Archive for July, 2009

July 26, 2009

Morrissey delivers premature performance at the Troxy

Morrissey – 18 July 2009 – Troxy, London

Forever cited as one of  music’s most enigmatic characters, Morrissey certainly lived up to his contrary image last week in a performance at the Troxy in East London, which delivered early greatness to eventually leave an all too familiar feeling of  disappointment at what might have been.

For an hour Morrissey was untouchable.  Once the early microphone sound problems had been rectified the clarity, wit and theatrics of the performance matched the sheer excitement of the set list.  Morrissey rarely plays more than a handful of Smith songs – this time a third of his set comprised of those timeless gems.  Along with perennial favourites, ‘How soon is now’, ‘This charming man and ‘Girlfriend in a coma’ – sat the beautiful lament of ‘Please please please let me get what I want’, the defiant ‘Ask’ and the powerfully scathing ‘You just haven’t earned it yet baby’.  Although the best song of the night was the acoustic folk of ‘Why don’t you find out for yourself’ – a bitter swipe at the music industry from the brilliant ‘Vauxhall and I’.  The rest of the  hour was filled with a selection of new tracks from ‘Years of Refusal’ interspersed with the muscular ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’ and the whimsical ‘Life is a pigsty‘.  So far – so great!   What was to follow was completely disappointing and so utterly Morrissey………

The last few songs of the set were cumbersome and make up some of the material for his current mediocre long player – although the songs were embellished live with extravagant  bass and drum solos – to overcompensate for the lack of melody or lyrical nous.  After which he and the band dissapeared  backstage –  this was after 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Quite early to go off, but all would have been forgiven if the encore had showed a little more respect to his paying fans. ……

Enter Morrissey and band who tore into a fast and celebratory ‘First of the gang to die‘.  As good as the song was – the shock of seeing Morrissey rip off his shirt, throw it into the crowd and then race off stage was quite bewildering……….surely not?  A one song encore after 1 hour 20 minutes!  And sure enough the house lights confirmed my disappointment.  My disappointment quickly turned to anger…..Here was an artist who has an incredibly rich back catalogue of songs – many of which are the best of their generation, and yet he fails to offer more than a fleeting glimpse of his greatness to his dedicated fans – fans who have payed nearly 40 pounds a ticket!  Peter Doherty played the Troxy the night before and played for 2 hours – an artist with a serious drug habit and only one solo album to his name! 

Of course Morrissey will always play for himself and always leave the fans wanting more – but for an established and mature artist to offer so little to an expectant crowd could be construed as lazy.   Maybe that is the extent of Morrisey’s live legacy – to hint at greatness without ever truly entering the realm of the great live performers.  He always has been so bloody contrary – but even the most famous of them all – Eric Clapton and Neil Young – produce magical live performances from time to time.   Although that requires more than 1 hour 20 minutes of their time.

July 21, 2009

Mercury Music Awards reveal nominations

This years nominations follow the current craze for female electro pop with the inclusion of La Roux, Florence and former contender Bat for Lashes – with the likelihood of Florence winning because of her slightly more oeuvre – eccentric sound –  we are definitely not short on eclectic female singers at the moment!  Though why they have to be all included (apart from the mediocre Little boots)  is beyond me!   Isn’t it just a little formulaic? Shouldn’t the prize represent British music across the board? Where are the Doves – after making the album of their career they’ve been completely ignored!

The Mercury music awards also prides itself on innovation and the cutting edge – so why do we always have a traditional folk band in the nominations (Sweet Billy Pilgrim)? Are many of the bands really cutting edge or are they just recycling old sounds – Kasabian?
If the award is for the best British album then surely the Manic Street Preachers should be in the mix with their brilliant return to form in ‘The Journal of the Plague Lovers’ – Glasvegas’ album sounds good on the first few listens but will it stand the test of time – probably not?

Always controversial and polemic the Mercury has again divided opinion.  Should it just feature independent artists? – essentially this is it’s strongest asset – instead of following current trends, tastes and fashions, should it judge on musical merit alone?  It tries to be all things to all people and quite often fails to define the years musical benchmark. 

Although highly respected as an award it can often appear slightly confused in its objectives – is it designed to publicise and award the best new talent in Britain?  Or should it just carry on picking random nominations of both established acts and new artists, some of which are based on popularity rather than musical scope?  Until it defines its musical mandate it will continue to excite, baffle and annoy in equal measure.

July 14, 2009

Festival Fatigue

The sheer breadth and depth of the BBC’s latest coverage of Glastonbury and T in the Park is quite an achievement.  The BBC had a combined production staff output of 720 at both events – A huge amount of staff you may think – but wholly justified when you consider the amount of multiplatform coverage it has delivered in the past few weeks. 

In this current age of multimedia overload, festivals and gigs are yet another experience that can be replicated and consumed vicariously at any time through any media. Which leads me to question the relevance of actually attending a festival or gig when many of the acts perform for you in the comfort of your own home?
Of course the sheer visceral emotion of singing along in a communal tribe is impossible to replicate without being there – although surely with so much blanket coverage – the drama, nuances and set lists of each band become common knowledge which leads to a diminishing of the genuine live experience.   I’m sure Blur were great in Hyde Park last week – but their set would have been much more memorable and surprising if know one had already witnessed it on TV, from Glastonbury, the previous week!
Gone is the suspense of the artist – the shock of the new.   Many live experiences we now see  are recycled from previous images or memories.  Of course it is not just the BBC who are too blame for this devaluation of the live experience!   – or though as much as I admire their blanket multiplatform coverage I still feel they are one of the main offenders.

The artist still has the ability to reverse this cultural trend – and untimely the power of expression still lies with them – but many unfortunately seem unperturbed.   Some artists have refused the BBC and other production companies the rights to record their performances – Leonard Cohen, Rage Against the Machine – both last year.  Of course this is much more favourable if the artist is very well known and doesn’t need the media exposure to increase royalties.   If the artist is dependent on mainstream coverage then changing the set list frequently can add an element of unfamiliarity at least without deterring from the ultimate monetary aim – it also adds a bit of mystique to a band – and detracts from the dreaded ubiquity and consequently fatigue of an artist. 

“Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us” (Boris Pasternak)