The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Gig Reviews

11

Feist (live in Tripod, Dublin)

Leslie Feist liveReview Snapshot: After months of anticipation Miss Leslie Feist finally arrives to an overheated and cramped, but extremely expectant audience. Was it worth the wait? Only if Canadians make consistently bad music... (that's a yes).

The Cluas Verdict? 8.5 out of 10

Full Review:
Showing magnificent control over her wonderfully dry vocals, Feist hits Dublin with a bang and a banjo on a viciously cold Tuesday night. Unfortunately the sold out crowd turn Tripod into a sauna of sorts. I get the feeling that if this was a London show the guest list would be populated with names more suited to gossip pages.

With a natural confidence and a gifted band that are three quarters siblings, she glides through the set with banter and audience choral experiments. After giving excuses as to why this is her first Irish gig, she belts through a set consisting mainly of Let it Die and the superior The Reminder. Of the many highlights of the evening the twinkle-lit ‘I Feel it All’, ‘Gatekeeper’, the irrepressibly colourful ‘1234’ which makes you want to dance like this and grab your fellow man in a tryst of platonic love (at least that’s what it makes me feel) followed by ‘Mushaboom’ the modern pop anthem that is known mostly through television ads.

Of the songs that I was not aware of, they added to the spectacle of the night and as a great introduction to more of her work (most people still believe she has released only two albums, she has in fact four). Particularly delicious was the Nina Simone classic ‘Sea Lion Woman’, which acts as a brisk retort to those that insist that contemporary music has nothing to offer that cannot compare to the days of yore are simply wrong.

To improve upon Simone is no mortal feat but the dirty guitar lick that Feist introduces to the song is simply mesmeric. Whilst she shines through someone else’s original music, Feist weaves her own sonic image to her own capable abilities. Here’s to POD getting her back for some more in future.

Daire Hall


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11

Battles (live in the Tripod, Dublin)

BattlesReview Snapshot: New York avant-garde tech-metallers Battles touch down in Ireland for the second time this year. Dublin rock-venue/sauna Tripod is jammed with Battles devotees. I'm yet to be convinced.

The Cluas Verdict? 6 out of 10

Full Review:
Is it possible to be overawed at the musical skills of a band while still remaining curiously unmoved? It's an odd conundrum I grapple with throughout Battles' math-rock experimentalism in an oven-hot Tripod.

About half of the time, I simply marvel at the musical dexterity on display from the New York quartet. Former Helmet drummer John Stanier's frighteningly precise drumming is something to behold. He looks as if he is doing a particularly strenuous workout session rather than keeping time on his kit. A strange looking kit, it must be noted- a no-frills, minimalist set-up- and only Stanier knows why he has a single, standalone cymbal standing about four feet above him.

Multi-instrumentalist and quasi-frontman Tyondai Braxton provides those odd pixie-like vocals and voice samples, while switching adroitly between keyboards, guitar and the obligatory MacBook Pro. When he plays guitar it is not to elicit some recognisable hook, a hint of a tune maybe, but to unleash more of that industrial riffing, another layer to the way-out sound of Battles.

And yet, for the rest of the time, mainly in the latter half of the gig, the repetitive nature of the music induces something I didn't expect: boredom. It is only when the marvellously robotic 'Atlas' arrives, with its pounding, ascending beat and clever appropriation of techno, that you get the 'idea'. More of this and I would be an instant convert to the ideology of Battles, but it's a fleeting moment in a set that gets more and more samey as the gig progresses. Each song bleeds relentlessly into the next, with little real emotion or light and shade to distinguish them. So while it affects you in a cerebral manner, the heart remains unstirred.

Yes, they are marvellous musicians and are to be greatly applauded for creating this new futuristic music in an era when the retrograde tripe of The Enemy (spit!) are feted as the next big thing. The problem with Battles, however, is that, with the exception of 'Atlas', they rarely provide that big emotional pay-off, the surging moment that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand-up. You wait and wait and, infuriatingly, it never comes and I start to think that maybe that is their intention. Perhaps the band is worried that this would make them sound too conventional.

By taking such an idiosyncratic route ,however, Battles have ended up being a band far easier to admire than to love. 

Ken Fallon


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19

Brett Anderson live at the Beijing Pop Festival

Brett AndersonReview Snapshot: Brett Anderson stole the show, and confronted authorities with a Saturday night of mostly Suede favourites at the Beijing Pop Festival.

CLUAS Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full review:
From the fans carrying signed posters into the ground teeny bopper style to the plentitude of CDs and t-shirts for sales outside you knew there was a bit of a buzz about Brett Anderson’s appearance at this year’s Beijing Pop Festival in downtown Chaoyang Park. The 70 percent local crowd looked more like university students rather than the black-tee brigade who frequent Beijing’s predominantly punk scene.

Anderson’s old band Suede made some noise (and lost much money) during a poorly attended show in Chaoyang Gymnasium in February 2003. But judging from the presence of posters ripped off the walls at that gig, the group made some friends on that trip.

The tight blue jeans, dress shirt and pin striped black jacket made Anderson look like Bryan Ferry when he took the stage at 7pm. The athleticism of the show – jacket came off six songs in – was vintage Anderson however, though the hair and vanity were very Ferry.

Dancing, squatting, kicking and occasionally quiet at the piano, Anderson took the Beijing Pop Festival by the scruff of the neck, the kind of middle age crowd pleasing effort that Sebastian Bach managed here last year. Bravely, he kept the hits for later in the night. Newer songs like Dust and Rain and Everything Will Flow were capable of holding the crowd’s attention until we got there.

“Using sex like an antidote,” from the latter song, is an apt line for Beijing, where beauty parlour culture manifests itself in pink lit cabins along the roads leading off Chaoyang Park. Beijing proffers great songwriting material to a writer like Anderson who has always been a kind of a Roddy Doyle of pop, revelling in the concrete and the % of urban life..

After My Love She’s Like A Cruel Disease, a slowish By The Sea marked the return to Suede land and we stayed there for the rest of the show. Wild Ones drew whoops of recognition. And then a giant Mastercard advert takes up the giant screen. Boos from the back of the crowd. Those bendable blinkies fly through the air during Film Star. Anderson blasts on through it even as a white towel is proferred, he’s too much into it and goes right into Beautiful Ones.

Anderson meant business. I Can’t Get Enough, arguably the best song was a slight deviation among tonight’s many hits, guitars and backing vocals punking it up. During the follow up, Trash, you wonder how hard it must be for the hired hands on the stage, given the reminders in tonight’s songs of how good Suede were on their long road together. Anderson’s school pal Matt Ossman has stuck by him, he’s playing bass tonight, but the difficulties with guitarist Bernard Butler are well documented.

Anderson’s own reputation for grumpiness is belied by tonight’s role as supreme crowd pleaser. Stage security – a troupe of young migrant worker security guards in ill fitting grey-green uniforms and hats like all the others that guard Beijing’s construction sites and car parks - keep a wide space between the crowd and stage and Anderson decides he wants to fill it during Saturday Night.

The result is pandemonium, and a reminder of what a crafty old stage crafter Anderson is. Totally unprepared for the situation, security resorted to default mode of local forces (repression) and tries to prevent him from walking along the barrier. Then a big laoban (boss) comes over to push Anderson back. The Suede man kept going however, waving the screaming top guard aside. The massive cheer showed China’s youth still likes confronting authority.

Mark Godfrey

 


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18

Slint (live in The Tripod, Dublin)

SlintReview Snapshot: While The Rolling Stones roll out the hits yet again in Slane, down the road in Dublin’s wonderful Tripod venue, Slint, also trading on past glories (but in a good way), take to the stage to play one of most important and influential alternative-rock albums of all time. Welcome to Spiderland.

The CLUAS Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full review:
Back in 1991, while Madchester reigned in the UK and Kurt Cobain was changing the course of rock history in the US, four young men from Louisville, Kentucky were quietly putting together a suite of six songs that would become the seminal ‘Spiderland’. With this album they inadvertently laid down the blueprint for what would become ‘post-rock’ with bands like Sigur Ros and especially Mogwai using this album as a creative touchstone for their own output.It is a collection of dark yet highly cerebral songs that didn’t fit in with the plaid-shirted brigade up in Washington State. Whereas grunge was about unleashing all your pent-up emotions and repressed anger, ‘Spiderland’ was about making you think. It has a subtlety and a self-awareness that has resulted in its still sounding so fresh in 2007.

And it is in 2007 that Slint have decided to play the album in full as a part of All-Tomorrow’s Parties programme, and thankfully Dublin is part of the itinerary. They amble onstage with little fanfare; in fact such a low-key entrance is it that most in the audience believe they are part of the crew doing a few last minute checks. But, yes, it is Slint and without a hello or even a glance in our direction (shouts for a new album are met with stony silence), they launch into ‘Breadcrumb Trail’ and over the course of the next hour or so they play the album in its entirety.

On the extreme left of stage, guitarist/‘vocalist’ Brian McMahan quietly narrates over the music, recounting tales of troubled souls in the darklands of America. David Pajo, still looking about 24, unleashes his clean and powerful guitar configurations while Britt Walford is hidden behind his drumkit, working hard keeping time as his band’s mercurial music swoops and swirls around him. On the last track, ‘Good Morning, Captain’ they counterbalance the many subdued moments of before with large chunks of guitar-driven intensity.

After playing the album in sequence, they fill out the set with some non-Spiderland material and a possible new song at the very end. And with that they are gone, uncommunicative and glacially serious to the last, their legacy undamaged and enigma intact.

Ken Fallon


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11

DeVotchka (live in Crawdaddy, Dublin)

DeVotchkaReview Snapshot: They may be known predominantly for the soundtrack of everyone’s favourite indie film of the past few years, but the Denver based band show Dublin that there is much more to them than yellow camper vans and wee Miss Americas. Despite the claim that their "live performances are considered transcendent- with audience members dancing and crying, sometimes in the space of a single song", the Dublin crowd are happy enough to cheer and dance. We’re just a little more restrained I suppose…

The CLUAS Verdict? 7.8 out of 10

Full Review: Spending a balmy and surprisingly dry Friday evening in the beer garden of Crawdaddy is not entirely unpleasant. However the prospect of having to enter a cramped, dark and sweaty room is not exactly enticing, even if it is to see a band that are reluctantly forced to refer to themselves as “Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack composers” in advertisements despite the beauty of their mournful songs. As I enter the venue ten minutes late (lounging in the setting sun delayed me) I am greeted by the sight and sound of Jeanie Schroder playing a huge illuminated sousaphone decorated in flowers and lights, a violinist who is either incredibly sedate or concentrated (quite a bemused expression in my opinion) and lead singer Nick Urata delicately crooning into a vintage microphone with an expression of grief that, one would presume, only a Latin singer can bring to a performance.

For the more sombre and heartfelt songs, Urata stands to the left of the mic as if whispering into a former lover’s ear. Throughout most of the set the drummer is in recluse behind Urata only to emerge to play trumpet when needed. In terms of categorisation Devotchka are a juxtaposition of mariachi influenced horns, guitar and a definite Yiddish/Eastern European fiddle but with the twist of an indie consciousness that invigorate the songs with a distinctive elegance which separates them from the pigeonholing of their influences. Twenty-Six temptations’ thundering sousaphone backbone is fair too loud and rumbling for such an initially timid audience.

The reluctant atmosphere gradually shifted as the trademark song from that soundtrack is aired. How It Ends alleviates any pretensions that they are a one trick horse. Thankfully this brought the rackety talkers of the venue to an abrupt and attentive silence. People began to loosen up: unfortunately I was right beside someone who did not relent in her movement or swaying and I was caught in a constant melee of dodging her grooving limbs and the same went for any unfortunates in her vicinity, but at least she was enjoying the flamenco claps. One of the highlights of the evening was definitely We’re Leaving where the band descended stage amongst the crowd a lá Arcade Fire at their recent gigs. The mariachi influence and lack of amplification brought both crowd and band (literally) closer and by the end of the second encore the crowd had finally been wooed with the polka of Lunnaya Pogonka that almost has me doing Russian squatworks. But not quite.

Whilst they are currently known mostly for their input to a soundtrack, it’s easy to see why they are much more in America. Their collecttive influences may perhaps restrict them from universal acknowledgement but with bands such as Gogol Bordello, Beirut and the North Strand Klezmer Band breaking through to the public, modest success may not be far off.

Solid performers and musicians as they are, it seemed they were waiting more for the audience to get into the gig, allowing them to relax in winning the crowd over. Perhaps the only complaint would perhaps be Urata’s over-earnest posing, giving each song such melodrama that he saturates some songs needlessly with his whispering pose. This was a great live introduction and with a few more visits and word of mouth approval they should garner a solid troupe of followers. Plus it’s nice to see a dressed up sousaphone once in a while.

Daire Hall


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23

The Killers (live at the Sziget Festival, Budapest)

The KillersReview Snapshot:
The Killers close Budapest's 15th Sziget festival with a Sam's Town-heavy set and a Joy Division cover.

The CLUAS Verdict? 7.5 out of 10

Full review:
If there’s such a thing as being too good, The Killers are it. Called into action early on the last night of Sziget 2007 after Chris Cornell failed to show, the band never put a foot wrong in a 90 minute set. Brandon Flowers, in a Victorian looking black-white outfit that looked right he’d been out shopping, went right into 'Sam’s Town'.

It didn’t help dapper Flowers and co that the only other English-language act to measure up to the whole evening on the main stage – after Cornell pulled out - was Juliette Lewis and her Licks, and that’s setting a low bar. Hanoi Rocks down on the HammerWorld stage deserved a slot more than Lewis and co, inexplicably still securing main stages on Europe’s festival circuit with their been-done dive bar rock.

On a stage done up in fairy lights and a steer skull over the keyboards, the boys from Las Vegas haven’t a bad song in their back catalogue. Each Killers song sounded as good as it did on the album. But you’re waiting for some kind of unpredictability, some thing that says they’re humans, not gods.
 
The Killers don’t need hand-me downs but the nearest thing we got to something off-the-perfect-path all evening was a Joy Division  cover, 'Shadow Play'. “Unfortunately this isn’t one of our songs,” said lead singer Flowers before he went into a synthesizer-heavy rendering of this Cohen jewel. The fan beneath a Russian flag behind me screamed for “Meesther Briitside” and he duly got it. The Russian flag was ominously blotted out by a sea of Union Jacks however. Proof perhaps that Brits love this Brit-loving band and even tonight's version of 'Shadow Play' is old news in the UK, having been performed by the Killers at this year's NME awards.

'This River Is Wide' was introduced by Flowers as one of the band favourite songs and delivered like he meant that. The set burned brightest towards the end, on 'Reasons Unknown', before the band came on a third time and briefly for the lovely 'Exitlude'. 90 minutes of perfect rock n roll. But come on Brandon, you’re allowed to make mistakes.

Mark Godfrey


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23

Razorlight (live at the Sziget Festival, Budapest)

RazorlightReview Snapshot:
A full bodied performance by Borrell and company who led the Brit contingent at the US-dominated rock segment of this year's Sziget in Budapest.

The CLUAS Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full review:
British bands and fans are colonizing many of Europe’s best festivals – note Spain’s Benicassim becoming an Alicante of its former colourful, multinational self. Thankfully Sziget has a massive pool of local talent to balance things out, and big US names. But the Rakes and Razorlight were well chosen Brit presence on the main stage on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

A slice of what sounded like Edith Piaf wafted over the dry ice and the band appeared and then segued into the opening chords of 'In the Morning'. Appearing like a hairy, postmodern angel in a kitschy Darkness-like white leopard suit with a split front, Borrell had the goods and delivered them with some panache. A full bodied In the Morning had the plentiful supply of beautiful women dancing in their designer wellies. Wellington boots in pink and flower patterns moved as Borrell sang “all they know is how to put you down” on 'Golden Touch'. None of these ladies in wellies are used to being put down, we hope.

Shirt off, guitar on for 'Tonight in LA', Borrell closed an hour-long show with Miracle to make way for Sinead O'Connor. The sun was still shining but Razorlight packed up with Vice, confirmation of the band’s worth to a headline slot. Seeking to ingratiate himself with the audience perhaps, Borrell dedicated the song to his "favorite filmmaker," the recently deceased László Kovács, a hometown hero here.

Budget concerns at Sziget (the government subsidized the concert till this year) has meant higher ticket prices and more foreigners at Sziget 2007. The local fear is that the bill will be designed so that wealthier western European fans travel. There’s already a sizeable roster of French acts to satisfy an ever larger contingent traveling from France. If they must attract foreign talent we hope the organisers at least choose some as good as Razorlight.

Mark Godfrey


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23

Fanfare Ciocarlia (live at the Sziget Festival, Budapest)

Fanfare CiocarliaReview Snapshot:
Romania-based brass specialists Fanfare Ciocarlia invited some of Europe's best gypsy performers to join them in making make deleriously danceable music for a giant crowd at the Sziget main world music stage. 

The CLUAS Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full review:
Few festivals have the kind of luck that Sziget has, to be in the midst of such genius. From Romania, Fanfare Ciocarlia continues a tradition going back to the Ottoman Empire when gypsy bands picked up gigs and instruments from Ottoman armies retreating from Europe.

Tonight Fanfare Ciocarlia's show opens with a trio of Flamenco-looking gypsy guitarists in cool, neat-fitting black sit in chairs by the front of the stage and cut their guitars into a flamenco tune, the lyrics in Catalan.

It all looked far too clean and polished for Fanfare Ciocalia, known for their lack of self consciouness and pretension. And then the pot bellied men appeared, through the dry ice and onto the back of the stage. Their shirts are unmatching shirts, tubas and horns resting on big guts.

The cocky trumpeter who speaks for the group all evening takes the front of the stage and the “Spaniards” – French-based gypsies Kaloome, we learn - depart. Fanfare Ciocarlia's first tune opens with a trademark shrill horns and a trumpet shuffle before the tubas kick in.

A couple of tunes later the band shifted tempo to fit popped up versions of Balkan gypsy tunes by singer Esma Redzepova from Macedonia, who alternated stage and tempo with Bulgarian traditionalist Jony Iliev and modernist Florentina Sandu from Romania.

The singers all appear on Fanfare Ciocarlia's latest album, Queens & Kings, which took this year's BBC World Music award for its remeshing of Balkan gypsy brass with the flamenco guitars and the speedy violins of other tribes. Hemmed in for decades by the Iron Curtain, Roma musicians are connecting again with cousins in other European lands with whom they previously shared tunes and influences.

From Zeve Prajeni, a tiny ethnic Moldovan hamlet in Romania, Fanfare Ciocalia were spotted and signed by Berlin based Asphalt Tango label in 1998 and haven’t stopped picking up awards and compliments since. Fanfare Ciocarlia's brass specialisms (rather than the strings of their contemporaries Taraf de Haidouks which played the Galway Arts Festival this year).

With the dry ice and the smartly choreographed introductions of various gypsy traditions the stage version of Queens & Kings shows the band have obviously learned plenty of stage tricks on their frequent global tour - which pulls into the Festival of World Cultures in Dun Laoghaire on August 25.

The Irish date suggests there's two kinds of Roma gypsies. Fanfare Ciocarlia's fellow Romanian Roma were earlier this summer kicked off the Ballymun roundabout in Dublin and repatriated. Despised in many parts of Europe for their lifestyle, the Roma have nonetheless produced music and musicians prized by the rest of the world. At Sziget bronzed, blonde young festival goers dance with abandon to Fanfare Ciocarlia and in the nearby Roma music tent, generously arranged by world music label Putumayo. In music alone, it seems, Roma is cool.

Mark Godfrey

Check out CLUAS.com's review of Fanfare Ciocarlia's album 'Iag Bari'.


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23

Duke Special live in Portlaoise, Ireland

Duke SpecialReview Snapshot:
The Duke returns to the town of a previous nightmare gig, but this time wins the audience over, not once, but twice, with successive concerts within hours of each other, and proves that he's the perfect gentleman, both on and off stage.

The CLUAS Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full review:
My six-year old daughter is one of Duke's youngest fans, so we brought her to see him live, and not only did she witness a great performance, she got to meet him, got the autograph and photo, and the T-Shirt literally.

As part of The World Fleadh, Duke Special was back in Portlaoise to perform twice in one night, beginning with an intimate gig at the Dunamaise Theatre. He opened the show with 'Some Things Make Your Soul Free' and 'Closer To The Start' before telling the crowd how happy he was to be here as part of the World Fleadh.

After the uptempo 'Brixton Leaves', some of the crowd wanted to know where the missing members were. According to Duke "one of them was washing his hair, his chest hair. I've said too much already, but I will introduce those who are here if that's okay" he joked, before mentioning Rea Curren on vocals and accordion, and Chip Bailey on percussions.

The show continued with 'Everybody Wants A Little Something', then a song about a failed Bank robbery ('Don't Breath') and 'The Ballad of A Broken Man'. A cover-version that he's currently recording 'Catfish' was next, and it went down very well as he duetted with Rae while explaining that it's from a musical that was never finished. "I'd love to bring this out on wobbly vinyl" he added.

During 'I Let You Down' Chip went berserk on the drums, running up the stairs of the Theatre between drumbeats, which had the audience hysterical. He then treated us to his new single 'Our Love Goes Deeper Than That'. It was so new in fact that Rae needed the lyrics written down for him.

'You Don't Slow Me Down' was introduced as a song he imagined in a film featuring two French lovers. He goes on to recall a previous gig in this town supporting either Bell X1 or Juliet Turner explaining he has a tough time of winning the crowd over. "Now it's great to play Portlaoise" he emphasised.

Next up were 'Salvation Tambourine' and the brilliant 'Freewheel' before finishing with a couple of songs including 'Lastight I Nearly Died' which got the audience singing along to, for perhaps the only time of the evening.

The encore consisted of 'Drink To Me Only' and finishing up with 'The Slip of a Girl', a song he says is synonymous with Portlaoise. During this his Scottish sound guy added some reverb to Duke's vocals, provoking him so say, "What the hell was that".

There's no denying this was a relaxed, but yet, polished performance. I'm just privileged we got to witness it in such an intimate surrounding, because the bigger venues are just around the corner for this special talent.

Mick Lynch


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23

Sinead O'Connor live at the Sziget festival (Budapest)

Sinead OReview Snapshot:
Solid renditions of her staple songs, but the wrong venue for Sinead O'Connor, who played after a jubilant Razorlight to a crowd more up for rock n 'roll than an artist

The CLUAS Verdict? 5 out of 10

Full review:
Sziget’s sound system, cranky earlier in the festival, wasn't helped by a strong breeze that seemed to carry patches of opening song Emperor's New Clothes to the nether regions of the venue. Sound quality aside, it was obvious from the start however that a large section of the crowd was undecided between O'Connor or burgers.

Sinead O’Connor’s inclusion on the Sziget 2007 bill seemed ill judged, particularly since she was put on the main stage after Razorlight and before Faithless, neither of whom share fanbases with her. It didn’t help that she kept us waiting about half an hour over the announced start time.

O'Connor engaged the waverers by playing 'This Is to Mother You' early, getting lots of help from a talented touring band and in particular her two female backing singers.

Hair shaved back down like the old days but looking a bit dowdier now, she wore the jeans and t-shirt of her younger days but kept on stage banter to a polite minimum.

'Thief of Your Heart' steadied the ship just as this risked becoming the freak show of the evening. The girl who tore up the picture of the pope, explained older audience members. “She used to be a priest.” O’Connor's past is the kind of confrontation with authority that goes down well in Hungary, still reasserting itself after years under the Soviet yoke.

The whole stage place was won over briefly for 'Nothing Compares to You'. There were lots of instrumental tangents and vocal shadings which  were at times lost to the sound system and the carnival size of the venue.

The pain of the performance was obvious though in O’Connor’s facial expressions during 'Thank You For Healing Me', jerking her head back from the mike with a distracting regularity that had audience members worrying loudly.

Kept till last, 'This Is the Last Day of Our Acquaintance' reminded everyone what Sinead O’Connor is, a great artist. But the main stage of a muddy, sprawling, beer-and-burgers rock festival wasn’t the right place to showcase such a talent.

Mark Godfrey


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Nuggets from our archive

2000 - 'Rock Criticism: Getting it Right', written by Mark Godfrey. A thought provoking reflection on the art of rock criticism.