Monday, 31 August 2015

The Stranglers @ Fuzz Club

30 years after Rock In Athens 85, The Stranglers were back in Greece. They had been back several times of course, one of them was 5 years ago when I had seen them playing with Billy Idol. This time it was going to be a bit different and more personal, since, having arrived at Fuzz Club early, I managed to secure a place at the very first row (As I did the last time at Fuzz Club with Saint Etienne).
A few minutes later we realized that we were standing next to the grandmother of the lead singer of MOAN, the support band. She gave us some information on the band which made us more eager to see them. Eventually we got to meet both her mother and the singer herself!
And indeed Moan were a lovely an unexpected surprise. Fronted by Olga-Maria with her amazing voice and stage presence they are immediately classified as "indie" or "alternative". Her voice reminded some of Bjork, my opinion is she has that cat-like voice which reminds me not only of Bjork but of several other female singers (Mazzy Star comes to my mind. Or The Primitives). On top of that, hers is not the only lead voice in the band as you can see from the video. They played for about half an hour and I can say that they were amazing and a great warm-up for the main event.
Then The Stranglers came on stage. First things first: The absence of Hugh Cornwell is obvious as I had first noted 5 years ago. More than obvious in fact. It's not that Baz Warne is a bad vocalist, it's just that his voice is different to the one we were used to all those years ago. He pulls it through though in my opinion, that's what made the gig enjoyable, I have to admit though he's probably an acquired state since there are a lot of fans out there who dislike the "new look" Stranglers. 
Let's not forget though that Jean-Jacques Burnel still has his share of lead vocals as he did back in the 70's and 80's. 
 Oh, and another thing: Jet Black was absent as well, apparently because of his "rock'n'roll excesses" of the past...

So what did we get? The older favourites such as "Nice 'N' Sleazy", "Peaches", "(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)"  and "Golden Brown" where Baz and Jean-Jacques faked being overwhelmed by nostalgia and stared crying which turned to gales of laughter after a new seconds. 

Then there were the later favourites like "Skin Deep" and "Always The Sun".
But also their 21st century songs like "Norfolk Coast". 
And finally their favourite cover versions "Walk On By" and "All Day And All Of The Night" to top them all off. 
And they loved us so much they gave us not one, but two encores! To recap, I really did enjoy it this time, much more than 5 years ago when I didn't catch them from the beginning of their set and I was at the back of the arena. And they brought back memories of an era that was "unforgettable" as an friend from school characterized it when commenting about my Rock In Athens 85 post. I know it's not healthy to live in nostalgia, but there you go. Maybe I will now withdraw to a corner and start crying like Baz and Jean-Jacques did... NOT!

01. Intro (Waltzinblack)
02. Toiler on the Sea
03. Straighten out
04. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
05. I've Been Wild
06. Relentless
07. Nice 'N' Sleazy
08. Golden Brown
09. Always the Sun
10. Five Minutes
11. Freedom is Insane
12. Time to Die
13. Norfolk Coast
14. I Feel Like a Wog
15. Skin Deep
16. Peaches
17. Time Was Once on My Side
18. Lost Control
19. Duchess
20. Hanging Around
21. Walk On By (Dionne Warwick cover)
Encore 2:
22. All Day and All of the Night (The Kinks cover)
23. No More Heroes

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Rock In Athens 85

What we're going to do right here is go back. Back into time. 30 years in fact. A "Throwback Thursday" kind of thing. 30 years ago, In July 26 and 27 of 1985, the first major rock festival took place in Greece. Rock concerts in Greece until then had a very short history. The first one was in 1967 by The Rolling Stones which was disrupted by the police. 4 days later there was a coup and a military junta took place which lasted for 7 years. Because of that, the next rock concert took place 13 years later in 1980 by The Police. From that moment on, bands and artists started playing in Greece, including The Boomtown Rats, Roxy Music and, in what is believed by many to be the greatest rock concert at that time, Rory Gallagher.
Rock In Athens though was the first festival to take place featuring 8 different artists spread over two days. The correct line up, in order of appearance was this:

DAY 1 (26 July 1985)
The Stranglers
Depeche Mode
Culture Club

DAY 2 (27 July 1985)
Talk Talk
The Cure
Nina Hagen
The Clash

I am stressing the word "correct" here because most blog posts dedicated to this festival are listing a wrong line up, copied from the initial festival poster which was wrong. Makes you wonder if these bloggers were actually there... This poster also mentions "Musical Brigades" (Mousikes Taxiarchies), a Greek band who refused to appear. 
However, by searching through the internet, I was able to find a lot of visual and audio material from the festival, partly due to the fact that most of the festival was filmed and was broadcast (in... installments) by Greek state television (ERT). Depeche Mode and The Clash refused to be filmed so there are no videos of them. Somebody in the audience though did record the Depeche Mode set, so there is audio material from that. I don't know if the Nina Hagen set was taped, but I only managed to find backstage footage of her from the television documentary. Finally I managed to find only one (1) photo of The Clash from that night. (While researching this post I found more, but still no visuals from Depeche Mode).

Day 1 was therefore opened by Telephone, a French band, quite popular in their country at that time. This had probably something to do with the fact that the main organizers was a French company ("Nouvelles Frontieres"). At that time, I knew only one of their songs which was featured in a Greek compilation LP (and they didn't play it). Before they came "officially" on stage, they were soundchecking in front of the crowd which was mostly indifferent causing one of them to shout "You treat us like shit, and we will do the same to you".

 Next though were The Stranglers. Back then they had a "bad boys" reputation. In fact they were scheduled to appear in Athens 3 years before but they cancelled because they were arrested in France (or something like that). Theirs was a great set consisting of new (at that time) and old songs which were the crowd favourites. All three singles from their then current album "Aural Sculpture" were played ("No Mercy", "Skin Deep" and "Let Me Down Easy"), those from their previous one "Feline" ("Midnight Summer Dream" and "European Female") and older classics (like "Nice N' Sleazy" featuring a long instrumental intro that made it sound like a 12'' version). We had a great time even though the band were insulting the audience between songs (they told a particularly nasty joke about how you can tell the difference between Greek boys and all other boys which I will definitely NOT repeat here). Thankfully the level of English among the concertgoers was not that good so they did not understand the jokes anyway. Unfortunately The Stranglers' bad reputation caught up with them again, when we noticed black smoke rising from outside the venue. We did not pay that much attention inside but we learned later that they were riots between the police and people who wanted to get in for free (That was a common occurence in rock concerts in Greece at that time). 
A few cars were burned and they did let some people in at the end something which was to prove catastrophic when the time came for Culture Club to appear. But more of that later...
Next up were Depeche Mode who back then were more electronic than they are now. A very tight set with lots of hits the highlights of which were "Shake The Disease", "Blasphemous Rumours", "Everything Counts" and of course "Just Can't Get Enough" as the finale where Dave Gahan was rubbing the mike stand between his legs while many people were claiming that he was singing "Just can't get it up" instead... I was worried about how the crowd was going to react when they realized that Martin Gore was wearing a black leather dress. They were probably confused and a bit perplexed but there was no indication of what was going to happen next...
Just at the stroke of midnight Culture Club came on stage. And then all hell broke loose! The crowd started throwing  water bottles, wood planks and rocks at them, specifically aiming for Boy George. After his initial surprise he started making fun of the situation: "If I wasn't a lady I would have shown you my ass!" he told them. Meanwhile the bass player was playing bass with one hand only, using his other one to give the middle finger to the audience. I still remember the Kipper Williams cartoon in the next issue of Smash Hits where Boy George is pictured trying to dodge the stones while holding an English-Greek dictionary and shouting "ouchos! ouchos!". There was also a Sun or Daily Mirror front page the folowing Monday "Fans stone Boy George". To their credit the band completed their set (no encore of course) since there were many people among the audience who had come to see specifically them, singing the hits like "Karma Chameleon" and an amazing rendition of "Black Money".

It was later said that the organizers shouldn't have mixed up bands like The Stranglers and Culture Club in the line up. Greek rock fans have a long tradition of slagging off pop bands, or those that are not deemed "rock enough" for them, but this was probably not the complete truth in this case. It was clearly a homophobic reaction. Greek society back in the 80's was not very tolerant towards different sexual orientations (and towards other things but this is clearly a different discussion). As another blogger has said, perhaps the "revolutionary liberal young rock Greek crowd" of the 80's wasn't as revolutionary or as liberal as they claimed to be. I still believe that Culture Club should have played a stand-alone concert, on their own.
That was all for day 1, day 2 was much more peaceful. First on stage were Talk Talk who had a big hit in Europe at that time with "It's My Life", but they were still not very successful in their home country, the UK. My favourite song though (and probably the highlight of their set) was "Such A Shame".
 Next up were The Cure and what can I say, I feel privileged to have seen them at that stage in their career. Probably every song in their set was a highlight, where do I start? "A Forest", "The Walk", "Let's Go To Bed". My favourite was "A Forest" though probably because a local band consisting of some school friends of mine used to play it in their set.
Next up was Nina Hagen. This was more of a show rather than a gig. From what I remember she had come to Greece before, probably for a concert of a TV appearance, I can't remember which. At that time I only knew "Universal Radio" the single from her then current album "Nina Hagen In Ekstasy" as did most of the crowd who were singing along with its "talking to myself" hook line (and urging her to "take her clothes off" throughout her set). That album though did feature a very nice cover of "Spirit In The Sky" which would, in the following year become a huge hit for Doctor And The Medics.
After the Nina Hagen set was over I took a walk around the arena. There were several people sleeping and others had lit fires, all waiting for the main event: The Clash. If I said before I was privileged to have seen The Cure what can I say about The Clash? And as I found out years later this was the last ever Clash appearance. I am proud to have witnessed such an important part of history!
It was 1:15 am when The Clash came on stage. Mick Jones had long ago left the band but Joe Strummer was there and their sound had gone back to their punk beginnings. I remember they played a punk rock ultra-fast version of "Rock The Casbah" and they did NOT play their commercial hit, what most people were waiting to hear "Should I Stay Or Should I Go".
When it was all over it was around 3am and I had to go back home and catch only a wee bit of sleep, since early next morning I was leaving for a working holiday in Corfu. When I came back in the autumn The Clash released a new single "This Is England" and an album "Cut The Crap" but as a live band they took their last bow in the early morning hours of the 28th of July 1985 in Athens...


The Stranglers
01. Nice 'N' Sleazy
02. Hanging Around
03. Bitching
04. I Feel Like a Wog
05. Uptown
06. Dead Ringer
07. No Mercy
08. Souls
09. Skin Deep
10. Let Me Down Easy
11. Golden Brown
12. Midnight Summer Dream
13. European Female
14. Strange Little Girl
15. Down in the Sewer
16. The Raven

Depeche Mode
01. Master and Servant (Intro)
02. Something to Do
03. If You Want
04. People Are People
05. Leave in Silence
06. Shake the Disease
07. Blasphemous Rumours
08. Told You So
09. Master and Servant
10. Everything Counts
11. Photographic
12. Just Can't Get Enough

Culture Club
01. I'll Tumble 4 Ya
02. It's a Miracle
03. Heaven's Children
04. God Thank You Woman
05. Time (Clock of the Heart)
06. (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher
      (Jackie Wilson cover)
07. Karma Chameleon
08. Gusto Blusto
09. Black Money
10. Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?
11. Victims

Talk Talk
01. Talk Talk
02. It's My Life
03. Tomorrow Started
04. My Foolish Friend
05. Does Caroline Know?
06. Dum Dum Girl
07. Such A Shame

The Cure
01. The Baby Screams
02. Play for Today
03. Secrets
04. Kyoto Song
05. The Hanging Garden
06. In Between Days
07. Primary
08. Cold
09. Let's Go to Bed
10. The Walk
11. One Hundred Years
12. Give Me It
13. A Forest
14. Three Imaginary Boys
15. 10:15 Saturday Night
16. Killing an Arab
17. Forever

Nina Hagen
01. Ekstacy Drive
02. New York, New York
03. African Reggae
04. My Way (Claude François cover)
05. Beat It
06. Carmen
07. The Ballroom Blitz (The Sweet cover)

The Clash
01. North and South
02. Straight to Hell
03. (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais
04. Janie Jones
05. Safe European Home
06. Hate & War
07. The Guns of Brixton
08. Pressure Drop
09. The Magnificent Seven
10. Bankrobber
11. Police on My Back (The Equals cover)
12. Johnney Too Bad
13. Brand New Cadillac (Vince Taylor and His Playboys cover)
14. White Riot
15. I Fought the Law (The Crickets cover)

Monday, 17 August 2015

Leon Of Athens @ Gazarte

After Still Corners and Future Islands, Leon Of Athens was another one of my girlfriend's gig suggestions.  Thankfully, this time, she DID come along! :LOL:
Leon Of Athens is a Greek musician (hence the "Of Athens" bit) who is now based in the UK. (Before that he was called just "Leon"). Last April's gig at Gazarte was organized in order to celebrate one year since the release of his latest album "Global" copies of which were available to buy on CD and vinyl at the exit after the end of the gig (Almost exactly one year before that, he had appeared at the same venue).
The gig was opened by Arete Kosmidou, winner of one of the talent shows on Greek TV.
Then it was time for Leon Of Athens. The setlist consisted of several songs from "Global" (a fact that caused me to make a mental note to buy the album afterwards).
The surprises though were in the cover versions. How did Leon Of Athens know that my favourite artist is Bruce Springsteen and my favourite band is Queen? He must have known somehow because he played "I'M On Fire" from the former and "Under Pressure" from the latter!
Another surprise (well, technically not a surprise since it had been announced beforehand) was the guest appearance of Pavlos Pavlides.
Finally, one of the highlights of the night was the cover of "Friday I'm In Love". Leon apparently forgot some of the lyrics, but that was not a problem because we remembered the rest (well, some of them) and turned it into a great singalong.
And with that, we said goodbye to Leon Of Athens, we wish him success in his future projects and hope that we won't have to wait a whole year to see him again!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Live in Athens, April 2015

April 18, 2015

April 24, 2015
After the Leon Of Athens gig @ Gazarte (details on my next post), I stumbled upon Mr. Highway Band playing next door @ 45 Moires and seized the opportunity to get in and buy their first CD, which I didn't get a few weeks before at the 4th Music Highway Festival

Monday, 10 August 2015

Dustbowl (and more) @ the 4th Music Highway Festival

Having already seen Dustbowl on their Johnny Cash Tribute Show I wanted to see them again, playing their own songs this time. The 4th Music Highway Festival last March was a perfect opportunity for that. Little did I know that I would discover 2 other bands as well, 4LT and the hosts Mr. Highway Band. (Penny Dreadful I already knew from their gig with The Western Ramblers. That was not the only connection with that band. One of the guitarists from Dustbowl and the drummer from Mr. Highway have also played with them in the past).

First off, starting as I was getting into the venue were 4LT. The first thing I did though was go to the merchandise stand to pick up the Penny Dreadful album which I've wanted for a long time. Then I was able to sit back and enjoy 4LT. A bit on the hard rock side, but they sounded good to me. So much so that I started thinking of going back to the stand in order to get their EP.
Next up were Penny Dreadful, the band whose sound is much closer to Dustbowl who I had come to see. It was nice to be able to watch them play probably a fuller set than the last time and give them my full attention.

Then it was time for Dustbowl themselves starting off with their latest single "Suicide Avenue". 
They played their own songs (what I really wanted to hear on the night), including some from their forthcoming album "The Great Fandango". Plus some great Rolling Stones and Clash covers.
While waiting for the hosts, Mr. Highway Band, to appear, it was back to the merchandise stand for me. Now, I already had all the Dustbowl CD's and the Penny Dreadful one I had bought earlier. So I got the 4LT. EP and I thought I should get something from Mr. Highway Band, they were the hosts after all, right?. They had two albums for sale, prices were good, but I didn't want to spend too much money, so I got their latest one "Story Of My Life". The funny thing was that at that particular moment the stand was manned by the Penny Dreadful singer. I hope he wasn't disappointed to see me buying almost everything except his own band's CD!

Finally, it was time for the hosts, Mr. Highway Band. They played a full 2-hour set. And although it was already late and people started leaving (I was tired myself and with an injured knee), I stayed until the end. I particurarly noted how catchy the title track from their latest album was and I liked them so much I regretted not buying their first album as well. Within a month though, I stumbled upon them playing at a bar, on my way home after another gig and I bought it then!
Well into the morning hours (it was the night we changed to daylight savings time), I left Kyttaro Club carrying several new CD's and thinking that I will probably be attending this particular festival next year...

As an added bonus, the guy who filmed the Blues Pills gig was also there that night and once again he filmed the whole show. So, sit back and enjoy!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

A Broken Frame - Then And Now

From time to time, apart from concert reviews, I also post album reviews on this blog. Not everything I buy of course, just those ones that are special to me. "A Broken Frame" by Marsheaux definitely falls into that category. It's not a "covers album", but instead a "cover album". An exact, track-by-track cover of the the second album by Depeche Mode from 1982.
However, what I'm going to do here is not a review of it, but instead a parallel, side-by-side review of both albums. Depeche Mode and Marsheaux. For the sake of consistency this review is based on the vinyl versions. Since then Marsheaux have released a 2CD version which features the b-sides of that era ("Now This Is Fun" and "Oberkorn (It's A Small Town)") plus extended versions of all Broken Frame tracks.
The sticker on the Marsheaux album states that you should listen to the Depeche Mode original first. Well I have listened to it several times since 1982 when I first bought it, but this was a good opportunity to listen to it again in order to refresh my memory.
It all starts with the song everybody remembers from this album "Leave In Silence" (Alison Moyet's favourite DM track at that time as she has stated in an interview). Now, I've read somewhere that it might be weird to listen to some songs from this album with female vocals, especially "Leave In Silence". I completely disagree with this statement, I think that the whole of this album is particularly suited to female vocals. And anyway on this song, this is partially taken care of. The "oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh"'s of the intro are sung by a male (I assume by producer Nick from Fotonovela and Mikro as I've noticed on their recent gig). This track is also proof that this album is definitely NOT an exact cut-and-paste replica of the original. The most obvious example: On the DM original, just before the chorus, after the "I would stop this, I would set the wheels in motion" bit there are four distinct notes played on the synth, which you will most certainly remember if you are familiar with the track. Well, these notes are nowhere to be seen on the Marsheaux version!
Next comes "My Secret Garden" another one of my favourite tracks and no, I cannot decide which version I like better.

On the other hand "Monument", "Satellite" and "Shouldn't Have Done That" were my least favourite tracks on the original album. (I liked the lyrics of "Satellite" very much, but I wasn't very keen on its music). Surprisingly enough, these are the tracks that Marsheaux have, in my opinion, significantly improved. No wonder they chose "Monument" as the single!
Next comes the "Nothing To Fear", which as I've already mentioned in my live review is, along with "Moon Over Moscow" by Visage my favourite synth-pop instrumental. And Marsheaux prove they can do a good cover and improve on it even without vocals.
There were two more singles on the original album "See You" and "The Meaning Of Love", the former far superior to the latter and so is the case here. "The Meaning Of Love" is the one that has been more radically reworked (to my humble ears at least) by Marsheaux.
It's time now for my favourite song from the album "A Photograph Of You". Still is, on both versions. Someone has suggested that the lyrics were maybe a bit naive, especially when compared with what Depeche Mode did later. However, a few years after that, A Flock Of Seagulls had a hit with "Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)". Every time I heard it it reminded me of the DM song. I think they both tell a similar story, but Depeche Mode tell it better and they did it first!
What's left is the closing track "The Sun And The Rainfall". Now this was a song I had completely forgotten and I had to listen to the DM album to remember it. A very good tune, but once again, the Marsheaux version is better.
Obviously, if you want to delve deeper into the music of Marsheaux you would have to check their own work (their latest album is "Inhale" from 2013 and there is also a retrospective of their career so far available called "Odyssey"). But "A Broken Frame" sparked renewed interest in them in different parts of the world which resulted in more gigs abroad. They had already performed successfully in the UK and Germany, but this year they've already played in Poland and are due to appear in Sweden and... yes, Peru!
So best wishes and good luck to them and we hope they'll be back next year with a brand new album!

Side A:
01. Leave In Silence
02. My Secret Garden
03. Monument
04. Nothing To Fear
05. See You
Side B:
06. Satellite
07. The Meaning Of Love
08. A Photograph Of You
09. Shouldn't Have Done That
10. The Sun And The Rainfall

Monday, 3 August 2015

I dream of Death Disco

It was 13 months after their last appearance at Death Disco and Marsheaux were back at that small Athens club in order to celebrate its 2nd birthday. The difference this time was that they had just released a cover album. Not a "covers album" but a cover album of "A Broken Frame" by Depeche Mode. My vinyl copy had not yet arrived, but most of the tracks were out there on the internet on YouTube and SoundCloud. I could listen to them if I could. But I was in a dilemma. Would I go ahead and listen to them, or should I listen to my Depeche Mode vinyl first in order to refresh my memory, then listen to the Marsheaux vinyl and compare them track-by-track? In the end, I decided to go with a third option. to listen to the songs live first.

The reviews I had read up until that point were all favourable, but some insisted that it would be weird to hear some of these songs (especially "Leave In Silence") by female voices. I can assure you that there was nothing weird about it and even before I had heard a single note I knew that the songs on "A Broken Frame" were ideal for female voices, especially those of Marianthi and Sophie. And to keep everybody happy the "oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh"'s on the intro were sung by a male. Nick of Fotonovela, while playing synths at the back with George!

The setlist consisted of several songs from "A Broken Frame" but also some of their own songs. The crowd was singing along especially on "Leave In Silence" and "See You" as was expected since these are well-known and loved Depeche Mode songs (even if DM won't play them live anymore) but the biggest sing-along and party atmosphere was experienced during one of their own songs "I Dream Of A Disco", with lots of baloons flying around! 
What I was curious to hear though was the instrumental. "Nothing To Fear" is one of my two favourite synth-pop instrumentals (the other one is "Moon Over Moscow" by Visage). Would they play it? Yes, they did, during the encore. 
And they made it sound a bit different from the DM original, yet still familiar. And that's what I loved about the Broken Frame covers. That they have some different arrangements so that they don't sound exactly the same, only with female vocals.

In short, we all had a great time, the club was packed and the party continued until the early morning hours. Happy Birthday Death Disco and we hope to see Marsheaux there again next year!

SETLIST: (Corrected)
01. Secret Garden
02. Exit
03. Secret Place
04. The Sun And The Rainfall
05. Can You Stop Me
06. Summer
07. See You
08. Alone
09. To The End
10. Satellite
11. Radial Emotion
12. Come On Now
13. Monument
14. I Dream Of A Disco
15. Breakthrough
16. Leave In Silence
17. Inhale
18. Nothing To Fear
19. Self Control