Monday 26 August 2013

Philip Chevron Testimonial at The Olympia

A week's strenuous gig going culminates in Philip Chevron's testimonial gig at The Olympia. As some of you may know, Philip has terminal cancer, and this was a benefit gig with a shed load of Irish artists appearing. Philip was a member of Irish punk legends The Radiators from Space, and when their first incarnation folded in the early 80s, he went on to complete the classic Pogues line-up. He also worked with cabaret chanteuse Agnes Burnell, among others. 
Philip is a great songwriter and has written at least half a dozen classics, e.g. : 'Song of the Faithful Departed', 'Kitty Ricketts', 'Let's Talk About The Weather', 'Under Cleary's Clock', 'Thousands Are Sailing', 'Television Screen'.

It was an emotional night, a thank you to Philip, for which we got a thank you from Philip. A gent.

Guests included: Luka Bloom, Damien Dempsey, Mary Coughlan, Paul Cleary, Paul Brady, Duke Special, Hothouse Flowers, Gavin Friday, Declan O'Rourke, Camille O'Sullivan, Shane McGowan, Horslips and The Radiators themselves.

Highlights for me were Damien Dempsey, Camille, and Declan O'Rourke's version of 'The Band Played Waltzing Matilda'. Gavin Friday should join Bad Manners.

Lonnie Liston Smith at The Sugar Club

I caught jazz legend Lonnie Liston Smith at The Sugar Club on Thursday evening, due to the kind offices of my friend Brain Mahon. Serious chops on display, though they make it look all so effortless...

Tame Impala at The Olympia

Tame Impala at The Olympia last Wednesday. No review, but none necessary. You know how great Kevin Parker and his band are....and they were.

Low at Whelan's

Review of Low at Whelan's last Tuesday night. This will turn up on soon.



Tuesday, August 21st

Desmond Traynor

Another night out in August in Dublin, another sell out show. Recession, what recession?
  Low’s current tour is heavily weighted towards promoting, or at least playing, their most recent album, the Jeff Tweedy produced The Invisible Way, and they kick off with ‘On My Own’, followed in quick succession by ‘Clarence White’, ‘Plastic Cup’ and ‘Holy Ghost’ (the later, incidentally, covered in short order by Mavis Staples, on her latest record One True Vine, also produced by the hub that is Wilco’s eclectic mainman).
  We’re five songs in before any nod is given to the back catalogue, with The Great Destroyer’s ‘Monkey’ (itself covered by Robert Plant on Band Of Joy, doubtless putting some welcome money in the Low family coffers). Then it’s back to another selection from Invisible, ‘Waiting’, followed by ‘Especially Me’, a cut from previous album, 2011’s C’mon. ‘Just Make It Stop’ adds to the thorough run through of The Invisible Way.
  As they begin to dig a bit further back, ‘California’, ‘Broadway’ and ‘Pissing’, from The Great Destroyer, are revisited, as are ‘Whore’ and ‘Sunflower’ from Things We Lost In The Fire, the raucous stomp of ‘Canada’ from their masterpiece Trust, and ‘Dragonfly’ from Drums’n’Guns.  
  If all this seems like a well-balanced set, to this long-time Low watcher, who regards the mid-period trilogy of Secret Name, Thing We Lost In The Fire and Trust as the high point of their career thus far, it can feel as though we are being short-changed. God knows how fans of their early ultra slowcore stuff are reacting, if there are still any of them about.
  In fairness, it is good to see a band continue to evolve, and retain a desire to change things up. Alan Sparhawk does seem more interested in exploring the hotter and rougher textures of his guitar sound now, in some kind of obtuse indie parody of metal. While always a tense performer, not quite comfortable in his own skin, Sparhawk appears a little more relaxed tonight than usual.
  Look, this is a good gig, and there is nothing egregious or deficient to criticise. It’s just that, in comparison with the pin-drop ineffability of certain Low shows I’ve witnessed in the past, it can feel quotidian. And there’s the rub: how do you better your own best, when your best is so damn good?
  Until next time, then?

Peter Bruntnell at Whelan's, Sunday August 18th, 2013

I pause to record attendance at Peter Bruntnell's show, Upstairs at Whelan's, a week ago, A nice vibe...

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Swans at The Button Factory


The Button Factory

Thursday, August 15th

Desmond Traynor

The venue is thronged for this Swans show, a band whose reputation, more so than most live acts, precedes them. That’s a renown for punishingly loud, confrontational sets, where pure sound noise displaces any hint of melody. My highest strength ear-defenders are in place. Of course, Swans – or rather main man Michael Gira and the current incarnation of his project, a line-up which is proving increasingly durable – have mutated over the years from their origins in the late ’70s New York No Wave scene. Although songs are still lengthy, loud, and full of reverb and sculpted feedback, they have evolved to the extent where their music could now be described as often hitting the sweet spot where Delta (or Chicago) Blues meets Thrash (or Doom) Metal. However, in the experimental avant garde noise stakes, they can still make Sonic Youth sound like One Direction.
  It can be difficult to write a traditional review of a Swans gig, as it’s often hard to discern what tune they are performing at any given time. This is because songs are apt to change a lot in the live context from the blueprint of the recorded album version. Plus, they tend to insert a plethora of unreleased material at will.
  Gira and Co. kick of with a new song which has apparently become a recent live staple, ‘To Be Kind’, which sounds like medieval monks doing Gregorian chant over fuss pedal drone. It sets the tone for the evening, which comprises variations on much stuff from 2012’s excellent The Seer album. Gira frequently functions as Conductor, a lightening rod for the band’s intensity; but at the same time, this group of musicians is very much a solid unit, playing off each other, with an almost intuitive feel for the improvisational directions any given piece can take. They are all alert to their surroundings, their attention staying focussed at every given moment to possibilities thrown out by any individual member. Gira undoubtedly looks the part, whether it’s when laying into his battered black Gibson 335, or standing guitarless in more typical frontman mode, his sweat-drenched black shirt making him resemble a mutant scion of Johnny Cash.
  They climax with The Seer’s ‘Toussaint Louverture Song’, about the 18th century Haitian revolutionary. There’s no encore, but at over two hours at this pitch, there’s hardly any need for one. It certainly ranks in the top three shows I’ve seen all year thus far. In a word: visceral.

No pics, sorry, forgot my iPhone at home.

Monday 12 August 2013

Spiritualized Performing 'Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space' at the National Concert Hall

We went to Spiritualized on Saturday evening. This review will also appear on


National Concert Hall

Saturday, August 10th

Desmond Traynor

This is not the first time your correspondent has witnessed Spiritualized doing their 1997 masterpiece Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space in its entirety. That was at The Barbican Centre in London in December 2009, as part of the Don’t Look Back strand at the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival. But I can happily report that tonight’s show at Dublin’s National Concert Hall is even better than that one. This is partly because the NCH, for all its chilly forebodedness, is a more intimate venue than the Barbican, and partly because the audience seem to get more involved, in terms of both general attentiveness and showing their appreciation.
  The setting could have proven problematic. After all, it’s not really a ‘gig’ anymore when it’s at the National Concert Hall. The seated arrangements mean you can’t dance, for a start, something that many songs on LAGWAFIS cry out for. There were also a few punters who failed to take seriously the prompt 8pm kick-off indicated on their tickets. However, LAGWAFIS, as a ‘total’ work (or what used to be known as a concept album), partakes of the thematically integrated majesty of a classical composition. Plus, the fact that the core band are joined on stage by a choir, and string and brass sections, means the appropriateness of the venue, or lack of it, slides into redundancy as a question.
  Ladies And Gentlemen may not even be Spiritualized’s best album (Pure Phase has always held a tender place in my heart), but it is the one always subjected to the Don’t Look Back treatment. The reason for its canonical status, undoubtedly, is its unified nature as the aforementioned ‘total’ work. Conceptually, its narrative describes the arc of a romance, from loneliness, infatuation and consummation to distance, breakdown, abandonment and heartbreak. Spiritualized may have better individual songs scattered here and there throughout its discography, but LAGWAFIS remains the record which acts as a summation of so much of what they do, in concentrated form. I have written elsewhere about Jason Pierce’s marvellous amalgam of various genres – principally blues, jazz, gospel, psychedelia – and all flourish on this album in unison as never quite before or since.  Even in comparison with other game-changing landmark albums of the ’90s which it is often mentioned in the same breath as – Loveless or OK Computer – it contains more of a sense of rock history, as well as looking to the future. The noise tunnels entered in ‘The Individual’ or ‘Cop Shoot Cop’, for example, certainly give My Bloody Valentine a run for their money in the avant garde noise rock stakes, ‘You Made Me Realise’ not discounted. It is, as my friend Les, a jazz buff with little previous knowledge of Spiritualized prior to that Barbican show, commented laconically afterwards, ‘very free’.
  It’s hard to isolate highlights from an experience that was all one big highlight, but the band did get through the ‘freer’ elements without missing a beat. ‘Broken Heart’ was particularly poignant, and ‘Cool Waves’ blissfully cathartic. My personal favourite track from the album, the call-and-response of the divided consciousness, ‘I Think I’m In Love’, is always a pleasure. The encore consists of ‘Out Of Sight’ from Let It Come Down, and a raucously worshipful yet subtly tender reading of ‘Oh Happy Day’.
  Everyone went home happy. Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space is and will always remain euphorically iconographic, and/or, erm, iconically euphoric.