Wednesday 30 November 2011

Geike Can Stand On Her Own Feet

For years she had been the face and voice of Hooverphonic. But three years ago Geike Arnaert left this confident environment to pursue a solo career. Hooverphonic found a new singer in Noémie Wolfs and a year ago released the first album without Arnaert. Striking enough this turned into the most successful album for them so far. And now she's releasing her own debut album For The Beauty Of Confusion, simply as Geike.

Geike - For The Beauty Of Confusion (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Hooverphonic changed their sound the last few years. The dark, mostly trip-hop songs, similar to Portishead and Massive Attack, were replaced with more pop/rock songs. Maybe that was the reason for the break, since Geike stays closer to the old Hooverphonic sound. It's impossible not to compare the two. She does give it her own twist. The songs are less dark and sometimes have a more "poppy" sound. Her somewhat pinched, strong, in some parts even powerful voice seems to sound lighter now and then. The variation in songs is giving her the opportunity to showcase what's she's capable of.

The impressive album opener 'In Gold' still is a typical trip-hop song, but in the song after that, 'Icy', another Geike already can be heard. It's a pleasant pop song, that reminds of Tori Amos. The beautiful '107 Windows' could easily have been written by Amos. Halfway the record we find 'Smile', a nice lingering song, which is one of the highlights. To the end of the record there are more slower songs, that aren't all great. The album loses energy there and is sagging a bit. The mediocre rocker 'This Page' also isn't the closer that the record deserves.

In general it's a good debut. It's clear Geike took the time for this album. The production is nice and clean and lots of attention went into the arrangements. She's showing what a wonderful singer she is. It may have been a shock when she announced her parting, but this way it results in an additional choice next to her old band. The Hooverphonic fans, that don't like the new direction, may recognize some of their old love in For The Beauty Of Confusion.

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

Listen to 'For The Beauty Of Confusion' on Spotify.

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Friday 25 November 2011

dEUS Better Than Ever

With a great new album out and club shows throughout Europe dEUS are taking the continent by storm. And this was a good dEUS year for me as well. I already got to see them three times playing live. But seeing them in Paradiso is of course too good to be true and the ultimate dEUS experience.

dEUS at Paradiso Amsterdam, November 21 2011 (Ronald Says 10 out of 10)

But first up are another band from Belgium, Intergalactic Lovers. They made a good impression on me at the Into The Great Wide Open festival a few months ago so we make sure to arrive in Paradiso on time to see their support show. And they are looking great again. As if they are used to playing venues and stages of this size, they comfortably treat us to their nice indie songs. When they end their show the hall has filled up considerably and they get a good round of applause. I think they made many new friends tonight. We even got a three song promo CD when we came in, but I wanted the real thing, so got me their full album. I hope to see and hear a lot more from them in the future.
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The sold out venue has now warmed up nicely for the main act. They get up on stage looking eager and Tom Barman has a big smile on his face. A smile that he will show more often tonight. Since it all seems to come together on this stage tonight. I mentioned earlier that this band looks and sounds very tight and that's more than showing tonight. Barman is directing his fellow musicians but probably doesn't have to. Every single one of them is completely into it. Drummer Stéphane Misseghers doesn't look too happy now and then. He seems to have some kind of technical or sound issue and is getting a roadie over several times. Whatever it is, that is bugging him, it doesn't show at all.

From beginning until the end the band is completely in control. And they have everyone eating off their hand. Their songs are always nicely balanced and they know how to build them up with energy. Their whole show is like this now. It just keeps building up energy which is just brilliant. The new songs already sit comfortably among crowd pleasers like 'Little Artithmetics' and 'Instant Street'. Personal favourite 'Bad Timing' never sounded better or more impressive. Before the show is ever they treat us to two encores with a threatening 'Roses' and a vicious 'Theme From Turnpike'.

When the lights come on again we've witnessed two hours of brilliant rock music. A show that ran so smoothly it felt like it was over in a blink of the eye. With beautiful visuals and lighting. I overheard people saying they thought the sound was pretty loud. But since I always wear earplugs I didn't notice anything wrong. This was a night that you want to last forever. A divine experience, music made by the gods, or at least as close as it gets, by dEUS.

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01. The Final Blast
02. The Architect
03. Constant Now
04. Second Nature
05. Oh Your God
06. Little Arithmetics
07. Instant Street
08. If You Don't Get What You Want
09. Dark Sets In
10. Magdalena
11. When She Comes Down
12. Ghost
13. Keep You Close
14. Sister Dew
15. Bad Timing
Encore 1
16. Twice (We Survive)
17. Theme From Turnpike
18. Roses
Encore 2
19. Hotel Lounge
20. Easy
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Wednesday 23 November 2011

Shaking Godspeed Shaking Effenaar

Their first full album 'Awe' was one of the nice surprises in 2010. The band Shaking Godspeed filled it up with a variety of great heavy rock songs with a unique sound. I really wanted to check them out, but every time they were in the neighbourhood it didn't fit my schedule. This was no different when they were scheduled to play in Amsterdam on November 19. I was out of town in Eindhoven, where they were going to play the night before. So I left a day early and finally was able to catch them on stage.

Shaking Godspeed at Effenaar Eindhoven, November 18 2011 (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
They sometimes call Eindhoven the rock city of The Netherlands. But while The Wombats sold out the big hall next door, only around 40-50 people showed up in the small hall to see these three musicians play top notch rock music in its purest form. Maybe their reputation hasn't made it this far south yet? But the band doesn't care and is laying down a great performance.

The heavy songs are solid as a rock and have a full sound. It's a mix of classic hard rock, a bit of stoner and some psychedelica. They are fond of freaky and heavy effects. Guitarist and singer Wout Kemkens can play some mean guitar and is treating us to long solos. Paul Diersen switches between bass and organ all the time, playing groovy bass lines and creative organ parts. Meanwhile drummer Maarten Rischen works up a sweat on his big drum kit that produces a deep sound and has huge hihat cymbals.

Their set doesn't have any weak spots and keeps on rolling all the time. It's impossible to ignore the heavy rocking grooves and in the mostly male audience everyone is nodding their heads to the beat. It's a high energy performance that ends with Rischen trashing a part of his drum kit while Kemkens leaves his guitar screaming on the stage. This band deserves so much more than tonight's pale looking crowd. Currently the band is recording its second album and I really hope it's just as good as their first and gets picked up by a wider audience. Since they are probably one of the most exciting rock bands in our country at the moment.

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Monday 21 November 2011

Bush For Old Time's Sake

When grunge music became popular in the early 90s many bands followed in the slip stream of Seattle's big guns like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Bush was one of those bands that got quite successful themselves. They were criticized as well, claiming the band was hardly original and merely a copycat. I liked them myself and still think their first two albums are pretty good. Now front man Gavin Rossdale revived the band, released a new album and is the band playing club shows around the globe. Time to meet them again.

Bush at Melkweg Amsterdam, November 15 2011 (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
To be hounest I don't think they ever were able to make an album that got near those two albums. Their latest one isn't any different either. It just picks up where they left off years ago and doesn't offer anything new. And its best songs are only half as good as the mediocre ones on the first two albums. And this shows during their live set too. There are too many songs that don't stick out and during these songs the crowd goes to the bar to get drinks.

Rossdale notices this himself as well and early in the set is thanking the crowd for "clapping selectively". This is a bit of a weird remark since it's the band's job to win the people over. But it's striking for the whole show. Rossdale is a charismatic but mediocre singer. He's working hard and even takes a walk through the crowd during the song 'Afterlife'. His band however looks pretty pale and are playing in the background. It's clear Gavin Rossdale is Bush. And even though 'Machinehead', 'Everything Zen', 'Swallowed' and of course cigarette lighter moment 'Glycerine' are still killer songs, they are not enough to save the day. Bush are passed glory I'm afraid.

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1.The Mirror of the Signs
3.All My Life
4.Greedy Fly
5.I Believe In You
6.The Chemicals Between Us
7.The Sound of Winter
8.Everything Zen Play
9.The Heart of the Matter
10.The People That We Love
11.Be Still My Love
13.The Afterlife
14.Little Things
15.Come Together (The Beatles cover)
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Wednesday 16 November 2011

Rival Sons Want To Take Europe

Rival Sons are a band from LA who play a combination of rock, blues and soul. Led Zeppelin clearly is never far away but they do developed their own style. Their latest album Pressure And Time is a true delight to listen to and they blew me away on Rock Werchter this year. Now they are serious about taking Europe and Amsterdam fortunately was part of their club tour over here.

Rival Sons at Melkweg Amsterdam, November 14 2011 (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
At Rock Werchter they had to work hard to win the people over. This isn't any different tonight. The crowd is quite calm in the beginning but this also the band's own fault. Singer Jay Buchanan admits they partied hard and long the day before and it's showing. His eyes look tiny and he seems a bit absent. They probably couldn't resist to all the temptations Amsterdam has to offer, and had a good taste of those offerings. The band really has to warm up. But after a while they get into it and Buchanan says he's feeling it too. From that moment on the crowd gets really excited.

And which rock lover can resist great rock and blues songs like 'Burn Down Los Angeles'? Guitarist Scott Holiday is getting plenty of space to show off his skills and with a big smile he's firing off one great solo after another. Hard hitter Michael Miley is laughing most of the set and like in Belgium is enjoying a Duvel. The man sure knows his beers.

Bass player Robin Everhart is quietly laying down his bass grooves in the background. The four musicians are clearly having fun and seem like a solid group. Buchanan, who looks like the reincarnation of Jim Morrison and sounds like Robert Plant, has a great voice. He's showing that mostly in a slow blues song like 'On My Way', where he can use his full spectrum.

Of course they play many songs off their latest album that has great songs like 'All Over The Road' and title track 'Pressure And Time'. These go down great with the crowd. But the band cannot get everyone to go completely wild, therefore the fire isn't high enough. Hopefully this band is like a good young wine: its potential is clear but it just needs a few more years to reach its full strength. I'd love to see them back soon and blow everyone away.

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Monday 14 November 2011

Sungrazer: Stoner With A Twist

They won the Nu of Nooit contest and were the opening act of Pinkpop festival in 2010 because of that. In the meantime they had signed a record deal and released a self title debut album. Sungrazer from the south of the Netherlands have worked hard since then. They played many shows and also found the time to record a new album. They are three hard working musicians, that play a mix of 70s psychedelica and stoner rock. Thanks to that the band already shared the stage with Fu Manchu, Karma To Burn and Goatsnake.

Sungrazer - Mirador (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Mirador is also full with nice stoner rock songs and extensive psychedelic jams. It may not be a surprising combination but it's one that works very well. It results in slow heavy grooves, that just keep on rolling while the guitars are going wild. Especially in 'Behind' the engine is in overdrive, which turns into an almost fourteen minute long composition. Because of the repeating riffs and sounds you slowly sink into a trance and you're experiencing the song even more intense.

The boys can also play some straight rock too. They prove that in for example 'Octor', an instrumental piece with a big fat groove. They are a band of few words and prefer to let the music do the talking. The other songs are also mostly instrumental with only some occasional vocals. Monotony is lurking since the jams are so stretched out. Of course that's one of the charms of the album but they could move a bit close to the edge once and a while. Naturally this should never be at the expense of those fine repeating elements, that make the songs so catchy.

There are many stoner rock bands around that all are fishing in the same pond. They mostly sound alike and are copying the big groups. Only a few manage to separate themselves from the rest. Sungrazer is doing this in a highly effective way, by giving it their own twist. This makes Mirador a very tasteful album. It could be more on the edge but this record is proving the band's qualities.

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

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Wednesday 9 November 2011

Triggerfinger Slowly Tear Down The Place

What a year did Triggerfinger have. About a year ago they released their third album All This Dancin' Around and it only went upward fast from there. They played many shows after that, many in The Netherlands as well, and fortunately didn't pass on Amsterdam at all. After their album presentation in Paradiso last year it was now time for three shows in a row in the Melkweg.

Triggerfinger at Melkweg Amsterdam, November 7 2011 (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)
So they had an incredible year. And well deserved, since they have been around for a while and with a lot of hard work created this mighty beast called Triggerfinger. A well oiled heavy rocking machine with killer live shows. And they prove that tonight again.

With a well thought through set they slowly build up to an ectatic orgasm. They start out with a few slow songs. Heavy lazy grooves are warming up the big machine. They play songs like 'Feed Me' or 'I'm Coming For You' which are perfect for it. Singer and guitarist Ruben Block's microphone seems a bit heavy on echo for a few songs, but this is fixed after a while. By then the machine is already heating up to a nice temperature. The crowd is also giving in by now. The band is shifting gear and is heading for full speed. Mario Goossens is firing off his killer grooves while bassist "Monsieur" Paul is keeping the machine together with his steady bass playing.

Block's vocals are great. His high pitch howls never have sounded better. Together with Goossens he keeps firing up the crowd. By the end of the show the last ones have giving up resistance and surrender to this hard rocking machine. We get another treat when they play their notorious cover version of 'Sweet Dreams' and a beautiful 'It Hasn't Gone Away'.

It all seems to come together tonight. A good thing they were recording this concert for a live DVD. I can't wait for that to come out and relive this night over and over again.

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Watch the entire show over here.

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1.I'm Coming For You
2.On My Knees
3.Short Term Memory Love
5.My Baby's Got A Gun
6.Love Lost In Love
7.All This Dancin' Around
8.Drum Solo
9.First Taste
10.Is It
11.Feed Me
12.Inner Peace
13.Sweet Dreams
(Eurythmics cover)
14.It Hasn't Gone Away
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City Reign Cross Canal With New EP

Half a year ago I wrote about City Reign from Manchester. Their catchy britpop songs sounded promising. They released a few singles and now have an EP out called Numbers Of Street Names. And they even were visiting Amsterdam to present it!

So we headed to a small bar called CC Muziekcafe. It's a small place but it looks nice and cosy. The narrow bar has a stage at the back where the band will play. There's a pleasant atmosphere and we hear people talking English. It turns out some members of their family live in Amsterdam and some even travelled here to see them play.

At the front of the bar, furthest away from the stage, the sound isn't too good. When we move further up front later on it's much better. The band play well, their sound is full and they leave a good impression. The songs are convincing and have enough potential. You can tell the band are serious about their music and already have a professional approach. This is also clear from their website that looks great. At the end of the night I get their new EP. The five songs show too there's enough potential in the band and their music. Songs like 'The Line' and 'Out In The Cold' are great tracks that sound appealing and have good hooks. The only thing missing is some help and experience with producing their music, which could make it even better.

City Reign may just have what it takes to grow into a big band. They certainly have the right attitude and approach. If they can find some experienced people to help them produce their music and get to the next level we may hear a lot more from them in the future. And then maybe we'll see them back in Amsterdam on a festival like London Calling in a short while.

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Monday 7 November 2011

Private Party With Roy Haynes

Jazz drummer Roy Haynes has played with all the big guns, legendary musicians like John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker. He turned 86 this year but is till actively playing. Instead of seeing him in Amsterdam's Bimhuis I joined one of my closest friends to see him in Eindhoven instead.

Roy Haynes & The Fountain of Youth Band at Muziekgebouw Frits Philips Eindhoven, November 4 2011 (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
When we get to the wardrobe of the venue, there's only a small number of coats there, while the show will start in five minutes. When we enter the soulless venue itself, that looks more like a university lecture room, it turns out only around fourty people showed up. That really is sad, such great musicians and so few people. When they enter the stage they can't believe it themselves. But the professionals they are, they take their instruments and start playing. Only saxophone player Jaleel Shaw looks like he would have rather stepped off stage right away. He's a good musician but his playing sounds obligatory tonight and without fire.

Piano player Martin Bejerano on the other hand sounds great. He's letting the notes flow beautifully and when he gets a solo all by himself on stage he takes it with both hands. Bass player David Wong also gives his best. His fingers are smoothly plucking the fret board of his bass. Roy Haynes doesn't look like the dramatic attendance bothers him a lot. He's playing some great swing. His solo with mallets is a bit technical, but fun to watch where he seems to be trying out all the sounds a drum kit has. Sometimes he gets up to chat a bit, compliment his band or to do a little rhythmic tap dancing. It's unbelievable this man is already 86!

But the beauty of live performances is the chemistry that can grow between musicians and audience. But with such a small audience in a dead venue that's impossible to achieve tonight. And despite the persistent applause at the end, they don't come back for an encore. And who can blame them. These musicians deserve a full house.

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Friday 4 November 2011

dEUS Is Keeping Us Close

The Belgian band dEUS doesn't need much introduction. For years they have been the proud flagship of the Belgian music scene. With their first couple of albums they immediately delivered some master pieces. The daring songs with a lot of experiments, left a big impression. Live they even got more impressive with lots of room for new interpretations and improvisation.

dEUS - Keep You Close (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
The big disadvantage is that after that every new record will be compared to those classics, and they don't get the credit they deserve. It won't be any different with the latest Keep You Close. It sounds like a luxury to be able to look back to the milestones in the musical land scape that you put there yourself. But the band around Tom Barman will probably disagree. They have moved ahead many years and dEUS is a different band than say fifteen years ago. The current line-up has been together since 2005 and the band acts as a whole. Both on stage and in the studio. And that is clear on the new album, which turned into a real band album. The band never sounded more solid.

The new songs got a bit bigger and more full. They are all proper rock songs. But not just any rock song. Beneath the overwhelming exterior there's unmistakably still dEUS' beating heart. Many songs start with a great groove. For this bass player Alan Gevaert and drummer Stéphane Misseghers deserve many kudos. With a rhythm section like that everything is solid as a rock. "Mr. dEUS" Tom Barman and guitar player Mauro Pawlowski can comfortably build on top of that and Klaas Janzoons can fill in the rest. And so Keep You Close turned into a great album with something to anyone's liking. Modest ('The End Of Romance') or full force ('Ghost'). Guitar power ('Dark Sets In') or more electronic ('Constant Now').

There aren't any songs that stand out, simply because all songs are of the same high level. This album doesn't need to be compared to any of its illustrious predecessors, since it can be valued in itself. dEUS remains a world class top band. And with the extensive club show tour coming up we can see for ourselves. So go check them out!

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

Listen to 'Keep You Close' on Spotify.

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Tuesday 1 November 2011

Black Box Revelation Are Thinking Big

A few weeks ago Black Box Revelation, a Belgian duo, released their third album My Perception. It has been recorded in the USA and they were even able to hire Alain Johannes as a producer. It's clear they are aiming to conquer the USA as well with their blues/rock sound. It makes sense to compare them to The Black Keys who in the same set-up play similar music. Black Box Revelation are a bit more rough around the edges though. It finally was time for their postponed show 5 months later and to hear the new songs.

Black Box Revelation at Melkweg Amsterdam, October 26 2011 (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)

But first we were going to check out support act Automatic Sam. I listened to some of their music before the gig and was interested in seeing them play. They didn't disappoint a bit. The band played their hard rocking songs with heavy grooves convincingly. Good honest garage rock crafted from granite with stoner influences. I will definitely follow them more closely from now on.

By the time the main course is ready to be served, the small venue has filled up nicely. The sound is good and the duo is looking focused. The new songs aren't that different from the older material. They are nicely mixed throughout the set. Although they are only with two musicians the songs and sound never gets thin.

Drummer Dries Van Dijck has a large sized drum set and produces a big sound with his heavy grooves. Singer/guitarist Jan Paternoster has several amps to create a wall of guitar sound. It all soungs nice and rough. But sometimes the songs sound alike a lot, which causes the set not to have enough variation. They play a long encore that's the most interesting part of the set. Here the songs do have more variation and it immediately makes it more exciting. It's going to be interesting to see if they can make it internationally.

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1.Mad House
2.Rattle My Heart
4.Gravity Blues
5.I Don't Want It
6.High On A Wire
7.You Got Me on My Knees
8.I Think I Like You
9.Never Alone / Always Together
10.White unicorns
13.My perception
14.Sealed with thorns
15.My Girl
16.Do I Know You
17.Sleep While Moving
18.Love Licks
19.Set Your Head On Fire
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