Tesla at O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire Review

This is a review for Tesla who played O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 16th June 2019.

Up front, I should say I was very curious to see Tesla. Known for being a staple in the “Hard Rock” genre, they have been around for decades, selling millions of records worldwide, yet I had never really heard of them. I was going in blind as it were, listening to their current album only once on the journey toward them. They were coming hot off the heels from their Download Festival appearance on the Main stage and were now headlining the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire. So I went to see if they were like a fine classic rock wine or perhaps an old bottle that should have been decanted a while ago.

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Rolo Tomassi at The Garage, London Review

This was one of the best gigs I have been to in a long while. I would recommend anyone reading this should listen to Cryptodira, Palm Reader and Rolo Tomassi.

The sold out Garage venue in Highbury London felt like electricity was flowing through it from the moments the door opened. I had never heard of the support acts to the nights show, but boy was I impressed by both performances before Rolo Tomassi finished off the nights showing.

Cryptodira took to the stage first a four piece all the way from Long Island, New York. They were different sort of “Metal” band then what I am usually accustomed too. At certain points it sounded like the most soothing elevator music you’ve ever heard, not in a bad way, if you closed your eyes you could be mistaken in believing you have received some sort of euphoric epiphany. The euphory ended and then the metal kicked in, sometimes the metal was a bit short when compared to the calming build up, but when it was in full force it was something to behold. Cryptodira is one of New York’s best metal exports and if you want something different from your metal bands, definitely give them a listen.

Palm Reader were second and upped the loudness factor. Their mission statement is “We play loud. We play heavy. We play hard. We play fast.” and that they did. Raw and brutal in its most basic form, they went from 0 to 10 in such a short time and had no let up throughout the whole performance. Playing songs off of their recently released album “Braille” but also diving head first into their back catalog Palm Reader showed on this that they were built for the stage just based upon the strength of the songs that they created. Simply put if Cryptodira was a band that had a calm before the storm, Palm Reader were all storm with the loudest thunder with no calm at any point.

Cryptodira, Palm Reader & Rolo Tomassi (Source: Palm Reader Instagram https://goo.gl/j7hNYL)

Rolo Tomassi was the headline act of the evening and were on top form. Opening up with “Towards Dawn” going into arguably their friendliest song (and my personal favourite) “Aftermath”, from then on the set contained songs primarily from the most recent album “Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It” with the occasional barn burner like “Ex Luna Scientia” thrown in for good measure.

I may be biased as Rolo Tomassi are one of my favourite bands but this was truly a definitive performance by them. Everyone in the sold out venue were feeding off of the bands energy and vice versa. The ebbs and flows of this Rolo Tomassi performance is like the perfect dinner, expertly crafted and each course perfectly complimenting the last. You’re not just gonna run off after eating, you’re gonna leave a big tip and be excited to come back again next time. Well perhaps my eating analogy isn’t the greatest but one thing is for sure, next time Rolo Tomassi are playing, go see them for something completely unique and treat yourself to a good meal afterwards too.

Mega Ran at The Surya Centre, London Review

I had seen Mega Ran two years ago at the same venue. At the time I had just been introduced to his music and whilst I knew people used “video game tunes” in their music I must admit I thought it was a fad, like pogs or fidget cubes. That’s not a diss because I enjoyed pogs (at the time they were big) and video game soundtracks make up a good pile of my MP3 collection.

I can safely say Mega Ran however is not a fad. Over the last few years, Mega Ran has shown that hard work and passion can shine through in any profession if you have enough determination. How else would a man that once worked at Toys R Us, now be able to join The WWE Tag Team The New Day in the middle of a wrestling ring?

The support act of this cold London night was SΔMMUS (Sammus in plain old English characters). An unassuming softly spoken woman took to the stage in this darkened basement venue, but soon as she got on the mic she let her songs do the talking for her. I cannot stress how impressive Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo (her birth name) was on the night, with a voice similar to that of Nicki Minaj but with subject matter that has a better appeal (think less songs about big booties/being with boys and more about lounging around the house playing video games). Her specialist subject was rhyming about Mario & Metroid but has a PhD to prove she really is as nerdy as her songs suggest if going around the stage with an arm cannon was not enough proof. Sammus was a spectacle and every song performed gave off a big presence on stage. Listen to her EP The Infusion about life or M’other Brain for a more game based musical adventure.

Sammus & Mega Ran

Mega Ran got onto the stage with Ric Flair’s music playing in the background with an almost deafening applause for such a tiny venue. Performing songs from a variety of places, whether his numerous solo albums or his seemingly 100+ collaborative projects he has created in the past. Of course being the professional and creative type he is, that was not enough. He did his patented audience freestyle in which he creates a completely new song based on items that the audience members give to him. Simply describing it is an injustice, when you are there experiencing the freestyle in person it is a pure delight to witness.

In my previous review for Mega Ran I stated “Never before have I been to a gig where the person on stage wants to share the spotlight with everyone”. Two years on this is still the case, bringing Sammus on stage to sing a song together and bringing the crowd on stage at the end to dance to Sugarhill Gang’s Apache, it truly is for his entertainment as much as it is the audiences. You can see that Mega Ran is a performer that loves audience interaction, he feeds off of the energy. The crazy you are the crazier his set will be.

Over the years his rapping style has gotten tighter, his routine is more polished but not a lot has changed at a Mega Ran performance, which is not a bad thing seeing as it was of such high calibre in the first place. If there is ever a festival or gig with Mega Ran on the bill do yourself a favour and go and see him, you will not regret it.

Bowling For Soup at Brixton Academy Review

“Since Bruce Springsteen, Madonna. Way before Nirvana. There was U2 and Blondie”. Bowling For Soup of course ended with their biggest hit (a cover of SR-71) to a raucous crowd which were lapping up all the shenanigans which had happened before hand. What shenanigans you ask?

The evening started with Army of Freshman. I was not in attendance for them but from what I heard through muffled doors and walls they were definitely a rock band. The Aquabats! took to the stage after and what I can only describe as one of the most unique and confusing musical performances I have been too.

The Aquabats! had many key moments to their bizarreness, for instance the song “The Shark Fighter!” saw two people dressed as sharks take to the stage and run around whilst throwing inflatable sharks, the song “Pizza Day” saw inflatable pizza thrown into the crowd and then “Super Rad!” saw seemingly every inflatable object they could find and throw it into the crowd. At one point a slightly overweight super villain in a Freddie Mercury costume called “Breaddy Mercury” came onto the stage to throw bread into the crowd and try to injure the people who were “Gluten Intolerant”.

For a Ska band who have a kids television show I was not expecting a lot but The Aquabats! were able to put on a performance which was similar to that of a Pixar film, sure the target audience may be kids but it is of such high quality people of any age can enjoy it as long as you are up for having fun and not taking yourself seriously.

A somewhat blurry photo of Bowling for Soup & The Aquabats!

Bowling for Soup were last on the bill at Brixton and played the Drunk Enough to Dance album in full. Which ultimately meant you could learn all the songs to sing along too if you were so inclined. If you have ever been to a Bowling for Soup show you know the rundownof what is going to happen, mostly songs and jokes. The band have had years to hone their improv skills and it came through on that night, to the point they played three songs in a row without talking to the crowd and jokingly stated “we are now exhausted”. They played D.E.T.D in order from front to back so a song like “Girl All The Bad Guys Want” ended up being third in the setlist. After finishing the album play through they made sure to sprinkle a few other crowd favourites like “The Bitch Song” to make sure that people who were not the hardcore had things to keep them occupied.

The encore consisted of “Ohio (Come Back to Texas)” with Army of Freshman playing the third verse so BFS could see what it’s like to see a band play that song, “Star Song” and the previously mentioned “1985”. For the final song they brought on a Polish fan from the crowd to play guitar because he held up a sign saying he wanted to play the song. It was pretty mental. He did a good job keeping up with the rest of the band whilst Jaret was able to have a rare moment off guitar and peruse the stage.

Overall I would recommend The Aquabats! or Bowling For Soup as a go to gig for any fans of rock or anyone who would just like a good time. Sure it’s never going to be something like a Beethoven piece but it’s there for you to have a good time and party and that’s exactly what “The Get Happy Tour” set out to do.