Monday, 26 March 2012

Bon Iver live at the Sydney Opera House

The stage was full of musical instruments on Bon Iver’s first night at the Sydney Opera House this March, ready for a much more ferocious and experimental performance of their quiet-sounding last two albums. In a live setting they really captured the dynamics of their songs, blending carefully constructed interludes with aggressive improvisation. Bon Iver slowed down the music, deliberating over the poetic lyrics and communicating with each other, and not the audience, as to what was to come next. In fact, frontman Justin Vernon probably only spoke a few times throughout the whole show, but the five-minute standing ovation pleading encore at the end showed that no fan in the Concert Hall was particularly disappointed.

 The show mainly focused on Justin Vernon, he even performed a delicate solo “re: Stacks” on acoustic guitar. However, for the majority of the concert it was bright lights, two booming drum sets and that famous falsetto. Vernon’s voice had less conviction than on the album tracks; maybe he had other things to focus on (like leading a nine-man band on the stage of an international icon.) There was much-loved single “Skinny Love” building up into an angsty chorus full of regret, all band members joining in – as well as “Holocene”, performed quite closely to its original form on the record, with the opening strums captivating the silent audience. Ragged material was draping from the roof of the stage, seeming just for aesthetics, but throughout the concert there were abstract projections on it, engulfing the musicians and reflecting back into the audience. It certainly wasn’t your usual Sunday night at the Opera House.

The brass section sounded the best live, especially the trumpets in “Hinnom, TX” and Colin Stetson’s impressive sax solo intro the bold yet vulnerable “Blood Bank” which was my favourite performance of the night. Despite Vernon mumbling into the mic to his devoted audience, he managed to get the hall singing along for the final “The Wolves (Act I and II)” with the swelling chorus line ‘what might have been lost’ echoing in the House. The songs appear delicate, hypnotic and seamless on the album but on this night they were much more forceful and overpowering.  A live Bon Iver displayed its musical talent but challenged its fans to listen to a more raw, extreme performance.  

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Remembering Sparklehorse- "It's A Wonderful Life"

Back in the days before every indie band took a three-month-long hiatus to the nearest rural shack for album inspiration—there was Sparklehorse, and his 2001 hit ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.’ A little bit folk, a little bit electronic- the music of Virginian-born Mark Linous never really hit off commercially; despite this he toured with Radiohead in 1996 and gained the respect and appreciation of the music elite and mag industry (with write-ups in the Rolling Stone and NME).

A fatal drug overdose was said to have inspired this track- but it’s also about seeking hope in the world and both embracing and overcoming depression, loneliness and alienation. There’s some great animal imagery and cryptic lyrics: “I’m full of bees who died at sea” – take what you will.  The solid waltz played on a kilter optigan (a sort of old organ) provides the foundations to a haunting, fragile melody- dotted with radio static and played through a crackling filter.

‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ is a good starting point to explore Sparklehorse as a band. Besides, we love rediscovering forgotten musical treasures. You may even recognise it from the Skins season 3 soundtrack.

Sadly Mark Linous killed himself on March 6, 2010- making the song’s optimism linger. This track truly is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in an enigma.

Published on Purple Sneakers.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

R.I.P. Davy Jones

Davy Jones, singer for late-60s band The Monkees, died this week at the age of 66. Labelled the "cute monkee", he wasn't especially instrumentally talented (he played tambourine when not on vocals), but was part of a family-friendly phenomenon that gave carefree pop to its loving fans.

Davy Jones was born in 1945 and he began his career as an actor on various British television shows. After a casting as 'the Artful Dodger' in a West End production of Oliver!, his vocal talents were noticed and Jones appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show among others. At the young age of 21 he started his famous role as the Monkees' frontman- playing tambourine and singing on hits like 'Daydream Believer' and  'I Wanna Be Free.'

According to his publicist, Jones died of a heart attack at his home in Florida. Here is appearing as himself on the Brady Bunch Show, where he attended Marcia's prom to save her from social ruin.