Friday 27 May 2011

Belgium's Finest With dEUS

When Belgian band dEUS is playing you know you'll get your money's worth. They are probably one of Belgium's best bands ever and their live shows are always on a high level. When their support act is one of Belgium's most promising bands Balthazar there's even more reason to go. No wonder tickets sold out in no time.

dEUS at Trouw Amsterdam, May 24 2011 (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
The place to be is Trouw in Amsterdam. An old building of Dutch newspaper Trouw (alas the name). In the small but long hall where the old print machines used to be there's now a stage on one side and a bar on the other end. It's mostly used as a club for dance and DJ nights. When the place fills up it's clear this isn't the best location to see a band and not the best set up if you want to get drunk since the bar can be hard to reach.

Balthazar do a great job warming up the crowd. Although they don't get a lot of response their songs sound even more solid and confident than the last time I saw them. They play a few new songs that fit in nicely with the songs of their first album. The last song they play 'Blood Like Wine' still doesn't fail to impress me. The way they sing at the end without instruments is so well timed by all the musicians.

dEUS had to delay their last album's release date. So this is not a tour to promote that album. The album is now planned for release after the summer. Instead it's a greatest hits show. And they have plenty of great songs to choose from. There are few surprises in the set list but it never gets old seeing them play favourites like 'Little Arithmetics', 'The Architect' and of course one of my personal favourites 'Bad Timing'. They throw in three new songs: 'Second Nature', 'Constant Now' and a heavy rocking 'Dark Sets In'. Especially that last one sounds promising. The other two seem to lack the power and impact of the older songs, but that's maybe because they haven't played them hundreds of times and also may have to grow on you.

The band members are giving it their best. Singer and dEUS' driving force Tom Barman looks like he's having fun, using big gestures and moving about. Maro Pawlowski is bringing a huge amount of cool to the stage that would almost make you forget he can also play some mean guitar.

What becomes clear is that they changed from the experimental band they used to be into a rock monster. Songs like 'Sun Ra' and 'Turnpike' become even more vicious and threatening than they already are. Still the place stays pretty calm which is a bit unexpected. When they play a great rough version of 'Morticiachair' and an aggressive 'Suds & Soda' as an encore the audience becomes more vivid.

It wasn't as brilliant as the last time I saw dEUS play in 2008. Contrary to what many thought was a bit of a disappointing show, I thought they were excelling that night. This time I missed that little extra spark. Maybe it was the location, maybe it was the crowd, I don't no. Hopefully their show on Lowlands will give that little extra magic.

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Tuesday 24 May 2011

Reliving The Motown Years With Fitz And The Tantrums

The last couple of years there has been a true soul revival going on. Artists like Joss Stone, John Legend and Amy Winehouse became famous with it. But where they are bringing a kind of new soul mixed with R&B and hip-hop, there are now also artists that go all the way back to the old sound that we know so well from Motown. A good example is Raphael Saadiq who has been quite successful with it. Fitz and the Tantrums also go back to that time and try to approach that old soul sound as close as possible on their album Pickin' Up The Pieces.

Fitz and the Tantrums - Pickin' Up The Pieces (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
In their case this means a plopping bass drum, jingling pianos, a bubbling bass guitar, a swinging organ, exuberant horns and nice harmonies. Front man Michael Fitzpatrick has a bit of a thin voice mostly, but now and then he comes really close to Marvin Gaye including the "oohs" and "whoos". And so you can hear echoes from the past, bits of 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine' like in title track 'Pickin' Up The Pieces'. Singer Noelle Scaggs on the other hand has a big fat soul voice with powerful cries and together they sound great. They succeeded very well in reviving that old sound. Notable is the lack of electric guitar, but there are plenty of other instruments to compensate.

Deliciously swinging songs pass by like the outstanding 'Moneygrabber'. You're thrown back and forth between the Four Tops and The Temptations. The lyrics are in the same old soul style: light and narrative about love although sometimes they go a bit deeper like in 'Dear Mr. President'. But mostly it's just a matter of carelessly enjoying catchy songs like 'L.O.V.'.

Only the closing act of the album, last track 'Tighter', is a miss. The ballad is an anti-climax and doesn't get going. Therefore it stands in poor contrast to the other nine fine songs. Fitz and the Tantrums should be a guaranteed hit this festival season, since it's hard to stand still with these happy and catchy tunes. They already proved that recently in their club show performances where they had lots of people dancing. So just put on this record on sultry summer nights and rock those hips.

Listen to 'Pickin' Up The Pieces' on Spotify

This review has been published on ROAR E-Zine in Dutch over here.

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Friday 20 May 2011

QOTSA Make Effenaar And Paradiso Shake

When Kyuss fell apart and Josh Homme and some other members started Queens of the Stone Age their self titled début album didn't even make that big an impression. Now many years later it is clear that it was far more important to music history than was notable at that time. Together with the fact that it was impossible to buy new copies of the original album it was time for a re-release earlier this year. And the band are now on a short accompanying tour to celebrate.

Queens of the Stone Age at Effenaar Eindhoven, May 14 2011 (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
At Paradiso Amsterdam, May 15 2011 (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)

When I tried to get tickets for Paradiso I was unlucky. It sold out in a few minutes. Fortunately I had also decided to go to the Effenaar with some friends and those tickets were no problem. By a chance of luck and the help of the very friendly and considerate bartender of our local pub (thanks again Duco) I was also able to get tickets for Paradiso as well in the end.

And that proved to be a a worthy investment. In the Effenaar the band are loud and tight as they should be. But they don't seek a lot of interaction with the crowd. Also like on every show in this tour they play the full album, but after playing only a few songs in two encores they are gone after only one and a half hour. This seems pretty short.

How different is this the night after. The band seems really excited to play in Paradiso and Josh Homme tells us many times. He's a lot more chatty and obviously is enjoying himself. Unlike the night before apparently, because at one point he mentions the show in Eindhoven "really sucked". Maybe it was Amsterdam's soccer club Ajax winning the Dutch championship helping as well but everyone is really into it and the night turns into a great rock show with special vibes.

After playing the first songs of the album the two encores are a lot longer than the night before. Josh Homme is asking for requests and of course that leads to a few of their hits. But they also play a few lesser known songs. The crowd doesn't mind and just goes along with it. This shows how big a band QOTSA really is. Actually way to big for these kind of venues which makes it even more special seeing them play here. Also it proves how big a monument that first album is. After all these years those songs still make quite an impact and when played with such confidence they sound even more overwhelming.

When seeing two of the same shows in a row it's easy to compare. This weekend showed how much two nights can differ. And so it ends with one good night and one unforgettable night.

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Monday 16 May 2011

Liberation Day Ends In Tropical Party

Dutch Liberation Day on the 5th of May is a bank holiday only once every five years. So this year I had to work and couldn't see any of the bands that were playing during the day. But at night I went down town straight away to check out some of the bands playing in the evening.

Ten Tempiés
We kick it off with this band that is playing a mix of rock, ska with a latin-american flavour. The songs are in Spanish which isn't a surprise since singer Maurino Alarcón is originally from Chili. It gives the songs an extra touch. I don't speak Spanish but I read that the lyrics are about social abuses and injustice. Their music reminds me of a band called La Pegatina that I saw on Lowlands last year. It is hard not to move your booty to this music.

Case Mayfield
This singer/songwriter was warming up the crowd for Happy Camper in April. It isn't a big crowd watching which probably has to do with the location. He only plays three songs but once again I'm impressed with his singing and quality of his songs. Afterwards I heard he wasn't feeling too good about himself and his performance at all. Imagine when he is. I hope he will bring out a record some time soon.

After seeing them as a support act in the Melkweg earlier this year I was curious if a second performance would be just as interesting. And I'm not disappointed since they are playing a tight set. Their songs sound interesting enough and I would love to listen to more of their music. They are working on their first album right now and it should be out in September. I'll be sure to catch that one.

Jungle By Night
These young guys are the ones to close the stage at the Nes square. They have been able to reach out to quite some people in the past months. Many have heard of them by now and the small square fills up quite quickly. And they know what everyone needs right now. Within no time they have everyone moving and the warm night turns into a tropical party. The boys are loving it and it's great fun to watch them play and enjoy their catchy afro beat tracks. It's impressive that such young musicians are working on afro beat jazz songs and can turn it into something modern that appeals to so many people.

And so this year's Liberation Day ends like it should: with a great party.

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Wednesday 11 May 2011

Convincing Debut By The Union

When the band Winterville quit, front man Peter Shoulder started writing songs for himself. Eventually he found company in his good friend Luke Morley, who just finished the farewell tour of his rock band Thunder. And see: The Union was born. They didn't need any more musicians and recorded the songs for the self-titled début album as a duo. For this they could depend on their songwriter skills that they developed in the mentioned bands. But the album does hold more instruments and so on stage musicians are added to the band.

The Union - The Union (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
The album turned into a nice collection of songs, that vary between up tempo rock ('You Know My Name') to small intimate blues songs ('Come Rain Come Shine'). Once and a while the gentlemen go wild and rock hard, like in 'Step Up To The Plate'. Morley shows he knows his way on the guitar and makes it whine and scream in a great way. But it's especially Shoulder's voice that impresses the most. It sounds powerful where needed and warm with lots of soul in the more quiet parts. It makes some slow blues songs simply heavenly beautiful. Listen to 'Lilies' for example, that holds a lot of emotion. Shoulder won a W.C. Handy Blues Foundation-award in 2006 as the third Brit ever (following Eric Clapton and Peter Green). On this record he's showing why he earned the award, since the man truly writes beautiful songs.

Maybe both men aren't making any new music, which is pretty hard anyway in this genre. But whatever they do is grand and convincing. They show that they have been able to put together the best of both their former bands. This makes the record a true recommendation for blues rock lovers. Hopefully we will hear more from them in the future than we did from the other bands. They already supported Thin Lizzy and joined Belgium rock band Triggerfinger on tour in The Netherlands in March. Later this year they will be touring with Whitesnake in the UK. The duo should be able to light the fire considerably for the no doubt explosive shows of the main act.

Listen to 'The Union' on Spotify

This review has been published on ROAR E-Zine in Dutch over here.

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Sunday 1 May 2011

New Band On The Block: City Reign

Having met at a Ryan Adams concert Chris Bull and Michael Grice teamed up and started playing and writing together. Bassist Michael Glaze and drummer Sam Jones joined them and they formed City Reign after the Ryan Adams song 'City Rain, City Streets'. They came up with their independent record label Car Boot Records and started recording songs. They now have released their second single 'Out In The Cold'.

The band from Manchester yet have to release a full album but are working hard on recording songs. Looking at their website and Facebook page it's clear the guys mean serious business. The songs that are available for listening sound catchy with jumpy The Strokes like guitar lines. With clear vocals and happy melodies all ingredients are in place to make it as a next generation indie rock band. But they probably need to add a little more to be able to stick out and to sound better than any other average indie band out there looking for fame.

It will be interesting to see if this band can manage to come up with a noteworthy full length album. The few songs that are out sound promising enough. Maybe they will eventually break out of the local Manchester scene and take on the UK. Time will tell if we ever get to see more of them over here on the mainland.

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