Friday, 12 October 2012

Johnny Foreigner @ Firebug Leicester - 10th Oct '12

Firebug is a cosy pub/bar with an upstairs venue area, with what is probably the greatest feature of a small venue I’ve seen yet – sofas! It’s not a big room either so there doesn’t feel anything impolite about sitting comfortably in a sofa/armchair to watch the supports. First up are Falcon who launch into some Tall Ships-esque math rock, but with lovely melismatic female vocals (although she’s a bit quiet – but that could be down to the down the sound person, or her cold). Playlounge wander on stage next with little ceremony, shaking the wooden floor with their furious noise-pop. There’s quite a bit of buzz around these guys at the moment, and they certainly deliver live.

Johnny Foreigner begin their set with Alexei and Kelly standing in the crowd to deliver ‘Johnny Foreigner Vs You’ entirely acapella (except for the piano melody playing quietly in the background). It’s a nice chance to see just how good Alexei’s voice is, it easily fills the room and Kelly’s slightly huskier answering phrases contrast well with his clear, emotive vocals. The softer atmosphere is soon shattered as they leap on stage to thrash out ‘Feels Like Summer. The set list is well chosen and they’re on top form tonight (despite some initial technical difficulties). There are a couple of new songs in the mix as well, from an album due out at the end of this month (“called NAMES…because names are important”). It’s difficult to judge new material on the basis of one listen at a gig, but it seems like Johnny Foreigner are set to continue with the gorgeous success that is ‘Vs Everything’. Both tracks are that blend of catchy beautiful melodies, and angry violent guitars, that Johnny Foreigner weave together so well.

They opt to leave out the usual ploy of leaving the stage only to return for an encore, instead explaining the situation and then diving straight into an old favourite ‘Sofacore’ (which at one point meanders into Star Trek and then back to ‘Sofacore’ again). The sublime ‘New Street, You Can Take It’ sees the whole crowd singing along for the final few lines, followed by ‘Absolute Balance’ – another old favourite, which closes things perfectly.

It’s the first gig Lobandwidth has reviewed in its/my new home of Leicester, and it’s a fittingly special one. Johnny Foreigner are perhaps not the most consistent live band in terms of sound - if you’re unlucky they can be a little ramshackle (but in a very endearing way). Either way you’re guaranteed a good show and an enjoyable evening regardless - and if you do catch them at their best, like tonight, they’re very very good indeed.
words by Mel Reeve

Album Review // Sfumato ~ These Things Between…

Read on Goldflakepaint

Describing himself as a “drummer who decided to sing an album of songs which I sing with myself”, Sfumato (actually named Daithí Ó hÉignigh – Sfumato is a painting technique used by Da Vinci), has created a blissful, elegant album. Dodging between vibrant, joyous choruses and soft ballad like moments, tinged with a delicate melancholy. It gently winds its way into your brain,where it’ll quietly stay put.

The use of violins hints at folk influences, but avoids the trap that many bands often fall into of using this as an excuse for a very simple, basic (and boring) song structure. Instead, the strings add a harsher edge to otherwise sweetly melodic moments. ‘Pound’ features some spectacular illustrative drumming, “pound goes my heart” Ó hÉignigh sings, followed by a thumping beat that brings to mind Slow Club’s latest record, with its distinctive drumming. Exquisite, soft female vocals hide underneath O hEignigh’s own rich voice, occasionally coming to the foreground to great effect, such as on ‘Fly To Me’ and‘Song To Myself’ – which also features some truly sublime saxophone; a hint of smoky jazz clubs and melancholy improvisation leaks in, fitting perfectly with the carefully strummed guitar.

These Things Between stands out because it’s a clever album. There’s almost always strong melodic interest and it’s constantly surprising. Even the sampled crow noises at the beginning of ‘Pound’ avoid sounding clichéd or ridiculous, instead somehow being exactly what is needed to ease out from the faster pace of ‘Fly To Me’. It’s an unusual album at points but certainly never even close to un-listenable, instead it becomes vibrant and exciting. Sfumato are certainly a band to keep an eye on.