FOO FIGHTERS. Earls Court, London. 17.12.05

There's no such thing as a bad Foo Fighters show anymore, the band are too well-oiled, Dave Grohl too good a frontman to let anything slip, they are just too good. The real though test is something like this, booking a band based around delicate emotion and huge melodies to play in the biggest shed in the world, where most of your audience are pinpricks in the distance and the best of your sound can be wishy-washed into the air.

Except at 8pm sharp Earls Court gets turned into the biggest and best party. Ever.

As giant screens lift to reveal a solitary spolit Grohl, the sound is perfect, even from a mile away. The screens look awesome, running live film of the band under special effects, synchronised video clips and art attacks while lasers streak across the room and what with the multi-amped stage set from the 'Best Of You' video and the official nicest man in rock sprinting from one side to side, there's always something to see.

It's worth listening in too, 'Stacked Actors' and 'The One' are perfect top-of-the-voice sing-a-longs and only sound better when the choir is tens-of-thousands strong. A big cheer goes up for Taylor Hawkins as he takes to the front of stage, swapping positions with Grohl for the best rendition of 'A Cold Day In The Sun' yet. 'My Hero' and 'Breakout' draw even more volume before 'Up In Arms' and a mostly acoustic version of 'Everlong' see Grohl take the spotlight again, abusing his uncanny ability to seem like the biggest of rock gods and infinitely likeable at the same time. He is surely the only man in the world that can ask for a round of applause for himself and get away with it.

A fantastic light show and the sight of Dave Grohl behind a drum kit again are glorious but it's when Grohl leaves the stage altogether, runs the length of the venue, turns through the sparse crowd at the back of the arena floor and plays a guitar battle with an onstage Chris Shiflett from inside the sound booth that jaws really hit the floor.

Finishing with an amazing 'All My LIfe' and the most sincere sounding American 'thanks' ever the Foo Fighters leave the stage. When they're on this kind of world-straddling form it's difficult to remember exactly what the band do. They played loads of songs, great ones, but they play their simple, effective, catchy rock music so expertly but so entertainingly, so fun, that it seems to pass in mere minutes. Flawless.

Talk about passing with flying colours.

Also appears at the-dish

COHEED AND CAMBRIA+ Saosin. Astoria, London. 16.12.05

It takes a fine band on amazing form to make the room they play in feel half the size and the set they play feel especially written for each member of those in attendance, but tonight Coheed And Cambria defy their patchy live reputation and become that band.

Since this lone English date (until the band return with Thrice in January) was announced there has been magic in the air. The show sold out in three days, driven by the feeling that this would be the last time to see the whites of Claudio and Co's eyes. They also have new material to play, the arrival of their ridiculously titled and some believe, breakthrough album, should mean the set list won't be quite so predictable.

Before the headliners claim the stage theirs, cult champions Saosin make their debut on British soil. Probably hoping to make some new fans on the trip, theirs is a whirling, screaming, impressive display, but it seems more than a few people have already picked up on the buzz.
People are singing loud down the front, girls are screaming and the bands smooth melodic hardcore has heads bobbing all the way to the back. If they can convert the energy of their live performance into next years album things are looking bright.

Coheed don't so much bob heads as blow them clean off shoulders, and they don't look bright, they blind. Arriving on a stage bathed in lasers and lights and decked with props based on the new albums artwork they soak up the cheers for a second before opening with an absolutely massive rendition of 'Welcome Home'.

The sound is perfect, Sanchez's voice high and clear and the crowd are locked in, singing along with even the most ridiculous lyrics. The music sounds so impressive, so big it sucks the space out of the room, bringing band and fans closer. Changes between venomous heaviness and gorgeous melody are as flawless as on record and the force is neck-snapping.

There's no denying Coheed can get excrutiantingly boring but tonight they shave most of the wanky excursions from the set list and slam through tracks like 'Ten Speed' and 'A Favor House Atlantic' with an almost unbelievable vigour.

They play 'Everything Evil' like they do everytime, even when no one wants them to. There is no 'Time Consumer' or 'Heartshot Kid Disaster' and most of the personality onstage is coming from a pile of hair but after the completion of a ropey new album appeared to signal the end of the Coheed story, it now seems, in the live arena at least, it could run and run.


THE BLED+ Fear Before The March Of Flames+ The Fall Of Troy. Zodiac, Oxford. 26.11.05

This is like a line up of the least fashionable fashion-core bands ever. Sure, members of The Fall Of Troy are wearing jeans so tight you can almost see through them and there are plenty of foot-long black fringes milling about the place but none of the music tonight is easy, predictable, or wedged with crowd-pleasing, sing-a-long choruses.

Despite their trouser choices The Fall Of Troy are awesome. They embellish their arty, messy rock with metallic jams, heavy breakdowns and a confidence verging on arrogance, all the while flailing around so hard they look like they’re going to pass out. In fact, singer/guitarist Thomas Erak, obviously believes he’s some sort of gift to the stage; break-dancing, improvising solos and diving into the crowd.

Those who got here early to hear warped versions of already mad tracks like ‘I Just Got This Symphony Goin’’, ‘Mouths Like Sidewinder Missiles’ and ‘Part One’, excitedly lap up all his efforts and just about duck his swinging instrument.

Compared to the devoted if diminutive reception the ‘Troy trio receive, Fear Before The March Of Flames face a massive lack of interest. For all the throwing about of gangly bodies, playing of fitful, intense metal and even a preview of new material they can only muster a cripplingly ordinary set.

The band do fight hard to make a connection for a few tracks but just don’t look as if they are having any fun; and this is only the second night of the tour. Their bad mood is catching and the bar is the busiest it will be all night.

The Bled arrive on stage without explosions or fire but moving with the assurance of headliners, quickly dragging people away from their pints with an overpowering mix of raw emotion and steely precision.

Far tighter than at their last visit downstairs here, the band are now not afraid to really kick out the jams and are able to do it sounding better than ever.

More measured wares, like first single ‘My Assassin’ from their new ‘Found In The Flood’ album, sit well with heavier, older material and James Munoz’s cracked voice is clear, powerful and just as impressive live as on record. His rattling strain remains the perfect compliment to The Bled’s layers of feedback, ferocity and bludgeoning melody.

Sometimes the aggression is lost in a mish-mash of clattering drums and grungey guitar (‘Hotel Coral Essex’), elsewhere it seems like it’s supposed to sound that way (‘Red Wedding’), but it’s all engaging stuff.

Ok, so the music tonight is intricate and demanding at times but isn’t it great when frontmen have more to do than mention their MySpace accounts.

also appears at new-noise

SKIN+ Make Good Your Escape. Zodiac, Oxford. 05.12.05

Hold on a second this was supposed to be a quiet show. The story goes that after Skunk Anansie quit being fucking political Skin’s solo career consisted of quietly anthemic, weakly industrial pop pap, built to show off her admittedly amazing voice but little else.

So it’s a shock when handpicked support band Make Good Your Escape are really loud. Not aggressive or confrontational with their volume but huge-sounding like Aereogramme or Muse.
Songs like ‘Real’ drip with atmosphere and feeling before growing out of control and vibrating eyeballs around the room, most of the people here should be running for the door, or the bar at least, but the masochists lap it up. Everybody is converted by the second song, cheering and applauding MGYE’s every move.

So when they leave, you can’t help feeling sorry for Skin, the girl who used to deal in nothing but confrontation before she lost her way. But then she arrives, looking like the punkest punk chick ever, jumping to touch the ceiling, hurling mic stands around and goading the front rows, daring people to pity her.

And then she sings ‘Hedonism’ and ‘Charlie Pig Potato’ and ‘Weak’ and then Skin; the name of the famous lady and her anonymous band, play some new material and unbelievably it’s just as good. And everybody is singing along except the people that are crying and the goosebumps get huge. And this was supposed to be a quiet show.

Playing the Skunk songs that everybody here obviously loves so much would be incredibly dangerous if the new stuff didn’t rock.

It is those old songs that are most instantly recognised and receive the biggest reaction but elsewhere, apart from a couple of perfectly measured semi-acoustic tunes, there’s a funky bounce and a hard bite throughout.

It seems Skin has rediscovered some of the bile and spite that made her previous band so essential but has lost none of the haunting, angelic perfection from her voice. Even songs that used to splutter and misfire like ‘Trashed’ have been converted into stirring, emotional rock tracks.

The best bit is the look on the lady’s face though, converted from unbridled aggressor through mock shyness to the confident and happy performer taking the Zodiac stage tonight. Never without a cheeky smile or mile wide grin and looking like she’s having the time of her life. A feeling reflected to the bar and back.

And no pop pap in sight.

also appears at new-noise

MY AWESOME COMPILATION+ Twice Upon A Time. Fez Club, Reading. 07.12.05

Inside The Fez Club it's freezing. It's a decent sized place but there are maybe 50 people here, there's frost forming outside but the air-conditioning inside is still on overdrive and there's certainly nobody dancing enough to warm things up.

The upbeat tunes of Twice Upon A Time and the neat, catchy rock of My Awesome Compilation could be packing out arenas with thousands of kids given the right backing but tonight those kids have homework to do. There's not a lot you can do to fill even a place like the Fez up when your greatest audience isn't allowed out on a school night.

Not that there's any dejection coming off the stage. TUAT (an unfortuante acronym) battle the cold by playing their emo like Brand New do or Northstar did, tight and tunefully with a touch of indie. There's a crunch and bite to their older songs and measured finesse in the newer ones. All good stuff, all failing to inspire any movement, even when they hurl themselves around like they're headling Brixton.

MAC's music warms things up a little, if only because it's impossible to stand still while they play punchy, insistent numbers like 'Put Up A Fight' or 'Longshot'.

They thankfully mix the old with the new too. Captivating, heartfelt early tracks, 'As Always' and 'Butterflies' mixing well with songs from their new 'Actions' album.

They play without mention of the low turnout, unfazed, unjaded, and very much with their own style. They leave without saying much except ,"thankyou so much for coming out and supporting Britsh rock," preferring to let the music do the talking.

Warms the heart, even if the fingers and toes are turning black and falling off.


TRENCHER/ESQUILAX Peel session split 10"

It’s a disgusting world out there. Some pretty messed up shit goes on daily and this might just be the soundtrack to the whole goddamn mess.

After a few years of low-sound-quality releases, London 3 piece Trencher use a side of vinyl and a session recorded for John Peel to further prove how much damage can be done with a sore throat, a perverted sense of fun and a tiny keyboard. They drag Birmingham noisy bastards Esquilax along to make their debut on the other side.

Although recorded live, Trencher sound better than they ever have before. Fast and loud, ambitious but awkward, frantic stop-start-stops and frightening noise spasms that make Converge look formulaic, their ugly grinding everything-core genuinely pushes for the boundaries of extremity and even the borders of listenability.

They describe their live shows as “violent, therapeutic catharsis”, a feeling translated into the high-speed drums, droning, relentless bass and ringing Casio squawk of tracks like ‘Blondes Of Meth’ and ‘Attack Of The SXE Attackers’ here. And whoever the hell is screaming must be getting some huge personal demons out. Or a killer headache.

Esquilax sound like that headache, or like an alien being pulled backwards through a tiny hole in a spaceship window by the vacuum beyond. Branded ‘terror pop’, they fire through 15 tracks of their piercing digital hardcore in just over nine minutes.

Like disco music played backwards too fast and mixed with the theme from some obscure 80’s cartoon, there are bubbling circus effects, a shattering drum-machine stomp and desperate, clawing vocals. Bouts of apparent randomness, some near-silent lows followed by shrill, scathing highs…this is probably what murderers hear when they close their eyes.

This is definitely all challenging stuff, but not a challenge like staying awake at a prog-rock concert; a challenge like escaping from a Terminator. Trying to kill you with a power drill.

Much closer to the dictionary definition of noise than that of music; for some, this will be genius at work, the captured sound of two twisted bands on fine form. For everybody else it could be enough to make them never listen to music again, in case something like this ever slips through the speakers for a second time.

Also appears at new-noise