lovelondonscenes 166 – Autumn Colours, West London

Three Sundays ago the weather was good and I needed a walk. I kept it local, but managed ten miles on the way. Through Gunnersbury Park (much of which is fenced off at the moment) down to Kew Bridge; upstream along the Thames from Kew to Twickenham Bridge; and then back home, via a refreshment stop at the London Apprentice in Isleworth; Syon Park; Brentford; the Grand Union Canal and Boston Manor Park. A few photos below for your enjoyment. The colours and shapes of Autumn.

Gunnersbury Park

Down by the river

Grand Union Canal

A4

Another Northfields sunset.

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Maisie Peters at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 14 November 2019

I first came across Maisie Peters’ music in February this year after reading an interview with her on the Line of Best Fit website. She came across as a singer-songwriter with a twist. The article likened her to, amongst others, Laura Marling. Songs about relationships, but with a bit of depth to them, was the message.

So I listened to what Maisie had on Spotify. And I liked it. I didn’t get the Laura Marling connection, but I did get a whole load of very likeable pop songs with a bit of an edge in the lyrics. The subject matter was familiar: the joy of meeting someone, the hurt of them leaving, the anger at their behaviour, and even a bit of desire for revenge. And a little bit of sentimentality about home. Real life.

I downloaded her songs on iTunes and played them a bit. Not that much, but now and then. And then I found the tunes had lodged into my consciousness. I’d find myself remembering a bit of a melody, a snatch of the lyrics. They were infectious. At first my favourite two songs were at the opposite ends of the love spectrum: “Feels Like This”, which was a beautiful celebration of being with someone; and then “Birthday”, which was about the moment you realise it’s over. It was so sad! But then others worked their way in as well. Songs like “The Best I’ll Ever Sing” with its whoo-whoo refrain, and “You to You” in which Maisie hopes her ex’s new girlfriend does the same to him as he did to her.

It’s fair to say that these songs were not written for my demographic, but a good pop song is a good pop song, and Maisie Peters has loads of them.  She hasn’t released an album yet, but she has made two generous EPs and string of singles. Put them together and you have a pretty outstanding album. Her latest EP, “It’s Your Bed Babe, It’s Your Funeral” (a line from opener “This Is On You”) has a slicker, dancier feel than previous efforts, and will be as a result of the people she’s working with as they see her potential. But the lyrics are as cutting as ever and her voice is getting even better. The sense of place remains too, especially in “Personal Best”.

And so to the concert at The Shepherd’s Bush Empire. As Maisie said, this year in London, she had 300 at the Omeara, 800 at the Scala, and now 2000 at the Empire. It’s a good trajectory. She played for an hour or so, including the encore, and I think everyone there would have been happy to have more. There was an impressive engagement with her audience – teenagers at the front, but quite a mixed crowd overall. And they knew all the words. Pretty much at any time Maisie could leave the singing to the crowd. She ran through a selection of songs from all of her time so far – with an emphasis on the latest EP, obviously. It worked really well live, and, again, I was struck by how quickly her fans had engaged with her latest material. She played a bit of guitar now and then, but mostly she just sang – and danced. Early on she showed her confidence these days by singing a new song away from the mic, just strumming her guitar. It sounded like another good one.

Highlights are hard to pick out, as I enjoyed it all, sitting in the seats with a friend, not waving my iPhone around, as lots of people were. There are so many anthems! But I was struck by the reception for “The Best I’ll Ever Sing”, about half way through and the last song of all, “Worst of You”. It was the one we’d heard the girls singing in the queue before the venue opened, when we went to check times. Ironically, it’s incredibly popular though it’s got a rather passive do what you like, I love you theme, which is far from typical. It has a great melody though, and that’s what matters most in pop music.

So, yes, this wasn’t the sort of concert I usually go to, but it was one of the best of the year without a doubt. I think Maisie Peters can only get more popular.

A few more photos.

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lovelondonscenes 165 – White Cube Gallery, Bermondsey

A week ago I went down to the White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey to see a few exhibitions that were about to finish. The principal one was “Remains to be Seen” by Mona Hatoum, a Lebanese/Palestinian artist. The theme of the show was upheaval, disorder, dislocation, oppression. The exhibits were stark – mostly black against the white expanse of the White Cube. Some were monumental and it’s two of those that I concentrate on below.

This exhibition is over now, but I recommend the White Cube as a place to visit. It’s a beautifully designed space, and the the exhibitions are always interesting. It’s a ten minute walk from London Bridge station.

Outside, as I left, the first signs of darkness were appearing. Over the top of the buildings, the ubiquitous Shard began to gleam.

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Honeyblood at the Garage, Islington, 31 October 2019

Honeyblood are on a UK tour at the moment, and last night they played to a lively crowd at the Garage in Islington. It was Hallowe’en of course and could have been our last day as a member of the EU. Thankfully that’s been put off for a bit longer, so last night we could just concentrate on enjoying the show. This was the first time that the songs from this year’s album “In Plain Sight” featured strongly, aside from the three singles “The Third Degree”, “Glimmer” and “She’s a Nightmare”. Back in April, when I saw them in Leicester, there were outings for “Gibberish” and “Turn the Wheel” as well, but we’d never heard them before and the sound was a bit murky. Stina was also getting used to her new backing band, I thought. Now they are a very slick machine and last night they played with real zest and a sense of fun. They’d donned their silvery sci-fi gear which featured on their recent single “Bubble Gun” and were in a festive mood. Stina has written on social media that after this tour she plans to take some time out from touring, so this was maybe the last opportunity to see her perform for a while. If it is, she is going out on a high.

I loved the set, which was longer than usual. They played 19 songs, with 8 from “In Plain Sight”, 4 from “Babes Never Die” and 6 from the first album, “Honeyblood”. Plus “Bubble Gun”, which is a real glam rock stomper. All the “old” favourites, like “Babes Never Die”, “Sea Hearts”, “Ready for the Magic” (a rousing closer for the main set, as ever), “Super Rat” and “Killer Bangs” were there. And it was nice to hear “Walking at Midnight” again – the perfect song for Hallowe’en.  I enjoyed hearing songs like “The Tarantella”, “Touch” and “A Kiss From the Devil” live for the first time, and “Gibberish” had emerged from the Leicester murk to become a real rocker. They opened the set with “The Third Degree”; “Glimmer” and “She’s a Nightmare” came towards the end and are now up there with those old favourites as staples of the set. Great rock’n’roll songs.

The encore was interesting. First Stina came on alone and played “Bud”, from the first album. That’s one she’s favoured when she has played her solo sets. Then the band came back and they played one for the aficionados, “No Spare Key”, again from “Honeyblood”. Stina is drawing a lot on that debut album – it clearly means a lot to her personally. Her musical roots. “In Plain Sight” is a slicker, less raw (in sound) album than its predecessors, although the lyrics remain very personal. And the songs from it are really flourishing live.  I hope it won’t be too long before we see Stina, with or without band, on stage again singing all these wonderful songs.

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lovelondonscenes 164 – Kings Cross and Camden by the Regent’s Canal

Today was autumn’s collision with winter, as the clocks went back. But it was also a lovely sunny day and not too cold. A respite after rain, rain, rain. I took the Piccadilly Line up to King’s Cross and walked from there back to Paddington along the Regent’s Canal. The walk, which is not that long, takes you through Camden, Regent’s Park and Maida Vale, including Little Venice. The photos here, turned into black and white, are from the stretch between King’s Cross and Camden, starting around Coal Drop Yard.  A lot of it is relatively new development – this is an area transformed. A place you want to come to rather than avoid. Urban beauty.

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Pom Poko at the Scala, Kings Cross, 23 October 2019

Pom Poko, a Norwegian band who can only be described prog-punk, are playing their biggest UK tour yet this month. They released their debut album “Birthday” in February and this performance at the Scala in Kings Cross was the third time I’ve seen them this year. The first was at the Lexington, just up the Pentonville Road from the Scala, in April; and the second was at End of the Road in September, where I thought they were one of the highlights of the whole weekend.

The album is excellent – a mass of screeching riffs and solos, pulsating beats and endless time changes. Nothing is ever the same for long. On top of this near-chaos, singer Ragnhild Jamtveit’s high-register vocals veer from the sweet to the quirky to the slightly crazed. It’s heading for a spot in my top ten of the year for sure – and it won’t sound like anything else in there.

Live is even better because this band are just so much fun! I don’t think I’ve seen many bands who seem to be enjoying themselves so much. And this is personified by Ragnhild, who bounces around the stage at every opportunity with a smile on her face. She does stern too, but it’s only for show – she is loving it. The rhythm section of Jonas Krovel and Ola Djupvik are incredibly tight and handle all the time changes with aplomb. But the genius of the band is guitarist Martin Tonne, who gets so many great riffs out of just the one guitar, as he stands to one side in his blue boiler suit. The sound is deeper and dirtier than on record – and it rocks! It’s pretty relentless in fact – there’s really only one song, “Honey”, where they slow down for long, and even then it’s not exactly a ballad. But Ragnhild needs some rest from all the jumping around.

Yes, Pom Poko are one of my discoveries of the year without a doubt. And as a live act, despite the complexity of their music (by pop standards) they are a full-on slug of rock’n’roll with one of the most charismatic singers around. Pure enjoyment from start to finish.

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The She Street Band at the Clapham Grand, 18 October 2019

Another year, another She Street Band concert! Last year in October it was at the Scala in King’s Cross. This time it was at the Clapham Grand in south-west London. First time I’d been there and I liked the place. Another old theatre/cinema that is doing the business as a concert and club venue.

For those of you who don’t know, the She Street Band are an all-woman outfit who play the songs of Bruce Springsteen. And they do so joyously. It’s the next best thing to Bruce himself. Some people think Bruce Springsteen’s music is boys’ music. I can see why – the lyrics are nearly all from the perspective of men. But the She Street band prove that the music itself is for everyone. Music of hope, music of despair, music of defiance, music of celebration. Rooted in rock’n’roll, in soul, in folk, in the music of America.

The band was formed by bassist Judy Orsborn in 2016. They are from America, the UK, Ireland and Sweden. The vocals are shared around, Judy included. There’s another bassist who steps in for her at times when she is singing. Rhythm guitarist Mara Daniele takes the lead vocal on a lot of the songs, especially the earlier ones – the great first four albums. Last time I saw her, at the Scala, she had blonde-red hair; this time it was jet black. She often has a smile, always a joie de vivre, as she sings, like she knows she is singing some of the greatest songs ever written. And that is the thing about the She Street Band: it is a total celebration.

The core of the set, as before, was from what I think of as the second phase of Bruce’s great albums: “The River” and “Born in the USA”. And they are mostly the uptempo songs, although one of the delights in this set was when the keyboard player Lynn Roberts took centre stage for “Stolen Car” from “The River”, a beautiful and sad ballad which I have always loved. Another song which bucked the trend of rockers was “Tougher than the Rest”, which opened their second set. All the band, save for the lead guitarist – Isabell Lysell, I think –  stood at the front and sang an acapella version, with just that low key strumming in support.

My memory is a bit fuzzy already about which songs were in the first set and which were in the second. But for those of you who like your Bruce Springsteen, these were all the songs played, as far as I can recall:  Growin’ Up – Rosalita – 10th Avenue Freeze Out – Thunder Road – Born to Run – Because the Night – Badlands – Prove It All Night  – Darkness on the Edge of Town – Out on the Street – Sherry Darling – Stolen Car – Two Hearts – The River – Hungry Heart – Glory Days – Bobby Jean – Cover Me – I’m on Fire – Dancing in the Dark – Tougher Than the Rest. What a set list!

“Sherry Darling” opened proceedings, and allowed saxophonist Yasmin Ogilvie a moment in the spotlight. She had a few of course. The best? Maybe “Thunder Road”. Memories of the big man, Clarence Clemons.

The whole show was a celebration, but the last four took it to another level. “Dancing in the Dark” and “Badlands” to end the second set; and then, for an encore, “Bobby Jean” and, of course, “Born to Run”. Like I said earlier, the next best thing to Bruce himself. If you love the music of Bruce Springsteen you should catch this band.  It is an uplifting experience!

 

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