Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Rihanna at the O2 LONDON


Tuesday 11th May 2010

The O2

5 Stars

Right now, the music industry really is all about the girls. Whether you love them or loathe them, there’s no doubt that the likes of Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Cheryl Cole, Pixie Lott, Florence and the Machine and Ke$ha are taking over, and Rihanna fits very snugly in this catergory. RiRi has come a long way since she first exploded onto the scene with Pon de Replay in 2005 (a single that got her all the way to number two in the UK singles charts and was a smash hit all over the world). Only 17 at the time, the song showcased none of her powerful vocal skills she has since developed, the video was horrendously lacking in the style that has today made her a fashion icon, and, most importantly, you didn’t get a sense of who Rihanna is. Make no mistake – this girl is not your typical pop princess, she’s wild, she’s dark, she’s rebellious, and she does whatever the hell she wants to and doesn’t give a toss about what you think about it.

On paper the line up was impressive, Rihanna would start at half nine, Pixie Lott and Tinie Tempah would be supporting beforehand. But, as I’ve experience every single time I’ve watched similar artists perform live (excluding the incredible Dizzee Rascal of course), Tinie just couldn’t live up to his rather excellent recorded work. Unfortunate really as he will be starring at our very own Summer Ball. However, compared to Pixe, even Tempah deserves a five star rating. Miss Lott’s pseudo-rock chick songs irritates me enough on record when (thanks to much hard work, not of her own) her singing is actually in tune, but in the live atmosphere it becomes something close to torture. She is dull to watch on stage, reaching her hand towards the crowd slowly, then kneeling down on stage to yowl her heart out, then getting up, walking to the other side of the stage and repeating the same routine, over and over and over. But, what annoys me most however is the fake rock-chick act. Rihanna (who is in no way considered a rock artist) has more rock attitude in her little finger than Pixie Lott’s had in her whole peroxide hair-swishing, fist pumping, guitar-crazy act.

Finally, on to the star of the show, Rihanna. It may come as a surprise to those who have seen her live performances on youtube, not only can Rihanna sing in tune, her voice is also compelling and powerful. Starting her set with the haunting Russian Roulette, RiRi showcased not only her vocal talents, but her love of fashion too, with a black dress covered in red LED lights that flashed in a pattern throughout the song. The set was comprised of all the big hits from her last two albums, as well as some of the lesser-known songs from her latest. Memorable moments included her performance of ‘Hard’ on top of a neon pink army tank, the mini-rave she and her dancers had inside a neon cube for ‘Please Don’t Stop the Music’, and the emotional ballads ‘Take a Bow’ and ‘Rehab’ where one look at her face clearly showed exactly who she was singing these songs about. Her costume changes ranged from Lady Gaga-esque leotards to big statement shoulders, asymmetrical body suits to gem studded FMBs, and her on-stage dancing, running, gesturing, kneeling and general behavior was at all times enthralling – she was clearly having fun and the crowd was having fun with her.

This concert provides evidence for a theory I have always supported – artists often excel either in the live atmosphere, or on record, rarely is anyone an expert at both. Tinie Tempah’s recorded material is quite simply huge, but live he was at best unmemorable, at worst a mess. Rihanna on the other hand is a captivating live performer (and boy does she put on a show) but I have always felt her music is rather lacking, and doesn’t quite capture what her live shows demonstrate so well – her completely fuck you attitude which makes her so interesting and endearing.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Frank Turner

Frank Turner

Wednesday 24th March 2010

Roundhouse, Camden

5 Stars

Frank Turner surprises me. His recorded work is remarkably unremarkable, a kind of folk-rock, singer-songwriter mash-up that leaves a lot to be desired. Yet despite this, and the fact I did not know a single one of his songs prior to the show, Frank Turner quite simply blew me away.

Maybe it was the passion with which Turner performed – the themes of his songs remind me of Oscar Wilde, focused on ideas of enjoying life to the fullest (‘Yes I’m definitely going to hell, but I’ll have all the best stories to tell’), and come from the heart. Maybe it was the crowd’s response to his songs – the fans knew every word off by heart; the audience jumped, pumped their fists, and even moshed the evening away.

But, for me the most fascinating thing about ‘the real Frank Turner’ is how easy it is to relate to him. Whether it be Frank asking his good friend Dan to accompany him on stage while he sang a song written about the guy, or to tell us the story behind the song ‘Long Live the Queen’, about a friend who died and told him (as the chorus goes) ‘You’ll live to dance another day, it’s just now you have to dance for the two of us’ we warm to Turner for his obvious love for his friends, and we sing along with his lyrics for their obvious love of life. Some artists are interested in turning themselves into stars. Turner on the other hand scoffs at this behavior, and is all the more charming because of it. As his lyrics go ‘there's no such thing as rock stars, there's just people who play music, and some of them are just like us, and some of them are dicks’.

Sunday, 21 February 2010


Tinchy Stryder (3/5)

Thursday 18th Feb 10’

Roundhouse, London UK

Once the average age of an artist’s live audience falls below mine, I know it’s time for my music taste to move on. It happened at 16 at an Elliot Minor gig. It happened in 2009 at Reading. And now it’s happened again, at a Tinchy Stryder show. There’s nothing quite as soul destroying as being the eldest (bar a few mummy’s and daddy’s whose children aren’t yet old enough to ride the tube home alone) in a 3000 strong crowd, especially when I’m only 20 myself!

The problem with an audience this young is – they just don’t know how to party. Support act Example (who you have heard of even if you don’t realize it) gave a fun, solid performance and though there were members of the audience who jumped and danced and cheered, they were outnumbered 2-to-1 by kids who just didn’t know how to react to music if they couldn’t sing along to it. Luckily, things picked up when Tinchy finally came on stage, though the audience still lost their energy partway through each song and seemed more interested in using their mobiles to record the show than enjoying the actual performance in front of them.

Tinchy himself lived up to expectations. His voice sounded as good live as on record, he looked comfortable on the stage, and his banter with the audience was at time more enjoyable than his songs. Wearing his statement ‘Star in the Hood’ jewel-studded t-shirt and shades, the rapper brought out guest after guest to perform with (but, not a big fan of his genre I failed to recognize most of them), including the beautiful and very talented Amelle for his encore of ‘Never Leave You’ (unfortunately there was no N-Dubz for his final performance ‘Number 1’).

The background projected behind Tinchy was beautiful to watch and one of the most memorable parts of the night, changing from clips of Tinchy doing his thing to funky coloured shapes and patterns that at times were a little distracting from the man himself. One of my main criticisms however are the mini stops in the songs to allow the audience to sing a certain word or phrase – this is fun once of twice if everyone knows the words very well, but when it happens 5 or 6 times in the same song, or in almost every song it begins to get irritating, especially when the crowd isn’t loud or confident enough to make it effective.

Though I often attend gigs and concert, Tinchy is only the 4th rap / hip hop artists I’ve seen live and despite being light-years ahead of Chipmunk (and only a little behind Ne-Yo) my rating probably shows that, though I did have a fun evening and enjoy Tinchy’s performance, it just doesn’t compare to some of the big name bands I’ve seen over the years. I think this is more a problem with the genre though, where unless the artist really knows how to work the crowd and make them have fun (i.e. Dizzee Rascal) then just watching and listening to the performance is never quite as good as doing the same with the record (something that I’ve found isn’t usually a problem with rock artists).