Tag Archives: 2011

Professor Green

O2 Academy, Oxford
1st November 2011

Hackney rapper Professor Green is at his career zenith today, with the current number one, a second album just out and a reality TV show now available on 4OD. There’s certainly a lot to latch onto – the singsong delivery, the humour, the cheekiness… charm discernible to people who don’t usually stray into his territory.

His earliest chart successes – Just Be Good to Green and I Need You Tonight – skip along at a jolly pace, with Pro bounding around and furiously polishing the air; and it’s all about him, his backing band efficiently rendering his chart-friendly guest stars unnecessary.

But the material from his new album is mostly an anticlimax. I shouldn’t feel as relieved as I do when he follows the hostile D.P.M.O. with the much more fun first album track Kids That Love To Dance.

His development as an artist probably needed this step into contemplative introspection – the Eminem-like rant on his number one, Read All About It, about his Dad’s suicide and criticism of his talking about it, seems excusably cathartic – and it’s probably a deft step to avoid sliding into parody, but the night is defined by this dichotomy. The new stuff is more like the earlier Jungle: more aggressive than playful; more lugubrious than energetic. Self-deprication has slipped into self-indulgence; stuff like Astronaut – about a rape victim turned drug addict – would have felt too serious on his first album. But the overall loss of the sparkle of songs like Monster is a shame.

Luckily, the wit hasn’t totally been abandonded: the new album’s title track, At Your Inconvenience, a critique of the music industry, has some bite, despite the lolloping backing. He even makes that Travie McCoy/Bruno Mars shipwreck of smugness Billionaire listenable. But while the new album might end up defining his legacy, it’s the old stuff that currently gives him the most credit.


From Nightshift, December 2011


O2 Academy, Oxford
20th July 2011

Reality TV stars, cultural icons and generational spokespeople N-Dubz, who have been around for a decade and churned out three albums, are surely too big for Oxford now. They’ve even got two dancers, slightly incongruous behind the main personalities. Tough-as-nails porcelain doll Tulisa needs to lay off gargling tar but skips her way around her vocal duties with nonchalance, in both crowd-pleasers like Strong Again and slower ones like Love Sick. Fazer (cheesiest line: “could all hands in the building report to the sky”) has got the best “swagger” and out-Tinchys Tinchy on their versions of Number One and Spaceship. And Dappy spends a lot of the gig waving around a hat – an over-ear style he claims he no longer wears – to whip up excitement for a chance to win a backstage audience with the band. Meanwhile, their surprisingly tight musicians blast out an unexpected 80s synth rock breakdown during one of the four (four!) costume change breaks. (My favourite costume is the Kryten-style body armour, incidentally.)

The Bay City Rollers ended up being glam “for the kids” – descended from something a lot more credible – and N-Dubz seem to have become “for the kids” too, making grime, one of the genres they fall into, more accessible and commercial, however preposterous a great proportion of the population might find them. Chances are they’ll eventually inspire more nostalgic ridicule than devotion (the self-referential lyrics might date badly, for one thing), but they’ve managed relative longevity for a band largely beloved of those of a tender age (“NDublets”), so who knows what way the national mood might swing after their impending eighteen-month hiatus.

Despite their notoriety, there’s still more charisma in one of Dappy’s hats than the entirety of Matt Cardle, and at least they’ve bothered to engage their audience and choreograph a show to suit. They’d no doubt be mortified if a certain demographic of the “haters” actually did like them; that’s not what they’re aiming for, and they’re doing very nicely at not achieving it.


From MusicInOxford.co.uk

East 17

O2 Academy, Oxford
2nd September 2011

As is customary these days, “edgy” 90s boyband East 17 have (yet again) reformed, though this time the gaffe-prone proto-Dappy, Brian Harvey, has been replaced by the requisitely tattooed and baseball capped Blair Dreelan. Songwriter and rapper Tony Mortimer is back, sometimes brandishing a guitar (sadly hard to hear in the mix). The other two, John Hendy and Terry Coldwell – who don’t seem to have aged – look delighted to still be there.

The poppier stuff like House of Love, It’s Alright, Let It Rain and the slightly risqué (if you were in your early teens at the time) Deep and Steam is still fun, but John and Terry – who do the occasional harmony and now stand in line with the others rather than dance behind them – still seem underused. In the slower, more R&B ones like Hold My Body Tight, Someone to Love, If You Ever and Around the World (which I’m sure didn’t use to sound so Lighthouse Family), Tony’s rapping seems lacklustre, but that could be due less to lack of effort and more because what worked in 1994 doesn’t work now.

Oddly, given the marketing opportunity, they only do one song from their imminent new album; if the rest of it is anything like the sub-Olly Murs Secret Of My Life, it’s probably just as well.

Tony’s songwriting is still impressive – Stay Another Day has outlived the output of most mid-90s boybands and remains one of the most memorable ballads of that decade – and he could surely still do a Gary Barlow and churn them out for X-Factor finalists. But for all the nostalgic excitement of the audience, it feels a little flat. Brian was the band’s Robbie and Mark in one, but Blair’s voice and banter seem to work so satisfactorily that it makes me wonder how necessary Brian was in the first place. Yet it still seems a bit pointless without him.


From Nightshift, October 2011

Sparkadia, A.Human and La Shark

The Jericho Tavern
24th February 2011

Sparkadia have played to thousands of people back home in Australia, so tonight’s sparse audience must be a bit of a shock. Luckily, they (well, he – the bequiffed Alex Burnett – and his touring band) fill the room anyway with their lush, epic guitar/synth pop. Talking Like I’m Falling Down Stairs is a Bowie-esque joy; Mary a beautifully heartfelt crescendo, China filled with great 80s power chords, and the cover of Kelis’s Acapella a stadium romp. The whole thing is a cinematic melodyfest, and I’ve totally fallen in love with it.

The crowd is still small for A.Human, but it doesn’t seem like much would stop A.Human having fun. There’s space to mingle, which brings the engaging sequin-jacketed singer, Dave Human, to the dancefloor for the whole gig. So now everyone in the room is dancing – on Dave’s orders – to the shaggy disco pop of songs like the insanely catchy Take Me Home.

La Shark, however, are extraordinary – mostly due to the presence of flamboyant and uninhibited singer Samuel Geronimo Deschamps. There are headstands, manic dancing and gradual disrobing – he gets down to his underpants by the third song. Then backflips, breakdancing and writhing around on the floor. And at one point, Dave Human is challenged to and loses a dance-off with a member of the audience. This would all just be silly were the music not so quirky – a sort of cosmic avant-garde funk pop, veering towards Muse-like levels of orchestration and pomp in Hotel Chevalier and 60s jangles in Modern Man, but never seemingly taking itself too seriously amongst the slap bass and dischords. The highlight is the angular, paranoia-laden I Know What You Did Last Summer, a double A-side with A.Human’s Take Me Home.

I haven’t had this much fun at a gig in ages. Brilliant.


From Nightshift, April 2011