Archived entries for Music

Bruce Springsteen Olympic Park 30 June 2013

Bruce Springsteen by Lilly Allen for The Substantive (portrait)

Fifteen days before a swift return to London, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band played the whole of Darkness on the Edge of Town, the second part in a wonderful three-act performance at Wembley Stadium; it is an album he has described as having the toughest songs he had at the time, uncompromising in the spirit of the emerging punk music of the day and still what he sees as the essence of the band. London and Wembley Stadium were privileged.

With a deserved reputation for being flexible there was little doubt the headline performance at the newly opened Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for Hard Rock Calling would bring a few different songs from an amazing back-catalogue than those at Wembley and it turned out to be another album show, this time with the back-to-back tunes of Born in the USA in the middle of the set. Continue reading…

Hard Rock Calling Kasabian Weller The Twang

The Olympic Park opened as music venue on Saturday 29 June 2013 as the new host for the Hard Rock Calling Festival in London, with the first day full of guitar based acts including Kasabian, Paul Weller, The Twang and The View.

For all the written words, radio documentaries and television seasons about ignored and neglected communities there is one tribe who still seem to have been treated as invisible for years: the British indie music fan. With original independent music hijacked as a vehicle for bland, middle-of-the-road music marketed to masses of bed-wetters there has been little both original and sensational in the indie bucket in UK in the last ten years, with the exception of the Arctic Monkeys; so, it is no surprise that when The Stone Roses return they are celebrated like a literal resurrection and that even the Saturday at Hard Rock Calling 2013 is pounced upon like a rubber bone thrown in the direction of a starving dog.

There is no Arctic Monkeys, who headlined Glastonbury the previous night, but instead four stages of decent enough music with a number of acts who all have elements of a passionate following. It was far from a sell-out and there were many tickets given away free by organizers who wanted both a spectacle and a captive audience for their £5 pints but  many were there primarily for the bands.

The day attracts lots of people who want to believe in the music, many of whom, throughout the day, spend much of their time turning away from the stage to intently sing the lyrics to the person they are with; they range in ages, from the young who weren’t around in the early nineties, to those who probably not only bought Style Council records on release, but now have haircuts for which their faces look slightly too old. Continue reading…

Bruce Springsteen Wembley Stadium 15 Jun 2013

Bruce Springsteen, Wembley Stadium, 15 June 2013

When Bruce says he is going to do “something special”, he means it. On his last visit to London earlier on this worldwide mammoth tour, which has now been rolling since March last year and will continue to Rio this September, he gave us an unexpected and majestic stripped down Thunder Road to Roy Bittan’s accompaniment. On Saturday at Wembley Stadium, once again he told his London audience he wanted to do something special, and he did, with a staggering set bestowed with gifts for his fans.

By the time he left the stage, after playing for approximately three hours and twenty minutes without a break, he was like a father consoling his upset children seeing their hero depart after giving them one of the great parties of their life so far, telling them in a soft voice that he’d be back in a couple of weeks. Continue reading…

The Stone Roses, Finsbury Park (8 Jun 2013)

The Stone Roses

The Stone Roses are more than a band. They are movement. Their music, their attitude and their style has made them a badge of identity for many of us around a certain age. The thick end of their thin catalogue has continued to inspire on repeated listens over twenty-plus years, bringing to life dancefloors on indie nights, empowering listeners on headphones on public transport and through speakers behind closed doors. Continue reading…

Neon Neon, Village Underground (6 Jun 2013)

Neon Neon, Village Undergound

Continually inventive with two biographical electro-pop albums, Neon Neon have now taken the live music experience to another plane with their touring performance of Praxis Makes Perfect which celebrates and inspires through popular culture, while still getting the basics spot-on, by letting us all have a good dance to a brilliant sound.

Their third consecutive night at the Village Underground in Shoreditch was more much Performance Art than a run-of-the-mill Thursday night gig in London; an indication of what was to come came in an online invitation asking ticket-holders to wear an item of red and bring a copy of a favourite book to exchange with fellow gig-goes, referred to as “comrades”, ahead of the prompt 8pm start. And “comrades” seemed appropriate as once inside the atmosphere was both electric and unifying. Continue reading…

Billy Bragg, Royal Shakespeare Theatre (2 Jun 13)

Billy Bragg, Stratford-Upon Avon, Iowa T-Shirt

Stratford-Upon-Avon was an appropriate setting for the start of the UK leg of our own modern day touring musical Shakespeare, Billy Bragg. With a rich back catalogue to compliment his most recent material and the ability to speak charismatically at length, alternately sharing new anecdotes and inspiring his audience on the hot topics of the day (with a few puns, pop culture references and punchlines thrown in), he is always worth seeing live, be it at festivals, bookshops, record stores or his own gigs.

As the Bard of Barking came to Shakespeare’s town on a beautiful day, the sun came out, the trees began to sing and half-way through what was the final day of the Stratford-Upon-Avon Arts Festival, steel brass bands played in Bancroft Gardens outside the venue; in the afternoon and early evening leading up to gig, the market stalls were out, there was dancing in the park, pub gardens were packed and scores of people from different backgrounds wandered through the streets of Stratford, including the man himself (pictured above). Who said Society doesn’t exist? Continue reading…

The Tallest Man on Earth, Edinburgh (27 Oct 2012)

Marta-Emilia Bona’s Christmas came early as The Tallest Man on Earth came to Edinburgh. 

Kristian Matsson and I have been through a lot together.

Everyone holds dear an artist that provides an invaluable source of comfort on those days where all you want to do is curl up next to your radiator and feel pathetically sorry for yourself – ‘The Tallest Man on Earth’ is mine. My four-year love affair with the Swedish born folk singer reached its climax on Saturday night, during an enchanting performance at the HMV Picture House, Edinburgh. Continue reading…

Squeeze

Following a documentary on the band, Martin Cloake writes about Squeeze.

Take Me I’m Yours was the latest in what’s proving to be a well-crafted series of documentaries on early 1980s bands, and this one on Squeeze topped even the superb recent Undertones episode. I’ve been a huge fan for years, and I’ve never understood why the band are so often dismissed as pop/pub band candy floss.

I can remember standing with my schoolmates outside a church in Bounds Green, having been told to queue up to get homework during a teachers’ strike in the early 1980s. If you wanted to look cool at the time, you could reel off all the words to Cool for Cats, which was Squeeze’s current hit evoking a Sweeney-like world of coppers and villains in London. These were London boys singing about London things in accents we identified with and although there was something of a novelty appeal about the single – and about the way the tune was marketed – we also sensed there was something more to it. The lyrical dexterity that has attracted thoughtful kids to well-crafted pop music for ages was on display early on. Continue reading…

Leonard Cohen, Wembley Arena (9 Sept 2012)

In her first piece for The Substantive, Simone Webb reviews the return to the London stage of Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen.

Every time I set out to write this review, it sounded increasingly pretentious, as a result of my elaborate attempts both to express my feelings at last night’s Leonard Cohen concert and to mimic the style of other reviews. (You know – “pithy opening line, personal anecdote related to the artist performing, background information, etc, etc, quips, pithy closing line”. The Telegraph even managed to end their review with a truly appalling pun: “this remains a country for old Len”.) I’m not sure it’s much use my trying to do both those things at once, so I’ll stick with trying to express my feelings, and leave the puns and frills to other reviewers.

I can truly say, with no hint of exaggeration, that seeing Leonard Cohen perform at the Wembley Arena was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life so far. Continue reading…

Bruce Springsteen, Hyde Park (14 July 2012)

At a time when the superficial has become the norm, men and women of substance are like rays of sunlight streaming through dark grey clouds. Governments throughout Europe are allowed to plough on largely critically unchallenged with economic policies that exacerbate a situation they say they are trying to resolve, well-paid barristers use sarcasm as a legitimate form of defence in  high-profile criminal cases, and the masses use the word ‘LOL’ like a full-stop, a disclaimer for any serious thought. Bruce Springsteen is so charismatic and talented he would stand out like a shining beacon in any age, but against the backdrop of fluff that passes for modern life, he is like a saviour that has risen from the streets, a leader and man of the people at the same time. Continue reading…



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