Sunday 30 July 2017

On Stage: U2 @ Johan Cruyff Arena

Like many people I really started getting into U2 when they released their epic album The Joshua Tree. I was a teenager and got to see them for the first time a few years later after Rattle and Hum came out. I didn't miss any tour since then, until two years ago when I decided to skip the Innocence and Experience tour. Their musical glory days are long gone and their concerts with more show and visual entertainment than music didn't really work for me. Afterwards I regretted that when I read the reviews and heard the stories. Time to make it up!

U2 at Johan Cruyff Arena, July 29 2017

Thirty years after the album, U2 have built a tour around The Joshua Tree. Not only to celebrate the album but also because the album's themes are relevant nowadays again. Back then the world was in a dark place like today, facing many challenges, and the album was about both the dark side and the spark of hope, a tree in a dead landscape. U2 wants to plant the tree again and show there is a way out of these dark times once again. When the tour was announced I was on vacation and wasn't able to get tickets because of that. I thought it wasn't a big deal, since I also don't like this big stadium with its poor sound and lack of atmosphere.

After seeing videos from the start of the tour and reading the reviews I changed my mind. Time again to call Ticketswap to the rescue and after weeks of trying I made it through. So on a rainy Saturday night in July I find myself in the big stadium, getting warmed up by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. I like his music and it's entertaining to hear them live again together with a few Oasis songs. But he's not exactly putting a lot of effort in it to win people over. Of course he has seen it all and may not need this support slot to take it to the next level.

After a while we see drummer Larry Mullen Jr. walking to the small stage in front of the big stage with the huge screen that fills the entire back of the stadium. He's still in the dark and sits down behind the drum kit that has been put up there. Mullen starts playing the famous drum groove of 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' while the rest of the band join him one by one. U2 is warming us up with a few of their most famous songs. 'New Year's Day', a wonderful version of 'Bad' including David Bowie reference. Only a few spot lights are on the band members, a rare view of this band and one we haven't seen for a long time. 'Pride (In The Name Of Love)' follows, the song about Martin Luther King, a man they always have admired. During the song the giant screen switches on and we see the words of King's famous "I have a dream" speech rolling by.

The screen colours solid red and we hear the humming sound of 'Where The Streets Have No Name's intro. The band walks onto the big stage, pauses there for a moment next to the big tree before kicking into the legendary album. An empty road shows and we're on the move. We know we're going to hear the entire album tonight, track by track in the record's track list order. Every song has a stunning visual on the big screen, most of them done by Anton Corbijn, the Dutch photographer and film director, who also made the famous picture of the record's artwork. Bono salutes him a few times during the concert as he salutes a few other people and references David Bowie a few times more. The visuals are lush, incredibly clear without taking the attention away from the music. Instead they are actually supporting it, emphasizing the themes of the songs and the album.

After the opening track and hit songs of the album 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' and 'With Or Without You', the band goes into the more grim part of the record, the vicious 'Bullet The Blue Sky', working their way up to the dark end. The songs are still timeless and the reason U2 wanted to bring them alive in 2017 is quite clear and otherwise the visuals and Bono will explain it. Because this is U2 and you know the singer will address some of the world's biggest problems and give their vision. However you notice this band is no longer a young band. Besides the fact they move a lot slower around stage, the songs also sound less fierce and lack a bit of the old fire. However together with the visuals, the strength of the songs themselves and the enthusiastic fans, the music doesn't miss its impact and the message does come across.

After the album we get treated to a long encore with some of their biggest hits of the last two decades, when their music became less urgent and successful. Nevertheless U2 proves they are still a one of a kind band that still manages to maintain a unique level of live shows that is able to move and inspire a lot of people. They proved me wrong of thinking I had seen all they had to offer and had no reason to visit their shows any more. They can count me in again the next time they visit our country and hopefully the world is seeing brighter days once again.

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01. Sunday Bloody Sunday
02. New Year's Day
03. Bad
04. Pride (In the Name of Love)
The Joshua Tree
05. Where the Streets Have No Name
06. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
07. With or Without You
08. Bullet the Blue Sky
09. Running to Stand Still
10. Red Hill Mining Town
11. In God's Country
12. Trip Through Your Wires
13. One Tree Hill
14. Exit
15. Mothers of the Disappeared
16. Miss Sarajevo(Passengers cover)
17. Beautiful Day
18. Elevation
19. Vertigo
20. Mysterious Ways
21. Ultraviolet (Light My Way)
22. One

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Monday 17 July 2017

Klikofest 2017 @ Patronaat

The annual garage rock n roll festival Klikofest has proven itself as a celebration of upcoming and established garage rock bands and is something to look forward to every summer. It is a night festival that totally suits the music and this year’s line up promises to be a killer one.

Klikofest 2017 at Patronaat Haarlem, July 15 2017

Fifty Foot Combo

One of the reasons I definitely didn't want to miss this year's edition was this Belgian surf band. I saw them a few years back on the North Sea Surf festival and they blew my mind. It's the first show of the night in the main hall and it isn't really crowded yet. The people that are here still need a bit of warming up, but you can leave that to this energetic band that have been around for quite some years. Tirelessly the group play their powerful surf rock songs with a lot of fire. Slowly the hall is filling up and their contagious performance is catching on. In the end their hard work pays off and everyone falls for this incredible combo.

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La Muerte

Another Belgian band that have been around for long are La Muerte who also recently started playing again after a long hiatus. Their mix of punk rock and Motörhead like hard rock has moved to the hard rock side more. Candles and skulls on the stage together with singer Marc Du Marais’ outfit are quite a sight. Their music is heavy and tight, but at the same time I find all that stage decoration too much of a distraction so we decide to check out the last bit of The Skidmarks’ show who play uncompromising rock n roll.

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The Gories

The festival is slowly filling up and many people have moved to the main hall to see The Gories. This band goes all the way back to the eighties and also returned about ten years back after a long hiatus. Their garage rock with blues elements sounds good on paper but it looks like the band are playing in slow motion. Drummer Peggy O’Neill looks quite uninspired behind her minimal drum setup and doesn't put a lot of variation in her drumming. At the end it gets a bit better but it's a pretty pale and disappointing performance altogether from a band that seems to have run out of fuel.

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Fortunately we can check out Amsterdam trio Bartek who are leaving quite an impression everywhere they play. For a good reason the three prove tonight, since their contagious rock music is a great mix of nineties grunge and garage rock. It sounds amazing and the band play very tight and with a lot of energy. The small third hall of the festival is exploding with their music and even a few crowd surfers ride the small waves in front of the stage.

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New Bomb Turks

The main hall has filled up for this legendary band from Ohio. I never saw them play before but their reputation has preceded them and many people don’t want to miss out on this punk rock band’s show. From the first beat on the band lives up to their reputation. Singer Eric Davidsons is bouncing around stage as one big energy bomb. He is making funny faces all the time, puts the microphone in his pants regularly, dives into the crowd and is having fun with the crowd. He's all over the stage while the rest of the band are firing off their explosive songs. Because you’d almost forget their music is top notch as well and this band is playing with a lot of power and tight. The pit in front of the stage has people in their fourties and above jumping around like teenagers, together with a people of some of the other bands. It's one big glorious and rampageous mess and one of the highlights of tonight.

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Belgian band Cocaine Piss a band on the rise and their name is buzzing around. Their punk rock music is pretty heavy and singer Aurélie Poppins' screaming vocals are powerful and sometimes hysterical. Still after a few songs the first shock has worn off and I notice the vocals make it all sound alike a lot and also get on my nerves. I can see why people may find this very impressive and interesting but it is not for me. We go to the second hall to see Swedish band Viagra Boys but their performance is definitely not working for us. It doesn't have a lot of variation and the vocals aren't great while the band doesn't play very tight. Great moment to get another beer.


I saw this band a while ago and liked their music a lot. Tonight in the main hall it sounds even better. The psychedelic rock songs are clever and tight and the band is playing very well. It's getting late and you can see it getting less crowded. Meatbodies are treating the ones that have stayed to a very convincing show. It is clear this band has grown since I've seen them and have improved on their already great sound.

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After that we decide to go home as well which means we have to miss the last few band. Night festivals are all about endurance and we have simply run out. However we leave in a very good mood after a very good edition of this wonderful festival.

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Tuesday 11 July 2017

Dijkpop Festival 2017

I've been keeping an eye on the Dijkpop festival for a few years, since this small festival keeps coming up with interesting line-ups. This year we can even stay at a friend's place, so it is the right time to set off to the small town of Andijk.

Dijkpop, July 8 2017

We couldn't have picked a better year since today promises to be a perfect festival day. The sun is out and the festival site looks great. Despite it being a festival run mostly by volunteers that grew from a local event to a larger scale, it is a professional looking site with everything you can expect from a festival these days. Time to see some music.

Jo Goes Hunting

Playing this early in the afternoon isn't the best spot for a band and not many people have shown up to see Jo Goes Hunting. That's a shame since this band is worth watching as I found out before. It doesn't get drummer/singer Jimmi Hueting and his band down at all and they make sure the few people that have joined are treated to a very good set. This band seems to get tighter every time I see them and the songs sound very convincing. It isn't always the most accessible music, but the clever songs, spiced up with samples and electronics, have plenty of dynamics and groove to do a little dancing. Too bad not enough people showed up to start a party.

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St. Tropez

Former band Go Back To The Zoo are more lucky and although the main stage is far from crowded, more people want to see this successful indie rock band who turned to garage and punk rock. Even though they have changed their musical style and name, this band is simply very good in writing good songs. The mostly short garage rock songs are always catchy and have a nice ring to it. It's very hard to stand still and the somewhat easy going and nonchalant, but at the same time energetic appearance of the band is quite addictive. It's a good way to wake people up today.

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This band is taking the stages of the low lands by storm and are playing every festival with great success. And for a good reason since their danceable voodoo blues music is irresistible. I saw them play at the Into The Great Wide Open festival a few years ago and they have come a long way since then. Singer Cato van Dijck and drummer Joost van Dijck, brother and sister, and New Zealand born guitarist Daniel Johnston found a successful formula which results in a steaming set that makes it impossible to stand still. Cato van Dijck's vocals are all about sound and the lyrics seem subordinate to the hypnotic vibe they are adding. Instead it is all about the groovy jams that keep on going for the entire show without hardly any stopping, that put you in a trance. It turns the tent into a hot dancing party and another victory for MY BABY.

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Indian Askin

Another band that is doing very well is Indian Askin. Their clever psychedelic songs with a punk edge are going down very well and they are starting to catch on with a bigger audience. The band underline their rising star with a convincing live show that is full of energy. The songs sound great live too and the band has grown into a tight group. If they keep spending miles on the road, this band can keep on growing.

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Michelle David & Gospel Sessions

Last year we saw Michelle David and her Gospel Sessions kill it at Into The Great Wide Open. And what's not to like? Her amazing voice together with a tight band is catching on with many people. We are able to watch the last bit of her show and it is obvious that the crowd here loves her as well. She has a great stage presence and is working hard to win everyone over with heartfelt soul and gospel songs. In the end it isn't hard to give in to so much passion.

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Death Alley

While the night the night has fallen, things are starting to get more wild. Hard rockers Death Alley had a bit of a wild ride of their own while replacing their bass player, but are back on the road again. Their soulful metal is hard and heavy with a softer psychedelic side and is still great to watch. Singer Douwe Truijens is always playing with a huge smile on his face and his voice goes very well with the heavy rock songs. The band plays with a lot of heart and although it doesn't draw a huge crowd to the stage, it totally works.

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The Charm The Fury

It is time to go out with a bang and the last show we're checking out is by metal band The Charm The Fury. Singer Caroline Westendorp is the charming front woman who alternates powerful vocals with even more powerful grunting. It is an inspired performance where the band is firing up the small crowd that turned up. It doesn't matter how many people are there to this band who are working up a sweat to close this stage in style.

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This festival still is a mix of a local annual town party and a music festival. It draws many people from the area that come here to socialize and have a good time and aren't necessarily here for the bands. That means it never really gets crowded at the stages, which sometimes is a shame for some bands who are playing for only a handful of people. On the other hand it is nice to be able to browse through a festival again without the huge crowds and be able to still walk to the front when a band has already started.

One of the best things here is the great atmosphere and the nice and relaxed visitors. I had a wonderful time, saw many great bands and definitely will be back next year.

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Tuesday 4 July 2017

Rock Werchter 2017 Sunday

We used to go to the Rock Werchter festival every year for quite a while. A few years ago it was time for a change of scenery and we decided to skip it, although we still love the festival. This summer Foo Fighters are in Europe for only two weeks to play a string of festivals and Rock Werchter was one of them. It was time to visit our old friend again. And Dave of course.

Rock Werchter 2017 Sunday, July 2 2017

The festival didn't have the best weather and visitors had to deal with quite a bit of rain. Today looks a lot better although when we park our car we have to sit out ten minutes of rain. Fortunately for us the weather will only improve for the rest of the day. Within no time we find ourselves exploring the festival site to see what has changed. We are ready for the first band.

Cage the Elephant

This band is guaranteed to get the party started early with their lively performances. Singer Matt Shultz is an explosive energy bomb that is bouncing around the stage. The sound in the beginning is completely out of balance and his vocals are almost impossible to hear. Because of his running around it is probably quite hard to balance his mic out anyway, since he isn't exactly always singing in it in the same way. It doesn't matter since this band is all about putting a lot of heart in their shows. Their classic rock with a punk twist may not always be tight but you can forgive them for that when you see them working up a sweat like this. If anyone wasn't fully awake yet, this sure should have done the trick.

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The Thurston Moore Group

Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon were the one of the alternative rock's scene most favourite couples and their band Sonic Youth were highly successful until the couple broke up. Sonic Youth are now on a hiatus that will most probably mean it has split up. Moore is focusing on his solo career and released a new album recently Rock N Roll Consciousness. Today he's playing the entire album after opening with new single 'Ceasefire' that is not on the album. The songs are patiently built up which is exactly what his music needs, since the songs are carefully crafted and the long songs need time to reach their full potential. The tracks are full of little twists and turns, cleverly placed and several times you think a song is over until it continues for a few minutes again. It turns this performance in a very interesting one and enough to keep you on your toes throughout.

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The Kills

Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince are taking the main stage halfway the afternoon while the skies are clearing and the sun shows itself regularly. In their familiar way the duo play their sultry rock songs together with a drummer and keyboard player added to the live line-up. Mosshart of course is a delight to watch with her sexy appearance and ultra cool stage presence, sometimes walking around like a caged tigress. Her smiling faces make her even more charming. Hince is showing his incredible guitar skills, posing at the front of the stage and using the mic stand as an extra guitar accesory. But the main stage may not be the perfect place for them as their music works best in a darker environment. Next time it would be better to schedule them on one of the two tented stages.

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Benjamin Clementine

We make our way to one of those huge tent stages that are hardly tents any more. Air conditioned and with seated stands to the side they are full scale venues. We are joining Benjamin Clementine halfway his show. His story is remarkable, spending some time in France as a homeless person. After he got his break at Later With Jools Holland he's now considered a talented musician and poet. His show is quite impressive with music that swings between classical, soulful pop and theatrical. The charismatic Clementine sometimes looks a bit lost sitting behind his piano, but that makes him more mysterious and the crowd love it. His four backing singers and band add a frame for him to create his interesting songs in. It isn't necessarily my kind of music but it's an impressive show nevertheless.

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Unfortunately we can't get in the the tent where Rag'n'Bone Man is performing so we have to miss his show. Instead we wander around a bit, have some food and drinks and make sure we get to The Barn stage early for Belgium's Soulwax. I can't get enough of this band and after seeing them three times in a year, I want to see them play their home turf. I am expecting a huge party but it takes a while for it to take off. The packed full house at the beginning, is even getting more empty halfway. But I know the two brothers are simply building up their show, teasing the crowd with climaxes that are not always coming, slowly picking up the pass, making them beg. Just over half of the show they let it rip and the three drummers are in perfect harmony, playing irresistible grooves that make everyone crazy. Now they are going for the ultimate climax and everyone that stayed in here is exploding. 'NY Excuse' is killing it and is their ultimate victory lap, turning the place into a party after all.

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Foo Fighters

The field is filling up early for Foo Fighters and we make sure we have a decent spot. It isn't extremely close to the stage, but it's good enough for a good view. The last time they played here was in 2005, when we were here as well. Because of Dave Grohl's broken leg, the band had to cancel in 2015 and Grohl explains they are here to make up for that big time. Of course you can leave that to Foo Fighters. The band plays a greatest hits set that should make everyone happy. Grohl isn't the greatest singer and his voice isn't in the best shape tonight, but of course that's not what matters a lot. He's all over the stage, running to either side and at one point makes his way all the way to the sound booth where we are close to. The rest of the band are watching him with a huge smile.

I know there are many that find this band too commercial and middle of the road and maybe they are right their music isn't the most inventive or original. But to me this is one of the best live bands around, that are simply having so much fun at it and do everything they can to show everyone a good time. It's exactly what they are doing tonight. Grohl is undeniably one of the most charismatic people in the industry. He's working the crowd like no other and is lighting the fuse to an explosive mix of rock whenever he likes. He's cooling down the crowd with little speeches throughout the set and the band will never take things for granted. To me it's like eating one of the best burgers in the world that can taste just as good as a three Michelin star meal. I like both but it is good to have variation around.

Two songs of the upcoming album are on the setlist today. The new single 'Run' that they have been playing for a few weeks now. Tonight the song 'La Di Da' that they recorded together with The Kills' Alison Mosshart. Of course she is joining in to sing it with them and from the cheerful look on her smiling face I can tell she hasn't been drinking apple juice back stage. After two and a half hours the band wraps up their show with 'Everlong' and fire works are set off at the end of it. Foo Fighters prove they are the perfect headliner to any festival, one that guaranteed will send off the visitors smiling.

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It was nice to be back at this festival that is still a great visit. Rock Werchter will always come up with a killer line-up but I don't know if I can take the four day partying combination with sleeping in a tent again. But I'm sure we will back here again, maybe for just one day. It was totally worth the 3 hour drive back home in the middle of the night, arriving home while the sun was rising again.

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