Category Archives: 2018

Common People 2018

South Park, Oxford
26th May 2018

Boney M
There is apparently more than one Boney M line-up knocking around these days – each featuring at least one ‘original’ member (today’s being Maizie Williams) – which is fitting, given the studio-based, dancer-fronted foundations of the band. They’re a collection of songs, really; whoever did or didn’t sing on their records and mime at performances was immaterial, as was (and is today) any pretence of a backing band.

They still work extremely well as a franchise; their songs are so universal that even younger audience members know them, partly due to their catchiness (‘Hooray! Hooray! It’s a Holi-Holiday’ – once heard, never forgotten) and the sort of oddness you’d be hard-pressed to get away with these days (a song about a Russian monk, another composed of lyrics from Psalms, and ‘Brown Girl in the Ring’, anyone?). Even their up-tempo cover of ‘No Woman No Cry’ is welcomed. Cheesy, inoffensive, memorable yet throwaway pop to which everyone can sing along: the perfect warm-up for the acts to come.

Morcheeba
Since their late-90s heyday, Morcheeba’s legacy has been a mood and a sound, and their mastery of these has made them perhaps better remembered than their lower-reaches-of the-top-40-dusting singles should allow. Skye Edwards’ exquisitely soulful voice floats and shimmers across South Park in a comforting and almost soporific way; it’s perfectly suited to their early evening timeslot (either side of 6:30) and the warm late spring weather.

Their slightly incongruous appearance in today’s Disco Day line-up probably has more to do with their new album release than anything else, but it works (aided by their quite-energetic-for-them cover of ‘Let’s Dance’, which puts their wah-wah pedal to good use); their trip-hop vibes are never anything less than pleasant, as the wide use of tracks such as today’s stand-out ‘The Sea’ in TV syncs testifies.

The Jacksons
Given their age and reputation, the Jacksons could be forgiven for turning up for the bank transfer and going through the motions in a kind of worldwide decade-long Michael eulogy. Instead, we get a strong reminder they were a race-transcending phenomenon in their own right. Through coordinated dance moves to archive footage, sparkly military outfits of the style that Michael used to favour, Michael-esque breathing-friendly ‘point, grab and shuffle’ moves, and balanced lead vocal-sharing, they seem determined to honour the legacy of their late brother (‘Gone Too Soon’), are as enthusiastic about their music as they have ever appeared to be, and even throw in some lesser-known gems (such as the set-ending ‘State of Shock’) to please die-hard fans.

There is an element of self-indulgence – an over-long ‘Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)’ includes an impressive Marlon solo dancing spot, and we do get a (surprisingly not too bad) solo track from Tito and his guitar – and ‘I Want You Back’ and ‘ABC’ are sadly relegated to a medley, but it’s genuinely a privilege to celebrate talent and success like this in person.

Photos: © Kirsten Etheridge

 

From Nightshift, July 2018

Paul Draper

O2 Academy 2, Oxford
7th March 2018

The late-90s Chester-based Britpop band Mansun spectacularly imploded during the recording sessions for their fourth album, not long after a low-key UK tour in the late spring of 2002, the Oxford date of which your correspondent reported on in this very magazine – even standing in the same spot as tonight.

Since then, the band’s driving force, main songwriter and singer – Paul Draper – has been through the wars, his absence taking on a mystical, enigmatic quality (accentuated by his current Last Jedi-era Luke Skywalker hair and beard). This tour is the second outing for his debut solo album, 2017’s Spooky Action, plus a (fan-chosen) full set of Mansun’s debut, Attack of the Grey Lantern, twenty-one years after it topped the UK album charts.

Hopefully Spooky Action is catharsis – Paul’s gone on record to say that it’s about Mansun and the people around them – and the lyrics certainly allude to some dark times. Sonically, the seven-song mini set hints at how the Mansun sound would have developed: ‘Don’t Poke the Bear’ precedes anthemic rock squealing with a dissonant synth and rambling string introduction, and ‘Friends Make the Worst Enemies’, understandably self-indulgently, takes Mansun’s falsetto and vocal harmony style into more regretful and reflective territory.

Paul perks up and relaxes in ‘Taxloss’, three songs into Grey Lantern, as if the knowledge that everyone in the room knows every word, every cue and every backing vocal for the rest of the night is a comfort.

The night is the sum of possibly unnecessary yet welcome nostalgia for a fanbase who feared they’d ever hear Paul play again, but also a timely reminder of how a bizarre yet coherent ‘half a concept album’ about an array of inhabitants in a fictitious English village (‘Stripper Vicar’, ‘Dark Mavis’) struck such a chord with the British record-buying public two decades ago.

 

From Nightshift, April 2018

Jorja Smith

O2 Academy, Oxford
11th February 2018

The 2018 Brits Critics’ Choice Award recipient, 20-year-old Walsall-bred Jorja Smith, started writing songs at school – some of which form the backbone of her setlist tonight – but you can’t help but celebrate rather than begrudge her precociousness. Of the seventeen tracks performed, one (Frank Ocean’s ‘Lost’) is a cover and seven are as yet unreleased – bold, given that she is yet to release her debut album, but less of a risk now that live videos of the latter are already on YouTube and a lot of the audience thus already know the words.

On ‘Teenage Fantasy’ and ‘Imperfect Circle’, Jorja’s smooth, vibrato-tinged R&B voice and traditional keyboard/guitar/bass/drums backing setup calls to mind early-90s new jack swing; she doesn’t need star producers like Teddy Riley or Jam & Lewis to give her charisma, though. She has a good stab at making her vocals sound semi-improvised, especially on the empowering ‘Beautiful Little Fools’, but a lot of effort must go into making this all so effortless and laid-back. She excels when her voice is brought to the fore – by a single guitar on ‘Goodbyes’, piano on ‘Don’t Watch Me Cry’, and a skilful instrumental arrangement on the emotive string-heavy, Adele-recalling ‘Let Me Down’ – and when she takes advantage of the top of her range, though on occasion her riff intervals could do with more variety.

She doesn’t just sing, though: she talk-raps a critique of the government on the feisty extended metaphor ‘Lifeboats’ and scat-sings on ‘Blue Lights’, which is the highlight of the night both performance- and reception-wise: a Dizzee Rascal-sampling plaintive semi-ballad that counsels ‘There’s no need to run / If you’ve done nothing wrong’. Jorja’s wisdom-beyond-her-years is here underlined by an Air-esque glochenspiel-like synth, giving an innocent, music-box edge to the heavy lyrical material, and this sums up the night: playful yet accomplished.

 

From Nightshift, March 2018

Reviews

 

Common People 2018: Boney M, Morcheeba and the Jacksons – South Park, Oxford – 26th May 2018

Paul Draper – O2 Academy 2, Oxford – 7th March 2018

Jorja Smith – O2 Academy, Oxford – 11th February 2018

Nathassia – The Bullingdon, Oxford – 14th July 2017

Soulwax – Electric Brixton, London – 8th April 2017

Goldfrapp – O2 Academy, Oxford – 20th March 2017

Sal Para – Her single – February 2017

Vienna Ditto – Ticks EP – May 2016

Wild Swim – Untitled EP – January 2016

Esther Joy Lane – Esther Joy Lane – October 2015

Charli XCX – O2 Academy, Oxford – 30th March 2015

Rae Morris – O2 Academy 2, Oxford – 8th February 2015

Hozier – O2 Academy, Oxford – 21st January 2015

La Roux – O2 Academy, Oxford – 15th November 2014

Tiger Mendoza and David Griffiths – Along Dangerous Roads EP – November 2014

Amy Simpson – Fairy Tales, Stories & Myths EP – July 2014

Banks – O2 Academy 2, Oxford – 28th March 2014

Katy B – O2 Academy, Oxford – 27th March 2014

Foxes – O2 Academy 2, Oxford – 28th February 2014

Vienna Ditto – Ugly EP – November 2013

Blue – O2 Academy, Oxford – 25th October 2013

Major Lazer – O2 Academy, Oxford – 2nd May 2013

Secret Rivals – Just Fall album – May 2013

Jessie Ware – O2 Academy, Oxford – 11th March 2013

Space – O2 Academy, Oxford – 9th March 2013

Kodaline – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 13th February 2013

Bright Light Bright Light – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 27th October 2012

Marina and the Diamonds – O2 Academy, Oxford – 15th October 2012

Errors – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 8th May 2012

Lianne La Havas – O2 Academy 2, Oxford – 9th March 2012

Rizzle Kicks – O2 Academy, Oxford – 8th March 2012

Babybird – O2 Academy 2, Oxford – 29th January 2012

Professor Green – O2 Academy, Oxford – 1st November 2011

East 17 – O2 Academy, Oxford – 2nd September 2011

N-Dubz – O2 Academy, Oxford – 20th July 2011

Sparkadia, A.Human and La Shark – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 24th February 2011

Emiliana Torrini – O2 Academy, Oxford – 9th September 2009

2manydjs – O2 Academy, Oxford – 5th June 2009

Rosalita and Off The Radar – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 4th March 2009

The Subways – Carling Academy, Oxford – 2nd October 2008

Wakestock – Blenheim Palace – 29th June 2008

Alphabeat and Palladium – Carling Academy, Oxford – 28th January 2008

Erasure – New Theatre, Oxford – 3rd September 2007

The Sounds – The Zodiac, Oxford – 24th March 2007

The Noisettes and The Victorian English Gentlemens Club – The Zodiac, Oxford – 22nd January 2007

White Rose Movement – The Zodiac, Oxford – 27th November 2006

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – The Zodiac, Oxford – 15th October 2006

Nizlopi – The Zodiac, Oxford – 8th September 2006

The Lightning Seeds – The Zodiac, Oxford – 5th June 2006

Kula Shaker – The Zodiac, Oxford – 18th May 2006

The Go! Team and Smoosh – Oxford Brookes University – 5th March 2006

Idiot Pilot and The Seal Cub Clubbing Club – The Zodiac, Oxford – 6th February 2006

Eskimo Disco, Trademark and Script – The Exeter Hall, Oxford – 2nd December 2005

Knifehandchop, Nervous Testpilot and The Nailbomb Cults – The Wheatsheaf, Oxford – 13th November 2005

King Biscuit Time – The Zodiac, Oxford – 25th September 2005

The Mission – The Zodiac, Oxford – 8th September 2005

Josh Rouse – The Zodiac, Oxford – 17th July 2005

Big Speakers, Flooded Hallways and Capsky – The Cellar, Oxford – 3rd June 2005

Melanie C – The Zodiac, Oxford – 2nd May 2005

I Am Kloot – The Zodiac, Oxford – 16th April 2005

Thirteen Senses – The Zodiac, Oxford – 8th March 2005

The Others – The Zodiac, Oxford – 25th October 2004

The Ordinary Boys and Dive Dive – The Zodiac – 15th October 2004

Polysics – The Zodiac, Oxford – 16th September 2004

The Last Trailerpark – The September Gurls, The Schla La Las, Goldrush and The Black Madonnas – The Cellar, Oxford – 20th July 2004

The (International) Noise Conspiracy – The Zodiac, Oxford – 8th June 2004

Simple Kid – The Zodiac, Oxford – 18th April 2004

Ulrich Schnauss – The Bullingdon Arms, Oxford – 28th February 2004

Dogs Die In Hot Cars – The Zodiac, Oxford – 11th February 2004

Cayto – The Cellar, Oxford – 16th December 2003

The Futureheads – The Zodiac, Oxford – 13th October 2003

Longview – The Zodiac, Oxford – 2nd July 2003

Fiel Garvie, Roquphane and The Epstein-Barr Virus Band – The Cellar, Oxford – 17th June 2003

Panel Of Judges, Byrne, The Broken Family Band, The Maplettes and Spartacus – The Cellar, Oxford – 27th February 2003

Scratch Perverts – Po Na Na, Oxford – 6th February 2003

Zoe Bicat, Spygirl and Joe Hughes – The Cellar, Oxford – 4th November 2002

British Sea Power – The Zodiac, Oxford – 15th October 2002

Trademark – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 29th August 2002

Cumulonimbus, Nervous Testpilot and Blunt Instruments – The Cellar, Oxford – 12th August 2002

a-ha – Royal Albert Hall, London – 25th June 2002

Fischerspooner – The Bridge, London – 30th May 2002

Mansun – The Zodiac, Oxford – 19th May 2002

The Soundtrack of our Lives and Sahara Hotnights – The Zodiac, Oxford – 11th May 2002

AM60 – The Cellar, Oxford – 31st January 2002