Friday 26 November 2010

Triggerfinger's Irresistible Dance Moves

Triggerfinger is one of Belgium's hottest bands of the moment and for a good reason. With their catchy rock grooves they are hard to resist. Their live shows are becoming legendary and make them the best live band in the Benelux and maybe beyond. And that reputation is exactly what they tried to pass onto their third album.

Triggerfinger - All This Dancin' Around (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
So they headed to the Sound City Studios in LA, where big artists and bands like Nirvana, Rage Against The Machine and Ryan Adams recorded before. And why stop there? So they hired producer Greg Gordon who has worked with Oasis, Wolfmother and Slayer and who should be able to put "the loudest band in Antwerp" on a record that suits them.

And they did a good job. It has turned into their best record and probably represents best what Triggerfinger stands for today: a great rock band with killer grooves and a big sound. Where the first two records shifted into the highest gear most of the time this album has lots of variety. Singer Ruben Block can show all his faces: he screams, groans, teases and sings like his life depends on it while drummer Mario Goossens and bass player 'Monsieur' Paul van Bruystegem provide the songs with a tight and steady basis. These pumping, roaring bass and pounding drums are the heart of every Triggerfinger song.

The record starts off big immediately with the title track 'All This Dancin' Around' that sounds like Led Zeppelin meets Queens of the Stone Age. 'Love Lost In Love' has a different feel to it and sounds more restrained and in control. They even dare to take on Ray Charles' 'All Night Long' in a great version that sounds vile with tantalizing vocals. The song that best describes the record is 'My Baby's Got A Gun' that gradually builds up into an eight minute thundering rock anthem.

The record breaths sweat, oil, dusty roads and smoky bars with the smell of beer, all the necessary ingredients for a great rock album. Although their live shows are still a unique experience that really isn't that easy to put on a record this album comes close. I can't wait to hear them playing those songs live in December.

Listen to 'All This Dancin' Around' on Spotify

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Tuesday 23 November 2010

Decent Show By Interpol

Interpol are a one of a kind band. Their sound and the voice of singer Paul Banks are unique. I love their dark and threatening sound, a big thundercloud hanging over your head that's about to unleash its terror. But on their latest album they didn't really keep their promise to return to their early sound of debut album 'Turn On The Bright Lights' that had a huge impact. Maybe they can in a live show.

Interpol at Heineken Music Hall Amsterdam, November 21 2010 (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
I wanted to check out support act Surfer Blood as well since I didn't see them on Lowlands earlier this year. But it turned out to be disappointing. They are still a long way from entertaining venues this size and most people soon lost interest. So by the time the lights dimmed and the silhouettes of the Interpol members showed up we still needed a bit of warm up.

And so did the band themselves. The start was a bit hesitant and it took a few songs before they really got loose. That may also have to do with their set list. Not all songs have the same impact as let's say 'Evil' or 'Slow Hands'. Which doesn't have to be a problem and doesn't mean they aren't good songs but if there are a few of those in a row it's hard to keep a crowd focused. And so the show had a few moments where it lost momentum. It was kind of the same feeling I have when listening to their last album. It's a good album but it never really lifts off and you know how much better they can be.

Of course you don't go to an Interpol show for the audience interaction or spontaneous moments. Their music is powerful enough on its own. The dark lighting and smoke helped emphasizing the typical dark Interpol feel and the band members were looking like shadows most of the time. The band played really tight and there weren't many mistakes except for a false start of 'The Heinrich Maneuver' which was even the last song of their encore. Although bass player David Pajo did a fine job replacing Carlos Dengler I think his absence is a big miss in their sound. Hopefully I will run into them a few times more next year in the festival season to see if they can come back with one of their impressive performances.

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Sunday 21 November 2010

Gelredome Funkiest Place On Earth with The Party Man

There isn't much that comes close to seeing musical genius Prince performing live. I have heard that many times but somehow just never actually got to go to one of his concerts. So when this show was announced only a few weeks ago I didn't hesitate and bought tickets right away. Although the Gelredome stadium isn't the best place for live concerts I couldn't care less. I just really wanted to see the party man from Minnesota!

Prince at Gelredome Arnhem, November 18 2010 (Ronald Says 10 out of 10)
Scared off by the travel warnings we decide to take the train. This is one smooth trip and after waiting in line about half an hour to get in we find ourselves walking onto the field that's still pretty empty. To our surprise we can even still make it into the circle, the closed area in front of the stage. After getting the wrist band that allows reaccess to that area we have plenty of time for toilet breaks, a snack and a few drinks. We're so ready now!

The stage looks basic like I read about the show in Antwerp and this time there's no support act either. Prince apparently wants to keep things simple this time. While the lights are still on he and his band appear on stage and get right to it. A big non stop funk medly with covers like Billy Cobham's 'Stratus', Janet Jackson's 'What Have You Done For Me Lately' and Sly & The Family Stone songs passes by in a high tempo. Prince doesn't want to waste any time and turns the place into a big party right away. He's all over the stage himself, sits on the purple piano, interacts with the crowd while playing his guitar.

Time to move on to his own songs. Or as he says himself "I have too many hits". Ain't that the truth! He keeps knocking them out one by one. Asking the most of his band that does a fine job nevertheless. Especially drummer John Blackwell who's showing some great grooves and impressive chops. Prince is showing why he's a musical genius: he's playing bass, even together with bass player Ida Nielsen on one bass, joins keyboard player Renato Neto in a solo and sits behind his own electronic drum kit a few times.

And Prince knows how to party since he's the Party Man. "This is the funkiest place on earth" he shouts out. You bet ya! I don't think there can be a more funky place at the moment. During Chiq's 'Le Freak' he invites people on stage to dance and sing with him. This party can't get any better can it? Oh yes it can! He plays a great version of 'Purple Rain', changes the whole song and shows why he's a great guitarist.

He leaves the stage, but this is Prince, we're not even close of going home. Time to pick up the pace and shift gear. Big hits follow in a killer tempo: 'Kiss', 'Let's Go Crazy', 'Delirious', '1999', they're all there. Another encore follows where it's time for disco. When he comes back on stage there's a more quiet moment with one of my favourite Prince songs 'Sometimes It Snows In April'. Goose bumps all over my skin. No need to turn sad though since here's 'Little Red Corvette'!

More songs follow and there isn't anyone that's not dancing by now. Prince won't leave until everyone is satisfied including himself. It was great to see how much he's enjoying it himself. He's laughing, interacting with his band and the crowd. Everyone is taking part in this funky party. The man may be small in size but he's the biggest man in the stadium tonight. And like anyone needed any convincing he's one of the biggest artists around.

Even the Dutch railways can't wipe the grin off my face by screwing up our train ride home. Not even the whole aftershow buzz with no aftershow at all in the end can spoil this moment of brilliance. That grin will be there for a few days more. I don't think I'll ever want to miss another Prince show from now on.

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Friday 19 November 2010

Therapy? Hell Yeah!

In 1994 the band from Northern-Ireland released their album 'Troublegum' which was received very well. It became a metal classic and has been their most successful album. To celebrate their 20th anniversary the band decided to play the entire album in some live shows. The Melkweg was one of the lucky clubs where they would be performing. And who am I to argue with that. You know I just really like those heavy rock performances!

Therapy? at Melkweg Amsterdam, November 16 2010 (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
Hardcore members singer and guitarist Andy Cairns and bass player Michael McKeegan have been there from the beginning while drummer Neil Cooper joined the band quite some time ago. The three piece band have no problem making themselves heard with their no nonsense metal songs. I've never seen this band in a poor performance and they must be one of the nicest people in the music industry. Like always they are full of energy and love every bit of it giving it all while they knock out the Troublegum songs one by one.

Even though the album's already over 15 years old it still hasn't lost its power. Songs like 'Nowhere', 'Trigger Inside' and Joy Division cover 'Isolation' are monumental metal tracks that withstood the test of time. And so does the band itself that sounds just as fresh and alive as the first time I saw them somewhere halfway the 90s.

Of course it isn't over when the band finishes playing the album. They leave the stage for a short while to play another set with songs spanning their big career ending in style with 'Teeth Grinder' like always. A new double CD live album entitled 'We're Here To The End' has just been released. Hopefully the end is still a long time from now.

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Wednesday 17 November 2010

Wealth of Music and Visuals in Wonderful Gorillaz Show

Musical genius Damon Albarn was tired of touring with his band Blur when he came up with his hobby project Gorillaz in 1998. By introducing Jamie Hewlett's cartoon characters as band members he could stay out of the spot lights. It was a big hit even across the pond. Earlier this year they released their third album 'Plastic Beach' and announced a world tour. How do you bring this band to a live stage with songs that have contributions by so many guest musicians? You do it Gorillaz style.

Gorillaz in Heineken Music Hall Amsterdam, November 15 2010 (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)
The few live performances Gorillaz gave so far used holograms of the four cartoon members of the band. But this tour has a completely different approach. Once the lights go out and the big letters that spell "Gorillaz" light up Murdoc, one of the cartoon characters, speaks from the big screen. After that the full blown band enters the stage: strings, the horns of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble from Chicago, drums, backing vocals, The Clash veterans guitarist Mick Jones and bass player Paul Simonon and of course the master mind himself Damon Albarn. The intro of 'Plastic Beach' sounds and Snoop Dogg looks down on us from the big screen. This is Gorillaz 2010.

A big spectacle unfolds. One that asks the most of all your senses. Continuous visuals on the screen and Gorillaz songs pass by with hardly any breaks, guest musicians enter and leave the stage. Everything is perfectly orchestrated and laid out. But it all blends together so nicely, the music is well played and with so much energy and joy that it's a delight watching it all. Albarn is all over the stage, jumping up and down like in Blur's best years, interacting with the crowd and his huge band but always in control.

The show is the story of Plastic Beach and they play most of the tracks of the album. Mixed with the finest songs of the earlier albums big hits like 'Feel Good Inc' and 'Clint Eastwood' have not been forgotten. It's a full two hour set of magic including the four song encore. Albarn occasionally talks to the crowd and looks like he's having lots of fun. During 'White Flag' he grabs a huge white (duh) flag and runs off stage through the venue. He passes me by a few inches but everything goes so fast I can't take a decent picture. The band awaits him patiently when they have finished. Once he's back on stage panting "it's bigger than I thought" he remarks surprised "why don't you start without me?".

When you record with so many famous guest musicians you can't bring them all with you on tour. But you can at least try and let a couple play as a support act to the show like De La Soul and Little Dragon. And they can fill in nicely in other songs as well like Kano and Bashy, Roses Gabor, Bobby Womack and Neneh Cherry all have their time in the spot lights. Although it's not entirely clear what Cherry's role is since she's inaudible. Even The Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music that have their part in 'White Flag' came along.

After this magical tour when the colourful band has left the stage Murdoc says goodbye from his trashed dressing room leaving us in awe for genius Albarn.

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Monday 15 November 2010

Monster Magnet Still Knows How To Rock

Monster Magnet - Mastermind (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
After their disappointing performance earlier this year I was wondering if Monster Magnet may have lost their groove and forgot how to rock. Fortunately their latest album proves they still know how to play big fat loud rock grooves with pumping guitars and pounding drums covered with beer and sweat. Some songs even show a glimpse of the past when they were in the prime of their career. Fans of loud heavy rock most certainly will enjoy this album. Hopefully the band can bring back that sound in their live performances again as well. But with guitar Ed Mundell recently leaving the band this may not be so easy.

Listen to 'Master Mind' on Spotify

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Thursday 11 November 2010

Another Good Night With Go Back To The Zoo

It's nice to be able to see a band a few times in a year especially a new band like Go Back To The Zoo who's career sky rocketed in no time. It's interesting to see if they are growing and what changes they go through. So for the fourth time this year I saw the guys play and this time they were taking the small stage of Paradiso that has been sold out for months.

Go Back To The Zoo at Paradiso Amsterdam, November 5 2010 (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Sold out venues are normal for the band by now. Almost every stage they take in their club tour has been sold out for weeks. And from the first note on the crowd goes wild and doesn't stop until they have left the stage. Like I mentioned last time this is due to the catchy songs they have come up with. And with all the publicity the band got over the past months that's exactly why people come to see them: to party! Even the big mounted bird is taken for a bit of crowd surfing.

At the same time this can be their pitfall. Once the hip label and magic has worn off people may loose their interest. But for now things still look good. They are playing tighter than half a year ago so the many gigs are paying off. At the same time it doesn't sound they have changed much in their set. Of course they only have the songs that are on their debut album so there isn't a lot of variation possible. They could play around with the songs a bit more though.

But they still haven't lost any of their energy and everyone in the packed small room is having a good time. Hopefully they are writing new songs on the road so they can spice up their set. This should get them through next year's festival season after which it's time to start on a new album and show that they are here to stay.

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Friday 5 November 2010

Beautifully Arranged Album By Broken Records

Broken Records - Let Me Come Home (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
The new album by the Scottish band turns out to be a gem. It holds ten tracks that all are just marvelous. The sound is full with beautiful arrangements and tasteful strings. Singer Jamie Sutherland's vocals are diverse with plenty of emotion. Although he sounds a lot like The Killers' Brandon Flowers it never is too much. The songs are telling a story and the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Nick Cave are never far away. They may have put themselves clearly on the indie map with this record.

Let Me Come Home on Spotify

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Tuesday 2 November 2010

Yeasayer Enlightens Melkweg

It's been hard to miss Yeasayer this year. The band from Brooklyn played lots of festivals and several club shows as well over here in the low lands. And for a reason: their latest album is very successful and their festival shows got positive reviews including mine. So I was really looking forward to their club show in the Melkweg last Friday.

Yeasayer at Melkweg Amsterdam, October 29 2010 (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
The stage looks familiar as it shows the same setup as the festival shows. The keyboards, samplers and other electronics are placed on square lit pillars that can change colours. When the venue lights dim they start to glow red while the band members make their appearance. During the show they are bathing in the changing colours.

This is characteristic for their show. Their music consists of several layers with many percussion elements, samples and tasteful use of electronic effects. It's what colours their music. The live versions of their songs are different than the album versions which give them an added value. Singer Chris Keating seems to be more lively on stage as is the rest of the band compared to a few months ago. He is moving around to play some percussion either with percussionist Ahmed Gallab or drummer Jason Trammell or on his own instrument. Bass player Ira Wolf Tuton and guitarist/singer Anand Wilder sometimes leave their spot on the right and left side to face Tramell or join Keating. They are really playing together as a band and it looks like they are all feeling relaxed and enjoying the gig.

There isn't a lot of interaction with the audience besides the occasional "thank you's" and "I love this place". Besides maybe more uptempo songs like 'O.N.E.' or 'Wait for the Summer' most of their songs aren't exactly gonna turn the crowd into a bouncing sweaty mass going mental. Nevertheless there's a good atmosphere in the venue tonight and the band sounds tight and convincing. I find that somehow they sound better live than on their albums that doze off on some points.

After a short hour they leave the stage and when they come back play a few more songs as an encore. Still it feels like a short performance and they could have added a few more songs. But it was a strong performance and they have shown that they are making progress because of playing many live shows. This is good news for the future.

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