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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Monster Magnet + Puppy at Electric Brixton Review

This past Tuesday (29th Jan), I attended Monster Magnet’s lone UK date of their ‘Mindf****r’ tour at London’s Electric Brixton, a gig that in many ways was 12 years in the making. Their 2007 album ‘4-Way Diablo’ was one of the first albums I ever owned myself, rather than stealing from my dad’s CD collection or a compilation of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 soundtrack. Now, you’d be forgiven in thinking the 13 tracks that comprise ‘4-Way Diablo’, and indeed the wider Monster Magnet discography, are nothing more than self indulgent, over the top and derivative; but it was (and still is) for these reasons that I fell completely in love with the band. Yes, their leather-clad, rockstar schtick might be passé, but it’s entirely self aware and serves as a love letter to a bygone era of the genre. I’d never consider myself a stick in the mud, and I genuinely believe we live in one of the most exciting periods for alternative music in a good long while, but at a time where there’s a few too many ‘Oli Sykes’ types dominating headlines, it can’t hurt to have a few Dave Wyndorfs.

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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.

Review: Gorillaz at The O2 Arena, London

Now I admit it. I am a massive Gorillaz fan. I have previously written about the animated band with some reverence from seeing them live and you could probably guess this time will be no different. The Gorillaz have always been there with new music throughout the different eras of my life, as they have evolved so have I personally and because of this they are always a band I feel drawn too. (pun not intended)

The most recent album Humanz has seen a more urban dance theme than previous music released by them (for people that have not heard it think “DARE” but a more darker bassier vibe) and seem like they have been created specifically with live performances in mind, with this being the Humanz Tour I was indeed an eager beaver to see/hear how the new songs stacked up.

The support act saw Little Simz take to the stage (earlier than stated). Having heard her in passing a few times I did not know what to expect, I was blown away. Everything went black, then nothing but an anime style video played for a minute or two followed by the DJ telling everyone to get up. Little Simz took to the stage like a duck taking to water, the 23 year old black London rapper made sure every word she rapped about hit hard. Comparable to the emotional impact of the more meaningful Eminem songs, she made sure the topics that were mentioned in her songs were heard by everyone in attendance. Finishing with the song “Dead Body” she may not have made a fan out of everyone in attendance but definitely turned a few heads.

Gorillaz had a time slot of 1 hour 45 minutes. They smashed this by coming out early and finishing late, whatever you think about the music the value for money is nothing to turn your nose up at. In that time they played a whopping 30 songs spanning all main albums (except The Fall) and even though they did not play the song “Momentz” from their new album there was still a lot of stand out moments to be had in the show. After all most of the fun of a Gorillaz show is to see who will show up and boy did they have some people show up.

Opening up with a heavy guitar riff and going into “M1A1” from the first album the energy was set at a high from the offset urging people to get out of their seats, have fun and move around (unless you were the grumpy guys behind me telling everyone to sit down for a good half an hour).

Highlights included Pauline Black singing an alternative version of “Charger”, I only imagined this song as a heavier mosh song but with her vocals on top it added something completely un-expected and original. “Superfast Jellyfish” had Gruff Rhys & De La Soul on stage and as far as I can tell this was the first time Gruff Rhys had performed it live, “Andromeda” had a special extended outro by D.R.A.M., Mos Def came out with the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble for “Sweepstakes” for the first time in 7 years, Shaun Ryder & Roses Gabor came out for “DARE” and finally Noel Gallagher was on stage to sing “We Got The Power” with Jehnny Beth. Phew! That Damon Albarn does know some people it is safe to say.

“Clint Eastwood” was played in its purest form with Del from tape so people could sing along before closing on a nice calm note with “Don’t Get Lost in Heaven/Demon Days” which is always a site to behold from a production and musical standpoint.

If anyone has not been to a Gorillaz gig yet I would highly recommend it, with them breaking the boundaries of musical genres with every album there is always something for someone to enjoy whether they enjoy rock, rap, dance or pop. It’s not just the auditory senses being pleasured but also the visual senses too with video packages and artwork in the background of every song. Gorillaz does cover it all and after this performance I can not wait to see what they do next.