Friday, October 10, 2008

Shelby Lynne @ Royal Festival Hall 19/10/2008

It had been a while since Shelby Lynne had last stood in stage in London - a fact she alluded to on a number of occasions during the evening's proceedings. When she was last here in 2001, she played Shepherd's Bush and was touring in support of the (now classic) I am Shelby Lynne album. I seem to recall standing next to David Hepworth and Mark Ellen for a while (or was that at Lucinda Williams?). Anyway, the gig remains one of the best I've ever seen. She just blew me away that night.
All these years on, could she do the same?? Not quite, but you know what, she gave it a good go.

The set was a near perfect blend of songs pulled mostly from I Am Shelby Lynne, and her new album of covers of songs made known by Dusty Springfield, with a few others from Love Shelby etc thrown if for good measure.

It was safe to say that from the moment the band launched into opening track 'Life is Bad' (a Sheryl Crow-esq country rocker from I am Shelby Lynne) the audience knew that this was going to be good. Like sister Alison, Lynne's strength is the fact that she has a tremendous voice, that works as well on tracks like this as it does on her stripped down versions of Dusty songs. Of these 'Just a Little Lovin', 'I Only Want To Be With You' (in which she fails to get us to sing along) and 'Breakfast in Bed' were certainly highlights, as were 'Jesus on a Greyhound', 'Gotta Get Back', and one of my all-time favourite live songs, 'Your Lies'.

I was slightly disappointed that 'Black Light Blue' was missing from the set, but then again, you can't please everyone.

Lynne was accompanied by a four-piece band, including - if I am not mistaken - a guy on guitar who I saw with Lucinda a few years back.

Lynne had me and the rest of the audience (mostly 40-60 age bracket - hello young people, where were you?) in the palm of her hand. Let's hope it is not another 7-8 yrs before Lynne re-appears on our shores ( Next Febs dates have already been cancelled).

Clip from Chicago gig

Tood Rundgren - Arena

I've been a bit quiet here for a few weeks, due to a combination of circumstances, but hopefully the next couple of weeks I will catch up with a few reviews and comments that I have been meaning to throw up here, a hand full of gigs and some album reviews/comment on the new metallica, jackson browne and ice cube albums amongst others. But, I really need to start with Todd and Arena.

Arena was waiting for me when I returned from Holiday in Crete, and my first listen -about 5 mins after getting home - was at 11pm after a long day. I was, quite frankly a bit unimpressed. However, the following day I spun the disc thrice more and transferred it to my iPod where it since fought with Metallica, Jem, and The Wedding Present for attention.

First things first. This is not an album that is a) going to set the music world alight b) suddenly make todd an arena rock star.

So, knowing that, what do we have? An enjoyable slice of retro rock I'd argue, that gives more than a passing nod to other artists including: ZZTop (Gun); AC/DC (Strike); Robin Trower (Bardo); Boston (Mercenary) - but does so in a playful manner. Todd isn't re-inventing the wheel here, indeed songs such as Weakness and Afraid are both songs that would sit quite happily on the Nearly Human or Second Wind albums. The first is a song, with its slightly blues/soul feel is for his wife, Michelle, and the later contains a really wonderful guitar break.

Elsewhere, we have tracks like 'Mad', 'Courage', and 'Manup' which are typical Todd AOR rockers; 'Mercenary' - probably as close to Heavy Metal as Todd has gotten (even with it's 'Boston' moment in the middle); the 'novelty track' 'Pissin', which to my mind isn't a novelty track at all, and is only be labelled as such due to the bloody silly line in it “and now your dick is in the mayonnaise"; 'Today', which would not have been that out of place on Liars; 'Mountaintop' - Todd's attempt at a crowd pleasing sing-a-long. It is really quite cheesy, but I challenge you to not be finding yourself saying 'higher higher' after a few spins; 'Bardo' - just a wonderful blues rocker; 'Strike' which does indeed feature Todd channelling Brain Johnson/Bon Scott (take your pick) on its Ac/Dc like chorus; 'Gun', a by numbers tush influenced rocker; which, I think just leaves 'Panic', which reminds me more and more of 80's Utopia songs like Itch in My Brain.

Favourites? At the moment, if you asked which three I think I'll be still wanting to hear in 5 years time, I'd say: Bardo, Mercenary, and Afraid. then again, ask me next week and my answer will probably be different.

The album does suffer from sounding a bit flat. This being a result of it being played and recorded by Todd an his laptop. Whilst this approach was well suited to Liars, here it does leave the album feeling a bit lifeless, whereas if it had been recorded with a band in an ol' fashioned studio, you get the feeling it would have lift the songs that extra notch - and may have lifted the sales an extra notch also.

Final verdict? Considering that I was hugely disappointed with the record after two listens, I have to admit it has continued to grow on me, more and more. Whilst I doubt it will trouble most Todd fan's top 5 todd album lists, it is a hugely enjoyable record, with a handful of songs that just creep up on you when your not expecting it.