Friday 30 January 2015

On Stage: Orlando Julius And The Heliocentrics

Now that all kinds of afro music is hot and happening again, it has renewed interest in some old veterans. Like afrobeat legend Ebo Taylor for instance who almost was forgotten. Another one of those giants is Nigerian musician Orlando Julius who started in the sixties and finally was noticed outside Nigeria after the turn of the century. Last year he released a new record Jayide Afro with The Heliocentrics which surprisingly is his first international album with new material. Now he is touring with them around the clubs in support of that album.

Orlando Julius and the Heliocentrics at North Sea Jazz Club Amsterdam, January 28 2015

The small stage of the North Sea Jazz Club is completely full when the big band takes the stage. They don't need to warm up at all and start grooving right away, with Julius playing his tenor saxophone. He will play his instrument a lot tonight, but will also bend over his organ now and then or just stick to vocals. He's singing mostly in a local language, which is impossible to follow of course. But also the "Nigerian English" can often be hard to understand. Which is a shame because he's chatting in between songs about what they are about, cracking jokes in between. Julius is in his seventies but is still looking very brisky, dancing around stage while smiling non stop throughout the set.

The Heliocentrics are a great band, that understand perfectly what the somewhat psychedelic music needs, keeping songs going forever with a tight groove. Of course they all get plenty of time to show their skills in exciting solos, now and then challenging each other to join in. Julius' music has lots of soul and is a blend of highlife, afrobeat, funk and soul, or Super Afro Soul as he calls it. Think of a mix of Fela Kuti and James Brown and you get the idea. He used to live in the USA for twenty five years, which explains the soul and funk influences.

And so we can hear funky guitars and horns on top of hypnotic drums and percussion, that will get every one moving, which is exactly what happens. Throughout the whole set I don't think there's a single person that is able to stand still. At the same time there's no sad face to find here, all you can see are big smiles around. They leave the stage for a short time at the end of the set and return one more time to play Julius' first hit song from 1964, 'Jaguar Nana'. When we go outside we almost the expect to be greeted by the African sun and have a cold beer outside. Instead it's dark, cold and wet, so better go home quickly and play some more African music.

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New Sounds: Hiss Golden Messenger - Southern Grammar

Remember Hiss Golden Messenger? If not, go look for his last album Lateness Of Dancers, a wonderful Americana record that didn't get the attention it deserved last year. To prove that this was no lucky shot, there's now a new EP Southern Grammar, out on February 3, which is just as gorgeous. Listen to it below.

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Monday 26 January 2015

On Stage: Afterpartees

Young guns Afterpartees from the South of The Netherlands managed to cause a bit of a stir last year with their energetic performances, catchy rock songs and their no nonsense attitude. I experienced this myself at the Best Kept Secret festival. Now they have finished their first album Glitter Lizard and are going 'round the clubs to present it to the world.

Afterpartees at Bitterzoet Amsterdam, January 24 2015

When we arrive at the venue, the band are already on stage and have eagerly started their set. It is typical for this band, that are playing with so much fun and go at it totally open-minded. Singer Niek Nellen tells us he was sick earlier this week and this has affected his voice. This is obvious and sometimes you wonder if he may lose it completely tonight. But it doesn't get him or the rest of the band down. On the contrary, it only makes them more determined to get this somewhat tame crowd going.

Their album has really great rock songs on it, but the production is a bit too slick to my liking. It loses the energy of their live performances, which doesn't make the record a representation of what they are capable of. This doesn't mean the record is bad, since it isn't. It's actually a lot of fun but live it all just comes together better. Full of swagger Nellen is chatting with the crowd, trying to fire them up while his band mates are enthusiastically handling their instrument.

With songs like 'Red Bull' and 'Girls Like You' the band show they know how to write seductive rock songs with lots of hit potential. And the young rockers show they can treat existing songs with the same approach by playing a great version of Taylor Swift's 'Shake It Off'. A smoking version of Iron Maiden's 'Fear Of The Dark' proves these guys can play! If you're in for some rock 'n roll and a fun night, then Afterpartees is your next favourite band.

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Friday 23 January 2015

On Stage: Cymbals Eat Guitars

On their latest album Lose, Cymbals Eat Guitars came up with more focused songs that are more easy to get into. Their older songs did sometimes have more adventure but could also lack direction. The new album also is their most personal one, with emotional songs that both sound dramatic and powerful. Time to go see them play.

Cymbals Eat Guitars at Bitterzoet Amsterdam, January 20 2015

The cosy Bitterzoet venue has filled up nicely, because it is a free concert for the Paradiso "indiestadpas" holders (like myself), a pass that allows you to see over 50 selected indie concerts for under thirty euros. This is good news for the band, although it also makes this a restless crowd with lots of chatting, something that seems to be inevitable nowadays.

It may be difficult for some to get into the music of the foursome or to fully appreciate and grasp it. But the band proves they can play a tight set that is interesting enough to entertain a crowd for more than an hour. Especially the songs of the new album, which is the largest part of their set list, are convincing and singer Joe D'Agostino is performing them with lots of heart. He gives the songs the right amount of emotion and credibility that the personal songs need.

The small stage of Bitterzoet makes him the one in the spot light and from my perspective the other members are either hidden or in the dark. It is typical though for this band, where D'Agostino is the driving force. His way of singing, where he uses quite a bit of air and sometimes he's screaming his lyrics, may put off some people, but is what actually adds drama and power to the songs.

'XR' and 'Jackson' sound even better this way and prove to be their best songs. The new songs sometimes even have sing along verses and you can imagine that they will work great in larger venues and on festivals. But the contrast with the somewhat unfocused older material can be quite big though. The band comes back for an encore at the end of their one hour set and D'Agostino closes in style all by himself with a wonderful version of 'Child Bride'. Too bad some people around me are too busy catching up with their friends or checking their Facebook account.

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Wednesday 21 January 2015

New Sounds: Ty Segall - Live In San Francisco

It's no secret Ty Segall likes to keep himself busy. After his wonderful album Manipulator last year, he's already come up with Mr. Face and now his live album is about to drop. Listening to him play live is not a bad thing at all either. No doubt a few more of Segall's incarnations will release new music this year. Until then listen to Live In San Francisco:

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