grand drive

21 05 2003

Hammersmith Lyric Theatre

I have to say this was a gig like none I’d been to before. Mainly because I was sat down, and not because the standing tickets were sold out, but because everyone was sat down. And no-one was moving. But that’s because everyone was absolutely spellbound.

Personally I’m not sure of the authenticity of pedal-steel-soaked country by men from Sutton, but there’s no questioning the soulful lyricism in songs like opener You and I. This ornate theatre is the perfect setting for the soaring melodies and delicate guitar that manages to be both soaring and winsome. Tonight they’re augmented by lilting strings and there’s also a guest appearance from a female vocalist who looks terrified but
sounds gorgeous.

The whole set is as polished as the shiny guitar head that sends pencil-thin shafts of light into the blue smoke, and it’s engaging throughout if not always riveting. At the start of Firefly they announce “This is where we rock” but this actually just means they introduce an electric bass halfway through.

In fact Grand Drive live never get above a polite stomp, but when they do – on shimmering hoedown Needle in the Groove it’s pretty exhilarating stuff. The grown-up audience brings a sense of cosy intimacy that allows Grand Drive to shine.

And I was on the last train home, too.


fonda 500. schmoof. vanities. xerox teens

3 05 2003

The Verge, Kentish Town, 03.05.03

The Xerox Teens arrive on stage to a sampled declaration that “you can not fuck with this band.” Their stage presence is aloof, their t-shirt’s tight, their sleazy drum machine-driven art-punk New York raucous. Although ‘Essex Saloon Song’ could maybe do with a bit of a trim, it’s more than balanced by the glitter-stomping “Hey hey hey”s of ‘Image Music Text’. Xerox Teens are insistent, pounding, ragged and thoroughly wicked.

Bounding on next are The Vanities, a band so firmly entrenched in the pop end of ’80s electro that’s so in with the ironic mullets these days they namecheck Tony Hadley – “who’s just won Reborn in the USA! Yay!” and this is a defining characteristic, a manic enthusiasm for the inexcusably naff. They have suits and shades and some pretty good tunes, but they’re not much more than charming.

They’re followed by Schmoof, two cat-suited electro groovers with a brilliant animated backdrop and a great line in electropop. A highlight is a sultry romp through ‘Sweet Child O’Mine.’

Fonda 500 are also electro-tinged but deliver more of everything: more people on stage, more guitars, more noise, more rockin’ right out. The pop sensibilities are still there but with a more knowing wackiness and a fuzzy brilliance. Top stuff.

This review first appeared on Xerox Teens are still going, and getting better and better.