Music | Live in Leeds – Billy Bragg, Crystal Fighters, Barenaked Ladies & Múm

Music | Live in Leeds – Billy Bragg, Crystal Fighters, Barenaked Ladies & Múm

Billy Bragg – Leeds Town Hall (3/5)

Twenty five years into his career, punk rocker come political activist Billy Bragg still manages to find something to rant about. Despite a desire not to be dismissed as a political songwriter, the ‘Tooth and Nail’ tour has induced a host of high-capacity-venue excuses to offload wry wit and leftist ramblings onto a simultaneously ageing audience.

Preceding him tonight at Leeds Town Hall is fresh young Australian folk and blues artist Kim Churchill. Utilizing training in classical guitar, he accompanies finger-style acoustic with intense harmonica and kick-drum to foster an essence of bluegrass both heartfelt and awe-inspiring. Churchill’s modesty between songs contrasts a powerful vocal that enhances a soundscape of Bon Iver meets Bob Dylan. A definite one to watch, Churchill is well received by all but those who came solely to burn their effigies of Thatcher.

Bragg’s opener feels weak by comparison. ‘No-one Knows Nothing Anymore’ is an embodiment of some of his slower numbers; sluggish guitars and monotonous vocals that seem to lack direction. However, there is a distinct sense that few in the audience have come for the music, instead for the comical personality which created it. ‘Sexuality’, a humorous ode to same sex relationships, demonstrates the charismatic Essex borne wit Bragg is famed for as he cries “I’ve left your auntie and run off with the postman!”

Really it’s his witticisms which sell the show, as he spins lines on everything from Catholicism to chronic Twitter feed addiction. Light hearted lyrics help dilute rowdy numbers like ‘Power in a Union’ which might confuse gig with socialist rally. Finally, ‘New England’ provides the anthemic sing-along the crowd has been waiting for. If tonight’s set felt at all dated, the overwhelming personality in his parting message sees life in the old dog yet.

Sam Corcoran

 

Crystal Fighters – Leeds Stylus

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If you’ve never been to a Crystal Fighters gig you’ve never paid witness to so much glitter and sequins. With two albums under their belt, Star of Love and Cave Rave, last Monday night, Crystal Fighters brought Leeds Uni’s Stylus to bursting point almost instantaneously.

Waiting patiently for the entrance of the Anglo-Spanish six-piece, the crowd is stationary but content. With no sense of deliberation, the band, clad in an array of clinquant attire – from sequined hot pants to embellished kimonos – step forth in a way that shows they’re just high on life, perhaps. As the first thirty seconds of opener ‘Solar System’ takes hold, roars ensue and the crowd is put into an arms-in-the-air carnival trance. Oddly adorned in a pair of Raybans, Lead vocalist and guitarist, Sebastian Pringle’s only sense of restraint is his unruly hair forced into an adorable top knot. With what can only be described as a bunch of maracas protruding from the enigmatic figure’s sleeves, he hypnotises the crowd by articulating cosmic allusions, celebrating our coming together for a huge f*cking party.

Crystal Fighters possess a fusional sound you can’t pin down with one all-encompassing label. Integrating frenzied house music and tribal synths with happy-go-lucky melodies of traditional Basque folk, the Crystal Fighters experience is somewhat trans-continental – it sure doesn’t feel like a Monday night in Leeds.  With mesmeric energy, the band storms through songs from their genre-defying back catalogue and every track seems to become its own distinctive anthem. From ‘You & I’ to ‘Plage’ and ‘Champion Sound’, the crowd retorts every word with gleeful abandon. Re-establishing the divine synonymy between band and audience, they finish with the harmonious ‘At Home’ before reappearing with ‘I Love London’ and ‘Xtatic Truth’ for an explosive dubstep-driven encore. Irresistible.

Libby Weeks

 

Barenaked Ladies – O2 Academy (3/5)

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“We like to go with enthusiasm—it’s that simple. ” (Ed Robertson – lead singer)This is the attitude and philosophy of ‘Barenaked Ladies.’ Even after 25 years of playing together, the band promise a fantastic night with their witty Canadian charm and their catchy, quirky songs. Not only do their pop hooks grab our attention from the get go, but the crowd is in stitches throughout as the band exchange humorous chat and comment on their experience in Leeds.

Celebrating their 25th anniversary, the band has a new album out – Grinning Streak, an album that demonstrates their still relevant niche in the music industry and  their strength to produce upbeat, fun music, including favourites like ‘Odds are’ and ‘Limits.’ The band convincingly move between their old favourites and new material, with ‘Never is Enough’ getting most of the crowd moving and reminding us why we loved the noughties, though the more sombre songs prove to have a weaker impact in comparison to the comical and well known theme tune of ‘The Big Band Theory.’

The entire performance is full of “enthusiam” and every song is played with the same energy and hilarity that all their fans have come to expect.  After a fantastic concert, the band end with a surprising medley of recent mainstream hits featuring ‘Titanium’ and ‘I gotta feeling.’ This confirms that the band has a great deal more to give, and the entire evening is essentially one fantastic jam session between four great friends.

Nina Fine

 

 

Múm – Belgrave Music Hall (4/5)

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The silhouettes of Icelandic band múm appear out of nowhere, the stage bathed in an eerie green glow almost like the aurora borealis itself. The only sounds are an ethereal melody on the harmonica over what genuinely sounds like a steel pan submerged in water. What follows tonight at the Belgrave is a showcase of the weird and wonderful.

Múm have made a career out of making unconventional music. Since their inception back in 1997 they have mixed glitchy, lo-fi beats with soft vocals and traditional Icelandic instruments, forging a career that has spanned 7 albums. The amount of mid-song instrument changes tonight is really testament to the eclectic nature of their sound, with founding member Örvar Smárason onto his fourth instrument by only the third song.

As the band’s sound yet again transforms – this time incorporating the industrial drum beat which opens ’Slow Down’ off new albumSmilewound – the music starts to sound something like the lovechild of Sigur Rós and Flying Lotus. A notable (and slightly unnerving) highlight occurs when the band encourage the crowd to join in with a spectral, collective humming, which feels like we’ve been subtly coerced into joining some sort of Icelandic cult. They even manage to turn a potential set-back, due to technical difficulties, into a light-hearted cello interlude.

Tonight truly is a showcase: it has the drama (with singer Gyða Valtýsdóttir miming beheading herself during one song), it has the laughs (in a reserved, Nordic kind of way), and it definitely has the music. On record, múm can be hit and miss; but they just make so much sense when playing out live. Like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

Nick Suarez

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