October 11, 2015 by Robb Powell
With Gigtober off to a phenomenal start thanks to the musical transcendentalism of Tom McRae & The Standing Band, the next two gigs were spread between London and Birmingham. First it was back off to the Capitol to catch US alternative rock band Lifehouse at the second of their sold-out shows at Shepherds Bush Empire. Originally, I had already booked tickets for the first night on the Thursday but as soon as Tom McRae announced his London date would be the same night I panicked a little if I’m totally honest. Geek, I know but these are the kinds of clashes I expect to have to contend with at festivals only. I had been wanting to see Lifehouse for years after coming to their music via the TV show Smallville (what can I say? I’m a total geek yes (as just pointed out) but those shows have some incredible music across them to be fair!), and for some reason memory fails to recall I didn’t make a show in 2009/2010 (I think it was) around the time they released and were promoting the Smoke & Mirrors album. That’s why as soon as I saw the date for the London show on their UK/Europe stretch of tour I had to snap up tickets immediately. Quite rightly too as it then went on to sell out relatively quickly.
Almost as if by some divine intervention (of the wonderful universe and all its magnificent interconnectedness) the day after I was at that intimate album launch for McRae’s Did I Sleep And Miss The Border and learned there would be the show in Islington on the same night as the Lifehouse show, there was an announcement that due to huge demand – and the first show selling out – Lifehouse would return to Shepherds Bush Empire on Saturday 3rd for a second night. Fantabulous! Magnifique! Terrifique! (Again?) Needless to say I didn’t even care if I couldn’t sell the first night’s tickets I just got on to buying Tom McRae then Lifehouse tickets for the Saturday. These things one has to do for music. Who needs to eat? Who needs fuel for the car? I could walk to work. Eat noodles. Or beans. Both. Or whatever. I was going to these gigs! In the end I managed to sell one of the Thursday night tickets for face value so at least I recuperated half the money there.
By the time we arrived the venue was already completely packed to bursting and so we had little choice than spend it at the back. It was okay, though and similar to when I went to see Goo Dolls two years before at Hammersmith. There’s a link here as Lifehouse drummer Rick Woolstenhulme, Jr played for the Goos, I believe on that very tour, at that very show I was at. Shepherds Bush Empire is a smaller venue than Hammersmith so it was still a really good decent view. The sound, while it wasn’t quite as crisp and tantalising as at the Islington Assembly Rooms, was nevertheless top quality! Arriving just minutes before Lifehouse appeared on stage and proceeded to bang out hit after hit, the audience were surfing on the wave of wonder the band poured forth.
As much as I thoroughly enjoyed hearing songs I didn’t know quite so well, mega highlights were always going to be those that I’d heard so many times and indeed those I heard first on Smallville in an episode of which the band appeared as themselves and played. At a prom, I think. It has been a while. The reworking to the song Everything, which was initially released on their debut album No Name Face, but later recorded live in the studio for release on the deluxe Smoke & Mirrors was ‘raise the roof’ incredible! I may not have goosebumped from start to finish like at the Tom McRae gig but then I never expected to. Hearing Jason Wade open up Everything so delicately, so beautifully, so gently with his acoustic guitar before stopping, swapping for his electric as the rest of the band returned to the stage before he let rip and they all joined in so the song burst alive like the rays from a thousand suns burst over the horizon. The place was on fire! Now, the level of goosebumpery that induced was ginormous! I don’t recall them ever featuring on Charmed and I know they weren’t on Buffy but if I closed my eyes I really did feel like I was chilling out at P3 or The Bronze. Opening them again to be in those places would be neat. Trippy. Dreamy. But neat. Ooh, while on that note I so need to see Four Star Mary live. I’m pretty sure they toured over here around 2008/2009 as well but alas like I missed the Goos and Lifehouse around those years, I also missed those Dingoes Ate My Baby boys. Epic fail on my part! Still, with all the reunions going on in music these days there is always going to be a possibility it will happen at some point. Bring it on. Back to Lifehouse, though and to sum up, the band sounded so very tight together but I wasn’t exactly expecting anything less. A night of pure rock magic. I would most definitely go see them again.
#3: BELINDA CARLISLE
Gig #3 of Gigtober was at Birmingham Town Hall so it was awesome to get to drop in on the family for a few hours prior. Now, you may laugh. You may scoff. You may be thinking with all the wonderful, interesting, fabulous music, indie and otherwise that I listen to, see live, check out, promote, share and the like why on earth would I be going to a Belinda Carlisle gig? There are a few reasons but the main one is how interesting she is. Who she has grown to become and what she stands for. You might indeed have wondered why I would have gone to see someone like Cyndi Lauper like I did back in 2011. For a start had I not have done so I would have been much less likely to come across Rainy Boy Sleep as I did and who I have been following since. This isn’t a review of the Cyndi show by the way so I won’t get into that but you can read more on that from nearer that time >>here<< up on the old blog. The very old blog. The first. She was sensational to be quite honest. A true legend! As was then Alanis Morissette who I went to see the following year in 2012.
I had been lucky enough to experience a stunning live gig from Nashville’s Gretchen Peters at this spectacular venue back in March so knew just how special it was going to sound. Even with the kind of pop-filled tunery I was expecting from Belinda. I, myself had never really followed her music at all but recall the likes of Heaven Is A Place On Earth and (We Want) The Same Thing being the super smash hits they were back in the day when she stepped away from the failing Go Go’s – crumbling under pressures from all corners – and embarked on her solo career. While it is true she perhaps never hit the big time like either Madonna, Kylie or a number of others did (and still do but then don’t forget Kylie’s period of wandering out of synch with the pop masses during the late 90s before her successful comeback), Belinda Carlisle has nevertheless rarely been away from the scene itself. She has a hugely loyal fan base who, quite frankly can’t get enough of her. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and she was on fine live form with a tremendous band behind her making the sounds. A seated venue, right from the off up everyone jumped as she sang out her many hits from across the years (decades, even). It was hard not to swing, dance and get right into the Belinda groove, which is precisely what I did do. I may not have been able to sing along but I enjoyed myself and the music nevertheless!
What has struck me across all three of these diverse gigs so far is the huge age-range of the audience. At all of them. It is a pleasure to see people of all ages going out to enjoy and support live music. More importantly the coming together to enjoy it fills me with hope.