Tag Archives: Live Reviews

Arcane Roots, Black Peaks & Gallery Circus // Live Review @ Portland Arms, Cambridge

Riffs: The Portland Arms probably hasn’t seen as many gurn-inducing riffs as it did on Thursday night for a very long time. Arcane Roots are currently on their biggest tour ever, appropriately dubbed the ‘megataurus rex’, and came to Cambridge with support from the equally eminent Black Peaks and Gallery Circus.

Despite the fairly sparse crowd, Gallery Circus opened with hugely endearing vigour, and quickly exploded into a remarkable set. The Geordie twins made the stage look inadequate, frantically jittering from one corner to the other, while thoroughly unpredictable and intriguing sounds blasted from the brothers’ respective weapons. Literally stand-up drumming twinned with futuristic rock n’ roll-esque guitar riffs made for a captivating show that intensified exponentially. The beaming pair announced their departure with one final show of their almost unparalleled on-stage chemistry, the final song featuring – not for the first time – their mastery of the stop/start antics that so many would find near impossible.

Image courtesy of Jonathan Dadds

Black Peaks have experienced something of a meteoric rise of late, and are making several festival appearances this summer, which will only improve their chances of blowing the heads off as many people as possible. Head-banging is nigh on impossible to avoid while watching these guys. Gargantuan bass lines command the sound, while brutally powerful drums, furiously heavy guitar and a scream that makes Roger Daltry sound like a gurgling baby, make for a colossal show. New song ‘Set In Stone’ is particularly impressive, with front-man Will Gardner ominously staring above our heads before erupting into another almost overwhelmingly deafening scream. The inescapable prowess of these Brighton boys is astonishing during their closing track and main single ‘Glass Built Castles’. If you want to witness god-like power in musical form, go and see these guys, you won’t regret it.

Image courtesy of Sophia Groves @SophiaAGroves

As Arcane Roots take the stage in front of a now adequately warmed up crowd, the realisation that the quality of the evening can still get better is a heavenly one. Starting off with the first single from their 2013 album ‘Blood & Chemistry’, ‘Slow’ is an instantly recognisable opener that immerses you in their complex and intense sound from the very first chord. Despite it’s evident intricacy, the performance is flawless, and we are quickly escorted into ‘Sacred Shapes’. Immaculate pinch harmonics bring a well-deserved smile to lead-guitarist and vocalist Andrew Groves, who was clearly having an awful lot of fun, and his ensuing burst of rock-fuelled energy transfers that fun into the already gleeful audience.

Image courtesy of Carla Mundy @CarlaMundy

‘Over and Over’ comes next, their most recent release from last year, the crowd bounces along with it’s massively sing-a-longable chorus and infectious verse riff, exhibiting the Surrey three piece’s song writing ability brilliantly. A modest build up leads into ‘Energy Is Never Lost, Just Redirected’, the opening track from ‘Blood and Chemistry’, and is followed by another bafflingly energetic yet faultless performance. Those of us in the room who have waited patiently over the last year were excited to say the least by the next track, a new song entitled ‘Leaving’ that will be on their next record due out this September. Featuring typically divine riffs, and some quite ridiculously huge soaring vocals, this song goes down as well as the band could have hoped, and left us all wishing away the months between now and September.

Image courtesy of Sophia Groves @SophiaAGroves

A mesmerising delay-guitar interlude makes way for ‘Resolve’, which is then followed appreciably by ‘Left Fire’ stalwart ‘Million Dollar Question’, which is closed out with something reminiscent of a Muse post-‘Stockholm Syndrome’ riff extravaganza. A rare slower moment is brought on by the intro to ‘Hell and High Water’, which exhibits some of the skill and raw power of stand in Jack Wrench (In Dynamics), who is replacing usual drummer Daryl Atkins. Another new song ‘If Nothing Breaks Us, Nothing Moves’ – due to be released as a single in the coming weeks – arrives next. Groves humbly announces how much he’s enjoying himself – “it feels like I’m playing to family” – before unleashing this provocatively catchy tune that begs the audience to bounce along. The unmistakable drum and bass combination of ‘You Are’ tragically signals the final song of the set, with Adam Burton’s perhaps sometimes overlooked bass virtuosity taking centre stage. The haunting guitar tapping of this songs’ intro is just magical, and is one of many reasons why this song is such a fan favourite. The baying crowd bellows out the final few lines with Groves before the last big chords are played and the night is done.

The musical ability on show was just awe-inspiring. All three of these bands deserve recognition far beyond that which they are receiving currently, and I sincerely hope that more people are at some point in their lives privileged enough to be able to see any or all of them with their own eyes.

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Lonely The Brave, Sam Duckworth & Bloody Knees – Live Review

Cambridge may not have as diverse a musical heritage as other towns and cities across the UK, but that doesn’t mean it can’t make you feel like a proud father of five (despite being a resident for barely 6 months) when it’s most exciting sons ‘Lonely The Brave’ return home to show off their prowess that was nurtured in Cambridge not so long ago. Anticipation was in the air, anticipation for what was inevitably going to be an exceptional night, and one that Cambridge could feel rightly chuffed about.

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Bloody Knees

Lonely The Brave may have established themselves as Cambridge’s most well supported act on the scene at the moment, but Bloody Knees are without question the most exciting new act to come out of Cambridge since LTB themselves, and were a no brainer to open for them this evening. Grunge at it’s modern finest comes billowing from the stage along with the rasping vocals and thunderous drums that only intensify as their set progresses.

‘Bones’ is a particularly tight number that forced at least a nod out of the majority of the crowd, and was followed shortly thereafter by ‘Never Change’, the slowest song of their set by someway, and in my opinion the strongest. Vast growling guitar sounds and perfectly matched vocals made this a real spine tingling spectacle, worthy of the almost stunned applause it garnered from the now transfixed audience. ‘Stitches’ is another barnstormer, and the title of their latest record released earlier this year. “I’m covered in blood, but at least I’m having fun” is a snippet gifted to us in amongst the largely fuzzy lyrics, but this takes nothing away from the appropriately volatile delivery of the vocals from Brad Griffiths.

Sam Duckworth

Taking on the unenviable task of filling the gap between two Cambridge favourites was ex ‘Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly’ frontman Sam Duckworth. His mix of straight talking lyrics and impressive acoustic guitar work was a drastic contrast to the aforementioned grunge extravaganza, and as a result struggled to captivate the audience. Every song was clearly sung from the heart, but the fact that it was his well informed and delivered political rant on immigration and tax evasion that received the biggest cheer of the set proved that this audience were more than ready for their homecoming headliners.

Lonely The Brave

Come 9:30, the Junction was utterly rammed with expectant friends and fans, and come the lowering of the lights, the noise must have reassured any fears the band might have had that no one would turn up to witness their return to where it all began. ‘Call Of Horses’ is a pucker choice for an opener, easing us into their sound perfectly. Beckoned on by guitarist Mark Trotter, the crowd obligingly joins in with the incredibly singalong-able ‘Trick of the Light’, and even by the second song of the set you feel they have shown exactly why they evoked such excitement and expectation on their return to Cambridge.

Despite Trotters apparent confidence on stage, the band as a whole don’t emanate confidence in the same way that ‘Bloody Knees’ or many other bands on the scene seem to, particularly vocalist David Jakes, who often stands side on to the audience, slightly hunched over, clutching the front of his t shirt with an odd sort of gurn on his face. It’s unique and actually refreshing, especially when compared to the vast majority of frontmen who harass the audience into joining them in song. That said, what’s also refreshing is just how impeccably powerful and magnificently controlled his voice is, sounding if anything even better live than on ‘The Days War’, their album from which all but a couple of the nights set is taken from.

‘Kings of the Mountain’ is a track that deserves even more recognition than it is likely to get, with my other half stating “I could totally hear that song in the charts if it had a dance-y backing”, a statement which I can’t help but agree with (but think would be a tragedy and discredit to the band if it happened), and one that could easily apply to their entire discography. Soaring vocals and guitar work in perfect harmony to seduce the audience into a comfortable state of ecstasy, ready for an alluringly slow rendition of ‘Islands’, and then thrust into their most lively offering ‘Black Saucers’. Even the more elderly members of an incredibly diverse audience found themselves compelled into movement.

The set managed to maintain it’s intensity and authenticity with ease, thanks in no small part to the array of exceptionally well written songs that were immaculately performed by 5 men who can only be destined for even greater things. Leaving their two biggest crowd pleasers till the end, ‘Backroads’ goes down an absolute storm, with Jakes’ “I’ll be the sky and you’ll be the bird” proposal being raucously roared back at him. ‘The Blue, The Green’ finishes the set in bloody brilliant fashion, Jakes tears apart huge vocals before the climax, when Brad Griffiths reappears to leap into the crowd for a great big Cambridge love-in.

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Decade, Light You Up, Hey Vanity, Standing Like Statues – Live Review

The music scene in Cambridge may not be quite as burgeoning as in other towns and cities around the country, but if this show taught me anything, it’s that scene strength makes no difference to how much one man can enjoy a gig.

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I was greeted by this endearing poster on my arrival, and was pleasantly surprised to see an extra band added to the bill. 4 bloody bands in one night for £9 (kept my coat with me like the shrewd economically aware genius that I am), get the fuck, in.

Standing Like Statues

Having only lived in Cambridge for a few months, I was eager to see what the locals had to offer. Though not hugely experienced, SLS held their own extremely well, particularly given some hideously frustrating and prolonged technical issues. Once these were out of the way however, their ability shone through. Frontman Jamie Wiltshire’s performance was particularly top notch, powering out lyrics with visible passion, accompanied by Beth Dalton, who is something of a pioneer given how few female band members you see around the circuit.

Hey Vanity

Next up was Hey Vanity, who I was particularly keen to see following their reformation from post-hardcore outfit Fei Comodo. The tightness of these boys was a real treat, as was the flawless stubble sprouting from all 4 chins. HV really set the standard, not just performance wise, but the atmosphere they created in the room made it all the more enjoyable. Exuding friendliness, and evoking some dusty old memories of Ace Ventura with their modest inter-song chat, I found myself grinning the whole way through. ‘Broken Artist’ was a personal highlight, as this well written track kicks off with a nod-worthy little riff which perseveres throughout, leaving you craving whatever else they have in their arsenal of finely crafted tunes. We were then informed by vocalist and guitarist Marc Halls that they would be playing a couple of new tracks, and these served to further improve my (and hopefully everyone else in the rooms) opinion of these immensely talented gentlemen.

Light You Up

I mentioned the impressive passion coming out of Standing Like Statues’ frontman, but I’m afraid he was trumped by Tom Napier, who wouldn’t have been out of place fronting Guns N’ Roses with his on, and mostly off stage antics. Jumping about like it was his last ever show, you have to admire his enthusiasm. Taking nothing away from the band, the songs were solid and very listenable, and they were (as was a delightful theme of the night) clearly enjoying themselves. The last song saw some crowd participation when Beth from SLS was invited on stage to roar out the final chorus, and the audience was rewarded with a very sincere thanks for watching.

Decade

The headliners of the night were Decade, a band I’d seen this summer at 2000 Trees festival, and was keen to see again as they were immediately likeable. With an awkwardly expert approach to proceedings, it’s wall to wall catchy classics, from the boppy brilliance of ‘Brainfreeze’ to the tormented and terrific ‘I Don’t Care’. Minor technical difficulties took nothing away from their show of skills, and we were given a lesson in how to entertain an audience without flailing about on stage like a daddy long-legs searching for it’s purpose in life. The crowd interaction cemented this show as probably the friendliest I’ve ever been to, it was just so bloody nice. Finishing off with exactly the same vigour that accompanied the first song, the pleasingly dense crowd was evidently having as good a time as I was, and the band left the stage looking rightly chuffed. I defy anyone to walk away from a Decade show and not have at least one of their songs welded to the forefront of their mind, they really are tremendously infectious and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

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