The Australian Pink Floyd, 30th September 2017, Birmingham @aussiefloyd

Australian Pink Floyd, Saturday 30th September 2017 at Birmingham NIA.

Words by Peter Stimpson

Photos by Fi Stimpson

I was looking forward to this gig as we all travelled the 60+ miles from home to the Birmingham NIA. We left home early as we planned to have food and drink at The Malt House near to the Arena before the event, a pleasant atmosphere and serving good pub grub.

After refreshments we transferred to the NIA to gain entry and find our seats, an excellent seating position situated in Block B, row R, in front of stage.

The countdown ensued with the familiar sound of a heartbeat that would launch the band into the first track from “Dark Side of the Moon”. The band proceeded to expertly play their way through the whole of the album seamlessly with a faultless performance. Lorelei and the girls were fabulous in their rendition of “Great Gig in the Sky”, adding to the performance was an incredible light show that “Pink Floyd” themselves would have been proud of, a nice touch being the replacement of some of the graphics and characters with those of Australian origin, the famous prism had become the shape of the continent Australia, and the kangaroo was also featured in the performance.

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After performing all of the tracks on Dark Side of the Moon, the band played a couple of tracks from other “Floyd” albums including “The Wall”, featuring a larger than life depiction of the School Teacher, then went for a well earned break for around 30mins.

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After the intermmission the band came back on stage to play more fabulous Pink Floyd music from several different albums, there were tracks from The Final Cut, The Wall, Animals and Wish You Were Here. The audience listened intently, many singing along to the wonderful music enthusiasically. The title song from “Wish You Were Here” was a triumph, and I doubted if the band could top that track, but then they played “Run”. Everyone was on their feet for this, clapping and singing along with the band and generally having a great time.

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The concert followed the familiar format as they finished the performance and exited stage. Everyone knew that it was not the last they had seen of the band, after a fair amount of applause, the band returned to the stage to perform their fabulous version of “Comfortably Numb”, with this track the band exceeded all expectations, the music was exquisite, and the timing spot on. The guitar work was so close to the original Gilmour rendition that if you closed your eyes one could imagine David actually playing.

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All of the band members played their part with total professionalism, from the brilliant guitarists and bass player, to the excellent and hardworking drummer, the marvellous saxophonist, the superb keyboard player through to the lead vocals and the fabulous and gorgeous backing singers.

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After the performance our party was invited back stage by Lorelei McBroom to meet the members of the band, this was like icing on the cake for us, my Grandsons were well stoked about meeting the band, as I was, but especially I appreciated speaking with Lorelei, she is such a lovely lady.

As the evening ended we made our way back home contented,,,, apart from the detour as the M6/M1 was closed !! More time to listen to Pink Floyd, though…!

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Gig Review: Swans, Birmingham Asylum, 24th May 2017 by @INeedDirection

Swans, Birmingham Asylum, May 24th 2017

Writer and photographer: Tracey B

Editor: Fi Stimpson

Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Act I scene II:

Arial: All hail, great master! Grave sir, hail! I come
To answer thy best pleasure, be ’t to fly,
To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride
On the curled clouds. To thy strong bidding, task
Ariel and all his quality.

And so stands Michael Gira, centre stage, as if on an enchanted isle, amidst his admired musical collaborators, like Prospero and his spirit, Arial, conjuring and directing his storm; arms aloft, dark brooding eyes low, conducting each swell and each lull in the soundscape that surrounds him. With gestures as bizarre as a high kick or wild whipping arms, or as slight as a raised eyebrow or a lowered hand, Gira choreographs a ballet of ballast, a tango of tinnitus. The result is a sound that’s immense, immersive; a performance that’s intimate and personal. For though I am surrounded by a few hundred other people, I feel perfectly alone in my reverie. From my position at the front, slightly off-centre, I can easily make eye contact with the band and I take full advantage of this with each member in turn (save for the keyboard player hidden behind a stack of amps) holding my gaze, brazen and steadfast, until it’s acknowledged, maybe returned with a smile. What can I say? I’m a demanding and disarmingly direct viewer. But this is the advantage of small venues and the confrontational nature of performance works best when a connection can be made with its audience.

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Though Swans are widely credited as the loudest band on earth, current decibel levels are bearable (I wear precautionary earplugs nonetheless) and my ears vibrate instead with high-tensile energy. The sound is far from unrelenting aural assault; the set employs clever nuances of sound and technique, contrasts and builds. This tour promotes Swans 14th studio album, The Glowing Man, and also serves as a farewell party to the current cast of players, a line-up established in 2010 (Gira intends to play henceforth with a revolving cast of collaborators). The set list comprises a mere 6 songs, yet lasts 2 ½ hours. Yes that’s right, 2 ½ hours. Anyone aware of my views would know I usually insist brevity is the key to perfect music. And while that may hold true for pop music, it doesn’t apply to the experimental arena in which Swans hold court. I’m loath to promote Sting-endorsed ideology – especially in the middle of a Swans review – but there are tantric forces at play tonight. There is something to be said for drawing out pleasure; for elongating the process to elevate the desired result. And desire is key here. Have you ever felt on the very edge of orgasm for over two hours? My skin tingles in anticipation of each chime, each harmonic touch. I am transfixed, hypnotised, breathless, wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Each note, it seems to me, is delivered with full awareness of the effect on its rapt recipients.

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The structure of each song relies on a well-honed ritual; a musical Kama Sutra: The guitar begins, gentle and impassive, strumming a held chord accompanied by tender arpeggiated lap steel passes. The bass joins slowly, the back of a thumbnail rubbed erotically along the strings. My pulse throbs to a low rumble of bass drum and isolated piano chords. As the piece builds and the pace gathers, the keyboard resonates, becomes a spectrum-filling electronic choir. Lap steel and bass: a forceful assault of strings, an arduous pounding. The guitar swirls in dizzying, swelling, ascending and descending fret board patterns all pinned down by a cacophony of percussion. And Gira’s voice, so vital, so primal; a wail that cries of all human emotion. And my heart thumps and my breath quickens. And. And. Oh and…

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And as if to acknowledge my need for the spiritual in addition to a physical and emotional response, in one of the few gaps between songs, Gira tells a Zen story he’d heard about a monk and a tiger. A monk out walking is confronted by a tiger and in his bid to escape he runs to the edge of a cliff, his only option being to jump. Falling, he grasps onto a vine but, as he hangs, a mouse begins to gnaw at the top of the vine. Resigned to his fate of death by tiger above or the long drop below, he spots a strawberry growing from the cliff, reaches out and eats it. It was the sweetest thing he’d ever tasted. Gira says he has no particular words of wisdom to impart but to live in the present and make each moment count. Well tonight he made around 150 minutes count for everything and more. And it was the sweetest thing I ever tasted.

Gig Review: Jean Michel Jarre, Birmingham, 8th October 2016 @jeanmicheljarre @Bcardarena

I had been waiting for that night since I was 10 years old. That was the last time I saw Jean Michel Jarre live, at one of his two Destination Docklands gigs in London on 8th October 1988. Exactly 28 years later to the very day, I was getting to see him again, this time at Birmingham Barclaycard Arena.

At last, the time came, and commencing with “The Heart of Noise”, the sound of electronica expanded to fill every square millimetre of that arena.

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My 13-year-old daughter was immediately transfixed by the light themes, and was suitably impressed with both the creative, scientific patterns produced, and the stories told with lights and lasers. Considering she’s not an easy girl to please, I breathed a sigh of relief that she was to enjoy this gig as much as I would!

JMJ told us quite early on that he was glad to be starting his tour in the UK – he went on to say that this is his second home, with or without Brexit. He then performed his collaboration with Edward Snowden from 2015, entitled “Exit”. I love the haphazard drum beat in this tune, and of course what Snowden says mid-track… “What may not have value to you today may have value to an entire population, an entire people, an entire way of life tomorrow, and if you don’t stand up for it I will.”

Looking around me, there was a constant joint nodding of heads and dancing in seats going on. Just one guy in row 11 was losing his inhibitions to the music from the start. I like that guy.

It wasn’t long, though, before JMJ invited us to get up, dance and enjoy ourselves. He also requested that security relax for once… that was sadly largely ignored. However, there was suddenly a festival atmosphere – people flocked to the floor instead of staying in their seats, and it was an absolute joy to be part of that.

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Even now, it feels like he is ahead of his time, but don’t forget that he was doing this 40 years ago and it sounded equally as good then, if not better, as no-one had approached music in quite the same way before.

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Jean Michel Jarre’s music is nothing short of euphoric. Many people consider electronica tunes to all be the same, but he is no one trick pony – he continues to explore style and genre with flair and passion, and the result is an infectious gathering of unforgettable tunes.

Another recent collaboration was with Pet Shop Boys and is entitled “Brick England”, which almost conceals its poetic lyrics under the music. A stunning track, and such a pleasure to hear it live.

Of course, old favourites weren’t forgotten, and to the entire crowd’s delight, JMJ performed “Oxygѐne” 2, 4 & 8 and “Équinoxe” 4 & 7. He then finished off by treating us to a wonderful surprise – new track “Oxygѐne 17”! This is to be on the upcoming album which will be released in December to mark 40 years since “Oxygѐne” was released.

Jean Michel Jarre finished off the evening with “Stardust”, which he produced with Armin van Buuren in 2015. This is a superb collaboration and proves that classic electronica can be melded with the more modern. The perfect end to a dreamy, magical evening.

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