ThE InDiE LiVe ReViEwS
Colin Hamilton goes wild over the roses, Kitchens of Distinction and the future of rock n'roll BABYBIRD .
Stone Roses - Brixton Academy 8th December 95
The Stone Roses have been taking a bit of a breather, a rest period after all the hassle and effort of recording their first album and the occasional one off show to support it. They managed to not quite get around to recording a follow up to their debut album for five years. Contractual problems, management problems, injuries to members of the band, you name it they've been there. They've also managed to put off playing any English shows for almost as long. Not that they didn't 'try' of course. Tours have been lined up and then cancelled on a seemingly regular basis. They even managed to miss a headline spot at Glastonbury, Pulp eventually filling the gap.
They have managed to perform in America and on the continent. The bulk of reviews being less than flattering. Despite all the criticism and the £15 price tag though, both shows at the Brixton Academy were sold out for months and attracted a vast number of touts. Outside is the obligatory sign on the door with the word cancelled on it off course. Fortunately, for those here to see the Roses, it's P J Harvey who'll be absent.
Inside the air is dripping with expectancy but as usual there is an extended period during which nothing happens. Nothing left for the roadies to tune, no lights to adjust, no last minute problems to sort out. There appears to be no reason for this extended delay. No one seems to mind waiting though hey we've waited for five years what's another hour?
Eventually the backing tape fades, strobe lights flash and dry ice fills the stage. A lone drumbeat is hammered out. After a while the rest of the band deem enter the stage and instantly the sound of feedback echoes around round the Academy. May be these roadies needed a little more time after all.
So what have The Stone Roses been doing during their extended absence? Ian Brown certainly wasn't taking singing lessons judging by his voice. The vocals are still flat and fail to do justice to the music crafted behind him. They open with I Wanna Be Adored which, seven years on, vocally still sounds like I wanna be a dog, annunciation lessons might also be a good idea.
The new songs have been elongated. While new drummer, Robbie Maddix and bass player, Mani maintain the shape of each song with faultless timing, Squire plays various riffs which wouldn't be out of place if his namesake from Yes was playing them. The crowd lap it up. Every track has been adapted and extended for the live performance. The adaptations generally involving a lot more guitar work and very little extra vocals. During these long non vocal periods Ian Brown has very little to do apart from waving a tambourine around.
It seems that Squire is relegating his role to that of low level percussion. Gradually Ian Brown's role will be reduced, eventually he won't be singing at all. Another three albums and I see little for a singer. Given the Stone Roses' current rate of output though Ian's got another fifteen years before he needs to worry about finding another job.
Kitchens Of Distinction - Dublin Castle Dec 95
One of the great mysteries of life was the fact that the Kitchens Of Distinction were not one of the most popular bands in the country. They had everything, their own sound, clever lyrics and a devoted fanbase. Today the question is not why haven't they made the charts but why haven't they got a record contract and why must they resort to play a show in the back room of a Camden pub.
KOD consist of three people, Dan on the drums, Patrick singing and playing bass and Julian on the guitar. Though this doesn't sound like a line up which is likely to produce a sound much different to any of the other three piece combos around, they do.
In 'Q' magazine a KOD album review once discussed the qualities of the keyboards. The Kitchens Of Distinction have no keyboards, the reviewer was assuming that the music that he had heard could not have been made by a guitar. KOD achieve their wonderfully different sound with pedals, the bass alone has seven of them but it's Julian's guitar which makes the really incredible noise. Live he proves that the sound that they record is no fluke by faithfully recreating each one .
While Julian plays, Patrick sings earnestly about the problems that love creates. his often tender lyrics hiding his strong sense of humour. Between songs he is always keen to communicate with the audience. "You piss all over Oasis" someone shouts. "I'd love to piss on Oasis" comes Patrick's reply, closely followed with a hand covering his mouth as he realises this may cause some offence to Oasis. "In a sexual way" he adds which will probably cause Oasis more offence than the original quip. Maybe this will lead to a Kitchens Of Distinction verses Oasis battle in the media which could give them the kick start they need. We can only hope. McAlmont, of McAlmont and Butler fame, is standing in the audience. He is supposed to be playing a show elsewhere in the capital but has cancelled due to throat problems. It takes Patrick little effort to persuade him to become a guest singer. For one song the beauty of KOD's music and range of McAlmont's voice combine to create one of music's perfect moments. Stuff Oasis the only help KOD need is a recording contract.
Baby Bird - Water Rats - December 95
Baby Bird have only released tracks that Steve Jones recorded, alone, on his four track portastudio. Though they are immensely entertaining Steve Jones realised that the live experience would have to involve more than just him. Around him he has assembled a cast of four musicians who are dressed as bouncers, dark suits and frilly shirts. The stage has been suitably tarted up for Christmas with lights on the drum kit and tinsel on the microphone stands. Behind him there is a video of a real fire playing.
This is the last show of their residency at The Water Rats and they've decided to support themselves, they have got four hundred tracks to their name after all. The first set is short and sweet with little of the humour which tends to infiltrate the live performances.
The second set is a far more splendid affair. Steve Jones croons away wearing a pair of sun glass with Baby Bird emblazoned on them.
With four hundred songs to his name there must be a real danger of forgetting the words so each song has been written out on card, the edges reinforced with black plastic tape. These are assembled on a rickety music stand which is also reinforced with black plastic tape. Between songs he rifles through them looking for the next one.
The live set is far stronger than the recorded music. This is exemplified with the performance of the track Baby Bird. On the album it is a pleasant but understated tune, but live it takes on new dimension. Steve Jones demonstrates that his voice is far more powerful than he is prepared to commit to record. The track is extended and he cries out We can only hope that the track is rerecorded in all it's glory for the album of greatest hits later on this year.
At the end of the second set the crowd cry out for more. They return with Steve Jones looking embarrassed. "We're going to have to do one that we've done already" he announces. Then he gives a grin " 400 songs my arse"
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