If you read any music website these days, they can’t stop stroking it over the band Arctic Monkeys. During the release of last year’s “AM” album, their fifth record, the band blew up and are now playing arenas. Despite their growing popularity, prior to seeing them live, I’d only heard two of their songs. Because I am in a position to meet the people that create the art, I often choose to meet the artist before I take a look at their work because from experience, countless artists of all genres that have severely rocked my world have been super cool and others whose art I could take or leave have turned out to be pricks. There is too much choice in the world for me to waste my time with people that have little or no respect for the very people that have contributed to their success. Despite having TWO bad experiences meeting this band, I fully admit that the two songs I know from this band I quite enjoy, so I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and see them live.
This has happened to me many times before where I am literally sitting in an arena filled with 18,000 people and I have NO IDEA of any of the music I am about to hear. This method is not for everyone, but I highly recommend it. You can truly go in with an open mind and let these people do their jobs as rock stars and turn you into a fan before the night is over. Arctic Monkeys played their largest ever US show on February 8, 2014 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Here are 10 observations from my experience at the show.
1. The concert was not much of a ‘show.’ Playing Madison Square Garden is a privilege and not a right, so one would have thought this show would have been a spectacle as most concerts at the Garden are, especially since the band has spent 5 albums working up to this moment. Instead, the Arctic Monkeys had a gigantic but thin “A M” sign behind the band that lit up predictably during most songs. It was definitely a medium sized show placed in a large venue.
2. Arctic Monkeys do very little to get the crowd engaged. There was little banter between lead singer Alex Turner and the crowd. Turner played guitar for most songs and as a result, he stood in one place behind the microphone stand for the majority of the show. Crowd sing-a-longs were not happening either, which brings me to point number 3…
3. Arctic Monkeys songs are mostly forgettable. They do have some catchy moments, but would I rather listen to or see a band like Kasabian, Fratellis or Scissor Sisters whose music will not leave your head once it burrows itself inside? Yeah, any day! I mention these three bands because to me, Arctic Monkeys are an amalgamation of these 3 bands. I made myself a playlist of all the songs they performed in concert so I can focus on the studio versions and like I felt at the show, the music is pleasant and not offensive, but that’s about all I can say for it. I don’t see myself listening to their music on constant repeat.
4. Their music is very formulaic overall. Not very exciting verses and large choruses. So original. NOT!
5. They focused too much on their new album. They played all but 2 tracks off their newest record so fans that have been with Arctic Monkeys since the beginning have effectively been forgotten at their largest show to date in America. What a way to say thanks to your fans. Based on my not good experiences of meeting them, I am not surprised one bit.
6. The crowd was limp. As I said earlier, the band did very little to get the crowd engaged but for this bullet point, I’d like to focus on the lack of the crowd getting excited during songs. Sure there was generous applause in between songs, but it seemed that once a song started, people went back to texting and taking annoying cell phone pictures of either the band or the people they came with instead of getting involved with the show. I spent a lot of time looking around at the crowd reaction during the songs and for the lack of excitement I saw, I think people would have been better off playing the records at home and saving the expense and hassle of going to an arena. This is actually an observation that can be noted at most concerts as technology has really hindered people’s ability to live in the moment, but that’s a grievance for another day.
7. Their music, though popular, had little crossover appeal with people over 30. The crowd was extremely young and I felt like a dinosaur. For a rock band, I thought the crowd would be a bit more diverse, but I was wrong.
8. Lead singer Alex Turner is cute. Not the hottest guy I’ve ever seen, but he definitely has a 1950s greaser vibe going on and when I found myself getting bored, I was happy that I had some eye candy.
9. They covered The Beatles as safely as possible. It was the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles being on the Ed Sullivan Show on the weekend of the Arctic Monkeys concert so they played a little tribute to the Fab Four. They chose “All My Loving.” It was a “by the numbers” cover. No risk involved. Of course, every music site is juicing all over it like they took a risk and played “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” or “Helter Skelter” which would have been much more suited to their style. But with the new trend in playing covers, I am grateful they didn’t do an ironic cover where they played an acoustic version of a song that has no business being disrespected that way.
10. Final thoughts. I am more familiar with Arctic Monkeys than I was before I walked into the show. I can’t say I hated the show, because I did not. I also can’t say that I will become a die hard after seeing them live. They have a handful of songs that I can see myself revisiting and they have many more that were completely forgettable to me. I make it my mission to have fun wherever I go, in spite of my surroundings, and yes, I had fun. But that says more about me than it says about Arctic Monkeys. I can’t believe that in the two times I’ve seen this band in “autograph situations” they chose to ignore fans because I see no reason to patronize a mediocre band who have let a tiny bit of fame go to their heads. There are plenty of other bands who appreciate the position they are in and who are better performers.
The setlist was:
Do I Wanna Know? / Brainstorm / Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair / Snap Out of It / Crying Lightning / Old Yellow Bricks / Fireside/ Knee Socks / Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? / Arabella / Dancing Shoes / Pretty Visitors / I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor / Cornerstone / I Wanna Be Yours / Fluorescent Adolescent / 505 (with Miles Kane)
All My Loving (The Beatles cover) (with Miles Kane) / One For The Road / R U Mine?
On January 27, 2014, Cameroonian-born singer-songwriter, guitarist, pianist, model, and actress Andy Allo performed her first ever solo show in New York at Mercury Lounge in the Lower East Side. Fans braved the freezing temperatures only to have our hearts melted by Andy Allo’s smooth and very beautiful voice. She performed songs from her debut album “Unfresh,” a cover of Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain,” as well as tracks from her latest offering, “Superconductor,” a record that featured some help from the Voldemort of funk – Prince. Typically when Prince produces an artist, he brings out their best, but I can honestly say after seeing Andy Allo live, she is WAY better off without a little help from her friends. Her voice is incredible and her songs work better stripped down acoustically than they do featuring purple production. Like the Harry Potter universe did with Voldemort, Allo did not need to speak his name throughout her show and as a result, we were all able to fall in love with Andy Allo for her gift of song and not for her famous friends.
Check out an acoustic performance of her standout track “Yellow Gold” by clicking PLAY.
There’s no word if the Purple Police will come after me for posting this video, but if they do, I will comply and then write an article which will hopefully go viral about what a horrible person and business man Prince is… and boy, do I have stories I could tell. Not a threat, just a fact. He may be a control freak over his intellectual property, but he’s got nothing over mine. He may dress like a Jehovah’s Witness, but the similarities end there, I assure you!
Thanks for a great night Andy!
Andy Allo and Geoffrey Dicker
Andy Allo Setlist at Mercury Lounge. Now property of the G Archives.
On December 13, 2013, New York’s own MGMT played Barclays Center in Brooklyn, thus making it MGMT’s biggest NY show to date. Here are 10 observations from my experience at the show.
1. Every hipster in New York was at the MGMT show.
2. After seeing MGMT in small venues (Mercury Lounge), medium sized venues (Webster Hall), festivals (All Points West), large venues (Radio City Music Hall), and museums (Guggenheim), their best show to date was the arena (Barclays) show where they were able to show off extremely cool visuals and they let the music do the talking. Though being a “hipster who jumped the shark” type band, their songwriting is really excellent.
3. During their epic 12 minute song “Siberian Breaks,” which features many changes, the audience had no idea it was the same song and applauded thunderously as each change happened.
4. MGMT smartly paced out their 3 major “hits” (‘Time to Pretend,’ ‘Electric Feel’ and ‘Kids’) and after “Kids” was played at least 1/2 of Barclays Center made a mass exodus for the door, despite there being several songs to go.
5. Even though they played 5 songs from their disappointingly horrible new album, they were peppered in between their more “catchy” and “linear” songs off their first two albums, therefore not derailing the momentum of the show too badly.
6. Although the setlist was 16 songs long, favorites such as “The Handshake,” “Brian Eno,” “Astro-Mancy,” “Destrokk” and “Future Reflections” were omitted.
7. Nearly everyone around where I sat took selfies for the duration of the show.
8. The “cheap seats” section was closed thus messing with the acoustics of the arena and the sound was pretty bad, whereby it was very echo-y and it was very hard to make out the lyrics.
9. A gigantic cowbell was played during “Your Life Is A Lie,” and when Gibby Haynes from Butthole Surfers (who was a special guest that came out to play the dreaded instrument) missed his cues, you could still hear the sound of the cowbell thus potentially arousing a “Cowbell Lipsync” scandal.
10. MGMT at BRCLYS were AWSM and a video of “Congratulations” will be coming soon!
The setlist was:
Flash Delirium / Time To Pretend / Introspection / The Youth / Of Moons, Birds & Monsters / Mystery Disease / It’s Working / Weekend Wars / I Found A Whistle / Siberian Breaks / Electric Feel / Your Life Is A Lie / Kids / Cool Song No. 2 / Alien Days
2013 was filled with highs and lows musically. I’ve found that debut albums got more airplay than recent releases by veteran acts. So many hype machine songs did absolutely nothing for my ears, but the year was not a total waste. These 13 tracks made the year worth living.
1. “Running” by Jessie Ware. A perfect song from a perfect album. Jessie Ware’s silky smooth voice couldn’t be any sexier. Paired with this down-tempo groove that is good for chillin’, working out, walking down the street or getting it on. Here’s an exclusive live version!
Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys
2. “Fluorescent” & “Thursday” by Pet Shop Boys. I couldn’t pick which one I love more, so I am putting them both down in the number 2 spot. “Fluorescent,” is one of the danciest, darkest and moodiest tracks that Pet Shop Boys have ever recorded and every time I hear it, I can imagine being on a dance-floor after a night of intense partying. “Thursday” is one of the catchiest PSB songs in recent memory and features lyrics about two lovers sharing the weekend together instead of just one night and also has a guest rap from Example as well as a rare vocal appearance by Chris Lowe during the chorus.
Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs
3. “Sacrilege” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I highly encourage you to look up this video if you haven’t already seen it. It’s the story of a girl getting burned at the stake. It’s told backwards and the reasons she perishes are most certainly sacrilegious. This song is not only my favorite video of the year, but it’s my favorite video in a long time.
Lana Del Rey
4. “Summer Wine” by Lana Del Rey and Barrie James O’Neil. The self-proclaimed ‘gangsta Nancy Sinatra’ teams with her boyfriend and they cover Nancy Sinatra. Like Lana did many times in 2013, she didn’t have her team issue a press release teasing new tracks. With no warning, she put out the song and video at the same time. I wish that would become a trend!
Janelle Monae and G. Photo appeared on the interweb
5. “Electric Lady” by Janelle Monae. Janelle Monae is one of the most talented artists out there today and she is so desperate to prove that she’s unique, she keeps releasing concept albums that, while extremely creative, are only good for a few listens aside from a few tracks here and there. Props to Janelle Monae for not only convincing Prince to be a collaborator but she took the reins and produced him (instead of the other way around) for their track “Giving Em What They Love,” which is Prince’s first listenable track in years.
6. “Are You In Love With A Notion?” by The Courteeners. The Courteeners are big in Britain but are failing to make a splash stateside. A real pity, especially when you hear rockin’ tracks like “Are You In Love With A Notion?”
Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac
7. “Sad Angel” / “Without You” by Fleetwood Mac. The Mac finally came back. They released a 4 song EP in 2013 that featured a very “classic Mac” sounding track called “Sad Angel” and the old unreleased Buckingham Nicks track “Without You” was dusted off and re-recorded. Luckily, Lindsey Buckingham’s vocals are overpowering the flatness of Stevie Nicks’ voice, making both songs totally essential tracks of the Fleetwood Mac catalog.
8. “Latch” by Sam Smith and Disclosure. I’m not a huge fan of all this mediocre electronic music that is coming out lately, but when you add the vocal talents of someone like Sam Smith who has a deliciously soulful voice, you can turn a music curmudgeon like me into a fan. Sam Smith’s debut album should probably be released in 2014 and he’s already an early contender to be on the best of 2014 list.
Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode
9. “Goodbye” by Depeche Mode. I read a funny thing on the interweb once saying that Depeche Mode are the Rolling Stones of synth pop – whereby you will always go see them live because they put on a great show, and you dread hearing the lead singer saying these words: “Here’s a new song.” Depeche Mode’s 13th album “Delta Machine,” has a few good moments, but overall the album is pretty weak. One of those good songs is the closing track “Goodbye” which is dark, bluesy and kind of depressing – everything you want from a classic DM song.
10. “Porno” by Arcade Fire. Every hipster on the planet has jerked off to the fact that the overhyped Arcade Fire recorded an album with the brains behind the overhyped electronic outfit LCD Soundsystem. The results are not surprisingly an overhyped album for hipsters. One of the tracks is 11 minutes of feedback. You get what you pay for!!! I wonder how many times people have gone to Pitchfork’s website searching for an answer of what it all means. With that being said, the double disc has two good songs on it. One – the title track “Reflektor” (even though it’s 4 minutes too long) and the other is “Porno,” that has a cute beat and creepy lyrics about boys with their pornos. Way to go, new dad Win Butler. Every time this song comes on my iPod, the first thing that comes to mind is what motherfucking assholes this band are. Thanks for ruining your own mediocre music, dicks! Also, LA Weekly thinks you suck too.
11. “The Ballad of Boogie Christ” by Joseph Arthur. Joseph Arthur is an extremely underrated artist. He sings, he paints. Sometimes he paints as he sings. (not kidding). You should definitely check out his album “The Ballad of Boogie Christ,” as it’s a nice concept album in the age of the 2 second attention span generation. Watch the video above if you don’t believe me!
Hanni El Khatib
12. “Head In The Dirt” by Hanni El Khatib. If you only listen to Hanni El Khatib’s records without seeing him live, you are not getting the full picture (or sound in this case) of how good his music is. His new record was produced by one of the Black Keys so that was a start in better production studio-wise, but I still see an opportunity for growth. The title track “Head in the Dirt” gives you a taste of what you are missing out on by not seeing Hanni live.
13. “Let Go” by Kele Okereke, MNDR and RAC. A great dance track by RAC featuring the vocals of Bloc Party’s Kele and MNDR. As of press time they’ve only collaborated on one track, but once you hear “Let Go,” that perfectly marries the signature sounds of Kele and MNDR, you will want a whole album of duets. I’ve put it out there. Maybe it will happen!
Thanks to all the musicians who helped make my world a better place with these excellent songs!