Sunday, 13 March 2011

Live Review - Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Old Vic Tunnels, 12/03/11

I’d been desperate to see this band of beautiful hippies as soon as I heard their magnificent track ‘Home’ and I admit, I immediately bought into the barefooted, long haired, guitar-strumming-round-the-camp-fire universe of Edward Sharpe (actually Alexander Ebert) and his Magnetic Zeros (see, here).

The venue for the night, the Old Vic Tunnels, is one of the most magical places I’ve ever visited. Bursting with an eerie, Ripper-tinged atmosphere – I’d already been exposed to the maze of cavernous tunnels near Waterloo station when I went to the premier of Banky’s film Exit Through The Gift Shop so I knew it was going to be a special night.

It didn’t disappoint! A beautiful giant moon hung in the void of one of the tunnels (below); burlesque dancers winked in the pop-up Texan Tavern, and all kinds of performers mingled with the crowd. One guy dressed as a cowboy pressed a suspicious cling-filmed brown square into my palm, that got me in trouble with the Mars police and meant I had to be searched, “is you brain organic?” he said before popping a sweet in my mouth.

Among the band’s ‘proper’ support acts were a harpist and two amazing beatboxers but the best of the bunch was Rocco DeLuca. He stood alone on the main stage – highlighted by just single light, his trademark silver Dobro glinting – and completely mesmerised the small audience with his Jeff Buckley-esque vocals that echoed around the arches.

Then the time came for Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros to take to the stage. The distant echo of chanting and bells announced their arrival and soon they were pushing their way through from the back of the crowd in a long line of beards and smiles. ‘40 Day Dream’ got us off to a good start and the excitement didn’t dwindle throughout the lengthy set. In the crowd we were squeezed together to within an inch of our lives, but we bellowed along to every track from the album ‘Up From Below’ and stood trance-like for the tracks that were new. I felt as if I'd finally been let into their 1960s throwback universe and the undeniable charisma of Alexander Ebert (or at least, in his guise of alter ego Edward Sharpe) pulsed through the underground audience. At midnight exactly it spilled out onto the street and into the night…

Album Review - Skin & Bones, David J Roch

City Sessions_Film Two_David J Roch from City Sessions on Vimeo.

I was lucky enough to see David J Roch at the launch of exciting film/music venture City Sessions, which has been set up by the lovely Matthew Lawes (@mattylawes if you’re on twitter.) The video I’ve included is one of the installments from Matt and co’s City Sessions, check the rest out, here. Anyway, more about that another time, what follows is my review of Roch’s album, originally written for The 405, published here.

Say what you want about David J Roch but one thing is for sure; he possesses a pretty impressive set of pipes. Pretty outstanding actually, he can switch from bluesy baritone to soaring falsetto with not so much as a second thought – making his debut album one that can’t fail to make you sit up and listen.

The first track, ‘The Lost Child’ is as good a showcase of this as any. It starts quietly, just an electric guitar and Roch’s voice residing very much at the higher end of the scales – almost piercing, but as instruments join in so Roch’s voice warms up, leading to an impassioned chorus of “all I’ve got is love.”

Roch definitely appears to have adopted the wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve approach to songwriting. For example, in ‘Hour of Need’ he sings, “I’m so ashamed of what I’ve done and yet so afraid of what’s to come, you gave me up to be lonely with another boy” – making for a heartwarming and honest listen.

The comparisons are many and varied; Damien Rice is one, and there’s something Michael Stipe-esque about his delivery in songs like ‘Bones’. British Sea Power also come to mind, so it’s unsurprising then that Roch provided support for British Sea Power on their most recent tour and I can only imagine won himself a few fans in the process.

‘Lonely Unfinished’ is especially atmospheric mainly because of the use of a church organ, “love is splendid agony” goes the refrain, like a tortured medieval lullaby, and Roch uses his higher range to perfection on this track.

‘Dew’ is reminiscent of some of the more recent sounds of say, Zola Jesus or Hurts both of whom manage to make current music with clear 80s and 90s influences – proof that Roch has more than one string to his bow. ‘Devil Don’t Mind’ harks to a southern gospel sound and Roch has admitted he is a fan of this style of music and indeed jazz. Of course, he has put his own slightly macabre spin on proceedings here as everywhere, which results in the killer line, “there’s no point in being well behaved, when you’re stood in your own grave.”

These gothic undertones are common throughout the album and Roch is clearly a bit preoccupied by thoughts and ideas surrounding mortality – ‘Bones’, ‘Skin and Bones’, ‘Devil’ – all are darkly romantic and yet thrillingly uplifting. ‘Skin and Bones’ has single written all over it – close enough to anthemic folk to perhaps permit it some serious radio time ala Mumford & Sons.