We take a look at artists at their best. When they're performing live.

 

 

An Evening with Applewood Road
@The Sage, Gateshead

The evening began in a full hall with short solo sets from each of the Applewood Road members, singing some of their more well known solo offerings. Amy, Amber and Emily gave stellar performances, showing off their vocal style and range. Each bringing their own wit and personality to the stage. Soaring vocals and an easy, simplistic guitar created a beautiful relaxed, yet exciting atmosphere.

When the three ladies took to the stage together, that was where the magic happened. Seamlessly blended, wholesome full-bodied vocals filed the space delicate yet powerful. Each member go the group offered a slightly different tonality, bringing their own unique style to the stage. Merging and dancing with one another flawlessly. 

A beautiful. relaxed evening full of soft powerful vocals from a group of exceptionally talented ladies.

A special mention to 'My Companion' and its soaring vocal and the beautifully arranged 'Losing My Religion'.


 

Army of Freshmen
@The Waterfront, Norwich
contributor: Lizzi

 


Having never been to an Army of Freshmen show before, I wasn't sure what to expect. I've only briefly listened to a few of their songs and thought yep, I can deal with watching a show while Gemma shoots (think of me as a glorified driver!). I didn't expect to be so impressed!!

I honestly haven't a clue what was being played but I'm loving it!

Chris the singer is very funny. Not knowing the words to sing along is giving me the chance to appreciate his comedic timing and brilliantly expressive movements. The audience - who seemed somewhat quiet and unresponsive during the support bands - are now eating out of the palm of his hand. Every move he asks them to make, every line he wants repeated is done without hesitation. I don't normally like to use words like energy when describing a bands stage presence, as its often such a cliché, but this band are infectious!
They really look like they are enjoying themselves, the smiles look genuine and the jumping is in danger of dropping the stage through the floor. I might not know the songs but my feet are tapping, I'm clapping when asked and my smile is huge.

Even if you've never heard any of their music I would encourage you to go see this band. There's no way you couldn't leave happy! (Or clutching a CD or two).

~

Showcasing songs from their most recent album 'Happy To Be Alive'. They did what they do best - entertain. At times seeming impressed by the crowd singing along to the new songs - something which it appeared they didn't expect. There didn't appear to be any lapse in the volume or energy coming from both band and audience. From the outset the energy was high. Aside from a few technical issues, which were hardly notable, and served to allow for Chris to sing a few verses and a chorus acapella while the issues were being fixed - although any more than one verse was met with shouts of 'later' from Dan and Aaron. Dipping into their back catalogue, they moved seamlessly from song to song incorporating songs from all records.

With a special guest appearance from one of the masked bank robbers from 'Ava' showering the room with bank notes, the band were on form.
The highlight of the night was always going to be the last song - the anthemic 'Get Em Up', which saw Chris leading the room in a conga line which snaked around the room and then down the venues stairs before everyone returned to the room. Great energy, great fun, and just good times.



The Stranglers

It's been a while since punk rock icons The Stranglers last tour, and tonight, as they take to the stage it's clear to see that support has not withered.
From their opening song to their last they kept the nights crowd entertained. With songs from their new record mixed in with the greatly anticipated songs of old.

With classics like 'Peaches', 'Strange Little Girl', 'Always The Sun', and 'Golden Brown' causing mass sing a longs it's clear why they still remain a backbone to the British music scene.

Vocally impressive, performance-wise as good as it gets. They know what they do and know what their fans want and that is exactly what they gave.
This is a band that forego the formalities of inter-song conversation and get on with the job at hand, and you can't fault them for doing so. The night was a mix of great music, loud singing and a buzz of excitement and energy from both band and crowd alike.

With bands like this still making the rounds, why would you want to settle for anything less?




Misfits
JuiceheaD

A battering of snow set the scene for the excitable crowd ouside of tonights venue. After 2 support bands and a few technical problems JuiceheaD took to the stage to a roar of appreciation. Laid back and having fun they hammered their way through their set. Their own dance with technical issues aside, they managed to whip the anxious crowd into a nice frenzy with their licks of pure punk rock. Singing songs from their latest album 'How To Sail a Sinking Ship', they gave their all and the crowd were definitely accepting of whatever they had to offer.

Next it was that time everyone had been waiting for. After an indepth soundcheck (because technical issues would not be accepted) the sheets came off and the drum kit and microphone stands were revealed. With a deafening roar Misfits took to the stage and launched straight into their opening song. There is an air of complete arrogance surrounding Misfits as they perform, which for a younger less infamous band wouldn't work quite so well. But it is this arrogance surrounding the band that makes them who they are, and one which they pull off with great ease.
For the most part there is little in way of crowd interaction, this doesn't deter from the audience eating hungrily from three pairs of hands.
The interaction came a little over half way through the set when Jerry Only addressed the crowd for the first time to make small talk and introduce 'She' before the band jetted through some of their earlier material including 'Psycho' and 'Shining'. It was these short but humerous addresses which broke the arrogant persona and revealed the much more friendly and approachable side of the band. With the crowd hanging on their every word and singing back the lyrics, it wasn't long until Only admitted during the opening of 'Ghost of Frankenstein' that the low growls he had just finished were his favourite part of the song.
'Halloween' was obviously going to be a crowd pleaser and tonight's performance was no exception. 'Hatebreeders' was dedicated to one of the crowd after it had been asked for and acknowledged by Only.
On a side note, a few songs prior to 'Hatebreed', Baby Bird - who had been performing upstairs - joined the crowd (although whether he made it into the pit is a question we cannot answer with certainty).
It was then that we reached that point in the show where it was winding down, Jerry Only ripped his shirt off, tossing it into the crowd before introducing the last three songs - 'Descending Angel', 'Die Die My Darling' and '138'. All too soon the show came to an end, a room full of fans chanting for more even as house lights went on and security started to usher people out. All in all a brilliant night of theatrics, music and pure punk rock from start to end.


Orange

After the cold night air a show is exactly what the doctor ordered. And what a show. With the ending notes of The JB Conspiracy's set and first strains of 'Baba O'Reily ringing in the ears, California rockers ORANGE took to the stage.
Clearly popular with a vast majority of the nights crowd, decked out in their finest sombrero, military jackets and shirts they worked the stage with the finesse of a band far past their years.

Enthusiastic vocalist Joe Dexter putting in an astounding performance both vocally and with the crowd interaction. With a slight hint of old school Green Day and maybe even a touch of My Chemical Romance (back in their Three Cheers era) there's something familiar yet refreshing about the band. At one point breaking out silly masks, giant orange sunglasses and making a good time. Completly enjoyable. Vastly amusing and most definitely ones you need to go and see live for yourselves to truly get the best from the Orange experience.


The Drums

Anticipation before The Drums hit the stage was high in the almost full to capacity room at Newcastle's O2 Academy. The anxious crowd bursting into a roar of appreciation when the band finally hit the stage to perform songs from their most recent album 'Portamento'.
Having only heard the singles from their latest album we weren't entirely sure what to expect, however, what we found was pure brilliance. Mixing the old with the new the band managed to hold tonight's crowd in the palm of their hand.


 

With crowd favourites including 'Money', 'Down By The Water', and 'Best friend', it didn't take long until the whole room seemed to be dancing in that retro-scopic Morrissey style sway favoured by lead vocalist Jonathan Pierce, who spent most of the night dancing with his arms flung about as he sang. It could be this or it could be their apparent modest reaction to the crowds cheers, that makes their fans embrace them so, as well as endearing them to all watching.

As the night progressed and the room got a touch more sweaty we reached the crescendo, with a brief interlude before the encore - which was chanted for with as much enthusiasm as their initial appearance on stage - The Drums reappeared to sing a few more songs before finally saying good night.
The crows enthusiasm laced with the stylistically retro songs makes us think that this is a band that has the talent to be around for a long time yet, and has so much more to achieve.

Definitely ones to watch and ones to go and see live.



Fun
Supporting Paramore 

If you were to pose the question 'do you like fun?' to a person, it's unlikely they would say no. In fact I'm certain that they would say yes, because who doesn't like fun?
And it's the same scenario here, and I would have to defy anyone who can unabashedly say they didn't.

What New-York based trio Nate Ruess, Andrew Dost and Jack Antonoff have done is extremely clever, in naming their band fun they have in essence created something which no one can deny enjoying.
Very clever indeed and when you couple it with what the band actually sound like, well you're on to a definite winner.

And tonight was no exception, especially when you taking into consideration that the band were on a bill alongside B.O.B and Paramore.
With keyboards, guitars and a trumpet to name a few instruments, fun were on proverbial fire. From the opening strains of their forthcoming single 'Walking The Dog' they launched into a high-energy performance that left no doubt as to whether they could touch the masses in an arena venue.

Quirky, eclectic, modern, and unique they swiftly won over the crowd. And with vocals to rival that of even some of the strongest contenders it's easy to see why, especially when you couple that with the running around of a barefooted Nate, who didn't seem to stop throughout the band's entire set, and who even at one point dropped the microphone and then later managed to unplug the cable. But don't think that stopped him, he just kept right on going with a smile on his face, egging the crowd on to join in.

Continuing to unravel a string of Beach Boys melodies laced with theatrics from the wonderfully melancholy 'At Least I'm Not As Sad (As I Used To Be)' through 'Barlights' and the brilliant ' All The Pretty Girls' the band were on top form. One of the highlights of their set was their cover of the Queen classic 'Radio GaGa' and they certainly did a great job of it, the whole building clapping and singing along, Freddie would be proud I'm sure.

On the whole fun are the kind of band that can easily work their way into your hearts, with their enchanting melodies flooding into your head and catching you hook, line and sinker. They will undoubtedly keep you on your toes and guessing what they will do next. With their début album already released and their live shows only set to get better it's a safe bet that big things are in store for them, and they are definitely one's to keep an eye on, not to mention one of our favourites of this year.

So go on and check them out for yourselves. We defy you not to like fun.




Liam Bailey
Supporting Chase & Status
 

When you hear the name Chase and Status, you don't necessarily think of UK soul. But that's what you get from the wonderful Liam Bailey.
Bringing a nice diversity to the evening, Liam stands proud. His voice has all the makings of a great 1950's soul star, I'm akin to say almost reminiscent of the Motown classics of yesteryear and so it's not a wonder that Amy Winehouse signed such a talent to her label.


Opening with 'You Better Leave Me' it was soul and blues all the way as he courses his way through songs that could be big hits or long standing classics. His musical versatility shone through as he worked his way from 'Summer Rain' through 'It's Not The Same' incorporating funk and jazz to create a perfectly chilled atmosphere before the headliners took to the stage.

Tugging at your heart and emotions, given the right opportunities Liam could go far and is gradually gaining the speed needed for him to soar in the future.




Detroit Social Club


Being called the head-liners on the 'New To Q' tour it makes you wonder just how Newcastle's very own Detroit Social Club will fare on a bill with 2 very different bands. With both Goldhawks and Tiffany Page playing to a room that is made up predominantly of fans of Detroit Social Club they do start their sets struggling a little to warm up the crowd.
However that all changes when it comes the turn of the main band of the nights event.

With a natural swagger front-man and vocalist Dave Burn took centre stage, kneeling patiently allowing the opening strains of first track 'Kiss The Sun' echo across the hot and stuffy room before launching into what can only be described as a vocal performance worthy of its own award. And that doesn't stop throughout their set. Couple that with the thundering drums and almost sleazy guitars it is hypnotic to the ears as well as anthemic, all topped off with a certain charm that usually looses itself in translation but one which reads loud and clear tonight.

Even when they discover they are pushed for time Dave Burn still holds his arms aloft, joking with the crowd as they push on through their set keeping the crowd dancing all the way through 'Black and White', 'Chemistry' and their current single the beautiful 'Prophecy'.
With morale still high and the crowd sweaty Detroit Social Club launch into last track of the night 'Sunshine People' and with the crowd singing along and having fun, no one is really too bothered about the band being pushed for time.

And Detroit Social Club show exactly why they are destined for great things.




MC Lars & Zebrahead


It's not every day that a show with a great combination of bands rolls into town, fortunately all we only had to wait 5 months and it was worth it. Zebrahead were back in Newcastle on the UK leg of their European tour, and with them, once again, they brought along MC Lars, who had been on tour with them when they were last here back in October with Bowling For Soup.

While the show was very much a Zebrahead headlining show, you can't help but think of it as a co-headliner, as the whole crowd were there to watch MC Lars do what he does best.

He didn't disappoint. Bringing his own unique style of hip-hop with a little bit of punk, he hit the play button on his trusty laptop and started his set with an old favourite 'Space Game'. Along side Lars was his ever trusty friend DJ, who took the lead on more than one occasion and who the crowd also loved seeing. With songs from 'The Graduate' such as 'Generic Crunk Rap', '21 Concepts', and Download This Song' mixed with newer material and tracks from 'This Gigantic Robot Kills' such as 'Where Ya been Lars?' and 'White Kid's Aren't Hyphy', Lars had the crowd captivated from the moment he stepped on stage. Mass crowd interaction came in the form of singing 'Mr Raven' and who can forget putting 'your gameboy fingers in the air', which the whole room appeared to do. The night's favourite came in the last song of the set, where, joined onstage by some of headliners Zebrahead, the opening guitar began and Lars launched into 'Hot Topic Is Not Punk Rock', cue pit circle and the crowd shouting out the chorus and you will find the reason that he is one of the favourites.

With a huge amount of energy and the ability to keep that energy going throughout the set, it's clear to see why MC Lars is fast becoming a known entity in the music scene. And if he continues the way he is, it won't be long until he hits the mainstream.


Not long after, Zebrahead took to the stage, and it would seem that the screaming crowd were slightly subdued, however that changed as soon as the band hit the first note and the room launched into a frenzy of moving bodies, raised hands and bobbing heads.

Opening with 'Hell Yeah!' they gave their all from the first note, and despite feeling under the weather and battling a cold both Ali and Matty's vocals held on in there from start to end.

With a few of the usual suspects 'Two Wrongs...', 'Jag Off' and 'Postcards From Hell'. They never seemed to slow the pace, even their slower songs carried a certain level of energy which allowed them to flow almost seamlessly from one song to the next. Crowd interaction is at its best with these guys, managing to get the entire floor of the Academy 2 sitting down with them is no mean feat, and with just one request everyone dropped to the floor compliantly before jumping up again on cue.

With only one cover song in the set, the undeniably brilliant 'Oops! I Did It Again', they seemed impressed that tonight's crowd unashamedly knew and enjoyed Britney Spears.

With energy from all at an impressive high, and everyone getting sweatier, it was time for Ali to get his shirt off and lean into the crowd. With an appearance from the other acts on the tour during the last song, plus crowd surfing from Ben it's safe to assume that tonight will be memorable for all involved.

And incredible band to see live. If you like it energetic, loud and fun then these guys are definitely a band that you have to go and see.




The Chemists
Supporting Fun Lovin' Criminals


Bristol based fivesome The Chemists took to the stage of Newcastle's O2 Academy to open for New York City's Fun Lovin' Criminals.

Taking to the stage in front of the growing crowd The Chemist's started with their forthcoming single 'This City'.

Watching the band perform you can't help but take note of the impressive playing by guitar duo Sam James and Dave Betts, who's riffs came soaring to your ears with something of finesse.

'Milk and Honey' kept the mood upbeat along with 'A Love Like No One Else' allowing bassist Wayne Jones the chance to shine, and let's not forget the consistent and effective drumming of percussionist Matt Alban.

However vocalist Johnny Benn, with his Morrissey-esque swagger was the one that most focused on. Strong vocals mixed with the swagger of confidence he alludes throughout the band's entire performance makes him something of an impressive performer. Standing on the edge of the stage, eyes fixed on the audience in a semblance of interaction, it's difficult to not watch as he makes full use of the large stage.

As they played through their 9 song set, which also included 'To Die For', 'A Bit Of Education', the summery single 'Hear Our Song', and our personal favourite 'Radio Booth' it's easy to see why this band have become a huge hit outside of the UK.

And with performances like this one it's just a matter of time until they have the same impact on home soil.




Cosmo Jarvis
Supporting The Sunshine Underground

Tonight, not many braved the Newcastle cold to wait around outside the venue for the doors to open.

Instead they gradually trickled in, first support down and the room was still slowly filling up by the time the next artist took to the stage - Cosmo Jarvis, who admitted earlier he wasn't sure why he was on this tour as his music is rather folky, and very different from the acts either side of his set. He need not have worried however, as we like different.

With not the best of starts, and some tuning issues aside he launched into his first song, to which there was admittedly some confusion from tonight's crowd. Why was this person playing folk songs? Whizzing through his next single and gradually winning over the room, which had filled considerably during his first few songs, he launched into the Streets-esque 'Problems' with its spoken rap verses and shouty and infectious chorus was cause enough to make people listen.

It wasn't until the last song of the set 'Gay Pirates' when the mandolin was in full force that you could really appreciate the underlying talent that Cosmo has, and it seemed that the crowd could see it too.




Elliot Minor

FranKo, Me vs Hero


With new album 'Solaris' released days before, Elliot Minor were in Newcastle as their UK tour began to come to a close. And they didn't disappoint.

With a venue change made and the room in the university slowly filling up with the stragglers who missed the note about the change, first band FranKo took to the stage. Pushing out a blend of what can only be described as indie-pop with some hooky almost Kaiser-esque choruses. For a band who are seemingly new on our radar and no doubt many others they perform with a slight air of confidence that would have you think they were seasoned regulars. With catchy song after catchy song, they quickly and gradually win over the crowd.

Fun and sprightly Me vs Hero were up next. In a strange blend of hardcore, and pop with a hint of what would be described as a hip-hop style swagger the band powered through song after song. Dedicating one to the group of girls who had squealed from the moment they took to the stage. Breaking only to demand and persuade the slightly confused crowd join in the 'wall of friendship' - like a wall of death, instead of crashing into each other, you hug. With their attitude placed correctly they get the crowd moving, hugging and having fun, and that's what it's all about.

For a room full of Elliot Minor fans the lead up to the band taking to the stage feels rather subdued. However it was a case of all an sundry biding their time, because as soon as the lights went out the noise began and Elliot Minor took to the stage.
From beginning to end the band had the crowd in the palm of their hands. From singing along with them, to interacting with them and getting various sections to scream in varying degrees of pitch, there was nothing that the fans wouldn't do.
It doesn't matter if you like them or you don't, there is something that stands out when they're performing live. With a seamless blend of classically composed pop-rock which arguably should not work, but in live practice does, Elliot Minor are actually great at what they do and how they do it.

It does help that the five-piece have such a dedicated fan-base, as the energy that the band exude when playing for their fans is far more than most bands at this stage of their career might produce. An energy which is most definitely spurred on when the crowd takes over vocals on a song - of which the set list tonight proved as they worked their way through numerous tracks both older and newer, a lot of which had the crowd very excited over hearing.
Now with two-albums under their belts and a lot more to come, its going to be interesting to see where the band go next. But for the moment, they're doing what they do, the only way they know how. And they're doing an amazing job.



Bowling For Soup
The Leftovers, MC Lars, Zebrahead

Bowling For Soup were back on UK shores with their Party In Your Pants extravaganza bringing The Leftovers, MC Lars & Zebrahead to party along with them.

Tonight was one filled with anticipation and excitement. Mostly notable as the queue awaiting the opening of the venue wrapped itself around the building, groups of friends chattering and of course not complete without two guys dressed in nothing but thongs - after all what is the 'Party In Your Pants Tour' without at least one person in their underwear?

As the line trickled through the doors, The Leftovers took to the stage, filling the hall with their upbeat and punchy sounds. Playing a few older songs and songs from their latest record they won over the sometimes hard to please crowd. Having fun and playing with an air of determination and enthusiasm that most opening bands sometimes don't quite reach, The Leftovers pulled off a seamless and smooth set. Latest single 'Telephone Operator' grabbing most of the room and getting them moving. No mean feat by far, and no doubt a solid seal of approval from what can be a difficult crowd to win over.

MC Lars was next up along with DJ and his touring band Failsafe. How things have changed since the last time we saw him in Newcastle back in 2007. Gone is the laptop and projector screen, and in its place an energetic and stronger performance. When we saw him last, not many people got what he was about, and tonight showed us just how he has grown. From the opening strains of the first song the room was his. Powering through many old favourites and one or two newer, MC Lars showed just why he is the best at what he does. Proving that he is definitely here to stay.

Zebrahead are evidently a crowd pleaser, from the first step on stage to the last, the room was keen to do anything that they asked. Older songs and newer songs, they showed just why they are a crowd favourite. Splitting the crowd and having everyone crash together is not easy, unless the crowd are eager to participate and seeing as how the band continue to please wherever they go, tonight's participation is welcomed by more than willing volunteers. From the opening note, they not only musically but vocally gave nothing but their all. Although their want for the biggest mosh pit ever can't beat the one a few years ago at Leeds Festival, it could be claimed that it was one of the biggest that the evenings venue has seen. Powerful, energetic and comfortable with who they are as performers. Good on record but even better live.

As the anticipation for the nights head-liners grew, it was safe to assume that thing were only going to get crazy, and we were not disappointed. Bowling For Soup took to the stage to a deafening applause. Their performance exuded down-to-earth fun with just that small hint of cockiness that makes the band who they are as performers. From the first song to the last, the crowd were ready to bow to their every whim. With a set containing old songs as well as new, everyone was in for a good time.
Between pausing for a group photo opportunity, burping, beer breaks and chugging vodka Jaret Reddick's vocals were second to none. The humour side of their crowd banter let them down a little as only a select few people understood the American references. However their performance made up for the bad jokes.
A surprise for many the band belted out their version of Katy Perry's 'Hot and Cold' which, if we're being honest was better than the original.
Highlights from the set included crowd favourites 'High School Never Ends', 'Girl All The Bad Guys Want' as well as never songs including latest single 'My Wena', 'A Really Cool Dance Song' and 'Hooray For Beer' to name a few as well as closing song '1985' which enticed a mass chorus sing-a-long in the regional accent, an impression of Antonio Banderas and falsetto.
Tonight only set in stone the well known fact that while Bowling For Soup may be known for their humorous songs, they also put on one hell of a show.
Fun and energetic, this is one band that are definitely not sorry for partying.