2013 has been a memorable year. I can quite honestly say I haven’t experienced a year quite like it before. No Jubilees, Olympics or other national events. This is about my year. You may have shared in my memories. You could have stood next to me at the Cockpit in Leeds or The Picturedrome in Holmfirth. You might have been one of the lucky ones to see Wilko Johnson on his farewell tour ?
Music has the capacity to transport its listener to places away from sadness, loneliness and stress. It can lift up spirits, bring joy and inspiration. If ever I needed music to transport me, this was it. Several performers have managed to deliver wonderful entertainment. So this is in no chronological order, neither is it in merit order.
I have had the good fortune of seeing this band twice live this year. It has been quite a year for the band. Their second album ‘Tales From Terra Firma’ was released on March 11th this year. It is a fabulous follow on from their excellent 2010 debut album ‘Beachcombers Windowsill’. They toured extensively to promote the album also playing Glastonbury, Latitude festivals this summer. My first live experience of the band was in March at the Cockpit in Leeds. They have an inventive, slick but engaging presence. Brian Briggs vocals are spot on and very powerful. They perform a few numbers off mic. The beautiful ‘November Song’ was a highlight of both tours. I had the pleasure of getting acquainted with Susie Attwood, a violinist who tours with the band. She is niece of a friend and we were introduced after the March gig. I met her again in November when the band returned to Leeds to play at The Wardrobe. She very kindly introduced me to bass player Oli Steadman after the gig. He is a charming and modest chap. Susie informed me that they were all a lovely bunch of guys. They released a mini album ‘You Don’t Know Anything’ on 11th November before their autumn/winter tour. They must earn awards for their hard work this year if nothing else!
The mid 1970’s was to some a musical wasteland populated by progressive rock and bland pop. Into this landscape burst four guys from Canvey Island. They sounded like nothing else on the music scene of 1975. Dr Feelgood are credited amongst others as influencing the birth of the British punk scene. Their legendary skittish and demonic staring guitarist Wilko Johnson was the driving force and writer of their early classics. He went on to play with Ian Dury and the Blockheads and then forge an extensive solo career. The circumstances surrounding his tour this year had huge poignancy. Johnson was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in November 2012 and after choosing to not have any treatment decided to embark on a farewell tour. His three piece band (Norman Watt Roy ex Blockheads legendary bassist and jazz drummer Dylan Howe son of Yes guitarist Steve Howe) played a short UK tour. They were supported by Feelgood devotees Mark Radcliffe and the Big Figures and a young Essex based band, Eight Rounds Rapid. Wilko has lost none of his stage presence and zest for an electrifying live performance. The crowd at Holmfirth were treated to a fabulous evening and many left with a tear in their eye. I felt privileged to have been there. As of this post, Wilko is still performing and has not lost his battle with cancer.
Eels are a enigma. To be fair , the lead singer, writer and main man Mark Oliver Everett is the cause of this. His work is rarely nothing if not challenging. It can be hugely catchy and entertaining. Eels live performances can be lively or deadpan. There is often no way of predicting what might meet you. This years album Wonderful Glorious is playful and generally uptempo. There is a raw but engaging quality to the tracks. Highlights such as ‘Peach Blossom’ and ‘New Alphabet’ are true quality. They came to Europe and toured several venues in the UK. They performed all dressed head to toe in Adidas gear (even the roadies) and sunglasses. They performed ‘weddings’ on stage and made the live act a true joy to the audience. They did two encores, one conventional and another after half of the audience had left with all the house lights up. It was a truly excellent gig. We were very lucky to get a playful engaging performance from the maestro.
To Kill A King/Keston Cobblers Club
I have seen
To Kill A King previously twice. I have plugged and promoted their music. This tour which was to promote their debut album, Cannibals With Cutlery, had an added incentive. The support act are an indie folk band from Kent. Keston Cobblers Club have played live widely this year. The music is mostly acoustic with
wind instruments, ukeleles and the odd banjo. The tunes are delightful, beautifully written and exquisitely performed. To top all that, I met the band before and after their performance. They are absolutely delightful too! I am lucky to be going to their headlining tour in February 2014.
To the main act of the evening! I have loved this bands music for a couple of years now. The songs are powerful, touching and brilliantly performed. The lead singer Ralph Pellymounter sings with passion and tenderness. The debut album reflects all of these qualities. Amongst some truly stunning albums this year, I would pick this one out. Stand out tracks for me include ‘Wolves’ , ‘Choices’, ‘Letters To My Lover, The Dylan Fan’ and ‘Cold Skin’. I really hope this band go far as they deserve to from the quality of their music alone. The live act isn’t too shabby either!
The Leisure Society
This band from Burton On Trent, have been on my radar since the release in 2009 of the single ‘The Last Of The Melting Snow’. I fell in love with this track, hearing it first on Radcliffe and Maconie’s show on BBC 6 Music. The song was nominated for an Ivor Novello award that year. The debut album of that year The Sleeper was followed up by the sensationally good Into The Murky Water in 2011. The band brought out their third studio album, Alone Aboard The Ark this year. It is a wonderful, complex and rounded collection of songs. I am very biased regarding this band and will promote them to anyone looking for a new sound to get into. The band toured to promote the album and I was very lucky to get a ticket. They were supported by the sublime welsh musician that is Sweet Baboo. His acoustic set was captivating and a joy. The main event though lived up to every expectation. They seem to be all tremendously multi talented musicians. This indeed seems to be a theme with most of the bands I have seen. They can play brass, woodwind, percussion as well as conventional guitars,bass and drums. Lead singer Nick Hemming is a great front man with a presence and delivery to be admired. I have waited for some time to see The Leisure Society live and am now left wanting more.
I am very lucky to have booked my ticket for Latitude festival in July 2014. The line up already looks good. New acts to check out. I have one request though. Can at least 50% of the superb bands and performers that I have enjoyed in 2013 make an appearance please? Its not much to ask now is it?