Sunday 27 November 2016

On Stage: Michael Kiwanuka @ Paradiso

Ever since hearing 'Home Again' I've been a fan of Michael Kiwanuka's music. Especially after seeing him live I am completely sold and have seen him play several times. Last time he show cased a few new songs of his second album that was due to come out. That new record Love & Hate has been out now for a while and shows him successfully exploring new grounds. Time to go check him out again.

Michael Kiwanuka at Paradiso Amsterdam, November 25 2016

The first album Home Again was an excellent soul album, full of beautiful emotional songs. On Love & Hate however Kiwanuka broadens his horizon with psychedelic, folk and americana influences. And so the concert begins with an almost Pink Floyd like intro by his keyboard player while the rest of the band joins him after a few minutes for 'Cold Little Heart', the lead off track of the latest record.

Kiwanuka knows how to create an intimate atmosphere, with his wonderful warm voice and music, but also his modest appearance. No big fuzz about this gentleman, simply a man and his guitar. And an amazing band of course, because let's not forget about the amazing musicians around him. They know exactly when to hold back or add a bit more swing, or occasionally play explosive accents. It must be comfortable for Kiwanauka to be able to rely on a band like this.

The quality and the diversity of the new songs are apparent in the setlist as well. All songs of the new album are lined up tonight, with a few older ones scattered in between. Some of them get a slightly different arrangement, adding some solo's or stretching them for a bit. The first encore ends with a lovely version of 'Love & Hate', where at the end the musicians leave the stage one by one while loud cheers sound, leaving the keyboard player as the last one like at the beginning. But it's not over yet. The band returns and plays a gorgeous version of Prince's 'Sometimes It Snows In April' as an ultimate tribute to the Purple One. A touching end to another wonderful evening with Kiwanuka and his band.

All Pictures

Official Website | SoundCloud | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Spotify

Setlist: 01. Cold Little Heart
02. One More Night
03. Tell Me a Tale
04. Falling
05. Black Man in a White World
06. I’ll Never Love
07. Always Waiting
08. I’m Getting Ready
09. Rule the World
10. The Final Frame
11. Father's Child
12. Home Again
13. Bones
14. Love & Hate
Encore 2:
15. Sometimes it Snows in April

Read more!

Thursday 24 November 2016

On Stage: Girl Band @ Bitterzoet

At the Into The Great Wide Open festival in 2015 I saw an Irish band play an intense blend of punk and techno. It was an intriguing and impressive performance that asked for more. Unfortunately Girl Band cancelled their European tour later that year but have now returned.

Girl Band at Bitterzoet at November 22 2016

The band opens the night with the Blawan cover of 'Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage', that was hitting me hard over a year ago. It's an impressive opener to another intense show by the Irish quartet. Singer Dara Kiely draws all attention with his screaming vocals and his passionate performance while the rest of the band is playing the wild and energetic music.

And boy, this band is tight! The songs are sometimes short songs, like the mad techno track 'The Last Riddler', that are right in your face. At other times the violent beats are full of twists and can come to a sudden stop. Or they simply are going into every direction like 'Fucking Butter' with that sliding bass line. The band is playing all of them with great ease and very convincingly. Their sound is quite unique and the crowd doesn't know when to dance or when to go completely mental.

It's the kind of music that is dark and can make you a bit uneasy, but at the same time is very hard to resist. It's music full of creativity and energy that is at its best live on a stage. It bags plenty of edge and is rough around the edges and with the techno and dance influences added to the mix the band have found a great combination and there's nothing quite like it. Drummer Adam Faulkner knows how to come up with interesting grooves by using odd time signatures now and then or adding sounds to his drum kit in a clever way. The drum beats are kind of central to the songs and define the music. In the end it's a band you really have to experience preferably live. I'm looking forward to hearing and seeing more from these guys.

All Pictures

Official Website | SoundCloud | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Spotify

Read more!

Friday 18 November 2016

Spinning: Preoccupations - Preoccupations

Canadian band Viet Cong left quite an impression with their dark music on the first record. By spending many hours on stage they are able to play their music live convincingly as well. Until their controversial name was causing a lot of resistance and they were forced to re-brand to Preoccupations. Maybe it was quite naive to choose that initial name in the first place, but it feels like starting over again.

Fortunately that's not the case on the first album with the new name, that comes without a title like their debut, and where all song titles are only one word. It is clear right from opening track 'Anxiety' that the band is still mostly dark and their music a mix of new wave and post-rock with the thundering voice of Matt Flegel, who is chanting his lyrics monotonously. He can rely on a very strong rhythm section who are putting down repeating riffs and grooves in an impressive way, that give the music a threatening and sometimes industrial face. For example 'Zodiac' starts off stormy with drums that like a pile driver hammer the foundation in place.

But this time there are also lighter moments, like on 'Degraded', a new wave song with a nice intro and bass line. Two very short songs go back to back, 'Sense' and 'Forbidden', that are paving the way for the anxious 'Stimulation', a haunting song that keeps repeating the sombre line "there’s nothing you can do ‘cause we’re all dead inside, all gonna die". The amazing 'Fever' closes the album, where you can hear heavy Kraftwerk-like synthesizers and that could easily be used as a soundtrack. The band knows how to use these synthesizer layers in a very effective way in their music.

The more than eleven minutes long 'Memory' summarizes the record at best. After an ominous intro and a dark first half the vibe changes halfway, where the higher vocals of Wolf Parade's Dan Broeckner bring alleviation. Here you can hear the recurring elements again, that demonstrate the power of repetition very well. After two thirds of the song the feedback of guitars are used for a long and oppressive outro. It is typical for Preoccupations and it only asks for more.

Listen to Preoccupations on Spotify:

Official Website | Twitter | Facebook | Spotify

Read more!

Friday 11 November 2016

On Stage: Red Hot Chili Peppers @ Ziggo Dome

It's been a while since I've seen the Red Hot Chili Peppers in a headline show. The last time I saw them, the band played a disappointing and uninspired concert in Nijmegen back in 2007, while touring with the also disappointing Stadium Arcadium album. The following albums were also not that great and I kind of lost interest in the band. I did see them a few times on festivals which did spark the old flame somewhat. Until I watched a few of their festival shows last summer online and saw traces of the Peppers that once stole my heart.

Red Hot Chili Peppers at Ziggo Dome Amsterdam, November 9 2016

The new album The Getaway can't compete with their older albums. To be honest uptil Stadium Arcadium they always delivered except for One Hot Minute. Then their sound changed into more mellow and pop, and the raw edge and funk had disappeared. On The Getaway, although still not great, at least some of the funk has returned here and there but more importantly the band is looking good live on stage. Before they come up, support band Deerhoof take the stage. The experimental rock band has great ideas but it's hard to get into. This is not a band to see in a large venue like this. Also Satomi Matsuzaki's vocals aren't great, which becomes painfully clear in the Def Leppard cover 'Put Some Sugar'. Her singing style with the shrill voice will put many people off to begin with anyway.

Three of the Peppers show up and gather around Chad Smith's green drum kit for a jam. When singer Anthony Kiedis shows up, they kick off with 'Around The World'. That's not a bad start of the show at all. After a few of their hit songs they play the best song of The Getaway, the lead-off single 'Dark Necessities', that sound even better live with the pumping bass. The other three songs of the new record get a lukewarm response which is understandable when you hear them in a hit loaded setlist like tonight.

Bassist Flea as always is all over the place jumping and making funny faces while at the same time playing his signature bass lines. Chad Smith is playing his killer grooves tightly and powerful in his relaxed style, tossing drum sticks into the crowd by the dozen. Josh Klinghoffer seems to be in his own universe at the right side of the stage, shredding his guitar, but sometimes he will join the rest around the drum kit. No matter how good a guitar player he is, he just can't make me forget about the one of a kind John Frusciante.

Anthony Kiedis who is known to sing out of tune regularly is singing surprisingly well tonight and is moving from the center of the stage to either side as a connection for the band. Two additional musicians on keyboard and percussion join the band at the back now and then, but especially when the four Peppers all get close to each other you can hear what still makes this band so good. At times like this they make you forget about the big stage, hall and incredible light show and turn into this exciting band that impressed everyone over 30 years ago. And by the looks of it, these guys are still enjoying playing together.

The light show tonight is incredible, with a ceiling full of tube lights that all can be adjusted individually, both in lighting and vertical position. This way it can form dazzling patterns and sometimes even an arch of light. Together with the huge screens on stage there's plenty to see. In between the songs there are small jams of course, where the band is goofing around. 'Magic Johnson', from the classic Mother's Milk, springs from a little chat about Flea's newest tattoo. The band doesn't seem to have the song about the legendary LA Lakers team from the eighties prepared and in the end Kiedis is surprised they actually are able to play it although he is not joining on vocals to sing the lightning fast lyrics.

For the encore Klinghoffer leads off all by himself to sing the Leonard Cohen song 'Anthem', which is even more appropriate now Cohen has passed away, something Klinghoffer couldn't have been aware of. A snippet of Black Sabbath's 'War Pigs' follows where the band is looking a bit lost in one of their jams and Kiedis is walking off and on stage a couple of times. We go way back with 'Mommy, Where's Daddy?' from their first album in 1984 where they were a couple of goof balls that played exciting new rock music that impressed George Clinton a lot and close the night with a rocking and convincing 'Give It Away'. Nowadays the Red Hot Chili Peppers have grown older and more subdued. You could say the Red Hot Chili Peppers are less spicy now than they used to but still can cook up a delicious live show.

All Pictures

Official Website | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Spotify

01. Intro Jam
02. Around the World
03. Dani California
04. Scar Tissue
05. Dark Necessities
06. Hey
07. Me & My Friends
08. Go Robot
09. Californication
10. Sick Love
11. Sir Psycho Sexy
12. They're Red Hot
13. Ethiopia
14. Magic Johnson
15. Suck My Kiss
16. Under the Bridge
17. By the Way
18. Anthem
19. War Pigs
20. Goodbye Angels
21. Mommy, Where's Daddy?
22. Give It Away

Read more!

Monday 7 November 2016

On Stage: traumahelikopter @ Paradiso

Dutch band traumahelikopter started out as three rascals playing garage and punk rock music stripped down to the bare basics. With two guitars and a minimal drum set they took the Dutch underground scene by storm and literally tore down the roof. Their second album showed a band evolving into maturity and now they are back with a third one Competition Stripe, showing even more progression.

traumahelikopter at Paradiso Amsterdam, November 5 2016

We arrive at the small hall of Paradiso to find the band on stage sound checking while some fans of Emil Landman are still around the merch table at the back after his gig. By the time the three young men take the stage, it hasn't really filled up a lot and this crowd will never grow beyond around 50 people tonight. It's something the band is used to and the fate of a band in our country that chooses not to commercialize their music. It makes sense they are looking across the borders to find a bigger audience for their music.

traumehelikopter are a group that is one of the only few remaining real things in a world that is becoming more fake every day. Fake boobs, fake food, fake products, fake politicians, fake TV, fake movies and fake music. We hardly notice it any more. But these guys are the real deal, a no nonsense rock band. Two guitars and half of a drum kit make up their sound that in the beginning was pure garage rock, rough and in your face. Now some of their melodies have grown more mellow but gained a lot of depth. The rascals have grown up and have gotten more serious about things and this reflects in their music.

This doesn't mean that there's a group on stage now that have forgotten how to have fun. On the contrary, they are still the in-your-face-band that will go full force at any show, no matter how many people show up. The up tempo songs still give their performance plenty of energy to fuel the crowd, and the more mellow songs balance things out. It fires up some of the guys at the front of the stage to start a pit and dance wildly. It is obvious this band has grown and live they sound tight but at the same time loose enough to pack plenty of edge.

Like always the three work very hard and play their music with a lot of heart. Both singer Mark Lada and guitar player Daan van Dalen jump off stage at some point to fire everyone up a bit more, while drummer Roel van Merlot pounds away tirelessly, standing behind the kit with his legs wide apart. This is music that needs to be soaked in at its best in a dark underground hole, where sweat and beer drips from the ceiling while people are going mental. Not exactly the style of the small hall of Paradiso, but it will do just fine. A genuine band playing honest rock music in an increasingly fake world. I hope we can keep them around for many years to come.

All Pictures

Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Spotify

Read more!

Friday 4 November 2016

On Stage: Warhaus @ Bitterzoet

At the Into The Great Wide Open Festival in September, Balthazar members performed with the different solo projects they started. It was interesting to see and hear how the separate projects were kind of a dissection of Balthazar's sound. Maarten Devoldere started Warhaus, a project he had been working on for years, recording songs at home and on the road. Now his main band is going on hiatus the time is right to release an album and hit the clubs.

Warhaus at Bitterzoet Amsterdam, November 2 2016

That album We Fucked A Flame Into Being came out a few weeks ago and its style is dark and sultry. At Into The Great Wide Open we already saw how good this is live on stage too, but there his girl friend Soldier's Heart Sylvie Kreusch was missing. But this time fortunately Kreusch, who sings the backing vocals on most of the songs, is joining them on stage. With her "femme fatale" appearance and sensual dancing she makes the songs even more sexy and hot and her vocals are vital for the songs.

The setting is perfect for the mostly slow songs that at the same time have a summer's night vibe to it, when you feel it's cooling down, but the heat is not gone. Bitterzoet is a dark club tonight and with this music it takes you back to a fifties jazz club, except the smoke is missing. Devoldere proves to be a very creative musician, the way the songs build up, layer by layer, skilfully backed up by Faces On TV's Jasper Maekelberg on guitar and Balthazar drummer Michiel Balcaen. He's using loops as foundation of some songs, and throws in a few blows on a trumpet now and then. It gives the songs a kind of lovely awkward feel and causes them to crawl under your skin.

When he's singing his low and relaxed voice give the songs a dark edge, in the same way Nick Cave can do this. It's just too bad some people really can't keep their mouth shut and have to keep on chatting, something that already goes by the name of "the Dutch disease". It's very annoying for everyone and disrespectful to the musicians. Fortunately Warhaus doesn't pay any attention to it and keeps the mood and atmosphere of their music alive. I'm looking forward to more music from this talented bunch of people.

All Pictures

Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Spotify

Read more!

Wednesday 2 November 2016

On Stage: Daniel Norgren @ Paradiso

Ever since seeing Daniel Norgren play at the Into The Great Wide Open festival a few years back, I've been hooked on his music. The atmospheric and genuine music played from the heart, patiently crafted from lush songs, is simply irresistible. So every chance I get to see him play, I try to grab on to.

Daniel Norgren at Paradiso Amsterdam, October 31 2016

He's playing in the same setup I saw him play a few months ago at the Amsterdam Woods festival, accompanied by drummer Tim Grundtman and bass player Anders Grahn. Seated behind the piano he opens quietly with 'Putting My Tomorrows Behind'. A few more songs follow on piano and the quiet start totally fits Norgren's music and personality. The friendly and modest musician never uses big gestures or a lot of fireworks. He doesn't need it and lets his music speak for itself. Even nowadays when apparently it's hard for people to be quiet during a concert, the big hall of Paradiso goes totally quiet as if everyone's holding their breath.

Now and then the trio picks it up a bit and Norgren shows how a versatile musician he is, playing several instruments and even going into a bluesy jam in 'Moonshine Got Me', shredding his guitar. Every record he makes, his music seems to get better and better. Tonight he focuses mostly on his last three and most successful records. The last two Alabursy and The Green Stone both came out in 2015, proving he is not lacking any ideas for new songs. Of course it's quality over quantity but in this case both albums are full of wonderful music.

As the show progresses the audience is getting more impressed with every song. The cheers and applause get bigger and bigger and Norgren and his band mates look genuinely surprised and pleased with the response. After 'Whatever Turns You On' they leave the stage but of course this crowd won't let them go that easily. They return for two more songs and close the show with 'Everlasting Friend', a wonderful and melancholic song that takes everyone's breath away. At the beginning a few people are still talking but are hushed to stay quiet. By the end of it the whole of Paradiso is stunned by the gorgeous music. When the last note of the song dies out, a big roar rises. It's a fitting end to an amazing and unforgettable Monday night.

All Pictures

Official Website | Facebook | MySpace | YouTube | Spotify

01. Putting My Tomorrows Behind
02. People Are Good
03. I Waited for You
04. Though It Aches
05. Black Vultures
06. Moonshine Got Me
07. I'm a Welder
08. The Fox Chase
09. Everything You Know Melts Away Like Snow
10. Howling Around My Happy Home
11. Why May I Not Go Out And Climb The Trees?
12. My Rock Is Crumbling
13. Are We Running Out of Love?
14. Whatever Turns You On
15. Stuck in the Bones
16. Everlasting Friend

Read more!

Tuesday 1 November 2016

On Stage: Taxiwars @ Bitterzoet

A year ago Taxiwars introduced themselves to the world. The quartet with well-known dEUS frontman Tom Barman successfully released their self-titled debut record and played a string of exciting club shows. Now they are back with a new record, Fever, and more of that freaky jazz.

Taxiwars at Bitterzoet, October 30 2016

It's easy to think that Tom Barman is the name that draws most people to see this band, which is probably right, but at the same time is selling the others short. This band is so much more than the famous singer. When the audience is clapping enthusiastically after an instrumental piece, Barman returns to the stage and is joking "don't overdo it, this was without me". It actually proves how proud he is to work with these great musicians, which is obvious when he is watching them play solos from the side of the stage, now and then shouting with excitement. And who wouldn't if you get to see this band play every night? The freaky and groovy jazz pieces are full of twists and turns, partly improvised and the musicians are constantly challenging each other.

The new songs are in line of the older ones, which means they breath the same restlessness and are just as pungent. Saxophone player Robin Verheyen is using the whole spectrum of his saxophone in sometimes wild solos, not always trying to fire off as many notes as possible, but instead trying to grasp the essence and atmosphere of the compositions. The rhythm section, bass player Nicolas Thys and drum player Antoine Pierre, keeps the beat going, making sure the groove doesn't stop. They provide the basis for Barman's lyrics, that spice up the songs and give them even more edge. Sometimes his words are combining into something of a rap, blending in with the groove completely.

The band doesn't let any boundaries restrict them, but instead stretch them as far as possible. That's why it isn't only attracting your typical jazz audience, but also appeals to many others, including dEUS fans. Contrary to the last time at this same venue when people were pretty noisy, they are now completely into the performance and in the quiet parts everyone is listening closely, not a sound to be heard. After an hour the band shortly leaves the stage while the crowd keeps roaring until they come back for an encore. Then it's really over and 75 minutes feels a bit short to me. I guess this simply never can get too much.

All Pictures

Official Website | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Spotify

Read more!