Friday, 30 November 2012

Two nights with the fabulous Royal Republic

Last weekend I experienced a double whammy of Royal Republic, when a slight scheduling mishap meant that I had tickets to see them at The Garage in Islington on Friday and then The Haunt in Brighton on Saturday. And how could I say no to that?!

I stumbled across Royal Republic a few years ago whilst consuming pizza, beer and copious amounts of music television with a very good friend. The video for Tommy Gun came on and when it had finished we immediately shot each other a look that said ‘well that was fucking awesome!’. Within a few weeks we were at The Barfly seeing them live for the first time.

We have seen them on several occasions since then and I will always go back for more, because as live bands go they are pretty hard to beat. So how to describe them? Formed in Malmo, Sweden in 2007, they combine rock and roll, awesome riffs and a great/slightly ridiculous sense of humour (see Everyone Wants To Be An Astronaut and Underwear).

Lead singer Adam Grahn was born to be on stage. You’re hard pushed to find a front man with more charisma and let’s face it, he’s not too bad to look at either! Oh and he knows it too. At a smaller show of theirs a somewhat inebriated Jen was stupid enough to shout out ‘I love you!’ during a quiet moment between songs, to which Adam immediately responded ‘Thanks, I love me too!” We actually met him later that night and quite frankly I’m surprised he hasn’t slapped a restraining order on me...

Their first album We Are The Royal was released in 2009, it was received well by critics and Tommy Gun reached number one on the MTV Rockchart. They’ve toured the album extensively since then so it must be nice for them (and us!) to finally have some new material to promote. Save The Nation is shaping up to be every bit as good as their debut album, and the setlist both nights was a mixture of both. Standout moments included Everyone Wants To Be An Astronaut, Full Steam Spacemachine, I Must Be Out of My Mind and a spectacular a capella version of Addictive.

Friday night at The Garage was probably my favourite, mostly just because I prefer the venue, but they put on a first class show both nights as expected. Yes, they are fantastic live musicians, but more than that they are really good fun. Go and see them live and I promise you a great night – you’ll be singing, dancing, laughing, and man or woman, I guarantee you will go home with a bit of a crush.


Monday, 19 November 2012

Billy Talent at The Roundhouse, Camden

Straight up I’m going to admit that this won’t be the most insightful review in the world. (Are they ever?!) The combination of a monster hangover and a rather nasty cold that emerged out of nowhere last weekend, meant that for the first time in my life I really wasn’t in the mood for a gig. I honestly felt that level of utter shite where you are almost willing a car to run you over and put you out of your misery. It was all I could do to haul myself onto the tube and crawl to the venue. Even the power nap I’d just had in a cosy pub hadn’t helped!

Upon arrival at The Roundhouse it struck me how pointless security checks are in some venues. A stern looking bouncer took one look at my overflowing handbag and clearly couldn’t be arsed to take a proper look through. “Is that your makeup bag?” he asked, gesturing to a partially visible Cath Kidston number. “Yes,” I replied. Satisfied with my response, he ushered me straight in. Ok, so it was indeed my makeup bag, but I’m hardly going to say “Actually it’s mostly filled with knives and smack!” Bizarre.

Once inside, my equally hungover companions and I sat on the floor feeling sorry for ourselves until Billy Talent came on stage, at which point we snuck in at the back and stood motionless for the whole show, barely capable of mumbling the odd lyric.

Luckily I’ve seen Billy Talent several times before and will no doubt see them again, because quite frankly they killed it, and it was incredibly frustrating not to be able to enjoy the night properly. Opening with Lonely Road to Absolution, Viking Death March and Devil in a Midnight Mass, the setlist was a strong mix of all three albums and their latest offering, Dead Silence. This is a band that know how to write lyrics as well as riffs, and that has an aggressive quality (in the best possible way!) that aways gets the crowd on side.

Formed as Pezz in 1993, Billy Talent didn’t achieve mainstream success for almost a decade – coinciding with a necessary name change thanks to an American punk band of the same name who it transpired had been using it since 1989. Re-emerging as Billy Talent (a reference to the guitarist in the novel Hard Core Logo), their self-titled 2003 album produced four singles and eventually went three times platinum in Canada. Thank goodness they did break through, because what a wasted talent that would have been! I can distinctly recall the summer of 2007 when I survived on a diet almost entirely consisting of Billy Talent I & II until even my car stereo became sick of them.

To sum this band up in a word, they are consistent. In my experience, they always put together a strong setlist, sound every bit as good (if not better) live and they always give one hundred per cent. They also like to remind you constantly that they have been playing together for nearly 20 years! Although this is probably because they are rightly proud of the tenacity that has put them where they are today.

In conclusion, Billy Talent were awesome at The Roundhouse. I, however, was not. Note to self: no more gigs on Sundays.

Yep, far too hungover to operate a camera... so here are Billy Talent at Download 2012

Friday, 16 November 2012

Twin Atlantic at Shepherds Bush Empire

What a difference a year makes! I last saw Twin Atlantic in Brighton at a smallish venue called The Haunt. It was pretty busy and the band clearly had plenty of fans, but they weren’t yet of the die-hard variety. I think many, like me, were new to the game, having stumbled across a little song called Make a Beast of Myself – a real treat in that the video is every bit as good as the song.

© Twin Atlantic
I’ll admit I was a little late to catch on – Make a Beast of Myself was in fact the fourth single off their 2011 album Free. Twin Atlantic formed back in 2007 and they have already toured with the likes of Biffy Clyro, Smashing Pumpkins and Taking Back Sunday (a gentle reminder that once in a while I should really go and check out the support at gigs instead of filling my face with Nando’s). They have also played a handful of big festivals, but somehow they hadn’t quite hit the big time.

Fast forward to last Thursday and Twin Atlantic were performing to a sold out Shepherd’s Bush Empire, and wow there is a lot of love now for the boys from Glasgow. Even the people seated on the balconies spent most of the night on their feet!

I have a sneaking suspicion that this display of enthusiasm was partly due to the fact the audience had youth on their side. They were young, and I mean very young. I can safely say I haven’t felt so old since my assistant told me that she had never heard of Ally McBeal. I should have sussed that something was up when we arrived and that kid from Busted was on stage. I know, I know, I should probably be a little more open minded. But it is kind of hard to forget the fact that he was… well, in Busted.

Anyway, age aside, it would be unfair to take anything away from Twin Atlantic, the enthusiasm was mostly because they were great – an incredibly strong performance and a positive attitude that makes you like them all the more. The tour was a successful promotion of Free, and it really is an album full of the kind of songs you can’t help but sing along to – in your very best Scottish accent of course (seriously, listen to Crash Land and tell me I’m wrong!).

Make a Beast of Myself was the final song of the night, and subsequently the tour, and was accompanied by some pretty special giant Twin Atlantic balloons and a huge amount of thanks from a very appreciative Sam McTrusty, who I think is as impressed by their recent skywards trajectory as I am. It felt like a celebration of all the hard graft they have put in which is certainly paying off.

I hope the incredibly young audience isn’t a completely accurate representation of their fan base these days, I’d hate it to make them any less credible when they clearly have a lot more to offer. I can't really pin down their sound with an obvious comparison, and I think that is always a compliment. I’ll leave you with the song that first made me sit up and pay attention, because quite honestly, it speaks for itself.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Fighting With Wire: Colonel Blood

You might recall my little rant back in June about the lack of love being shown for a band called Fighting With Wire, and the painfully long wait that we (and they!) have endured for the release of their second album, Colonel Blood. Well good news people, it’s finally here.

I already had a pretty good idea of what to expect having heard a few songs at live shows and online, but to finally have the album in its entirety in my mitts is a treat. Cahir and the boys have done good. Great in fact.

The opening song and first single, Waiting On A Way To Believe, sets the tone for the rest of the record – memorable riffs and energy-fuelled choruses. They’ve drawn comparisons to grunge legends like Nirvana in the past, and although there are definite shades of some seminal nineties bands, FWW have their own unique sound that is laced with their Irish blood – listen and you’ll see what I mean.

I won’t say anymore, but I thoroughly recommend you get your hands on a copy and give your ears a treat. They are currently supporting Coheed and Cambria, so if you can catch them live then even better!

FWW are now signed with Xtra Mile Recordings and the tour means that they are finally playing some venues that reflect their sound and talent. This is a well-deserved new start for the boys from Derry and the only way is up.



Monday, 5 November 2012

A cup of tea and a good book..

So things have been a little quiet on the blog front for the last week, mostly because I have been plagued by a never ending ‘to do’ list but partly because I seem to spend half my life on the train at the moment. You know those bastards that shove you in the back to get onto a tube that is clearly at capacity? Yep, I hate them too. And now I’ve become one.

When I do manage to spend some time at my desk however, I’ve been working my way through a stack of very good reading material to review for My Creative Diva magazine, and frankly you can’t beat a good book and a cup of tea on a cold, rainy afternoon. So I thought I’d share three of my fashion favourites from the first three issues – all well worth a read.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can find more of my reviews plus loads of features and interviews over at

Alexander McQueen: Genius of a Generation by Kristin Knox
Published by A&C Black, £19.99

The late Alexander McQueen has long been one of my favourite fashion designers and consequently this was one book that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. I remember attending London Fashion Week shortly after his sad death in 2010, and being moved by a wall of tributes covered in messages and memories. McQueen was a designer whose genius truly touched the lives of many.

Kristin Knox is a journalist and fashion blogger at Through Alexander McQueen: A Genius of a Generation, she has successfully created a beautiful keepsake filled with images of McQueen’s most memorable designs and show stopping catwalk shows.

The comprehensive introduction charts the designer’s rise to fame, from his humble beginnings as the youngest of six siblings in Stepney East London, through his early career as a tailor at Anderson & Sheppard and later discovery by Isabella Blow, to the many (often controversial) collections that made him one of fashions brightest stars.

McQueen was appointed CBE, named International Fashion Designer of the Year at the Council of Fashion Designers Awards and named British Designer of the year four times. His name brings to mind, for many, images of his iconic skull print scarves and knuckle-duster clutches but there was so much more to this multifaceted talent. This book will serve as a lasting reminder of the fabulous couture that captured the minds and hearts of women the world over.

The Fashion Design Directory by Marnie Fogg
Published by Thames & Hudson, £18.95

For anybody with an interest in fashion, this little guide is nothing short of essential, featuring 125 internationally known designers. It begins with a brief history of fashion throughout the ages, which charts the history of couture from its beginnings in Paris through each decade and highlights the designers and models that have defined each era.

The main body of the book is devoted to profiling the 125 featured designers; including information about their individual styles and beautiful photographs that capture their seminal looks. Browse through this sartorial A to Z, from Acne to Yves Saint Laurent, and you will be inspired by the proliferation of talent on display and the iconic looks that have punctuated modern day fashion’s colourful history.

Standout moments for me include Vivienne Westwood’s 1981 ‘Pirate’ collection, Christian Dior’s ubiquitous New Look collection in 1947 and the late, great Alexander McQueen’s futuristic 2010 collection, with those shoes that will never be forgotten! There is even a swatch directory at the back of the book, which showcases the memorable patterns and textures of fashion designers such as Basso And Brooke and Diane Von Furstenburg. This is a fabulous reference.

Isabella Blow by Martina Rink
Published by Thames & Hudson, £29.95

This month’s inspirational diva comes in the shape of the late Isabella Blow. She is a character that has fascinated me for a long time; a true fashion icon, instantly recognisable with her bold Philip Treacy headwear and trademark red lips.

Blow is widely recognised for discovering and nurturing up and coming talents such as Treacy, Alexander McQueen and models Sophie Dahl and Stella Tennant. But this 192-page book reveals so much more, in a selection of touching letters from friends, colleagues and former acquaintances. Contributions come from Mario Testino, Manolo Blahnik, Victoria Beckham and Boy George to name but a few.

Isabella lived her life in her own uniquely glamourous way. My favourite recollection in the book is probably that of US Vogue Editor, Anna Wintour, who revealed that Blow cleaned her desk each night with a bottle of Perrier water and Chanel No. 5.

This is a fantastic insight into a much loved and talented women with a mischievous sense of humour, whose achievements were not always recognised when she was alive. I can safely say that once I picked the book up I barely put it down until I had finished!

© Rock & Runway

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