Category Archives: Opinion

Keane Manchester Arena 2012 – Review

Having already seen the likes of Muse and the Killers this month already, it was nice to finish the month with a breathtaking end. Keane are one of my favourite bands, so I am not going to pretend that this is acompletely unbiased review. I am sure as I mentioned Keane, there were some music snobs out there that will be tutting, shaking their heads or some more foul mouthed telling me to fuck off with my shit taste in music… Well I won’t and don’t use that type of language with me.

Already the gig was set to be something very different, it was being performed “in the round”. Now I’ve never seen band that has played in the round, and I was very interested to see how this would work or might not work. Another major difference to this gig, was that the standing area on the floor, was changed so that they were seats there instead. Now even though this would sacrifice some of the attendance, it made sure that those lucky enough to be on the floor (me) would get an intimate atmosphere in an arena setting.
Before the show started.

Before the show started.

Support was provide by Wolf gang, who I thought sounded excellent. Annoyingly their lead singer, decided to stick to only to two ends of of the stage. We managed a quick glance at the side of his head at times but that was it. This only added to the anxiety that we’d be the unlucky one, and end up having to look at the back of Tom Chaplin’s head for the majority of the performance. There wasn’t long for me to worry about this though, as soon the lights was turned off. A wonderfully atmospheric walk on music played as Keane walked through the audience on to the stage; a nice touch. Soon thankfully, the fact this was a seating ground floor lost all meaning as the crowd stood. This was great, it struck me at the time as how rare this is, I could stand so close to a stage, and have so much room.

The show got straight in to full steam with the soaring (expect that word a lot, he has a soaring voice) You are young. The show carried on with always popular Bend and Break, before moving on to On the Road. On the road, is a song that can quickly warm up a crowd, and Tom Chaplin did his best to get the appreciative, but quiet crowd going. On the Road is a song with plenty of “Ohhh ohhh” moments for the crowd to sink there their teeth into. Soon any fears that I would be stuck seeing the back end of the band for the entire gig, had ended. After 3 songs; Tom had already done 100 laps of the stage, giving everyone a good view, we had seen Richard on the drums revolve round on a turn table, Tim on Keyboard change to a piano on the other end of the stage, and Jessie on bass, had done a few laps around also. This carried on throughout the whole show, the planning and rehearsal quality could clearly be seen. There was a real effort by the lads to make sure everyone got an equal amount of the view.

I had seen Keane live earlier this year, at the 02 academy in Leeds, it was great show. But comparing it to this arena version, would be unfair. It was a superbly designed set. Now It didn’t have the wow factor of bands that the likes of Muse have. But never-the-less, it looked great. It was a simple design to the one in Leeds just bigger, but the real difference was in the lighting. It was perfectly suited to each song. And from what I hear, it looked even better from further away from the stage.

KEANE 030

Once they played Everybody’s Changing, the set was in full swing. Slightly disappointingly though, was the lack of the audience’s going all in, when singing the song with the band. Though a deafening applause after the song showed how much the crowd appreciated the band. Half way through the set, there was a slow down in the pace of the performance, as Keane (and one song with just Tom Chaplin and a guitar) played two beautiful acoustic songs. Then the pace soon sped quickly back up with Disconnected.

KEANE 020

Tom Chaplin’s vocal were great as usual

Soon Keane pulled out the big guns, playing Is It Any Wonder, This Is The Last Time, and Somewhere Only We know. During which the stage took another slight transformation as huge spiralling pillars of light appeared from above the stage and came down. The main set ended with Bedshaped, I have mentioned before this is my favourite song, and it was great to hear the audience sing a long with this. Tom was great in getting the crowd involved, in a very Freddie Mercury way. He talks to the crowd through the whole set, and lets them feel that they are a part of something special and unique.

A little lighter of a shot

A little lighter shot

Of course as usual there, was a quick pause as the band took a few minutes to do the traditional encore. Once they came back on they played the emotional Sea Fog, the rousing and addictivly catchy Sovereign Light Cafe, and they finished on the rocky Crystal Ball. During Sovereign Light Cafe, 3 large disco balls descended. And of course these disco balls stayed for crystal ball.

This was an absolutely amazing gig, and if you see Keane are touring your town (or just close by) sometime soon, I would whole heartedly recommend seeing them. Even if you are not the biggest fan of the music itself, you won’t be disappointed with the performance.

Till next time Keane….

;

Song of the month November 2012

Skyworld is a demonstration album by a music production company “Two steps from hell”. Being honest, I didn’t really know what demonstration album even was… but the album came recommend. So I gave it a listen, and all in all it is pretty good, it is like a soundtrack to a film… but the film doesn’t exist. So I can only assume this is a basically like an advertising pitch to film company’s. There is a few hit and miss songs on there, but I really enjoyed the first song.

Also I would like to see the film that skyworld could be the soundtrack too.

Top 5 albums of the 2000’s

Since I don’t rate my music knowledge enough, and feel I haven’t listened to enough of the ‘classic’ albums of the past decades… so I only feel confident enough to give a list of the last 12 years or so. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, but this is only my opinion and I think, sorry know that many, many people will disagree with it. Hell sometimes I disagree with it…

5) Hopes and Fears – Keane

The first album in my very fluid list of albums, is the début LP by piano rock group Keane. Before people shout ‘boring’ and ‘depressing’ at me very loudly (you know who you are), people should give this a full listen. Hopes and fears is chocked full of emotion and feeling. Of course there are the tacks that most people will know ‘Everybody changing’ and ‘Somewhere only we know’ but some of the best tracks on the album are the lesser known ones. The song ‘We might as well be strangers’ really stand out; it is a track that builds up slow and ends in an almighty vocal permanences by Tom Chaplin(even better live). Talking of Tom Chaplin, his voice soars throughout. The album has a real maturity from a band who were then very young and new to the music scene and is a great indicator of what the band still had to come.

Best Song – Bedshaped

4) The Archandroid – Janelle Moane

A few years ago I would have been surprised as anyone to see this on my list, but times have changed. I think I have posted before how I first got to know about Janelle Moane, through her musical appearance on Stargate Universe so I won’t dwell on that. I absolutely love the whole sci-fi (look at that metropolis inspired cover) theme of the album, there is a concept and a story to Archandrioid something very few albums do. I love Janelle’s voice, it is full of funk and rock and roll, yet it has truth to it that allows a story to be told. It is as if she is both singer and a voice actor on it. But it is a work of music and so it can’t be all story, there is some amazing song on this 18 track album! I can’t wait for the her next work, for the continuation of the story as much as the music itself.

Best song – Cold war

3) Origin of symmetry – Muse

There are few bands that are as fun as Muse. Origin of symmetry their second album is not only fun but has an epic quality to it. The great thing about it, is that there is not one weak song on the whole thing. Origin’s is arguable what helped Muse break into the mainstream and you can hear why after the first song. You can’t go wrong with most tracks, but the song ‘Plug in baby’ and ‘Citizen erased’ are obvious highlights. Although there is real joy when you play the album from track one to eleven. This is something that I found out in one of the best ways imaginable, as I saw muse play live their special 10th anniversary show of the ‘origin of symmetry’ album at Leeds festival. It was one of the most special gigs I have ever seen. They played every track in order and it really struck home to me, what a special band/album this is.

Best Song- Bliss

;

2) Under the iron Sea – Keane

Yes it is Keane’s second album on the list! After their multi million début album, Keane really needed to come back with their second attempt with something very, very good. I believe that they did this with a proper ‘classic’ album. Keane were known for being a trio that never used guitars (not the case now), but that didn’t stop them from making a keyboard distorted to the point in almost sounds like a guitar, a technique that is used throughout. This made sure that the album was much more up tempo to the last outing. Not only does the album have some of the more rockier songs that Keane have done, but it also has some great emotional song which ‘Hopes and Fears’ had in the bucket load. It is the perfect blend of Keane’s two sides and it really is the best album that Keane have ever done.

Best song – Crystal Ball

1) The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

Arcade fire are a great band, they have over 100 members in their band (perhaps a slight exaggeration) and they make some sweet, sweet music. Arcade fire have had two, ‘fine’ previous album but the Suburbs (the 3rd) was the first album that just clicked. It is slightly more polished album, yet still keeps the rawness of their music intact. However, I don’t think that this is only things that makes this album so much better than their previous attempts. I’m sure there is lots of different things that make the difference; I am just not musically talented enough to work them out .
You know I am not much of a dancer, in fact a bad dancer a very bad one, yet sometimes (not when anybody is about, I hope) I find myself doing a little dance; albeit with my head, to this album…. I like to think that this is good sign. Every track on the suburbs builds on the last, layers and layers (like each song) of music creates a deep thought process in the listener. I like an album that gets me to think. This is another band that when you hear the music being played live you immediately feel closer to each song and to the band. It is not number one on my list for nothing, you should check it out. Actually if you haven’t already check out all the albums…

The best song – Them all, but Deep Blue

Metal gear solid 25th anniversary news…

Well it has been one hell of a busy day in the world of Metal Gear. Enviously I looked on towards Japan, this morning news came from Tokyo at the big 25th anniversary evet, which before had promised to have “Industry shattering” announcements. Well the event did not disappoint with 3 big, big announcement made!

Lets start small,

Metal Gear Solid: Social Ops

Social Ops looks to involve characters and possibly story arc’s, from many different era’s of the metal gear saga (credit: Konami)

Social Ops is a new smart phone game, it will be fully 3D and allow player to relive past battles and stories from the series. I may be reading the news completely wrong here, but the game looks to use a card system to help with the battles, perhaps similar to the Metal Gear Acid series; or it could just be used for setting up the battles themselves. Given the name of the game, I would not be surprised to see online connectivity (such as trading and battles) being the main features for the title. Now everything so far talked about the game, looks pretty cool. But, after the huge disappointment of the last metal gear mobile game “Metal Gear Solid touch” I am a little wary about the game. But as I can only look at the little information that is currently available, I am hopeful that this could be a great little game for the series.

Metal Gear Solid the Movie

Yes, I know this was announced years ago. That project went nowhere and but now at the 25th event anniversary the project has been restarted. This time with long time marvel comic film adapter  Avi Arad set to produce the film. To say that I’m a little worried about this would be an understatement, Hollywood long history of video game adaptations hasn’t be great to say the least. Metal Gear’s cinematic nature means that it will lead itself to a film adaptation much more than say… pacman but that only doesn’t mean anything where Hollywood is concerned. Now there is always the chance that the series could get the movie it deserved, I won’t however be holding my breath. That is if the project even gets off the ground first.

And now the biggest announcement….

Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeros

Solid and liquid?

Even without having the number, many people will be classing this title as the big ‘5’. Nearly nothing is known of the title; a video was shown at the event, though has yet to be leaked to the public. What little we do know is, that the title will be using the newly developed fox engine, it will be out on PC, PS3 and xbox360 (perhaps the next generation consoles too?)  and the title will be open world. There is no date set ye…… wait back up a moment. Open world? Yep, it looks like this new title will be Metal Gear’s first open world title. It is an interesting turn of direction for the series – but is no more drastic than next year’s hack n’ slash game Metal Gear Rising. It will be interested to see how it will work but as it seems that stealth will still play a large part of the game, I’m going to allow my excitement build to levels last seen before MGS4.

So it looks like after 25 years of Metal Gear the franchise is still alive and kicking, and in fact is looking stronger than ever.

Moving on….

I’m not giving up on this blog, not just yet anyway… I’m just struggling to find both the time and motive to keep updating. For the last few weeks I have been starting blogs, on absolute random topics, which to be honest I probably don’t have much right to talk about. At least not without doing a lot more research, and I end up deleting the blog without them ever seeing the light of day. As I as said before, I won’t abandon the blog completely; I plan to update it. Whenever, I have a topic that interests me, that I want share, so basically whenever I feel like it. I know there is very few or none at all that check  on here regularly, but if you do exist somewhere out there (mum?) I apologise. Hopefully there will be some quality content coming on here every now and then….

Cheers,

Joel

Top 5 Metal Gear Solid boss battles

It is the return of the my infamous top 5 list…….

In terms of trademarks, the Metal Gear series has got a few, contrived but epic plot lines, a odd ball sense of humour, long cut scenes, but most famous of all (or at least, easiest to make a list of) is the boss battles. The battles range from tense shoot outs to fourth wall shattering oddness. So this is my top5 list

5) Rex vs Ray

It isn’t the hardest battle, it is is not particular that fun compared to other bosses on the list, but it is the only time in a series called “Metal gear” you get to pilot one of the fuckers. One of the most memorable moments in Metal Gear Solid 4 is the return to Shadow Moses, this section of the game is filled with nostalgia. As Snake moves in to the hanger, which housed metal gear Rex, on his first visit- and in here he sees the crumpled wreck of Rex. There is a slight amount of sadness seeing the beast that caused so much havoc in the first game, so damaged and useless. That is until, the wreck is revived and put back into action – it is a great moment. In a unique gameplay moment for the series, Snake pilots his old enemy against another Metal gear. It is a quite departure for the series, more reminiscent of Zone of the Enders than metal gear solid. And that is why it is in my top 5.

4) Liquid Ocelot

Also in in MGS4, a hand to hand battle between two brother (kind of) – for the second time. The fight starts as a clear reminder of the fight atop of metal gear Rex in MGS1, between liquid and solid. The fight uses a completely different control scheme preferring to use a beat-em-up style battle to what has come before it. It is a real fun battle, but the real special thing about this boss battle is the atmosphere. The battle comes in four parts, each with it own music, heath bar and style of fighting – each correspond to different game in the series. It is special fight, stylish and tinted with sadness. It might turn out to be the last of solid snake’s battles, and if so it has to get a place on the list.

3) Psyco Mantis

Some people might be surprised to see this battle so high (low?) on the list. There has been much said about this boss in the past, the dark humour, the breaking of the fourth wall and the BDSM – I won’t repeat all this. The Psyco fight is the perfect example of how games can do things that no other  medium of entertainment can do. I was 7 when I first battled Mantis and it is something that has stuck in my psyche ever since. It is impossible not to put him on the list.

2) Metal Gear Rex

In Rex’s second entry to the list, friend is turned enemy. MG Rex was was my first meeting with a Metal Gear, and I was pretty bad at it. Rex was very scary to a 7 year old, the whole game had led to this battle, and I ashamed to admit I had hand the controller to my mum to get past it. But as I got older I revisited the game and found a great boss battle. You are given a huge area, a stinger missile and told to fight a huge walking tank with nukes on its back. What is not to love?

1) The End

In first place, and my favourite boss of this great series is the End. On the surface the prospect fighting an old man whose only ally in the battle is parrot. But this old man happens to be an expert sniper and you are on his home soil. It takes nerves of steal to take on this man, especially on hardest difficulty, and to complete it you may need a few spare hours. The battle is the ultimate free roaming moment in the series, you are given lots of different ways to kill the end (some hidden) and a massive area in which to do. To outfox this eye popping sniper, you need to use nature to your advantage. Well I guess that is the end.

So that is my number 1, do you think I’ve made a glaring error in the list? Why don’t you comment below…..

 

Redshirts by John Scalzi – Review (Mild spoilers)

Redshirts – “A character in a science fiction or adventure story whose sole dramatic purpose is to get killed by the story’s villain and/or intinerant monster. ” – Urban Dictionary 

I just want to preface this review, by saying I am really getting frustrated with myself; the lack of content I am putting on this blog and just the lack of writing I have been doing in general. Hell it has been quite a long time since there has been regular content on here. I know I keep saying it in every new post I do, but I do want to post more… but I am not. So with this post please expect it to be a little rusty on the language front, also don’t expect it to be that long of a review. I am just trying to get back into the swing of things.

Redshirts is the latest book by Sci-fi novelist extraordinaire, John Scalzi. The book is not out in the UK yet, after hearing the news it was to be delayed here,  I had believed I would be able to patiently wait for the book to come out in my corner of the world….. I couldn’t. So I ended up playing more money to get it shipped over. As soon as the book came, I guilty rushed the book I was reading at the time, while enviously looking up to Redshirts – waiting to be able pick it up. Last Saturday, it came the day when I finally allowed myself to crack open the cover (I didn’t allow myself that as I read my other book). The first pleasant surprise came in the dedication section; where Brad Wright and Joseph Mallozzi were thanked for taking Scalzi to the stars. If you are not a stargate fan, this probably would mean fuck all to you. However I had a little nerdgasm, the type only one can get when two of their favourite sci-fi elements (is that the right word?) are combined, even for the shortest amount of time.

The cover, simplistic, obvious and a little bit boring

Into the book I didn’t have to wait long for a second nerdgasm, with a prologue which was infused with elements from one my favourite sci-fi books. Already from the book title, and the prologue there was the forming of a very interesting and odd story. As soon as got into the main meat of  the book , it moved at a very brisk pace, with Scalzi lead character full of the same smarts, and a little bit of snark that you see from of all his leads. The book unlike some sci-fi out there is pretty much accessibly to anyone. (as long as you can read English- that is a requirement (until it comes out in a language that you can read, then you’re fine) (obviously if can’t read English you won’t be reading this blog, so all this was kind of pointless.)) Scalzi writes a prose which is easy to read, and makes sure the book moves at a lively speed throughout.

The once the main of idea of the book is revealed, you see it is something that has been done a number of times before, and none of these times did I think it was good or well done.  So it is a real credit to Scalzi writing that he has managed to create a great novel from this premise. The book it self take a massive turn toward the end, not in terms of the story, but in the format – I shan’t say more, but I really enjoyed what he did with it. I managed to devour the book in one night (not something I usually do) and it wasn’t the story that kept me turning the pages. It was the classic Scalzi humour and dialogue that is prevalent throughout; this let me drive through the book in ways few books can.

In its self the book was great little read, but I couldn’t help but be left feeling a little cold toward the story – something that has not happened to me in a any of his previous books. I think I will give the 7.5 out of 10. Pretty arbitrary number I suppose but it feels about right. This book hasn’t dampened my appreciation for Scalzi and the fact I think it is worst of his books so far, make me even more excited for whatever he writes next.