Live Review Archive | 2011

Live Review Archive | 2011

Live Reviews | 2011

Americana10, CUC, Liverpool, 12 November 2011

With a scheduled eight hours of music over two rooms plus an acoustic stage curated by the venue, American10 was more of a mini festival than an all dayer or gig. All aspects of the UK Americana scene was covered from the folky City Shanty Band and Ratty Little Fingers;to the singer song writers Jason McNiff and Quiet Loner (with his unlikely to ever be repeated and specially commissioned rendition of Boston’s ‘More Then A…
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Bob Dylan support from Mark Knopfler, Hammersmith Apollo, 21st November 2011

A return visit after the previous night's triumphant gig, and already at 7PM the stalls were significantly more packed than they had been the night before. Having scouted around a little bit, and knowing where Dylan would be, I settled in at a spot which should offer a reasonable view of the stage and Dylan.
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ahab, Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 17 Nov 2011

“We want people to come away saying ahab and not Bellowhead. We want them to say 'how have we not heard of them?' We mean to steal the show!” Seebs Llewellyn - ahab Steal the show? From Bellowhead? That will the same Bellowhead who have won Best Live Act at the BBC folk awards five times, best group twice and, unsurprisingly, are nominated in both categories again for 2012? Not too much of an ask…
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Johnny Daukes, the Bowery, London, 16 November 2011

Generally there are three ways of getting to review a gig: a PR company contacts you and says “hey! Come down and review my band” or, you hear a band you like, you search out the PR company and say “hey! I’d love to review your band” or you’ve no intention of reviewing but what you’ve just seen and heard is so good you are just compelled to write about it. Very rarely (and by…
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Bob Dylan and his band, support from Mark Knopfler, Hammersmith Apollo, 20th October 2011

This is a bit of a homecoming, for Bob and for me. For Bob it represents a return to playing reasonable sized venues in London (last time through was at The Dome - an insane venue for seeing Bob Dylan) and for me, well Hammersmith Odeon early '90s was the point where Bob and I parted company for gigs - the sound had been awful, and Bob and his band didn't seem to be playing…
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June Tabor & The Oysterband, The Stables, Wavendon, 16th November 2011

Twenty years on from their ground-breaking album 'Freedom and Rain', and prompted by a mini-reunion at The Roundhouse as part of the fRoots 30th anniversary celebration, June Tabor and the Oysterband got back together again this year to record the follow up - 'Ragged Kingdom'. An album so fine it is, if anything, better than their first outing - so much for "difficult second album" syndrome.
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Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, The Clyde Auditorium , Glasgow, November 20, 2011

It will come as no surprise to anyone that this was a brilliant and mesmerising gig from start to finish, an evening to savour. I'm sure I read an interview where she said that Gillian Welch was the brand so that's why her name is on the CDs, the tickets, the merchandise, in lights, so to speak. But, if this doesn't sound daft, this is a one-name duo – the marvellous Dave Rawlings is equal…
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Wilco, The Roundhouse, London, 28th October 2011

For such a popular band, Wilco can be strangely divisive. At times so much so that the tag “The American Radiohead” seems almost appropriate in some ways, even while being lazy and wide of the mark in others. Both bands started their lives with straight-ahead, concise variations on alternative rock – Wilco’s being born of far rootsier climes – before straying into more experimental and challenging territory. And while many will yearn for the days…
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Ralph McTell, The Stables, Wavendon, 3rd November 2011

It's a long time since I've seen Ralph McTell live, but several of my earliest gig experiences were Ralph McTell concerts. I haven't see him live for more than twenty years, don't know why really, certainly not deliberate avoidance on my part. Of course he's known for "that song" and there's no doubt it'll appear at some point in the evening (he used to dispatch it pretty early on in the first set just to…
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Roger McGuinn, The Stables, Wavendon, 7th November 2011

I wouldn't say I was a Byrds obsessive, but they've certainly been a big presence in my life - Byrd Nut seems fairer. So an opportunity to see Roger McGuinn is not to be missed. He tours solo these days, last time I saw him he had an opening support act and then did a 90 minute gig spinning tales about the songs and singing the many hits. So, you think you know what to…
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Steve Earle and The Dukes and The Duchesses, 02 Academy, Glasgow, October 27, 2011

For someone whose powerful and sometimes provocative/political lyrics scrupulously underpin his whole repertoire, plus his entry into the world of novel writing and acting, it was puzzling that Steve Earle’s vocals were sometimes hampered and, at least once, totally lost by what seemed to be (I’m no expert, I add) a dodgy mic. Maybe it was something to do with beard interference.
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Wilco, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, October 24, 2011

Wilco “in bulk” is what a smiling Jeff Tweedy said, explaining there would be little or no chat but as many tracks as possible. And, by heavens, he was true to his word – a 22-strong song set list performed with bravado and glee over two stirring hours. Wilco were truly on fire offering up a joyous mixture of wailing wig outs and dreamy, heartfelt mellowness. The band clearly enjoyed the first leg gig of…
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Alejandro Escovedo, Glasgow Americana Festival, The Arches, Glasgow October 9, 2011

He mentioned modern-day communication wonders such as Skype and Facebook in his first ten minutes on stage but, clearly, Escovedo’s musical roots spring from the more traditional and emotional platforms of his upbringing and various experiences as a musician, not with Santana, however, unlike a couple of his brothers. On the other hand, they never sang with Springsteen though it’s hard to imagine the immaculate Escovedo ever trying to score any cheap points.
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David Crosby & Graham Nash, Royal Albert Hall, London, 8th October 2011

The tour T-shirt is the cover of "Another Stoney Evening" and that seems highly appropriate for this gig. Not that there's any sign of chemical enhancement in the duo, but more that this is a ramble through some of the obscure, or at the least the less visited, corners of their collective back catalogue. The big CSN hits are there, of course, but in many ways this is a very different set list from recent…
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Israel Nash Gripka, Glasgow Americana Festival, Stereo, Glasgow, October 7, 2011

A friendly word of warning to any bigger name bands who may be tempted to ask Israel Nash Gripka and his rockingly solid band to provide a support slot: don’t. Likelihood is that Gripka and his mates would steal the show, which is fine when you’re top of the bill, like here at the excellent Glasgow Americana Festival, but not so welcome if the stars have yet to set foot on stage.
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Richmond Fontaine, Stereo, Glasgow, September 22, 2011

Gleefully and mercilessly intent on setting song moods to manic mode in many cases, Richmond Fontaine retain an endearing ability to be rockers, hushed raconteurs and (thanks to the depth and creativity of frontman/novelist Willy Vlautin’s lyrics) first-class Americana roots exponents. They are also a group of musicians definitely having fun in a live setting. It’s a beguiling mix many would be advised to follow. They are glad we’ve turned up, and so are we.
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John Grant & Midlake, Royal Festival Hall, London, 7th September 2011

John Grant has been caught up in a simple twist of fate. It's a well-known story now - a couple of years back he was on the verge of giving up on music and getting a full time translating job. The Czars had split, nothing much was working out, and then Midlake pretty much insisted he make an album at their studio, with them as a backing band. And suddenly the album "Queen of Denmark"…
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David Olney and Sergio Webb, Laurie’s Acoustic Music Bar, Glasgow, September 16

The quotes on the flyer stated that David Olney is “a blues-darkened singer –songwriter with a method actor’s imagination” who delivers a show “packed with incident, amusement, contrast and fine, fine songsmithery.” No argument from me there. In truth, there’s not enough space in this review to capture fully the brilliance, fun, depth, vibrancy and magic of a gig that lasted over two hours. Another two would have had us equally entranced, I’m sure. With…
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Steve Cropper and The Animals & Friends, The Stables, Wavendon, 13th September 2011

Third time lucky for catching Steve Cropper on this tour - I'd missed the Borderline gig as I'd flown in from Bergen early the morning before and didn't feel up to it, had hoped to get over to St Albans, but just hadn't got my act together, and so was catching the last of the reasonably "local" gigs. But before I pat myself on the back too hard for my dedication it's worth noting that…
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Scoundrels, Mother Live, London, 01 Sep 11

It wasn’t easy to tell if the reason for Shoreditch’s Mother Live being absolutely rammed was because of Scoundrels headlining, or because it was free in and free beer. The romantic would say the former, the cynic the latter and the truth is more than likely somewhere in between. The thirty or forty people who swiftly moved to the front as soon as Cinemawave had finished were there for Scoundrels and probably saw the clubs…
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Kurt Vile and The Violators, Stereo, Glasgow, September 6th

Collectively they certainly create a mighty scuzzstorm but, with apologies to The Violators, the music was at its most potent when Kurt played solo with acoustic guitar. The full blast of the band had its moments although some of the outros hung on in there a bit too long. It was also great to see a drummer play with his hands and no sticks to create a Crazy Horse-type percussion feel on some tracks, with…
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The Jayhawks, Academy 2, Manchester, 4th August 2011

It’s been many years since the Jayhawks played Manchester with Mark Olson as part of the line-up, but few would have imagined back then that the band would sell out to an audience of a thousand in one of the most rammed gigs I’ve been to in the many years of seeing music in the Academy 2.
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Will Miles, The Lexington, London, 22nd July 2011

There are plenty of bands who are basically ‘rock’ but with the addition of an acoustic guitar, or a fiddle, or a mandolin can reach out into the realms of folk or country or blues. All need something to set them apart from the rest; to get them noticed. Will Miles is no different but rather than relying on a gimmick, or a flashy guitarist or a cover version of a pop artists song he…
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Nathaniel Rateliff , Taylor John’s House, Coventry, 30th July

Thanks to the largesse of Rich and Sarah at Coventry’s Taylor John’s House (no it’s not really someone’s house – that’s just the name) americanaUK was invited to attend the midlands leg of the current UK and European tour. Full of wide eyed anticipation americanaUK pitched up early in order to catch a few words with the softly spoken but ridiculously talented American and to sample a pre-gig snifter of gin (a good mood setter…
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The Dirty Beggars, The Betsy Trotwood, London, 13th July 2011

The current Dirty Beggars set is not so much a gig of two halves, more a gig of two parts. First you have the influences; the "sounds like"; the covers. Unsurprisingly for a band in their early twenties the catalogue of Old Crow Medicine Show gets a good airing. ‘Raise A Ruckus’ opened their show, ‘Tell It To Me’ came mid set and, joined by all the members of support band The Ely Plains, ‘Wagon…
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Richard Thompson, The Stables, Wavendon, 13th July 2011

A rare opportunity to see the great Richard Thompson in an intimate setting - on the second of two music charity fundraising nights. Taking the stage alone, and kicking off proceedings with 'Bathsheba Smiles' he immediately took control of the room - not that that was ever going to be a great challenge. Sticking to the acoustic throughout for a series of moving performances - some songs, naturally, off the recent Dream Attic album. Devoid…
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Canadian Blast, The Barbican, London. 2nd July 2011

A celebration of contemporary Canadian music, and not a Wainwright in sight. This concert at The Barbican was the culmination of two days of music - Canada Day itself had seen a free concert in Trafalgar Square, and The Barbican had run more than five hours of Free Stage before the Canadian Blast gig itself.
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The Zac Brown Band, Hyde Park, London, 23 June 2011

I do feel that the music played just before a band hits the stage should, in some way, reflect the music they are about to play. If it did, the Zac Brown Band would be a dub-reggae act rather than a country band which rocks a fair bit harder than their albums would suggest.
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The Chapin Sisters, Stereo, Glasgow, June 11, 2011

Just before heading off to hear this gig by The Chapin Sisters, of whom I had heard little or nothing, I had been reading a review of a Kate and Anna McGarrigle CD and the writer mentioned the musical talents unique to siblings and I impishly thought of the likes of The Osmonds, The Nolans, The Bee Gees, the (Oasis) Gallagher brothers. Maybe The Felice Brothers, The Allman Brothers and the North Missippi Allstars’ Dickinson…
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Phosphorescent, Heaven, London 7th June 2011

The last time I saw Phosphorescent was 2010’s End of the Road festival where, in a line up that included Iron & Wine, Wilco, Yo La Tengo, Felice Brothers and The Low Anthem they were the highlight of the weekend. A friend even offered a small wager that no one would top them and, despite such things being purely subjective, no one took him up on his offer.
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Phosphorescent, Stereo, Glasgow, June 3, 2011

Matthew Houck’s hero is Willie Nelson – he even cut a tribute CD to him – so the feeling from this sparkling gig was that we hope he wins even a portion of the bandana-wearers huge fame. No-one would begrudge Phosphorescent time in the spotlight, in fact it’s overdue.
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Jim Dead and the Doubters, Craig Hughes, The Colts. 13th Note, Glasgow. Thursday 2nd June 2011.

Jim Dead comes from Deadsville. An imagined place, more in the mind than on the map. Occasional visitors to this shadowland include Jim White, Hank Williams, Jason Molina, The Drive By Truckers and even Neil Young. Here the music is slow and thick, churning like the Mississippi, rich and full bodied.
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Okkervil River / Singing Adams, Heaven, London May 16th 2011

Singing Adams are a dream of an opening act. There can’t be many bands out there whose hooks, harmonies and general enthusiasm are more suited to putting a crowd into a damn good mood. Their short set to kick off proceedings featured some real highlights from their debut Everybody Friends Now, including the wistful ‘Old Days’ a frenetic rendition of ‘I Need Your Mind’ and a sing-along to old favourite ‘St Thomas’, a kinetic end…
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The Band of Heathens, Classic Grand, Glasgow, May 21, 2011

Dark and gloomy it may have been outside but an extraordinary glow prevailed up the stairs in Glasgow’s Classic Grand the minute The Band of Heathens sauntered on stage.
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The Kenilworth Festival, May 14th-15th 2011

Well it’s not Woodstock or even Glastonbury but from small acorns do mighty oak trees grow. Fortunately Americana-UK has a correspondent embedded in this outpost of middle England and he was duly dispatched to sample the delights of what was a surprisingly Americana flavoured line up.
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Simone Felice, The Glee Club, Birmingham, 26th April 2011

Simone Felice is a voice of a damaged America. There’s a lyrical preoccupation stretching back through his songs and novels: the clouds over Birmingham take on the shapes of burning men, planes appear from nowhere to burn his city up. He unveils a new track tonight in another Birmingham: “New York Times” is a real headliner song among whose verse-by-verse news stories buildings fall to the ground.
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Dandelion Snow, Club Dissident, Peterborough, 18 Mar 2011

I reviewed Roger Harvey’s (Dandelion Snow) début album ‘The Grand Scheme Of Things’ last summer and concluded the piece with how much I really wanted to see this guy play live. With the help of Swiss label Road Sweet Road Records (for whom he recorded ‘My Love Is A Weathervane’ a split 45 with Fanny DX) Harvey was able to complete a three week European tour of which the night at Club Dissident show was…
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Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman, Hitchin Folk Club, Hitchin, 10th April 2011

A packed Hitchin Folk Club welcomed Kathryn Roberts back to the gig circuit after a few years off being a mum - Sean Lakeman has of course been kept busy in his brother's band. The erstwhile Kate Rusby collaborator, and long-time member of the poppier Equation, was very much getting back to her folk club roots, and seemed to be revelling in the freedom of the road. This led to an exuberant performance peppered with…
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Water Tower Bucket Boys, Buccleuch Centre, Langholm, Scotland, 5th March 2011

It was the first visit to Scotland for the Oregon bluegrass quartet and one both audience and performers are going to remember for a long time. So good was the music and connection made with the audience by Cory Goldman (banjo, guitar), Josh Rabie (fiddle, guitar, harp), Kenny Feinstein (mandolin, guitar, banjo, harp and fiddle) and the ear to ear smiling upright bass act Kyle McGonegle neither party wanted the night to end.
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Marty Stuart The Sage, Gateshead Saturday 29th January 2011

Nashville country music giant, Marty Stuart and his band, The Fabulous Superlatives pressed all the right buttons that ensured their North East debut was one to remember. Stuart, who is a staunch supporter of traditional country music, was one of the acts involved in the mid-1980s New Traditionalist movement and, although he did have much commercial success, his bloodlines run deeper than the direction Nashville country music followed. He could be nothing else seeing as…
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Polly And The Billets Doux, The Wheelbarrow, London, Wednesday 23rd Feb 2011

This was a gig that was going to be at the Lyttelton Arms which was changed to the Wheelbarrow, (which used to be Tommy Flynns) which is run by the folks who used to run the now closed Flowerpot (which used to be the Bullet Bar) who have moved the stage from next to the front window into the back corner. In the middle of a UK tour (Nottingham the previous night, Deal the next),…
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Richard Thompson Band, Royal Festival Hall, London, Wednesday 2nd February 2011

We've had quite a lot of Richard Thompson in the last year or so - the 1,000 years of popular music show, All Star Fairport Convention, gigging at and curating Meltdown 2010, his early music project at the back end of last year. Too much? No chance! And at last what we've all been secretly waiting for - The Richard Thompson Band, and rumour has it that it's a first set drawn from Dream Attic…
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Joe Pug, Upstairs at the Garage, Highbury London, Monday 31st Jan 2011

Sometimes when seeing an artist from across the pond for the first time you get lucky. London is the obvious place for the first gig of the tour so if you like them there is the chance to see them again. With Dana Falconberry and Matt Bauer I was unlucky as London is just as likely to be the last date of the tour as well. I consoled myself with the thought that wherever else…
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The Jeffrey Lewis and Peter Stampfel Folk Show, Glasgow, Mono, Friday 28th January 2011

Amidst all the publicity of the annual Celtic Connections festival it was easy to miss an alternative offering, a rare appearance by a legendary folk figure, Peter Stampfel, a man who, by rights has a greater claim to be celtically connected than the majority of artists who appeared in the festival. A seminal figure in the early sixties New York folk scene, mentioned in Dylan’s Chronicles, Grammy award winning author for his liner notes to…
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Justin Townes Earle, Union Chapel, London, Saturday January 29th 2011

Justin Townes Earle was supposed to have hit these shores last year but certain excesses led to an encounter with the law in Indianapolis, a sojourn in rehab and the postponing of his European tour. The altar of Union Chapel seems as good place as any to offer up your sins and Earle has no qualms when it comes to admitting his wrongdoings. The crowd hollers enthusiastically for the hard drinking part but seem less…
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Smoke Fairies, The Scala, London, Thursday 3rd February 2011

Support from female duo Sea of Bees, of whom I'd heard good things but am unable in all honesty to repeat them. Think Lavender Diamond but with far less clarity in the vocals. Next up was Lucy Rose and band - a younger non-swearing Lilly Allen. All "no douwbt" and "it's owvar" in her tales of break-up, make-up, will-we, won't we. Not my cup of Rosie Lee, guv' strewth, strike a light no.
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John Grant, Celtic Connections, St Andrews in the Square, Glasgow, Sunday January 30, 2011

Wearing your heart on your sleeve is not something new for singer-songwriters. Through performing, they share their thoughts, fears, loves, anger, despair and problems – but the ferocity with which John Grant does it is astonishing, if not downright frightening. Given the confessional-style interviews he’s given in recent months, plus the quality and content of his first solo album, “Queen of Denmark,” he is clearly a no-holds barred guy. And we should rejoice. His intense…
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Giant Sand, Celtic Connections, ABC2, Glasgow, Saturday January 15, 2011

Not until this truly fine Celtic Connections’ gig was over did I realise that it was the first time Giant Sand had appeared in the city as a band, though Howe Gelb has visited previously. A historic visit may be stretching it, but this was a night to remember nonetheless with Gelb showing us his abundant talents as a writer and musician.
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C.W.Stoneking and his Primitive Horns Orchestra, The Garage, London, Wednesday 26th January 2011

So here I am standing in a sold out Garage anticipating a night of hot New Orleans hokum jazz, down country blues and calypso and I am not surrounded by jazz heads. No, no, quite the opposite - this looks like a rock crowd, but with a heavy peppering of what I can only (rather patronisingly perhaps) refer to as "the kids". It takes an exceptional performer to make Dixieland jazz cool. Stoneking is that…
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