Posts Tagged ‘Gigs’

16th April 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It was live that I was first sold on The Twilight Sad. Having been recommended their debut album, I felt a certain indifference, but a few weeks later, witnessing the intensity and blistering volume of a live show, they affected a genuine shift in my life in music.

Timing matters, and it’s a fact the band themselves acknowledge in the blurb accompanying this digital release: ‘We have been talking about recording a live album for a long time. We think this is the best we’ve been playing as a live band and wanted to document that. With five albums of material we felt now was the time.’

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t quote at such length, but the band’s statement speaks multiple volumes about the nature of the band, and precisely why they mean so much to their fans: ‘Over the past few months we were figuring out how to release the album and then covid-19/lockdown/gig cancellations happened. We quickly decided that we would release the album digitally on a pay what you want basis. The reason behind this is that we know that financially it is a worrying time for a lot of people and for ourselves included. We wanted to make sure we could give everyone who likes our band one of our gigs live in their living room as we can’t be out in the world playing gigs right now. We wanted to make sure that anyone who wants the album can afford it as well. I hope everyone is doing okay. I hope this helps… The title of our last album It Won/t Be Like This All the Time has been living with me for the past three/four years and right now that sentiment feels stronger than ever. We’ll get through this together.’

This release will definitely help. This is a largely personal thing, I’m sure, but I’ve struggled to stir much enthusiasm for the myriad live streams from living rooms. Kudos to the artists plugging the gig gaps and engaging directly with their fans. But seeing one or two members of a band strumming away in their living room doesn’t capture or recreate the experience of attending a live show, which is about the immediacy and the intimacy and while I’m not one for hug or physical contact, the sense of oneness that comes from standing packed in close with people in a shared moment of appreciation and often catharsis is unique. And if I want full-on, tear-jerking, breath-shortening catharsis, I go and watch The Twilight Sad.

The fact The Twilight Sad have such a massive hoard of recent live recordings from the last tour is good news: having caught them just before and also just after the release of the album, it’s fair to say that they really have hit a new pinnacle lately. And as a document which captures their recent form, listening to this is transportative. Rather than lamenting the lack of the full band as I watch an acoustic home show – and with absolutely no criticism of the bands doing this – I’m back there, reliving the experience. For this reason, it’s very much a plus that they’ve replicated the full concert experience rather than simply selected recordings of the tracks from the latest album and presented them in sequence. Strong as the album is, this is more, with 18 songs that really do show the band in spectacular form.

It’s a powerful opening: the massive incremental swell that builds on the album version of ‘[10 Reasons for Modern Drugs]’ is replicated perfectly here: a bubbling synth and simmering tension culminates in a maelstrom of guitars. Meanwhile, ‘Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting’ is one of the definitive Sad tunes and one the most killer tracks of 2019, and they deliver it with full force here. But then, that’s every performance of every song at every show, and is precisely why they shows are so very fucking special.

‘VTR’ brings all the emotion, and dipping further into the back catalogue, they attack ‘Don’t Move’ at a blistering pace, and while the synths still dominate the melody, Andy MacFarlane’s guitar squalls bring all the noise and all the texture. And this is an important point of note: however tight they get, however close to fidelity the sound, there’s always an edge that’s unmistakeably live about The Twilight Sad, and the emotions are never less than painfully raw.

‘That Summer, At Home, I had Become The Invisible Boy’ lands just short of the middle of the set, and is everything that sold me in the first place: the volume and intensity are captured perfectly as James Graham howls ‘The kids are on fire in the bedroom / the cunt sits at his desk / and he’s plotting away.’

‘The Arbor’ is denser and even bleaker than the studio version, and calls to mind Pornography era Cure, and ‘I/m Not Here [Missing Face]’, one of the starkest, darkest tracks on the album, is harrowing as hell live as James croons darkly, ‘I don’t want to be around you anymore / I can’t stand to be around me anymore’ against a guitar that positively wails in anguish.

Every single song is a highlight, but the inclusion of ‘Seven Years of Letters’ and ‘Wrong Car’ are rather welcome surprises which almost compensate the absence of ‘I Became A Prostitute’, while listening to the cover of Frightened Rabbit’s ‘Keep Yourself Warm’, which has become a set staple and here spans a massive eleven minutes, provides another reminder of the way band and fans connect to share their pain and anguish.

The album closes, as every set rightly does, with an eight-minute rendition of ‘And She Would Darken the Memory’. It never fails to hit home, landing a punch to the gut and bringing a lump to the throat. On paper, the words ‘the rabbit might die’ may only yield a shrug, but howled in a thick Scottish accent amidst a tempest of guitars, it acquires all the emotional resonance that words alone can’t articulate.

Make no mistake: this is an outstanding live album by any standards, capturing the essence of the live experience of the band perfectly. But it’s also something that will mean absolutely everything to the fans. And of course I mean me.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Last time I saw Ming City Rockers, supporting Arrows of Love in Leeds, I wasn’t hugely impressed, and thought that if they put as much effort into the songs as into looking like rock clichés, they might get somewhere. I’m here, in fact, for grungy Australian duo Mannequin Death squad, whose debut EP was one of last year’s highlights. Anyone who caught them on the supporting tour over here, thanks to their Hull-based label, would have witnessed a treat.

Back in the UK once more, they’re gracing York with their presence on the night before dropping their first new material since the Eat, Hate, Regurgitate EP in the form of the track ‘Blue’.

Warming things up are local lads Naked Six. At one time a three-piece, they’re now reduced to a two-piece. But rather than diminishing their power, the guitar / drum combo have focused and concentrated their energy, and with the guitar signal split across two amps, there’s a real depth and solidity to their sound. And it helps that the amps are cranked up loud. It’s the best way to listen to their swaggering, ballsy, hard-edged blues rock. Seb Byford not only has a classic blues rock voice that also works well when they move into grungier territory later in the set, but he’s got a stomp that’s half Angus Young, half frenzied madman as she grinds the riffs into the stage with his heel. It’s a cracking performance.

Naked Six

Naked Six

Mannequin Death Squad certainly don’t disappoint, and it’s telling that the instrument-swapping pair have evolved a set with enough new material to be able to drop killer tracks like ‘KYMS’ from their debut EP without the set being remotely lacking.

The eight-song set, which kicks off with ‘Sick’ from the aforementioned EP boasts almost 50% new and unreleased material. For a band who are yet to really break the market, it’s a bold move, but with a debut album in the offing and so many ace tunes, it means they’re able to arrange the set based not on simply what they’ve got, but to sequence it from a selection that gives the set shape and a dynamic beyond the individual tracks. It’s clear they’ve spent time out and about, on the road, refining their sound, and they benefit from the venue’s appropriate volume to make for an attacking sound.

MDS1

Mannequin Death Squad

‘Nightmare’ marks a change of pace and style, bringing a darker hue and a bass-led dirginess to break up the succession of driving grunge tunes with killer hooks which define the band’s sound.

Swapping instruments at the set’s mid-point and again near the end (much to the appreciation of those who thought they were about to finish), they keep themselves and the crowd on their toes, and they work bloody hard to power through a full-throttle set often coming on like Live Through This era Hole, with the added punch of a spiky post-punk edge. They’re fucking awesome.

MDS2

Mannequin Death Squad

With a surly-looking female guitarist, a trashy aesthetic, and a slew of uptempo punk tunes, what’s not to like about Ming City Rockers? Regrettably, and despite the consensus of the aged punks going nuts down the front, they still suck. The lack of imagination is the issue. It’s bog-standard spirit of ‘77 4/4 punk, and like many of the bands of the era, at its heart it’s just pub rock played fast with the amps cranked up. The songs are churned out with an abundance of posturing and posing but without any real substance, or tunes, and the sameness gets tedious very quickly.

MCR

Ming City Rockers

They introduce one song as being about playing a gig in Lowestoft where a man chased the singer and ‘tried to pin me down and fuck me, I mean proper fuck me!’ but the lyrics are articulated as something along the lines of ‘wahwahwahwahyaggch’. It’s crass, lowest-common denominator stuff, and much of what happens on stage feels extremely contrived: the walking off stage into the crowd, knocking over cymbals on the way by way of a finale is pretty much emblematic.

Filing out, a few punters could be overheard commenting that Mannequin Death Squad were the best band of the night, and those punters would be right.