Thursday 28 November 2013

Queens Of The Stone Age Are Playing In The Big Leagues Now

For the third time this year Queens of the Stone Age are visiting The Netherlands. After their smashing and solid rock show on the Pinkpop Festival and their epic and intimate club performance earlier this month, they are now playing the big Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam. What will they have up their sleeves for us tonight?

Queens of the Stone Age at Ziggo Dome Amsterdam November 26 2013

Amsterdam soccer club Ajax are playing Barcelona in the Arena stadium next to the Ziggo Dome tonight. Some metros are packed and we enter the venue later than planned. We are able to catch only a couple of songs by support act Band of Skulls. Judging from these songs and the big round of applause they receive, they did a good job at warming us up. Although it's not a sold out house, the big hall is filled up for the largest part.

When Queens of the Stone Age take the stage they don't waste any time. The set opens explosively with 'You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire' and big hit 'No One knows' both from their most successful Songs For The Deaf. Everyone is alert right from the start. From there on hits and new songs alternate. Since the latest album ...Like Clockwork has been out for a while, everyone has heard it by now. Songs like 'Smooth Sailing' and 'If I Had A Tail' fit right in with the older songs.

The album made clear the band have changed and are more than just a rock machine that is solely running on testosterone. 'Kalopsia', 'Fairweather Friends' and '...Like Clockwork' show a different side of the band and sound just as convincing as the up tempo songs. They also show how much Josh Homme's vocals have improved. His voice is clear and strong, even on higher notes. The new slower songs are more or less together in the middle of the set. This is a bit risky and breaks the high tempo. Not everyone is able to keep their attention during these slower songs. However the fans that can appreciate these songs get treated to honest and sincere versions of them.

Of course this show is different from the small club show in Tivoli a few weeks back. The group was there to have a fun night with a small bunch of fans. Tonight it's serious business. Now the band has to please almost 15.000 people and they don't take that task lightly. Josh Homme is less chatty tonight and only addresses us just a few times. It's not easy to make close contact in a big venue where the distance to your fans is huge. So the band is letting the music speak for itself. One of their most popular songs 'Go With The Flow' ends the regular set. It's definitely an interesting set list, not one that is going for the easy road.

For the encore Homme sits down behind the piano for 'The Vampyre of Time and Memory' and one last quiet moment. After that a bomb drops when they are playing 'Feel Good Hit Of The Summer' and 'First It Giveth' in a row. Pits are forming, beer is flying. The venue explodes for one last time during a ferocious and wonderfully stretched 'A Song For The Dead'. Queens of the Stone Age are now playing in the big leagues of bands, that are able to fill large venues. Tonight they proved they belong there.

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01. You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire
02. No One Knows
03. My God Is the Sun
04. Burn the Witch
05. Smooth Sailing
06. Monsters in the Parasol
07. I Sat by the Ocean
08. ...Like Clockwork
09. I Never Came
10. Fairweather Friends
11. If I Had a Tail
12. Kalopsia
13. Little Sister
14. Make It Wit Chu
15. The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret
16. Sick, Sick, Sick
17. Better Living Through Chemistry
18. Go With the Flow
19. The Vampyre of Time and Memory
20. Feel Good Hit of the Summer
21. First It Giveth
22. A Song for the Dead

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Monday 25 November 2013

White Denim Explore New Grounds

It is a remarkable growth White Denim have displayed in their career. They developed from a garage band to one that can showcase a wide spectrum, from prog rock to jazz and classic rock to latin. Especially after guitarist Austin Jenkins joined in they started exploring new grounds. For their new album Corsicana Lemonade they got help from Wilco's Jeff Tweedy.

White Denim - Corsicana Lemonade (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)

Tweedy brought new elements into their sound and mixed in Americana and country, areas where he is the expert. White Denim make songs like 'Let It Feel Good (My Eagles)' and 'Cheer Up/ Blues Ending' sound just as convincing as anything else they play. Tweedy has made the songs more structured and more accessible. It did go at the expense of some of the raw edge that we could hear on the previous album "D".

However White Denim show they still are a band with a rare quality. Every song is of a high level and has that little extra sparkle the band adds to their music. Just listen to tracks like 'Distant Relative Salute' and title track 'Corsicana Lemonade' Even a song like 'Come Back', which would normally be just a classic rock song, turns into a little party with a twist around every corner.

Corsicana Lemonade is a delight to listen to like any album in the White Denim catalogue. However this time it is spinning less out of control. It makes me miss the crazy roller-coaster ride a bit that "D" was. But it's still a hell of a ride with one of the most exciting bands currently around.

Listen to 'Corsicana Lemonade' on Spotify

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Thursday 21 November 2013

New Sounds: Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Cologne

Do you like Cologne? Because desert rockers Queens of the Stone Age have cooked something up. The ...Like Cologne EP features three acoustic tracks of their latest LP ...Like Clockwork. The tracks were recorded in Cologne for radio station WDR1Live. You can listen to the EP exclusively on Spotify.

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Wednesday 20 November 2013

New Sounds: Thee Oh Sees - Singles Collection Volume 3

Garage rockers Thee Oh Sees are a very productive bunch of people. They keep knocking out new songs the same way Santa is handing out candy. But you know even though the quantity is high so is the quality. They will release Singles Collection Volume Three on November 26. It has some pretty rare material on it and is a must-have for any fan. The vinyl version will get three colours: Pepto pink/coke bottle green, grape soda/French vanilla, electric blue with strawberry haze. That's right. Pre-order apparently are ongoing but I can't out find where. I will add a link over here when I do. In the meantime stream the LP down below.

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Tuesday 19 November 2013

Words Fail To Describe Nick Cave

For the second time in two weeks Australian musician Nick Cave is visiting the Amsterdam Heineken Music Hall with his The Bad Seeds. This is the original first show, but since it sold out so quickly the show on November 4 was added later. This year he released one of the best records of this year and is playing sold out shows that receive the highest praise, something he also proved at Lowlands earlier in August. Could he live up to these high expectations?

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds at Heineken Music Hall Amsterdam, November 17 2013

Cave himself is answering that question in the first song right away. 'We No Who U R' from his last album Push The Sky Away sets the tone for the night. The slow song has exactly the right amount of tension. 'Jubilee Street' follows which makes clear that the fans have embraced the new songs. Although it is a relatively quiet start, there's no way Cave will let us sit back and get too comfortable. 'Tupelo' is showing Cave in his best way: his piercing eyes scouting the crowd, spitting out his words with great determination. Once again the man is in great shape. Every night the set list differs only for a small bit, so any one who has seen a show or has looked at an earlier set list knows what songs can be expected.

But that doesn't mean the music is predictable. Far from it. Cave moves across the stage restlessly, seeking contact with the audience like we saw before: his hand supported by a fan's hand. At the same time he's singing his poetic lyrics with so much fire, as if he wants to convince us all personally. At points he's crying it out. During the quiet songs, the more than 5000 fans don't make a sound. The big hall is completely silent. It gives a song like 'God Is In The House' even more impact while every single one of us is holding their breath. Cave turns 'Higgs Boson Blues', one of those gems of the new record, into a an intense experience. Eventually whispering the words "Can you feel my heartbeat?" while supported by his fans who are holding him firmly. He breaks the almost tangible tension himself by whispering "You can let go now".

Cave is in total control and The Bad Seeds will always have his back. The fine musicians know exactly what the songs need. Their use of dynamics in the songs is invaluable and is the finishing touch. Laid back and patiently the band is playing the slow songs while Cave is massaging our souls, only throwing tiny accents around. Brutal and aggressive eruptions sound right when Cave is spitting fire. Warren Ellis dances around like a mad scientist with his heavy beard and violin play, tossing his bow around stage when he's done. I don't know how many bows he is breaking during this tour. He is an attraction himself and is giving, like all the others, the perfect backup for Cave.

The gloomy sounding 'Push The Sky Away' ends the regular set before the encore starts with 'Abattoir Blues', a song you won't hear often in a live set. Cave already warns they will probably screw it up and he admits "that was fucked up on every level" at the end of it. Was it really? The gorgeous 'Into My Arms' ends this more than brilliant show in a perfect way. The past thirty years seem to have been just a warm up for Nick Cave. I don't think he ever wrote a bad song, but it feels as if the best is yet to come. Imagine what he will come up with in the years to come. Once again Cave proves to be an extraordinary and gifted artist who will never disappoint. All these words simply aren't enough to describe him. Superb, magnificent, grand! They simply don't do him right.

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01. We No Who U R
02. Jubilee Street
03. Tupelo
04. Red Right Hand
05. Mermaids
06. The Weeping Song
07. From Her to Eternity
08. West Country Girl
09. Sad Waters
10. God Is in the House
11. Wide Lovely Eyes
12. Higgs Boson Blues
13. The Mercy Seat
14. Stagger Lee
15. Push the Sky Away
16. Abattoir Blues
17. We Real Cool
18. Do You Love Me?
19. Into My Arms

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Wednesday 13 November 2013

New Sounds: Ghost EP 'If You Have Ghost'

Swedish metal band Ghost have a famous friend: Dave Grohl. He produced their new album If You Have Ghost. It's less metal and more Abba and includes a cover of Army of Lover's 'Crucified'. Say what!? What do you think? Listen to it on SoundCloud below.

You can pre-order the EP on iTunes and on their website.

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Tuesday 12 November 2013

Memorable Night With Queens Of The Stone Age

Desert rockers Queens of The Stone Age will be playing for over 15000 people when they are performing at the Ziggo Dome at the end of the month. They decided to treat the Dutch fans that bought tickets to that show, to a small club show a few weeks ahead of it. Needless to say the 1000 tickets sold out in no time. Fortunately I didn't luck out and managed to get tickets to this one time opportunity.

Queens of the Stone Age at Tivoli Utrecht, November 9 2013

According to some it wasn't just about having a good time for Josh Homme and his QotSA friends, but also a publicity stunt to try to sell out the Ziggo Dome. Whether that is the case I'm not sure. It still felt like being one of the chosen ones. You can feel the venue trembling with anticipation when entering it. Slowly it is filling up and everyone is impatiently awaiting the stoner rock band from Palm Desert. A big roar fills the hall when the band enters the stage in the dark.

What follows is nothing less than an epic show, the best I've ever seen them play. The band is so tight and new drummer Jon Theodore has a big part in it. He's playing thee heavy songs so convincingly and with so much energy, it's hard to believe he hasn't been playing with them for years. Many songs of their last album make it into the set and sound even better live. Tonight new and old songs go down with the crowd equally well. Every single one of them is greeted with great enthusiasm. The near death experience Homme had, has changed be band and their music so it seems. They are playing as if this show could be their last one. Homme himself looks more relaxed than ever but also more determined. It leaves no doubt about what they are doing here. They are here to have a lot of fun with their fans and rock this place apart.

There's even time for requests when some people in the crowd unfold a small banner with the song title 'Tangled Up in Plaid'. Homme laughs and agrees to play it. The songs starts but then Homme changes his mind and promises to play it later on. It's characteristic for the night. The band totally connects with the crowd and are enjoying themselves a lot as well. Later on they play the song as promised. The fun just doesn't stop. While introducing the band, he says it's bass player Michael Shuman's birthday. Some people start singing a doubtful version of 'Happy Birthday'. "Leave the singing to us" Homme responds while laughing. And no, it wasn't even Shuman's birthday.

But music wise the band doesn't fool around. The songs sound solid as a rock and make Tivoli shake. Of course the big hits are not forgotten. 'Go With The Flow', 'Little Sister' and 'No One Knows' never sounded better. 'Feel Good Hit Of The Summer' is almost knocking our lights out. All the time the front half of the venue is jumping continuously as one big pit. The set list I see hanging at the mixing console reveals they made some spontaneous changes to it. The band leaves the stage, but it doesn't take much to bring them back for the final blow. The three song encore ends with a mind blowing long version of 'A Song For The Dead'. It's the end of a two hour show we will all remember years after. This was Queens of the Stone Age in optima forma. The group leaves with big smiles on their faces. And so do we, the chosen ones.

More Pictures

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01. Medication
02. Keep Your Eyes Peeled
03. You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire
04. No One Knows
05. Avon
06. MyGod Is the Sun
07. Turnin' on the Screw
08. …Like Clockwork
09. In the Fade
10. Misfit Love
11. If I Had a Tail
12. Kalopsia
13. Little Sister
14. Smooth Sailing
15. Fairweather Friends
16. Mexicola
17. Tangled Up in Plaid
18. Better Living Through Chemistry
19. Go With the Flow
20. Feel Good Hit of the Summer
21. Make It Wit Chu
22. A Song for the Dead

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Sunday 10 November 2013

Intense Performance By Impressive The National

The big Heineken Music Hall doesn't sound like an ideal place to see a band like The National. But ever since releasing High Violet a few years back things went fast for the Brooklyn based band. This year's Trouble Will Find Me established their newly achieved position as a high profile group. It also means shows in small clubs are something of the past.

The National at Heineken Music Hall Amsterdam, November 7 2013

The band doesn't forget that they owe their success mainly to the last two albums. Their set list is focusing mainly on them. Their self titled debut album is even completely ignored. With ten songs from the latest album it means they're playing almost the entire album. Although it is their newest album of course, you don't see many bands doing that. It proves how confident they are about the new songs, but also that they recognize the fact that a large part of the audience probably isn't that familiar with their older work.

That older work has some gems of its own of course. A true fan wouldn't accept a set list without a vicious 'Abel' and the beautiful 'Fake Empire'. However the last two records are simply of such rare high standard that it would be a crime not to play songs like 'Anyone's Ghost', 'Demons' or 'Sea Of Love'.

Singer Matt Berninger has to warm up in the beginning before he's relaxed. He's moving around in his usual fashion like a caged tiger, continuously sipping wine. It never gets old watching his emotional performance. There's no other artist who can sing with so much intensity and emotion like him. His warm baritone is massaging your soul until the tension has build up inside him and just bursts out with huge outcries. Later on in the set everything falls into place. The crowd is quiet and is listening breathlessly to beautiful versions of 'Hard To Find' and 'Pink Rabbits'. By the time they play the gorgeous 'I Need My Girl' they have resized the big Music Hall to a tiny intimate club and I'm completely lost in the music.

The guitars played by the twin Dessner brothers Aaron and Bryce sound great and big in the climax parts, but they are ringing modestly in the subtle picking parts. The horns add precisely enough melancholy to the music. Bryan Devendorf's creative grooves are pushing a song like 'Bloodbuzz Ohio' forward. At the end audience and band connect literally when Berninger is taking his usual plunge into the crowd during an always thundering 'Mr. November' and again in 'Terrible Love' that closes the set. A truly magical performance we don't see very often in this place.

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01. I Should Live in Salt
02. Don't Swallow the Cap
03. Anyone's Ghost
04. Bloodbuzz Ohio
05. Demons
06. Sea of Love
07. Hard to Find
08. Afraid of Everyone
09. Conversation 16
10. Available
11. Cardinal Song
12. I Need My Girl
13. This Is the Last Time
14. All the Wine
15. Abel
16. Slow Show
17. Sorrow
18. Pink Rabbits
19. England
20. Graceless
21. Fake Empire
22. About Today
23. Humiliation
24. Mr. November
25. Terrible Love

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Thursday 7 November 2013

Arcade Fire Improve And Never Look Back

In a recent interview with NME, Win Butler of Canadian group Arcade Fire called themselves the "black sheep of the music industry". He feels they are the weird band in a mainstream context and he may be right. They are one of the most popular indie bands of today, but still a relatively unknown band to the mainstream crowd. Maybe new album Reflektor can change that.

Arcade Fire - Reflektor (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)

Like the previous albums Reflektor is build around a theme, the Orpheus myth. In a nutshell: Orpheus was in love with Eurydice who died. He descends into the underworld and makes a deal with the devil. He's allowed to take her back, but she has to follow behind him and Orpheus can never look back until they make it out. He does look back too soon and loses here forever. More specific Butler and his wife Régine Chassagne were inspired by the movie Black Orpheus who places the myth in modern time Brazil. This theme is running through the record and is displayed in the cover. It is most explicit in the track 'It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)' where they sing:
Just wait until it's over Wait until it's through
and where it ends in:
Oh Orpheus, Eurydice It's over too soon
Arcade Fire want us to look ahead and not back all the time. It isn't all light material, but then again the band from Montreal doesn't always like to make things easy for us. Title track 'Reflektor' urges us to look away more from our screens and social media. It's just reflecting our ego that was skilfully crafted in Facebook and isn't about our real identity at all. Nor are you chatting to a real person at the other side, but again talking to your reflection. It is the first single off the new album that immediately reveals where the band stands today. LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy is producing the album and David Bowie is guesting on this track. The video directed by Anton Corbijn showed the band wearing bobble heads, trying to get the message of the song across.

This is not the Arcade Fire of the past three albums. This is a new and improved version. They dropped all the remaining timidity and are now blossoming in full. More details, more hidden layers, the Canadians do it all. Less is more? Not for Arcade Fire. They went to Haiti, to the roots of Chassagne's family and were inspired by the music on this Carribbean island. This is most notable in 'Here Comes The Night Time' with it's melodic steel drums.

'Joan of Arc' even starts out as a punk song before it changes into a more mellow tune. Butler sings in 'Normal Person' "Do you like rock 'n' roll music? Cause I don't know if I do". And the the song unfolds into a plain rock 'n' roll song. With all this diversity the addition of James Murphy has a potential risk. It could add yet another factor that pushes things into another direction and cause the album to lose balance and coherence. But the opposite is true. Murphy has added the glue of the album and a light danceable touch to the songs. It is the reason why 'Reflektor' sticks to your head for days. It turns Reflektor into a brilliant album, the best one of the band so far. It may only be just a bit too long. Arcade Fire prove they have turned into the beautiful swan of the music industry.

Listen to 'Reflektor' on Spotify

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Friday 1 November 2013

Colourful De Staat Presents New Album

Recently Dutch rock band De Staat released their third album. Yet again they managed to improve themselves and explore new directions. I_CON has turned into a colourful album filled with creative and intelligent rock songs. Live on stage the band usually adds an extra dimension.

De Staat at Melkweg Amsterdam, October 26 2013

The main hall is almost full when the band opens with new single 'All Is Dull'. Singer Torre Florim has some technical problems with his guitar right from the start. They seem to get fixed swiftly, but now and then you can see him giving his pedals a quick glance as if it's not entirely right. It will be typical for tonight, since it's not a perfect show. Sometimes the band seems to be out of it, although they know how to deal with that very well. The group has grown into a professional band, that is used to handling small setbacks. A tight collective that obviously enjoys playing with each other and who will always give everything they've got. They are the boys who became men and are living their dream of playing in a rock band.

The new song are strong additions to their catalog. Live they sound even better than on their record. 'Make Way For The Passenger' is an instant fan favourite, 'Down Town' a great nervous rock song and 'Witch Doctor' a hard-style like song that could knock the roof off any venue like a sledge-hammer. 'Devil's Blood' is more subdued, that patiently grows into a sexy and hypnotic song. The older hits of course still know how to please the fans and are solid rock songs, but also reveal how much richer the new songs are. Nevertheless the irresistible car horn in 'Ah I See' in the encore has everyone go crazy one more time.

It is clear that the new album has also brought more colour to the band as a whole. Even on a night like this where not everything seems to run as smoothly as it should be, the band has so much to offer. Slowly they are also making their way across the border and I wouldn't be surprised when they discover the beauty of this band over there as well.

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