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2008 - A comprehensive guide to recording an album, written by Andy Knightly (the guide is spread over 4 parts).

The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Gig Reviews

04

Manic Street Preachers (live in Hong Kong)

Review Snapshot: Great show, but why didn't the avowed socialists come play Red China?

The Cluas Verdict? 9 out of 10

Full Review:
Manic Street Preachers live in Hong KongOpening with Motorcycle Emptiness, the Manics made the best of a bad turnout in Hong Kong to deliver a stash of their hits and a cover of Nirvana’s Penny Royal Tea. The new and the old, Autumn Song and Faster came early on, followed by that solid cover of Rihanna’s Umbrella, which has become a staple of their live set on this tour.

It’s strange that the supposedly socialist Manic Street Preachers came to Hong Kong, the most capitalistic piece of land in Asia, rather than north to Beijing? The Chinese capital’s gritty soul and priceless layers of bittersweet history and colourful characters reads like a Manics songbook. Maybe it's because they're scared of bumping into their old collaborator Kylie Minogue - she got a mention during the Hong Kong set - has been in these parts lately.

Or maybe it’s because, whatever their protestations, the Manics’ fanbase has now graduated, married and become the 30-something office jockey, a creature found in abundance in Hong Kong’s skyscrapers. Down in Kowloon Bay, the HiTech Star is a hall in a mall. I should’ve expected it but the Hong kong convention centre address is a bit misleading; cake shops, Cantonese cuisine and karaoke all abound in this place. Taking the elevator to the fifth floor for the balcony seats, I was shown inside with the usual Hong Kong friendly efficiency. That can be annoying: a security man politely kept us back from the glass barrier - not becuase it was dangerously crowded up there, but because we'd smudge the glass by getting too close. There were plenty of disinterested faces in the sparse balcony crowd, lots of quizzical locals who didn’t know the songs and were obviously along for a look.

It got better when I moved downstairs for Masses Against the Classes. A HK$50 (EUR5) pint of Carlsberg in hand I strolled up to the second barrier from the stage and watched the rest of the show with a local fan who appeared like he really wanted to look like Richey Edwards and complained at the end that the band didn’t play Kevin Carter.

The Manics trio is now buffeted by several travelling musicians, one of whom, introduced by James Dean Bradfield as “Mr London Irish Sean Reed" played some lovely saxophone on Ocean Spray. The acoustic playing of “Mr London Irish” number two, Wayne Murray, seemed a bit mechanical at times. Bradfield excused any propensity to falsetto on him having a cold, but all was forgiven when the frontman took the acoustic guitar himself for a heart-rending Black Flowers, introduced as “one of Richey Edward’s finest lyrics.”

Nicky Wire's comparatively conservative wardrobe for the night - a white suit - may have been chosen to fit the sterile surrounds. Real fans might have been thin on the ground, but everyone moved to Bradfield's "cerebral drinking song," Design for Life. Suit jacked slung over shoulder, the gwailos (local slang for foreigners)  let a screech of recognition for Everything Must Go, introduced as “from the cool days of Britpop.” Raised beer tumbler in the air and neckties loosened, they were having a good time by the time the houselights went on, after a glorious Send Away the Tigers.

I went home happy I got great value for my HK$440 (EUR44) ticket and the airfare from Beijing. Next time I hope the Welsh communists will come up north to visit their lapsed brethern.

Mark Godfrey


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02

Roisin Murphy (live in The Olympia Theatre, Dublin)

Review Snapshot:  Róisín Murphy is, without doubt, Ireland’s greatest female performer and seeing her live results in a full on assault on your eyes and ears. That Murphy pulls it off whilst barely stopping for a breath is a testament to how much effort is put into staging such a spectacular show.

The Cluas Verdict? 9.5 out of 10

Full Review:
Quirky is one of those words that can be used as a compliment as often as it can be used to insult somebody. Roisin Murphy LiveIt’s certainly a word that could be used to describe British electronic artist Bishi, last night’s support act. Arriving on stage dressed as a cross between Princess Leia and Cleopatra and armed only with an i-Pod and a sitar, Bishi certainly knew how to make an entrance. Thankfully there was substance to go with the, ahem, style and her fusion of tango, folk, pop and electronica served to warm up an audience that was getting larger by the minute.

It was clear from the audience that Róisín Murphy has a huge following amongst Ireland’s gay community, who made up a sizeable portion of the crowd, surpassed only by groups of college students wearing far too many scraves for an indoor venue. Regardless of sexuality or attire, each and every member of the audience jumped to their feet when the opening chords of Overpowered burst into life.

If I was to say at this point that the first 3 songs of the evening where the opening three tracks from Overpowered (an album which you really must own) you might think to yourself ‘hmm, that’s a bit boring.’ You’d be wrong. What makes Murphy such a brilliant live performer is the quality of her band and their ability to completely restructure their songs and yet lose none of the ‘oomph’ (that’s a professional music term) that makes them so remarkable in the first place.

What makes the show a spectacle though is not just the music and the quality of her band. Murphy’s own ability to dance, change costumes, crowd surf and provide free hugs (important in times of recession) whilst never drifting out of key has to be seen/heard to be believed. Murphy is by no means a pop tart or showgirl; she has a voice that can convey pain as easily as joy and a range many of her peers can only dream of.

The biggest cheers of the evening were reserved for Movie Star, Dear Miami and a stunning cover of the Brian Ferry track, Slave to Love. By the end of the night they were literally dancing in the aisles, some with more success than others. All told, Murphy and her band were on stage for over 100 minutes, giving excellent value for money and ensuring that every member of the audience went home happy. Well, everyone except the girl in front of me who spent the entire evening debating with her friend as to whether or not she should ‘go with a fringe or not?’ My verdict would be yes.

My verdict on the gig, however, is that Róisín Murphy is one crossover hit away from becoming even bigger than she ever was with Moloko. That many of my peers refuse to give her a chance for that very reason is a shame. On record, Murphy has the ability to merge a variety of influences without ever losing focus. Live, Murphy and her band display a level of musicianship above and beyond expectation. The performance that goes with it is an added bonus. 

Steven O'Rourke


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25
Tindersticks (live in Dublin)
Tindersticks (live in Vicar Street, Dublin) Review Snapshot:  At a time of year when the ‘Best album’ gongs and baubles are being handed out, tonight’s impeccable performanc...

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15
Okkervil River (live in Dublin)
Okkervil River (live in The Academy, Dublin) Review Snapshot:  Their second visit to these shores in under twelve months sees Okkervil River battle with The Academy’s all too obvious li...

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14

Aimee Mann (live in Tripod, Dublin)

Review Snapshot: An occasionally shambolic but enjoyable night, culminating with a great set from one of the best American songwriters in the world today.

The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full Review:
Aimee MannThe evening started off with Los Angeles husband and wife team The Submarines, who I knew nothing about before tonight but proved to be a pleasant discovery. It wasn’t hard to see why Aimee Mann picked them to support her on her current tour, as their music is precisely the same kind of catchy melodic rock that the likes of Crowded House, Squeeze and Aimee Mann do so well. The couple, with a drummer filling out their sound, powered through a hook-laden set that impressed me enough to pick up one of their albums at the merchandise box afterwards.

Next up was Sharon Shannon’s Big Band, who lived up to their name with ten of them cramming on to Tripod’s stage. Not being a great fan of Irish trad I had planned on skipping her set, but the sheer love of music that came through from ten first rate musicians vibing off each other was impossible to resist. At one point they dragged one of their roadies on to sing a cover of the Thin Lizzy classic Dancing in the Moonlight. This probably sounded like a great old laugh backstage before the gig but was considerably less fun for the audience as the guy hadn’t a note in his head.

Inevitably, this part of the night ended with Mundy being dragged on for a spot of shameless crowd pleasing with, surprise surprise, Galway Girl. I got the impression that Mundy is already tired of this particular millstone around his neck and even the audience didn’t seem to be singing along with the type of gusto one might have expected.

And so to the headliner. I’ve long been a huge fan of Aimee Mann and her live shows are always a joy. In a similar fashion to Crowded House, she always makes a point of bantering with the audience, taking requests and peppering the set with the stories behind her songs. Tonight’s show started with a batch of songs from Smilers, her most recent album, including the single Freeway which got the first big cheer of the set. This was followed by songs from the Magnolia soundtrack, one of her most successful releases and included one of my favourite songs, Save Me. If you had to pick one song to represent Aimee Mann’s lyrical worldview, this would probably be the one, with it’s chorus of “Well, can you save me / from the ranks of the freaks / who suspect they could never love anyone?

It was at this point that people started shouting requests and Aimee duly responded, granting some and joking with the audience about not being able to remember her own songs. This part of the show can be great fun for the most part but can occasionally lead to some idiot who loves the sound of his own voice deciding to yell constantly at the band. There was one such yahoo in the audience tonight but thankfully Aimee managed to keep the show on the road diplomatically without having to tell him to shut up (the idiot in question wanted to hear It’s Not, the final song on the Lost in Space album, and got it).  A mix of old and new songs completed this part of the show, finishing with a brilliant performance of 'How am I Different'.

For the encore  we had one of the funnier moments of the night when a few people requested 'I Should Have Known', the very wonderful opening song on her debut solo album, Whatever. After a quick consultation with the rest of the band, she decided to give it a shot. All went well until the bridge, when Aimee forgot the chords. There followed several shambolic attempts to work it out until eventually they managed to finish the song. For the finale we were treated to Pavlov’s Bell, also from the Lost in Space album, and a wonderful extended version of Deathly, one of the key songs from the Magnolia soundtrack, with Aimee’s two keyboard players performing a great jam which brought the show to a satisfying close.

All told, a great night that’ll make my list when the inevitable “Best Gigs of 2008” lists are compiled.

Paul Brosnan


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13

Neon Neon (live in Tripod, Dublin)

Review Snapshot: Side-projects are so hot right now, but these guys are just cool. Neon Neon is a conglomerate of decidedly super-ferrite animals, and they transported the Tripod crowd through an audio-visual interpretation of John DeLorean’s life with the same frenzy in which he lived it. DeLorean’s car was the pièce de résistance in Back To The Future trilogy, and over 20 years on Neon Neon are still making the DeLorean past seem like the future.

The Cluas Verdict? 9 out of 10

Neon Neon

Full Review:

I think the term juxtaposition applies here: Neon Neon is a collaborative project from producer Boom Bip and Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys - amongst others - entirely devoted to Detroit-born engineer and entrepreneur John DeLorean and the “dream” car he produced near Belfast primarily for the American market. Hmmm....

Whilst The Good, The Bad and The Queen had their Dickensian, urbane merits, Neon Neon’s Stainless Style album stands out as the most energetic and ambitious side-project this side of John DeLorean’s alleged affair with Raquel Welch.  Indeed, NN’s early stomper ‘Raquel’ (on said liasion) is accompanied by a cinematic montage of Welch’s voluptuous career. Phwoar. This, along with in-house DeLorean footage, air drums, moog synths, casio guitars and applause placards ensured Neon Neon’s Tripod performance was a surreal homage to the slick lifestyle of the first playboy engineer. I’ve seen the term ‘retro-futuristic’ attached to Crystal Castles of late, but its far more appropriate when faced with soundtracked Bond-like visuals of DeLorean sports cars speeding around mountainside backdrops. You simply forget all subsequent technological advances and want to be an affluent cigar-smoking businessman in the early Eighties with a copious disposable income.

One man who knows how to live that lifestyle – as least in his typecast 1980s roles – is Michael Douglas, who haunts his namesake song in one of the most memorable moments in NN’s live show: the chorus’ tagline “I see my reflection... in Michael Douglas’ famous sunglasses” in tandem with the image of Warhol–esque portraits of MD on the big screen and Gruff Rhys on his knees playing air drums! As if that wasn’t enough of a headfuck, the sight of Obama-loving wigger Har Mar Superstar rapping whilst standing on his head during ‘Trick for Treat’ left the indie kids in the crowd faced with a completely different type of animal to the Golden Retrievers normally associated with Gruff Rhys’ live repertoire

Musically, NN did aural justice to their album. ‘I Told Her on Alderaan’ stood out – imagine a synth-laden version ‘Jessie’s Girl’ and you’re not far off. ‘Belfast’ is a beautiful organ-drowned track, and seeing it accompanied with footage from the Troubles sparked the thought that the song will probably be used in a Prime Time report if Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness don’t make friends soon.  ‘Steel Your Girl’ was the perfect wind-down song late on in the set, with a backdrop of early-morning, high-speed DeLorean-dashing round an autobahn whilst the chorus sang “goodbye for the final time”.

You could say Neon Neon rocked, but it’d be more accurate to say they oozed. On average, a painted DeLorean sports car is worth up to 20-30% less than an unpainted, stainless equivalent. Likewise messrs Rhys, Boom Bip et al won’t be adding another layer to the Neon Neon project, so those who catch them live before they soon disband really will have seen a stainless and stylish concept at its peak.

Ronan Lawlor

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10
Mercury Rev (live in Galway)
Mercury Rev (live in Róisín Dubh, Galway) Review Snapshot: With their recorded output of late suggesting the band have lost their studio and creative focus, their current tour is...

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30
Port O'Brien (live in Dublin)
Port O'Brien (live in Crawdaddy, Dublin) Review Snapshot: Port O’Brien come to Dublin on the back of their excellent ‘All We Could Do Was Sing’ album, but fail to recapture t...

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29

Noah and the Whale (live in Whelan's, Dublin)

Chalie Fink of Noah and the WhaleReview Snapshot: An enjoyable night of folk-pop, that included the song we all came for: “Five Years Time”.

The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full Review: It was a large and excitable crowed packed into Whelan’s to see Charlie Fink and his troop of pop-folk instrumentalists. The age-range went from just old enough to be there, all the way up to – as I could see it - fifty. Noah and the Whale clearly have a wide following, owing much of it to the extensive radio- and music channel play of their first single “Five Years Time” and also, the Laura Marling connection. No longer playing with the band, female vocal duty has been taken over by a red haired girl, whose name I did not catch. Also present on stage, a small brass section, violin and some keyboards.

After building some suspense, and showing a strange short film, they took the stage. Although well-translated to live as a whole, the stronger album tracks such as “Shape of my Heart”, “Jocasta” and “Rocks and Daggers” were instantly appreciated and definite highlights. Their frequent build-ups came across very well, and the layers of the different instruments on stage added a dimension to them that can’t be found on CD. I have a new apprecation for the very folk violin solos, now that I have witnessed them.

They took care of the die-hards, of which there were a few, with an old track, “Beating”, dedicated especially to them. Unfortunately, the pace took a hit when slow songs “Second Lover” and “Mary” were played back to back, follwed by a new song. But this was swiftly reversed when they played “Five Years Time”, smiling all the way through. It was hard to find a person not singing, jumping, head-nodding along. Another major sing-a-long came in the form of the limited-release single “2 Bodies, 1 Heart”, where we were given the opportunity to be their choir.

Throughout the gig, there was plenty of crowd interaction, made possible by the compact surroundings of Whelan’s. The front line of the crowd were less than arm’s length away from the band. However this did seem to cause some touble with some inexperienced gig-goers chatting noisely right under Charlie’s nose. He was stern but fair, and the kids subsquently shut up. And a girl called “Niamh” got plenty of attention from Charlie, which no doubt kept her happy.

There was no sign of  an encore, but people didn’t seem too put out about that. It was a nice, pleasant gig, that left everyone feeling a little bit happier.

Christine Cooke


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24

Vampire Weekend (live in The Ambassador Theatre, Dublin)

Review Snapshot:  Living up to and, indeed, surpassing their Oxegen appearance, Vampire Weekend are a fun band with multitude of good songs.  It's just a pity they're all so short.

The Cluas Verdict? 8.5 out of 10

Full Review:Vampire Weekend Live
Is it still cool to like Vampire Weekend or has the backlash started yet? That seemed to be the question on most people’s lips last night as a packed Ambassador Theatre waited in nervous anticipation for New York’s finest purveyors of ‘Upper West Side Soweto.’ The answer to that question would have to wait though, at least until after New Amusement finished their support set.

I really wasn’t sure what to make of New Amusement last night. Undoubtedly they write some catchy songs and the majority of their set consisted of songs from their excellent mini-album Any Port in a Storm. However, singer Brian Molloy was plagued by tuning issues last night and at times it was painful to listen to. Only when he wasn’t singing did New Amusement sound like the band that had impressed me so much at this years Hard Working Class Heroes Festival. I can only assume the tuning problems were because he couldn’t hear himself sing and it’s a pity the sound engineer appeared to do nothing about it. Still, this is a band that has a great deal of potential and I’m sure they’ll take this appearance as a lesson learned.

So, is it still cool to like Vampire Weekend? The answer is that it doesn’t really matter. They’re a bit like Barak Obama; you don’t know why you like them, you just do. Having blown me away with their Oxegen performance I expected a fast paced set and Ezra Koenig and company definitely delivered. Opening with the foot-stomping trilogy of Mansard Roof, Campus and Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa they soon had almost every member of the audience, consisting mostly of students with too many scarves, hanging on their every note.

What a shame then that they decided to slow everything down with two new songs and the pedestrian paced I Stand Corrected and Bryn. Sensing he was losing the audience somewhat, Koenig announced that we were now entering the second part of the show and, to deafening screams, launched full throttle into the bands second single, A-Punk. This also marked the start of the sing-a-long part of the gig, something that Vampire Weekend may have welcomed but, then again, they didn’t have to listen to the girl in front of me who sounded more in pain than in tune, especially during One (Blake’s got a new Face). They wrapped up the set with faster-than-the-speed-of-light versions of M79, The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance and the hugely popular Oxford Comma. Who knew so many people were keen on grammar?

40 minutes into their set, and with a good deal of between song banter, Vampire Weekend had amazingly raced through 12 songs. What’s the rush? I could understand if it was a band with a huge volume of songs in their back catalogue but they’d already played 10 songs from their 11 track debut album. They’re going to struggle with their encore I thought to myself. I was wrong.

I’m not sure if I should admit this, but I was named after Stevie Nicks. Yes, the girl. Ergo, any cover of a Fleetwood Mac song will get my attention, especially if that song is Everywhere. This was, put simply, one of the best cover versions I’ve ever heard. I may have even sung along falsetto. Though to describe it as singing would be akin to describing an unkempt patch of grass as the pitch in Old Trafford. The night was wrapped up quite nicely with Walcott (Leaving Cape Cod) and, barely 55 minutes after starting, Vampire Weekend were finished.

This is the most fun I’ve had at a gig in a long time. I couldn’t help but enjoy myself. So good were Vampire Weekend that I could forgive the fact that the drums were too loud and that Ezra Koenig’s mic seemed to fade out at the start of every song. When you’re enjoying yourself this much and the music is this good, it’s very hard to care. Roll on album number two.

Steven O'Rourke

Photo Credit:  Beezeebeebee


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