MY EARS ARE HAPPY

Lykke Li live – Village Underground May 8th


lykke li gunshot

Lykke Li live review – Village Underground, London, May 8th 2014

So Lykke Li has stood me up not once, but twice in the past. ~Firstly during the release period of her (mostly great) debut album “Youth Novels” she was due to perform at a London club night as a live PA, but cancelled due to sickness.

Secondly, around the same time she cancelled a festival appearance she was scheduled to perform at  -obviously I was in attendance and missed seeing her once again. All this was during Lykke Li’s debut album “messy bun” hair period, which spawned a million copycat messy hairstyles all over East London (some of which are still seen today). I was gutted to miss this iconic hairstyle in person –

lykke li hair bun

During the promotion for her wonderful second album “Wounded Rhymes” she only played a couple of small London gigs which sold out almost immediately – I didn’t manage to get tickets, so now on her third album “I Never Learn” (striking album cover below) I was determined to get tickets as soon as she announced she was playing London Underground, which is conveniently just down the road from my house. Luckily I managed to get hold of some, and finally I was able to see Lykke Li in a live setting (something I had heard rave reviews about in the past).

During all this time I had spent not being able to see Lykke live, I had become quite a fan of her work . I find myself consistently returning to her albums, their charms revealed more and more with every listen.

Her artistic growth over the course of her three albums has already been quite striking – from the optimistic youthful exuberance of the “Youth Novels” album, certainly her most positive point, with upbeat tracks like “Dance, Dance Dance” and “I’m Good I’m Gone” standing out above the bleaker moments. Her second album “Wounded Rhymes” definitely started to see Lykke become a little jaded with relationships and the opposite sex in general (“Sadness Is A Blessing”, “Unrequited Love”), but still had time for boppy female empowerment (“Get Some”, “Jerome”), we now meet Lykke on her third album “I Never Learn”, and things have gotten bleak

lykke li i never learn

The album cover (above) speaks a lot for the album inside it. Dark, black, dramatic. Lykke Li has had her heart broken, and badly. The album is bleak, depressing (in the way only Swedes can do true misery) and also really very good.

The set at her gig very much reflects the album cover. The stage has black fabric hanging down from the ceiling, everybody on stage wears black (she brings a full band, including TWO pianos), the lighting is dark and dramatic (changing to pitch black after every song), and Lykke herself emerges after an instrumental intro to “I Never Learn” (the song) wearing a sparkly black cape, her make-up dark, her hair matted and wild.

The first thing you notice is that Lykke’s vocals are flawless. So flawless I was sceptical whether she was even singing live during first track “I Never Learn” (the song being a genuine career high I feel). However as her set progresses it becomes very clear it really is Lykke singing, managing to very much wring emotion from pretty much every note. How she manages to sing like that on a full tour and keep her voice in good order I have no idea, but I’m pretty glad she does.

A reoccurring theme of her set is sadness and misery. She really reinforces the heartbreak of her new album by carefully selecting tracks from her back catalogue. “Hanging High” from “Youth Novels” is transformed into an acoustic torch ballad and the three-punch of “Gunshot”, “Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone” and “Sleeping Alone” from “I Never Learn” would get even the blackest of hearts openly weeping.

Not to say that the entire set is heavy. Bouncy “Little Bit” is gladly received by the crowd, as is “I Follow Rivers” – a song has taken on an entrire world of its own since release. “Youth Knows No Pain” borrows Beyonce’s “Drunk In Love” chanting to quite unexpectedly become an extended crunk dance track  (which genuinely works), and “Jerome” is re-giggled live slowly building to a huge percussive chorus.

Lykke herself is in very good voice, and is in typical Swedish misanthrope mode telling (not asking) the crowd to stop spending the gig on their phones, forget about Instagram and Facebook just for a while, and concentrate on her – being as she is pretty much (emotionally) naked on stage. This doesn’t actually go down quite as well with the crowd as she probably expects, with her statement receiving a mere scattering of applause, and people secretly taking pictures as the gig progresses.    

In terms of the set-list there are a few surprises. The more upbeat “Youth Novels” album is represented lightly with singles such as “Dance Dance Dance”, “I’m Good, I’m Gone” and “Tonight” all absent (probably for being too upbeat, although “Tonight” would have been appreciated) and most surprisingly her track “Possibility” – best known for appearing in the Twilight films – is also missing, with “Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone” seemingly taking its place as torch ballad of choice.

So after two aborted attempts I finally got to see Lykke Li. Was she worth it? Absolutely. I really feel she is on the cusp of greatness, perhaps not quite there yet, but should her albums keep coming as strong as they have been doing in the future, this girl has a very bright path ahead of her. Live, she was everything I had heard in a  performer, the audience were very much in her grasp at times, and vocals like no other. I spotted plenty of messy buns in the audience too.

I think the set-list pretty much went like this –

I Never Learn

Love Out Of Lust

Just Like A Dream

No Rest For The Wicked

Jerome

Hanging High

Never Gonna Love Again

Little Bit

Gunshot

Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone

Sleeping Alone

I Follow Rivers

Rich Kids Blues

Heart Of Steel

Youth Knows No Pain

Get Some

Du Ar Den Ende

Sadness Is A Blessing

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Sinead O’Connor – St Johns Church Hackney


So last night I went to see noted Irish Rastafarian Sinead O’Connor live in St John’s Church in Hackney –

It was part of a week-long series of concerts in the church for the charity Mencap, curated by radio DJ Jo Whiley.

Sinead O’Connor I find to be a bit of an oddity in terms of her place in the pop music landscape. By all rights she should be pitched vaguely somewhere in the same realm as a less-prolific Irish PJ Harvey, whilst some of her later material has been patchy, at least 3 of her early studio albums (namely “The Lion and The Cobra”, “I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got” and “Universal Mother”) should have secured her some sort of musical legend status. Yet in many ways, despite the strength of (some) of her material, Sinead seems to be viewed more as a one-hit-wonder in the eyes of many, and drifting in the realm of eccentric joke in the eyes of others.

I find this unfair because, as I previously stated, I find her first 3 full studio albums (discounting covers album that ended her commercial peak rather swiftly “Am I Not Your Girl?”) to be 3 incredibly strong pieces of work, particularly her debut “The Lion And The Cobra” which seems to be by-and-large forgotten by the general population (of the world). Listening to “The Lion And The Cobra” back now, in many ways it is an album that would fit right in with the grunge revival that burst back into fashion over the last few years (and obviously inspired recent albums from Yuck and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart), the lighter side of grunge at least. Its dark, angry, bass-heavy with a good amount of guitar –

and it also came from the same ballpark time-period, yet it is rarely ever mentioned these days, perhaps because the person singing it is the slightly tainted Sinead O’Connor. WHO KNOWS. ANYWAY this post wasn’t a retrospective on her first album, it was about her gig.

I was rather apprehensive as to what to expect, having never seen Sinead live before, and having heard various accounts over the years as to what she was like as a performer these days – Rumours that she only played reggae music these days, that she had grown dreadlocks, that she would play “Rivers Of Babylon” by Boney M, that she refuses to play a lot of her old material…I would see none of these points as a negative aside from the final one (I well wanted me some “The Lion And The Cobra”), but at the same time I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to get, nor what I was to expect.

Having seen photos similar to this in the tabloid press over the past few years –

I am pleased to announce that Sinead has now gone back to her trademark shaved-head look (and looks all the better for it), and that she doesn’t seem to have lost her wild side, coming out in a leather bustier, and skinny leather trousers, with her upper body covered in tattoos.

As for the show itself, Sinead’s voice is still absolutely show-stoppingly sublime. I wasn’t sure whether she would still have a voice or not to be honest, considering at her peak she had one of the most unique (and beautiful) voices in pop, but my doubts were pretty much hushed on account of the first track she performed pretty much silencing the crowd (who I imagine may have been wondering the same as me, whether she was still any good live) with Sinead sounding vocally amazing.

The gig itself was a lot of fun. Sinead O’Connor live in a church, an interesting place to see her perform considering a huge amount of her lyrics revolve around religion. Her setlist was slightly erratic and unusual, mainly pulling from her biggest success “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got” for her older material with “The Emperors New Clothes”, “Last Day Of Our Acquaintance”, “I Am Stretched On Your Grave” and “Nothing Compares 2U” all performed and (very) happily lapped up by the crowd. A slightly random curveball of “Universal Mother” oddity “Red Football” that was quite funny to watch performed live (the track starts off with about 2 slightly nonsensical minutes of lyrics revolving around not being a football and zoos, to finish with 30 seconds of Sinead shouting LALALALA whilst the music around her grows faster) and several new tracks from her forthcoming album due in February 2012, that appeared to see Sinead return to her pop/rock roots for the first time in about a decade.

As I mentioned the “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got” material was best received by the crowd – perhaps Sinead should consider touring the album as a whole, similar to what The Human League did recently with “Dare”, at some point. However her performance of “Nothing Compares 2U” was one of the odder moments of an already slightly odd evening. Obviously the track a lot of people would pay to see Sinead perform live – and probably for a huge majority of people the thing they remember her most (aside from her shaved head and the SNL incident). Sinead can’t really get away with not playing it these days, and perform it she did. Oddly though, despite Sinead performing it entirely straight-faced, it seemed to become the unintentional comedy section of her act, with heckling from the crowd, drunken women singing along really loudly deliberately out-of-tune, and Sinead making sarky asides throughout. It was interesting to see how people (and Sinead fans) react to a song that was a huge propellant, and also an albatross to her career.

Sinead also sang a very powerful acapella version of “I Am Stretched On Your Grave”, that despite being very beautiful did feel a little bit auto-pilot, I got the impression that she had performed the exact same performance many times before (and a quick google of recent Sinead set-lists confirms an acapella IASOYG is indeed a live show staple), like I say however, it was gorgeous and you could pretty much hear a pin drop throughout whenever she was singing.

Of her new material off her forthcoming album, it seemed very split into the firmly “sounds quite good” and “this is really awful” camps. One track (I think named “The Wolf Is Getting Married”) sounded great, with a huge thumping rousing chorus and layered vocals – it didn’t sound a million miles away from her early material, and another (I think called “Old Bird”) was similarly rousing and the sort of thing you imagine Sinead probably should be making at the moment.

However two of the other new tracks were pretty awful truth be told. One was a ballad style track very much in the vein of  “Nothing Compares 2U” (the backing basically sounded like a “Nothing Compares 2U” re-write) and containing some truly heinous lyrics, one of which I remember being “Granny I’m so sorry, I sold your rosary for 15p”, not your best work Sinead. The other track was a truly cringeworthy rant against celebrity (I think called “VIP”), that was basically a very badly written 7 minute Sinead monologue speaking out against celebrity culture and the aspirations of youth. If it was Sinead trying to be current, it failed miserably and was a bit embarrassing truth be told (she got heckled by the crowd towards the end of the track).

But why should we care about new Sinead O’Connor material I don’t hear you cry, you should care because as her first proper pop album in about 15 years, it has the potential to be really interesting, as I mentioned earlier, when she was great, she was REALLY great. The woman can be a genius when she wants to be –

Sadly I don’t think I got anything off my beloved “The Lion and The Cobra” (I would have loved a bit of the above “Troy”, or “Just Like U Said It Would B”), but despite my reservations about a couple of her new tracks, it really was a really fun gig. Sinead is in fine voice, and played a very entertaining set regardless of whether you knew the material or not. She was oddly quiet throughout (leading me to think she might have been quite drunk), only for her to announce to the crowd at the end that she is deliberately quiet during gigs these days, as if she speaks she says things that get her into trouble, and she finds it better to say nothing at all – which cleaned up that little mystery very nicely.

It was pretty awesome to see one of my quiet heroes in such an intimate setting. Sinead O’Connor is a definite pop music curio, and probably will remain one until the day she dies, but shes pretty awesome and incredibly talented too.


Zola Jesus (and EMA) at Heaven


So earlier this week on Wednesday (November 23rd) I went to see Zola Jesus play at Heaven in London (supported by EMA who I will come to LATER ON).

Zola Jesus previously had always been one of those acts that I wanted to like more than I actually did. Her music very much fits into the same The Knife/Fever Ray/Planningtorock/Gazelle Twin spectrum of rather introverted vocal female electronica (pretty pretentious sub-genre I just invented right), indeed she supported Fever Ray last year when she briefly toured the UK. However I always found that despite really liking a few of her tracks, a lot of it really merged into one for me, and I found some of her stuff generally really rather unpleasant to listen to. However I had been enjoying her (slightly) more accessible third album, the recently released “Conatus” enough to buy some tickets to see her live, I was pretty curious at the least – I imagine if anything she would be pretty theatrical live. That EMA was “supporting” her on the tour (more a 80/20 split duel bill to be honest) only made the gig more appealing to me – to be honest I probably would have gone to see EMA had she been playing a gig solo.

Anyway, Zola Jesus is really, really absolutely incredible live, like seriously brilliant. I am 6ft2, and she barely even reaches my elbow height-wise, which makes me imagine she probably stands sub-5ft height wise, something that is utterly baffling when you consider the sheer amount and scope of her voice that comes out of such a small body. Her voice is seriously absolutely INCREDIBLE. She is classically trained as an opera singer, something that undoubtedly helps create such strong vocals.

Quite often on her records I saw (past tense) her vocals almost being an instrument alongside the backing, not really paying attention to the lyrics with her vocal sounds all kind of merging into one. However having now seen her live, my opinion of this has been completely REVISED. I found her quite an emotional performer, really highlighting lyrics in tracks that I hadn’t even noticed before, and seriously making a bit of an emotional connection with her lyrics. She really bought her songs to life with her vocals, whilst pretty much hitting a 100% note perfect strike rate. It really was quite something to watch, particularly as I hadn’t previously been all that hugely bothered by a lot of her music previous to seeing her live. I have definitely revised my opinion on a lot of her material since.

A wonderful youtube user named “knapperfire” has posted several high-quality videos from the gig, check out this performance of “Lick The Palm Of The Burning Handshake” my personal favourite Zola track, and a pretty good demonstration of her flawless vocal (although not at all her best performance of the night) –

Zola biggest problem of the evening to be honest was the crowd she was playing to. As I said, her performance was pretty flawless. She was totally giving all that her 4ft11 body possibly could. She is obviously a rather introverted character, and performed with lots of cute self-concious little ticks with her hands, and unconscious clutching of her hair and face. The crowd were really quite dull and partisan, politely clapping after every song and barely moving throughout the gig. I never expect a gig to turn into a whirling dancefloor, but considering Zola was giving such a storming performance I expected a few more people to be a bit more into it. The crowd only really came alive when Zola played arguably her most famous (and breakout) track “Night” which was a bit of a staple of indie/electro discos last year –

She played it about fourth from last, and finally I saw a bit of movement in the audience around me – perhaps the majority of the people there weren’t very familiar with her material, but regardless I expected people to be a bit more impressed with how well she was performing. The drums were insane! Zola’s vocals were insane! How she performed and moved across the stage was perfect!

Zola came into the crowd a couple of times during her set, and wandered through the floor of the venue (similar to what the singer from Fucked Up does), and most of the people at the gig seemed to react in a very British fashion (like a stunned mullet) to a midget vocal powerhouse pacing through the crowd wailing her guts out. I found it a bit rude towards the performer at times to be honest.

Despite my reservation about the crowd, I had a really good time. Like I said, I was pretty amazed at how good Zola was live (and have now gone into full lunatic mode, listening to her non-stop and really en joing her material a whole lot more than prior to seeing her). London was treated to an encore (Zola initially ran off stage like a mouse scurrying across the kitchen after the last song of her set without saying anything, leaving the crowd a bit confused as to whether she was going to play an encore or not) which she said was a special treat for London, so hopefully she had a good time too. Perhaps as her fanbase grows the people watching her will be a bit more receptive to her dark, gloomy, gothy, industrial charms.

I have to mention the support act and Zola’s labelmate also, EMA –

More of a second billing than a support act, EMA could probably play a London solo gig in her own right had she got a little more material to play. Her album “Past Life Martyred Saints” is one of my favourites of the year, and like Zola she seriously gave a really good performance (I am not being a biased fanboy honest, she was really quite excellent).

To be honest I think EMA was a bit pissed off about having to share the bill, as she was certainly treating her slot like her own headline gig, and was a pretty confident performer.

Again the crowd really pissed me off, although I imagine many hadn’t heard EMA’s material. However her performance of her track “The Grey Ship” was seriously INCREDIBLE. One of the best live performances I have seen all year. “The Grey Ship” is an awesome epic dark 7 minute long track about EMA’s Nordic ancestry, one of my biggest max tracks of the year and one that I think is probably gonna ride high on quite a lot of year end best-of lists –

About half way through the track, the song changes somewhat, and basically sounds a bit like a giant vacuum in the galaxy is sucking the life out of the world in a giant whirlpool of destruction. Its a pretty amazing moment. Basically the sound of the apocalypse, you gotta love it. Anyway I was a bit dubious as to how it was going to translate live, but I was really looking forward to seeing EMA play it. Her live performance of it was perfectly pitched. Basically when the whirlpool of destruction section of the song started, the bass was cranked up to about 700, making the whole venue literally shake – I’m talking almost teeth chattering shake, like when you go to a proper drum and bass night. It was freaking awesome, and bought the track to life ridiculously so – adding a chorus of guitars and a dramatic violin burst out by the keyboard player it was a bit of a special moment. The crowd barely applauded.

What was wrong with the crowd at this venue I DO NOT KNOW, the performance was worthy of an X Factor style ludicrous standing-ovation, and yet EMA barely got more than a few polite claps. The joys of being a relatively unknown musician I guess.

The rest of EMA’s set was good, but not as mind-blowing as “The Grey Ship”. It did feel a bit self-concious with how she presented herself on stage a few times, and at one point she smashed a guitar on stage (again to complete nonchalance from the dreary audience) but immediately had another guitar waiting in the wings for her to play immediately on her next track, which felt less spontaneous and more contrived to be honest.

EMA seemed to be having a good time though, and appeared excited to be playing London, even saying it was her “best gig ever” when she finished. It that is her best gig ever (and performance wise she was excellent) I dread to think what other audiences she has performed to were like.

So basically, great gig (really great gig, I was so impressed with how well both acts performed), utterly dreadful audience.

I am so into Zola right now its not even funny. I said in one of the opening paragraphs I used to find some her material a bit unlistenable – definitely not the case anymore. I well suggest people check her out live if she is playing in your yard at any point soon, and definitely check out her new album “Conatus” if you want the easiest route into her sound – her other two albums can be a little difficult to penetrate at first. “Vessel” and “Night are probably her two most famous tracks (“Vessel” having a pretty beautiful video below) –

But as I mentioned before “Lick The Palm Of The Burning Handshake” is my Zola track of choice, despite its vaguely ridiculous title. Utterly sublime.


Tori Amos live : ROYAL ALBERT HALL


So I love Tori Amos. Always have done, probably always will do. My love for her has been a little buried for her over the last few years I must confess, mainly due to several slightly bloated and uninspiring (not to say bad) albums (a view seemingly almost universally shared by her fanbase) – she has drifted a long way from her absolute creative (and incidentally commercial) peak of her first four albums “Little Earthquakes”, “Under The Pink”, “Boys For Pele” and the staggeringly amazing (and also probably her most cohesive work in my opinion) “From The Choirgirl Hotel”.

Anyway, recently I started dipping my toe back into the world of Tori Amos for the first time in years with the release of her new album “Night Of Hunters”, hailed by many as an approach to a return to form, or at least something a little more interesting and unexpected from Tori than her previous three albums (although “American Doll Posse” had a good if slightly direction-less stab at a new direction I must admit).

Following a few listens “Night Of Hunters” isn’t quite for me. Its an initially pretty impenetrable listen,  based on re-written classical pieces with some rather pious and (intentionally) near emotionless vocals from Tori (her 12 year-old daughter who also features on the album kind of steals the show vocal-wise on the album, with an unexpected snarling husky voice). Whilst the album definitely has merit – album opener “Shattering Sea” is beautiful for example, as is the perky “Jobs Coffin” and the epic “Star Whisperer” – its not quite what I want from a Tori Amos album at this point in my life.  It did however get me back listening to some prime Tori from the years gone by…the sort of stuff I used to absolutely saturate myself with (alongside Bjork) as an early teen

So thank you “Night Of Hunters” for directing me back to albums I used to love so much (and still do), it really was wonderful discovering them again (particularly her little discussed (fanbase aside) fifth album “To Venus And Back”, which is a delight).

My love for Tori reconfirmed, I decided to see whether she was touring at any point soon, seeing as despite being a HUGE FAN in my younger years, and still loving her today I have somehow never managed to see Tori Amos live. A quick google confirmed she was indeed playing live in London very soon…in about 3 days time in fact…in the Royal Albert Hall…and there were still tickets…and good seats still remaining! Needless to say I snapped a ticket up despite not knowing anybody that would be even vaguely interested in going, a date with myself and Tori Amos (in the Royal Albert Hall!) would be pretty awesome I decided.

One of the things that makes Tori Amos such a unique, and interesting live performer is that her setlists are never pre-determined. She usually makes them up on the day of the gig and never reveals them before she plays…no show is ever the same. She has such a huge overwhelming wealth of material to choose from her shows frequently feature tracks from all over her back catalogue…it really is not rare for her to play a show that features almost as many obscure tracks, fan faves and b-sides than it does singles proper or new material from the album the tour is promoting. The “Night Of Hunters” tour is obviously no different to any of her previous in terms of setlist, absoloutely ANYTHING can show up on the night, and judging by her previous shows on the tour so far – http://www.toriamos.com/tours/2011.html this tour is no different – quite a lot of rare tracks and fan faves have popped up all over the shop.

There are certain tracks that seem to be favourited by Tori for her tours however, and for the “Night Of Hunters” tour it seemed pretty likely that she was going to play “Shattering Sea”, “Nautical Twilight” and “Fearlessness” at the least from the “Night Of Hunters” album, and the likes of “Winter”, “Silent All These Years”, “Siren”, “Big Wheel”, “Mr Zebra”, “Cruel”, “Leather”, “Precious Things”, “Suede” and my absolute favourite “Spark” from her back catalogue, as these tracks seemed to be the most frequently occurring on her setlists, even if they weren’t all played every single night. So I had a good idea of what to go in expecting (and to be honest I was pretty freaking excited about the whole thing)

I have never seen a gig in the Royal Albert Hall before, and I am so pleased that Tori Amos was my first. What a special venue, what a special place to see somebody that had such a huge influence on my early life play live for the first time!

Tori absolutely did not disappoint. She really was amazing amazing live. Even nearing 50, she was vocally on point throughout, still sounding as vocally strong as she did on “Little Earthquakes” – female singers seem to adopt  “crow vocals” (Madonna) as they age, or just GIVE UP singing live altogether (Janet Jackson), but Tori still had it, all entirely.

Her show was backed by a string quartet that had played on the “Night Of Hunters” album, and they were just as much a part of the show as Tori adding drama and energy to the stage, and contributing to Tori’s own material, not just the “Night Of Hunters” tracks. They frequently used their instruments as percussion which was an inspired touch.

Tori hasn’t played the Royal Albert Hall since 1998, and with her being a self-confessed Anglophile I had an inkling that it was going to be a pretty special show.  She seemed genuinely thrilled to be there, and seemed to really enjoy surprising (and delighting) the crowd that were trying to second-guess her setlist, and then thriving off their rapturous applause when she played a song that pleased them.

The show was a little “Night Of Hunters” album heavy for me, with Tori playing 5 or 6 tracks off that album (more than most other shows), but going to a tour supporting the album in one of the biggest music sales markets, to be honest : WHAT DID I EXPECT. The full length (and largely instrumental) “Star Whisperer” from the album was performed, and was absolutely sublime.

However the show was also very “Little Earthquakes” and “Boys For Pele” heavy (a good thing in my book), the full setlist being –

Shattering Sea (Night Of Hunters)
Scarborough Fair (Cover)
Suede with Improv (To Venus And Back)
Velvet Revolution (B-Side)
Nautical Twilight (Night Of Hunters)
Leather (Little Earthquakes)
Beauty Queen – Horses (Boys For Pele)
Marianne (Boys For Pele)
Mr. Zebra (Boys For Pele)
Fearlessness (Night Of Hunters)
Cloud On My Tongue (Under The Pink)
Star Whisperer (Night Of Hunters)
Silent All These Years (Little Earthquakes)
Bells For Her (Under The Pink)
Way Down (Boys For Pele)
Hey Jupiter (Boys For Pele)
Your Ghost (Night Of Hunters)
Precious Things (Little Earthquakes)
Cruel (From The Choirgirl Hotel)

ENCORE #1

A Multitude Of Shades (String quartet own composition)
Winter (Little Earthquakes)

ENCORE #2

Smells Like Teen Spirit (Cover)
Siren (OST “Great Expectations”)
Big Wheel  (American Doll Posse)

The strengths of the show were definitely the tracks that had been worked especially for the tour alongside the string quartet. “Precious Things”, “Leather” and “Cruel” – none favourites of mine from their respective albums – all really came to life with dramatic light-shows, exciting new string arrangements and Tori writhering around on stage (particularly during “Cruel” which Tori started channelling  Blonde Ambition Madonna, getting all sexy on both pianos). They were all really wonderful.

My personal highlights were the set-list surprises though. Not quite huge surprises as all are staples of her live sets, but none performed frequent enough for me to realistically expect I would get them at the Royal Albert Hall show. The beautiful “Boys For Pele” album opener (and one of my all time favourite Tori tracks) “Beauty Queen/Horses” was one of the first tracks to absolutely raise the roof, and probably got one of the best reactions of the whole night. Just Tori and a piano and the whole place in the palm of her hand –

“Hey Jupiter”, another “Boys For Pele” track also appeared towards the end of the show, and was absolutely beautiful (to the point that I noticed the bouncer in our section had taken his eye off us and was watching Tori perform during the track). Pretty much spinechilling, and a bit of an unexpected moment. “Hey Jupiter” is a huge personal favourite, but I didn’t expect her to play “Beauty Queen/Horses” and “Hey Jupiter” in the same show.

and finally as her near penultimate track, she played her cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Nothing new in a Tori Amos live show, but following such a crowd-pleasing tracklist for the gig, to throw this in right at the end had the whole crowd going mental, and again had the entire hall completely transfixed. It was completely unexpected by myself, to the point where I involuntarily went “oh my gosh” under my breath when she dropped it. It really was a very special show, with a near-dream tracklist for somebody like myself who is not quite a Tori-loon (a Toriphile is how they are known) but a big Tori fan, particularly having never seen her live before.

I must mention the  Toriphiles, I had been warned previously about the mad rush to the front of the stage of a thousand gays crying their eyes out to a “1000 Oceans” encore, but never really believed it was true, certainly not in the partisan Britain – how wrong I was! As soon as Tori finished “Cruel” (the last track in her main set), almost the entire floor of the bottom section (the stalls?) of the Royal Albert Hall literally ran and pushed to the front when she did her last song before the encore and basically stood in a human pyramid at the front of the stage  all reaching out to her and basically all WEEPING in unison…it was kind of crazy, but pretty amazing that people get so loony about her. I had never seen anything like it, certainly not at a gig for an act like Tori Amos (particularly as this show was a borderline classical affair). It was kind of wonderful to watch, particularly as Tori then proceeded to whack out “Winter” – one of her most famous tracks – and a thousand loons in the front row started openly weeping and bawling their eyes out.

It really was a wonderful evening, and it really made me feel I had achieved something I probably should have achieved many years ago (but it all came good in the end seeing such an amazing gig, in such an amazing venue). My ONLY gripe (there is always a gripe), is that she didn’t perform one of my absolute favourites, and a track she has been performing regularly on this tour “Spark”.

“Spark” is a really special track, an absolute all-out anthem written about her miscarriage, and probably the biggest balls blazing pop song in her entire canon. Had she perfomed it as her  first encore tonight I think her crazy fans would have spontaneously combusted, and its a shame that she didn’t, as it doesn’t seem to be as big a live staple as some of her other tracks “Precious Things” for example, so I was excited to see it on rotation on this tour. But hey, maybe she will perform it next time…and there definitely will be a next time for me…I’m tempted to get a ticket for her next gig tomorrow night already even though it would lead me to financial ruin. I am definitely seeing her whenever she next tours from now until she stops, truly a live force in a league of her own.

Thanks Tori, for an awesome date with myself. Please play this live for me next time kthanksbye –


Jack Littman – Sinking Ship VIDEO


Jack Littman HOT CHEST FLASH alert –

So “Sinking Ship” by Jack Littman has gone on to become not only one of my favourite tracks of the year so far, but probably of the last few years or so, I think its a really amazingly special track and I try to foist it on people whenever, and wherever I go. Its been picked up on by a few blogs, and I really hope it has made a few waves for him.

A commenter on my previous post on the track named LISA informed me that a video has now been made for the song, something that surprised me somewhat as I honestly never expected the song to get to the video stage. For the obvious budget restraints I think they have done a really nice job. I really like the flashes of light (and that it was filmed in the pitch black dark), and the straight on shots of Jack himself staring directly into the camera rather intensively, and the usage of red and green light in general.  I do think its a bit fussy, and probably could have done without the traffic cones, bubbles and rope, and probably would have had the job done using light alone, but for a debut video, on a budget for an AMAZING song I think its a fine effort –

I really hope the track grows more now there is a video out. It would work just as well played REALLY LOUD in a club as it would listening at home as a mellow track – an honour that not many songs can honestly say they can warrant – the only other song I can think of that works in both contexts off the top of my head is the Jamie XX remix of “You Got The Love” by Florence and The Machine. I’m pleased that Jack Littman seems to be exploring the more interesting side of his work and image too, I was a bit worried he was going to play at being a boring singer-songwriter.

You can still download “Sinking Ship” and the rest of the Jack Littman mixtape at http://jacklittman.bandcamp.com/track/sinking-ship do so, its good!