Friday, 18 November 2016

Sincerely, L. Cohen

Leonard Cohen was the master of raw emotion, of inspiring raw emotion. The intimacy of those early songs, and how I felt when I first heard them in callow years, remain with me. The melodies, the cadences, the rhythms so haunting and so richly unique. His music has been a constant to me - and it feels so personal, subtly powerful. He conveyed with power and with poetry: the quiet, the gentle, the majestic, the sorrowful, the lamenting, the lugubriously humorous.

MC Asher Senator @ Merton Arts Space, Wimbledon Library, 20 October, 2016

Libraries do incredible things. Who would expect to be treated to a live reggae MC, after hours, in the reference library? And all for free.

Asher Senator is a man who influenced generations of musicians in reggae, hip-hop, R'n'B. I know he's a big deal, because when I met up with my brother - a DJ and hip-hop and dub fan who's been through the 80s and 90s - his smile said it all when I handed him a signed book! -
Asher's vibrant energy, wit, and warm personality brought the house down. A great sound system backed him as he performed old favourites.

Live performances were interspersed with fantastic old tales from his years working with Smiley Culture. Whilst Smiley Culture is sadly no longer with us, the friendship was relived via all the anecdotes of friendship in youth, starting up in music, and jetsetting. As Asher pointed out, if you were a new MC in 2016, you'd just turn up to the club with your USB stick with your backing track, plug in and go. Back then, Asher and Smiley had to build their own sound systems from scratch, lug their gear around in dodgy old bangers, and got into scrapes.

My favourite story was hearing about the duo's acquaintance with a man who owned a field of the green stuff. Cue a song featuring the lyric: 'Me no wake for 24 hour' !

These days, Asher runs a charity for kids getting into multimedia arts, and it sounds like he's doing a noble job, inspiring future generations, anew.

Asher is a joyous bloke, and it all came through with the songs, readings, and stories. Listen to the songs, buy the book!

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Brix And The Extricated, Live at The Lexington, London, 4 November, 2016

My fourth time seeing Brix And The Extricated play live. [Click here for an older live review]

Tonight at The Lexington, Brix's entrance was dramatic, she sparkled from head to foot in shining headdress, glittering eye make up, twinkling gold guitar strap, and (hopefully faux !) fur coat. I have to admit to feeling emotional, even tearful - I think it was feeling overwhelmed and glad to be bestowed a female heroine, centre stage, at last. Decades of gig-going, but back in my teens and the most part of my 20s, what I would have given to have a rock goddess of a frontwoman/role model...! Chrissie Hynde has had a similarly powerful effect, in my 30s, and [I wrote about that here]

The songs and Brix's singing are so powerful. The strength of her voice, so commanding. There were only two moments where Brix lent a slower, quieter quality to her voice (as heard in The Adult Net). Primarily, Brix is unafraid to be loud and insistent, and to sing in a talking punk or rap style, and deliver everything with intent, dead serious. At one point, in a new song, she was pointing, and reaching out to the audience from lowdown, in-your-face, in a 70s punk style: confrontational, or just wanting to demand a direct communication with the audience, on our level.

With Steve Hanley's expert bass, we've obviously got another legend of The Fall. The full band sound is huge and rhythmically spectacular. Hearing songs like 2 X 4 - that rockabilly influence was one of the key things to draw me to The Fall. I'd play along, in my bedroom, with newly bought electric guitar, frantically, inspired. Now I'm dancing along, propelled in awe.

Big New Prinz is the pinnacle of the night, once again. But this time it is epic. We're led in with a slow, swirling intro, wondering what's coming next - Brix whispers the words, and we're taken aback when the song suddenly explodes into action. Winding and grinding on, hypnotic trance effect successful, the song then plays out to its end with every band member leaving one by one. First, it's Brix, and I have to smile that it's her walking out of a song a bit early and not Mark in his trademark nonchalant style. Then the instrumental chords and rhythms dwell magically, before guitar is gone... leaving only that monumental bass with drums. I think we could listen to that legendary sound all night, but soon it slows to an end, and we're left transfixed.

Watching Brix perform, again and again, as I have done, I come away feeling blessed by her confidence, self-assurance. She may be singing songs she wrote in her time in The Fall where Mark E Smith tyrannically ran the show, but now she's the frontperson, she's centre-stage. She's the star.