Thursday 28 July 2011

Magic With Prince

Whenever Prince is playing a concert there's always the possibility for an intimate surprise show in a small club. And so every time he's playing there's a lot of speculation on whether this show will take place and where. When his shows in Oslo got cancelled because of the dramatic events over there, Prince and his band travelled to The Netherlands sooner than planned and decided to throw two surprise gigs.

Prince at Melkweg Amsterdam, 25 July 2011 (Ronald Says 10 out of 10)

The first surprise show on Sunday was announced early in the evening. The second one on Monday was announced by Prince himself during that same gig. I heard about the gigs on Monday morning and the big queue of people on Sunday night. I didn't want to stand in line for a few hours and wait another few hours inside before Prince would start playing so I decided not to go. But I did follow things on Twitter to see how the queue was proceeding. When the Melkweg announced the line had disappeared and there were still plenty of tickets left I hopped on my bike and within 20 minutes I made it inside the venue.

Prince and his band show up on stage only an hour later. They start off with 'What's My Name?' that includes lots of electronics and spacy jams. It doesn't take long for them to pick things up though with a great 'Guitar' and 'Kiss' including lots of solos and jams. Prince leaves plenty of room for his band to show what they got and of course these great musicians have no problems with that. "The Purple One" is all over the stage and they are enjoying it a lot. These musicians are doing what they like doing most: play music. Prince himself is no exception. Again I'm amazed with his charisma and his incredible talent. It all looks so natural to him and it probably is.

The set list which is totally different from the night before is full of covers like we're used of him. Also included are songs that Prince wrote but were performed by others like a great 'Chocolate' (The Time) and an interactive 'Mutiny' (The Family). 'Controversy' starts with the familiar intro but is then slowed down to a very groovy version and again to normal speed later. From my position behind the mix table I can see that the band's set list also includes 'Purple Rain' but apparently Prince decided to change things a bit and so we don't get to hear it. This magical night ends with two encores and a vivid 'Play That Funky Music'. "His Royal Badness" is saying good night after a two and a half hour performance. Magical indeed.

Since Prince requested not to take pictures or video's I didn't take any and all video's on YouTube by others have been removed again. So I added some pictures of the show in Gelredome. You can find all those pictures over here.

Prince on Spotify

Set List:
1. What's My Name?
2. The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker
3. Beautiful Strange
4. Guitar
5. Kiss
6. Chocolate (The Time cover)
7. Mutiny (The Family cover)
8. When We're Dancing Close and Slow
9. I Like It There
10. Bambi
11. Colonized Mind
12. Outstanding (The Gap Band cover)
13. Flash Light (Parliament cover)
14. What's My Name? (reprise)

15. Strange Relationship
16. If I Was Your Girlfriend

Encore 2:
17. Controversy
18. Sexy Dancer
19. Le Freak (Chic cover)
20. Play That Funky Music (Wild Cherry cover)

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Friday 22 July 2011

The Black Crowes' Beautiful Goodbye

I've seen The Black Crowes play before but although they have been playing Paradiso many times I just never got to see them there. Their farewell tour Goodnight to the Bad Guys was ending in their and my favourite venue so this could be my last chance. But again the odds were against me since the ticket sale started during my vacation and although friends tried to help out it sold out before they could get their hands on tickets. But I was not gonna miss this one! And so even though I don't like the reseller market at all I monitored the online marketplaces for tickets for a decent price. And I got my break on the same day of their very last show...

The Black Crowes at Paradiso Amsterdam, 18 July 2011 (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)
Like every show on this tour they will start with an acoustic set followed by a "normal" set halfway the show. And as promised the set list tonight is totally different than the day before in Paradiso. In the end it turns out they only play 'Jealous Again' both nights. But it hardly matters what they are playing. These are great musicians that can make any song sound good. And they are having a great time at it. Singer Chris Robinson looks so comfortable on stage moving around like it's his living room. Bending his thin body into funny poses like he always does. He's enjoying the solos of his brother Rich Robinson and virtuoso Luther Dickinson approvingly with a smile on his face.

And that's what they all are doing: enjoying their last night together on stage playing their beloved songs. The acoustic set is a beautiful one. The sound is great and songs like 'Appaloosa', 'Sister Luck' and 'Bring On, Bring On' shine brighter than ever before. But tonight all songs are gems and every one of them is greeted with great applause like every solo or jam.

After one and a half hour the band takes a short break before it's time for the electric second part. It's time to pick up the pass a bit although their is still room for some ballads like a very passionate 'Seeing Things'. They also add some cover songs including The Rolling Stones 'I Just Want To See His Face' and of course their famous version of 'Hard To Handle' off their first album where it all began.

After three hours there's still energy left for an encore. They end with two more covers: 'Torn And Frayed', another The Rolling Stones song, and Little Feat's 'Willin''. And then after more than three hours and fifteen minutes it really is over. The Black Crowes are gone for an indefinite period. But tonight we celebrated the band and the impressive collection of music they left us like there's no tomorrow without them.

So I finally got my way. And I got a lot more than I bargained for. This night was memorable in so many ways. I can only hope that indefinite doesn't mean forever and we can can greet them back some day in the future.

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Set List:

First Half - Accoustic Set
1. Good Friday
2. Appaloosa
3. Sister Luck
4. Wiser Time
5. No Expectations
6. How Much For Your Wings
7. Bring On, Bring On
8. Darling of the Underground Press
9. Nonfiction
10. My Morning Song

Second Half - Electric Set
11. Good Morning Captain
12. High Head Blues
13. I Just Want to See His Face
14. Girl From A Pawnshop
15. Thorn In My Pride
16. Poor Elijah / Tribute To Johnson
17. Hard to Handle
18. Seeing Things
19. Soul Singing
20. Jealous Again

21. Torn and Frayed
22. Willin'
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Wednesday 20 July 2011

Heaven Is Crying With The National

Since they released their very good last album High Violet last year I've been quite fond of The National. Their sad but at the same time warm and comforting music made a big impression on me and their live performances even more. So when they are planning a gig in a beautiful place like the open air theater Caprera at the Dutch coastal town Bloemendaal I make sure I'm there!

The National at Open Air Theater Caprera Bloemendaal, 12 July 2011 (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)
But the weather gods are not on our hand or are they? It has been raining all day and it won't stop this evening either. So the stand is a colourful mix of ponchos, rain coats and umbrellas. The sky a dark kind of gray. It must be a strange sight for the band when they take the stage.

But when they start playing no one seems to mind the weather anymore. Singer Matt Berninger even is wondering why no one has left halfway the set like they would have in The States according to him. Why would you? The rain only adds to the atmosphere and this night is turning into a special one. Berninger's voice is clear and powerful. The band is playing focused and its members are working very hard to keep everyone on their toes. And the weather gods can only continue weeping over these sad songs. Or as Berninger puts it they are the perfect conditions "to play slow and sad depressing music."

When the night slowly progresses and the dark sets in the colourful stage lights even make it more magical. Berninger is interacting more with the crowd than usual, even cracking jokes. But he still can be totally into the music, walking around like a caged tiger and turning almost aggressive when the music and his vocals pick up. At one point he even throws the mic stand into the little pond in front of the stage.

Although it looks like at the end they're discussing which songs to play as an encore, the set list is the usual one on this tour. It slowly builds up to the more rocking songs in the encore like "Mr November" and "Abel". Even the final song "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" that they are playing acoustically without amps in front of the crowd is nothing new. But it looks very spontaneous especially when Berninger walks through the crowd while he is singing. It doesn't matter if it's spontaneous or not, since everything just looks perfect tonight. Turning the worst summer night ever into one of the most memorable ones.

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Friday 15 July 2011

Getting High With White Denim

The fourth album from the Austin band has been named after the fourth letter of the alphabet. Things can be so simple. Their last album The Last Days of Summer was even a free download. On that album the guys from White Denim already got enforcement from an additional guitar player so they are with four since then. They were able to broaden their already big spectrum with that even more and deepen their sound. The previous three albums all were impressive. The wealth of styles with especially a combination of seventies rock and psychedelica were performed on a high level. On this new record they seem to have put even more on top of that.

White Denim - "D" (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)

You really have to sit down for it though. It isn't always easy what the gentlemen are doing and therefore their music may not be easily accessible to anyone. But once you're into it you will perceive true beauty. Slowly you'll get sucked into White Denim's world, with the conjuring high and somewhat pinched voice of James Petralli. The record has a high tempo and different styles like americana, blues, fusion and even latin are tumbling over each other. It may at best be compared to the music of Motorpsycho, who present a tangle of styles as well and play nice long jams.

The album leads off with a summery and woolly 'It's Him'. Then it's full force in 'Burnished' with a great solid groove that ends in a short jam. As does the roaring 'Bess St' that suddenly goes into another direction. The band uses these kinds of twists more often so your attention won't flag for a moment. As mentioned you can hear latin influences as well namely in the nervous 'River To Consider' where a flute is used. Finally it ends in a dizzying climax. 'Is And Is And Is' on the other hand sounds like The Beach Boys on a firm LSD trip.

White Denim delivers a beautiful album. It's a crazy trip along the many different musical landscapes. But it still sounds as a whole because of their own jazzy sound. The tracks are very clever compositions and the record has a nice flow. You won't get bored by it quickly. Especially since it takes several spins to grasp the album and to discover al the details. "D" will get you high without being on drugs.

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

Listen to '"D"' on Spotify

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Tuesday 12 July 2011

Rock Werchter 2011 Day 4: Anti-Climax

The final day of the festival is here. We had some great music already and the weather has been outstanding. Every muscle in our body is aching and the beers are getting the best of us. So time to get some more and go out with a bang.

The Vaccines (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
One of the most hyped bands in the UK at the moment are the ones to wake us up. And do a good job. Catchy indie songs pass by at great speed. The band is playing with lots of determination and energy. The vibes are great and the way people are responding it's hard to believe this is the fourth day of the festival. But I'm not convinced the hype is completely justified. Singer Justin Young's voice isn't that great and it's not like you haven't heard it all before.
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Tame Impala (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Another one of the gigs I was really looking forward to. This Australian band were almost unknown a year ago and are now already playing at the bigger clubs. Their last album Innerspeaker is full of great psychedelic rock songs. But they are off to a hesitant start. The sound is awful in the beginning and the vocals are hard to hear the first couple of songs. The band clearly has to grow into it themselves and they sound better when the songs get a bit more firm and end up in great jams. In the end it isn't enough to really meet my expectations.
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Kaiser Chiefs (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
Only a few weeks ago on the Pinkpop festival they didn't look so good. Their set didn't sound really balanced and they weren't able to light the fire. How different it is this time. Singer Ricky Wilson is racing around the stage and is climbing the mix table tent in the middle. The new songs sound a lot better and more convincing and of course the old songs make everyone dance and the whole field explodes. Another victory at Werchter for the Kaiser Chiefs.

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Grinderman (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)
A few years ago I missed their performance at Rock Werchter and I wasn´t able to see them live last year either. Nick Cave's show a few years ago with The Bad Seeds on the same stage made a big impression on me so I made sure I was close this time. Right from the start he dives into it and he's moving around like a big rage. He pulls over his keyboard and later on even knocks over fellow musician Warren Ellis. It doesn't bother or stop him at all. He spits out his lyrics with great fire like he's being possessed by demons. The band is doing great backing him up with fiery guitar solos and solid aggressive grooves. It brings out the best in the loud and rough music.

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Iron Maiden (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
Of course this day is all about "The Maiden". It is easy to spot all the fans with the black t-shirts. And I'm sure they aren't disappointed. There's a lot of theater involved of course but the band looks fit and they sound convincing. They are exchanging smiles among each other and front man Bruce Dickinson is still full of power and energy. With so many albums to choose from it's not even possible to play all their hits but they are sure trying. Even Eddie comes along to waive at us.

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A-Trak (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
While the stage of Iron Maiden is being replaced with the one of the big closing act, DJ A-Trak is entertaining the crowd. We were planning on bailing out at this point but it's Jupiler who took over so we decide to try out are dancing shoes. And fair is fair A-Trak is doing pretty fine.
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The Black Eyed Peas (Ronald Says 5 out of 10)
Which is not the case for the big closing act. There's a lot of show and Fergie's skirt is nice and short and she's looking yummy. But this is a big anti-climax. The songs are lame, everyone is using auto-tune and the raps are embarrassing. In the middle part they let a laptop play some golden oldies on a beat (you can't call that a dj set) which is even the best part of the show. So we drank more beers to forget.
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That only worked partially. But this year we had a great time again. Before the festival I heard lots of complaining about the line-up but it proved to be full of great bands. Maybe they should have replaced some of the headliners with true quality bands but that's a minor detail. With the absence of traffic jams (only a bit on the way home), the great weather (just a bit of rain at the beginning), great music and cold beers it was close to the perfect festival.

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Monday 11 July 2011

Rock Werchter 2011 Day 3: Dream Start

It promised to be another big day at the main stage. I did plan on going to see some other bands at the Pyramid Marquee but after two days of festival we were getting tired so decided to take it slow.

Rock Werchter 2011 Day 3, July 2 2011

Rival Sons (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
It was gonna be quite start since this band from California was lined up. There weren't too many people on the field yet so we could make it in front of the stage without problems. I was impressed by their album and even more impressed by this performance. A mix of Led Zeppelin and The Black Crowes. They played their blues and rock songs with a lot of heart. Great guitar solos and jams together with the howling voice of singer Jay Buchanan. They had to work really hard to convince the crowd but I'm sure at the end they won everyone over and made a lot more fans. What a great way to start the day.
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The Gaslight Anthem (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
The performance from these young guys starts with a recording of a sax solo from "The Big Man" Clarence Clemons who recently passed away. It's a worthy start and an honourable gesture. Of course this band from New Jersey is all about Bruce Springsteen. He's their big inspiration and influence which is not hard to hear. But they get better every time I see them. It's an inspired set from a hard working band and I'm really starting to get into them.

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Elbow (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)
Time to slow down a bit and lift off with Elbow. Everywhere they go they are victorious and this time is no exception. Singer Guy Garvey is a very friendly man who totally connects to the crowd. And his voice is so clear and wonderful during every performance. He must take really good care of it. The dreamy songs become even more beautiful today in the evening sun. They manage to completely keep everyone on their toes and Harvey even gets the whole field to join the reverse Mexican wave. A true highlight of the weekend.

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PJ Harvey (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Her last album Let England Shake only gets raving reviews and she was able to impress everyone with her live performances. But the main stage is not the right place for her. Her appearance is lovely and she's a charming singer. But her songs and music are not suited for an early evening gig at the main stage. They belong in a small intimate club with the lights dimmed.
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Coldplay (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
They are of course one of the big headliners of the summer festivals this year and apparently the most expensive one. And they do what they are hired for. Their set is solid, well played and very professional. But it all seems like routine. When you've seen them before you know they will play close to perfection. But it doesn't look like they're enjoying it a lot. Maybe because so many songs sound alike?
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Sunday 10 July 2011

Rock Werchter 2011 Day 2: Action On The Main Stage

Somehow the second day is always the hardest one getting the body kick started. Almost like it still needs to make the switch to festival mode. This time is no different although I definitely felt worse in the past. That may be promising. Time to get coffee and off to the first band. My program reveals most action is on the main stage today.

Rock Werchter 2011 Day 2, July 1 2011

Triggerfinger (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
So after a bit of recovering we head over to our beloved Belgian rockers of Triggerfinger. And Ruben Block, Mario Goossens and "Monsieur" Paul van Bruystegem are in great shape today in their home country. Singer Block charms the crowd, climbs on top of amp stacks and screams like never before. Drummer Goossens is pounding his drums with a smile on his face the entire time. They have everyone eating from their hand with a great energetic performance once again.

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White Lies (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
White Lies failed to impress me last time on Rock Werchter and reviews of gigs after that didn't promise a lot. Their second album was also disappointing. They start in a good way though leading off with 'Farewell To The Playground' and following up with some more good songs. But then things go wrong again. The songs that follow are not as good and less known and don't get a lot of response. Although singer Harry McVeigh looks like a nice guy he doesn't have enough charisma. The band looks static and bleak causes this performance to be one that's hard to sit out.
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The National (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
For the next band we decide to go stand in the pit. Their performances are usually impressive and we want to experience it as close as possible. Singer Matt Berninger is in his usual fashion, completely into the music walking around on stage like a tormented soul. His voice sounds great and his baritone rumbles across the fields. Words hit the crowd with great impact and Berninger is giving every bit of energy in his body leaving a stunned crowd behind.

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Arctic Monkeys (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)
With a great new album they already proved to be in great shape in Paradiso. And they can translate that to a big stage without problems. The band fires song after song onto the crowd with lots of confidence. Again all songs of the different albums form a balanced set and sound great. This band came out of the last recording sessions in a killer form and showed that today.

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Kings of Leon (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
The Followill boys traded their rough edge for a stadium sound and became superstars. It didn't really appeal to the critics (including me) but they did find their way to the mainstream rock scene and sold millions of albums. However on stage the band isn't really spectacular. They have a static stage act and don't seek much interaction with the crowd. Although they play a solid set some spectacle is exactly what's missing. After seeing them a few times before there's little surprise left and it's starting to get old. They really need to spice up their act.
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Arsenal (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
By this time we were getting quite cheerful. Could be the beers but we ended up at the Arsenal party. No, not a soccer match but the Belgian dance/rock band who are very big in their homeland. They throw quite a nice party although it's not that big a deal. Maybe check them out some time when I'm sober.
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Saturday 9 July 2011

Rock Werchter 2011 Day 1: Warm Welcome

When the summer has finally kicked in it is time for our favourite (and only) Belgian festival. The summer kind of overdid it last year but promised to be gentle on us this time. We continued our successful festival traveling streak and without any traffic jams we were sipping beer by noon. Opening up some festival camping sites a day earlier proved to be highly effective. Without running into any lines we walk onto the festival site for the first time, buy our food and drink tickets and get ready for the first band.

Rock Werchter 2011 Day 1, June 30 2011

Warpaint (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
First up are the all girls band Warpaint. They are much talked about and their album The Fool got good reviews. They play dreamy psychedelic music with lovely harmonies. Sometimes drummer Stella Mozgawa provides a solid groove to accompany the songs. But it doesn't really work today and the songs are sometimes stretched out too much causing them to turn weary in the end. A quiet start of the festival though.
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TV On The Radio (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Next up are one of the bands I was really looking forward to. I'm really into their mix of soul and rock music. Maybe my expectations were too high since they cannot convince me. The sound is pretty bad and especially one mic sounds awful. Some songs aren't really right to play on a festival and they don't connect to the crowd. Even a great song like 'Will Do' sounds a bit bleak.
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The Hives (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
If you want a festival crowd to have a good time you can always call these crazy Swedes. The look like they are so full of themselves and especially front man Howlin' Pelle Almqvist is acting like the over confident arrogant rock star. But if you've seen them before you know this is all an act. Almqvist is full of energy and is firing up the crowd while the first rain is falling down. And it's always great jumping around with songs like 'Hate To Say I Told You So' and 'Tick Tick Boom'. The festival is really getting loose now.

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Queens of the Stone Age (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
Time to roughen it up some more! We even make sure we're in the pit in front of the stage to watch our favourite band from the desert. And they don't disappoint. Josh Homme is in a good mood and is enjoying his bottle of vodka. The band is tight and loud, the way we like them best. They deliver a solid greatest hits set for the highlight of the day.

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Linkin Park (Ronald Says 5 out of 10)
The headliner of today was high on the wish list of many Belgian fans. But a big visual spectacle is the best you can say about it. It's just very loud and can hardly be described as playing music. One for the fans I guess.
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Beady Eye (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
Fortunately Oasis minus Noel is playing a bit later on. But it's clear Liam can't do without his brother although he will never admit it. Beady Eye sounds more like pure rock but the songs are missing an edge as is this performance. It's all routine with Liam's familiar poses. But they are hardly trying to entertain the crowd.
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Hurts (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
I heard good things about this band and wanted to see if for myself. Their dark electronic and eighties inspired music leans a bit towards a darker Ultravox. It comes close to the edge of cheesy with singer Theo Hutchcraft handing out white roses while he's singing with a tormented face. Obviously this is all fake but it is a convincing performance. The rain outside is adding to the dark atmosphere.
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The Chemical Brothers (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Time to cheer up again. We're not sad anyway, we're just getting drunk. So let's dance the night away with The Chemical Brothers. Of course we've seen them a thousand times before and there aren't any surprises. But it gets you moving. You don't get to see much of the boys themselves and it's hard to tell what they are really doing anyway. Some of their old songs still rock hard though and they get a bonus point for the great light show.
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Rock Werchter 2011 Day 2 Review >
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