Friday, 26 December 2008

Coldplay @ The O2 - 15th December 2008

This article originally appeared on the peerless (yet now sadly defunct) It's owners are now Suburban Tarts, who should be visited post-haste...

It is often tempting (for some) to dismiss Coldplay out of hand, to bemoan them as somehow cashing in on a wave of middle-of-the-road sound. But it is when seen live that Coldplay really come into their own, and tonight proves that point and then some.

Coldplay are a band who have truly grown into the stadium-filling status that they now hold. Now on their fourth hit-laden album, they have reached a point where established hits such as Yellow no longer need to be left until the encore. Rather, they are able to fill this vast (but acoustically excellent; but I digress) space with light, sound and colour from start to finish. Hit follows hit follows hit, and warmth pours off the stage throughout. Any band who can make a 20,000-seat concrete arena feel like the UCL Student's Union is clearly doing something right.

The new material tonight is already six months old and well-established in the brains of those present, but it is still a wonderful experience to be treated to Strawberry Swing, Violet Hill and (perhaps the highlight) Death and All His Friends, alongside established hits such as Fix You, Politik and The Scientist. Already, it would be impossible for anyone walking in off the street to tell the new material from the previous hits. Still as humble as ever he was, Chris Martin regularly acknowledges the cheering masses with a wave and mumbled thanks. He's had the misfortune (if you can call it that) to become a massive rockstar without developing either a drug addiction or a serious personality disorder, and for this he is often cast aside by the more image-concious sections of the music press. Wrongly.

At one point, the band walk down from the stage and through a rapturously cheering crowd to take up residence half-way up the lower tier of seats. They subsequently perform an acoustic version of Green Eyes, with a guest harmonica solo from Simon Pegg. As the final notes die away, there is a completely euphoric moment, and I realise I am grinning like a moron. So are the band. So is everyone else in the O2. The feeling of camaraderie, that everyone is part of this, is palpable. Long live this kind of thing, if you ask me.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds @ The Troxy - 30th November 2008

This article originally appeared on the peerless (yet now sadly defunct) It's owners are now Suburban Tarts, who should be visited post-haste...

Up until this year's Dig!! Lazarus, Dig!!! album, I had never really got Nick Cave. One of those artists I would get into one day but had just never quite got round to it. So when a friend played me the aforementioned album I was suddenly struck by a wave of “Oh, I get it!”. The floodgates were opened and I have been literally consuming the dark and twisted work of Mr Cave, and wondering what the hell I was thinking all those years.

So tonight's concert really feels like a personal coming of age. I had seen him earlier this year, playing a six-song in-store gig on Oxford Street, but this was Cave unleashed. He looks like the Antichrist will look. With shirt unbuttoned to the waist and moustache trimmed yet still somehow exuding wild unkemptness, he manages to look like a man with whom you would cheerfully share a joke, even as he playfully kicked a puppy. The smiles between songs make you realise that behind the weird-sex-and-death of the lyrics is a loving family man. Albeit one who would eat your soul.

The location is perfect. The Troxy is a 1930s provincial theatre that somehow got built in East London. There's a diminished glamour and slight repressed seediness about the place that perfectly frames this evening's entertainment.

The sound is literally mind-buggering. The set is played out at such a volume that this writer's ears rang until 2pm the following day. Starting with a quiet rendition of Hold On To Yourself (featuring surely this years best lyric: “She rubs the lamp between her thighs / and hopes the genie comes out singing”), the band then tear into Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!! and on into a set perfectly balancing “Classic Cave” (his words) and new material, with a few surprises.

Highlights include a raucous Red Right Hand and a soulful near-solo version of Into My Arms. At one point, Cave introduces You've Got Me Eating Right Out Of Your Hand as coming from the “much maligned album Nocturama”. There is a ripple of discontent and some muted cheering. “Soon you're going to realise what a fucking masterpiece that was,” he smirks “It just had some shitty songs on it, that's all...” But tonight, even a selection from the band's least loved long-player could not possibly sound shitty.

Two hours of groin thrusting and dramatic stances later, the crowd spills out as the echoes of undisputed classic Stagger Lee drift off across East London. I have seen the light. And it's pretty dark in there...