Benjamin Clementine @ Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, 10 Aug

benjamin clementine.jpg

Originally published for The Skinny.

★★★★

Aside from technical difficulties causing the show to be delayed for over half an hour, once things gets going the production values throughout are incredible. Lights dim and shine on Benjamin Clementine and his backing singers, who are lined up behind the band at the back of the stage in similar fashion to Solange’s staging of her recent wave of shows.

Initially, Clementine appears quite nervous on stage, but only when communicating with the crowd. He twists dramatically from a shy, sensitive character when chatting between songs to a confident, captivating performer when playing. He appears to grow more comfortable though, once he builds more of a rapport with the audience and by the time the show draws to a close, he’s cracking jokes and engaging more with his fans.

After a somewhat excessive period of chat, he acknowledges that he is perhaps talking too much and claims he would rather just play his songs. This doesn’t seem to be the case, however, given the amount of talking he actually does throughout the show.

Benjamin Clementine is a true talent and even in such a formal setting in a massive venue, his performance feels as intimate and captivating as it would in a tiny club.

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Iceage @ Summerhall, Edinburgh, 5 Aug

iceage

Originally published for The Skinny.

★★

Iceage frontman Elias Rønnenfelt is frequently compared to Nick Cave, and those comparisons are not wrong. The problem is that Rønnenfelt attempts to emulate Cave a little too obviously, and doesn’t quite pull it off. He comes swanning onstage in a blazer and button-down shirt, proceeding to imitate Cave’s hand gestures and stage persona like he’s been studying the body language of the Bad Seeds frontman for years.

When the first chords of The Lord’s Favourite are heard, the front half of the crowd quickly alters from polite, head-nodding observers to moshing, stage-diving punks. This seems to please Rønnenfelt for the first time during the band’s set, and he leans forward into his loyal followers, singing directly into their faces. As soon as they get too close, though, he smacks their hands away with a sour look on his face, as though he detests their adoration.

This again is another common Cave trait, but one that doesn’t work in Rønnenfelt’s case. Cave can get away with this kind of behaviour because he is an actual Rock God; Iceage’s vocalist, however, is still far too early in his career to even hope to reach the same heights.

Between the frontman’s moans about needing a new snare drum (after drummer Dan Kjær Nielsen breaks his own one song in) and looking like he’d rather be anywhere else, Iceage actually prove themselves to be quite a promising live act. Rattling through a selection of old and new tracks, the Copenhagen quartet are actually quite an engaging live band. If only they showed a little more respect to their ticket-paying, album-buying fans, it might be a little easier to give them the credit they deserve.

Kate Nash @ The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, 1 Aug

kate nash

Originally published for The Skinny.

Teasing us early on with a brief version of Foundations (it is the second song on Made of Bricks after all), it’s pretty evident there are more than a few ex-indie kids in the room: the type who, ten years ago, carried copies of the NME around in their Gola satchels and were still trying to come to terms with The Libertines splitting up. It’s clear Nash is saving the full version for later though, once the crowd has been fully warmed up.

Following this up with an epic, punk rendition of Mouthwash, any disappointment at Foundations being cut short is quickly forgotten. Nash thrashes around the stage, belting out the words in an exuberant scream, making it clear she’s no longer the delicate piano-playing indie princess she was ten years ago.

Coming towards the end of her set, we finally get the full version of Foundations we are all waiting to hear and it can only be described as suitably rapturous. Not for the first time tonight, the crowd sing every word back to Nash at the top of their lungs, in between turning to their friends to do the same.

With the encore largely made up of Nash’s newer material, it’s clear to see how much she’s grown as an artist. Behind her cute exterior, there is a real punk within Kate Nash and those who doubt that simply need to witness her live to be proven wrong.

http://www.katenash.com/

 

Priests @ The Hug & Pint, Glasgow, 22 May

priests

Originally published for The Skinny.

★★★★

Don’t be fooled by frontwoman Katie Alice Greer’s cutesy pastel pink raincoat, her freshly manicured nails or her bleach blonde pleats because as soon as Priests’ first song starts, you’ll quickly realise that looks can be very deceiving. There could not have been a more perfect venue than the dark basement of Glasgow’s Hug & Pint for tonight’s gig. This is the kind of punk rock show most people can only dream of and Priests are the perfect band to be at the centre of it.

Playing tracks from their new album Nothing Feels Natural, as well as some “deep cuts”, as Greer refers to them, her voice takes a serious beating throughout the show, as does drummer Daniele Daniele’s drum kit. The band seem to be fond of upping the pace and the noise for their live performances. Staring menacingly at the crowd Greer leans into them, stretching her hands out as though attempting to grab them, she really does have everyone in the room eating out of the palm of her hand; and they’re close enough to manage to.

Punk rock lesson number one: play your instruments so hard that your band are forced to do some DIY work mid-show to keep them in place. Punk rock lesson number two: impersonate and misquote American presidents to the mass confusion of the audience. Punk rock lesson number three: play every song like it’s the last one you’ll ever play. Priests are punk rock, deal with it.

 

The Japanese House @ The Liquid Room, Edinburgh, 10 May

the japanese house

Originally published for The Skinny.

★★★

Amber Bain, aka The Japanese House, takes to the stage at Edinburgh’s Liquid Room looking like the fourth member of Hanson, with her denim on denim attire and wispy blonde hair covering her face, announcing that she’s ill but will “try not to cough.”

Luckily Bain’s vocoder masks any sign of illness in her vocal, as she plays through songs from her three EPs with almost no interruption. In fact, the only between-song chat we get from Bain is to introduce the next song. What Bain lacks in charisma, however, she makes up for in songwriting ability: particular highlights include Teeth, Saw You in a Dream and Clean. The performance of the latter is sadly ruined though by the distracting and unnecessary strobe lights, but the band seem to think it’s cool and headbang along to the track’s clichéd dubstep-esque break.

The difficulty with Bain’s music is that, at its core, it is bedroom music. It’s minimal, ambient and best listened to alone with headphones in; live, it just doesn’t quite have the same effect. But this doesn’t stop her droves of teenage fans, many of whom will be aware of her music from the 13 Reasons Why soundtrack and from her ties with The 1975, gazing up at her admiringly and singing along to every word.

There is something undoubtedly captivating about The Japanese House but if Bain intends to move on to playing headline shows in bigger venues then she’s going to have to come up with something more exciting than a few strobe lights.

PWR BTTM @ CCA, Glasgow, 15 Apr

pwr bttm cca

Originally published for The Skinny.

★★★★★

PWR BTTM’s Ben Hopkins makes a crucial observation about the difference between British and American crowds halfway through tonight’s show at Glasgow’s CCA: that Americans will scream in your face and maybe even throw a cheeseburger at you if they enjoy the show, whereas British people will tell you ten reasons why they found it interesting.

To begin, there are two very important things to be taken from the show: 1) Support band Orchards are about to be your new favourite indie band and 2) PWR BTTM are the most exciting live band around right now. Here are a few more reasons why the show was interesting.

Hopkins shredded the life out of his guitar and his vocal cords throughout most of the show but particularly during performances of Silly, from new album Pageant, and Ugly Cherries, from the duo’s eponymous debut. When Liv Bruce takes over the mic, the biggest singalongs of the evening occur, to fan favourite I Wanna Boi and recent single Answer My Text.

The chemistry between Bruce and Hopkins is unlike that in many other bands. The pair bounce off each other like a pendulum swinging at full force, exchanging banter back and forth between songs, making for a thrilling – and hilarious – punk-rock show from two performers in their absolute prime.

If all musicians could be as enthusiastic about being in a band together and playing their music live as PWR BTTM are music, and the world, would be in a far better state.

The Pigeon Detectives @ Electric Circus, Edinburgh, 4 Mar

pigeon detectives

Originally published for The Skinny.

★★★

For many 20-somethings, The Pigeon Detectives will bring back fond memories of a golden age of indie, the ups and downs of which are still very visible today.

In a packed-out Electric Circus, the indie vibes are strong. It’s small, it’s sweaty, it’s laddy and it’s likely you’ll be leaving covered in beer. The band open the show with Enemy Lines, a track taken from their new album Broken Glances. It’s much more mellow than their older material but that doesn’t stop the lads in the crowd thrusting forward in a surge to get closer to their indie gods – suspicions arise that frontman Matthew Bowman sees himself along those lines when he stands on the drum set, imitating a crucifixion.

The laddy antics continue during the band’s performance of I Found Out, from their 2007 album Wait for Me. Bowman goes full Coyote Ugly, crawling on the bar and taking a shot before proceeding to spit beer into the crowd. It’s all very rock’n’roll, or at least the frontman seems to think so, and indeed he whips his crowd of loyal followers into a frenzy, hanging from the light fixtures as he tries to get as close as possible to them.

If there’s anything to be said for the Leeds quintet, it’s that they know how to work their crowd. It may be a bizarre sight to behold for many, but The Pigeon Detectives’ devotees are certainly putty in their hands.