Sunday, March 26, 2017

25.03.2017 Electronic Music Conference: Chris Wave, Richard Barbieri, Chris Payne, Rusty Egan, Martyn Ware

The Birmingham & Midlands Institute, Birmingham

With masterclasses, performances and talks including Q&A, the electronic music conference in Birmingham had interesting and influential musicians to offer.

While organiser Chris Wave said very little and showed a 26 minute 1980’s film called ‘Knights electric’ with a great soundtrack and a crappy storyline during his 30 minutes set the event really became meaningful when the various conveyors of electronic music gave their talks and allowed plenty of time for audience members to ask questions.

First up was synthesist Richard Barbieri whose band ‘Japan’ enjoyed success in the mid 1970s into the early 1980’s and especially their album ‘Tin Drum’ is seen as ground-breaking. Not as big in their home country as they should have been, Japan still had a large following in the UK. Barbieri was a down to earth guy who openly talked about the trappings of working on projects alone and the joys of collaborating and recalled some Japan related anecdotes. 

Classically trained musician Chris Payne was next and he talked about how confining it often was during the making of Gary Numan’s highly praised album ‘The pleasure principle’ where he was asked just to play certain chords and didn’t always get a chance to express himself artistically. 

He spoke fondly of his time with Gary Numan both as a touring musician as well as being in the studio. Payne also co-wrote the global smash hit ‘Fade to grey’ by Visage.

He was a fun guy to listen to and even asked questions inquiring how, for song writing musicians in the audience, the collaborative process worked and shaped their music and shared his experiences as a film music composer, classically trained violinist and had interesting things to say about the music industry.

World renowned DJ Rusty Egan was next and he has a highly entertaining personality. He used his hour more or less entirely to rant about the misdeeds of musicians he had once helped out and there wasn’t anything to learn or to take home particularly from his 60-minute talk.

The highlight of this exciting afternoon was clearly the presentation and talk from Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware (also of The Human League fame). He talked about ‘his life in 20 synths’ and talked about his career as a musician as well as a producer (Erasure & Terence Trent D’arby were some artists he worked with) and the second part of his talk was about his audio-visual installations that are globally successful and exciting.

He candidly answered the ever-occurring question about performing The Human League’s first two albums with the original line up and his relationship to Philip Oakey and was fascinating to listen to.
All speakers were easily approachable and there were no big egos in the room – just very nice people and influential musician who helped shape the history of electronic music.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

13.03.2017 ARW (Anderson, Rabin, Wakeman) – An evening of YES music and more

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

The date of this amazing gig coincided with my 50th birthday and YES formed in 1968 and the guys could have played for weeks and not exhaust their back catalogue.

Quite a fractured proposition at times with many changing members YES still never lost their essence on their numerous albums and seeing Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin together with two outstanding musicians on drums and bass was simply amazing.

Anderson had formed YES with is buddy Chris Squire who sadly passed away in June 2015. Jon Anderson said that ‘he was Obi Wan Kenobi and Squire was Darth Vader and that they were the ying and yang of the band but true musical brothers’ and it was nice to hear that.

The evening was amazing: Rick Wakeman in T-Shirt, Jogging pants and his infamous cape surrounded by two Korg™ Kronos’s, a Korg Triton, a Minimoog and other synths I couldn’t quite make out from where I was sat is a towering figure and larger than life, quite a contrast to the tiny frame that is Jon Anderson and it has always been these two that made YES work.

Not to take anything away from Trevor Rabin who is a super gifted musician and film composer. He played on 4 YES albums including their biggest selling album ever 90125 from 1983.

Indeed, all three will be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in April of 2017.

The whole night was mesmerizing and my personal highlights were ‘Roundabout’ from 1971s ‘Fragile’ album, ‘You and I’ from 1972s ‘Close to the edge’ album and my favourite memory has got to be the epic ‘Awaken’ from 1977’s ‘Going for the one’ album.

Classic YES.

The band interacted lovingly and naturally with one another and the chemistry was felt by the audience and the musical soundscapes were simply from out of this world.

Rabin & Wakeman went on a walkabout through the hall during ‘Owner of a lonely heart’ which was yet another highlight of the show.

I feel very blessed to have seen these legends live on stage

Monday, March 13, 2017

11.03.2017 Among The Echoes, Sinestar & Shelter

The Flapper, Birmingham, 11.03.2017

A sold out evening in aid of the ‘promise dreams’ charity (a charity that aims to fulfil the dreams of seriously and/or terminally ill children) can only be a good thing. And the bands delivered beautifully.

One of my favourite bands Shelter kicked off the evening and they were amazing from start to finish and out of the three bands of the evening certainly the most ‘obviously synthy’ act.

They performed material from their two albums ‘Emerge’ and ‘Ascend’ and some of the tracks were presented in new and exciting remix formats as well. From the word go the audience was hooked on Shelter and the duo ended their set with the song ‘Beautiful’, co-written by Erasure’s Andy Bell and their set was just that: beautiful.

4-piece Sinestar from Bristol had a 10 track set and were difficult to pidgeon hole (always a good thing in my opinion) and their set was mostly high energy songs but with a slightly softer voice than one would have expected. They brought many friends/fans with them who loudly sang along to their music, making the set even more enjoyable.

Among The Echoes’ very own Ian Wall (who had a hand in organising the evening) celebrated his 50th birthday that night and was presented with a certificate that denoted him owning a piece of the moon and a slideshow containing best wishes from friends and family preceded the gig.

Berlin resident Thomas Mueller aka Keller Technik who had remixed the Echoes’ track ‘Medusa’ flew in from Germany to play with them on stage that night.

Although good they weren’t quite as much my cup of tea as much as Shelter & Sinestar were but certainly entertained the crowd.

It was a beautiful evening with great live acts and a lovely audience.

Well done all