There is a disappointing tendency in Doncaster for people to get a little sniffy about events that people have worked really hard to organise. Comments like ‘Are they still going?’ are wilfully negative and help to contribute to the reputation of Doncaster as a cultural wasteland. If these people actually attended any of the numerous venues that make up Doncaster’s live music scene, they would realise they are being grossly unfair.
Let’s get something straight first of all. Crazy Town are a million selling artist who have had a number of top 40 hits in both the UK and in their home country of America. It is a massive coup for the Woolpack to bag such a well known band and everyone involved should be proud of all their good work.
After an interesting but slightly repetitive set from Tokyo metal band Loka, Crazy Town took to the stage with little fanfare and started playing. It took the band a couple of songs to sort the sound out but by the time they belted out ‘Toxic’ they sounded in good voice.
Band leader Shifty Shellshock has been through a lot since the bands worldwide smash ‘Butterfly’ topped the US charts. Bereavement and addiction have taken their toll on the rapper and he is no longer the fresh faced front man who dominated MTV for a while there in the 00’s. That isn’t to say that he doesn’t still have the fight as he spends the full gig jumping around the stage and interacting with the crowd. He clearly still loves the music and he has assembled a talented band with bassist Hasma Angeleno particularly impressing.
As much as the crowd were enthusiastic throughout, realistically most people were waiting for ‘Butterfly’. I’ve always been of the mind that your best song should be embraced rather than shunned. A band should be proud to have written a song that has resonated with so many, rather than being ashamed that magic didn’t strike twice. The opening bars of the Red Hot Chili Peppers sampling track raised a huge cheer from the rowdy crowd and Shifty put in his best vocal performance of the evening.
The LA band still had a couple of aces up their sleeve however, the single ‘Drowning’ still sounds great. After leaving the stage, chants of ‘Crazy Town’ bring Shifty and co back on stage for a seemingly impromptu run through of ‘Butterfly’ follow up ‘Revolving Door’. It is nice to see a band and audience in symbiosis and everyone goes away from the gig happy.
One hit wonder? For tonight at least, Crazy Town have so much more about them than that.
Rob Johnson – www.robwatchesmovies.com
“I know, you love the song but not the singer…”
There is a temptation when covering local music to just declare everything brilliant and be done with it. I mean, nobody wants to lose those sweet press passes after all. For me, this culminated in an overwhelmingly positive review for a decidedly average show from Sheffield band the Sherlocks and a feeling of soul destroying shame for having been such a sell out. After that abomination was published, I vowed to be more honest, as seen in this review of a bizarre day in the heart of Askern.
It is that spirit then, and not just plain grumpiness, that informs the start of this review. Let’s talk about all the things that were wrong with Placebo’s set before we get to the good stuff. First off, the band came out to a video celebrating their 20th year. This is all well and good except it had a backing track of ‘Every You Every Me’ which meant they didn’t actually play the song live during their set.
Everything from third album Black Market Music onward sounded thrilling but the limp performances of their earlier songs left an indelible stain on an otherwise brilliant night. While opener ‘Pure Morning’ sounded OK, we had a seven song wait for the band to play another song from their early career. ‘I Know’ is a blistering and visceral track on record but tonight it sounds turgid and uninspired with frontman Brian Molko constantly out of tune and disinterested. Even worse is a dire run through of a slowed down ’36 Degrees’. It is genuinely baffling that the band could take such an exciting song and turn it into this plodding and tedious mess and even crowd favourite ‘Nancy Boy’ feels rushed and aloof. Aside from a forgettable trudge through ‘Without You I’m Nothing’ that’s it for the first two albums.
Admittedly, I feel more affronted by this than I probably should. I lost interest in Placebo somewhere around the time of Sleeping With Ghosts and that is hardly the bands fault. That doesn’t excuse such a lazy butchering of their own back catalogue however. If they can’t be arsed to play those songs properly it would be better for them to drop them from the set completely.
With that out of the way, what of the rest of the night? The opening salvo of ‘Loud Like Love’ and ‘Jesus’ Son’ acts as a blistering template for the rest of the night with the band attacking their instruments to provide a more fleshed out live sound.
‘Special Needs’ takes a gawky song title and turns it into something beautiful before an incendiary rendition of set highlight ‘Twenty Years’. The latter is an example of just how impressive a live spectacle the band can provide when they put their mind to it.
Brian Molko and co bring out all the hits to end the first part of the evening with ‘Special K’ receiving possibly the biggest crowd response of the night before the unmistakable opening riff from ‘The Bitter End’ pierces the Doncaster air.
The band end their set with a show stopping performance of their beloved cover of the Kate Bush classic ‘Running up that Hill’. It’s weird that Placebo are such an excellent covers band when they have so little respect for their own back catalogue…
Overall, Placebo just about did enough to justify the ticket price but if the back slappery and self congratulation of local music is to be condemned, then it must also be censored in the mainstream. This was a good performance but one plagued with poor decision making and a lack of effort.
Rob Johnson – www.robwatchesmovies.com
“Lay back and enjoy the ride…”
York singer/songwriter Chris Helme is, of course, best remembered as the front man of Britpop heroes the Seahorses. The story goes that a friend of a friend of Stone Roses guitarist John Squire heard Helme busking in York and passed word to Squire who promptly hired him for his new project the Seahorses. The band enjoyed critical and commercial success with their sole album Do It Yourself before disbanding. Since then, Helme has continued to tour across the country and has released a number of solo albums. On a chilly, autumnal night, Helme picked liberally from his back catalogue and threw in a few carefully chosen covers as well.
When you have a song called ‘Hello’, you are pretty much legally obliged to open your set with it. Helme’s voice sounded impeccable as he delivered a stripped back, acoustic version of the closing song from Do It Yourself. In the absence of a backing band, the York troubadour played acoustically all night and this added a new dimension to already familiar tracks. ‘Lorali’ features a beautiful, finger picked intro and it was clear by this point that there is so much more to Chris Helme then a handful of tracks from the 90s.
Having said that, his performance of the Seahorses single ‘You Can Talk To Me’ was one of the highlights of the evening with the crowd in good voice throughout. Helme has a relaxed and engaging on stage presence that gave the evening a feeling of intimacy as he chatted to the audience and introduced each song with a story. A cover of The Faces ‘Ooh La La’ was as welcome as it was unexpected and it sat nicely alongside ‘Pleased’ and ‘Summer Girl’ from Helme’s 2012 album The Rookery. The great thing about Helme as a live performer is that his voice is so strong that his songs actually sound better live than they do on record. This also means that any cover he performs always has his own unique spin on it. The Grateful Dead are not a band you would normally associate with a Britpop act but Helme’s cover of the Dead’s ‘Friend of the Devil’ is sinister and bluesy and perfect for a little venue like The Leopard.
Helme barely bothered to soundcheck before the gig, something that other bands should take immediate note of, and he didn’t bother with going off stage only to return for an encore. Helme is a no frills performer and the gig was all the better for it. The evening is closed out with a stunning performance of the Seahorses two biggest hits. ‘Love is the Law’ is perhaps the bands best known song and it is soaring and wonderful here. ‘Blinded by the Sun’ has always been my favourite of theirs however, and Helme absolutely did it justice with a heartfelt and enthusiastic rendition that had the crowd going wild.
I have seen pretty much every band or singer associated with Britpop, as these were the songs that I grew up with in my formative years. Chris Helme at the Leopard is as good a show as I have seen anywhere. A truly epic evening.
Rob Johnson – www.robwatchesmovies.com
Until the band embarked on stage some 25 minutes after the last race of the day, I had completely forgotten that in the mid to late nineties, I often confused Texas lead singer Sharleen Spiteri with Natalie Imbruglia. With that in mind, when the evening didn’t begin with a crowd-pleasing rendition of ‘Torn’, I’ll confess I was a little disappointed.
After I came to my senses and realised which band I was watching, my disappointment turned to mild contentment as Spiteri and crew worked through a string of top 20 hits that I had for the most part, dispelled from my memory.
Kicking off with ‘I Don’t Want A Lover’, I was genuinely surprised at the level of crowd engagement as there appeared to be a decent number of authentic Texas fans in attendance, singing along to every word with joyful abandon. Either that or they had smashed into 12/1 winner Ski Blast in the final race and were suitably inebriated and therefore chanting mindlessly.
The hits kept coming with ‘Halo’, ‘Black Eyed Boy’ and ‘Once In A Lifetime’ keeping the crowd bouncing throughout and as far as I could tell, the dreaded ‘new material’ was foregone or at least mercifully kept to a minimum.
Spiteri frolicked around the stage and appeared to be enjoying the performance, speaking to the crowd on a number of occasions. Though myself and the people around me could not make out what she was saying aside from the odd ‘Doncaster’ ‘Glasgow’ or ‘F***’, it would be unfair to blame this on the sound system as it was more a case of a broad accent lost in translation.
On to the finale, as the band built to a feel-good finish of ‘Inner Smile’ and ‘Say What You Want’. The former predictably saw the biggest sing a long of the evening with men, women and children of all ages chanting along to the catchy chorus. In a pensive moment, I deduced that had the song been named simply ‘Yeah’ after its chorus backing refrain, it doubtless would have spent a few weeks at number 1 back in the day. Opportunity missed.
After ‘Say What You Want’, most in attendance believed that they were free to go, Sharleen and the Texies had other ideas however when they returned to the stage and launched into a cover of the Elvis classic ‘Suspicious Minds’, that could only be described as ‘faithful’. I managed to catch the first minute or so of said cover before one of our party became upset/too drunk (delete as applicable) and tearfully insisted that we left immediately. I bet if you had told Texas they would have brought the Doncaster crowd to tears by the end of the set, they’d have taken that…