Saturday, 26 April 2008

Evening Of Diverse Entertainment

Venue: MADCAP, Wolverton
Acts: Frantic UK, Sushi, Raw Pride, Neil Beardmore, Baron Makabre, Faceless Joker, Joshua Timmins
Reviewer: MMT.

I dunno if reviews of the legendary Evenings Of Diverse Entertainment at MADCAP would usually qualify for inclusion here in The Dudebox – the Diverseness is supposed to encompass Theatre, Poetry, Film and Anything Else Anyone Can Think Of (e.g. Omelette Cookery) – but this one for some reason contained bands and bands only. And I do mean bands only. Inexplicably* there was virtually no audience to speak of, so the evening consisted of each band playing their set to the watching waiting other bands. Almost like a great big communal rehearsal, or a Jools Holland programme. So into The Dudebox it shall fall. ;-)

Frantic UK aren’t really a band, I suppose – more an “urban dance troupe” – but they kicked things off with a compelling mix of high energy breakdancing and shape-throwing routines. As they grabbed volunteers from the audience (including our mate Thomas!) to learn some moves, I whispered to Tony “this is what MADCAP is all about!”

So the first band band up were Sushi, an act extremely close to the heart of The Dudebox. I think Phil would admit himself (and he did!) that this was a hit-and-miss set from him and Breakdancing Thomas. The more songs they do as an electric-guitar-and-bass duo, the more you think as an observer “hmm… this could probably do with some drums, dude”. But the songs themselves are cool, from classic “oh yeah, alright” number “Party” to the newer songs which hint at a slightly different direction for Sushi. Watch this space, here comes the Summer! ;-)

Raw Pride are fast becoming one of our favourite MK acts – in fact Simon and I had been talking about them in the pub only that afternoon. Their set at MADCAP was a different vibe again from their Sunset Lounge or Lupus Aid appearances. Two rappers and a turntable were joined by a dude on funkeh bass and a dude on guitar, so the general result was more rap-rocky than their usual sound. They seem to be able to turn their hand to anything – and they’re jolly nice blokes too! ;-)

At least the evening was able to conjure up Diversity in the types of music, though. Neil Beardmore’s bluesy lounge act, all bright red boots and Hammondy organ sounds, is quite a distance from Raw Pride. And to have that followed by the standard Baron Makabre set of unsettling “” voodoo rock? Well… it’s certainly not yer standard Band Night, anyway.

The biggest noise of the evening came from a five-piece band of young lads who’d been very patiently (well, most of them!) been waiting at the back of the room for their turn. Faceless Joker served up relatively standard grungey rock, but were still interesting, clearly very tight - and went down well with what audience there was left by that point. Phil talked to them later and apparently they’re splitting up soon to go to University. Ah, the ways of the world. I have been there, brothers. They did a song about “the greyness of things”. I have been there too. Good stuff.

But one of the nicest surprises of the night came with the final act – cheeky-faced hat-wearing acoustic boy Joshua Timmins. I can’t believe a) he’s only fifteen, but more importantly b) this was only his second ever gig. His big-hearted campfire singy-songwritering put a smile on everyone’s faces – and you have to have something special about you to be able to cover “What A Wonderful World” and get away with it. I bought a copy of his CD for £2, apparently only recorded that afternoon. Chap! Definitely one to watch.

And so against all the odds a good night, despite the low turn-out. Definitely worth clicking on their various MySpace links and checking them out. Local talent. Go on. Go on. Go on.

* Doctor Who had already finished!

Thursday, 17 April 2008


Venue: Hammersmith Apollo, London.
Support: Leila
Reviewer: Phil W

Well it only seems right to mention (before you start reading this review) that the playing field isn’t entirely even! There is a chance my version of the story will be entirely bias and I just thought that was important for you to know at this point in the game. I’m a big admirer of Björk and have been for some years. I’ll be thirty this year, a fact that seems to occur to me almost every day, but while most of the posters from my teenage years disappeared years ago from my bedroom wall, and posters in general gave way with age to pictures in frames, one single poster remains; Björk. I’ve had the poster well over a decade and love it so much that when it came to doing the photo shoot for the release of The Road to Corm’s debut album, I had myself photographed standing next to it.

So, after a five year break from touring and two more albums, Björk was back in the UK for three headline slots at London’s Hammersmith Apollo and I was there for the second. As usual the support act was largely missable. Maybe I’m missing something, maybe I just didn’t get it, but I wasn’t impressed by Leila’s DJ set. But then this wasn’t a night club and no-one was dancing. Some of the ‘sounds’ were genuinely intriguing, and I did my best to appreciate what she was doing, but it was evident by the general disinterest of the crowd, that we were all here to see Björk.

The stage explodes, the circus has definitely arrived! A brass band march onto stage, machines churn clouds of confetti into the air and Björk appears in the centre of it all sporting a wild hairstyle and bizarre dress. She hops frantically around the stage, somewhere between a sugar-overdosed ten year old and a mischievous pixie, singing, chirping and screaming with genuine joy and glee. After two decades of fronting rock-n-roll acts, she still seems to love every moment on the stage and there is no doubt of Björk’s belief in what she does. She has a genuine passion for her music, and in interviews she gives the impression of never doubting her next pirouette in musical direction. She opens with Earth Intruders, the only song on her new album Volta that sounds like it might have been recording in the mid-90’s. It’s synth-pop forced through the Björk blender and it sounds fantastic!

Other songs from the new album go down well too, my personal favorite being horn-driven Wonderlust which really came to life on stage. It’s not often these days that I find myself only really understanding a song when it’s played live, but this was one of those moments and a live triumph. Older material like Hunter, Bachelorette, Joga and a stunning rendition of Army Of Me - delivered with industrial strength - were also real highlights. And there were chillingly beautiful moments in the set, such as when Björk sung the delicate Unravel while encircled by her brass band which she introduced as Wonder Brass, and her stunning rendition of Desired Constellation from newer album Medulla.

But then partway through the set Björk loses all her momentum. She probably meant to, as she let a huge sway of slower songs from her newer albums take the lion’s share of the stage time down the middle of the set. It’s unfortunate, and I’d hate to think of myself as someone who’s living in the past, but these songs just seem weaker than the older material. And while Björk seemed to be obviously loving performing the newer material, I found myself torn. On the one hand, I wanted to hear the classics I’ve loved all these years. But on the other hand it’s great to see a successful artist still producing and performing new material, twenty years into her career, and still exploring and expanding her boundaries as an artist with every new record. I couldn’t wish her to play the same set of greatest hits over and over but then I just didn’t feel the new material was as strong or held together as well. Björk breathed life back into the set with Hyperballad and then a heavy industrial performance of Pluto before returning for the energetic stomp and call to arms of new single Declare Independence. It was a fantastic closer but you were left feeling you wanted to see the set again, if only to appreciate more those probably lovely performances down the middle of the set you just didn’t quite get the first time around. But there’s no time for all that, an hour and a half with Iceland’s queen diva goes pretty quick and before you know it you’ve bought the t-shirt, taken and ride and you’re out the doors. Either way, I wasn’t disappointed. I shall be back here in five years time, the next time Björk is in town. It’s just the way it’s always been.

Set List
01. Intro - Brennið Þið Vitar
02. Earth Intruders
03. Hunter
04. Unravel
05. Hope
06. The Pleasure Is All Mine
07. Dull Flame Of Desire
08. Pagan Poetry
09. Vertebrae By Vertebrae
10. Desired Constellation
11. Army Of Me
12. Bachelorette
13. Who Is It
14. Cover Me
15. Wanderlust
16. Hyperballad
17. Pluto

18. Jóga
19. Declare Independence