Posts Tagged ‘live’

This is a show I thought I’d never get to see. Back in 2000, when the Smashing Pumpkins originally broke up, I was a poor student and couldn’t afford a ticket for their concert in the Olympia. And even if I could have, the concert sold out so quickly that I probably wouldn’t have bagged a ticket anyway. So when I heard they had re-formed and were headed for Dublin I made sure I was going to be there. This may or may not have involved blackmail, sexual favours, and the issuing of death threats.

Procrastination and the need to order beer means I’m too late to catch support act Concerto For Constantine. But, seeing as they’re a local band, I’m sure I’ll cross paths with them again. I do, however, manage to get a pit pass at the last minute so I get myself into a good position in front of the stage and wait anxiously for the main event.

The lights go out and Messrs Corgan and Chamberlain stroll out, with Jeff Schroeder, Ginger Reyes, and Lisa Harriton in tow. Without saying a word they launch into ‘Porcelina’. An odd choice for an opening song, I think to myself, but pleasant nonetheless. At the same time, though, I have my suspicions and it soon becomes clear that they are warranted.

Perhaps it’s the venue’s infamously dire acoustics – or perhaps it’s Billy Corgan’s desire to perform re-hashed versions of certain songs – but whatever is going on is making many tunes almost impossible to interpret. ‘Try, Try, Try’ is the only track I can positively identify, although I think ‘Behold! The Nightmare’ may have followed the opener. Thankfully, they’ve decided not to tamper with ‘Tonight, Tonight’ or ‘Mayonaise’ and the audience finally gets a taste of what the Smashing Pumpkins should sound like.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t last and the fans are soon subjected to an undecipherable mix of riffs, solos, and Corgan’s combination of crooning and screaming. It’s almost the halfway point in the gig before the familiar opening notes of ‘Today’ send the crowd into raptures. Acoustic versions of ‘Perfect’ and ‘1979’ provide a welcome break from the constant drone, whilst ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings’, ‘Lily’, ‘The Everlasting Gaze’, and recent single ‘Tarantula’ are wedged into gaps in what can only be described as a horrible wall of sound. Even ‘Ava Adore’ – one of the band’s finer works – is butchered mercilessly as part of the Pumpkins’ gratuitous reinvention of their back catalogue.

The whole affair is getting tiresome and more than a few people are sneaking a peek at their watches when the band finally leave the stage. Some glance ernestly at the exits and wonder how long the encore will last. Mercifully, it’s short. The finale is actually a superb rendition of ‘Cherub Rock’, which, for a split second, could almost make you forgive them for the mediocrity that preceeded it. Alas, the reality is too bitterly disappointing to ignore.

The performance clocks in at just under two and a half hours in length, leaving some to argue that at least the audience got value for money. I, on the other hand, feel robbed. This could have been – and should have been – so much more. Most fans at tonight’s concert had never seen the Smashing Pumpkins before and this was their chance to hear live versions of songs they hold dear to their hearts. Instead, all they got was a deluge of mostly obscure, reworked compositions with a few token crowd-pleasers thrown in. The worst part is that Billy Corgan & Co still show flickers of true genius on stage… if only they’d lose that middle-age spread!

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Dublin-bound - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (left) and Radio Soulwax.

The line-up for the annual Heineken Green Energy festival in Dublin is starting to take shape nicely. Acts confirmed so far to appear at the Dublin Castle include Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Radio Soulwax, and the Kooks.

Nick Cave whisks his band into Dublin on May 3 to promote his forthcoming album ‘Dig Lazarus, Dig’. It will be the Australian blues-monger’s first visit to these shores for more than four years and tickets for his live show are expected to be snapped up faster than you can curse Ticketmaster’s online booking system. According to Cave, the band’s new material features a garage rock sound similar to his recent Grinderman side project. If he’s telling the truth, the audience is in for a special treat.

Meanwhile, Belgian brothers David and Stephen Dewaele take to the stage on May 4 to rock the masses with Radio Soulwax. The duo (who also perform as 2 Many DJs) have been a mainstay of the European club circuit for the past number of years, with their ever-popular DJ mixes finding their way into the charts on numerous occasions. The show will also incorporate a screening of their new film, ‘Part of the Weekend Never Dies’.

On May 5 the Kooks swagger into town as they prepare to release their new LP, ‘Konk’. The indie favourites enjoyed immense success with their debut effort ‘Inside In/Inside Out’, which spawned the hit singles ‘She Moves in Her Own Way’ and ‘Naïve’.

Tickets for Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds go on sale this Friday, while tickets for Radio Soulwax and the Kooks will be available from next Tuesday.

God Is an Astronaut - Lloyd Hanney, Niels Kinsella, and Torsten Kinsella

God Is an Astronaut are about to embark on a tour of the USA before trekking across Europe this summer, so tonight’s performance will be their only Irish show of the year. It comes as no surprise then that their fans have turned out in force, with the crowd packed snugly into the recently renovated Button Factory.

I arrive just as support act Saints of Descent are taking to the stage. I’ve heard a lot about these guys and I’m interested to see what all the fuss is about. But to be honest, they’re something of a disappointment. Their publicity material describes them as ‘rock/industrial’ but on hearing them it’s evident that they’re too slick and commercial to be truthfully labelled as such. The only industrial link I can imagine is that one of the guys must have a Nine Inch Nails record lurking somewhere at the back of his CD collection. On a positive note, the trio are adept musicians who obviously enjoy playing together, but right now their material is just too ‘safe’ and predictable for them to fulfil their potential.

It’s not often that you see headline acts helping their roadies set up but that’s exactly what God Is an Astronaut do. And after stepping offstage briefly to let the lights go out for their ‘official’ entrance they reappear, strolling coolly to their respective instruments, whilst the band’s name shines brightly on the large projection screen behind the drum kit. They promptly launch into ‘The End of the Beginning’ – the title track from their first album – and with accompanying film footage on the screen it makes for an impressive audio-visual experience.

For me, only two bands have really perfected the art of combining visuals with music in a live situation; one is Tool and the other is playing right here before me tonight. Even groundbreaking acts such as Neurosis fail to make the grade in an area where the addition of an extra sensory element often serves to distract, rather than compliment the experience. The audience has become so engrossed that they just stand still and watch in awe, only coming to life to shout and yell their appreciation at the conclusion of each song.

‘Fragile’, ‘Radau’, ‘Suicide by Star’, ‘From Dust to the Beyond’, ‘Sunrise in Aries’, and recently released stand-alone single ‘No Return’, are all performed with a flawless consistency that I’ve rarely witnessed from any band before. Before playing the opening notes to ‘Fire Flies and Empty Skies’, Torsten Kinsella breaks his silence to thank the crowd and urges them to keep up-to-date with the band’s progress via their website and MySpace page because, as he says, “you’re not going to hear about it in the media.” Which is sad but true; with the exception of a couple of radio stations, God Is an Astronaut have been criminally overlooked by the Irish music press despite their rapidly-growing profile abroad.

The band departs the stage but return soon after, much to the delight of the audience. And there’s an extra treat in store, too, as the threesome perform ‘A Deafening Distance’ – a song that has been absent from their set for a couple of years. Once the music’s over, the guys hang around to shake hands and talk with the fans, which is a refreshing sight. And, when posed with the question, they admit that they’ll be returning to the studio once their summer tour is concluded. Fantastic news indeed!

It may only be January, and therefore any talk of ‘gig of the year’ is premature, but it’s going to take something very special to outdo God Is an Astronaut on the strength of tonight’s performance.