he is a skilled composer and he can write furious tunes. But many times with a light touch that is sometimes obvious as well from the song titles: "Devil's Ringtone", "Blakzilla" and "Brekky with Drekky"

Marsalis is playing on the new album but Strickland is a worthy replacement. Lawrence Fields was doing a great job on the piano. His style is very relaxed and light. Watts pushing them to give it their best made it a high quality performance. He's proving that he's definitely one of the best jazz musicians of the moment and will bring many nice things for the years to come.

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Monday 27 July 2009

Arctic Monkeys premiere first video of new album

Arctic Monkeys have released the video for their first single "Crying Lightning" of their upcoming album "Humbug". It shows the band in on a wrecked ship out on sea while they appear as ghosts around them in a sort of psychedelic setting. "Humbug" will be released August 24. What do you think of it?

In the meanwhile they also announced they will be streaming an online gig playing tracks from their new album. The event will take place this Thursday July 30 at 9pm BST through their website. Read more!

Sunday 26 July 2009

U2 Shrinks the Stage

I've seen every tour of U2 since their 1989 "When Love Comes To Town" tour and have all their albums so maybe I can be considered a fan. Although I have to admit their last meaningful album was "Achtung Baby" it's always a big thing when they play live. And of course the "360° Tour" was no exception.

U2 in Amsterdam ArenA, July 20 2009 (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)

It seems aliens have taken the Amsterdam Arena when we enter the stadium. What seems to be a space ship is the stage for the evening. Four long legs stretch out to the side of the stage and a big round screen is hanging above it. When Snow Patrol is warming us up it gives us a sneak preview of what we can expect from the screen. Visuals and footage of the stage are shown al the way around on it. Gary Lightbody and co do a pretty good job and play all their hits. They leave quite a good impression I think and are definitely one of the best support acts I've seen. Of course the sound is pretty horrible which is no surprise in this awful sounding stadium.

When Bowie's "Space Oditty" sounds loud across the stadium and the lights go out it means it's show time! I expected a loud and rocking opening song but instead U2 decides to play "Breath" as a first song. Followed by "No Line On the Horizon" they're off to a slow start. When they play "Get On Your Boots", the worst song of their new album but live slightly better, the crowd starts to live up. But then the U2 train is starting to run high speed and the fire is lit when hit after hit follow each other. Two bridges connect the outer stage with the inner stage and especially The Edge and Adam Clayton use it a lot. Bass player Clayton looks very relaxed and seems to enjoy himself a lot. Singer Bono also makes it across now and then but seems less active then in the past. It's definitely clear that time has taken a grip of the band.

Besides only showing footage of the stage and supporting visuals the screen has a nice surprise up its sleeves. At one point it unfolds into many smaller particles which gives it a very surreal appearance. Now and then Larry Mullen Jr.'s drum stage turns around and the band face the back of the stage but most of the time these people only see the back of them. There's some room for social criticism as expected but it's not annoying like we've seen before. Archbishop Tutu makes a guest appearance on the screen as do the crew of the international space station MIR. One of the surprises in the set list are "The Unforgettable Fire" and one of the encores "Ultraviolet" that they haven't played live in a long time. Also there's a short version of "MLK" that doesn't sound as good as the original and shows that Bono's voice has trouble with reaching the high registers. They decide to end the show as it started with slow songs "With or Without You" and "Moment of Surrender". In that last song Bono also sings part of "40" but he only sings a few lines of it.

Despite the big screen and impressive stage this time they all support the band instead of taking the spot light like in previous tours. And it shows that U2 is still capable of a very good live performance sounding like a tight playing band. Even though they are sometimes wide apart on the big stage they still keep contact with each other meeting one another in the middle several times. Bono mentioned early in the show they would try to shrink the stage. Especially in the strong hits of the past they manage to do exactly that and turn the big stadium performance into a small intimate gig.
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Thursday 23 July 2009

Full Jazz House

A few years ago the North Sea Jazz festival moved from The Hague to Rotterdam. Some said that it never got the same but I liked it. Better ways to move from one gig to the other and you were able to do some band hopping. But things changed...

North Sea Jazz at Ahoy Rotterdam, 12 July 2009

Another festival another traffic jam. That seems to be the trend this year: stuck in traffic for Pinkpop, Rock Werchter and now North Sea Jazz. But after some driving around we somehow managed to park our car and it was time to meet our friends and to check out the performances.

We wanted to start it off with the Chucho Valdés Big Band but...the hall for this performance was full. So we improvised and went to see the John Taylor Trio instead.

John Taylor Trio (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
A piano trio can be really exciting but this wasn't. Everything was on the safe side and the musicians didn't really challenge each other. Of course John Taylor is very good piano player but it could have used some more fireworks.

So no suprises here and we decided to try to see Kyteman but...the tent was full. So it was time for a bite to eat and a drink or two. I had to choose now: Roy Haynes or Antonio Sanchez with the Scott Colley Quartet. I decided to see Roy Haynes and quickly we made our way there so we wouldn't be too late again!

Roy Haynes Trio (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
What was missing with the John Taylor trio earlier was all here. Of course Haynes had David Kikoski on piano and John Patitucci on bass to help him. Nice compositions, very good musicians of course and now and then some exciting interaction. Haynes showed why he's considered a living legend and challenged the others to play their best.

Bennink, Borstlap and Glerum (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Michiel Borstlap playing Monk should be good. With Han Bennink on drums this is bound to have some good moments. Bennink crazy as always used the whole stage, including his shoes to play his rythms. And Borstlap was playing the Monk tunes in his own relaxed style. You can't go wrong with Monk.

Raphael Saadiq (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
I liked his latest album "The Way I See It" but this gig didn't do it for me. The sound was just awful and the music didn't sound as good as on the album. Maybe just not my cup of tea.

Jasper Blom Quartet (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
I went to see this quartet because Martijn Vink is playing the drums in it and I wanted to check him out. I didn't know the others but was pleasantly surprised. They played some complex songs together, some bop inspired and some more easy and mellow songs. Now and then Blom would come to the mic to introduce a song or make a joke or two making it a very vibrant and entertaining permormance. I'm definitely gonna check out their album "Statue of Liberty".

Steve Winwood (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
Of course when I get the change to see artists like Steve Winwood I make sure I grab it. He was playing several of his hit songs including "Higher Love" and some Clapton songs that were really lacking Slowhand himself. Winwood has some very good musicians playing with him but I still felt like something was missing. Could've been the stage in the very large Nile hall with bad sound again. Or maybe my expectations were too high.

I have mixed feelings about this North Sea Jazz edition. It was just too crowded at times which kind of takes away some of the fun to discover new music or to make it to a performance on time you were really hoping to see. Then again I also saw some great music played by great musicians and had a good time with my friends. So I still went home happy. Maybe next year we're gonna give The Hague Jazz a try?

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Tuesday 21 July 2009

Muse Does a Queen and Pearl Jam Sounds Happy

New songs from Muse and Pearl Jam are out while we await their new albums. I was really excited to hear they are both releasing new albums and couldn't wait to give these song a listen. Click to listen to them. What do you think of these songs? Let me know and leave a comment.

Muse - United States of Eurasia
Yes, it sounds a lot like Queen but just not as good and honestly I'm a bit disappointed. Maybe it just needs to grow on me more.

Pearl Jam - The Fixer
Quite a happy song. Not sure what to think of it yet. It sounds it a bit too poppy to me.

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Wednesday 15 July 2009

Rock Werchter Sizzling Hot

A big line-up and four days of lots of sun shine definitely made me looking forward to this edition of Rock Werchter. To avoid traffic jams we did the whole trip in two parts and left early for the final stage.

Thursday July 2
And eventually...we ended up being stuck in traffic only 16 kms from the festival. After 2 hours we decided to take our changes and relied on the car navigation to lead us around the traffic jam and what do you know? It got us to the festival in no time instead of the 6 hours we heard it took some people to get there. After another long wait in the burning hot sun to enter the festival area we finally made it in. Unfortunately we already missed Eagles of Death Metal, sorry guys. By then we knew he big golden ball was gonna be ruthless this weekend. But then we met Mr. Joe Piler who was gonna try to make it easier for us. Thanks Joe! On to the first band!

Fleet Foxes (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
These guys can sing very nice harmonies and it all sounds great. But it does get a bit boring for me in the end. Also there's not a lot happening on stage. Still not a bad performance though. But I enjoyed it the most while sitting outside the Pyramid Marquee and getting to know Mr Joe Piler better.

Placebo (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Their new album "Battle for the Sun" is pretty good and the songs fit in nicely with their big hits like "Every You Every Me" and "The Bitter End". But we've seen Brian Molko more active in the past. They played a solid set but it needed some salt and pepper.

Oasis (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
I don't know what to think of Oasis. I never really got into their music and they haven't done anything new for the past ten years. I also don't like the brothers Gallagher's attitude. But on stage it sure works and kind of comes together. They play a solid greatest hits rock show that warms everyone up for closing act "The Prodigy".

The Prodigy (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
Of course their music is perfect for jumping around and dance away the last bit of energy. But we've seen it all before and it does get a bit old in the end. The stage act isn't really exciting either. Keith Flint and Maxim Reality walk and jump around the stage and scream into their mics now and then. Time for something new? But fortunately good friends including Joe Piler were keeping me company.

Friday July 3
He was all nice the day before but Joe Piler hit me hard today. However the big golden ball burned us out of our tents so we made it to the field in time easily. Time for coffee and some music.

White Lies (Ronald Says 5 out of 10)
I like some of their hit songs and they sound okay on their album. But the main stage was too big for them. Very static performance and Harry McVeigh's voice just didn't sound good live. Bummer since it could have been nice.

Elbow (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
I have mentioned before that I gave them a shot a couple of times but somehow it doesn't work for me. So I tried really hard this time and I get it now. I'm still not into their music but Guy Garvey is a great singer with a fantastic voice and they kind of suck you into their world of sweet elf songs. Even on the main stage they managed to put down an intimate performance without getting boring which is quite an achievement on a hot afternoon.

Bloc Party (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
I saw Bloc Party earlier this year and noticed how their stage performance improved. Last time on Werchter it seemed the main stage was a bit too big. This time it fit them extremely well. I think you really have to dig their music to appreciate this the most. And since I like their music a lot I could definitely do so. The fine beats by Matt Tong were powerful and you can't but like singer Kele Okereke who looked like he was having a lot of fun up there. Especially during their hits like "Banquet", "Hunting for Witches" and recent hit "Mercury" the crowd seemed to enjoy themselves as well and were jumping to all the way in the back.

The Killers (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
With The Killers I just don't know what to expect. I liked them in the beginning and after that not so much anymore. Their sets becoming to pompous. But lately I seem to like them more than ever. Not so much their latest album but their performances have improved a lot. And this time was no exception. They played a strong sets with lots of their hits including many of their first album which I like the most. Singer Brandon Flowers seems to have loosened up a lot and was enjoying himself. Moving around the stage and smiling he certainly has grown bigger lately. Maybe they will finally grow into the big rock act they want to be so much.

Coldplay (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
Let me start by saying I don't like Coldplay's music. Their first album was alright but after that it all sounded too sweet and polished (someone once said it is music for bed-wetters and I agree). But fair is fair they proved why they are one of the biggest band at the moment. Chris Martin was running across the stage and was already sweating after two songs. Of course the rest of the band is fairly invisible but they played all the hits and the crowd loved it. I kind of lost interest halfway and got more interested in Joe Piler since I'm no bed-wetter.

Saturday July 4
I was able to sleep a little more and definitely felt better this day. So after coffee, a bacon and egg roll and a 50 cent toilet festival dump it was time to rock!

Triggerfinger (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Hooray for good old honest rock to wake you up. And Triggerfinger did exactly that. They were the opening act today and sure opened my eyes and ears again. All dressed in black this not so young band (bass player Paul Van Bruystegem even played Werchter in 1975) sure kicked ass. Singer Ruben Block looks pretty comfortable on stage. Although some of his little speeches didn't really seem to go anywhere he looked pretty relaxed. Good music did the rest.

Social Distortion (Ronald Says 2 out of 10)
I'm not even going to write a lot about this. Just horrible. Go away and never come back. They did the worst Johnny Cash cover ever.

Rodrigo y Gabriela (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
A man and a woman with flamenco guitars on a big stage. Now that must be hard to entertain around 50.000 people (I assume not all 80.000 were there). But Rodrigo y Gabriela had no problems with that at all. Playing heavy metal riffs mixed with flamenco sure caught everyone's attention and then never let go.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
It's back to the 80s for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Their older albums leaned heavily on guitars but their latest one is mixed with a lot of electronics. And this works well on stage. Especially with a singer like Karen O. in her colourful outfit. Although it becomes a bit too arty farty sometimes their energetic performance sure is great to experience.

Franz Ferdinand (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
If you need the crowd to get fired up get these guys. With their no nonsense songs and easy to sing choruses they sure have the crowd jumping in no time. Going through all their hits they played a nice festival set. However I've seen them doing better. They played their best songs in the beginning of the set and I've seen Alex Kapranos looking more relaxed. And what happened at the end of the set? They were all banging the drums in a song at the end of the set that abruptly ended. After a short discussion Kapranos then sang a few lines of 'Jacqueline' before seemingly angry leaving the stage. If you know leave a comment.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (Ronald Says 10 out of 10)
Oh yes! By far the best concert of the festival. They were playing very aggressively like they had the devil on their backs. Nick Cave (without mustache) was looking like the devil himself now and then with piercing eyes and angry looks. They played a great set with songs of their latest album "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!" that is by far one of their best albums lately. Someone holding a sign saying "Give me your guitar". Nick answering "I'm not giving you my fucking guitar!". The last song of the set "Stagger Lee" never sounded more frightening and better. A well earned 10!

Kings of Leon (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
I kind of had to get into Kings of Leon. Saw them twice before on this stage and wasn't impressed. But then I listened to their albums and liked it a lot. And now they had their major break through so what would their performance be like? Well it was definitely a lot better. They played a strong set and they looked a lot more convincing than the previous times. They could do a lot more about their appearance though. It's all a bit static. And what's up with drum player Nathan Followill? He's playing without emotion and looks like a cold blooded psycho who drowns kittens for fun.

2ManyDJs (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)
If the Dewaele brothers show up you know that you will have a great time and people will go wild. Great set with unexpected and original tunes mixed in a crazy blender (including Sepultura's "Roots Bloody Roots"). Great visuals of the record covers with crazy hilarious animation. It didn't take long before everyone was jumping including Joe.

Sunday July 5
Three days of burning hot sun, sweat, lack of decent showering and too much hanging out with Joe was getting the best of us. Time to take it slow and fortunately we could hang out with Seasick Steve to start our day.

Seasick Steve (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
An old guy in a chair and a drummer on a big stage. What to expect? Well, good old honest blues and rock. Maybe the stage was a bit too much but still a good performance. Steve is a nice man who plays great blues songs. Not a bad way to start the day at all.

The Mars Volta (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Whoa! I never made it through any of their albums and was curious if I could make it through their concert. From the moment they climbed the stage they went full-force and never looked back. Lots of noise and heavy rock tunes. They even unleashed the anger of the rain gods that poured heavy rains on our burnt faces. But even that couldn't stop them and neither did it stop me.

The Script (Ronald Says 5 out of 10)
Choosing between this band or Limp Bizkit was easy. I don't wanna see Fred Durst with his head up his ass ever again. But this show wasn't going down easy either. Kind of your regular boy band with instruments. Soft poppie tunes that are just too slick. I guess I will just spend some time with Joe next time.

Kaiser Chiefs (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
If you wanna have fun get these guys on stage. So they did for the fourth time in a row. Everyone having a good time, jumping, singing the easy lalala chorus lines and a slimmed down Ricky Wilson bouncing up and down the stage. But this time it did get a bit old. Even Ricky climbing the light pole was copied from last year. Like their latest album nothing changed so it's time for something new. At first I was in doubt but in the end I chose to see this performance. Big mistake because I heard Ghinzu playing the Marquee at the same time turned out to be the revelation of Werchter. Ouch!

Nine Inch Nails(Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
I'm not a huge fan of Trent Reznor's NIN projects. But you know he's good for a testosterone packed rock show and this was no exception. He brought a ceiling filled with lights and rocked everyone's socks off like a rock truck running you over. It was rough, it was sweaty and it was good. Apparently for the last time as well.

Metallica (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Metallica loves Werchter and Werchter loves Metallica so they were here for the 7th time. I think it was my 4th time and I have mixed feelings about the previous times. Sometimes very good sometimes a bit too much leaning on routine. This time it kind of fell into the last category. Of course they always are true professionals and probably never will play a bad gig. They have enough good songs to choose from and their last album has some great songs that work well live. It was just all too much prepared and not really spontaneous. For the real fireworks we had to wait until after their performance.

So that was it for Rock Werchter 2009. Another good edition with lots of good music. I think that they should play a bit less safe next time. With big bands you can please a lot of people and sell out the festival anytime but it doesn't really result in many surprises. Next year better traffic control and maybe a little less sunshine. But make sure Joe Piler is there again. I like him...
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Monday 13 July 2009

New The Dead Weather video

So Jack White has a new band called "The Dead Weather" but you probably already knew about that. I'm still not sure what to think of it. I wasn't really impressed after listening to their album "Horehound". Hope to post an album review soon but I still have to finish my concert reviews. Anyway they have a video out for "Treat Me Like Your Mother". Thought I'd share it with you. Let me know what you think.

The Dead Weather - Treat Me Like Your Mother
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Wednesday 8 July 2009

scribbles week 27: New songs

I was away to the Belgian festival Rock Werchter so was out of the running for a few days. You can expect a review soon. In the meanwhile here are some new songs by Alice in Chains, Foo Fighters and Arctic Monkeys and some news about a new band and U2.

New super band is recording album
Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) are currently working on an album in the studio. That can only lead to some amazing mind blowing shit.

U2 kick off 360 tour
U2 kicked off their tour in Barcelona earlier. Playing songs of their latest album "No Line on the Horizon" on their incredible stage they also honoured Michael Jackson.

And here are some new songs by Alice in Chains, Foo Fighters and Arctic Monkeys for you to enjoy. What do you think of them? Let me know and leave a comment.

Alice in Chains - A Looking in View
A Looking In View - Music Video

Foo Fighters play new song "Wheels"
They did so when they were playing at the White House for the 4th of July concert.
Foo Fighters/Wheels

Arctic Monkeys - Crying Lightning

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