WOLFGANG FLÜR @ THE LEXINGTON, LONDON

Due to release the first instalment of his latest studio work ‘Magazine 1’ this March, ex-Kraftwerk percussionist Wolfgang Flür returned to The Lexington to perform a techno and electro set, as usual accompanied by a Kraftwerk visual archive slideshow in the backgroua certnd.

Selecting from his catalogue of mixes and collaborations with other artists, he started with ‘Futur I’ by NEWMEN and ‘I Was A Robot (Club Mix)’. He later did a mix of ‘Beat Perfecto’ before a cover of Kraftwerk’s 1978 song ‘Neonlicht’ (‘Neon Lights’) from their ‘The Man-Machine’ album. Flür would sometimes be turning a few knobs and at other times moving robotically as if he really was a robot.

Flür finished his set as always on ‘Musik Soldat’, donning his Kaiser helmet and comically marching up and down the stage. For the encore he returned with his music partner Pete Duggal, also on support, to specially perform ‘Say No! (ft. MAPS)’ from his forthcoming album on which they collaborated with a host of guest artists; a track which he felt was consciously significant for our time.

26/11/21: Wolfgang Flur @ The Lexington, London.

Photo © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

HEAVEN 17 @ O2 SHEPHERD’S BUSH EMPIRE, LONDON

Following the band’s recent live renditions of the first two Human League albums at Roundhouse in September, Heaven 17 returned to London with their ‘Greatest Hits 17:41’ tour, marking their 40th anniversary delayed by one year due to lockdown.

They band headed by band founders Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware, performed a mixture of material from their first two studio albums and some rarer others, beginning on single ‘The Height Of The Fighting’ from their debut album ‘Penthouse & Pavement’, from which they also did ‘Play To Win’ and ‘Geisha Boys & Temple Girls’.

The set was similar in places to their Roundhouse one with Human League tales and songs featuring such as ‘Crow And A Baby’ and band founder Glenn Gregory often reminiscing about how meeting the band as a photographer changed his life. H17 also played more unusually off their third album with singles ‘(And That’s No Lie)…’ and ‘This Is Mine’, before going back to second album ‘The Luxury Gap’ with ‘Come Live With Me’.

Just like at their Roundhouse show Gregory and ex-Human League member Martyn Ware performed a duet of the Barry Mann cover of ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’’, also covered by The Human League on their debut album, ‘Reproduction’. H17 then continued the set on more from their debut and second albums including singles ‘Let’s All Make A Bomb’ and ‘Let Me Go’.

Gregory and keyboard player Flo returned for the encore with a piano solo of a cover by The Associates, ‘Party Fears Two’, written by Gregory’s late friend Billy Mackenzie whom he emotionally paid tribute to, before joining the rest of the band again to perform their rendition of Human League favourite ‘Being Boiled’, with Martyn playing the introduction on an old synthesiser model.

05/11/21: Heaven 17 @ O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

A CERTAIN RATIO @ EartH, LONDON

Following the release of a series of alphabetised EPs this year preceding their first studio album in 12 years, post-punk dance-funk sextet A Certain Ratio did their rescheduled dates performing some of that new material for the first time on tour amongst old favourites.

The band, now without backing singer Denise Johnson who tragically passed away before the release dates of their new recordings, played from their new album ‘ACR Loco’ with ‘Get A Grip’ (originally recorded with dance-funk duo Sink Ya Teeth), new backing singer Ellen Beth Abdi on vocals, although she was lacking the creative expression and velocity of Johnson which sadly let down new songs such as  ‘Down & Dirty’ from ‘ACR:EPA’, originally recorded by Johnson in her style.

However, A Certain Ratio’s organic experimentation made up for this when they returned with ‘ACR:EPC’, doing ‘Emperor Machine’ and instrumental album track ‘Yo Yo Gi’ . They also performed the fast version of ‘$ouls In The City (Part 2)’, which was recorded on ‘ACR:EPR’ with more input from Tony Quigley’s propulsive saxaphonic blasts, unfortunately not as audible on the live rendition.

Now without Denise, original drummer Donald Johnson tookover performing vocals for classic cover single ‘Shack Up’, with feminine tones which resembled her own voice. A Certain Ratio finished their main set on ‘Taxi Guy, also from the new album. Whilst this was not one of the band’s best performances their new recording adventurism provides a rawness to their live performances, something so crucial to the DNA of the band’s identity.

13/11/21: A Certain Ratio @ EartH, London.

© Ayisha Khan.

SPEAR OF DESTINY @ 229 THE VENUE, LONDON

On their ‘World Service’ tour commemorating their 1985 studio album of the same name, Kirk Brandon’s Spear Of Destiny launched their set on the eponymous song ‘World Service’, following with ‘Rocket Ship’ and single ‘Come Back’, complete with stunning saxophone solos from Clive Osbourne.

The band played more from their third album with Brandon’s ghostly vocals in single ‘All My Love (Ask Nothing)’, the guitar solos of B-side ‘Up All Night’ and the thundering drumbeats of ‘Somewhere In The East’, They then performed again from ‘World Service’ in the way of ‘Once In Her Lifetime’, completing the tracklist with acoustic track, ‘Mickey’.

Brandon returned for an encore on his own, first solo acoustically performing ‘Harlan County’ before the rest of the band arrived onstage for ‘Afrikan Proverb’ and a cover of Joy Division’s ‘Transmission’, ending the set on 1984 single ‘Liberator’.

01/10/21: Spear Of Destiny @ 229 The Venue, London.

Photo © Simon Drake.

© Ayisha Khan.

THE SKIDS @ 02 ACADEMY ISLINGTON, LONDON

Marking 40 years of their second studio album – ‘Days in Europa’ – The Skids embarked on their delayed electric tour postponed because of Coronavirus, performing songs from the album as well as others and their best known singles.

The band began on the album’s opening track, ‘Animation’, with lead guitarist Bruce Watson’s soaring Scottish folk-rock guitar solos, following this with second track ‘Charade’; frontman Richard Jobson tributing the founding of the band in 1977 to bass player Bill Simpson. After recalling his audition with founding guitarist Stuart Adamson, Jobson performed from The Skid’s debut album ‘Scared To Dance’ with Adamson’s ‘Charles’ and single ‘The Saints Are Coming’.

They remained about 1979 and ‘Days in Europa’, playing ‘Working For The Yankee Dollar’, the first track of side B of the record. Jobson entertained with some more funny stories and crude jokes inbetween songs before moving onto the band’s third album, ‘The Absolute Game’, with ‘Circus Games’.

The Skids drew their set to an end on B-side single ‘T.V. Stars’ and short covers of The Pistols ‘Pretty Vacant’ and The Buzzcocks ‘What Do I Get?’; then returning to the A-side singles, Jobson performed his favourite song ‘Masquerade’, featuring ghoulish electronic sound effects, and ‘Into The Valley’. They finished on a final track from ‘Days in Europa’, ‘The Olympian’, with an encore of The Clash’s 1977 single ‘Complete Control’ to end the show.

09/10/21: The Skids @ O2 Academy Islington, London.

© Ayisha Khan.

ONLINE STREAM: THE ZOMBIES @ ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS, LONDON

Returning to the infamous Abbey Road Studios after more than 50 years since they first recorded their acclaimed album ‘Odessey & Oracle’ there, The Zombies’ founding members Colin Blunstone (vocals) and Rod Argent (keyboards) together with the rest of the band showcased their “world tour in one night” playing from their catalogue of 1964 to the present day.

They started on an early song from 1965, ‘I Want You Back Again’, which was given life through a cover by Tom Petty, and then moved forward to their last album ‘Still Got That Hunger’ with ‘Edge Of The Rainbow’ and back again to the 1965 B-side written by former Zombies bassist Chris White, ‘I Love You’. The Zombies also debuted some brand new songs from their forthcoming studio album release due out next year, ‘Different Game’ and ‘You Could Be My Love’, performed with an accompanying live string quartet.

The band then revisited the album recorded in the same studio over half a century earlier, Argent playing on the Mellotron instrument that was used to record the chosen selection of tracks – ‘Care Of Cell 44’, ‘I Want Her She Wants Me’ and their No. 1 single, ‘Time Of The Season’.

The Zombies followed these with some more new songs, ‘Merry-Go-Round’ and ‘Run Away/For All My Life’. They finished their main set on an Argent cover, ‘Hold Your Head Up’ (written with and dedicated to the late Jim Rodford) and their debut single ‘She’s Not There’, featuring Argent’s long keyboard solos.

18/09/21: The Zombies @ Abbey Road Studios, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

BLACK GRAPE @ O2 ACADEMY ISLINGTON, LONDON

Marking more than twenty-five years since the release of their 1995 platinum selling No. 1 debut album, ‘It’s Great When You’re Straight…Yeah’, founding members Paul “Kermit” Leveridge and Shaun Ryder reunited for a nostalgic tour performing from the release together with other material by the dance-funk duo.

Black Grape began with their debut album performing ‘In The Name Of The Father’ and ‘Tramazi Parti’, bantering with each other in-between songs before moving onto their 2017 third album ‘Pop Voodoo’ with ‘Nine Lives’ and ‘Yeah Yeah Brother’, Kermit on backing vocals.

They returned to their debut record with alternative hymn and single ‘Reverend Black Grape’ and ‘A Big Day In The North’, then back to their third album with eponymous track ‘Pop Voodoo’. The band came back onstage for an encore of ‘Kelly’s Heroes’ and ‘Little Bob’.

17/09/21: Black Grape @ O2 Academy Islington, London.

Photo © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

HEAVEN 17 PERFORM ‘REPRODUCTION’ + ‘TRAVELOGUE’ @ ROUNDHOUSE, LONDON

Delayed by well over a year due to Covid, the twice rescheduled and long awaited Heaven 17 performance of The Human League’s first two albums finally took place at the original London venue where it was first intended. Sheffieldian band founders Glenn Gregory and former Human League member Martyn Ware did the production they had been planning for 10 years, albeit without the participation of Human League frontman Phil Oakey despite their best efforts.

With four screens of slide visuals in the background, they launched straight into The Human’s League’s 1979 debut album ‘Reproduction’ with first track ‘Almost Medieval’, before playing the band’s debut single and b-side, ‘Circus Of Death’, the latter featuring its darkly dizzying climbing synth scales. Gregory reminisced about the founding of The Human League whom he met as a photographer in London and paid tribute to Human League and H17 founder Ian Craig Marsh as they performed more well known songs from the album such as ‘Blind Youth’ and single ‘Empire State Human’, with a poignant duet between Gregory and Ware for cover hit ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’.

During the show there was a rare live presence of the acclaimed graphic designer Malcolm Garrett MBE (Buzzcocks, Simple Minds, Heaven 17) who was on stage with the rest of the band quietly overseeing the visuals across four large mounted screens, which hearkened back to the live performances of The Human League back in 1979.

Then without taking an interval, Heaven 17 moved onto 1980’s ‘Travelogue’ with the futuristic synth tech effects of ‘The Black Hit Of Space’, a while later followed by ‘Dreams Of Leaving’, which had an accompanying short film compiled by Mike Faulkner (D-fuse) of war-torn Syria before Gregory homed in a message of support for refugees across the world. Then the glassy glockenspeil tones of instrumental track ‘Toyota City’ illustrated the depths of The Human League’s musical abilities at that time.

Heaven 17 continued the rendition of the album on their own version of ‘Being Boiled’, which Gregory visualised as being written in Sheffield in 1978 on a two-track machine “just like that” and credited as one of the greatest electronic tracks ever written. They finished the set on some bonus songs from the album with ‘Marianne’ and covers ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll/Nightclubbing’.

For the encore they played from their own catalogue beginning on their debut single ‘(We Don’t Need) This Fascist Groove Thang’, which Gregory described as coming hot out of the ashes of The Human League split in 1980 when he returned to Sheffield to form the band that would become Heaven 17 alongside Ware and Marsh. The band finished the night on ‘Temptation’ which saw their two female backing singers, who are officially part of the Heaven 17 lineup, takeover on vocals to blistering heights, leaving food for thought ahead of their ‘Greatest Hits’ show in November.

05/09/21: Heaven 17 perform ‘Reproduction’ + Travelogue’ @ Roundhouse, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.

 

ADRIAN SHERWOOD + TESSA POLLITT + RUTS DC @ JAZZ CAFE, LONDON

Following a DJ set by ex-Slits’ bassist Tessa Pollitt, the founder of the On-U Sound dub label played his first live set in 18 months featuring mostly unreleased tracks from artists including African Head Charge, Tackhead and Horace Andy. He also live dubbed The Ruts/Ruts DC for the first time in history.

Adrian Sherwood started the evening on some forthcoming tracks from African Head Charge, combining tribalist African music and stripped down dub and reggae with his own overdubbing using industrial drum crashes and other electronic sound effects.

Sherwood then premiered new songs released by Tackhead, reformed after a 30-year hiatus and due to headline a live show scheduled for next year – a dystopian hip-hop melody and then an industrial rap. He further mentioned forthcoming releases from a host of On-U Sound artists such as Creation Rebel and Jeb-Loy Nichols, with 2021 already seeing plenty of records out.

Ahead of Ruts DC arriving onstage, Sherwood wound down his set on Lee “Scratch” Perry with a 50-year-old track by the musician and finished with some Horace Andy. Ruts DC then began their set, kicking things off with reggae dub versions of their singles ‘Whatever We Do’ and ‘Give Youth A Chance’, Sherwood adding mixing effects throughout.

The band also performed some unreleased new songs such as a guitar and keyboard track ‘Born Innocent’ and ‘Smiling Culture’ which they built into older, rockier track ‘S.U.S’ from their 1979 debut album ‘The Crack’. Ruts DC then played ‘Love In Vain’ from their second album ‘Grin And Bear It, finishing the night on a dub version of ‘Babylon’s Burning’.

07/08/21: Adrian Sherwood + Tessa Pollitt + Ruts DC @ Jazz Cafe, London.

Photo © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

THE POP GROP @ COVENTRY CATHEDRAL RUINS, COVENTRY

Playing for the first time since 2019, founding band member Mark Stewart and dub-master Dennis ‘Blackbeard’ Bovell MBE resume their ‘Y in Dub’ festivities, commemorating 40 years of the band’s debut album and appearing as part of Terry Hall’s home sessions at Coventry’s City of Culture.

The Pop Group performed at the Cathedral ruins along with original member Gareth Sagar, Bovell out of sight at the back on live dubbing duties, opening on a spoken word piece before launching into Stewart’s trademark screams and the undulating basslines of ‘Thief Of Fire’, interspersed with Sagar’s shrill clarinet and Stewart’s erratic harmonica; they then went straight into a more screechy version of ‘Blood Money’.

The band continued to play from ‘Y’ with ‘Snow Girl’ and the thundery jungle drums and creeping basslines of ‘The Boys From Brazil’; Sagar on keyboard for the not quite so moody ‘Savage Sea’. After a more subdued start to the set, it hit a high on the whirring ‘Words Disobey Me’ and the guitar-led tracks they ended on: the surf rock and feedback build of ‘We Are Time’ and the choking riff of ‘She Is Beyond Good And Evil’.

Although the set was pretty short (as long as the wait for them to come on!), the tracks underdubbed in places and the atmosphere slightly wanting, what a relief to hear their fresh funk and dub noise live again and a premieral taste of the band’s reconvening of their anniversary celebrations, ahead of their rescheduled tour whenever that may be.

31/07/21: The Pop Group @ Coventry City Of Culture Terry Hall Home Sessions, Coventry.

Photo © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.

ONLINE STREAM: PETER HOOK @ THE HAÇIENDA, MANCHESTER

Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook ended a 24-hour New Year’s Eve party from his Haçienda venue with his own one-hour set on New Year’s Day in which he played a variety of well known dance tracks including New Order’s own ‘Blue Monday’ 1982 hit that he bizarrely paired with Madonna’s ‘Hung Up’. He also spun Madonna’s ‘Holiday’.

 


 

01/01/21: Peter Hook @ The Haçienda, Manchester.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.