Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Jon Lord 1941 - 2012

Leading figures from the music world have paid tribute to Deep Purple founder member Jon Lord who has passed away at the age of 71, following a long battle against cancer. 

[View the story "Jon Lord 1941-2012" on Storify]

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Delain - We Are The Others review (link)

Friday, 16 March 2012

Caught Live: Black Stone Cherry (with Rival Sons), Liverpool O2 Academy 15 March 2012

Those of you who read TV Tropes may be familiar with the 'Growing The Beard' entry on that website; if not, then a quick recap. TV Tropes is a wiki that was set up to discuss storytelling conventions in TV shows (hence the title) but expanded to include other media including movies, comics and music.

The 'Growing The Beard' trope refers to the moment when a show starts to hit its stride after a slow start. It refers directly to 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' where the programme found its feet during its second season, coincidentally when (main character) Riker grew a beard. The same idea can be applied to bands as well, and in the case of US rockers Black Stone Cherry, they have definitely 'grown the beard' with the last album and current tour.

It wasn't until I saw them as special guests to Alter Bridge last autumn that I finally began to enjoy their gigs; I've seen them a number of times before, supporting major names such as Whitesnake and Nickelback, as well as headlining, and always felt that they lacked a certain 'something'. They couldn't be faulted for effort, nor talent (singer/guitarist Chris Robertson has one of the strongest voices on the rock scene today), and they had some excellent songs, but live - something didn't quite hit the spot for me and I always left their shows feeling that bit dissatisfied. All that changed on the Alter Bridge arena tour last October; their short set that night was heavy, hard and immensely satisfying. The only thing I did puzzle over was what had changed, they seemed not be be doing much different, it just clicked. So it was with interest I attended this show in Liverpool, wondering if they could carry that over into their own headlining tour.

The signs were good with the sold-out crowd really up for this show, when the band hit the stage they got things going with the hard-hitting 'Change' (I would guess their votes are going to the GOP this autumn!) from the current album 'Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea'. The set played featured most of the tracks from the latest album with choice cuts from their previous two scattered throughout the set. All through the set, they had a rowdy crowd cheering their every move (ok, apart from a few humorous boos directed at guitarist Ben Wells for his attempt at a Liverpool accent!) and they managed to get the crowd to sing the entire lyric of 'The Things My Father Said' , to the obvious delight of Chris Robertson.  They played for just over an hour but packed a lot of songs (and a John Fred Young drum solo) into that time, barely pausing between songs and just getting on with it. Most of the set was the slammin' hard rock they've become known for, but mid-set the acoustics were broken out with Robertson saying that they haven't had the chance to do this before as support acts.  During this section, they performed their own song 'Stay' before playing segments of other artists' songs. They opted to play a verse of Oasis's 'Champagne Supernova' (a brave move in Liverpool, perhaps they were not aware just how brave!); it went down well with much of the crowd singing, but once again a few Scouse boos could be heard! Following this, they did Adele's 'Rolling In The Deep' and Nirvana's 'Rape Me' before bringing back the electric axes. However, they demonstrated how acoustic could still be heavy with a brief thrash-about; of course the main source of the heavy was drummer John Fred Young, but they made their point!

All in all, the gig was an excellent one. I'm still at a loss to explain why it is they're now hitting the spot for me when they just weren't before, but there is no doubt they're now realising the talent they've always had.  Despite the fact only Ben Wells actually has any sort of facial fuzz, metaphorically at least, this band has Grown The Beard and are now ready to step up to larger venues. Robertson said that the entire tour was sold out and was so knocked out by the crowd response, he pledged that their first gig in Liverpool would not be the last. I'll believe that when I see them pitch up in our city again in the future, but I know a large place by the river that could well see them perform in years to come.

Support was from Rival Sons, they went down very well with the early attendees and played a short but impressive set. For me though, those Zeppelin comparisons are a bit too close to the bone; vocalist Jay Buchanan has Percy's moves off to a T and dresses similarly, right down to the oval belt buckle. He does not sing like Plant though, and in a band that does otherwise ape Zeppelin very closely, that is probably enough to stave off any 'Kingdom Come' jibes.

Black Stone Cherry
Rival Sons

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Goodbye Posterous - blog is movin' on once again

By now you will have heard the news that Posterous has sold out to Twitter.
The sale has been greeted with mixed reactions at best, but most are agreed that the time to migrate their content is now. They have promised 'ample notice' before making any changes to the service as-is, but with all the former Posterous staff now working for Twitter there is only one way this service is going.

Although Posterous said in their statement that they will shortly be making it possible to export your content soon, you may be considering making your own move sooner rather than later. In my case, this blog also posts to Blogger and Wordpress anyway thanks to the Posterous tool which makes it a simple matter to cross-post, so the content will not be lost.

You can, however, already move your data to whichever alternative platform you will go to once Posterous does close, which most people are predicting will happen before 2012 is over at the latest.

Please visit this post on Lifehacker for detailed instructions on how to move your Posterous data.

I've found Posterous a pleasure to use because of its flexibility and ease of use; the ability to post via email was particularly attractive and it made adding photos or video very simple - no copying and pasting embed code, it does it all for you. However, rather than let Posterous (or Twitter, now) decide when this blog closes, I'm going to do it myself and therefore future blog posts will appear on Wordpress and possibly Blogger, if I can settle on a similarly simple method to put them on both.

Where others choose to post future blogs once Posterous goes is of course a matter of personal preference, but I understand the closest platform to this one for simplicity is Tumblr, so you may wish to check that out if you do not fancy getting your hands dirty with Wordpress. Google's Blogger is relatively simple to use too, and is worth considering in my opinion. However this site and all future music-related posts will go to my new home at mymusic.ronniesoo.com.

If you've found this post on my Wordpress blog - stick around, that's where future posts will go - otherwise, I hope you'll join me over there!

I'll leave with a song, as per tradition started when I quit MySpace (yeah, that long ago!) :D

Movin' On by Bad Company on Grooveshark



Friday, 24 February 2012

Dispatches - The Great Ticket Scandal merely confirmed what we already knew

We've all done it: a big gig comes around that lots of people want to see, assuming you cannot get the time off work at short notice to go and queue for a ticket at the venue box office, you try to purchase the tickets online only to find that as soon as the tickets are officially on sale, the site crashes and by the time you get onto the site, all the tickets have sold out. 

If, like me, you've wondered why it is that within minutes of the concert selling out online, tickets magically appear on resale sites at inflated prices, you would be advised to watch the documentary shown on Channel 4 television on Thursday night. Investigators for 'Dispatches - The Great Ticket Scandal' went behind the scenes at two well-known 'secondary market' ticket sites, Viagogo and Seatwave. Working on the desks at the resellers' offices, what they found confirmed what many music fans have long suspected: ordinary fans are being pushed out of the way by 'professional resellers'. 

At Viagogo, one reporter working there learned that some promoters actually allocated tickets to the agency, even though the site itself claims to be a 'fan-to-fan' market; i.e. it exists to allow fans to buy tickets from other fans who cannot attend the event in question. The agency then sells the tickets on at inflated prices.  Worse followed when one agent working for Viagogo was seen actually purchasing tickets online from Ticketmaster, using a book filled with different credit cards for the purpose. Explaining that because Ticketmaster's policy forbids more than six tickets per address, we then learned that the staff were actually providing addresses for their own homes and those of relatives in order to circumvent the restrictions. When you think that there are teams of staff working at these places, all of whom hit the websites at once armed with bundles of credit cards, it becomes clear why it is ordinary fans are shut out of the game. 

Another reporter who had taken a job at Seatwave learned that the company was in regular contact with 'professional resellers'; these are companies whose job it is to buy up tickets for large events in bulk and then sell them on to Seatwave. With teams of professionals and the so-called 'fan-to-fan' secondary market working in such close harmony, it is easy to see why that big event always sells out in moments and why it is that the tickets appear again so soon at huge markups in some cases. 

Even if you are prepared to queue at the box office, it is not always a guarantee of a ticket. One lady queued overnight for a ticket to a major event, was first in the queue when the box office opened, only to find that she still could not get the front row. She discovered that the first few rows had been reserved for Viagogo, in spite of the fact that they claim not to own any tickets themselves. 

As a music fan who enjoys live concerts and has endured many scrambles for tickets, the revelations in this documentary were both unsurprising and disappointing. Granted, my own musical taste is not always with the mainstream and so I'm unlikely to be in the hunt for, say, Coldplay, but even so, I've experienced many times when it's been difficult to obtain tickets. 
In 2008 I queued up for several hours in order to get tickets to see AC/DC at Manchester's MEN Arena; the band themselves were attempting to combat scalpers and so restricted sales to just two per person - even so, their concerts sold out within minutes. Needless to say, they appeared online within the hour, with suitably increased prices.  It is irrelevant what your musical taste is, all fans lose out when large companies work alongside 'professional resellers' to shut fans out of the ticket sales until they can sell them on at a huge profit. 

The other thing that became clear to me was that all of this has little to do with the bands themselves - the promoters, agents and resellers all seem to be in this together. Interestingly, Viagogo attempted to obtain an injunction preventing this programme from being broadcast, which tells you all you need to know about their practices and how they would prefer the public not to know about them. 

The Dispatches programme will be available to view soon on Channel 4's website (UK only);in the meantime you can read an article published last year by This Is Money makes similar allegations against Viagogo.

Perhaps the old way of applying by post was better after all!


Until a band makes a song about ticket scams, this oldie from Queen will have to do!



Monday, 20 February 2012

Delain new album shelved - fans unhappy

The Dutch symphonic band Delain are due to issue their third album this year, entitled 'We Are The Others'. They've been working on it for a long time and had previewed three new songs in their live set last year. However an interview with keyboard player and founder Martijn Westerholt and singer Charlotte Wessels revealed that the record is unlikely to come out by the time the band return to play live shows in Europe this spring. The interview in full can be read here, but the salient part is that although their label Roadrunner is ready to put the album out, their parent company Warner is not, and according to the band, it is because of a decision taken at executive level. 

On the face of it, this makes no sense at all. To be honest, I'm a bit behind the times here - I always considered Roadrunner to be an independent label specialising in Metal releases; I wasn't aware that they'd been acquired by Warner (in actual fact, they'd taken a majority stake in Roadrunner back in 2006, and bought them out totally in late 2010). If what the band say is true, you have to wonder why a major would buy out a Metal label if they then decide they don't like what the bands on their roster are coming up with? 

There's already a Facebook petition gathering speed to get Warner to change their mind, but you'd think that a band with a growing following (especially in Britain) and two well-received albums out already would have little problem getting their third one released, especially with a tour already booked. 

The days of major record companies deciding what we all hear are over, or so I thought. The Internet took away a lot of their control over what the masses get to hear and the majors still are uncomfortable with that. An executive making a unilateral decision to bury a band's record will not be accepted in this day and age, especially when that band is extremely savvy at using the web to promote itself. Delain's singer Charlotte has a large Twitter following and a regularly-updated blog where she keeps contact with fans. 

I did wonder why it was that Warner would decide to shelve this record considering that their previous one ('April Rain') broke them to a lot of new fans, and although I can only speculate, my feeling is that they've decided that the new material isn't as accessible as before. The new songs aired last year hinted at a departure from that symphonic but catchy sound, maybe they were expecting another 'April Rain'. Of course, we'll only know how different it is when we hear it for ourselves! 

The other theory I have is that the major is focusing on Charlotte herself; again I can only speculate but with the massive success of Adele in the last year or so, maybe Warner see her as someone they can mould into a new star. Certainly her style of singing is unusual in Metal, sweeter than heard in many other bands of this type, and it's possible that record company executives think that if she were given more radio-friendly material she could become 'the next Adele'. Of course I've no evidence to support that theory but, if Warner did want to make a mainstream star of Charlotte then it would be better for them if she did not have a Metal 'past', as it were. Unluckily for them, with two albums under her belt, she already does! 

I did say in a review of the band's show at Leeds two years ago that they'd do well to hold on to her, but I thought that if she were to go solo then it would be on her own terms. She appears committed to the band for the forseeable future but it would not be the first time a record company would try to steer a singer down a different path in order to achieve huge mainstream success. 

Whatever the reasons for shelving the album, speaking as a fan I hope that the campaign does succeed and the record released for those people who want to buy it. Regardless of the album situation, the band will tour in May and intend to perform several new songs from 'We Are The Others', so it would only make sense for the record to be released. 

Of course, where major record companies are concerned, common sense doesn't always apply! 

Here's a trailer for the upcoming tour - if they're coming anywhere near you, go along! 

Charlotte Wessels blog

Delain on Twitter


Friday, 25 November 2011

Caught Live: Alter Bridge with Black Stone Cherry, Manchester Evening News Arena 24 November 2011

After seeing Alter Bridge play a storming gig at Birmingham's o2 Academy last year I wrote on this blog that arenas beckoned for them next time around. Sure enough here we are 12 months on and Tremonti's troops have indeed made the jump to the cavernous barns of Great Britain. Along for the ride this time out were Canada's Theory of A Deadman, who I missed because of the early start (and traffic jams/ roadworks heading into Manchester, which I won't bore you with), and as special guests, Black Stone Cherry (who I did see).

Chris Robertson's gang were on the stage as I entered the enormous bowl that is the Manchester Evening News arena, and took my seat. The upper tier was curtained off all the way around, with the floor packed and most of the lower tier already filled, it appeared many were there for BSC as well as the headliners. By my reckoning the crowd there would have filled up the Echo Arena, so even though large parts of the MEN were unused, it was still a sizeable crowd which showed.

I've seen BSC on several occasions before, as support to other bands on arena tours similar to this and as headliners at the nearby Apollo theatre, and every time I've been scratching my head as to why such an obviously talented band, with good songs and a great singer, were not 'lighting my fire' in the live setting. They do everything right, performing with verve and enthusiasm, but there was always something lacking which I couldn't put my finger on. That was not the case tonight, perhaps I'm warming to these guys at last but this was finally the BSC gig where I broke out the air guitar - they were excellent. I still can't see what they're doing differently but perhaps it's just a couple more years on the road in this sort of company that's given them that finishing touch - I enjoyed this set much more than all of the previous sets I've seen BSC give. Frontman Chris Robertson looks like he's been following the Dave Wyndorf guide to Britain's pie shops, but his vocals were strong. They had the hardcore fans towards the front bouncing and clapping at will, and when they took it down for 'The Things My Father Said' the invitation to sing the chorus was enthusiastically accepted.

The only -slight- disappointment was that their set was a song or two shorter than at the other shows; no 'Iron Man' cover, nor did they do their HM rendition of Adele's 'Rolling In The Deep', which I was kind of looking forward to despite not being a fan of Ms Adkins herself. However they left us with news that they are to return to the UK for a headline tour in March, and I understand that will call at our end of the M62 so I will plan to be at that show and see the guys again.

Alter Bridge came on after a reasonably short turnaround, with minimal fuss lead singer Myles Kennedy appeared alone to start proceedings with 'Slip To The Void', before being joined by the rest of the band. The set they gave was a rearranged version of that performed last year, with only 'Coeur d'Alene' being added from the new record. Once again, despite 'ABIII' being the newer album it was 'Blackbird' which had most songs in the set. The 2007 album is in danger of becoming a Tough Act To Follow, with so many of its songs surviving into 2011, but there are no complaints from this fan who still prefers that record to the later one.

This was one of Kennedy's better vocal performances, you can always tell when he's suffering when he 'talks' through parts of songs but tonight, there was a lot less of that and more long holding of notes. He's clearly not suffering from a cold like 12 months ago, and when he is healthy it really makes a difference.

Having seen this band climb from small university-type venues to arenas over the past few years, it is gratifying to see them attain arena status, but the step up has come at a price. The show tonight was different to a year ago in that the band seemed more detached, distant on that big stage, they didn't connect in quite the same way as they did when they were playing the likes of the Academy. Although Kennedy did make efforts to reach out to the crowd, the occasional interlude such as during 'White Knuckles' where he performed the time-honoured 'split the crowd down the middle' routine just appeared clich├ęd. Consequently, despite the excellent vocal performance and solid playing, it seemed just that bit soulless compared to previous tours.

As a live band, AB never disappoint and they didn't tonight - I just get the feeling they're headed down the same path as the Foo Fighters or the Chilis; where they become so big they no longer have that same connection with their dedicated fans. AB are different to Creed in many more ways than just the lead singer, and I hope that the fact they're now performing in the large venues doesn't make them just another stadium rock act.