The Orielles at the Scala, 20 March 2019

The Orielles played the Scala tonight, as part of the 20th anniversary of the venue. Funny that, I thought it had been going at least the 70s. I had it in my head that the punks used to play there. Drinks were late 90s prices – £3 for a pint of lager. We need more venues celebrating anniversaries in this way!

This is the fourth time I’ve seen the Orielles in less than a year. They were at both Latitude and End of the Road in 2018, and I saw them at Heaven too, in November. Their album, “Silver Dollar Moment”, was one of the best of last year, and live they never disappoint. Those elastic, funky beats, allied with the shimmering melodies, Esme Dee Hand-Halford’s wafting voice and Henry Carlyle Wade’s dazzling guitar riffs, are always a joy.

They opened with “Old Stuff, New Glass”, one of my favourite tracks – a perfect example of all those attributes just described. It was a largely familiar set, but there was one new song, the name of which I didn’t catch. (Nor did the contributor to Setlist FM, who calls it “New Song”.) Sounded like a work in progress still.  Highlights included the slow one, “Liminal Spaces” and its jazzy aftermath; “Blue Suitcase (Disco Wrist), which got some unlikely moshing going in mid-set; and quite a rocky version of “Let Your Dogtooth Grow”.  And they finished on a high, with three of their best: The fast-slow-fast “Sunflower Seeds”, greeted as a old favourite; the choppy funk of newish single “Bobbi’s Second World”; and then, finally, the epic “Sugar Tastes Like Salt”. This is the one when Henry really lets rip on guitar, underpinned by an absolutely solid rhythm from the rest of the band – Esme Dee and her sister, Sidonie B on bass and drums respectively.  It sounds different every time – Henry’s freeform moment. It’s an exhilarating end to the show.

The Orielles could really be anything in the future. “Bobbi’s Second World” ups the funk levels a notch further, which could be a pointer. Can’t wait for the second album!

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Sportsthoughts (164) – Billy Bonds’ Claret and Blue Army!

Yesterday evening, at the London Stadium, the chants of Billy Bonds’s claret and blue army! rang out again, as they once did at Upton Park. The occasion was the naming of the stadium’s East Stand after the great West Ham man. He was there for the occasion, as was a gathering of some of West Ham’s finest players from Billy’s time at the club. He joined West Ham from Charlton Athletic as a 21 year old in 1967 and retired from playing in 1988 at the age of 42. Twenty-one magnificent years.

The ceremony took place before the evening game against Newcastle. We won that 2-0, incidentally. MC for the occasion was another West Ham great: Alvin Martin, a very fine centre back, who took over from Billy as captain in 1984. Before Billy arrived in the tunnel, Alvin read out the roll call of past players who formed the guard of honour. That brought back a few memories. It was interesting to hear who got the biggest cheers. The top two, I would say, before the final man out, were Ray Stewart, a brilliant Scottish right back in the 80s who took the penalties and never missed; and Ludo Miklosko, the highly popular Czech goalkeeper, who was at West Ham for most of the 90s. The final man (before Billy, that is) was, of course, Sir Trevor Brooking, midfield maestro from the late 1960s to 1984. He was interviewed by Alvin before Billy came out. He said of Billy recently, “I would trust him with my life.” (I think he might have said the same yesterday, but can’t remember!). In the 70s, when Billy was a marauding midfielder, he was Trevor’s minder on the pitch. Any player who tried to rough Trevor up, to stop him exercising his magic, would quickly be on the receiving end of a robust challenge from Bonzo. That was football back then!

Billy, hard man though he was, and no doubt still is, was visibly moved by the occasion. There were tears in his eyes as he spoke to Alvin. When he held his hand to heart, as he walked around our part of the ground, you knew that it was genuine in the extreme – done with a deep love for the club that he played for 799 times, a club record. The fans responded with that Billy Bonds song and, of course, I’m forever blowing bubbles. It was a joyous and moving occasion. I felt a tear in my eye, I have to say.

He looked great too. 72, but looking fit and slim in a dapper blue suit, cut in a modern style. He has kept his hair pretty long, too. Much as it was in the 70s. Respect to the man – an example, just as Geoff Hurst was, when I saw him and Trevor speak at a charity dinner in 2016.

Billy joined West Ham from Charlton Athletic, where he’d started his career, in the 1967-8 season. He was one of those great English players who never played for England. He got close. He was capped twice at Under 23 level, and was a non-playing substitute in a World Cup qualifier against Italy in 1977. Then, in May 1981, he was lined up for a cap against Brazil, in a friendly. In the last league game of the season, he collided with the West Ham goalkeeper, Phil Parkes and broke two ribs! Even Bonzo couldn’t play through that and he missed his chance. When you think of some of the midfielders and centre backs who have won caps for England over the years, it is outrageous he never got a chance to show what he could do. Same applies to another true Hammer, still playing superbly in our midfield: Mark Noble. As he comes towards the end of his career – maybe one more season at the top level after this? –  his chance is probably over. But I’m certain that if he had had the opportunity, he’d have seized it and been pretty hard to leave out after that.

Billy was captain of the team between 1974, when he took over from Bobby Moore, until 1984, when the baton passed to Alvin Martin. He’d planned to retire then, but in fact played on until 1988.  Manager John Lyall made him a youth coach straight away. When Lyall resigned after West Ham were relegated in 1989, Billy applied for the job, but Scotsman Lou Macari, a skilful ex-Man Utd midfielder but rather defensive manager, got it. It was a match made in hell, and he left after seven months. Billy took over in February 1990 and was manager until August 1994. In his first full season the club was promoted back to the top division and reached an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest. Forest won and went on to lose the 1991 final to Spurs. These were topsy turvy times for West Ham. They were relegated in 1992, but then got back up the following season, both with Billy still at the helm.

So, Billy Bonds might not be remembered for his feats as a manager; but as a player, he is one of the true West Ham legends – up there with the World Cup winning trio of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, and Trevor Brooking. It was a privilege to be there yesterday to salute him.

PS. A few more shots below. If you’d like to see the full “mosaic” greeting, which was created by everyone in the East Stand (me included) holding up different coloured plastic bags, take a look at latest news on the West Ham website. 

Cutting the ribbon.

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lovelondonscenes 159 – A Red Mist at the London Stadium

A week ago West Ham played Fulham at the London Stadium in the evening. We won 3-1 after a shaky start. It had been a lovely day, but the mist descended as the air cooled in the darkness. The effect after the game around the Orbit Tower was striking.

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lovelondonscenes 158 – Waterloo Station, rush hour

This was last Thursday, about 5.30.  As in all the big stations, people gather to figure out when their train is going to leave and where from. For many, a daily ritual. There’s no way round it. London life.

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Have You Heard? – (89) “The Third Degree” by Honeyblood

This is the first new music by Honeyblood in quite a while, and is a taster for the forthcoming third album “In Plain Sight”. We have to wait until 24 May for that. Anyone who reads the musical reviews in this blog will know that I love this band. I first heard the band around the turn of 2016 and 17, after the second album “Babes Never Die, released in November 2016) made it into a few end of year lists. The punky “Ready for the Magic” was the first song I ever heard, and wow, what a good start! One of the best rock’n’roll songs EVER! I played the album to death in 2017 and made it my album of the year. I still listen to it frequently to this day. It is endlessly uplifting, even when it is miserable! My favourite songs, “Cruel” and “Hey, Stellar”, are both break-up songs (either in prospect or the aftermath), but they have a Springsteen-esque resonance. Songwriter and band mainstay Stina Tweeddale has a real celtic soul running through her compositions. A sense of melancholy, but also a defiance, a sense of fighting back.

The NME, writing about “The Third Degree”, announced that Honeyblood was now just Stina, although she will have a backing band when she goes on tour in May. Filling out the band’s sound live makes a lot of sense. While Stina on guitar and Cat Deeley on pounding drums made a great sound on stage, it did feel that Stina needed a bit more back-up than just a drummer could provide. A bassist, for example, would give her the scope to branch out on the guitar, maybe even play acoustic at times. There’s some keyboard programming happening already, so having someone twiddling the knobs on stage wouldn’t do any harm either.

I saw Stina perform twice last year, first with Cat at Bush Hall in January. That was a slightly shambolic though energetic show, fuelled a bit by excessive lagers it seemed. Afterwards, on Twitter, Stina was very self-critical – and anxious about her songwriting muse. She got a lot of support from fans (Twitter can be good, you know!) and seemed to appreciate it. The second time I saw her was at a solo performance at the Leith Theatre, on the Edinburgh shoreline, on a bill with Gwenno and Dream Wife. It was part of the Hidden Doors arts festival in May. Stina played a great selection from both her albums, including “Hey, Stellar” and a rousing version of “Babes Never Die”. It felt to me that things were changing: going solo, if only as one-off; time to write a new album, and think about where the music was heading.

And now we start to see and hear the fruits of that period, with “The Third Degree.” It’s another break-up song, apparently about a friend. The theme is about resisting letting the ex back into your life, especially when the temptation is there, and you’ve had a bit to drink – the accompanying video plays on that. There’s a catchy refrain of No, no drama drama baby, which could have been a great singalong chant in my playground in the early 70s. Musically, the melody does take me back to that era, and the 60s. The song that really comes to mind is “Leader of the Pack” by the Shangri-La’s. And lyrically, “Walk on By” might have been an inspiration. Who knows?

It’s a great song and sets things up nicely for the new album. It’s quite a short piece, and I was left wanting more as it ended – a guitar solo or even some sax. That’s my Bruce influence I guess. But you know, I think they may have something in common – that rock’n’roll sensibility, the gift of melancholy melody and a belief in the redeeming power of music. Which is why they are two of my favourite artists of all time. One stretching back to my late 70s youth, the other all the way back to 2016! Both the Honeyblood albums, despite their recent vintage, have broken into my all time top twenty (and “Babes Never Die” the top five) where they nestle with the likes of Bruce, The Clash, Elvis Costello, U2, Bowie, Bobs Marley and Dylan, Radiohead, Talking Heads, Van the Man and Television. Let’s hope “In Plain Sight” makes it a hat trick!

 

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Rival Sons at the Roundhouse, 6 February 2019

Last Wednesday, I went along with my friends Dave and Tony to the Roundhouse to witness some ROCK! The band were Rival Sons, who I’d never heard of, until Dave suggested them. Apparently Jimmy Page rates them, and that’s no surprise, because Zep are one of the bands that have clearly influenced them. I’d add Free and Bad Company, the Black Crowes, Guns’n’Roses and AC/DC to the mix. They are not bad influences! I don’t go to a lot of straight rock concerts these days, but all that 70s rock, especially Free and Bad Co, Robin Trower, Zep, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Nazareth, Uriah Heep and Budgie (yes, Budgie) has a special place in my heart. The 15 year old, pre-punk me loved that sound more than any other.

Rival Sons are from California, and have been around since 2009. Which shows how much I’m tuned in to the rock scene these days! Three members of the band have been there since the start: vocalist and occasional guitarist Jay Buchanan, guitarist Scott Holiday and drummer Mike Miley. They are a slick, hard rocking band. I loved Jay’s riffs and solos. He looked more like a guy who should be in a rock’n’roll or even punk band, but he had all the tricks. I didn’t really know what to expect before it kicked off, but I was soon won over by the guitar and the beats. Classic stuff, and a lot of fun.

Their latest album is “Feral Roots”, released in 2018. When I listened to it on Spotify before the gig, I was kind of 6-7/10 about it. I liked the sound, but I thought Jay’s vocals could have come down a notch – get a bit closer to Paul Rodgers. Same with the guitars – they could have been a bit dirtier. But it’s 2019 now, not 1974, so I understand why everything’s a bit higher and more produced.  Live, of course, you get the distortion and volume, and this time that was good. The sound, for me, really rocked in the right way. And there is no doubt the crowd agreed with that. An interesting crowd. I’d expected it to be quite old, given the nature of the music; but in fact, there weren’t that many people from our generation. More the late 20s and 30s, I’d say. There was some good head banging at the front, which we had a good view of, from our comfortable sideways-on seats.

So, the riffing was good throughout. But I did like the slow section – every rock band has one. Two songs: “Jordan” and “Feral Roots”. This is where I did really get my Bad Co vibes, which is a good thing for me. My favourite band for a while in the 70s. They brought on a choir for the first song of the encore too. A little bit of almost-gospel. Called “Shooting Stars”. Bad Co had a song called “Shooting Star”. Well, why not?

So, a concert I only really went along to out of solidarity, but one I really enjoyed. You never lose the desire to ROCK!

 

 

 

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Chvrches at Alexandra Palace, 7 February 2019

Chvrches played at Alexandra Palace last Thursday, the first leg of their UK tour, promoting last year’s album – their third – “Love is Dead”. “Ally Pally” is up in North London, perched on a hill which affords amazing views of London below, especially the City. The palace is a cavernous place, holding up to 10,000 people in the main hall. Chvrches are big enough to fill that these days. It’s good to see a band that you’ve followed pretty much since the start breaking into the big time, though the downside is that unless you are really dedicated (and probably quite young) you find yourself watching the big screens as much as the specks on the stage. The fate of the ageing concert-goer!

I first saw Chvrches at Latitude in 2013, in what was then called the i-Arena, in the Woods. The place was packed – there was a real buzz about the band. At the time I likened them to Human League and Erasure. They released their debut album “The Bones of What You Believe” in September that year, and I caught them at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in October. By then I’d grown to love the album, and it was great to see all my favourites, like “Lies”, “Tether”, “The Mother We Share” and “We Sink” being played. Those easy comparisons with 80s electropop were valid, but there was more to Chvrches, and that came with the voice, the look and the personality of Lauren Mayberry. She had a cold that night, but she battled through. After the gig, the album just sounded better and better, and I made it my album of 2013 in December.

Shepherd’s Bush Empire, October 2013

It wasn’t until March 2016 that I saw Chvrches live again. In between, I think their focus was America, and the relentless touring most bands need to do to crack the market. Their second album, “Every Open Eye”, was released in September 2015. It was bolder, dancier than the first album. It took me a little longer to get into it, but it came in at No 4 in my 2015 top ten. My favourite tune was “Keep You On My Side”, which felt like a real dance floor banger. At the Albert Hall they were a revelation. Presentationally they had really stepped up a gear, and Lauren was moving around the stage a lot more. It was a show. The pounding beats of “Clearest Blue” from the new album ended the main concert with style, before a wonderful encore of “Afterglow” – Lauren’s voice at its most tender as the ceiling was lit with stars – and a celebratory “The Mother We Share”.

Royal Albert Hall, March 2016

So that was good, but Latitude the same year was something else. They had second billing to the National on the main stage on Saturday night. It was a sultry evening, and I watched them about eight rows back from the stage – just on the edge of the moshers. And Chvrches absolutely bossed it. The bass lines coming out of the speakers were incredible. They thumped you in the chest at high intensity. It was exhilarating. Lauren was a ball of energy. This was the moment that confirmed for me that Chvrches were a truly great live band. Lauren reappeared during the National’s set, to sing a duet with Matt Berninger on “I Need My Girl.” The compliment was to be returned on the third album, “Love is Dead”, when Matt sang on the wistful “My Enemy”.

Latitude, July 2016

“Love is Dead” was released in May 2018. My first reaction was that it was more of the same as “Every Open Eye”, with added Taylor Swift in the production and some of the choruses. An obvious bid for the pop market. I liked it enough to make it No 9 in my 2018 top ten, but other things were getting more of my attention. Picking out some best songs for my 2018 Best Of complication got me listening again, and “Get Out”, “Miracle” and “Heaven/Hell” got my vote, along with “ My Enemy”. And before that, I’d got tickets for Ally Pally pretty much as soon as they were announced. After the triumphs in 2016, how could I not?

And so to Thursday’s show, with Jon G, also an admirer. In support were Let’s Eat Grandma – quite a step up for them. Their 2018 album “I’m All Ears” lacked the quirkiness of the debut, and was less interesting, on first listening. With more conventional dance beats the sound filled the hall well enough, but with both Jenny and Rosa mostly stuck behind their keyboards, the half of the show I saw wasn’t that amazing. They lost me a bit after their insouciant show at End of the Road in 2017; but there was a first tonight – they spoke to the audience! I need to give their new album a proper listen before this year’s End of the Road. I’m still interested to see how they develop in future, having first seen them play at Electrowerkz in Islington in 2016.

Chvrches came on in a blaze of lights and piled into “Get Out” from the new album and “Bury It” from the second. Lauren was resplendent in translucent yellow gown over her black top and shorts. Finished off with some heavy platform boots. Yes, the music is the thing; but Lauren’s outfits – and eye make up – are always interesting. Over the course of the evening, songs from “Love is Dead” dominated, but there was a substantial selection from the first album, including “Gun” and “We Sink” after the two openers. My two favourites, “Lies” and “Tether”, didn’t get a look-in, inevitably. Nor did “Keep You on My Side” – times move on. But “Every Open Eye” came into its own at the end of the main set, with rousing versions of “Leave a Trace” and “Clearest Blue”. Naturally “The Mother We Share” featured in the encore. There was no “Afterglow”, but “Really Gone” from “Love is Dead” was a lovely alternative during the set. That’s a song I hadn’t really fixed on before the concert, but I’ve been listening to it a lot since. As is often the case, I find myself giving new albums more airtime after than before the show. Possibly the wrong way round, but a good concert puts you in the mood for more.

So, yes, I really enjoyed the concert. It didn’t have the same impact as the Albert Hall or Latitude shows, but they were still at a time of development. Now it was consolidation. And there were one or two reservations. Being a long way from the stage was a choice, so can’t complain about that. But the sound wasn’t the crispest, and those bass lines only occasionally reverberated. In fact there was something a little bit rocky about it all, with a conventional drummer, and Martin Doherty playing guitar/bass quite a lot. He also did a bit too much singing and awkward dancing – it’s the moment to go and get another beer. Fair play – he writes a lot of the music, so deserves a bit of the limelight; and it gives Lauren a chance to have a rest. But there is the band’s image to think about.

What comes next for Chvrches I wonder, when the time comes to record again? They could do roughly the same for a while yet, especially when they are so good live. Or might they aim for the American rock arena? Then again,  maybe Lauren will be tempted by a solo album. A return to their indie-electro roots seems unlikely. I think there could be a crossroads approaching. Whatever, I hope we find out sooner than 2021!

Meanwhile, a few more photos, starting with a cropped version of the one at the beginning.

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