Saturday, 9 May 2015

Memories of 2015 gigs 4-6

#4: Wolf Alice
The Globe, Cardiff - 1st April 2015
Support: The Magic Gang, Crows

I'd been looking forward to seeing Wolf Alice for some time. I was excited that I was going to get to see a new band on the very tip of stardom play what could be their last small venue tour before rocketing to fame. Then, two days before the show, I caught the plague.

OK, so it was just a cold, but as any self-respecting man will tell you, we get colds that feel like the black death, and this felt like one of them. Fortunately, I dosed myself up enough to drag myself along to the gig, with an ailing MrsRobster in tow. She'd been suffering with some pain over the previous week and was feeling a cold coming on herself. But she'd been to work, so she couldn't have been as bad as me. Either way, neither of us was in optimum gig-going form.

For that reason, we didn't rush to get there early. As a result we missed the opening band Crows. Many didn't though, as for a change, the Globe was pretty rammed from the off. We did see the Magic Gang (from Brighton) though. "What did you make of them?" MrsRobster asked me after their set. "Like a lightweight Weezer," came my reply. She laughed. "That's pretty much exactly what I was going to say." Talk about being on the same wavelength!

The main attraction was greeted by huge cheers from the unsurprisingly young crowd. Wolf Alice haven't even released an album yet, but their set provoked one of the most enthusiastic responses of any audience I've seen for some time. And why not - they are good. Like, really bloody good. Good songs, good sound, good singer. If I had to compare them to another band around at the moment, it would probably be the Joy Formidable (though MrsRobster heard a touch of the Sundays in there too). The only somewhat minor gripe I had is, as good a singer as Ellie Rowsell is, her stage presence needs a bit of work. I didn't quite get the energy I had hoped from her, not the energy or personality Ritzy of the Joy Formidable exudes, anyway.

The next time you get the chance to see Wolf Alice, they'll be playing major festivals and arenas. I hope they make a better job of it than Royal Blood. Personally, I think they're better in every area. Be prepared...



#5: Super Furry Animals
Great Hall, Cardiff University - 3rd May 2015
Support: The Magic Numbers

Question: why do people pay £30+ quid to see a legendary band play a hometown gig - their first in years - only to spend most of the show relentlessly chatting, interspersed only with trips to the bar? And they're always in front of people who - dammit - want to actually see and listen to the band! I know I'm a right misanthrope at the best of times, but jeez these morons really annoy me.

Anyway, it was a bloody horrible Sunday evening outside with some seriously heavy rain making the journey into Cardiff a little treacherous. We arrived halfway through the Magic Numbers set. Remember them? About a decade or so ago, they were being touted as one of the bands most likely to be huge as part of the so-called nu-folk movement, like a 21st Century Mamas & Papas. They enjoyed a few hit singles but then seemed to fade into obscurity. Shame because they actually played a really good-sounding set. The highlights were a song from their most recent album entitled Roy Orbison, set-closer and brilliant early hit Love Me Like You, and a track sung by keyboard player Alison (not sure of the title) showcasing what an amazing voice she has.

The Furries played a mammoth 2¼ hour set which covered all bases - the hits, album tracks, obscurities, pop songs, psychedelic wig-outs, electronic wizardry, English, Welsh - you name it, it was in there. Oh, except anything from the last two albums, which is odd. However, what they did play was never anything less than interesting. Zoom! was absolutely phenomenal, as was Run! Christian! Run! and Fire In My Heart, as sung mainly by the audience.

Joined by a trumpet/sax duo from The Barry Horns, there was nothing missing from the melting pot of madness the Furries conspired to throw at their audience. The International Language Of Screaming was welcomed with some mass la-la-la-ing; Slow Life was riddled with techno jiggery pokery, and Ice Hockey Hair was one of the most warmly received songs of the night. The lights and visuals were spectacular too, adding to the psychedelic experience.

On the downside - the venue isn't the best. It's a soulless space typical of the larger university halls. That may have contributed to the average sound quality - for much of the set it sounded like only half the drum kit had been miked up. And then there's those idiots again, who only seemed to take any notice of the band at all when Hello Sunshine was aired, no doubt just because they love the "I'm a minger / You're a minger too" line. Oh it's so frightfully amusing, Tarquin...

The annoying twats in front of us had cleared off half hour before the end (like, wtf is that all about?) so they missed out on a storming climax which concluded, as always, with a lengthy The Man Don't Give A Fuck, replete with yetis, aliens and Cian's crazy electro-frenzy interlude.

Overall, a fabulous display of everything we love about Super Furry Animals. Oh god, I wish they'd release some new stuff. Just a pity we had to tolerate all those people that we hate. They don't give a fuck about anybody else.


#6: Laura Marling
Colston Hall, Bristol - 5th May 2015
Support: Gil Landry

As far as I know, Laura Marling playing electric guitar has not prompted her fans to squeal "Judas!" during her shows this year, but the fact that she can properly rock has probably come as a bit of a surprise to many. Her latest album 'Short Movie' is notable for its loudness as much as the melancholy we've come to expect. There's no deterioration in quality control though.

There was another surprise for us in Bristol as she took to the stage earlier than expected - as part of the support act! Gil Landry from Louisiana is a member of the Old Crow Medicine Show, but has just released his third solo album. His set of acoustic country songs began entirely solo, but soon included a violin player, Marling's drummer and bassist and then the girl herself who duetted with Landry on Take This Body.

Laura's own set was masterfully arranged and executed. Again there was a slow build-up. A mesmerising opening suite of songs saw a gradual increase of personnel onstage as four songs from her most recent two records were interwoven into one seamless piece. Once the audience were allowed to express their appreciation through rapturous applause, the shackles were off. Out came the Rickenbacker and Laura Marling became an unlikely rock chick.

What was particularly interesting was the alternative arrangements of songs she's only just released. I Feel Your Love became swampy blues, while Strange was brash and chaotic. She also seems to have eschewed much of her earlier material as if to make a statement that she has been somehow reborn. Rambling Man and Sophia were both present and correct, but the majority of the set consisted of the new songs in whatever manner she chose to perform them. Some people hate this of course; no doubt the sort of people that went to see Super Furry Animals a couple nights before would have ranted endlessly about the one or two songs they actually knew not being played had the band decided to play new stuff. But while Devil's Spoke, Night Terror, All My Rage and Devil's Resting Place were all noticeable by their absence, I couldn't be disappointed with what Laura chose to do instead. The new songs made the set even more compelling than it might otherwise have been, False Hope especially.

That said, the real highlight for me was an oldie. Goodbye England (Covered In Snow) was beautiful, absolutely divine, spine-tingling. There was also a wonderful outing for her cover of Jackson C. Frank's Blues Run The Game, and the gorgeous Daisy, a song recorded for the new record but relegated to vinyl-only bonus track. I can see why - it's far too 60s folk to fit in with the new identity Laura's forging herself. Closing without an encore (she doesn't believe in them), she left us with the foul-mouthed title-track from said album, even louder and more brazen than the recording.

Laura Marling says very little between songs, appearing shy and self-effacing. Her music, particularly the bold, confident new songs, suggest otherwise though. There's plenty more to come, I'm sure.



  1. Your description of your cold made me laugh out loud!! I will not forget to make Mrs Loser read this when I get home ... wonderful!

  2. I love Wilf Alice too. Waiting patiently here in Dublin for a date. Even pre ordered the double vinyl. Nice in this day in age that a band can excite!