Friday, 28 September 2012

Ultravox Live

I haven't been to a non-metal gig in an age but even though the ticket price was a little bit steep for my pockets, I forked out the asking price to attend this exercise in 80s Nostalgia. I used to love some of the big 80s Ultravox hits as much as any other kid around that time and factor in that they have made, what is quite literally a fantastic new album for men of their age and it would have been rude to miss this gig. Probably the first and last time I will see them live though I do hope they will continue as the album is classic 'vox.

The gig started at 8pm prompt with Midge and co striding on to the stage without a word of welcome or hello and the first catchy piano strikes on the title track to the new album starting instantly. I had read reports on the Ultravox forum that stage banter and small talk was pretty limited and almost non existent and this proved true for almost the entire two and a half hours they were on stage. I guess they are a bit old and just let the music do the talking in the main. There are no introduction of songs even new ones, though I guess most of those had no need of such trivialities being long standing voxheads who know every single nuance of an Ultravox song. I myself am not one of those however. I know and love all the hits but some of the lesser known songs or titles (to me anyway) passed my by somewhat though I did enjoy them.

The set was comprised of an initial 50 minutes followed by a longer second part allowing the band time to rest a little cause they are a bit old of course. The sound for the entire night was near on perfect. Quite heavy when Midge was on his guitars and moody and mysterious for those atmospheric electro keys from Billy Currie. In fact they all played keys at times. The epic backing vocals from the drummer were also perfect. From the opening 50 minute set the best songs for me were Brilliant, Mr. X (very epic), Reap the Wild Wind, the amazingly dramatic Visions in Blue with the stage bathed in blue light, and finally first set closer The Voice. This was truly epic and I would have preferred this to be the complete night closer. The end parts featured all four members drumming and the crowd clapping in time. Very moving and epic to an amazing song sung brilliantly by Midge I might add. In fact I was surprised that his voice sounded as good as it did, as he seems to have lost a little power in his voice, but it held up truly well over all.

The second and longer set of the night saw the band hitting their stride a little more and upping the gears. Opener Live from the new album sounds simply stunning live with it's superb tempo and catchy woah woahs captivating the audience immensely. The Thin Wall is just an amazing classic 'vox tune and to hear it live after all these years was really a sight I thought I would never see. Lament was another highlight with it's dreary but catchy simple chorus jerking a few tears here and there no doubt. I Remember is funnily enough a song I have no recollection of at all, but wow what an amazing song again. Quite simple in style but with a chorus to die for. Lie from the new album was brilliant and is a huge hit waiting to happen. Soon it was time for THAT song. The spooky drum crashes and the stage goes dark and you hear Midge sing those immortal words "We walked in the cold air..." yes it was my first hearing a song I have heard a million times and it never gets old either. Vienna - just amazing.

Vienna was followed by Flow an amazing song from the new album which has great guitar from Midge and is quite industrial sounding in feel. It reminds me a bit of Muse mixed with Killing Joke but it has a superb dark melody. Live it sounded so heavy and the full on widescreen sound was perfect. One Small day had full crowd singalong. It's not a song that I immediately remembered but it slowly came back to me and it was a highlight of the second set no doubt. The last three songs of the main set were all classic crowd pleasers being Love's Great Adventure, one of their catchiest tunes with a great galloping metallic riff live which it made sound much better and ballsier than it does on record. All Stood Still with it's staccato robotic feel was again much heavier and better live and had full crowd participation with it's rhythmic chorus. The final song Hymn had complete crowd participation come the chorus. Who would not want to sing along when that chorus comes I don't know! A truly spine tingling end. I would have loved to have heard Satellite from the new album which was a glaring ommision

The encore consisted of two songs, One a classic and one a rather dreary and depressing end to the night. Firstly we had the classic pop hit Dancing With Tears in My Eyes. It's hard not to love that one. It's just classic 80s. Finally we had the song Contact from the new album a rather desperate song with not much of a melody. Maybe I don't quite get it but a rousing end is surely a better way to end rather than a timid dirge like Contact. If they wanted a dirge they should have played Fall from the new album it's much better and moodier. The lack of Satellite from the new album was also a slight downer as it's a rather spiffing tune but hey beggars can't be choosers on this occasion and I'm just glad I got to see them before they conk out!

Unfortunately the evening was slightly marred by some stupid woman running on stage during Contact and shoving a trifle full in Midge's head as he was just finishing the song. I don't really know why she did it but I guess it's just another attention seeker. A slightly damp squib of an end but I won't let it spoil what was a very entertaining evening of nostalgia of the music of my youth before I discovered heavy metal. I'm really glad I went and I do hope I will get another chance to see them before they finally really do become too old and have to call it a day.

First Set:
2.New Europeans
3.Mr X
4.Reap The Wild Wind
5.Visions In Blue
7.White China
8.Rage in Eden
9. Rise
11.The Voice

Second Set:
13.We Stand Alone
14.The Thin Wall
16.I Remember (Death in the Afternoon)
21.One Small Day
22.Passing Strangers
23.Love's Great Adventure
24.All Stood Still

26.Dancing With Tears In My Eyes


Sunday, 23 September 2012

Firewind with Leaves' Eyes

Well the festival season is over and as the winter draws in the metal gigs start to pick and I've got a fair few lined up over the coming months. To break the duck after so long on the sidelines as far as gigs were concerned, I went to the Firewind/Leaves' Eyes gig last night at the Islington Academy. It was a Saturday night so it was worth the effort with no work the nest day although to be honest I've seen Firewind many times and they are a great band indeed so their live show holds no surprises for me at all.

As for Leave's Eyes well I quite liked their first couple of albums or mainly the second one should I say although the name escapes me right now, but recent efforts have not really moved me. They seem to have not quite got the song writing and catchiness to the levels that I personally like however it's always interesting to see a band live for the first time and especially the delectable Liv Kristine of course.

The band strode on at 6.45 or so for this was an early curfew night and went headlong into their midpaced heavy gothic riffs and allowed Liv to sparkle the music with her angelic vocals. It was teh first time seeing Liv in the flesh and she looked gorgeous though perhaps a little older than I imagined but I guess she's much older than I thought. Soon her massive hubby with Alex Krull, he of insanley long hair, joined his glamorously corseted wife for the beauty and the beast metal that Leaves' Eyes are best know for. Elegy was a stand out as well as the catchy To France. Liv sang beautifully and her big hubby was on hand in case any of the crowd got a bit lairy with her! They got a good response from the slightly disappointing crowd of 350 or so and left after nearly an hour or so. The venue holds 7-800 max and it was definitely only half or a little bit more full. I expect Firewind to be packing or nearly selling out but I guess their fanbase even with Gus being exposed to Ozzy fans has pretty much stayed the same with the hardcore fans being in attendance and the Ozzy fans not really giving a shit lol!

At 8.15 the stage was finally ready for Gus G and his cohorts to deliver their blistering melodic power metal as only they know how. These days Firewind are like a well oiled machine and deliver the good with ease. They sounded a bit tighter, heavier and better than I remember them on recent gigs. Apollo sounded a bit meaner live than he does in the studio although the high notes are sometimes a bit throaty. The new songs sounded very good live being heavy and crunchy with tonnes of fat guitar licks and trade-offs galore between Gus and Bob when he was not playing keys.

The band just sounded in fine fettle all night basically and delivered crowd pleasers from the previous albums interspersed with new tunes with every song being applauded and cheered to the rafters. I am the Anger is a huge highlight of and Firewind set and last night's was no different. Apollo is a rousing front man and got the crowd going with his vocal prowess and had the diehards eating out of his hand. Gus was his usual shredding machine self and a couple of classic Firewind instrumentals were played with flying fingers doing incredibly complex things on fiery fretboards!

On the second to last song of the encore Liv joined the band on stage for the song(I forget the title) they have off a few albums back that has the female duet. I've actually heard that song live when the original chick sang it when Firewind supported Dragonforce an eternity ago but it sticks in the mind all the same. Any how they haven't played the song since but since they are touring with Liv they get her up to sing it with Apollo every night. Good song too and Liv looked really beautiful in her change of corset from green to red. The last song of the night was Falling to Pieces and at just before 10pm Firewind made their farewells after yet another solid live performance. Like I said before a well oiled, slick power metal machine.