I don't want to try to rub it in anyone's face about how eclectic my musical tastes are, but after the last couple of weeks you'd have to start to wonder…
First cab off the rank, which I cunningly forgot to mention, was the Xavier Rudd gig on the 26th of Nov. Having only ever heard the name mentioned in passing with enthusiasm by my brother (whose arse has long since stopped gracing this webpage), I knew nothing about what I was actually going to see. I was expecting some slightly hippy rootsy bluesy acoustic music – probably not too far removed from the John Butler Trio's style. And in that regard I was 100% correct. Except that there's only 1 of him, rather than a trio. He makes up for the shortfall in numbers quite admirably by playing the didjeridoo, harmonica, guitar, lap slide guitar, and various bits of percussion – normally multiple instruments at once. And I don't think I've ever seen a happier performer in my life – the dude was genuinely pleased to be there, and of course that rubbed off on the crowd. Very cool gig indeed.
Next off was the Robert Plant gig, which I've already waxed lyrical about the virtues of.
Monday the 5th I went to see seminal British rockers Marillion at Kentish Town Forum. I was hoping for great things, based on the otherwise spot-on recommendations of Spiro, Greg, et al, and judging by the size of the queue to get into this gig. Very different demographic to what I was expecting, with mainly an older crowd, and virtually no black band t-shirts ! I got chatting in the queue to these 2 Danish blokes who had come to London specifically for the gig, and they became involved in passionate discussion about the band's best work with the woman standing next to be and the blokes behind us. I felt a little left out really.
Overall I'd have to say I was quite disappointed – I was hoping for a fairly solid prog rock gig, however I'd describe it more as cheesy 80's soft rock; almost like Genesis (which I also don't like). I was distinctly underwhelmed, and it came close to being the first gig I'd ever walked out of through boredom. Mind you, following Robert Plant's a huge ask, so I thought I'd give them the benefit of the doubt & stay. It's the first time I've ever actually seen a Jazz Odyssey take place on stage – a fairly awkward and pointless ad-lib of “Tequila”, following Steve Hogarth picking up a cup of tea. Steaming great pile of wank. The gig concluded with the band coming back on for a second encore (why, god, why ?) wearing flashing Santa hats and playing sylised Christmas carols. I couldn't get out of there fast enough.
Wednesday night I went out to Shepherd's Bush to see Porcupine Tree (again, based on a recommendation from Spiro). THIS was more like it ! Band t-shirts ahoy ! Musically, awesome. Plenty of epic guitar solo work. Pockets of headbanging going on, and lots of rhythmic nodding by the crowd. Very cool band – I'll be looking out for more of their work in times to come. It was a bit of a shame Brian couldn't make it along, after being packed off to Germany for work – he'd been looking forward to the gig for weeks and I found it very easy to understand why. Even though the gig was way out at Shepherd's Bush, it was completely worth the trip. In hindsight, if I'd had to go all that way to see Marillion, I'd have been v. cranky indeed. About the only critique I'd have was that Steve Wilson (lead guitar/vocals) plays a lot of guitar with feet firmly planted on stage, front on to the audience, and he'll advance to the front of the stage, look around the room, and nod slowly at the crowd, as if he's saying “Here is my mighty guitar solo! It is significant! Recognise !”. It's a bit of a stupid criticism, I know, but I just got tired of that. But yes, awesome.
Rounding out an otherwise unconnected week, last night I went down to Brixton and saw The Chemical Brothers. Now I know you're probably thinking, as I was, “But hang on Jason, you're a self-confessed epic guitar wank prog rock and jazz aficionado with a distinct feeling of contempt towards electronic music and DJ's – what in the HELL would you want to go to the Chemical Brothers for ?!”. Fair question. I've no idea, really! Paul, Hannah, Emma, Lisa, et al. said that they were going, and I said “Cool, I'll get a ticket too”. Makes sense, doesn't it ? I guess my thing about DJs is that I know just as well as they do that they could have the whole set pre-loaded, and simply walk on stage and push the 'go' button (which The Orb famously did on Top Of The Pops where they fired off their track and then sat there playing chess for the duration of the song).
In spite of myself, I had a pretty good time. It would've been impossible not to dance to some degree – great crowd vibe in that sense. It seemed pretty obvious to Dave & I at least that about 80% of the crowd were sailing along on the wave of some form of mind altering chemical or other (confirmed I think by the astronomical sales of spring water bottles over the bars). The chemical we'd picked was known as “beer”, and without any mood-enhancing side effects we were able to conspiratorially laugh at all the people whose mission for the night seemed to be to try to be weirder or more quirky than any one else there. Or does that sound too cynical ?
Oddly, I recognised more “songs” at that gig than I did at the Marillion, Porcupine Tree, or Xavier Rudd gigs. Given that I scored zero at those three, and one at this one – I was a little surprised that they played Block Rockin Beats, given that it came out in 1997 – it's not much of a distinction. Aside from all the cynicism though, I had a pretty awesome night.
No more music gigs now til next weekend, when Richie, Hilary and I go to Leeds to see New Model Army.
(Incidentally, I didn't take the XR or Marillion photos – they was ripped off teh Interweb).