Sunday, 29 December 2019

Memories of 2019 gigs #6-7

Pom Poko
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff - Friday, 25th October 2019
Support: Orchards

As I've already mentioned, 'Birthday', the debut album from quirky Norwegians Pom Poko, is one of my favourite records of the year. It's sublimely peculiar, yet irresistably catchy at the same time. The band have been making their name on the live circuit with a string of very well-received festival shows over the summer, so a show at a compact venue like the Clwb was definitely too good to resist.

It was a godawful night weather-wise - well the whole day had been miserable - so we left it late to brave the rain and make the trek into Cardiff. We arrived during support band Orchards' last song, which was a shame as they sounded really good. Would like to have seen more of them.

I hoped Pom Poko would bring some of their album's idiosyncracies to their live show as well as the energy and joy it exudes in great quantities. The myriad rhythms, time signatures and arrangements would be difficult for many bands to pull off onstage, yet Pom Poko do it effortlessly. So effortlessly in fact, you could be forgiven for thinking they mime along to the record - they sound so on point.

The set centred around said debut album, but also found room for a smattering of new songs and an early single or two. Singer Ragnhild bounced around the stage like Zebedee for the entire set, wearing a permanent grin as big as the band's backdrop - there was the energy, right there, in abundance. It's difficult to pinpoint where Pom Poko's sound comes from, though they do cite the likes of Ali Farka Touré and Death Grips among their influences so its little wonder there is such exhuberance.

Highlights included the cowbell-heavy Crazy Energy Nights, My Blood, Leg Day, It's A Trap, Follow The Lights and Day Tripper. And then there was this gem: "This is a song about milk," Ragnhild informed us as she introduced Milk Trust. "If you like milk, it's a good song for you. If you don't like milk, well it might still be a good song for you." A loud, Welsh-accented voice bellowed: "I'M LACTOSE INTOLERANT!" "Then you have no hope," replied guitarist Martin amid the laughter. You can always trust a loud Welshman to give good banter!

We were all done by 10pm, but blimey, what a great show. I stuck around to buy 'Birthday' on vinyl (which I had somehow neglected to do before then) and the band duly signed it. As well as one of my top albums, Pom Poko delivered one of my top gigs of the year too. Back outside, it hardly mattered that it was still raining - we'd had a bit of Norwegian sunshine to brighten our lives.

I found this full live set online and thought you should see it. It's from some German festival, possibly some industry thing, the setup is a bit weird. But Pom Poko's performance is superb.

New Model Army
Tramshed, Cardiff - Sunday, 17th November 2019
Support: The Secret Faces

Almost exactly three years to the day after we last caught New Model Army at the Tramshed, we were back there to see them again. Not a lot has changed in that period, socially or politically, so a chance to let off steam with one of the best protest acts around was more than welcome.

Support came from local act The Secret Faces, a very talented, tight bunch of musicians. Sadly, they didn't grab Our Mate Colin, MrsRobster or myself. They had too many slow and mid-tempo songs to set things alight. But as professional-sounding as a support band can get, that's for sure.

New Model Army have been at this sort of thing for 39 years now - next year is their 40th anniversary - so they really know what they're doing. They typically shy away from the hits and crowdpleasers in favour of more recent material. So it was a huge surprise when they came onstage and Justin hollered "There is no rest for the wicked ones / Dear god what is this evil that we've done?" as the set was launched with No Rest. A brave move for sure - how do you follow one of your most loved songs? Well, as I mentioned the last time I reviewed them, New Model Army could play anything, their fans would still go nuts.

Obviously, new album 'From Here' featured heavily: Never Arriving, The Weather, End Of Days, Where I Am, Great Disguise, Setting Sun and the brilliant Watch And Learn all got an airing, but there was more than a fair old smattering of older (if lesser-known) tracks too, spanning their four-decade career. States Radio, Believe It and Betcha were drafted in amongst classics like 51st State ("an old song that's back on the agenda" according to Justin Sullivan) and the ferocious Here Comes The War, one of my fave NMA songs. Also of note was Justin's mesmerising and spine-tingling solo rendering of Over The Wire.

Next year's 40th Anniversary tour will no doubt prove to be a real treat as "we may feel slightly obliged to play some songs people want to hear" - I'm holding out for Green And Grey, White Coats and I Love The World. That's not to take away from this explosive encounter with the Army in any way, mind - they remain as important as they always have. "Did you think we were born in peaceful times?" Justin (and the crowd) sang in Here Comes The War. We already know the answer to that one, but perhaps NMA wouldn't need to exist if there was nothing for them, or us, to stand up for. Silver linings, I suppose.

No quality footage from Cardiff, but here's my fave track from the new album played at a date earlier in the tour:

And if you want to hear a couple of classics, here's 51st State and Here Comes The War live in Leeds the night before Cardiff. A marvellously vocal crowd!

So that's rounded up all our live experiences of 2019. So far next year we have just the one show confirmed (Marika Hackman, since you ask), but I'm pretty sure there will be more. Nick Cave won't be one of them though - the ticket prices have put paid to that! 

One last post to come on NYE...

No comments:

Post a Comment