BOB MOULD @ THE GARAGE, LONDON

Former Hüsker Dü guitarist, Bob Mould, returned to the UK on another solo electric tour, performing from his range of solo studio albums. But he first opened on his past band Hüsker Dü’s classic covers with ‘Flip Your Wig’ and ‘I Apologise’, playing his abrasive Stratocaster guitar in between lyrics and running about the stage. He also performed covers from his band, Sugar, such as ‘Hoover Dam’, which illustrated Mould’s contrasting melodious vocals.

After his older material, he moved onto his most recent solo releases in the way of ‘Siberian Butterfly’ from 2020 album ‘Blue Hearts’, played with repetitive riffs, and ‘Forecast of Rain’ from the same release. Mould also performed new unreleased tracks in the set presumably from his forthcoming solo album, including the persistent ‘Hard to Get’ and the melting ‘When Your Heart is Broken’, which Mould said was a more depressing song after playing a cover of Hüsker Dü’s upbeat ‘Celebrated Summer’.

Mould finished his set on ‘See a Little Light’ from his 1989 debut album ‘Workbook’, with its vigorous strumming, and a further selection of Hüsker Dü favourites including ‘Something I Learned Today’ and ‘Makes No Sense At All’, with a Sonny Curtis cover of happy tune ‘Love is All Around’ thrown in for good measure.

24/11/23: Bob Mould @ The Garage, London

Photo © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

VINCE CLARKE @ LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS, LONDON

Vince Clarke’s first live solo show launching his debut album, ‘Songs of Silence’, saw him perform most of the tracklist in order with multi-angled visuals on screens placed around the venue and accompanied by his partner Reed Hays, who collaborated on the release. Clarke began nervously on opening track, ‘Cathedral’, which is an ambient piece of spatial exploration; it worked well as an opener but was missing the disembodied vocal sample on the recorded version. They went straight into second track, ‘White Rabbit’, which soon developed into its fast paced tribal beats with a morbidly illustrated cartoon playing in the background. Each track was quite short meaning the set did not flow as well, with awkward silences between which Clarke struggled to fill, by his own admission due to not being used to performing on his own without Erasure co-founder Andy Bell, but he received plenty of audience support.

For ‘Passage’, Sarah-Jane Morris came onstage to perform live opera vocals; sadly it was lacking the audacity and cohesion of the recorded equivalent which is one of the best tracks on the album, but it did at least provide a variation to the live setup. Clarke then performed ‘The Cave’: a track not on the album but released as a promotional single; chilling cavernous echos and razor scrapings immersed the room making it one of the best performances of the whole set, it was just painfully short. ‘Red Planet’ was a mysterious visit to an unknown and dangerous landscape, although the bracketing effects were a bit too similar to John Carpenter and the beautiful ghostly wail at the end of the piece would have again benefited from being longer lasting.

The triumph in the set arrived in Hays playing electric cello for ‘The Lamentations of Jeremiah’, as Clarke remained on electronics which consisted of a constant synth hum; a standout track on the release, Hays’ back and forward strokes were less amplified and croaky than on the released version, but replicated the beautiful woody, ancient awakenings on the track. Another prize performance was ‘Blackleg’: its grim, green glow semi-lighting the room with ominous cavernous shimmers, the visuals featuring miners ascending from their dark pits; it being the only track on the album to contain lyrical content – created on a Revox tape recording machine – in the form of a miner chant about the terrible treatment of the “dirty blackleg miner.” Deviating from the album, Clarke included a track from his series of drone album collaborations simply entitled ‘Drone 8’ featuring a repetitive key. The final track of the album is aptly named ‘The Last Transmission’, which Clarke finished his show on. Due to his lack in confidence, Clarke’s first solo outing was experimentally hesitant and holding something aback, both on record and in live performance, but the presence of such whispers of beauty are surely to be developed further next time around.

17/11/23: Vince Clarke @ London School of Economics, London.

Photo (top) © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

Photo (bottom) © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

REPUBLICA @ O2 ACADEMY ISLINGTON, LONDON

Following the recent release of their first new material in 25 years, Republica for another year headlined and curated Inpop festival marking their recent return to recording and touring. They opened their set on ‘Bloke’, its ’90s sound featuring electronica keys, and then performed the techno dance hit, ‘From Rush Hour with Love’, with singer Saffron playing tambourine throughout. They moved onto their 1997 hi-hat thumping single, ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’, but which was too heavy sounding on the drums for the rest of the track.

Departing from her boyish vocals, Saffron sang the mellifluous ‘Rollerskates’ containing guitar parts from Johnny Male, with him also playing acoustic guitar in ‘Picture Me’. Republica, for one of the first times live, then premiered their new single, ‘New York’; a catchy jangly-pop, disco dance track with synth washes and whingy guitar. They performed the Killing Joke rhythm section of ‘Christiana Obey’; its brilliant Sisters of Mercy/The Cult sound that belongs in an ’80s darkwave genre, also complete with tumbling drumrolls and post-punk guitar. The band played their 1996 chart topping single, ‘Ready to Go’, with its razor sharp guitar and benefitted from a more ‘rowdy’ sound than the recorded mix.

11/11/23: Republica @ O2 Academy Islington, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

LAIBACH @ O2 SHEPHERD’S BUSH EMPIRE, LONDON

Laibach returned to the UK for a rare show performing in totality their ‘Love is Still Alive’ EP, released earlier this year. Following the word “Postapocalypse” being displayed on the screen behind them, the group began on the opening track of their end of-the-world space trip, ‘Love is Still Alive I (Moon, Euphoria)’, featuring the marching strums of acoustic guitar played by Marina Martensson (backing vocals) and singing synths. They went on the next part of their cosmic journey with ‘Love is Still Alive II (Venus, Libidine)’ and its whooshing and bubbling synth effects that pushed beyond the recorded track and harkened back to the ’80s retro video gaming seen in the band’s live artwork visuals.

Frontman and band founder Milan Fras, wearing a cowboy hat, sung the lyrics of the first track before leaving the stage to allow for what is fundamentally an instrumental release to play out in planetary order, with the exception of robotised voice encoder vocals provided by Luka Jamnik (backing vocals, synthesiser). The tempo increased with ‘Love is Still Alive (Mercury, Dopamine)’ with its curling blues guitar and the crashing high-speed ‘Love is Still Alive (Neptune, Oxytocin)’, lifting off from the 2D recorded version. They moved onto ‘Love is Still Alive V (Uranus, Prolactin)’, which had flavours of Tangerine Dream and marked a more experimental, industrial sound crash in the set. Fras returned to the stage for ‘Love is Still Alive VII (Mars, Dysphoria)’ to finish singing on the final destination of the journey at Mars.

On the flip side and after an interval which they humourously advertised with a cowboy and Indians video, they played a second set entitled ‘War’ with a more varied selection of their past material, beginning on their last soundtrack album ‘Wir sind das Volk: Ein Musical aus Deutschland’ and onto 2017 album ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’, with the ghostly rush of Carpenteresque ‘Das Nachtlied I’; Vitja Balzalorksy (guitar, electronics) playing a violin bow on electric guitar, which he continued to do during the stripped down drum bashings of the hammering ‘Glück Auf!’ and its fellow track ‘Lepo – Krasno’, from ‘Sketches of the Red Districts’, which was released at the start of the year.

Laibach then manifested their grand, totalitarian parody call in the synthscapes and military drumbeats of ‘Krvava gruda – plodna zemlja’ from their 1986 second studio album, ‘Nova Akropla’. The military march continued in ‘Ti, ki izzivaš’, with a Killing Joke-like bass driven rhythm, taken from early compilation ‘Rekapitulacija 1980-1984’, and with visuals featuring previous group member Mina Špiler. The band returned for two covers, Leonard Cohen’s ‘The Future’ and The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy for The Devil’ – the latter with a chaotic guitar solo – and did two more tracks with juxtaposing but synchronistic duets between Martensson and Fras, including the band’s latest single, ‘The Engine of Survival’.

08/11/23: Laibach @ O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London.

Photos © Anna Marchesani/Nocturna Photography.

© Ayisha Khan.

JAH WOBBLE @ THE FORGE, LONDON

Amongst the nationwide touring of his ‘Metal Box Rebuilt in Dub’ album this year, former PiL bassist Jah Wobble has also been performing standard Invaders of the Heart sets also following the release of his solo studio album, ‘Last Exit’, this year. The band began on ‘Becoming More Like God’ and after a quick exorcism of their drummer, Marc Layton-Bennett, Wobble moved into ‘Socialist’, played with a fast tempo and Martin Chung’s raw guitar chords and high pitched solos.

Set list staple ‘Liquidator’, with its multi-instrumentals, featured an interval where Wobble deconstructed the band to establish the ‘animal kingdom’ with his humourous banter, seeing varied drum rhythms and experimental keyboards, and his own adding of the lyrics “Fuck off you cunt!”. Following the band’s more oriental version of ‘Public Image Ltd’, Wobble read an extended spoken word introduction for ‘Poptones’, which later in the song exploded into a burst of an uplifting spectrum of colour of instrumental harmony.

Wobble’s sons, John Tian Qi Wardle and Charlie Tian Yi Wardle, then came on stage to perform on the Chinese stringed instrument, the Erhu, and drums respectively; the band performed ‘Java’ with the boys’ sirenic interlude of the Erhu and a minimalistic drum solo. They also played ‘Careering’, with electronic distorted guitar pedal effects as well as the two tracks from Wobble and his son’s band Tian Qiyi’s recently released album, ‘Red Mist’; the title track opened on the rattlesnake shakes of the maracas and ancient whinings of the Erhu and had a grungy feel played with slow jazz drums and Tian Qi on vocals. They also did the album single, ‘Incantation’, which saw Tian Qi wildly manipulating the Erhu on the pedal. Invaders of the Heart closed their two-and-a-half hour set with the inclusion of ‘Visions of You’, which was originally a collaboration with the late Sinead O’Connor.

04/11/23: Jah Wobble + The Invaders of the Heart @ The Forge, London.

Photos © Peter McDonnell Photography.

© Ayisha Khan.

WRECKLESS ERIC @ THE LEXINGTON, LONDON

Following this year’s release of his latest studio album ‘Leisureland’ with its Americana psychedelic sound, Wreckless Eric performed a set containing his new songs along with classic material. He started on his traditional live content in the way of the monotonous ‘Dead End’, the explosive ‘Same’ and ‘Creepy People (in the Middle of the Night), the latter with crashing guitar feedback.

Eric played more acoustic guitar for a series of tracks from his new album, playing without stopping as they were recorded on the release, performing the woody strokes of ‘Southern Rock’, with its cross-cultural citations on the UK and USA, ‘Drag Time’ and the repetitive drive of ‘Badhat Town’. He played further new material, doing a dark psychedelic interlude for ‘Standing Water’, not heard on the release, and similarly on electric guitar at the end of ‘Days of My Life’ from his 2016 studio album, ‘AmERICa’.

Continuing on electric guitar, Eric performed more from his new album tracklist with the choppy ‘High Seas (Won & Lost)’ and the catchy ‘Dial Painters (Radium Girls)’, featuring whistling background feedback and poignant, isolated instrumentation not on the record, then magically transitioning into the heavy blues guitar of ‘The Old Versailles’, as he applied pedal effects. After humourously relating his extensive travels touring in America, he appropriately performed ‘California/Handyman’ and his should-have-been hit single, ‘Whole Wild World’, finishing his show on another fan favourite, ‘The Half of It’.

27/10/23: Wreckless Eric @ The Lexington, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

ALTERED IMAGES @ 229 THE VENUE, LONDON

Marking 40 years of Altered Images’ 1983 third studio album, ‘Bite’, singer Clare Grogan’s recently reformed band performed the album in track order for the first time in 38 years, followed by a set of other favourites.

Looking chic in a black evening dress and organza sleeves, Grogan and her backing band went straight into the album’s first track ‘Bring Me Closer’; the boxy disco-funk single included a saxophone solo played by Andrew. Afterwards, she emotionally spoke about being overwhelmed by doing the show and the positive response to her return to performing the band’s music.

Grogan then played ‘Love to Stay’; unfortunately the chiming keys throughout the album were mere backing tracks due to the absence of a live keyboard player as they had back in the day, but retained the dreamy post-punk guitar also of the earlier albums, although by the release of ‘Bite’ they had developed a more streamlined pop sound, as seen in ‘Now That You’re Here’, but with thunderous drumming. Another of the album tracks, the stripped down ‘Stand So Quiet’, sounded like a cross between The Banshees and Simple Minds, with Grogan accentuating her voice. They also performed third album single, ‘Change of Heart’.

For the second set and after an outfit change, Altered Images played a mixture of classic and new album material beginning on ‘I Could Be Happy’, a Blondiesque track, and title track ‘Mascara Streakz’ – a disco dream-pop single. They harkened back to their John Peel sessions with their debut 1981 single ‘Dead Pop Stars’ containing a phenomenal hammering bass and drum intro. Grogan performed more new tracks with ‘Double Reflection’ and ‘Glitter Ball’, produced by Suede’s Bernard Butler, before ending the show on ‘Happy Birthday’, their 1981 hit single.

26/10/23: Altered Images @ 229 The Venue, London.

Photos © Fernanda Bavaresco.

© Ayisha Khan.

PHEW + ANA DA SILVA + SUNROOF @ CAFE OTO, LONDON

Japanese analogue electronic noise artist Phew headlined a two-night residency with a second night supported by Sunroof and The Raincoats’ Ana da Silva. Sunroof consisting of Mute records founder Daniel Miller and partner Gareth Jones began the night on their Eurorack modular synths, which saw them manually manipulating multiple CV patch cables to produce electronic sound loops and frequencies, with the pair having released two volumes of their recorded compositions over the last two years. The live version of their sound is improvisational, filled with dusty beats and twitches that sound like being inside a computer.

Their second live track had more ambience with propulsive electric streams which became drops of electronic taps against a magical, shimmering background and gongs. For the final track of their set, the pair performed a piece with a series of echoing wirey and sonar beats, finishing with fizzy crackles and rips simmering down to bubbling pops.

The Raincoats’ Ana da Silva was next on support having produced her studio albums, ‘ahhh’ and ‘Island’, with headliner Phew, and did a solo set on guitar and vocals but which was unfortunately plagued with sound issues. She stated that in 1979, she was advised by Daniel Miller to buy a Sony tape recorder during The Raincoats’ early days and played a selection of solo tracks beginning on ‘Running in the Rain’ with backing tracks used against her guitar playing, then moving onto ‘Friend’ and ‘You’re a Million’, the latter with frantic guitar. She included more electronically fused tracks such as ‘In Awe of a Painting’, ending her set on a cover of The Raincoats’ highly charged ‘I Keep Walking’, with intense guitar strokes.


Japanese artist Phew, having collaborated with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Conny Plank, members of Can and Einstürzende Neubauten, then headlined the evening with her experimental one-piece noise track with laser effects, white noise, robotic and disembodied vocals, which then became bleeps and howling wind ambience haunted by a Middle Eastern oriental background and other sound effects. She operated analogue synthesiser controls and performed live vocals. A trance-like rhythm developed with ticking clock sounds and squeaks, then tribal beats and percussion before the track returned to pure white noise that then launched itself, sounding like a 747 taking off and bringing her mind blowing hour-long set to a close.

18/10/23: Phew + Ana da Silva + Sunroof @ Cafe Oto, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

GARY NUMAN @ ST JOHN AT HACKNEY, LONDON

For the first time ever, the former Tubeway Army frontman did an intimate acoustic tour comprising eight dates and two nights in London at the intimate Hackney Church following his new studio album’s ‘Intruder’ tour last year, for which he also showed an exclusive preview of a forthcoming DVD release of his Wembley Arena date. He said the tour had been experimental and was not sure how it would work out, so was grateful for the two sell-out shows that it manifested in.

Numan and his band opened on the brisk acoustic strumming of ‘When The World Comes Apart’ featuring a woody instrumental; throughout the evening, the musician provided commentary on his songs, such as for ‘Stories’ taken from his 1981 studio album, ‘Dance’; a tale about a woman who has an abortion and is speaking to a waiter who is actually her dead baby’s ghost, the song framed with playful piano keys.

Numan explained how the machine world had been influential on his writing as a young man aged 18/19-years-old with the trudge of the William S. Burroughs inspired 1978 ‘Tubeway Army’ track, ‘The Life Machine’, about a man on a life support machine, and then ‘Metal’, about a machine who is close to being human but tragically is not, also the B-side to his hit single ‘Cars’. These were themes that were futuristic yet imagined more than 40 years before their time, played with guttural acoustics and ascending classical piano.

Numan spoke about how he wrote lyrical jibberish to capture flashes of a time or feeling, before performing on guitar from 1979’s ‘Replicas’ for the upbeat ‘The Machman’. He later played from his 2017 studio album, ‘Savage (Songs From a Broken World)’, his vision of a post-apocalyptic society, with ‘Ghost Nation’, and performed again from ‘Tubeway Army’ with the piano cascades of ‘Everyday I Die’, a song he joked was about masturbation. Numan returned to machine talk with ‘Down in the Park’ – simply about machines programmed to harm humans that live in a park – which opened with a classical piano solo. There was also a rarity, ‘Crime of Passion’, from a Tubeway Army compilation called ‘Asylum’.

Although Numan was initially thinking of not playing his single ‘Cars’, it was not actually much of a feature when played acoustically; its sister track, ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’, however, was and the last song of the encore to finish his show on: he described how it had taken time to write and been a long track that you could not dance to or which did not have a catchy chorus, but ended up being a hit Number 1 single in 1979 and was one of the highlights of the set. The acoustic interpretation worked for some songs and not others and, as Numan admitted himself, he was struggling to play acoustic guitar due to it hurting his fingers, but the evening was successful in that it showcased an intimate portrait of the storyteller and inner imaginings of a man who dreamt about machines.

17/10/23: Gary Numan @ St John at Hackney, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

808 STATE @ DINGWALLS, LONDON

To celebrate 50 years of the Camden rock ‘n’ roll venue, Dingwalls put on a series of gigs which included a rare performance by the Mancunian acid house pioneers, 808 State. With founding member Graham Massey at their helm, the group began on opening chart hit, ‘In Yer Face’; a single from 1991 studio album ‘ex:el’, with its oriental synthscape and industrial techno, their physical drummer making them standout from other artists’ live performances.

They moved into ‘Technocity’; its quick-fire techno EBM beats saw a hail of digital keys and scaling synths before it transformed into an interlude of coldwave ambience. Throughout the set, there were showers of colourful laser effects and strobe lighting. Massey then performed the sweet tones of the sopranino saxophone for chart topping single ‘Pacific’ from their 1989 studio album ‘90’, with its clattering jungle theme and allso the tribal techno of ‘Ujala’; its reoccurring sample vocal finishing on hammering chimes of hard hitting electronics. Massey also played warm tones of acoustic guitar in ‘Plan 9’.

808 State finished their show on the explosive house music of ‘Astrakhan’ and single ‘Cübik’, with Massey now on electric guitar playing estranged notes and noise against the revving beats of the tracks. They returned for an encore of the percussive ‘Bataglia’, from studio album ‘Initial Granada Report’, featuring Massey’s guitar feedback.

13/10/23: 808 State @ Dingwalls, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

 
 
 
 

MIDGE URE @ ROYAL ALBERT HALL, LONDON

For his 70th birthday celebrations, Midge Ure performed two special sets at the Royal Albert Hall as part of his ‘70RAH 041023’ event, for which he began on an acoustic set with a backing band of classical musicians to perform Ultravox cover, ‘Lament’, with its weave of string strokes; the violin and vocal synchronisation of ‘Breathe’ and acoustic guitar drive of ‘Guns and Arrows’.

After an interval, he began his electric set on entrance music, ‘Yellow Pearl’, by Phil Lynott, and then, with his friend Rusty Egan in the audience, performed Egan’s ‘Glorious’ with its stripped down drum intro and Tangerine Dream synth sounds. Ure then embarked on his almost totally Ultravox derived set list starting with the soothing ballad of ‘Reap the Wild Wind’, which he got the audience clapping along to.

After a cover of Tom Rush’s ‘No Regrets’ featuring his Neu-style guitar solo, Ure performed a marathon of Ultravox tracks in track order from the band’s studio album, ‘Vienna’, starting on ‘Astradyne’, with cosmical yet cold synth and groaning violinic overlay mirroring Ultravox’s traditional synth sound, which then arrived fully in ‘Private Lives’, with a strangling synthesiser and guitar duet. Before then and continuing the tracklist, Ure performed the funky ‘New Europeans’, with its staccato guitar strokes, glockenspiel keys and racing rhythmic instrumental, and ‘Sleepwalk’, with a whirring synthesiser duet.

‘Mr X’ arrived, unfortunately to a darknened stage, conjuring up Kraftwerk; its stammering beats with a space race synth, Ure’s robotised vocals and mechanical noises, later featuring a violin solo. The set climaxed on the penultimate track on side B of the album and its single of the same name, ‘Vienna’; its whistling lightning and thunder crashes, before the tempo increased with tumultuous violin and the final cascade of classical piano, proving how much of a genial composition it was.

Ure finished his set on Visage cover ‘Fade to Grey’ and ‘Dancing with Tears in My Eyes’, the latter opened with his woody guitar solo, and performed an encore of ‘The Voice’, with the whole of the Albert Hall singing along to the chorus, before he finally finished his set on the splendour of ‘Hymn’.

04/10/23: Midge Ure @ Royal Albert Hall, London.

Photos © Fernanda Bavaresco.

© Ayisha Khan.

 

DUNCAN REID + THE BIG HEADS @ THE LEXINGTON, LONDON

Following Duncan Reid’s decision to terminate his band The Big Heads after 13 years for his own personal reasons, the man in the purple suit did one final tour culminating in a sold-out show at The Lexington, which followed hot off the heels of the release of the band’s fifth and final studio album, ‘And It’s Goodbye From Him’. From his beginnings in the music industry in 1976 as a member of punk band The Boys with Matt Dangerfield and Casino Steel (and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Mick Jones and Billy Idol) to his present day fun loving pop-punk outfit, he has enjoyed a career spanning almost half a century that it seems reasonable he now wishes to hang up the suit.

The Big Heads performed from their new album release early in their set with ‘Oh My My’ and ‘Lost Again’; the latter featuring psychedelic, moody guitar chords. From the new material, Reid went back to his time in The Boys with their 1977 debut single B-side, ‘Soda Pressing’, for which Sophie Powers (guitar, keyboard) arrived onstage to takeover on guitar duties from Heidi Cotton (guitar, backing vocals) despite sustaining a wrist injury. ‘Baby Doll’ saw her play on the synthesiser and perform a buzzing guitar solo. The band returned to the new album songs with ‘Singing with the Beach Boys’, the latter of which Nick Hughes (guitar) joked he wrote 95 per cent of.

They also played ‘Bombs Away’, the title track from their third studio album, and single ‘Kelly’s Gone Insane’, with its mellow guitar parts, from their release ‘The Difficult Second Album’; guest Ciara Lavers who was in the band at that time joined them on drums for the track. The band performed their brand new apocalyptic party track, the showaddywaddy blues of ‘Funaggedon Time’, with a grungy finish, and Shakespearean rhyme of ‘To Live Or Live Not’ from their last album, ‘Don’t Blame Yourself’.

The Big Heads played again from the same album with ‘Motherfucker’ before inviting surprise guest James Stevenson (Chelsea, Gene Loves Jezebel) onstage to play guitar in debut album track, ‘The One’. They closed their set for the final time on single ‘C’mon Josephine’, with its trademark The Boys’ feel, and ‘C’èst La Vie’ with whirring guitars. They did an encore to end the show with ‘First Time’; The Boys’ single written by Reid’s former bandmate Honest John Plain, which the audience sang-along to with Reid immersing himself in the crowd, after which they finished forever. “Goodnight!”

07/10/23: Duncan Reid + The Big Heads @ The Lexington, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

GANG OF FOUR @ O2 SHEPHERD’S BUSH EMPIRE, LONDON

On their first UK tour since reforming with this new lineup consisting of founding members Jon King (vocals) and Hugo Burnham (drums) alongside new additions David Pajo (guitar, backing vocals) and Sara Lee (bass), the band performed an explosive set but without their late founding guitarist, Andy Gill, who tragically passed away in 2020 and whose departure ended the previous lineup. The gaping hole of his absence was noticeable throughout their set.

Similarly to when he was previously in the band with Gill, a highly energetic King ran around the stage dancing to the funky basslines of ‘Not Great Men’ before the erratic clatter of ‘Outside the Trains Don’t Run on Time’. They focussed heavily on the band’s 1979 debut album, ‘Entertainment!’, singing the dual vocals of ‘Ether’, which saw Pajo attempting to do Gill’s vocal parts but neither his playing nor spoken word could even begin to replicate the unique overlapping interaction of the founding pair in the track, although he did a better job at producing the track’s demented guitar chimes that built to a crescendo with Burnham’s drum bashings.

Pajo’s wild guitar feedback introduction and bridge instrumental in ‘Love Like Anthrax’ also fell short of Gill’s guitar antics but this was quickly forgotten in the next song, ‘He’d Send in the Army’, which saw King in traditional fashion beating an old microwave with a baseball bat – as in the band’s live performances back in the day – and an oriental guitar solo in the funky ‘I Parade Myself’, from ‘Shrinkwrapped’; King strolled around the stage like a model doing flamboyant gestures amongst his absurd frog hops.

The stomp of ‘What We All Want’ from Gang of Four’s second studio album ‘Solid Gold’, contained Pajo’s well wrought t]out elasticated guitar strains and feedback. King emphasised the macho mockery of 1982 single ‘I Love a Man in Uniform’, which, while containing great female backing vocals from the band’s three singers, was played at too fast a pace. The band ended their set on their 1981 single ‘To Hell with Poverty’, with its guitar highs and lows (but other parts not played at all well) bouncing basslines and King’s banshee wails. The encore included their very first single, ‘Damaged Goods’, which was largely sung by the audience as King held out the microphone. An excellent performance from King that made for an electric performance but the loss of Gill was unsettlingly aroar.

06/10/23: Gang of Four @ O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

Photo (as watermarked) © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

ATTRITION + PILGRIMS OF YEARNING @ DINGWALLS, LONDON

Performing a rare London show alongside South-American post-punk band, Pilgrims of Yearning, and at the same venue they played back in 2016, founding group members Martin Bowes and Julea Waller did a short set of tracks ahead of new material they have coming out early next year. Before their set, support band Pilgrims of Yearning showcased their blend of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, Bauhaus/The Cure infused oriental, gothic darkwave, with songs such as ‘Florence’ and the explosive ‘Storms’ sung by Juls, seductively dancing on stage as mascara ran down her face.

Attrition’s set opened on the primordial sound of ‘The Voice of Truth’ with a sample and classical synth from their two synth operators; Bowes gruff voice contrasted by Waller’s operatic wails, the former also playing bursts of electronic clarinet. Then came the revving synths and bracketing crashes of ‘Snakepit’, from 2013 studio album, ‘The Unraveller of Angels’, with its incongruent, dual layered vocal harmonies.

Attrition moved onto the computerised beats of ‘The Mercy Machine’, from 1994’s ‘The Hidden Agenda’, which utilised the sample influence of other industrial groups of the time such as Front 242’s ‘Welcome To Paradise’ and for which Bowes ripped up pieces of paper, throwing them into the air. The EBM tempo of ‘Narcissist’ followed with its choral backing; this pace continuing in 2020’s ‘The Great Derailer’ with trembling string synth.

The group finished their set on their 2004 studio album, ‘Dante’s Kitchen’, with the dystopian key sequences of ‘The Long Hall’. Whilst at times their tracks are repetitive, the group capture true gothic, industrial darkwave imaginings with the originality of their vocal contrast.

 

30/09/23: Attrition + Pilgrims of Yearning @ The Black Heart, London.

Photos © Anna Marchesani/Nocturna Photography.

© Ayisha Khan.

THE SUGARHILL GANG @ WOOLWICH WORKS, WOOLWICH

Following their induction into the Camden Music Walk of Fame, the gang did a set of live UK performances. Exploding onto the stage to launch into their 1980 third single ‘8th wonder’, they afterwards ensured the audience that they knew they were the most commercially successful rap group on the entire planet that predated all rappers such as Jay-Z, Puff Daddy and Fifty Cent with their own Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike and Master Gee. Dressed up in bling with their own unique styles, the gang headed by Master Gee performed 2009 single by French producer Bob Sinclar, ‘Lala Song’, which sampled their 1979 hit single, ’Rapper’s Delight’.

The group then made way for hip hop collaborators Grandmaster Melle Mel and Scorpio (Furious 5), who included a sample of Tom Tom Club’s ‘Genius of Love’; the 1981 single by Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, produced during the breakup of their band Talking Heads. The pair danced on stage, Scorpio stylishly pacing the stage carrying a red man bag with Mel wearing a jewelled ‘White Lines’ baseball cap and flexing his body-built physique, both freezing into poses at the end of each track. They sampled ‘I Feel For You’ by fellow grammy inductee Chaka Khan and sang Mel’s UK hit single, ‘White Lines’, with Master Gee saying Mel had a lot to do with building hip-hop culture in the South Bronx area of New York City.

The Sugarhill Gang then returned back on stage to perform other dance hits such as their disco-funk cover of ‘Apache’, with their dance moves famously inspired by ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-air’. They finished the show on their 1979 hit single ‘Rapper’s Delight’, with all musicians on stage doing a line dance to the song and rapping out its reverberating lyrics.

10/09/23: The Sugarhill Gang @ Woolwich Works, Woolwich.

Photos © Peter McDonnell Photography.

© Ayisha Khan.

JOHN GRANT + RICHARD HAWLEY @ BARBICAN, LONDON

John Grant teamed up with acclaimed producer Richard Hawley to perform a unique night of cover songs from the former country music inspiration, Patsy Cline. Grant, wearing a custom-made sparkly suit, arrived on stage to ‘Crazy Arms’, a song he had first heard as a schoolboy on a jukebox in Denver, with ticking drums and piano medley. The band then played the slow rhythm and blues bassline of ‘Never No more’, with Hawley’s wheel spinning blues guitar.

Grant spoke about how movies had helped develop his interest in Cline, specifically Jessica Lange’s portrayal of the country music star in 1985 film, ‘Sweet Dreams’. He also spoke about the importance of his sister, who had been a huge influence on his exposure to the singer. He dedicated ‘Just Out of Reach’ to her, featuring singing waves of lap steel guitar. Reminiscing about the time he became severely ill abroad and singing Cline songs in hospital while he recovered, Grant sang ‘I Fall to Pieces’, a 1961 single that was a crossover between country and pop and launched Cline’s career as a solo female artist in the pop charts.

Grant then sang ‘Strange’, with Hawley playing on acoustic guitar against light footed piano keys. They performed the slow ballad of ‘Sweet Dreams (of You)’, Hawley churning out deep tones on the baritone guitar. At the behest of an audience member, Grant dedicated two songs to his friend, the late Sinead O’Connor, including Cline’s Hank Williams penned 1952 single ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’ before also performing Willie Nelson’s 1961 single ‘Crazy’; both songs are country standards popularised by Cline. The band returned for an encore of Grant’s own song from his time in his band, The Czars, with ‘Paint the Moon’, which had channelled Cline’s ‘Strange’ of which they had also released a cover and was Grant’s first UK recording.

24/09/23: John Grant + Richard Hawley @ Barbican, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

SIOUXSIE SIOUX @ TROXY, LONDON


Her first show in 10 years since her last live appearance at Yoko Ono’s Meltdown festival in 2013, Siouxsie Sioux performed a nationwide tour culminating in two nights at the Troxy in which she performed classics from her post-punk band The Banshees as well as solo material from her 2007 debut and only studio album, ‘Mantaray’.

After appearing from behind a transparent screen in a silver hooded jumpsuit made by fashion designer Pam Hogg, she played ’Kaleidoscope’ single ‘Arabian Nights’, but unfortunately it was clear that – and by her own admission – she was struggling vocally to remain in time and tune, despite the excellent spine tingling guitar parts by guitarist Steve. Siouxsie better performed the sexy swagger and deep vocal tones of ‘Here Comes That Day’ from her solo album, ‘Mantaray’, which was remastered on vinyl earlier this year.

She also played her famous cover of The Beatles’ ‘Dear Prudence’, spiralling around to the vocals, before randomly going into a rant after the song about her frustration over Thames Water’s burst water main where she lives. Her set continued on a lacklustre note over the next few songs, but suddenly reenergised with a heavier rhythm section in ‘Cities of Dust’ from The Banshees’ seventh studio album, ‘Tinderbox’, with its stretching guitar. After the minimalist Burundi style tribal drumming of ‘But Not Them’, the band launched into the fast paced ‘Sin in My Heart’, with Siouxsie playing guitar, its speedy, alternating fretwork like a runaway train.

She ended her show on the band’s 1980 fifth single, ‘Happy House’ – from third studio album ‘Kaleidoscope’, featuring John McGeoch’s trademark early guitar parts after first joining the band – and then doing a rare first encore of ‘Carousel’, which was the first time she had ever played the song live as a solo artist. Despite it being played with a backing track for the keyboard parts as throughout the set, its tingling keys conjured up a horrifying gothic fantasy with brushes of crumbling guitar feedback and wide eyed Kate Bush-like vocals.

The band continued to play from the 1988 ‘Peepshow’ album, released 35 years ago almost to the day of the London shows, with the boxy march of ‘Peek-A-Boo’. Varying from the previous night, they performed ‘Switch’ from The Banshees 1978 debut album, ‘The Scream’. Despite being evidently exhausted, Siouxsie managed to literally crawl back onstage for the last song from ‘Juju’, its first single ‘Spellbound’, before throwing her mic to the floor in acknowledgment that she had had enough.

07/09/23: Siouxsie Sioux @ Troxy, London.

Photo © Tony Woolliscroft.

© Ayisha Khan.

HORACE ANDY @ JAZZ CAFE, LONDON

The Jamaican roots reggae musician played two sold out nights in London following the release of his last, chart topping studio album, ‘Midnight Rockers’, of which he also recently released a dub version. He played with the Dub Asante backing band, who opened the show on a reggae cover of the theme tune of ‘The Godfather’ which they redubbed as ‘The Jahfather’.

Horace Andy entered the stage to a soaring guitar solo singing around his new song ‘This Must Be Hell’ from his last album. Andy’s smooth, lullaby vocals were echoed by the rumble of the trombone, then onto the sway of ‘I’ve Got To Get Away’; the descending trombone moving into a solo and the reggae trademark tin clatter of drums.

The band performed ‘Money Money’ which they played sped up into a frenzied chaos for the latter part of the song. Andy perform what he called his favourite song and then fan favourite ‘Skylarking’ – from his 1972 debut studio album of the same name – with its dancing trumpet and bass, once again speeding up the track at the end.

He finished on newer song ‘Rock To Sleep’ with whistling keyboard and a brief dub part with pedal effect guitar and slowed down drumming, a cover of Bill Withers’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ and ended the show on ‘Leave Rasta’, in which he interwove a checklist tribute to many African countries and an instrumental crescendo build.

31/07/23: Horace Andy @ Jazz Cafe, London.

Photos © Anna Marchesani/Nocturna Photography.

© Ayisha Khan.

SUN RA ARKESTRA @ THE FORGE, LONDON

This time without their maestro Marshall Allen at the helm, the Arkestra returned to London on their own to perform at the intimate The Forge venue, squeezing onto the small stage while their 99-year-old conductor took a break from touring.

They performed the saxophone waves of ‘Seductive Fantasy’ with an opening crash of the gong; brass streams and sparkling piano keys, later with guitar against the double bassline, before the “space is the place” vocals arrived. They moved onto ‘Dancing Shadows’ with its chaotic high-speed jazz rhythm, featuring loud bangs, whistles and pops like a firework factory going off.

The Arkestra then introduced ‘Angels and Demons at Play’ which Allen wrote the music for, jazz musician Ronnie Boykins wrote the bassline and Sun Ra wrote the words. It began with a flautist playing sharp, pressurised notes and dual vocals building to a noisy crescendo. The show ended on a duet of ‘Enlightenment’ from Sun Ra’s third 1959 studio album, ‘Jazz in Silhouette’, with its distinct brass trodden rhythm. They departed the stage in traditional fashion to ‘We Travel The Spaceways’.

 

10/08/23: Sun Ra Arkestra @ The Forge, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

HERBIE HANCOCK @ BARBICAN, LONDON

In memoriam of the late, great Wayne Shorter who died earlier this year, Herbie Hancock played a two-night residency in honour of his friend whom he performed with alongside Miles Davis in the 1960s and collaborated with throughout other decades.

Together with his band, they began the show on ‘Overture’; fused with glimmering, electronic sound effects and a chrysalis of percussive and warm brass medley, speeding up into funky pedal effects, trumpet frenzy and Hancock’s tumbling piano piece. The second part of the track featured Caribbean keys, backing vocals and a long, erratic and dramatic piano solo.

Hancock moved onto a cover of Shorter’s ‘Footsteps’, originally covered by Terence Blanchard, with its basic rhythmic, swaying momentum and each other instrumental element being layered over from piano to ribbons of trumpet to stealthy guitar and back again. He also performed ‘70s material from his band The Headhunters.

Next Hancock played keyboard and sung using a Sennheiser VSM-201 vocoder as he did on his 1978 studio album ‘Sunlight’, performing ‘Come Running To Me’, which he ended on a humourous continuation of speaking into the vocoder after the end of the song.

The band ended their almost two-hour set on jazz standard, ‘Chameleon’; Hancock played on keytar doing a solo high-pitched medley with the rest of the band, including a more electro-funk interaction with the keyboard.

28/07/23: Herbie Hancock @ Barbican, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

 

HANS-JOACHIM ROEDELIUS + TIM STORY @ CAFE OTO, LONDON

Ahead of the release next year of a special archive to commemorate the solo composer’s 90th birthday, the former Cluster and Harmonia founder, Hans Joachim Roedelius, returned to London after his last visit in 2019. He was supported by his archivist and collaborating artist Tim Story, who performed a solo set containing fragments of Roedelius material from the unreleased, archive material which he had pieced together in his own compositions. Starting on sharp, mechanical scrapes and primordial keys, it then featured choral and disembodied vocal samples; a second piece contained Roedelius’ piano compositions amongst a jungle of thumping beats and twisted, singing synths opening up into an ambient landscape with Story going on to include some Harmonia tracks.

Unable to perform for long periods these days, Roedelius then played a continuous 30-minute piano composition from memory that reflected the style of his work: a tonal mixture of bass and treble clef scales, lingering ambience with thoughtful pauses, stitching each section together in a similar way to collaborator and Roedelius archive curator Tim Story’s earlier performance. Joachim also included his classical influences such as Beethoven symphonies and those of his own personal ancestor, Johann Christian Roedelius.

He ended the piece with a spoken word poem which he sung without piano accompaniment.

27/07/23: Hans-Joachim Roedelius + Tim Story @ Cafe Oto, London.

Photos © Peter McDonnell Photography.

© Ayisha Khan.

THE CHAMELEONS @ BOILEROOM, GUILDFORD

The Mancunian post-punks commemorated 40 years of their debut album ‘Script of the Bridge’, first released in 1983, with a short UK tour. Mark Burgess (vocals, bass) and Reg Smithies (guitar) are the constant members in a new band lineup that now includes a keyboard player, although at times throughout the set was rendered redundant where guitars were more prominent.

They began their set on the album, with the guitar and boxy drums of ‘Paper Tigers’, continuing to play from the album tracklist, with the roaring ‘A Person isn’t Safe Anywhere these Days’, the pastel guitar of ‘Pleasure and Pain’ and the momentous ‘Monkeyland’. The band then turned to their second album, ‘What Does Anything Mean? Basically’, with the hammer-ons and pull-offs of ‘Looking Inwardly’, then back to their debut release with the radiating guitar of ‘Up the Down Escalator’.

While The Chameleons have yet to put out new material and are still playing tired nostalgia, they’ve attempted to vary things as was seen in ‘Soul in Isolation’ from third studio album, ‘Strange Times’; the percussive clatter and its circular guitar riffs descended into a dark, pedal scraping drone, with Burgess inserting his own lyrical interlude citing Brexit and sampling David Bowie’s ‘Be My Wife’, The Beatles’ ‘Eleanor Rigby’ (having earlier also sampled ‘Get Back’) and The Smiths’ ‘The Light Never Goes Out’, with Smithies’ including a new chiming guitar riff.

After playing their debut 1982 single ‘In Shreds’, the band closed their set on ‘Swamp Thing’ (with yet another Beatles’ sample, ‘Rain’) and fan favourite, ‘Second Skin’, also from their debut studio album.

05/07/23: The Chameleons @ The Boileroom, Guildford.

Photos © Anna Marchesani/Nocturna Photography.

© Ayisha Khan.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

MELVINS @ ELECTRIC BALLROOM, LONDON

On their 40th anniversary tour and making a rare visit to the UK, Melvins performed a setlist of favourites from 8 out of their 29 studio albums. The band is still made up of its constant trio of founder and songwriter Buzz Osborne (vocals, guitar), early band member Dale Crover (drums, backing vocals) and 2015 recruit, Steven Shane McDonald (bass, backing vocals).

Entering comically to a-ha’s ‘Take On Me’, they started with early material, performing the bass pedal streams of ‘Zodiac’ and whiney guitar of ‘Copache’, from their 1991 ‘Bullhead’ and 1993 ‘Houdini’ albums respectively. Following a cover of The Beatles’ ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’, Crover then delivered a drum solo introduction to ‘Hammering’ from their most recent studio release, last year’s ‘Bad Mood Rising’, with the band following this up by another track from the same album, the drum clattering ‘Never Say You’re Sorry’.

Their 10-minute track ‘Let It All Be’ was condensed down, hallmarked by its funky bass rhythm to which McDonald danced, before they returned to ‘Bullhead’ with single ‘Your Blessened’ and Buzzo’s metal fretwork. Melvins finished their set on their 1993 single ‘Honey Bucket’ and ‘Revolve’, the latter from 1999’s ‘Stoner Witch’, featuring Buzzo’s reverb guitar solo, and ended on ‘Night Goat’.

Crover then addressed the fans saying there were more of them now than back in 1991 when Melvins first played London and that this was the first time ever that they would do an encore, for which they performed the trudge of fan favourite, ‘Boris’, with Buzzo remaining alone on stage for its stripped back finish. One of the best performances of the year so far.

06/06/23: Melvins @ Electric Ballroom, London.

Photos © Kim Ford.

© Ayisha Khan.

PERE UBU @ RICH MIX, LONDON

“We must resist, we must resist…seek righteousness, seek honesty; be polite, be dignified – that’s all I’ve gotta say.” A physically less able David Thomas opened his set on this message in the face of current political and economic corruption and what he sees as the negative influence of social media in suppressing revolution. He has recently released the next chapter of Pere Ubu’s journey known as ‘Trouble on Big Beat Street’, the band’s 19th studio album, which they performed in its majority.

Pere Ubu headed straight into a series of new album tracks with the slamming ‘Love Is Like Gravity; its soaring theremin and free clarinet played by new members to the lineup, Jack Jones (real name Keirsty Boon; theremin, bongos, percussion) and Alex Ward (clarinet, guitar, backing vocals) respectively, and plucky guitar by long standing member Keith Moliné. They also played new track ‘Moss Covered Boodongle’, featuring Thomas’ repetitive vocals being sung into a corded telephone and then another new song, the circus-like ‘Nyah Nyah Nyah’, with its whistling theremin.

The band performed two versions of new track ‘Let’s Pretend’, first with its stealthy guitar and stripped down drums, transforming into jazzy guitar, and afterwards rehearsing it with Jones on bongos, then interrupted by Thomas saying, “That’s enough.” They finished this segment of the set list by playing another new song, ‘Crocodile Smile’, with its hyper synth beams and noise rock chaos, Andy Diagram (Two Pale Boys) now on stage on trumpet; the track later ended on a springy synth and clarinet interaction and Thomas’ wails and demented guitar. Thomas conducted the band during the performance to play and stop, with them going over slightly to his great annoyance and frustration, causing him to reprise the track later in the set.

In the meantime they moved onto the clatter and surging electronics of their 1975 debut single ‘30 Seconds Over Tokyo’ with its noise rock finish, returning to the new release with the cool trumpet of film noir soundtrack ‘Movie In My Head’ and the gothic organ and hopeless slog of ‘Satan’s Hamster’. It was at this point that Thomas threw a tantrum over needing a cigarette following the stress of ‘Crocodile Smile’, which resulted in him lighting up illegally onstage.

The band performed The Osmonds’ cover that appears on the album, ‘Crazy Horses’, before finishing on their new single, ‘Worried Man Blues’; a choppy track with the squealing clarinet mimicking a blues harmonica, Thomas’ powerfully emotive vocals setting the scene of the story. Towards the end of their set, he played a plastic trombone in ‘George Had a Hat’ from 1988’s ‘The Tenement Year’, with the instrument falling apart but him continuing to play it because at this point he was feeling “much better.” A rare performance by the legendary group that made it the second best show of the year so far.

02/06/23: Pere Ubu @ Rich Mix, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

SPARKS @ ROYAL ALBERT HALL, LONDON

The Sparks brothers toured their 26th studio album, ‘The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte’, with their UK tour culminating in two sold out nights at the Royal Albert Hall, the first time they had played there, with a humbled Russell Mael (vocals) explaining that it was their dream since moving with older brother Ron Mael (keyboard) to London in the early ’70s, and thinking that was where the big bands played, which in recent years Sparks has well proven itself to be amongst.

After entering to an instrumental version of new track ‘Take Me For A Ride’, the band played their new title track and single, ‘The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte’, early on in their set; a backing track of frazzling electronics and synth flashes against a pumping beat with an audience singalong, but without Cate Blanchett dancing on stage as in the official video and at their Glastonbury performance. After playing ‘Angst In My Pants’, they performed against the warped brassy intro and accordion ditty of ‘Beaver O’ Lindy’, from their 1973 second album, ‘A Woofer In Tweeter’s Clothing’, and their first single of the eighties decade, ‘When I’m With You’, from ‘Terminal Jive’, with its dance-rock guitar synth.

The duo came back to their current release, playing their third single: a comical dance track written about a 22-hour-old baby who wants to return to its mother’s womb, called ‘Nothing Is as Good as They Say It Is’, featuring a guitar solo and stripped down piano and voice part. They also played more acoustic track, ‘It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way’, returning to their dance rhythms with the punctuating ‘Balls’ from their 2000 and eighteenth studio album of the same name; Russell’s amazing athletic energy, bouncing around the stage in front of a LED screen of bright visuals.

Ron then performed traditional setlist favourite, spoken word piece, ‘The Shopping Mall of Love’, from Sparks’ 1986 studio album, ‘Music That You Can Dance To’, after which followed more new tracks from the current album: the Kraftwerk ‘Autobahn’ electronic simplicity of brief romance, ‘Escalator’, and then the stark ‘We Go Dancing’; the latter an ironic imagining of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un’s military parades. They returned to ‘Music That You Can Dance To’ with its eponymous title track.

The Mael brothers finished their just shy of two-hour set on three of their biggest classics and hits: the Pet Shop Boysesque, ‘When Do I Get To Sing ‘My Way”, from 1994’s ‘Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins’; Giorgio Moroder produced ‘The Number One Song In Heaven’ (with Ron’s trademark strides) from the 1979 album of the same name and ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us’ from 1974’s ‘Kimono My House’, ending their set on the final track of their new album, the sardonic humour of piano piece, ‘Gee, That Was Fun’, to a full standing ovation.

29/05/23: Sparks @ Royal Albert Hall, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs

© Ayisha Khan.

RUTS DC @ WATER RATS, LONDON

The band returned to London for a second time to play two nights at a smaller venue following their knockout show at O2 Academy Islington last year. Continuing on their ‘Faces in The Sky’ tour promoting their new ‘Counterculture?’ album, the band of Segs Jennings, Leigh Heggarty and Dave Ruffy performed from the new release.

Their set began on the light and dark shades of surveillance culture track, ‘Faces in The Sky’ itself, from the new album, then into the roaming guitar of classic ‘SUS’ and its sister track ‘It Was Cold’, from The Ruts’ 1979 debut album, ‘The Crack’. They also played from their third, lesser-known 1981 album, ‘Animal Now’, with the strained guitar chords of ‘No Time To Kill’, released when the band became ‘Ruts DC’. They returned to the new material with ‘X-Ray Joy’, containing softer, chiming guitar structures, and back to ‘Animal Now’, with Segs’ trudging bass and unusual gothic vocals and wails in ‘Despondency’.

Moving onto their title track and single, Ruts DC played the fast-paced punk rock rap ‘Counterculture?’, which varied with Heggarty’s guitar solo not on the recorded version, and then the circular guitar riffs of ‘Born Innocent’, one of the band’s best tracks to date. They also performed their fourth single, ‘Jah War’ and another new track, ‘West One (Shine On Me)’ modern echo, ‘Kill Zone’, with bleeding guitar parts.

The band finished their set on classics from their first two albums with their first two singles: ‘In A Rut’ – ending on a pedal effect guitar solo against a stripped-down, rhythm section for variation and a ‘New Rose’ tribute to Algy Ward – and their hit single ‘Babylon’s Burning’. They returned for an encore with a final new song, ‘Pretty Lunatics’, which Segs dedicated to all of us.

24/05/23: Ruts DC @ The Water Rats, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

SAD LOVERS & GIANTS @ THE LEXINGTON, LONDON

Celebrating their second 40th anniversary following last year’s ‘Epic Garden Music’ show, the gothic post-punk band moved their attentions to ‘Feeding The Flame’, performing the 1983 studio album in full following a set of selected material from their wider catalogue. They chose to remain with the current members on this occasion with a line-up formed of Garce Allard (vocals, guitar, percussion), Tony McGuinness (guitar), Nigel Pollard (drums), Ian Gibson (bass), Will Hicks (keyboards) and newer member, Jack Dawkins (saxophone).

After opening on ‘Alice (Isn’t Playing)’ with its gothic synthscapes, they included more rarely played tracks such as the tribal drumbeats of ‘Jungle of Lies’ which appears on 1991’s ‘Treehouse Poetry’ and ‘Siren’, with ghostly, high pitched synth wails, from the band’s latest album, ‘Mission Creep’.

SL&G also showcased their newest material in the way of 2020 single ‘Asylum Town’, which Garce said was about Gloucester; it would have benefitted from more amplification on the guitar, however, the strong vocals made up for this. A surprise to the setlist arrived in the form of ‘Sex Without Gravity’, from a John Peel session recorded by the band in 1981: a demented ‘Looney Tunes’ guitar and saxophone duet, which once again could have pushed the guitar to prevent it becoming tangled with the superb saxophone free radicals.

The guitar parts in ‘Paradise’ were finally liberated with the band finishing their first set on the uplifting magic of ‘Imagination’ which, unlike much of the set being perfectly replicated in its pristine form, varied from the recorded version and its previous live performances in softer keyboard and McGuinness’ backing vocals.

Following a short interval, SL&G returned to embark on their second set of the night, ‘Feeding The Flame’ performed in its entirety in track order, featuring stand out songs such as ‘Big Tracks Little Tracks’, which takes inspiration from Joy Division and contained spidery guitar with newly added free jazz saxophonics; the synth atmospherics and dancing guitar of ‘Another Day’, the clattering drums of should-have-been-a-single ‘Sleep (Is For Everyone)’; the spidery hallucinogenics of ‘Vendetta’; the album and fourth single ‘Man of Straw’ – vocally disappointingly not a shade on the recorded version but instrumentally a good attempt at the chaos – and Peel’s favourite, ‘In Flux’.

After completing the tracklist, the band played a four-song encore, which saw them premier a new song from their forthcoming album, entitled ‘Awoken’ – although sounding similar to single ‘Asylum Town’ – and their classic 1982 second single, ‘Colourless Dream’.

21/05/23: Sad Lovers & Giants @ The Lexington, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

WASTED YOUTH @ WATER RATS, LONDON

With a refreshed lineup since they reformed in 2021, Wasted Youth played a sold-out show at another small venue with its newer recruits Josef Rossam (guitar), Teresa Casella (bass) and Alan Temple (drums) playing alongside founding members Ken Scott (vocals, keyboards) and Rocco Barker (guitar, backing vocals). They played predominantly from their 1980 debut album, ‘Wild And Wandering’, together with singles, B-sides and non-album tracks from their short-lived history.

The band opened on ‘Maybe We’ll Die With Them’; Scott’s voice giving off tones of Lou Reed amongst Rocco’s jagged guitar riffs, which then turned into a Kinks twang in ‘Games’. EP track ‘My Friends Are Dead’ had an interlude of beautiful reverb guitar that was almost violinic and the grungy ‘If Tomorrow’ saw a long, burning guitar solo. Their 1980 debut single, ‘Jealousy’, had the lazy guitar and rhythm section of The Velvets and The Kinks and the keyboard of gothic post-punk band, The Cure.

Wasted Youth also performed a song they have never played live before, ‘Here I Go’; while basic in riff structure it featured Rocco’s noisy guitar feedback sounding like a multiple collision car crash; this continued in ’80s pop single ‘Rebecca’s Room’, against a funky post-punk bassline mimicking Gang of Four’s ‘Anthrax’ and Scott’s wavering bleeps. The band closed their set on debut album track, ‘I Wish I Was a Girl’, with Rocco’s dual personality melodic and scratchy guitar.

17/05/23: Wasted Youth @ Water Rats, London.

Photos © Peter McDonnell Photography.

© Ayisha Khan.

ROD ARGENT + COLIN BLUNSTONE @ PRZYM, KINGSTON

Following their intense US and UK tours of their new studio album, ‘Different Game’, the two remaining co-founders of the band additionally completed a succession of small record store dates, performing a stripped-down, slowed down acoustic set on just Rod Argent’s keyboard accompanying Colin Blunstone’s voice, which gave a rare insight into how the pair originally song write. They performed classic Zombies tracks from their magnitudinal 60-year history, together with a selection of new songs.

They set included their US number 6 hit and third single, ‘Tell Her No’; against only the keyboard, more tones of Blunstone’s voice revealed themselves, also with Argent providing more central vocals than when playing with the full band. This also showed in their new title track and single ‘Different Game’, where the song became more of a duet, with Argent singing higher octaves. They then played their new main album single, ‘Dropped Reeling & Stupid’.

For the final part of their set, they performed from their critically acclaimed 1967 studio album, ‘Odessey & Oracle’; after Argent told the story of the album’s production, they performed ‘Care of Cell 44’, ‘This Will Be Our Year’ and classic 1968 single ‘Time of The Season’, the latter with Argent’s keyboard solos. The pair finished their set on their debut single, 1964’s hit ‘She Not There’ and an encore of ‘The Way I Feel Inside’ before answering audience questions.

16/05/23: Rod Argent + Colin Blunstone (The Zombies) @ PRYZM, Kingston.

Photo © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

A WINGED VICTORY FOR THE SULLEN @ BARBICAN, LONDON

Glistening electronics with a warm brass hum introduced the ambient neo-classical set that began on Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Wiltzie’s most recent release, 2021’s ‘Invisible Cities’ with ‘So That The City Can Begin To Exist’, as cosmic visuals played out on a large, transparent screen behind which they performed along with an orchestra and 12-piece choir.

Piano keys descended amongst suspenseful abrasive bows in ‘The Celestial City’ and the murmurings of the choir in ‘The Dead Outnumber The Living’, with French horns. This segment of the set finished on ‘Total Perspective Vortex’, with aurora borealis visuals and two layers of male and female vocals, before a frenzied eco-cataclysm hit, with guitar and electronic feedback, and the screen dramatically dropped to the floor.

As the duo worked their way backwards, the second segment of their set was taken from the album before last, 2019’s ‘The Undivided Five’, starting on the playful piano of a short piece of soundtrack ingenuity called ‘The Haunted Victorian Pencil’. They moved onto the dual keys of ‘The Rhythm of a Dividing Pair’, the grumbling piano and eerie, trembling strings of ‘Our Lord Debussy’ and finished on their 2016 ‘Iris’ soundtrack, with the hazardous pulsing tone of ‘Retour au Champs de Mars’, with its chorus of monastic voices ending the track, after which the choir left the stage.

The final segment was taken from the album before the last, ‘Atomos’, which was originally a score premiered at Sadler’s Wells Theatre for a dance company. It contained stretches of strings in ‘Atomos III’ and cello drone sound and noise feedback in ‘Atomos VI’, then waves of bold brass crescendos in ‘Atomos VII’, from the EP of the same name. ‘Atomos X’ descended into radio transmission to end the album selection. The duo completed their set on their 2011 eponymous debut album, with the warm, graduating strings of ‘Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears’ ending the show.

13/05/23: A Winged Victory For The Sullen @ Barbican, London.

Photos © Andrew Telling.

© Ayisha Khan.

GLEN MATLOCK @ THE 100 CLUB, LONDON

On the day of the Coronation, Glen Matlock launched his new studio album, ‘Consequences Coming’, at an official Mayor of London Coronation event. He played along with this publicity, using it to promote his new release, contrastingly a politically dissident soundtrack for the current times.

The band opened his set on new song ‘Speaking in Tongues’ with cranky guitar, then doing for one night only ‘God Save The King’; Matlock changing the lyrics of the 1977 Sex Pistols’ single to reflect his anti-monarchist feelings about the event. He also played new singles ‘Magic Carpet Ride’, featuring James Halliwell’s whistling keyboards, and title track ‘Consequences Coming’. The album includes a KD Lang cover, ‘Constant Craving’, which Matlock performed with his regular guitarist Neal X, however, the latter was unable to reach the heightened notes on the recorded track due to technical issues.

The band moved onto doo-wop song, ‘Tried To Tell You’, with Neal X’s guitar solo. As well as playing from the current release, Matlock also returned to his last 2018 solo album, ‘Good To Go’, with ‘Couldn’t Give A Damn’. After throwing in a cover of Richard Hell’s ‘Blank Generation’, they ended the set on his new whirlwind single, ‘Head on a Stick’, performed slightly out of time due to lack of rehearsal time, with an encore of Bob Dylan’s ‘Everybody Must Get Stoned’ and the Small Faces’ ‘All Or Nothing’. With his sly Coronation slights and message of rebellion, Matlock is a grumpy old punk who ain’t quite done yet.

06/05/23: Glen Matlock @ The 100 Club, London.

Photo © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

THE SELECTER @ KOKO, LONDON

Following the release of their new album, ‘Human Algebra’, the band performed the new material live along with their back catalogue on what had originally been their postponed ‘Celebrate The Bullet’ album tour, with the jazzy saxophone funk of ‘Frontline’ before they played from that 1981 second album, marrying two-tone rhythms and singer Pauline Black’s mellifluent vocals in ‘Bristol and Miami’ and post-punk watery guitar track, ‘Deepwater’. They also did the title track single, ‘Celebrate The Bullet’.

Together with co-vocalist Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrikson, The Selecter also performed their recently released material in the way of depressing title single, ‘Human Algebra’ and anti-war reggae dub ‘War War War’, which samples lyrics from The Temptations’ 1969 anti-Vietnam song ‘War’. They continued this message on the Carribean vibes of additional new song, ‘Stop Them’. The band then played from their 1980 debut studio album, ‘Too Much Pressure’, with ‘Missing Words’, and covered the funky groove of The Ethiopians’ ‘Train to Skaville’, with its saxophone drives and Hendrikson’s freestyle rap.

The Selecter finished their set on punk-skank track ‘On My Radio’, coming back for band introductions, including that of legendary founding Selecter drummer, Charles ‘Aitch’ Bembridge, and doing an encore of Justin Hinds’ cover ‘Carry Go Bring Come’ and ‘Too Much Pressure’, both from their debut album.

05/05/23: The Selecter @ KOKO, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

 
 
 
 
 

A CERTAIN RATIO @ THE GARAGE, LONDON

Bringing their UK tour to an end to promote their recently released studio album ‘1982’, the band performed new tracks for the first time live with founding members Jez Kerr (vocals, bass, percussion), Martin Moscrop (guitar, trumpet, drums, percussion) and Donald Johnson (drums, bass, percussion) joined by Matt Steele (keyboards), with new singer Ellen Beth Abdi (vocals, percussion) and additional bass and guitar player Viv, who was helping out Kerr following his health issues.

They began early with the new material, playing title track ‘1982’ with the running train of its rhythm section. They were then joined onstage by Abdi – who has recorded for the first time with them on the new release – for ‘Get A Grip’ from their previous studio album, ‘ACR Loco’; the recorded version of which features Maria Uzor of Sink Ya Teeth. After classic debut album funky traffic jam track ‘Do The Du’, which saw Kerr on bass, they also performed from their more recent releases with the frequency bending ‘Emperor Machine’ from ‘ACR:EPC’.

Kerr tributed ‘Flight’ to the recently passed Mark Stewart of The Pop Group, who attended the band’s shows and was an inspiration to them, then playing consecutively three more new tracks from the latest album with alternating vocal duties: ‘Afro Dizzy’ sung solely by Abdi, ‘Samo’ sang by Kerr and ‘Constant Curve’ sung by Abdi. The band returned to the previous album with dance track ‘Yo Yo Gi’; performed once before on their last tour, however, with ACR always reinventing, this rendition differed with its drone Human League-like keyboard.

Kerr dedicated ‘Won’t Stop Loving You’ to the late Denise Johnson, their previous backing vocalist of 30 years, then performing a version of ‘Good Together’ from ‘acr:mcr’, with alternating vocals from Kerr and Abdi and Moscrop’s strained guitar flashes, then overtaken by Steele’s warping keyboard providing an unbelievable live mix for the instrumental latter part of the track before bubbling away. With ACR’s ever-evolving restyling of live performance, incorporation of young blood into their venture and Abdi’s gift of unlocking a new phase of the band post-Denise Johnson, this was the best live show of the year so far and one of their overall best in recent years.

29/04/23: A Certain Ratio @ The Garage, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

THE DAMNED @ ALEXANDRA PALACE, LONDON

Touring their new studio album ‘Darkedelic’, The Damned regrouped not long after the wheels had cooled following their 40th anniversary reunion shows, featuring the band’s original members, but now they bring a fresh faced lineup that recruits Will Taylor on drums, who replaces longstanding drummer Pinch.

The setlist was taken almost exclusively from the new album, with opening track ‘Street of Dreams’ superseded by the band’s new main single, ‘Invisible Man’, with its chaos centre of rippling mirage, dreamscape guitar and Dave Vanian’s Hammer horror-style laughing. They also performed new song ‘Bad Weather Girl’: a basic punk anthem with an underwhelming guitar solo, livened up somewhat by Vanian’s ‘Singin’ in The Rain’ stage antics, which saw him twirling an umbrella against a stormy backdrop.

The album’s more forward thinking tracks, third single, ‘You’re Gonna Realise’ and ‘Western Promise’, lacked the instrumental pomp of the recorded versions, without the warm brass of Chris Coull on trumpet, who’s played live with the band in the past, and Captain Sensible’s pinchy metallic guitar. They then went straight into their second new single, ‘Beware of The Clown’, for which Vanian childishly donned a red clown nose and hat. Funeral hymn, ‘Wake The Dead’, is let down by sharing guitar chords with ‘Stranger on The Town’ from ‘Strawberries’, and with a guitar and keyboard interval that borrows heavily off Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of The Moon’.

The Damned played two more songs from the new album in their main set: ‘Leader of The Gang’ – embarrassingly with their crew coming onstage dressed up in tacky, DIY space rock outfits that did anything but honour the glam rock era – and ‘From Your Lips’, with coordinated pitched guitar parts and stripped down drumming that sounded fantastic live, before finishing on classic, ‘Neat Neat Neat’, stretched out to more creatively incorporate an interlude of blues rock from ‘LA Woman’ by The Doors and ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ by Johnny Cash. The band are unfortunately still stuck in a Catch-22 of nostalgia punk rock, thinking literally clowning around is somehow moving their music forward, if only saved by Vanian’s innovative songwriting and lyrical content.

21/04/23: The Damned @ Alexandra Palace, London.

Photos © Anna Marchesani/Nocturna Photography.

© Ayisha Khan.

 
 
 
 
 

GARY NUMAN @ ELECTRIC BALLROOM, LONDON

The electronic rock pioneer played a residency of three consecutive dates that were more intimate and stripped back performances than his usual packed out stadiums, to oversee his 998th, 999th and 1000th live shows since the start of his career.

Entering to the otherworldly creeks and rattles of the prehistoric ‘Resurrection’ which served as an introduction to the set, Gary Numan began his 999th show on his early material with ‘Down In The Park’, his third single with Tubeway Army, then donning electric guitar for their debut 1978 punk rock single, ‘That’s Too Bad’.

As part of a more career spanning setlist, for the first time since 2012, Numan performed ‘Rip’, a single released in 2002 and appearing in his ‘Pure’ album, which had him singing in a low whisper. His debut solo album, ‘The Pleasure Principle’, followed with ‘M.E’, which saw Numan on keyboards in front of a small screen, the song featuring an graduating ombré of synth, culminating in an operatic peak.

He returned to his early material with Tubeway Army, playing the seedy ‘Everyday I Die’, with its echoing synth interactions and final icy, dancing cascades ending the song. Then bringing his set up to date, Numan performed from his latest album, ‘Intruder’, with ‘The Chosen’, then back to his early work with 1979 debut solo single, ‘Cars’, and then back again to the present with the primordial awakenings of ‘Is This World Not Enough’; one of the best tracks on the ‘Intruder’ album, its technological, disconnected twitches making it ahead of its time even in 2021.

Numan finished his set on a remix of ‘A Prayer For The Unborn’ and on an encore of more Tubeway Army with its first two ‘Replicas’ tracks: ‘Me! I Disconnect From You’ and hit single ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’. Because the show had been stripped down, it carried a level of unpretentiousness, feeling as close as possible to Numan’s early performances.

14/04/23: Gary Numan @ Electric Ballroom, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

FAUST @ JAZZ CAFE, LONDON

The German experimental noise rock group with a lineup made up of mostly French musicians and led by founding member Jean-Herve Peron (bass, trumpet, psaltery), returned following their last London show two years ago.

Formed of Jeanne-Marie Varain (vocals, percussion), Amaury Cambuzat (guitar), Olaf Koep (drums, glockenspiel), Ronny Woods (electronics) and Pierre Chevalier (keyboard), FaUSt began on ‘Morning Land’: the beating heart rhythm with organ keys, strains of guitar and an electronic sample interval, before the angry chant continued; Peron operating a pedal for his bass.

‘Knochentanz’ saw Peron on trumpet against a hi-hat bass drumbeat, oriental keyboard and tambourine, built to a noise frenzy then coming to a screetching halt. The group had an ‘interlude’ period of tracks that quietened things down, which Peron said was about “violence and solitude”. They proceeded to perform the melodic ‘The Sad Skinhead’, with Peron playing classical guitar amongst floating glockenspiel, going into the light sparkle of the French lyrics of ‘Psalter’, with the track ending in a series of claps against the piano.

A band of contrasts, then came the panicky screams of ‘Impro’ on a darkened stage, with actual live sparks and the smell of burning rubber that followed, displaying the group’s multi-sensual hunger for enthralling and ever-changing live experiences, it descending into whistling electronic feedback. FaUSt went straight into the hysterical laughs of Peron’s daughter, Jeanne-Marie, with clumsy piano keys and percussive jangling in the spooky ‘Harlequin’. They finished their main set on the frequencies and psaltery strings of ‘Tony’ and then ‘Schempal’; the latter with Jeanne-Marie using a megaphone.

11/04/23: Faust @ Jazz Cafe, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

ORBITAL @ EVENTIM APOLLO, LONDON

On their ‘Optical Delusion’ tour following this year’s release of their superb studio album of the same name, Orbital performed a two-hour set of new and classic material accompanied by mind blowing choreographed lighting and visuals. Phil and Paul Hartnoll started with the single, ‘Smiley’, released last year on their ’30 Something’ compilation, before their new second single ‘Ringa Ringa (The Old Pandemic Folk Song)’ ft. Mediaeval Baebes, which was introduced by a ‘Ringa Ringa Roses’ sample echoing the nursery rhyme sang throughout; unfortunately the vocals were lost amongst the jiving techno beats.

At the end of ‘Where Is It Going?’, the pyrotechnical drill sound, red lighting and warning signs merged into the duo’s first new album single, ‘Dirty Rat’ ft. Jason Williamson from Sleaford Mods; with its grumbling bass it was more of a dance mix than the recorded version, complete with rodential visuals developed from the official video. They moved onto further tracks from the new album, with the drum and bass vs synth trance of ‘Requiem for the Pre-Apocalypse’ and ‘You Are The Frequency’, and played ‘Home’ ft. Anna B Savage; again the thickly laid techno mix clashed with the vocals.

The brothers performed their third album single, ‘Are You Alive?’ ft. Penelope Isles, with less techno than its recorded version until the reverberating second part of the track, which also saw the lyrics being re-sung in a foreign language. Orbital played one further new track as they ended their main set: the purposefully mundane trudge of ‘The New Abnormal’ with its conspiratorial electronics weaving through. They finished on their most popular tracks, ‘Belfast’, ‘Chime’ and ‘Impact (The Earth Is Burning)’, and returned for a generously long encore, featuring the springy keys of ‘Out There Somewhere’ in Part 1 and the strings of Part 2.

01/04/23: Orbital @ Eventim Apollo, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

GINA BIRCH @ OSLO, LONDON

The former bass player of The Raincoats launched her solo career earlier this year with the release of her debut album, ‘I Play My Bass Loud’. Together with her backing band The Unreasonables formed of Jenny Green (guitar, bass, backing vocals) and Marie Merlei (bass, keyboards, percussion, backing vocals), she performed a set consisting of the new material, beginning with ‘I Am Rage’, featuring knife-on-glass fretboard scratchings, descending into a noisy, bludgeoning symphony and onto the oriental dub of ‘Digging Down’ and spoken word politics of her 2021 single, ‘Feminist Song’.

Birch continued with the whirling keyboard and reggae electronics of the ‘Pussy Riot’ chant, with deep toned guitar added to its live rendition. Whilst not performed as well live, the album includes one of its best tracks in the way of the jungle beats of ‘I Will Never Wear Stilettos’ – equally a single in its own right – with Birch swapping guitar for bass. She then played the album’s first single, ‘Wish I Was You’, with its galloping metallic guitar riffs, fluting their way through the noisy interlude.

She moved onto the ghostly whistles of ‘Dance Like A Demon’, the set culminating in title track and second single, ‘I Play My Bass Loud’, with all three now on bass emitting pulsating reggae riffs. The band returned for a pretty good cover of The Kinks’ ‘Lola’, which The Raincoats recorded for their eponymous debut album in 1979.

22/03/23: Gina Birch @ Oslo, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

 
 
 
 
 

SKIDS @ THE 100 CLUB, LONDON

Due to release their eighth studio album in June, the Scottish folk-punk rockers played two intimate sold out dates at London’s classic venue, a show frontman Richard Jobson stated the band had always wanted to do. They played a traditional setlist taken from their first three studio albums – ‘Scared To Dance’, ‘The Absolute Game’ and ‘Days in Europa’ – varying their live performances, such as in ‘Of One Skin’ with grinding down guitar.

Skids then played for the first time live their brand new single, ‘Destination Düsseldorf’: a combination of rhythm section and typical Skids soaring guitars and lyrically about the cultural pull of the German city. They also performed ‘Melancholy Soldiers’ from their debut album, which Jobson stated was the early band trying to find its sound, with buzzing guitar, and ‘Into The Valley’, which was updated with a bass intro and guitar interludes. As usual, Jobson told comical stories throughout the set from his days of punk, such as meeting Sid Vicious in SEX while in the Kings Road buying a pair of leather trousers and going to see him play drums in Siouxsie & The Banshees, before riding back to Scotland on a motorbike. Unfortunately, additional new song ‘Don’t Stop’ was missed off towards the end of the set, with the band finishing on their cover of The Clash’s ‘Complete Control’.

17/03/23: Skids @ The 100 Club, London.

Photos © Anna Marchesani/Nocturna photography.

© Ayisha Khan.

MARTY WILLSON-PIPER @ THE SLAUGHTERED LAMB, LONDON

The solo artist performed a rare UK show exactly four years after his last one, alongside wife Olivia Willson-Piper (violin, backing vocals), with material from his solo work as well as his former band, The Church. He began on two Church songs, ‘Tristesse’ and ‘She’ll Come Back For You Tomorrow’, playing alternately on three 12-string guitars alongside Olivia’s violin trills in the former, and using brisk strokes in the latter with dark, straw-like moods created by the strings.

Marty then played from his last two solo albums, 2008’s ‘Nightjar’, with the fluttery ‘Feed Your Mind’, and ‘I Don’t Think So’ from ‘Hanging Out In Heaven’; a stripped back song that he originally wrote and recorded to cassette. After relating the story of how he joined The Church when moving to Australia in 1980, working with their producer Bob Clearmountain and playing the band’s fifth single, ‘Almost With You’, he spoke about his other collaborations including Noctorum with Dare Mason, performing poignant anti-war song ‘Hymn’ from their 2004 debut album, ‘Sparks Lane’, featuring woody violin riffs.

The second set contained a spectacular performance of ‘Grind’ from The Church’s 1990 studio album, ‘Gold Afternoon Fix’, with interacting guitar and fretless; the violin cascading and reaching bone chilling double timbre with added reverb. After including material from his other projects, MOAT and The Saints (with Chris Bailey), Marty finished the set on ‘Under The Milky Way’, overtaken by Olivia’s ghostly pitches and waltzes, and Noctorum track, ‘Hopes And Fears’.

The pair finished the show on an encore of ‘Sparks’ from The Church’s 1988 chart peaking album ‘Starfish’, with Marty’s rapid guitar strokes.

17/03/23: Marty Willson-Piper @ The Slaughtered Lamb, London.

Photos © Anna Marchesani/Nocturna photography.

© Ayisha Khan.

KILLING JOKE @ THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL, LONDON

To celebrate 40 years of their first two studio albums, Killing Joke hosted a one-night-only sold out anniversary show – preceded by some regional warmup dates – in which they performed the tracklists in full with their longstanding original lineup of Jaz Coleman (vocals), Geordie Walker (guitar), Martin ‘Youth’ Glover (bass) and Paul Ferguson (drums), with the addition of Roi Robertson (keyboards).

The band played in tracklist order from 1980’s ‘Killing Joke’ and then 1981’s ‘What’s THIS For!’ respectively, beginning on the monastic chant and electronic hops of second single, ‘Requiem’. However, frontman Jaz Coleman animatedly greeting the ‘Killing Joke’ family while foreboding that, “We are close now, very close to World War”, then profusely coughing at the start of the next song as on the recorded version, properly signalled the start of the show, with frightening ‘Wardance’ visuals playing overheard with whistling white noise. The metal bassline and guitar duet of Youth and Geordie layered over keyboard teardrops and tribal drumbeats in ‘Tomorrow’s World’ followed, while Coleman staggered about between vocalisations.

Then came the B-side with the clattering thunder of ‘The Wait’ and the sample introduction of ‘S.O.36’; one of the best performed tracks of the night it featured Geordie’s dizzying, soft guitar circulations alternating with frenzied noise, showing the band’s traditional post-punk foundation. They moved immediately to their second album with opening song, ‘The Fall Of Because, and then played ‘Tension’, with Ferguson’s drumming and Robertson’s taser sound effects. After the glistening guitar chords and synth noise of ‘Butcher’, Killing Joke switched to the B-side, performing their third single, the underwhelming ‘Follow The Leaders’, with Ferguson’s drum cascades, which was overtaken by the band’s yells of “This is madness!” in the following track, ‘Madness’.

Youth introduced the encore by tributing the lineup, which still being together after so long – as Coleman remarked, “We were teenagers when we wrote this” – seemed more poignant. Killing Joke performed their debut B-side, the punk driven ‘Are You Receiving?’, from their 1979 ‘Turn To Red’ EP, and then its eponymous A-side ‘Turn To Red’, ending the show on ‘Pssyche’ from their first commercially distributed live compilation, 1982’s ‘Ha’.

12/03/23: Killing Joke @ Royal Albert Hall, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

CONFORM TO DEFORM: THE WEIRD AND WONDERFUL WORLD OF SOME BIZARRE @ ROUGH TRADE EAST, LONDON

To launch Wesley Doyle’s new book ‘Conform To Deform: The Weird and Wonderful World of Some Bizarre’, special guest and label founder Stevo Pearce was interviewed by the author about his artwork and the history of and future plans for the Some Bizarre label, in which he colourfully displayed his frustration with the mainstream destroying independent labels and artistry.

Following the interview, Naked Lunch, one of the artists featured on the 1981 ‘Some Bizarre Album’ release, performed a short set, beginning with their track on the compilation, ‘Le Femme’, with Cliff Chapman’s wailing synthesiser. They moved onto B-side EBM dance track, ‘Slipping Again’, before the chorded A-side, ‘Rabies’, with frontman Tony Mayo’s jokeresque vocals.

The band also played from their period of reform since 2010, including the gothic tones of 2013 singles ‘Alone’, awakened by electronics, and ‘Glow’, with conspiratorial synth. They closed their set on 1981’s ‘Fade Away’, conjuring up Ian Curtis’ vocals in Joy Division’s ‘Transmission’.

B-Movie, also on the compilation, then headlined the rest of the evening: following the basslines of ‘Polar Opposites’, they also played their track from the Some Bizarre compilation, ‘Moles’, with loud, flailing organ. Moving away from the ’80s synth-pop template, they delved into gothic post-punk as seen in the elevating scales of ‘Institution Walls’, with the demented waltz of their Carpenteresque paranormal synthesiser.

Steve Hovington (vocals, bass) related the story of how he first met Stevo, who, on hearing a demo tape, thought they sounded like Hawkwind, suggesting they should “wear silver suits and fairy boots.” The band’s gothic synthscapes are observed in ‘Disturbed’, with graveyard basstones; they also performed their second and third singles ‘Nowhere Girl’ and ‘Remembrance Day’.

28/02/23: Conform To Deform: The Weird and Wonderful World of Some Bizarre @ Rough Trade East, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

ROBYN HITCHCOCK @ ALEXANDRA PALACE, LONDON

The singer-songwriter having last year released his new studio album, ‘Shufflemania!’, performed an electric and acoustic set at the refurbished Alexandra Palace Theatre room. He started his show on a cover of the swinging rock of Robyn Hitchcock and The Egyptians’ ‘Oceanside’ and the twinging guitar of ‘The Cars She Used To Drive’ from his 1982 second solo album, ‘Groovy Decay’.

After changing over to acoustic, Hitchcock played from his 2011 album ‘Tromsø, Kaptein‘ with ‘Old Man Weather’, featuring keyboard organ and double bass. Hitchcock’s wife Emma Swift then came onstage to sing with him on ‘Glass Hotel’, from his debut studio album, as well as on new album song ‘The Man Who Loves The Rain’.

Swift left the stage to make way for The Soft Boys’ Kimberley Rew on guitar, for the band’s covers of ‘Tonight’ and the psychedelic clawing guitar of ‘Kingdom of Love’, also performing from Hitchcock’s third solo album, ‘I Often Dream of Trains’, with ‘Sounds Great When You’re Dead’; its plucky guitar and creeping basslines straining into a Beatles-esque chorus.

Hitchcock finished his set with a mixture of old and new material from both The Soft Boys and his last studio album: from the crumbling country blues, slide guitar of ‘Midnight Tram to Nowhere’ to the protest punk of ‘I Wanna Destroy You’, and ending on a cover of The Beatles’ ‘When My Guitar Gently Weeps’.

25/02/23: Robyn Hitchcock @ Alexandra Palace, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

OFF! @ MOTH CLUB, LONDON

Returning last year after a long hiatus with their third studio album ‘Free LSD’, Keith Morris’ supergroup performed the entire tracklist as part of their European tour to promote the release. The band is now formed aside Morris of co-founding member Dimitri Coats (guitar, electronics) and a new rhythm section of Autry Fulbright (bass) and Justin Brown (drums).

After a ten-minute period of tuning and taping down the 25-song setlist, the band began on the new album, performing ‘War Above Los Angeles’ and single ‘Kill To Be Heard’; the former featuring Coats’ heavy metal guitar rhapsodies, a surprising influence that has come with this new incarnation of the band alongside its traditional hardcore elements.

While Morris acted out his ambidextrous stage antics, Coats whipped his guitar into a frenzy, also occasionally twitching knobs on the electronics alongside the band generating feedback inbetween songs. The album’s extra-terrastrial theme manifested in ‘Invisible Empire’, featuring Coats’ trilling guitar scales, with the band finishing the tracklist on their hallucinogenic title song, ‘Free LSD’.

Following completion of the album’s 16-song tracklist (excluding instrumentals), OFF! then played from their past releases, with ‘Red White and Black’ from their second studio album, ‘Wasted Years’, and ‘Wiped Out’ from their eponymous debut studio album, before the remainder of the tracklist tookover, with hardcore favourites ‘I Don’t Belong’ and ‘Upside Down’, from the band’s debut (compilation) release, ‘First Four EPs’.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

08/02/23: OFF! @ MOTH Club, London.

Photos © Anna Marchesani/Nocturna Photography.

© Ayisha Khan.

ART OF NOISE @ JAZZ CAFE, LONDON

The experimental synth group Art of Noise’s first headliner live performances for several years saw them play two London dates to commemorate their 40th year. The pioneers of sample electronics utilised cutting edge technology for the time, namely the Fairlight synthesiser and electronic drum loop sequences, which were highly influential on many artists.

The group entered onstage to a large screen projecting visuals of NASA’s Apollo 11 moon landings; “The Eagle has landed” audio sample balanced poignantly on a track of choral glockenspiel music. Founding group members Gary Langan and J.J. Jeczalik then assumed their positions for ‘Instruments of Darkness’ from their 1986 studio album, ‘In Visible Silence’, the latter flailing his arm to every effect, before the tempo grinded down to a ghostly synth whistle inhabited by vocal samples of former group member, Paul Morley.

Jeczalik then comically interjected, “So what happens now?” before launching the hoppy beats of 1983 single ‘Beat Box (Diversion 1)’ with its Kraftwerkesque ‘Tour de France’ chimes and car engine starting samples. They moved straight into its cousin  ‘Backbeat’ with countdown keys and pumping synth. Jeczalik then deconstructed ‘Paranoimia’, explaining to the audience how the track was crafted into a tune by former founding group member, Anne Dudley (keyboards, arrangements), from reverb with the addition of Linda Taylor’s (live session singer) chorus and Max Headroom’s (AI character) contributions.

Art of Noise also performed their collaborations including 1988 chart-hit dance single, ‘Kiss’ ft. Tom Jones, with the official video of the famous singer displayed in the background. Special guest guitarist Neal X then joined the group to play crisp chords for YES cover ‘Owner of A Lonely Heart’; Langan and Jeczalik both having contributed engineering and Fairlight keyboard programming on the progressive rock band’s 1983 studio album, ‘90125’, which led to the creation of the group.

They ended their set on two more  singles: the first, 1984’s chart-hit ‘Close (To The Edit)’, with Langan’s (erroneous) electronic drum loop sample which was claimed to be the first-ever of its kind; the second, 1985’s ‘Moments of Love’ (the video of which has some 30 million views on YouTube due to its ceremonial use at Madonna’s wedding) with the group doing a new remix version featuring a gothic classical overlay, sadly condensed down from the original 10-minute track. They ended on an encore of the ‘Peter Gunn’ Grammy award winning theme, with Neal X returning once more – this time kitted out in a cowboy outfit – with the group using background visuals from ‘The Italian Job’ as well as Michael Caine samples from the film.

04/01/23: Art of Noise @ Jazz Cafe, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.