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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….

;

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.

Keane’s Strangeland – Review

Strangeland is the 4th album by Keane, it is out the on 7th of May in the UK; this review is based on Deluxe edition which contains 4 extra songs.  

I have to admit I have been a massive Keane fan for a while now, Keane have always appealed to me as a group, catchy songs, a huge voice and a piano as a lead instrument! But I’ve tried to as unbiased as I can…. I promise.

It has been 4 years since the last full album from the piano-rock group Keane. In the last outing the band shifted to a more electrical pop genre, a move which was both praised and vilified in equal measure. However, with Strangeland they have moved back to a more familiar territory which made their first 9x platinum album Hopes and Fears such a success.

While the sound of Strangeland is much closer to Hopes and Fears than to Perfect Symmetry, the mood of the album is not. Hopes and Fears could be called a grumpy album, a great album but with a downbeat theme. In Strangeland songs like Sovereign Light Cafe, On the Road and You are Young  are positively upbeat. There’s still a great selections of songs about, love and loss if that is your thing though.  Silenced by the Night is a song about falling out of love with someone. And it is lead single from the album and it easy to understand why, a soaring song that will immediately grab your attention and won’t let go; as lead single it does it job well.

Disconnected,is a song I heard many times well before the album came out, there is an early version of the song being played live on you tube and it is great song. But I believe that this song has suffered in years from those original performance, from a little too much from too much studio treatment. It is not the only misfire on the album The Starting Line never seems to live up the potential that song sets it self early on in the track.

In Strangeland there is the perfect mix of songs that are built to be played at huge festivals, or arena tours, and song perfect for a small acoustic gigs at the local pub. One of my favourite of the album is Sovereign Light Cafe; it is a coming of age song, the song’s vivid imagery, focuses  your mind on the childhoods of the members of Keane; yet it has an eerily familiarity to everybody’s childhood, its tune is filled with beauty of growing up.  Black Rain, has a radiohead esque attitude with an experimental song, which is strangely addictive to listen to. This song more than the rest just shows how much Keane have left to show the world, and a couple more song in this like would have been appreciated.  Sea Fog , Neon River and Watch How You Go, are all excellent songs that I could listen (will) for hours and are what you expect from Keane, catchy, loud and graceful.

From the deluxe version you get 4 more new songs, and all these songs are great tunes that effortlessly fit in to the Keane catalogue, they don’t try to be too different  but do the things Keane are known to do well. The boys is the highlight from deluxe version, it almost has Kaiser Chiefs style to it (something I’d have thought to have ever describe Keane being like before). While this album isn’t a game changer for the band, it does build on the already strong foundation the band has made before it. I would recommend the album, to Keane and non Keane fans alike.

8.5/10 – Standard – 9/10 Deluxe

Metal Gear Solid HD Collection LE review

It is hard to write a review on the MGS HD collection, it is 3 (5  if you count the original metal gear 1 & 2) games, each brilliant in their own right. Games age badly and unlike films or TV a 11 years is a hell of a long of time. With games having evolved hugely in that short of time. The MGS HD collection contains games that was originally released in 2001, 2004 and 2010 respectively.  But still with a bit polishing and the game unscaled for HD TV’s the games play really well on ps3 and in 2012.

The metal gear solid HD collection has taken it sweet time in getting released in the UK, waiting almost 4 extra month than when it was released in America, but as you will find out in this review, it was well worth the wait.

Metal Gear Solid 2 – Sons of Liberty

MGS 2 is notorious for a convoluted but epic story line. The players starts off as solid snake the hero of MGS 1 in an opening chapter set aboard tanker, but in one twist the game took an odd turn, to the anger of many fans. In the next section you play the rookie foxhound agent Raiden, who is somewhat less bad ass than solid. But if people looked past the floppy white hair of Raiden, there is a great game, there is depth to this game that rivals even games released now, 11 years later. I really enjoyed replying the game that still feels fresh all this time on.

This HD edition simply polishes the game adding increased texture quality, it also stops the letterbox style view which you would get if you played the ps2 version on a HD TV and did not want up scale and blur the game.

Metal Gear Solid 3 – Snake Eater

MGS 3 to many fans including me is the best game out there. When it first came out it was a revelation, if MGS 2 had  depth to rival games now MGS 3 would still blow most games out of the water when it came to depth. This time the players takes control of the legendary solider big boss. In an epic tale (that makes more sense time) the game is set in a jungle environment in which the player must not only sneak but survive.

The HD edition does pretty much the same as what MGS 2 does upgrades the textures makes everything look as nice as it possibly could using the existing game.

Metal Gear Solid – Peace Walker

Set in 1974 in south America, the game follows Big Boss again. But now he had his own mercenary army. It is unlike any past metal gear games. Mission are now done in bite size chunks rather than a continuous mission, the game contains hundreds of side mission not related to the main story and you can literately play this game for a hundreds of hours. It is a great game, the original only had one major flaw it was on the psp. The psp control system is like playing twister with your fingers sometimes, so news that the game would be out on PS3 was very welcome.

The HD edition of Peace Walker is the most drastically change game of the 3 from their originals. Polished as much as a game could be polished. While it has the worst graphics of the 3 games it still looks well on the ps3.  It manages to stretch the game from the small psp screen size to a large HD TV size and look none the worse for wear. Must notable is a complete change in the control system which makes the game easier to play, also rumble support.

Extras

The HD collections contains many extras which were only available on the updated version (substance and subsistence) of the game, these include;

MGS2 contains 300 VR training mission, 200 alternative mission, along with Boss survival mode and snake tales (5 unique story’s staring snake).
And MGS 3 contains the original Metal Gear game and Metal Gear 2 game.

Sadly there is no skateboarding snake or ape escape mode.

Limited edition Package 

Exclusive to http://www.zavvi.com/the UK got an limited edition which I bought, which for an extra £40 you get a T-shirt, exclusive steal book game case, and art book. You don’t get a choice T-shirt size, it seems to fit me okay, but if you are a bit chubby size it might be a bit tight. The steal book looks great and art book is a beautiful Coffey table type book that looks great. I’d only recommend buying the limited edition if you are big metal gear solid fan.

Price £70.

Score

If you are only buying the regular version the whole package will cost £30, it is great value collection. It only contains some of the cream of the crop of the very large metal gear series, but it is great for new fans and old alike. The only down side is that it does not contain MGS1/twin snakes HD, I would gladly pay an extra £10 or more for this to have been included.
This collection contains 2, 9/10 games and 1 10/10 game (MGS3, but since they are all on the same disc at cheep price and the games look better than ever. So the score has to be…..

10/10

The big society – A review

The Big Society is a musical being show at the city Varieties in Leeds, it is Britain’s longest-running music hall, built in 1865. It got a £9.2m refurbishment a few of months ago. The show is also set at the Varieties just 100 years ago, though it often breaks the periods with mention to the present. The show stars Phill Jupitus, from Never Mind The Buzzcocks. The show follows the going on at a variety show, showing both the backstage and the show itself. Like the variety show 100 years ago, there was number of acts, a magician called Barry, an escapology, lots of songs and dance, a ventriloquist  and the headline act a invisible monkey called Marcel.

The show is being  produce by the old  anarchist band Chumbawamba, who also provide the music to the show.

It was a jaunty affair, with big musical tunes, modern political parallels and very very funny. The parallels to politics nowadays while obvious are not to in your face. The ventriloquist Dave with his dummy little Nick was the only clever political joke in the whole play. There is not much of a story to the whole show, with a little story about romance and a little story a newspaper journalist going to shut the company down. But these story’s are quickly dealt with, and the show goes back into another musical number. Phill Jupitus is excellent in it and surprisingly good voice. You can forgive the lack of a story because of how funny and enjoyable the show is. If you viewed the show as piece on modern politics then it probaly falls flat on its face, but as a entertainment it is successes the songs are catchy, and it very funny.

4 out 5 stars

Big Society is on until the 4th of February at Leeds City Varieties (buy tickets at www.cityvarieties.co.uk/

I, Partridge We need to talk about Alan – Review

“Whereas i was flying my first sorties into a sexual territory, Carol had been hymen-free for the best part of six years” – Alan

The above is a typical encounter with Alan’s new book. Alan has had a difficult life, which has been filled with the highs and lows which are truly of epic proportions. If any story is deserving of a book then this is it! Alan already had one attempt at selling his story, with his first book Bouncing back, sadly it was  panned (or was refused to be reviewed) and the remaining unsold copies were pulped.

“My eyes filled with a burning white light and Abba drenched my brain. ‘Ahaaaaa!!!!’ I boomed” – Alan

The book tells the whole story of his life, from his humble beginning, to the height of his own BBC 2 chat show. Of course things did not stay golden for Norfolk’s joint second favorite son. Alan shoot one of his guest on stage (who dies),  and so his life soon spirals uncontrollably down from there. He is of course famously know for being a recovering chocolate addict. He goes in to detail on all these subjects in the book. My personal favorite account is of when he had a nice meal in Jail, after killed his shows guest, riveting stuff!

“I’ve been blessed with a superb personality, it translated into shit-hot radio” – Alan 

Of course I know Alan is a fictional character, a smarmy, slimy but funny character. The book is a fictional memoire of Steve Coogan’s popular fictional character. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, it rare i read a biography (never mind a fictional one) so it was a departure from my normal books. The book takes what happend in the tv/radio shows and covers all aspects of Alan’s fictional life, but it is of course always from his point of view. He sees himself as always the victim and  thinks he always right (a bit like me). It is what you expect from the book, funny, awkward in places, and full of Partridgeisums. The book give me hope that we might see more of my favorite Coogan character, perhaps a movie, “Alan in Hollywood”. The only real negative that i can place on the book, is that 300 pages of Partridge can be a little, too much.

Anyway i really enjoyed the book and hope there is more of Partridge.

8/10

The Kaiser at the Abbey

“his voice is like a manly angel”

In 3 weeks i have seen 3 of my top 5 bands; not bad going for me. On the 26th of August i saw Muse, the following Wednesday i watched arcade fire, and now on Saturday i saw the Kaiser Chiefs, back in their hometown of leeds. This was first gig they have done in Leeds since they played Leeds festival 3 years ago; which i was also at. It is the fourth time i have seen the Kaiser Chiefs, and what made this event a little bit different was the venue; they play at the quite lovely kirkstall abbey.

Kirkstall Abbey

While very nice to look at, a very old abbey is not a typical place for a rock concert. The uneven ground made for strange views of the stage at some of the places. The setup of the official merchandise store was in a silly ass place, so if you wanted to stand halfway back you would get a piss poor view. The entrance was 10ft wide, not a major problem when entering, with different people coming at different times, though once the gig finished and 10,000 people leave; a big problem. Looking around there was many more places where they could have built another exit, so it was a problem that did not need to happen. Also one large beer tent was not enough for the volume of people. A couple of people that was stood next to us, left and came back an hour later with some beer, they stood there and complained about waiting for an hour, i’d be annoyed too; however who in their right mind will queue for an hour for some expensive and watered down beer?

All lit up

For all the complaints about the venue, the abbey really did look good! The abbey was not in the background of the stage, but it went down one side of the audience; at first i was felt it would have been better to have it in the back ground, but in end i felt that seeing the abbey in all of it’s glory helped the atmosphere. .They lit the Abbey up, the colours light on the abbey kept in line with the stage. Also i hear (but can not confirmed because of where i was stood) that Ricky Wilson the lead singer, climbed a part of the abbey and sang from it, to make a change from his normal stage climb.

Energetic

The performance was as i expected from the band that gave me my favorite live performance , it was fast, loud and full of their typical energy . They played all the favorite songs from the previous 3 albums, along with a number from their excellent new album – The future is medieval. While i understand that lots of people,  don’t like the constant sing-along hits they have, people call them “fast food” music, but i’m not one of them. I’m sure i’m not going to change their minds, all i can say is watch them live and listen to the new album. The reason Chiefs are such a good live band, is Ricky Wilson; he is great with the crowd, and as a lead singer his voice is like a manly angel (strangest analogy yet?).

Ricky Wilson – Taken from http://www.zimbio.com

This gig was never going to be as amazing as Leeds festival 2009, when i was feet away from the stage and being lovingly crushed. It was still great, however the people was slightly quite, but then again i was quite far back  and there seemed to be a lot of movement and sound further ahead. I love the Chiefs, my love wavered during their hiatus, but the new album and seeing them again in this great venue, has rekindled my love of them.
Hope to see them for a fifth time soon.