nxb3 on tour – Chapman Family at The Independent, Sunderland

This is a review of the best gig that I ever saw the Chapman Family play, at the Independent in Sunderland, it doesn’t start in Sunderland though, it starts in Leeds…

I drove down to Leeds on the afternoon of the 8th December 2012 to see local punk band Kleine Schweine play a storming set upstairs at The Packhorse in Headingly. 25 minutes of thrashing guitars, driving bass, hammering drums and frenetic vocals later I was heading out the pub back to the car to drive back north to Sunderland to go to the Independent to see The Chapman Family. I got to the venue just in time to see the last song by Reckoner who immediately impressed me with their brand of heavy bluesy rock, I’ve been looking out for them ever since but only managed to see them once more.

Next up were another first time band in the shape of Goy Boy McIlroy who made a huge impression on me with their alt blues, David’s excursions into the audience, climbing over bars, tables, speakers and just about anything else that got in the way. They have since become a firm favourite of mine and I’m constantly tracking their gig schedule to catch them as many times as I can.

A fairly quick change over and the Chapman Family were on stage getting ready for the gig. Kevin started tuning up his bass, the guitars joined in first tuning up over the general crowd noise and the Kaiser Chiefs playing over the PA then they started stringing short tunes together, Kingsley joined in on the keyboards and Scott last of all on the drums. The crowd were realizing that this might actually be the start of the set and the chatter started to die down. Scott starts hammering on the cymbals, they all sound check their mics, Kingsley yells ‘Merry Fucking Christmas’ and everyone starts making a tuneless racket. Eight crashes of the cymbals and the band launch into the wall of noise that is the intro to “Into The Breach”. Kingsley rants ‘So wake up, Fucking wake up! You’ve fucked off all your rights, You’ve fucked off all your feelings’ and there’s a few people pogoing down the front like there’s no tomorrow. ‘This is the death of truth, This is the death of truth’ he continues screeching, rising in intensity until it leaves you quaking in your boots. He sings ‘Fuck you all, Sick of your lying mouth, This is the death of you all’ as the song finally draws to a close. The power, intensity and emotion of this track is just earth shattering and you are left feeling totally drained after watching just the first track of the set. It’s a bloody marvellous set opener and one of the best tracks that I’ve heard for many many years.
As the guy next to me says ‘Oh my fucking God’ as he tries to come to terms with the acoustic mauling he’s just gone through the band slow it down with the intro to “Cruel Britannia” which builds up into another raucous crescendo before fading out to Kingsley repeating ‘You’re red, white, black and blue’ which transitions smoothly into the gentle intro to “No More Tears”. The pace quickly builds again to the more familiar classic Chapman Family thrash and the finale with the band chanting ‘No More Lies, No More Fear, No More Hate, No More Tears’ as the backing to Kingsley’s vocals as the track faded to the end. Immediately No More Tears ends then Scott thrashes the cymbal twice and it’s straight into a storming version of “This English Life” which runs straight into the slower and gentler (at the start anyway) “This Is England”
Its 26 minutes into the set and the band haven’t paused between songs, no audience chat, no catching a sly breather here and there, just full on, in your face, breakneck speed, angst ridden rock music until they introduce “Summer song” with ‘This is a song that’s on the EP’. A supercharged “Anxiety” finished the set off and Kingsley thanked Alex the promoter for putting the gig on as the end of Anxiety played out.

An absolutely excellent gig that featured the best version of their best track (Into The Breach) that I have ever heard, the best setlist that I have seen them play, the most intense gig that I have ever seen them perform and that featured one of the best supporting line ups I have ever seen.

It’s so hard to believe that I’ll never seen them live again, I’ll miss tonight’s last gig at The Georgian Theatre in Stockton, a gig that is free entry to their fans, in their home town as I’ll be working on the other side of the world but I did get to see them 11 magnificent times and wish them all every success in the future.

nxb3 on tour – Berlin Black at The Duchess, York

Berlin Black are another of those bands that I first saw supporting someone else, I was sufficiently impressed with their support slot for O Children at Stereo to see them again and now track them full time for any gigs that I can get to. This particular gig was part of the aftershow party for the DV8 festival, it wasn’t a scheduled part of the festival and was only added around lunchtime on the day with free entry after 22:30 once the band had completed their sound check. They are a glam / post punk / new wave type of band with heavy influences from The Banshees, Cure and Bauhaus, they have a dynamic frontman in the shape of Chris Tuke who spends most of the gig dancing all around the stage or climbing on the barriers and PA stacks.

The band took to the stage at 22:45, about 10 minutes after Wilko Johnson had closed the DV8 festival next door at Fibbers. Alex started the intro to ‘All Fall Down’ with the others joining in sequentially and Chris joining in with the vocals last of all for a rousing version of the track. Chris thanked everyone for staying out after the festival had finished and also the promoter Chris Sherrington for the last minute addition to the line up which was due to Hawk Eyes not being able to make it. The next track was ‘Step Inside’ which was followed by a new song called ‘Nothing More’. ‘Tired Of You’ was next followed by ‘Big Riff’ and the thumping bass line of the intro to ‘It’s Only Natural’. The classic ‘Burn It Down’ was followed by ‘Take It From Me’. After a false start they played ‘We Get Tired’ and ‘The Only Ones’ closed the main set. The band left the stage after this but only for a few moments as the cheering for more was so loud. The single encore was an amazing version of ‘Roses’ which saw Chris climb on top of the PA stacks one side of the stage then climb down, cross the stage then climb up the stack on the other side. After a minute or two he climbed off the stack and went round the back of, then through the crowd to get back on stage by climbing over the main barrier in front of the stage.

It was an excellent set which lasted about 45 minutes, I wish I’d been able to see more of the bands from the actual festival itself but things were pretty hectic around this time with lots of gig conflicts so hard choices had to be made. I’ll miss their support slot on Friday at Fibbers due to another gig conflict but I’m still well pleased with this gig, it really was worth driving down to York at the last minute to see it. Their debut full length CD was due out at the end of July but it’s been delayed by a couple of weeks due to a plumbing leak in their ‘studio’. It should be a great listen when it finally appears.

nxb3 on tour – Witch Hunt at The Cockpit, Leeds

This gig was heat 8 of the Futuresound competition held at various venues in Leeds for up and coming bands, the winner getting a place at the Leeds Festival later in the summer. There were four bands tonight, Born Thief, Dirty Green Vinyl, The Incredible Magpie Band and the band that I came to see, Witch Hunt. The idea was that the audience voted for their favourite band on the night and the winner would progress to the next competition stage for the prized slot at the festival.

Witch Hunt came on stage at 10 O’clock and kicked off the set with an extended intro into ‘Chairman’, their very first and now sold out single. A blistering version of ‘Dead Men Walking’ followed before the band introduced themselves to the crowd then it was straight into ‘Wide And Laughing’. They slowed it down a bit with ‘Good Company’ which was a more melodic quieter track which lacked their usual hard edge, then it was back to the good stuff with the doom laden intro to the awesome ‘Armyman’. The incredible ‘One Big Bite’ followed and the set closer was a mesmerising ‘Can You Believe it’.

The sound wasn’t the best but then again it rarely is in the cockpit as it’s basically a big corrugated iron barn but it didn’t detract from Louisa’s stunning voice and Witch Hunt’s awesome performance. The three earlier bands all did reasonable sets but unfortunately for them they couldn’t compete with a superb Witch Hunt.

I’d be very surprised if they got less than three quarters of the vote at the end of the gig (Dirty Green Vinyl did bring their fan club down) and on the strength of this performance Leeds Festival should just go ahead and make Witch Hunt headliners of the BBC Introducing stage.

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nxb3 on tour – Punishment of Luxury at the Georgian Theatre, Stockton

Punilux are a hard band to categorize, they came to the fore with the emergence of punk in the late 70s and early 80s, not really either punk or new wave, I would probably label them as alternate or post-punk nowadays. They produced an amazing concept album called ‘Laughing Academy’ which is still one of my favourite albums to this day, and most of the tracks off it found their way into the set tonight.

They hit the stage at about 10:30 to a full house, indeed the gig was sold out several months in advance so the band still has a lot of die hard fans out there. Brian came onto the stage wearing white trousers and a black tunic over which he wore a white lab coat to the intro of ‘The Message’. There were a few sound gremlins during this song with a loose connection to Brian’s mic and later in the set to the keyboard both of which required attention from the sound tech. The Message ran straight into ‘All White Jack’ just as it does on the album and Brian donned a pair of sunglasses as he sang the lyric I’m in the dark room keep out the light, developing an image of you tonight… The band appeared to be a bit uptight from the start but were starting to loosen up nicely with ‘Radar Bug’ and then ‘Metropolis’. Brian spent a couple of minutes looking for ‘Yvonne’ before the band stormed into the track then it was back to ‘Laughing Academy’ and a quick crowd rehearsal of Ooh Aah, Ooh Aah for ‘Funk Me’ followed by ‘British Baboon’. An ‘old’ new song next in the form of ‘Fracture’, I wasn’t too impressed with this the first time I heard it back in 2010 but it’s definitely growing on me. Another new one called ‘Cry’ was next. The crowd were getting a bit restless with the new songs now and started shouting for ‘Babylon’ but they got ‘Secrets’ instead. Back to ‘Laughing Academy’ again and a rabid version of ‘Excess Bleeding Heart’ followed by the title track of the first LP ‘Laughing Academy’. Brian introduced everyone in the band halfway through ‘Laughing Academy’, there can’t be many bands that still have the same lineup after 35 years! Brian had the crowd rehearsing ‘BBBBBBBBBBBBBrainbomb’ before doing a storming version of the track, the band tried to leave the stage after this but the crowd called them back for the rather silly ‘Jellyfish’. There were a few more shouts for ‘Babylon’ but instead we got Brian: Here they come, they’ll never take me away, I won’t go to room 16, Neville: You will, Jimi: you’re already there, and the band finished on ‘Puppet Life’ which was their very first single on Small Wonder records way back in 1978. ‘Babylon’ never did get played but it was still an ace set, a long one too at just over an hour and 5 minutes.
An excellent gig from yet another seriously under-rated band from the North East, it’s great to see them still playing live although I wish they’d play a bit more often.

The full set of this gig was video taped by someone in the audience and uploaded to YouTube, It’s pretty good quality too and it’s at this link:

nxb3 on tour – Blondie at the Academy, Newcastle

I don’t usually go to gigs by massively popular mainstream bands but in the case of Blondie I made an exception, over the years they have churned out a huge number of good catchy pop songs and as I have never seen them live them I reckon it’s about time I caught one of their gigs. I arrived at the venue about 8 o’clock and the place was heaving, most of the sell out crowd already being in there. The support band, Lexy And The Kill played a fairly ordinary support slot and after a short change over, Blondie took to the stage at about 9:10 to huge cheers and loads of screamers. Debbie came on last sporting peroxide blond tousled hair and what looked like a fluorescent pink hooded tracksuit.
They kicked off with ‘One Way Or Another’ and the screaming reached fever pitch, you could hardly hear Debbie’s vocals above the noise of the crowd singing. The vocals started coming through more clearly a minute or so into the song as the crowd settled down then it was straight into ‘Rave’. The guy to my left wasn’t too happy and he was moaning on and off to his wife about the new songs, she was really enjoying the show and trying her best to ignore him. It was straight into ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ and then ‘Union City Blue’. The band took their first pause with Debbie thanking the crew and the support band for their last gig of the tour, As far as I was concerned it would be no great loss to get a different support for the remaining gigs. Debbie introduced the next song ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’ and Grumpy on the left came out with ‘We don’t want to hear any more new songs – Fuck off!!’. Next was ‘The Tide Is High’ and Grumpy says ‘The boringest song they ever did’. The band slowed it down in the middle and there was lots of clapping and arm waving then it was straight into ‘Drag You Around’
Debbie took time out to say thank you for the big bunch of flowers that were put on the front of the stage and the whole crowd started singing ‘Happy Birthday To You’. ‘Maria’ was next followed by ‘Winter’ from the new Ghosts of Download CD and then ‘Lights’ which was an Ellie Goulding cover. Back to the old stuff with ‘Atomic’ which included a guitar solo from Tommy Kessler towards the end. A bit more chat about playing in a lot of forests, meeting tree huggers and not cutting any trees down which fell a bit flat then it was straight into ‘What I Heard’. ‘Wipe off my sweat’ followed which had Tommy alternating between his electric guitar and an acoustic guitar which was mounted on a stand so he didn’t have to take off the electric to play the acoustic. Grumpy had enough by this time and he left taking his wife, who was really enjoying the gig, with him, no doubt he’ll be getting the silent treatment for the next couple of weeks, either that or he’ll be dodging flying plates around the kitchen for a while. ‘Sugar On The Side’ was next and the last song of the main set was ‘Heart Of Glass’
After a 5 minute encore break the band came back on and played ‘Take Me In The Night’, Clem Burke did a drum solo as an intro to ‘Call Me’ which was followed by a cover of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Relax’. The set closer was ‘Dreaming’ and despite all the cheering and screaming at the end the band didn’t come back for any more.
It was a very enjoyable gig with plenty of the old hits to keep (nearly) everybody happy and a fair few newer songs as well , some of which were really good, all packed into their 1 hour and 35 minute set. Debbie wasn’t moving around too much on the stage but she lasted well through the 1½ hours she was on stage as she isn’t exactly young any more. There was a large three section screen behind the band which had lots of abstract images projected onto it for the whole set which is probably why the set list is staying pretty much constant for the tour. Tickets were expensive at £35 but it was a good show and well worth it.

nxb3 on tour – Max Raptor at Think Tank, Newcastle

Think Tank is a small venue near the Ouseburn area of Byker, Newcastle. It is part of a complex called Hoults Yard which was a storage and removals business until morphing into it’s current form as Tyneside’s media village which is home to lots of small businesses and two music venues. Think Tank is the smaller of the two venues while it’s big brother is Warehouse 34. Think tank comprises 2 rooms, one with the bar and the other with the stage, with (literally) a big hole in the wall to connect the two. Decoration is basic to say the least, whitewashed bare brick walls with street art painted on them in the stage room and big posters with a huge TV screen in the bar area with a couple of sofas as well. Despite the very basic appearance the sound is good and there was a good crowd there to see Dinosaur Pile Up supported by Max Raptor and Enter The Lexicon.
I was there to see Max Raptor who are a punk band from Burton on Trent. I’d seen them before at Live at Leeds a few months earlier and was very impressed with their set at Mine@LeedsUniversity.
Max Raptor took to the stage at about 8:15 and kicked off their set with ‘Obey The Whips’ and ‘Beasts’. A song called ‘Breakers’ from their forthcoming CD to be released in September was next followed by ‘Patron Saint (of Nothing)’. ‘England Breeds’ was next (hope you don’t have too much trouble in Dundee with this) then ‘The Great And The Good’ which ran into the set closer ‘The King Is Dead’ The band left the stage to a huge cheer after an brilliant set. The King is Dead is an excellent set closer and got a massive mosh pit going in Leeds, once the band get a bit more exposure this song is going to be a classic.
Into The Breach by The Chapman Family is one of the best live tracks I’ve heard in years, The King Is Dead comes pretty close. I think I might just have to see the tour again next week.

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nxb3 on tour – Chapman Family at Pop Recs Ltd, Sunderland

Pop Recs Ltd is the new record shop from Frankie and the Heartstrings which opened on 1st June at 50 Fawcett Street bang in the middle of Sunderland city centre. Ever since opening there has been a steady stream of bands playing evening shows in the shop, doors opening at 6pm and the bands playing at 7:30pm. The shop is quite big with racks of vinyl and CDs along the left wall and a stage at the far right corner with not a lot else so there is plenty of floor space to get the punters in to watch the bands. At the till there were also drinks being sold as well as a fairly brisk trade in The Chapman Family’s new single, This one’s for Love which was in a limited edition purple vinyl.

The band were ready to start about 7:20 and they kicked off with a long intro into ‘Summer Song’ followed by ‘Anxiety’ from their first CD which looked a little out of place as its more usual to see it as the set closer. A brand new song ‘We Stick Together’ was followed by ‘No More Tears’ and ‘This Is England’ A bit of chat before Adult then it was time to thank Frankie & The Heartstrings for having them to play in their brand new shiny shop and their new single ‘This Ones For Love’ A bit of taking the piss out of Kevin over his birthday then another new song ‘Side by Side’ followed by another track off their first CD ‘Sound Of The Radio’ and the set closer was a riotous version of ‘This English Life’ which was the highlight of the set for me.
The low point was the omission of Into the Breach which is one of the best songs I’ve heard in absolutely ages but it probably wasn’t appropriate as there were a few very young kids dancing at the front all through the gig. The version of This English Life more than made up for the omission though.
The row of 5 glitter balls along the front of the stage was a bit surreal, Goy Boy McIlroy would have had a field day with them.

Another really excellent Chapman Family gig with a good mix of old, recent and new songs scattered through the set. The record shop was impressive too, not a massive selection of stuff to browse through yet, but there was plenty of vinyl, a good selection of stuff from local bands as well as stuff that was left over from previous instores. The huge selection of bands that have played there in the month since it opened is very impressive and as long as the gigs continue there I’ll keep going back. After the gig finished it was over to Empire Spice for a tasty Chicken Madras. Great night!!

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