Gig City – Kiran Leonard, The Nest, Bath

KIRAN LEONARD / IRMA VEP / THE EVIL USSES – The Nest, Bath – Saturday 2nd April 2016

Kiran Leonard is a force to be reckoned with. At the age of 20 and while still a student he has already put out two albums, in addition to numerous other tracks that can be found on his Soundcloud account here

He’s gained kudos from BBC 6 Music (Marc Riley in particular is deeply smitten) and XFM, and the new album “Grapefruit” ( the follow-up to 2014’s “Bowler Hat Soup”) is receiving rave reviews from what seems like the entire blogosphere for its poise, originality and – let’s be clear – for rocking like a bastard.

“Grapefruit” has been a long time in the making, many of the tracks having been road-tested, tinkered with and developed live (like the Pink Floyd used to do all those years ago until they got fed up with being bootlegged). There are certainly a few of the tracks played tonight that have changed noticeably – for the better in all cases – since I last heard them played live a year or so ago.

(BTW a couple of tracks from the album are featured on Beat City #72 featuring “Grapefruit” by Kiran Leonard plus a few more tunes you may like)

Kiran takes the stage so quietly you’d hardly notice, straps on his guitar,removes his shoes and without a word the band dive straight into the astonishing 16-minute “Pink Fruit”, an excerpt of which is included below, one of two extended multi-movement pieces on the records and comfortably the most complex of the manby complicated tunes in the set – no poncey warming up with the easy options here.

You may have heard “Pink Fruit” on the radio. It goes through at least five movements that I can identify. This music seems to have come out of nowhere, although if pressed I’d say there are hints of Frank Zappa and maybe the likes of Gentle Giant and King Crimson, next to Jane’s Addiction and maybe the art-rock with a hint of grunge of dEUS.

Kiran stands stage left and side on to the audience, like a conductor facing his band which consists of a violinist / keyboard player, bass and drums. There are some seriously challenging arrangements for the players in this music, and the band are more than up to the task. I’ve never seen such a well-drilled band playing such complex music.

And this IS complex music, make no mistake, but crucially, its not complicated. There are arrangements in 5/8 and 13/8 time here, but you never find yourself thinking “ooh thats clever” – its always the song that’s important, and its always the song that wins through.

And you NEED these odd time signatures to create the effects Kiran Leonard is after. I honestly don’t think anyone has done anything like this before although I stand to be corrected on this.

And then there’s the guitar playing. No mile long guitar solos here, and equally no five minute wig outs on the one chord,but short, violent outbursts as and when required – Richard Thompson is the closest reference point I can hear. Like Dave Tattersall’s work with the Wave Pictures, it enhances the song, it isn’t the point of the song. Course, if you’re a songwriter of the quality of Tattersall or Leonard then that always helps.

Kiran’s songwriting indicates a refusal to be pinned down to any one musical idea for any length of time. Musical motifs swirl in and out of the songs at will. The light and shade is masterful; yes, there is a comparison to be made with grunge but where Nirvana and their ilk were working in black and white, ranging from very quiet to very loud, Leonard and his band visit all points inbetween as well.

Both support acts are pretty good – Irma Vep, who Kiran and members of his band provide the backing for, and opening the show, Bristol-based instrumental band The Evil Usses, who I thought were tremendous, bringing to mind Zappa and Beefheart as well as the Pink Floyd and Pigbag, none of which is ever a bad thing)

My personal fave tune of Kiran’s is “Don’t Make Friends With Good People”, a nine minute plus tune which starts with layers of kids’ TV folk guitar, breaks into a brutal section at which the Gang Of Four would nod approvingly before moving into an extended Tim Buckley strumscream, then finally ending with a prog explosion King Crimson may have achieved circa 1972.

The final track is his signature, “Geraldo’s Farm” , a song which builds and then drops away again them builds again to the most shattering of sonic climaxes you could wish to hear.

There’s a surprise encore – a cover version, no less – as Kiran plays a solo guitar-backed version of sixties girl-group The Tammys “His Actions Speak Louder Than Words”. Got to admit I wasn’t expecting that at all, it all adds to the puzzle and the enigma that is Kiran Leonard and his music. I did capture it on my phone but the sound quality was dire and there were EVIL PEOPLE TALKING, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE so you’ll have to make do with the classic original for now, shut your eyes and imagine.

If you’re quick and near Ramsgate, Cambridge or Nottingham you can catch Kiran and his band on tour this week. He’s also playing the excellent Dim Swn one-day multi venue fest in Cardiff on Saturday (April 9th).

And check out the “Grapefruit” album, it really is a leap forward in the gene pool of underground music. I haven’t quite got my head round its intricacies and references yet and I think it’ll be a while before I do, but I’m looking forward to getting to know it. Come back in six months for the review.

Previous Gig City – Meilyr Jones

Gig City – Meilyr Jones, Cardiff

Meilyr Jones – Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff – 11th / 12th February 2016

I don’t know much about how to recognise a work of art but I know what I like. I like Meilyr Jones very much.

It’s 2pm on a bright Thursday afternoon in February and Meilyr is playing a low-key afternoon piano gig in Stwidio Seligman at the excellent Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff.

A film of the single “How To Recognise A Work Of Art” plays on a white screen in an art studio setting.

In one corner, an installation of what looks like part of a 1950s bedroom with pinups and magazines and a Dansette record player with Elvis Presley’s Golden Hits on the turntable.

Meilyr 3

Next to this, part of a dressing-room with Meilyr’s red costume from the video draped carelessly over the rail.

Meilyr 2

The piano is in one corner with a white sheet over it. Next to it, a selection of one-of-a-kind sleeves for the single designed by artists There will be 100 limited handmade 7″ sleeves to go with the single of the song by the artists Ruth Jen Evans, Pato Bosich and Gavan Lee along with different events during the week. on sale for £25-£30 a pop. Or you can if you wish design your own sleeve – crayons are provided – and take away the single for £8.

This could definitely be a Work of Art.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Meilyr Jones’ proper band gig the following evening as part of the From Now On festival. There’s one heck of a lineup this evening with Meilyr’s set in the Stwidio sandwiched between the excellent Laura J Martin and headliner Julia Holter in the adjoining Theatre.

In a superb dramatic opening, the band amble onto the stage, take their positions and without so much as a “hello”, Meilyr’s right foot comes crashing down and we’re straight into “How To Recognise A Work Of Art”, the current single with its yelping, strangled, angelic vocal over a Motown beat.

This isn’t the last time the stage will take a pounding from Meilyr’s size nines.

I remember reading that when the The Beatles used to play the Star Club in Hamburg there was a competition between them and Rory Storm & The Hurricanes to see who could break the stage with repeated foot-pounding.

Meilyr seems intent on wrecking the Stwidio’s makeshift raised stage, although as the artist in residence at the Chapter Arts Centre he’d probably cop some flak if that happened. Or maybe they’d be tolerant of their resident genius and figure it’s just a stage he’s going through.

The band is flawlessly tight and well-drilled. Bass player Emma Smith resorts to sax and violin and keyboard player Rich Jones plays a viola (his primary instrument) for a couple of songs, so we are basically listening to a string quartet with drums. Current single “Featured Artist” is a highlight.

Musically there are hints of Dexys Midnight Runners, Talking Heads, The Beatles (specifically Paul), Prefab Sprout, Noughties singer-songwriter Jeremy Warmsley, Deep Purple (oh yes!) and David Bowie (of course)

I don’t know if its just that the man is still upmost in all our thoughts but there’s more than merely musical Bowie reference points in Meilyr Jones – the art, the desire to provide something a little bit different, the theatrical stage moves, the high-waisted trousers, even the surname…

… and then as if to prove the point the band break into the riff from “Rebel Rebel”.

The album is out in a couple of weeks. Even having only heard about half of it live, I reckon it’s already a candidate for album of the year.

Meilyr Jones is touring the UK in April and May stopping off at Ramsgate, London, Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow, Wrexham, Cardiff again and a few festervals in the summer. Go see him while its still relatively cheap.

A few days later I’m still buzzing from this gig. I keep going back to one particularly fine theatrical touch where he takes a vinyl LP from its sleeve, smashes it to pieces and flings them, mock-petulantly, into the audience.

The album was “Elvis Presley’s Golden Hits”. I know cos I retrieved a piece of it. I’m hoping it will be worth a fortune by association in about ten years’ time when Meilyr is justly famous world-wide.

Its A Fake

THAT’S how you recognise a work of art.

Roughnecks And Roustabouts – Pete Williams Band Live

Pete Williams – St David’s Hall, Cardiff   2nd November, 2015

I’ve been listening to Pete Williams for well over thirty years – kind of.

The “young bass driver with the complete Stax collection under his arm” (and don’t think for a second I had to look that up!) who played in the original – and still the greatest – incarnation of the greatest band ever has carried on making music ever since that band imploded in late 1980. He’s solo now, fronting his own band and currently supporting The Proclaimers on a 35-date tour of the UK.

That other band came back a couple of years ago too, with Pete and two other members of that original line-up. They’re in pretty good shape these days even if the live shows and records do occasionally tend to favour the theatre elements over the music.

Me, I’m all about the music and Pete Williams’ solo work is bung full of good tunes, lyrics about – you know, real people like you and me – sung with passion and pride and no pretension.

His first solo album, 2012’s “See” contains songs with has some devastating subject matter (“Suddenly Shattered”, “Reconsider This”), the stories told with grace and empathy. A lovely record that I keep going back to, however 2015’s “Roughnecks And Roustabouts” is even better, a more personal album by the sound of it whose stories are more easily understood (“We Came, We Saw”, “First Real Job”, “People”)

Both albums feature keyboards and horns and on some numbers strings (check this) but the band tonight is a four-piece, the guitar, bass, drums template being enhanced only by the ukulele that Pete plucks and strums on a couple of songs. Any worries that this may affect what are, after all, subtle songs full of light and shade, are very soon laid to rest – they’ve been thoughtfully arranged / rearranged to fill – and sometimes NOT fill, to great effect – any sonic gaps.

Cos its the songs that really get you. They would work just as well on solo vocals and guitar, hell they’d probably work on solo vocals and bongos. The songs are taken more or less fifty-fifty from the two albums and make up the finest forty-minute live set I’ve witnessed all year.

Set list:

Breathe My Love
La Ciniega Song
We Came We Saw
Roughnecks And Roustabouts
Let Me Like You
First Real Job
Are You Listening?
Suddenly Shattered

I may have missed a new song but you get the idea)

The Proclaimers are big fans of Pete’s old band down to name-checking them on their first album. The two acts this evening make a good match and judging from the warm and enthusiastic reaction all around me, the Proclaimers’ fans agree.

If you’re quick you can catch the tour until mid-November with a couple of Scottish Xmas dates as well. Get there early, you won’t regret it. The Proclaimers aren’t bad either, mind.

Pete Williams’ website

Tramlines 2014 – Day One

Friday 25th July 2014

Braver Than Fiction

Opening up with the prestigious 7pm slot at the Leadmill, Braver Than Fiction are mostly Sheffielders.

The songs show a variety of styles. There’s hints of the Stranglers on a couple of songs, with the organ heavily to the fore and the guitar used as a tool (oh behave!) rather than an end in itself. When the guitarist does solo, its funky and tuneful rather than rocking out with yer cock out, which is just fine by me, don’t get me started on bleeding guitarists.

Braver Than Fiction are incredibly tight musically, that’s all covered. Looking forward to seeing which direction they go in as their sound coalesces. Deffo a band to watch.

Influences? The band themselves mention “the grotesque glamour of Tom Waits” which is a fine thing to aspire to in moderation but the other comparison to the “dysfunctional family” of Fleetwood Mac is an interesting one, and to the fore on this track

Cut Ribbons

I’d heard the single “In The Rain” from Llanelli’s Cut Ribbons as well as a couple of other tracks. Thought they’d be pleasant enough.

Oh man, did I underrate them.

Absurdly danceable, gorgeous melodies and some great boy-girl vocals from with Anna Griffiths’ breath chanteuse counterpointed beautifully by some extremely high almost choirboy notes hit by male singer/guitarist Aled Jones – sorry, Aled Rees.

Just noticed they’re playing Long Division in Wakefield over the weekend of the 12th/13th August, which should be good.

On the long walk from the Leadmill to the Harley I heard snippets of Toddla T Sound from the main stage, which I wasn’t too sure about, and I managed to catch one song by psychobilly two-piece Death Rays Of Ardzilla which intrigued me.


I really love Cholombian’s dreamy soundscapes and will definitely seek him out again live – he does a really good job of transferring it from the bedroom to the live setting, but it seems not too many people in the early evening crowd at the Harley agree as they’re chatting as though at a cocktail party. This is a bloody shame – yeah, it works as background music but you get so much more from it by immersing yourself. Shame on you, young people, I know you’re all waiting for much-hyped London boy East India Youth but there’s some great music, made by a local Sheffielder, right there in front of you. Embrace and enjoy.

Back to the Forum via the excellent Betty’s Chip Shop where my British Sea Power “Heron Addict” T-shirt causes hilarity. “I thought it said you were a heroin addict”. Not a bad idea if you do want to break any addiction I guess. “I am an addict, do not offer me drugs”. “I am a fat bastard, do not sell me chips”

Walking back past the main stage area I caught a brief glimpse of Katy B. I knew it was Katy B cos it said “Katy B” in bloody great big letters above the stage.Sounded OK if you like that sort of thing and she’s a Palace fan so is therefore Fine By Me.

Arrows Of Love

A bonus late addition to the festerval line-up. Last time I saw Arrows Of Love they were headlining Xoyo in London, and played a long, blistering set which was so loud it finally persuaded me to start wearing earplugs at gigs. They’re not as loud tonight but it’s even more intense as they play a stripped-down thirty minutes.

Visually absolutely stunning, aurally tight, brash and very very loud, I was flagging a bit before their set (and when I say “flagging” I mean falling asleep in a corner) but Jesus, they woke me up, big time.

Bang Bang Romeo

I’d heard the We Were Born EP by this band and was intrigued, and their set at not only did not disappoint, it was a revelation.

If you say a band is influenced by sixties music it usually means one of two things, either a Beatles / Small Faces jangly guitar band or an indie girl band with ironic girl group vocals.

Bang Bang Romeo are neither. Their music has the dramatic rise and fall of an old film soundtrack coupled with huge in-yer-face vocals from excellent singer Anastasia Walker. I’d say she reminded me of Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick and there’s certainly the odd nod to Airplane’s sound, but she has better frontwoman skills, really engaging with the crowd at a packed Frog & Parrot.

I urge you to see this band. I could go on for hours about them and I probably will some day soon. This is the moody and atmospheric “Carnival”, a Bond theme waiting to happen.


Managed to grab a brief power nap while waiting for these to come on. Got to that stage in life where I’m like a baby and can sleep anywhere, the louder the better in fact.

Brilliant set from Birmingham’s Troumaca. I’m slightly lost for reference points but there’s three-part gospelly harmonies over African-tinged guitars complex, insistent beats from live drums and what seems to be programmed basslines, with big keyboard washes and appropriate plinky-plonky bits. They really got the midnight crowd at the Forum moving.

An excellent, unexpected find to complete a great first day of the festerval. I was going to stay for theFamily? Certainly in terms of band members getting their cocks out on stage) but since I had already forgotten where I had parked I thought I’d better go look for the car.

You can download the podcast here :

Beat City 31 Tramlines Special

Saturday’s highlights for me should include Esben & The Witch, Her Name Is Calla, Liz Green and a Sister Sledge metal tribute band called Sister Sludge.t

I swear I am not making this up. Review to come. Watch this space.

There’s No Beauty Anymore

And here’s a Glastonbury quiz question for you. Which band made their debut at Glastonbury last weekend and have had more number one UK singles than Metallica, Kasabian, Arcade Fire, Ed Sheeran and Bryan Ferry put together and were STILL not covered by the BBC? Nope, not Dolly Parton …

Dexys Midnight Runners emerged from the West Midlands at around the same time as the Specials and the other 2-Tone bands, but wasted no time defining themselves as separate, outside and better than the rest.

Paying as much attention to the image and the clothes as they did to the music, almost uniquely at the time outside of black music and heavy metal, this proved a smart move. Everybody knew what they looked like. And everybody had an opinion on it.

Dexys mainman Kevin Rowland has said on countless occasions – most recently in this month’s Mojo Magazine – that he does not like looking back which is fair enough but forgive me if I don’t share that feeling.

Simply put, Dexys in their various incarnations have been responsible for some of the best singles, the best albums and the best gigs I have ever attended.
Here’s some evidence.

Old Vic Theatre, 1981 – Soon / Plan B

This was an unbelievable set of gigs. During the gig I attended, Kevin stopped the show to argue with a heckler who wouldn’t shut up during the quiet bits. I actually thought he was going to lamp him.

Radio One Big Top Weekend, Newcastle, 1982 – Come On Eileen

As far as I know this was the first ever public performance of this song, which has of course become the ultimate wedding disco anthem. I maintain you can hear me bellowing loudly at the end of this, but it’s not conclusive.

Shaftesbury Theatre, 1982 – R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

The definitive version of the Aretha Franklin classic, Dexys anthem in the early days.

Shepherd’s Bush Empire 2012 Until I Believe My Soul / Tell Me When My Light Turns Green

One song from “Too-Rye-Ay”, one from “Searching For The Young Soul Rebels” from the triumphant comeback tour of a couple of years ago.

Glastonbury 2014 – This Is What She’s Like

And from the Glastonbury set, this is possibly THE Dexys song ..

I saw an interview with Kevin Rowland a couple of years ago where he said the new incarnation of Dexys was more about the theatre than the music. He’s entitled to his opinion, I suppose. But for me it’s always been the music, Not the theatre, or the clothes, although I get that these form the attitude, which informs and inspires the music, which is unique and agnificent whether the band is wearing tracksuits, dungarees, Brook Brothers suits or dresses.

If you want to hear some more live Dexys tracks old and new then check the current Beat City podcast here Beat City 30 – There’s No Beauty Anymore

Also features :

Elephant Man (om the Gwan Bad Riddim)

Colorama (fro the cracking new album “Temari”)

Bobby Womack RIP

plus loads more