This is apparently the 666th post on this blog, so I thought I’d celebrate that with devilishly beastly top 13 Satan songs. I’d also love to hear what other songs you might have chosen. Given that we are days away from Halloween I suppose that this borders on being a topical post too 🙂
Once in a while you are presented with the opportunity to see a band that you have listened to a lot but have never really made the effort to see play live. I had a lucky break as my friend Andy Golborne’s partner Rachel was unable to attend a gig by the truly splendid Counting Crows. So I became the lucky owner of her ticket and went along to the O2 Apollo in Manchester last to see the band. This was the first time I have seen them but Andy has seen them on many occasions.
The support was provided by Lucy Rose a 23-year-old singer songwriter from Surrey. She has previously provided some vocals when recording with the Bombay Bicycle Club. She strikes me very much of a young Joni Mitchel but with even more jazz sensibilities. Her band is tight and very talented. To me there is almost an undercurrent of some of the better aspects of prog Rock in their delivery. The exposure of touring with Counting Crows can only enhance her profile and I would definitely see her again. In fact I would like to apologise for missing her at last years Reading Festival.
The Counting Crows. What can I say? Probably that they are even better live than they are on record and I do believe that their recorded output is bloody good! I can’t believe that this is the first time I have seen them in concert. Adam Duritz mentioned that he had woken up in the morning with a sore throat but that did not seem to mar his vocal performance which was brilliant. it did mean that we missed out on some of the story telling introductions that he often does when playing live. But that was a very small price to pay. The crowd was made up of mostly hard-core Crows fans. The bloke in front of me went nuts for almost every song and it looked like he had his kids with him, they also seemed to love it.
The band seems to really love what they are doing as well and this made for a stupendous all round performance which they enjoyed as much as the audience. I was really pleased that they raided their back catalogue excellently and didn’t stick with just the big hits; there was no “Mr Jones” for example. The band took to the stage to the sound of Bill Withers’ classic “Lean On Me” and left at the end of the evening to “California dreamin'” from the Mamas and Papas, to which Mr Duritz led us in a sing along. But obviously it’s what was sandwiched between those classic records that was most important. If I mentioned every highlight I would simply type in the set list! The first part of the show had excellent versions of “Omaha” and “I Wish I Was A Girl”.
The acoustic set in the middle of the show was beautiful, especially the arrangement of “Mercury”. acoustically this was accompanied by a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Friend Of The Devil” and another Counting Crows classic, “When I Dream Of Michelangelo“. After that excellent trio the set kicked back into electric gear, starting with a rousing “Round Here”. The cover of Gillian Welch‘s “Look At Miss Ohio” was truly stunning and new arrangement (to me at least) of “Rain King” was a truly emotional experience. The encore included “Washington Square” and a gorgeous rendition of “Holiday In Spain”. are the Counting Crows the best live band I have ever seen? Not quite but they are definitely in my top 5 and I will certainly see them again. In fact next time I shall take the wonderful Catwoman (a.k.a. my beautiful wife Catherine) with me.
Please note that apart from the picture at the top of this post none of the images or films were taken by me.
OK I’m a little later than planned with this review, but here it comes anyway. Many of you regular readers of this blog will know that I have shamelessly promoted this rather excellent band called Steal The Smile. I finally got to see them live last week. So have I given them a good review? well for that you’ll have to read on. Let me begin with the support bands;
First up were InColour. Sadly I only caught their last one and a half numbers but they sounded like a pretty good band, check them out on MySpace by clicking here. Sorry I missed the first part of your set guys.
Second were MotionInColour and as far as I know nothing to do with the first band apart from the similarity of names, boy this is confusing for an old bloke believe me! Anyway MotionInColour were pretty good, a really tight band with an excellent drummer. Shades of Counting Crows and perhaps Hootie and the Blowfish, although to be fair they are probably too young to remember either of those bands! They do have a great sound though soft acoustic building to pounding drums and great vocals. The singer also gave perhaps the best heckler put down of the night. One member of the audience showed the height of his intellectual abilities when he shouted “You suck” during a break between songs, without losing a breath the singer responded with “So did your mum last night” bloody sharp and bloody hilarious also a bloody good band. Click here to check out their MySpace page.
The penultimate band of the night were Francesqa, personally I’m not sure about the name, but hey, to each their own. Let’s face it both Radiohead with ‘On A Friday’ and Blur with ‘Seymour’ had far worse names before they changed. Francesqa are a pretty strong rock band, certainly their vocalist has a great voice and excellent audience interaction. The rhythm section work well together and provide an excellent engine for the band’s overall sound. I really like this band I’m just not keen on the name, check out their MySpace page here
OK so here we go with the main men of the night, the mighty Steal The Smile. Well let me start by using an American phrase that I really don’t use that often, these boys rock! I’ve said in previous posts about them (and there have been quite a few!) that they sound a little like Blink 182 although with a much more English identity, which is something I love. Far too many bands adopt fake American accents to sing, these guys are part of a great English rock tradition that stretches back to Syd Barrett and runs through the Clash, the Pistols and Paul Weller amongst others. They rock out in the way only English guys can!
It is clear that Steal The Smile have now been playing together for quite a while, their musicianship gets straight ‘A’s from me and they are developing a superb repertoire of their own songs. Their new single is fantastic, it’s called “Rome Was Built To Burn” and if you hurry to their MySpace page their may still be just a few copies left, otherwise you’ll just have to wait for their forthcoming EP. They played a few new songs including the excellent “What Would Elvis Do?” which you can currently hear on their MySpace page
Luke introduced a great cover version by telling the audience that if they didn’t recognise it they were ‘complete homos’ or that the band were perhaps playing it pretty crappily. Well even I recognised it so I guess I’m not a complete homo then! They also played it damned well, the song was Blink 182’s “All The Small Things”
So Steal The Smile are indeed a bloody good band, they can clearly cut it live as well as recording. Unlike some more successful bands who seem to have no sense of humour, these boys seem to have great fun on stage together too. Check them out on MySpace here, you WILL NOT be disappointed!