Author Archives: Jason Miller

TVD Live Shots: James Walsh at Bush Hall, 5/30

Starsailor frontman James Walsh has just released his second solo record, Tiger on the Bridge. It’s one of the most beautiful records I’ve ever heard, and sees the celebrated UK-based singer-songwriter taking a page from the Americana playbook.

If you’ve read any of my past reviews, then you know that Starsailor is favorite of mine, having seen them four times here since I moved to the UK three years ago, with an additional three shows in the US. I think they are easily the best band from the ’90s Britpop invasion and have followed them ever since. 2014 saw the release of Walsh’s first solo record, Turning Point. I was first in line to pick that one up, and I thought it was a solid debut. Tiger on the Bridge is on another level.

From start to finish every song showcases Walsh’s exceptional voice on top of some of the best songwriting I’ve heard in a decade. The opening track “Germain” sets the stage and preps the listener for the Americana twist that many of his fans probably didn’t see coming. “Germain” segues into arguably the strongest track on the record “Heavy Heart” with its tribal-like crescendo, reminding all of us very quickly how no one on the planet can sing quite like this guy. From a soft soprano to a powerfully piercing perfect falsetto in an instant, he makes it sound so easy. I was in the studio when he recorded this record, and it’s fucking mindblowing how remarkable and powerful his voice is.

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TVD Live Shots: Juliana Hatfield Three at the O2 Academy Islington, 5/21

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than three decades since Juliana Hatfield burst onto the scene as a core member of the Blake Babies. Ever since, she’s consistently released some of the most unique and celebrated indie pop records of our time.

Even though I’m a fan of pretty much anything she touches, my favorite will always be The Juliana Hatfield Three. 1993’s Become What You Are was my introduction to Hatfield and the entry point into her world. This was her major label debut, and in the ’90s when a major wanted to push something to break through, they did a hell of a job. Not so much anymore. Furthermore, this was the record that polished Hatfield’s garage-rock, folkish punk while adding a dark overtone and touch of mystique. Combine that with the tongue in cheek lyrical genius that is Hatfield, and you have the makings for a remarkable debut.

The setlist that night was a bit of a surprise, to be honest. Touring as The Juliana Hatfield Three one would suspect that material would be the majority of the set. Become What You Are was represented with the classics “Spin the Bottle,” “My Sister,” and “I Got No Idols.” Curiously missing from the set however was “Supermodel.” Even more surprising was the lack of songs from the 21 years in the making follow-up, Whatever, My Love, with only one song in the set, “If I Could.”

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TVD Live Shots: Foals
at the Bataclan, 5/13

PARIS, FRANCE | There’s something incredibly unique about Foals. If you ask one hundred different people how to describe their music, you’ll get 100 different answers. How many bands can say that—in a good way that is? I’ve seen these guys live three times now and this is the best they’ve ever been—one thousand fucking percent. Maybe it’s the intimacy of the venue? Perhaps the fact that the buzz on these guys never seems to die? Or maybe it’s just that from start to finish the band delivers a punch to the gut that channels perfectly into controlled chaos.

Foals have figured out a way to masterfully combine the best of synth pop, new wave, and post-punk into a universally appealing sound. Back that up with a cutting edge light show and a frontman who spends an equal amount of time crowd surfing and diving off balconies than he does actually on stage singing, and you have arguably the hottest band in the UK.

Touring in support of part one of their hotly anticipated fifth and sixth studio albums, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1 and Part 2 (Part 1 was released in March while the latter will release in September) Foals played a more intimate venue than what most fans are used to.

These guys also have a different rule for photographers. While the industry standard for almost every show is the first three songs, no flash, Foals break the trend by only allowing photographers to shoot during the last three songs. (The most accepted reason being that musicians look their best during the first three songs, although there’s also a story that Springsteen came up with the rule in the ’70s because the photographers were becoming increasingly distracting.)

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TVD Live Shots: Pete Doherty and the Puta Madres at the O2 Kentish Town, 5/12

I’m a massive fan of rock stars who genuinely embrace the lifestyle—the ones who make the most noise and piss off a ton of people while rising to the top because they play by their own rules. It’s the punk rock mentality that says, “show up as your true self and take no shit from anyone.” There are those who try to fabricate this mentality, then there are the tortured souls who have no choice other than to channel it in a creative way. Peter Doherty is the personification of all the above.

I’m also a massive fan of the Libertines and Babyshambles since I was living in the States. The Britpop invasion in the US seemed to have evaporated by the time these two bands caught a tailwind before the next big thing took over. However, there was always a buzz around them, and the critical acclaim couldn’t come quickly enough. So why didn’t either band truly break through in the States? Who fucking knows. (I blame the hipster elite who deemed it cool to love these bands and you almost had to be approved by this clique to properly enjoy the music.)

Now, I’ve been living in the UK for three years and looking to catch my first Pete Doherty show in any incarnation but with no luck. I missed the Libertines twice—it’s pretty much impossible to get tickets to their shows in London as they are usually one-offs, private gigs, or part of a huge show in a tiny venue for one reason or another. So when I saw Doherty’s new band plotting a proper UK tour, I thought this was my chance. And it worked out beautifully (…minus the non-existent lights on the stage. It was pretty much pitch black with a couple of backlights—otherwise known as a photographer’s fucking nightmare).

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TVD Live Shots: Hall
& Oates at Wembley Arena, 4/26

Hall & Oates bring their unique brand of Philly rock and soul to the UK for the first time in more than five years. Can the biggest-selling duo in music history still pull a crowd in the UK? The answer is a resounding “yes” as Daryl Hall and John Oates packed them in at London’s legendary Wembley Arena. One would never guess that the blonde haired, blue-eyed frontman is going to turn 73 this year. He’s either found the fountain of youth or the gods of pop music are smiling down on him.

Hall is a brilliant example of how to stay relevant as his critically acclaimed Live from Daryl’s house has taken on a life of its own. Continuing the legacy of mixing genres and pushing the H2O songbook, the live jam sessions not only provide a platform for 40 years of hits but also bring in new blood along the way to further celebrate these classics for a new generation. He’s essentially future-proofed the business while staying incredibly relevant.

Oates has to be drinking from the same fountain as this guy is going on 72 and could easily pass for half that age. He continues to weave a welcomed solo song into the set which acts as a nice buffer for the non-stop hits-a-palooza that clocks in just under two hours. On another note, it looks like the most famous mustache in all of pop music seems to be making a long overdue comeback.

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TVD Live Shots: Tom Chaplin Sings Queen at the Palladium, 4/22

Reason number 437 on why I love living in London: the number of unique UK only tours. Last year Keane frontman Tom Chaplin joined the acclaimed BBC Radio 2 Friday Night Is Music Night show for an extraordinary evening to perform songs from Queen. Blending orchestral music with a mixture of contemporary music, songs from musicals and films, opera and more, Radio 2 each week delivers on a set theme. Friday Night Is Music Night dates all the way back to 1953, but was only televised for the very first time on BBC Four in 2005. Fast forward to 2019, and the series is alive and well bringing together masterful singers to celebrate iconic songbooks.

I was gutted to miss the first gig where Tom Chaplin performed a night of Queen songs back in November of last year. That show was so incredibly well received that it would become a six-city UK tour in 2019, and I was not going to miss it this time. While I was incredibly excited to see this show, I had a few looming questions. Is the beloved frontman biting off more than he can chew attempting to perform some of the most ambitious and celebrated songs of our time? Can anyone on this earth match the dynamic range and charisma of one of the greatest singers of all time?

I should note that I’m a HUGE Keane fan. I think Strangeland is one of the most stunning albums I’ve ever heard in my life and Chaplin’s solo record that followed was equally as brilliant. So I’m going in with a bit of bias, but still, this is going to be a huge challenge to pull this off. The reviews of the original show were over the top, however I find it incredibly difficult to trust reviews that are so consistently and overwhelmingly positive.

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TVD Live Shots: Pop
Will Eat Itself and
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin
at Shepherd’s Bush Empire 4/6

When Nine Inch Nails were at their peak in the US, their label Interscope records gave frontman Trent Reznor his own label imprint called Nothing Records. One of its early signings was picking up UK electro pioneers Pop Will Eat Itself from a fallout with their North American label BMG. The result is one of the best and most undercelebrated albums of the ’90s, Dos Dedos Mis Amigos.

While it was a departure from the band’s earlier sound, it didn’t matter to me as this was my introduction to the group. I bought this thing on cassette and played it pretty much nonstop through the Brit Pop invasion of the mid ’90s and could not believe my eyes when I saw that the band would be touring the UK this year. The two singles from the record, “Ich Bin Ein Auslander” and “R.S.V.P.” were absolutely brilliant songs and should have elevated the band to immediate superstardom in the States. Instead, they enjoyed moderate success without ever truly breaking out.

The “Love from Stourbridge” tour brings together Pop Will Eat Itself and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, two of Stourbridge’s biggest musical exports, touring together for the first time since 1989. For PWEI they are celebrating the 30th anniversary of their classic 1989 album This Is the Day…This Is the Hour…This Is This!. To celebrate the milestone, the band is playing the record in full along with a selection of other tracks.

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TVD Live Shots: IDLES at Vicar Street, Dublin, 4/2

What happens when you take the best of The Strokes, Clutch, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Black Flag, and a touch of Fugazi, mix it all—and then set it on fire? You get the makings of the most exciting band from the UK in the past decade.

IDLES blasted out of Bristol seemingly from nowhere and have answered the same call that punk rock did in the late ’70s. But instead of a fight against disco and inequalities, this time it’s about corruption and satire, all in the face of the looming disaster that is Brexit. IDLES not only provide a much-needed break from the mainstream bullshit, but they have also relit the punk torch and grown it into a bonfire.

If you’ve somehow missed the phenomenon known as IDLES you might think that they are a bit overhyped. It’s a natural response from the mainstream press building our hopes up around the next big thing, only to be let down. I can tell you for after seeing this band live in Dublin last week that IDLES is the real fucking deal. It’s not hype when the hype machine isn’t needed; it’s much more organic. The songs, the live shows, the attitude is all 100% real, and the music scene has embraced the next big thing not because they were told to do so, but because they discovered it on their own.

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TVD Live Shots: Vive Le Rock Awards at the O2 Academy Islington, 3/27

I’ve been a massive fan of Vive Le Rock magazine since moving to London from San Francisco a few years back. It’s the one magazine that is keeping the spirit of punk and new wave alive and well in the UK, and they do it surprisingly well. So when a chance to attend the awards popped into my TVD inbox, I jumped at the chance and brought my camera along.

The bill for the evening was stacked, to say the least, plus they were teasing a special set from a 1977 band who would be reforming for one night only. Headlining the night would be The Stranglers, but before they would close out the night the stage would host a who’s who of punk rock and new wave icons from the glory days or the late ’70s and early ’80s both presenting and accepting awards while jamming away with the songs that defined the two decades.

Opening the night promptly at 7:30 was the house band appropriately named The Vive Le Rockers. While I’m not sure who the lead dude was, he threw down like a proper rock star and pretty much owned the stage while donning a full-on mariachi suit complete with oversized sombrero. The Professionals’ Tom Spencer joined in on the first set which included the songs “Pipeline,” “Green Door,” and “Know Your Product.”

Next, up Vive Le Rock editor, Eugene Butcher jumped on stage to welcome the crowd and to introduce one of my all-time favorite musicians, the legendary Glen Matlock from the Sex Pistols. Glen got the crowd going, opening with “Sexy Beast” and “Keep on Pushing” from his brilliant new solo record, and then closing out with a rebel rousing version of the Pistols’ classic “Pretty Vacant.”

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TVD Live Shots: James at Royal Albert Hall, 3/9

The last time I saw James was at a radio festival in the States in the early ’90s. The band was riding high on the Brit-pop invasion and celebrating much-deserved success with their breakthrough single “Laid.” While I’ve always considered myself a casual fan, I had sort of lost track of the band before moving to London a few years ago. That all changed last week at Royal Albert Hall—I’m hooked—and I feel like I’ve discovered the genius of James once again in a proper setting.

If seeing a show at the beautiful and legendary space that is Royal Albert Hall isn’t enough, enter Tim Booth and company. James delivered a masterclass in what it means to be considered Brit-pop royalty and how to keep relevant for three decades plus. The band opened for themselves with a short acoustic set of stripped-down deep cuts and fan favorites. That’s quite a bold move, and the only other artist I’ve seen do this is the excellent Noel Gallagher (who admitted that he couldn’t find anyone worthy of the spot). After seeing the full-blown electric set that James delivered, I think they could easily say the same.

James are touring in support of their 15th studio album Living in Extraordinary Times. The Manchester natives blasted through a set celebrating pieces of their impressive catalog while pulling heavily from their latest. In fact, I think they nearly played the entire record, but I was in too much awe to be taking any notes—and trying to keep up with Tim Booth as the 59 years young frontman impressively sailed over the top of the crowd following several stage dives and making his way around the entire venue. This guy has more energy and personality than most punk bands half or even a quarter of his age.

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TVD Live Shots: 311 at the House of Blues, 2/25

ORLANDO, FL | One of my rare trips back to the States happened last week to Orlando for a Microsoft Advertising global offsite (my day job). I’m always on the lookout for a gig or two when I travel, and this would be no exception. It’s still hit or miss as to which bands are touring in sync with my travel schedule, but this time I lucked out. 311 was playing two sold-out nights at the House of Blues just a few minutes walk from the Microsoft summit. This would be checking two boxes for me: never having been to the House of Blues in Orlando, and I haven’t checked in with 311 in about 20 years.

Back in my college days at the University of Missouri St. Louis, I was working in a record store and someone sent a copy of 311’s debut album Music to the store as a promo. These guys immediately had credibility as they were on an up and coming independent record label named Capricorn Records which was being pushed pretty hard by their distribution company, the all mighty Warner Brothers. I remember 311’s first two records very well as they were gaining traction amongst the cool kids and critics alike, but ignored by radio at the time which can be a good thing for a little while.

Then, true to form, the major label was entirely out of sync with the artist and their fanbase as the band released their third self-titled record which pretty much just kept the converted happy. They failed to release the strongest song on the record as the single, and this would flatline the band for the rest of the year. Then in 1996 someone, somewhere took a chance and played “Down.” That would push record sales on this one alone to more than three million in the US while also driving the first two records to gold status pretty much overnight. 311 had become the hottest band in the US from a song that wasn’t even a single. But it didn’t matter as the band was just getting started.

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TVD Live Shots: Blue Oyster Cult and The Temperance Movement at the Eventim Apollo 2/22

Blue Oyster Cult returned to the UK for the first time in nearly a decade. This is a very interesting band for me as they wrote one of the most iconic anthems of the ’70s, had a string of brilliant albums, but never really seemed to break through like several of their kindred spirits.

Maybe it’s because BOC is a bit too diverse for their own good. They certainly have the musicianship and songwriting chops to stand out on their own, but their continuous jumping between radio-friendly classic rock pop songs and over the top psychedelic rock put them in the “where the hell do they really fit” category. It’s a nice problem to have for the band and their fans, but it can wreak havoc for any plan to achieve mainstream success and find a steady home at radio.

Either way, Blue Oyster Cult has certainly cemented their legacy, and the live show is where it all comes together regardless of the critics or manufactured radio playlists. Watching the show here in the UK at the legendary Eventim Apollo (the former Hammerstein Ballroom), it’s refreshing not hearing anyone shouting out, “I gotta have more cowbell,” or “I’ve got a fever….” as the band winds up to play “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” Saturday Night Live isn’t a thing over here. In addition, classics such as “Burning for You,” “Godzilla,” and “E.T.I.,” comprise a setlist that would make any classic rock fan bust with nostalgia. The fact that the band sounded as good as they did that night is just one of the many reasons why BOC can still pull in a crowd.

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TVD Live Shots:
The Dead South and
The Hooten Hallers at the O2 Forum Kentish Town, 2/15

Canadian bluegrass punk rebels The Dead South have arrived and their moment is now. Having sold out their biggest UK tour to date, this quartet is primed to take the reins from the terribly overrated Mumford & Sons with a return to the style of the original rowdy acoustic punks, The Avett Brothers. It’s traditional, it’s edgy, the lyrics tell a great story, and you can’t help but stomp your foot and be pulled into the energy that these guys produce on stage.

Based in Regina, Saskatchewan, the band was formed in 2012 and has released two full-length albums and an EP to date. The songs “In Hell I’ll be in Good Company,” “Honey You,” “Boots,” and “Banjo Odessy” are instant classics for the genre and sound even better live than on the records.

Famed London venue the O2 Forum in Kentish Town was jam-packed with 2300 fans, the largest crowd to date for these guys, and it was a rip-roaring ride through the band’s short but celebrated catalog backed by one of the most impressive light shows I’ve seen at the venue. As these guys have just recently appeared on my radar, it became immediately apparent why the buzz and the hype around The Dead South is legit, and it will be interesting to see where the band goes next as they’ve clearly outgrown another London venue.

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TVD Live Shots: Behemoth at the
O2 Forum Kentish
Town, 2/8

Behemoth is a fascinating band on so many levels. For one, they’ve transcended labels. They started off embracing the qualities of Polish black metal more than a decade ago, to pushing the boundaries of what the genre can become with their latest critically acclaimed masterpiece. Secondly, you have one of the most identifiable, relatable, and inspirational frontmen in the business in Nergal.

He doesn’t pretend to be something he’s not. Maybe that’s because he’s living life on his terms and has no time for the bullshit opinions of others. This guy stared death the face, then took it out back and beat the shit out of it.

To those who only look at Behemoth’s dark and disturbing imagery, it would be easy to pass them off as caricatures. But if you dig in, it’s remarkable to see a band take both their visuals and themes to the heights that they achieve. They expertly weave dark religious themes with the heaviest of heavy metal. Throw in a bit of middle eastern flair and experimental noise, and you have the makings for one of the most unique bands over the past several years.

The show at the sold-out O2 Forum in north London was like the live unpacking of a nightmare. The crowd was going bonkers from beginning to end. There are no “hits” to be found, but the band rightfully pulled heavily from last year’s I Loved You at Your Darkest. It was as if hell had been recreated on stage and I sat patiently waiting for the oversized arm of Satan himself to burst through the smoke at any given moment and condemn us all. In other words, it was my favorite show of the year so far.

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TVD Live Shots:
The Dandy Warhols
and Swervedriver at
the O2 Brixton, 2/1

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a quarter of a century since the debut record from The Dandy Warhols. I missed this record the first time around and instead discovered them on their masterful major label debut The Dandy Warhols Come Down. This is one of my favorite records of all time and one that easily stands the test of time. Often referred to as “the best Brit rock band from the States,” on tour the Dandys are not jumping on the current bandwagon and playing their classic album in its entirety along with a greatest hits encore. Instead, they do a proper celebration by dropping their 10th studio album, appropriately titled Why You So Crazy.

“The weirdest thing about it being ‎our 25th anniversary is it doesn’t feel like 25 years. Feels like about six. Or five,” muses frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor. I couldn’t agree more—how in the fuck did this happen? Am I really that old? Now that I think about it, I’ve seen the Dandys eight or nine times over the years, and I do celebrate their entire catalog.

While the Dandys have certainly done things on their terms after leaving the world of major labels, they’ve gone in some bizarre directions and never really went back to capture their roots on any later material. Well, that all changes with Why You So Crazy. Yeah, of course, it’s a fucking weird record, but they’ve managed to take a bit of influence from the other nine records and sprinkled that magic across the 12 songs on this gem—songs like “Forever,” “Terraform,” and “Motor City Steel” pulling a bit more from the trio of greatness that is Dandy’s Come Down, 13 Tales, and Welcome to the Monkey House.

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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