Mew – Live concert review ¦ Barbican Centre, London [20 October 2018]

Mew – Frengers 15th Anniversary World Tour

Firstly, a bit of background for the readers 😊.

Mew are one of the few bands that I came to like based on the strength of an album cover alone – yes folks it was Frengers – I saw it, loved the cover, bought the CD and really liked the strange noises I heard – been a fan ever since.  I’d really been looking forward to this gig as finally I get to see them in the flesh, plus the added bonus I get to see the band perform this unique LP in its entirety! The stars must have aligned.  To me Mew are both weird and wonderful in equal measures.

So, for me Mew are “playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order 😊” (thanks to Eric Morecambe for that useable quote).  Sometimes it is just a cacophony of odd noises, weirdness and then a nice tune breaks out.  It all kind of fits together nicely with Jonas’ beautiful high voice. I’m at a bit of a loss as to where to categorise them so I’m gonna stick them in the Bjork camp of ‘one of a kind, listen to the sound of their own drum’.  It’s beautifully melodic in parts, atmospheric, hauntingly experimental yet distorted by vocals and instruments.  To me in sections it sounds like they are playing an LP backwards – the song ‘Special’ is a classic example of this.  Even the close harmonies seem to be battling against the flow.  In fairness, without the lyrics, you’d be hard pressed to work out what Jonas is singing about for the most part.

The Barbican is a brilliant place for sound.  I’ve seen so many gigs where the mix has been appalling – not so with the posh surroundings of barbican which is built for the delicate sound of an orchestra.  In the circle seats the buildings strange shape distinctly helped the acoustics, with the band coming through extremely loud and clear!  Can I also add that the seating is big and cosy and posh aimed at the classical music brigade and certainly not the great unwashed R’n’R audience (well not in this case, you’ll have to read on to find out why now!!).

Mew sold out the evening show and decided to do a Matinee show as well, which is the one I had tickets for.  From my seating you could tell that the stalls were pretty much full but the dress circle and upper circle were half empty.  Set 1 covered a smattering of songs from their back catalogue (see set list) and lasted about 37 minutes (a kind of ‘best of’ Mew selection).  There was a 20-minute interlude followed by Set 2 which covered 2003’s Frengers LP in its entirety – another 50 mins.

Danish trio Mew are:Mew Logo

  • Jonas Bjerre Terkelsbol – Lead Vocals, Guitar
  • Johan Wohlert – Bass
  • Silas Utke Graae Jørgensen – Drums
  • Mads Wegner – Guitar
  • Nick Watts – Keyboards, Guitar

For this gig Mew were ably assisted by the Elysian Quartet/Phaedra Ensemble string quartet for added atmosphere.  And they stated the show with Jonas alone singing ‘City Voices’ almost in the dark.  In fact, throughout the gig most of the set was extensively black and occasionally backlit in purple/blue/magenta/Red hues and very rarely did you actually get to see the band.  I’m sure they spent an awful lot on lighting, but for me it didn’t quite work.  Apart from being way too dark, the floor spots were angled in the wrong positions often blinding the audience in the circles.  As my wife said afterwards “if they were stood next to me I wouldn’t recognise them”.  After the first couple of songs they employed the huge backscreen to decent effect to envisage the songs.  Some interesting graphics and images to go with Jonas’ songs.  I particularly liked the ‘King Christian’ imagery.

There was minimal audience interaction from Jonas, with the occasional “thanks you so much”, and it was left to Johan to do a short synopsis of Frengers (a combination of the words ‘friend’ and ‘stranger’ – well you learn something new every day eh!).   To summarise – it was released when the band had moved to London in 2003 and the 15th anniversary shows here revived great memories for them and they were really appreciative to the audience for their enthusiasm and support.

Now that brings me back to the audience.  A mix of all ages/genders up to say 65 (some parents brought their young kids) but predominantly 20-45 age bracket.  In the main it was couples and I hate to be stereotypical but this was predominantly a wine drinking ‘middle-class’ audience.  There you go I said it!

The band were all dressed in black (to go with the black stage I assume) and Jonas was wearing some baggy pants that clearly had had an argument with his Nike trainers, not saying they were a tad short but!  For Set 1 the band were pretty rooted to the spot, but in Set 2 they actually moved around a little and occasionally formed a ‘Neil Young/Crazy Horse’ type huddle next to the drums and Mads went all rock guitarist when the music allowed.  Apart from that they were all pretty calm – hygge anyone?

Calm they may have looked but bloody hell did they make a huge sonic racket.  Silas beat seven shades out of his drum kit and Johan’s bass just reverberated through your whole body.  During the ‘Frengers’ set even Jonas broke out from his calm trance and gave the guitar a pounding.  Nick delicately played the keyboards and held the tunes together, occasionally strapping the guitar on to cover for Jonas just singing.  For me Set 1 was too short, it had some great songs but trust me Act 2 the whole of ‘Frengers’ sounds even better at full volume.  Hell, it was good!

Setlist Set 1 (click the link to view video)

  1. City Voices – (Frengers 15th Anniversary Re-Issue 2018,
    and B-side of ‘Comforting Sounds’ single 2003)
  2. Repeaterbeater – (No More Stories…, 2009)
  3. Special – (And the Glass Handed Kites, 2005)
  4. The Zookeeper’s Boy – (And the Glass Handed Kites, 2005)
  5. Satellites – (+ – , 2015)
  6. Interview the Girls – (+ – , 2015)
  7. King Christian – (Half the World Is Watching Me, 2000)
  8. Louise Louisa – (And the Glass Handed Kites, 2005)

Mew Frengers 15 Anniversary World Tour [20 Oct 2018] Barbican

Set 2
*  (Frengers, 2003)

  1. Am I Wry? No*
  2. 156*
  3. Snow Brigade*
  4. Symmetry*
  5. Behind the Drapes*
  6. Her Voice Is Beyond Her Years*
  7. Eight Flew Over, One Was Destroyed*
  8. She Came Home for Christmas*
  9. She Spider*
  10. Comforting Sounds*

And so, the gig ended with the soaring mini-epic of the majestic ‘Comforting Sounds’.   Nick and Jonas start alone with the rest of the band gradually drifting back on stage to build up to the songs repetitive crescendo.  A glacially work of art indeed!  The audience as one rise to their feet to applaud this epic song and the show as a whole.  Rapturous applause follow until the house lights are turned on (I think I actually managed a proper glimpse of the band at this point 😊).

A wonderful late afternoon’s entertainment, plus the added benefit of being able to take my wife out for a lovely vegan meal/glass of wine at The Ned (Bank tube) after the show and still get home at a reasonable hour – all very middle class!

Mew are unique, and obviously their record company let them do whatever they damn like which is just great – who wants the same old stuff being regurgitated.  It may not make them rich but it connects with their eclectic fanbase.  Come back soon chaps!

Article by: Marko Jergic [21 October 2018]
Ps – the only other time I saw a matinee show was Genesis in 1977 (Leicester) on the ‘Wind and Wuthering’ tour.

Suede – Live concert review [12 Oct 2018] Eventim Apollo, London

So here I am once again at Hammersmith Odeon (aka Apollo) to see the mighty Suede on their ‘The Blue Hour’ 2018 European tour.

Support was from ‘The Horrors’, a loud dark set throughout.  Lighting was distinctly purple, blue and black, from a 5-piece band all dressed in black in front of a black canvass depicting what I’d suggest was a version of the famous ‘The Scream’ painting.  It was a wall of noise, not unpleasant in itself, but each song kind of seemed the same – apart from a couple of slower ones.  The singer, doing his best Marilyn Manson throughout, could have been singing anything, you simply couldn’t hear him through the cacophony of keyboards/drums/guitars.  At times like these I’d question the skills of the mixing desk.  They did their 30 mins and left, I’d have screamed but no one would have heard through the ringing in their ears.  I did like the glowing pyramid thingy on the keyboard players desk – whatever it was!

And so, to the main act, 21:00 ghostly shadows appear behind a semi-transparent gauze and the band launch into ‘As One’ of the new album.  The entire song is played behind the gauze with the back-lighting projecting onto the band producing a haunting effect to perfectly match the song.  Suede were excellent throughout, but really this was the Brett Anderson show.  Brett certainly knows how to engage and transfix an audience, what a front man.  He swaggered, leapt, ran around the stage, got in with the audience on numerous occasions and used his mic cable as a prop like a lion tamer’s leash or swinging it around his head and body.  Blessed with good looks Brett was dressed in black jeans and a dark blue shirt and he looked every bit the cool ‘Filmstar’.  After the first few songs his shirt was drenched so he undid a few buttons to show off his athletic sweaty torso.  Quite what some people standing near me in winter coats were doing is beyond me (it was roasting inside) – the Apollo does after all have a cloakroom!

The rest of the band pretty much stayed in the shadows, enabling Brett to do what he does best.  They stayed pretty stone faced throughout in contrast to a constantly smiling over exuberant Brett who looked like he really was having a bloody great time with his 5000 devoted audience.  Brett’s souring vocals were ably supported by a polished band comprising Richard Oakes – guitars, Simon Gilbert – drums, Mat Osman – bass and Neil Codling – keyboards, guitars (looking increasingly like Thin Lizzy’s Scott Gorham).

The songs were a mix of old classics and new tracks from ‘The Blue Hour’.  In fact, 60% of the songs were from their first and currently last LPs with ‘Dog Man Star’ and ‘Coming Up’ also featuring heavily.  All the info is below courtesy of a quick Excel pivot table!

Weirdly enough for a London band this was the first time Suede have played the Hammersmith Apollo.  Judging by the rapturous applause from a hysterical sell-out crowd it certainly won’t be the last.  Brett mentioned that his wife was in the audience and that occasionally she’d ask him about his death.  “Scatter my ashes across London.  Hyde Park is nice SW2” came his reply.

The band steamed through a 24-song set interspersed nicely with new and old classics, my favourites being: Filmstar, Trash, Animal Nitrate, We Are the Pigs and The 2 of Us. I downloaded the new LP and was frantically listening to it on the tube to the gig so as to be familiar with the songs.  The songs were interesting, atmospheric and catchy (future indie rock classics – mark my words) from the off but I did struggle to hear them properly thanks to the noisy Central Line!  Thankfully Suede made them far more accessible!  Near the end of the set Brett tried something different – he sang with an acoustic guitar and no microphone.  With mobiles aloft the crowd now in silence listened and recorded the occasion – I’m sure YouTube will be inundated with the spectacle.  Whether or not he was heard at the back of he stalls or in the circle is anybody’s guess.

Suede Hammersmith Apollo Set List (click on link to view video)

  1. As One – (The Blue Hour, 2018)Suede - Hammersmith 18 Oct 2018
  2. Wastelands – (The Blue Hour, 2018)
  3. Outsiders – (Night Thoughts, 2016)
  4. We Are the Pigs – (Dog Man Star, 1994)
  5. So Young – (Suede, 1993)
  6. Heroine – (Dog Man Star, 1994)
  7. The Drowners – (Suede, 1993)
  8. He’s Dead – (Suede, 1993)
  9. Tides – (The Blue Hour, 2018)
  10. Roadkill – (The Blue Hour, 2018)
  11. Sabotage – (Blood Sports, 2013)
  12. Dolly – (Suede, 1993)
  13. It Starts and Ends with You – (Blood Sports, 2013)
  14. Filmstar – (Coming Up, 1996)
  15. Metal Mickey – (Suede, 1993)
  16. Trash – (Coming Up, 1996)
  17. Animal Nitrate – (Suede, 1993)
  18. Pantomime Horse – (Suede, 1993) Brett acoustic solo
  19. The 2 of Us – (Dog Man Star, 1994)Suede 2018 tour [12 Oct 2018] Hammersmith Apollo London
  20. The Invisibles – (The Blue Hour, 2018)
  21. Flytipping – (The Blue Hour, 2018)Encore:
  22. Beautiful Ones – (Coming Up, 1996)
  23. Life Is Golden – (The Blue Hour, 2018)

The encore began with a Cheshire cat grinning Brett saying “If you don’t know the words to this, I don’t know why you’re here!” before the band triumphantly launch into ‘Beautiful Ones’ followed by ‘Life is Golden’.

Brett is the consummate professional front man.  The audience with outstretched hands mauled Brett every time he forayed into the enthusiastic throng.  The show ended with Brett going stage right/left with fist clenched beating his heart and smile beaming. We love you too Brett!

He was as energetic as ever tonight enchanting the devoted audience, encouraging them to sing-along, clap, jump etc.  At 51, with that cheeky boyish grin, he has never looked better and is clearly loving every moment in the limelight.   Suede were Britpop outsiders in the nineties and still remain so except for their devoted fan base. Tremendous stuff lads, certainly not dying off with a whimper.

So, on a balmy mid-October night I left the venue to head back across London in 18° heat thinking what a treat it was to have seen Brett and Suede working the crowd into a lather.

Marko [14 October 2018]