Thursday, 16 April 2009

Fujiya & Miyagi: Live at Cargo

Fujiya & Miyagi have always been an understated band, whistling by, collecting fans like a snowball on a slowly declining hill – one flake at a time. But this gig at the ever-busy Cargo brought this element to new heights as the band displayed some of the tunes from their third album, Lightbulbs, released last September to their London fans.
Originally a duo, F&M are a four-piece live band backed, throughout the set, by a big screen displaying patterns, words and pictures made up of dice. It’s all very impressive, and quite engaging, and makes up for the band’s lack of stage presence. It is this which holds the key to a gig full of little hooks and signs of greatness which faded away as lead singer David Best continued to stare at the floor. Either extremely shy or extremely arrogant (one suspects the former) the band’s refusal to acknowledge the crowd or create anything that the clearly partisan audience can up the gears with is incredibly disappointing.
There’s no doubt Fujiya & Miyagi have some tunes. Ankle Injury, Photocopier and Cassettesingle present some of the finest moments tonight with the krautrock element coming to the fore. F&M are true builders (ok, well not in a bum’n’The Sun way no) – they lay the foundations, bring in some heavy drumbeat - then accelerate picking up a well-known phrase or rhyme (including the Funny Bones headbone connecting to the neckbone one…) along the way. There’s no way they’re not good enough for a venue of Cargo’s size, or equally the adoring following, put if you’re gunna throw a party don’t forget to enjoy it yourself.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009


As Liverpool pay tribute to the 96 who lost their lives at Hillsborough 20 years ago I thought I'd re-publish the short piece I wrote on the home of my beloved Owls in ShadowPlay #22.

Hillsborough, Sheffield Wednesday
A spiritual home of sorts some of the best afternoons of my life have been spent in the blue plastic seats of S6. All those names, few of quality calibre, to pass before my eyes on the programme – some heroes Carbone, Di Canio, Hirsty, Pressman, Brunt, McGovern, MacLean and some error-ridden but loveable – Bullen, Peaks, Di Piedi. A few times I’ve looked at the Leppings Lane end from the Kop and thought about all those people gasping for air down there and I’m appalled at myself for coming to this place for something so futile. But it’s an age gone by and soon I’m up and complaining about a foul throw or a bad pass and I realise it’s just a place of passion.

Offhand comment you may think but really, as with many disasters, some bad decisions, some indecisive ones, and the passion, which allows football to be the great game it is, prove some of the causes. Rest in peace to those who lost their lives.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Photograph of the Week: Peacedrums

Ok, so not a great piece of photography but it nicely encapsulates Mariam Wallentins' passion during The Wildbirds and the Peacedrums' glorious sweaty set at the Luminaire in Kilburn on Tuesday. An excellent mix of steel drums, Swedish shouting and heartfelt, endearing. Investigate.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Tunng and Tinariwen: Live at Koko

Morecambe and Wise, Mark and Jez, Cannon and Ball, Richard and Judy – seminal combinations I’m sure you’ll agree and some of them you wouldn’t really have imagined (though a twitchy shoplifter and a boozy flasher were always a decent bet for union) – tonight is one such. Touched, as I’m sure many a listener in this country has been, by the pure rhythmic beauty of Tinariwen, the scale at which words which I’m the first to admit I don’t understand at all, can affect you so much was probably what drew Tunng to this glorious meeting.

As previously documented in ShadowPlay Tinariwen were a group of travelling nomads in Saharan Africa with many of their songs, including those on the beautiful Radio Tisdas Sessions, birthed in these dusty surroundings. Championed in the UK by dubious genius Andy Kershaw Tinariwen have built quite a following over here and could doubtless have sold tonight’s gig at the impressive Koko in Camden out alone. But their partnership with folktronica darlings Tunng confirmed the gig’s place in the hearts and buzz of all the self-respecting pretentious vaguely arty nerds (I’m nothing if not modest) of the time.

And it doesn’t disappoint, with the first few songs played by Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni (guitar, vocals), Eyadou Ag Leche (guitars, bass guitar, vocals) and Said Ag Ayad (percussion, vocals) alone you start to panic, maybe I misread the poster? Maybe they’re not playing together afterall? But then Tunng bounce on to the stage, clearly excited at the end of a tour which has seen them wow nationwide. Tinariwen largely oblige on lead guitar and percussion while Tunng offer up backing vocals and, well twiddly bits, on the former’s songs. For the most part it’s the Algerians who dominate the set (incidentally fine by me, I very much like Tunng but they’re capable of washing over in a way their stage-mates seem incapable of) with some choice cuts from their last outing Aman Iman: Water Is Life with Mano Dayek and Matadjem Tinmixan proving particularly incredible with Tunng’s Becky Jacob’s providing surprisingly accurate (to the record) backing vocals. It’s an experiment for sure, sometimes songs trail on a little too long, sometimes Alhousseyni becomes obsolete and goes offstage but Mike Lindsay, Tunng’s frontman shows such exuberance and excitement about the night that permeates through the crowd. The highlight has to be Lindsay’s interpretation of Tinariwen’s love of listening to metal – a two minute rock-out pretending to hit screaming solos on his acoustic guitar providing laughs all round. An adventurous project, fully pulled off, let’s hope they get something down on record.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Soha and Titi Robin: Live at Cargo

As an outsider in London sometimes I forget quite how diverse its population is, which I know the majority of people are and that’s kinda the point. What I hadn’t really thought about is the subsequent affect on the city’s music scene which can happily host a two-day festival of French music at Cargo with an enraptured and good-sized audience in attendance.

Titi Robin kick-off in the opening night in the shape of an accordion player, Titi Robin himself playing every string from mandolin to guitar, and his ab-fab drummer. The ponytailed percussionist spends the hour-long set thumping the box he’s sitting on, attacking the skins with his elbows, kneading the bongos – it feels like a struggle and a fight with the instrument but sounds like the opposite. It’s a sight to behold and one that is only distracted from by the perfect interplay between the gypsy-ish twinges of the guitar and accordion’s mini-duel (literally, at one point they mimics each other’s tones and try to better them).

Enter singer Maria into the fray, full of evangelical charm (she crosses herself on alighting the stage), imploring the listener (unfortunately ShadowPlay is in the ten per cent in attendance who do not understand her words) and dancing. But not just swaying, it’s stylised, full speed and, as she chases her hands across the stage back and forth, undeniably Indian-influenced. An unexpected wonder.

Soha may already be known to you. Savvy, chique, sexy and soulful she’s a PR man’s dream, her sultry tones offering nothing if not passion, verve and, most importantly, a versatility that’s astonishing. One minute she’s relaxing into her smooth tones, pulling the audience, literally, forward with her brown eyes. The next she’s skanking, full of reggae empowerment, putting hands in the air and shouting “the show is for you, enjoy”. An incredible spectacle that breaks far beyond the clumsy, patronising term of ‘world music’ which I doubt will be shaken off for some years to come. Luckily, neither will Soha.

Anyway, I don’t usually do this, but don’t just take my words for it listen here.

You can thank me later…