It seems as though the organisers of Electric Picnic have gone for a hip hop theme this year, at least in terms of headliners. (Presumably) Opening the festival, ahead of the party rap of Outkast and the hip hop-meets-country-meets-blues-meets-whiteboy-funk that is Beck is the British trip hop outfit Portishead. Portishead are certainly the most head scratching choice of headliner. They haven’t come to electric picnic with new material to promote and they haven’t reformed after a long absence. They don’t have the back catalogue of hits, or indeed much of a back catalogue at all (just three albums in a 23 year career) that the other headliners have, and they arguably aren’t as well known either. On top of that, their chilled out, slightly depressing, slightly paranoid brand of music seems to clash with the (relatively) happy go lucky attitude of the other headliners.
Eponymously named after a town near Bristol, Portishead emerged in the early 90s, as part of a burgeoning underground scene that was primarily based around acid house. Spawned from a collective known as the Wild Bunch (which contained other trip hop luminaries Tricky and Massive Attack, who recently headlined Marley Park’s longitude festival), Portishead consists of producers Adrian Utley and Geoff Barrow and vocalist Beth Gibbons. Trip hop, as a genre, is notoriously difficult to define. Emerging out of then popular acid house scene, and being heralded as update of psychedelia, trip hop is best described as a fusion of several disparate genres, namely electronica, ambient, acid house and post punk. Musically its gloomy and haunting and its lyrics are often stream of conscious and introspective. More gothic than gangster, it was at odds with the rap that dominated the mainstream at the time.
On their debut album, 1994s Dummy, Portishead took the above influence influences (drum machines, scratching and sampling feature heavily on the record), and they added a strong sense of blues and jazz. These overtones, combined with Beth Gibbons smokey, cinematic voice, gave the record a film noir feel, as if it was the soundtrack to an impossibly cool James Bond film. The record seemingly took a number of years to craft, and listening to slick arrangements, its obvious why. Utley and Barrow are known for their meticulous production style, and as a result not a note, beat, sample or scratch sounds out of place. As with a lot of trip hop albums, its very easy to get lost in, despite the confusing, dark atmosphere the pervades. The album won a Mercury Prize, and is often credited with giving trip hop its first real exposure to the mainstream.
Portishead have two other studio albums to their name, but the other jewel in their catalogue is their 1997 live album, Roseland NYC, recorded with a philharmonic orchestra, which perhaps best showcases their experimental nature. Despite assurances they haven’t released any new material since 2008, though they have been touring steadily since then.
Portishead won’t be able to phone their performance at Stradballey, purely because they are such an odd choice for headliner. Like post punk, trip hop isn’t a genre that one readily expects to hear in a large festival setting. However if the band is on form, as they uniformly are, then it could be one of most unique sets of the festival. They have the potential to create one of those rare moments of beauty, where time seems to stop as everybody is transfixed by the sounds coming from the stage, afraid to make any noise or to move for fear of missing something. In some ways, a band like that is needed as a headliner. Portishead are sort of like the fucked up cousin of the other two headliners, and they’ll certainly provide a different experience to the bombast of Outkast and the irreverence of Beck. If Outkast and Beck and considered to be alternative, then Portishead are about as far left of the dial as you can get. Hopefully they’ll capture the spirit Electric Picnic was built on.
Earlier this year when it was announced that Outkast would be reforming to perform a series of summer shows in honour of the 20th anniversary of their debut Southernplayalisticadillacamuzik, the music community at large completely lost their shit. And then when they were announced as headliners for Electric Picnic, I think it’s safe to say that many of us at Belfield FM lost our shit again (quite frustrating really as it taken us forever to find it after the first announcement). Perhaps the most original, entertaining, and creative Hip Hop groups of the last 20 years, the duo of Big Boi and Andre 3000 taking to the main stage on an as yet undetermined day (although realistically it’ll definitely be the Sunday) with what is sure to be an energy packed set of past classics? I think we were more overjoyed than the day we were allowed to swear on air again.
Judging from their setlists from shows they’ve already played this summer, we’re sure to see cuts from all of their 6 varied and consistently brilliant albums. From the high energy ‘B.O.B’, to the spaced out psychedelia of ‘Aquemini’, the Southern-fried hip-hop of ‘ATLiens’ to their earliest hit, the laid back ‘Player’s Ball’, Outkast have a wealth of tracks at their disposal to draw in the crowds at Stradbally. And yes, ‘Roses’ and ‘Hey Ya’ are going to draw in the masses as 2 of the strongest pop tracks of the last decade look set to bring the entire festival to a joyous sing along climax, but if you don’t know ‘Rosa Parks’ from ‘Ms Jackson’, remember that this is a band with more than one album, and there’s still a month for you to explore one of the strongest back catalogues in Hip-Hop history (and where better than this playlist I made during my stint as host of The Alternative Lunch on this very station, which you can find right here.
For fans it is a shame that Outkast have been so quiet since the relatively underwhelming film/album combo ‘Idlewild’ in 2006. While Big Boi has been producing consistently excellent hip-hop as a solo artist and Andre 3000 has stayed relevant with a string of guest appearances on Gorillaz and Frank Ocean tracks (as well as playing Jimi Hendrix in the upcoming biopic ‘All Is By My Side’), what makes the reunion so exciting is that the duo work much stronger together than apart, Big Boi’s tough gangster persona perfectly complementing the hyperactive sex-obsessed odd ball Andre 3000. Even after such a long hiatus, reports from festivals such as Coachella and Lollapalooza suggest that this is half hearted cynical attempt to cash in (no Eagles reunion be this), and that the duo are delighted to be back rapping together and wooing crowds to the ways of their Southern Fried Hip-Hop. If anything, EP being at the end of the summer means attendees will likely get one of the strongest performances out of the Atlanta band as they’ve had all summer to perfect their set.
Are there any surprises we can expect? Well other than the as usual bonkers outfits worn by Andre (my personal favourite is a turban, ice hockey jersey and short shorts combo), I have a hunch that with Kelis also on the bill for the 3 day festival, the queen of milkshakes herself may join the band onstage to perform her guest vocal on perhaps the silliest (but also awesome) track from The Love Below ‘Dracula’s Wedding’. Of course this is mere baseless speculation and supposition (unlike my opinion that despite what the chorus of ‘Roses’ my tell us, the toilets of EP will leave no-one arguing the fact that our shit does indeed stank), but one thing we can say for certain is Outkast are likely to be one of the best sets of Electric Picnic 2014.
Tickets for Electric Picnic (29th-31st August) are available now from Ticketmaster priced at €229.50
Bek David Campbell, or just ‘Beck’ to you and me, is one of the most highly regarded and highly rated artists to come out of the 90’s. At a time when Nirvana was showing the world the meaning of ‘meh’, Beck came along and twisted this grungy style into a more quirky meaning of ‘meh’. He also happens to be one of my favourite artist of all time, and I stress the word “artist”. So naturally, when I heard that he would be playing Electric Picnic in the summer, I needed to lay down for a few minutes and weep tears of joy.
The best thing about Beck’s style of music is just that. He doesn’t sound like anyone else ever did before and ever will. He has his roots in both country blues and folk style ‘Americana’, while also injecting whatever style of music is popular at the time. He got his big breakthrough in 1993 with the release of the Mellow Gold album, which would feature the smash hit single, Loser. Loser managed to capitalize on the grungy feeling that existed in America at the time with its chorus line “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?” becoming something of a slogan for the movement. But Beck never really liked to settle in with one ‘music scene’ and tried to change up his music as time went on. He would drop the song Loser off his set-lists, like Radiohead did with Creep, and went against the norm by releasing songs such as MTV Makes Me Want to Smoke Crack. Many at the time believed this to be noting but a marketing ploy, and many denounced Beck as a poser. He set out to prove them wrong.
His biggest album is arguably the 1996 album, Odelay. This album had a bit of everything. It had the left over of the sounds of Mellow Gold, mixed with some reggae, hip-hop infused folk. In short, it sounds like noting else. One of the best things about Beck is that none of his albums really sound the same, with a couple of exceptions, but you always know that it’s him. Something about his style just rings through each album. The big hit of the album, Where it’s at, remains one of my favourite songs, as does the hauntingly beautiful closing song, Ramshackle.
Beck would go on to work with famed Radiohead producer, Nigel Godrich, on his next two albums, Mutations & Midnight Vultures, the latter of which being the album that splits most fans. I for one think its one of the most fun albums to listen to, and proves, like some other of his songs, that you can just write a bunch of nonsense, and have it be an absolute cracker of a song, with the right beat.
Next, Beck would go on to write what is, undoubtedly, the greatest ‘Break up’ album ever written in Sea Change. This album will rip the very heart out of you. Every note, every word, has such pain behind it, yet it also leaves you with a hint of hope. It was so unexpected of Beck, yet it is often considered his greatest work. He would return to his more upbeat albums, with some excellent songs emerging in this period, such as my favourite Beck song, E-Pro, in which he samples the amazing beat to the Beastie Boys So What Cha Want. His newest album, Morning Phase, feels like a sequel to Sea Change, and captures the feeling and tone of the pervious album perfectly, with some stunningly beautiful tracks coming off it.
At Electric Picnic, it can be expected that the set list will be made up of mostly Sea Change and Morning Phase songs, which will probably make it the most sober and tear jerking show of the entire weekend. This may annoy some of his fans, who just want to jump around to New Pollution, but I’m sure that he will be busting out some of his older tracks, and maybe putting a new spin on some of them, which he tends to do. No matter what he sings, I’m sure that Beck will be the highlight of the weekend for me, and many others.
Tickets for Electric Picnic (29th-31st August) are available now from Ticketmaster priced at €229.50
After the overwhelming success of 21 Jump Street, it has come as no surprise to anyone that a sequel would come our way. As always with a sequel, there is a risk of anti-climax. Thankfully, 22 Jump Street delivers as much comedic substance as the first.
Taking us back to the first movie, the comedy of the film is down to the main characters reliving their youth. We find our two cops Jonah Hill, 30, and Channing Tatum, 34, being thrown back undercover, this time as a couple of University students. Naturally this setting will be enjoyable and relatable to all University students out there. However it is more of an American frat house college there are still lots of enjoyable relatable moments for us all to enjoy.
As far as action movies go, 22 Jump Street has it all. Explosions, guns, fast cars, and beautiful girls. Nothing too cheesy, but totally enjoyable from start to finish. 22 Jump Street is one large, on-going gag about the idiocy and expense of sequels, and within that framework is a dazzling display of gags based on the brain vs. brawn divide of our heroes. That means thrilling action sequences full of exuberant nonsense — Tatum is like Spider Man for a couple of stunts — matched by wit and repartee that take no prisoners.
Tatum and Hill are in good company for this return engagement. Ice Cube is back as Captain Dickson, king of anger mismanagement, and fellow college students are played by Wyatt Russell, Amber Stevens and Jimmy Tatro, with stand-out turns from identical wiseacres the Lucas Brothers and psycho roommate Jillian Bell.
Overall, it must be said that 22 Jump Street was very enjoyable, funny. At the same time, let’s hope we won’t be seeing a 23 Jump Street any time soon!
The Museum of Modern Art, located at Kilmainham in Dublin, has started to host gigs recently. Having a museum of modern art located in a building rooted in Dublin’s past, the Royal Hospital of Kilmainham, essentially means that when one visits they witness a mixture of the old and the new, looking at a present that is surrounded and informed by the past. In many ways these are traits that one might apply to Jack White, formerly of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather, whose sound incorporates multiple styles and genres, and changes regularly, yet is always rooted the delta blues of times past. In the Museum of Modern art he could not have found a more appropriate setting.
Before White and his band took to the stage British duo The Kills, consisting of guitarist Jaime Hince and singer Alison Mosshart, warmed up the crowd with a set consisting of guttural blues based grooves. The Kills normally use a drum machine, and while this wasn’t totally eschewed, they where backed by two drummers for last nights show. This added an almost tribal element to their already visceral sound. Between Hince’s feedback laden, noise rock solos and Mosshart’s banshee wail, The Kills made sure that they didn’t go unnoticed, and they where well received by the large crowd that had turned out, despite the weather. By the time they left the stage, the crowd was suitably primed for what was about to follow.
A number of people where quite anxious before White took to the stage. When White last visited our shores he was touring behind his solo debut, Blunderbuss. This was a taunt and relentless album that was driven by his then recent divorce, and it had a haunting effect on the listener. His most recent solo effort, Lazaretto, released about three weeks ago, is a more bloated and self indulgent affair, and one might fear that this could spill into his live show. White is preceded by his band on stage, who immediately start jamming. White then made his entrance, staring down and the crowd as he slowly put a tie on. This entrance didn’t exactly allay fears. White immediately launched into High Ball Steeper, a blistering instrumental from his most recent album. As the crowd stated to chant the guitar lines back at him, a smile started to appear on his face. This continued during the second song, the White Stripes Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground, and midway through the third song, the title track from his most recent album, the tie came off and White thanked the crowd for being so enthusiastic despite the abysmal weather. He then launched into a Tom Morello influenced solo (the first of many throughout the evening), and the gig kicked off properly. White clearly appreciated the crowd’s enthusiasm, and seemed to channel that into his performance, attacking his guitar with an abandonment that was truly astounding. Backed by a five piece band one might feel as though White runs the risk of lacking spontaneity, of being too structured, but thankfully this was not the case, with White and his band being as raw and aggressive as the White Stripes where in their heyday.
On Saturday White will sub headline the Glastonbuy festival in England, bridging the space between Robert Plant and Metallica. In many ways his performance in the Museum of Modern Art illustrates why. He can comfortably shift between heavy garage rock (High Ball Stepper, Old Enough, You don’t know what love is, you just do what your told), but he’s also a dab hand at country and blues. In a move that shows both a willingness to take risks and to provide a genuinely unique experience, many of his classics are worked to sound as if they where country songs. This was a bold move, but Hotel Yorba, Fell in love with a Girl and Missing Pieces are all the more memorable for it. The sheer musicality of his band was something to behold as well. This was highlighted during the White Stripes Ball and Biscuit and the Raconteurs Top Yourself, both dropped relatively early in the set. Ikey Owns, Fats Kaplin, Daru Jones, Dominic Davis and Lillie Mae managed to turn these songs into thrilling ten minute blues jams that risked verging into chaos, but remained tight and interesting. Elsewhere songs like Just One Drink and Hello Operator, a solo song and a White Stripes song, sound like how the Stones and AC/DC must surely have sounded back in their heyday. White even finds time to pay tribute to other artists, performing a snarling cover of I Wanna Be Your Dog by garage rock heroes The Stooges just after Icky Thump and incorporating a verse of Where It’s At, by that other great postmodern bluesman Beck, during Steady as She Goes.
Though White constantly talks about wanting to create a spontaneous and unpredictable performance, certain aspects of the gig seemed inevitable. When Alison Mosshart joins him on stage it felt almost obligatory (they where in the Dead Weather together). Although the crowd erupted as the iconic riff to Seven Nation Army, it felt as though the song was only being featured because its impossible to imagine it not being preformed. Despite that, White managed to keep things fresh. As the riff faded, many though the gig was over, but this was not the case. The Kills came back on stage, and the audience was treated with an acoustic version of the old blues standard, Good Night Irene. About halfway through the PA was cut off, which prompted White to stand as far forward as he could on stage and to serenade the final few lines to the crowd. It was at this point that the physical toll of the gig was noticed, with the rain, wind and each other having battered the audience for nearly two hours. Well played Mr. White, well played.
23rd to the 28th of June
€17.50 – €45
Bord Gáis Energy Theatre
“I was brought up to always suspect the least likely person” says the play’s flighty Barbara Amory, niece of the victim, while speculating upon the death of her uncle. These are wise words when approaching any work of Agatha Christie’s, where red herrings abound, but the quote may also aptly describe one casting decision by Black Coffee’s producers.
Last year David Suchet, the Poirot of our generation, sleeked the famous Belgian detective’s moustache for a final television outing. Having played the role for 25 years he dominates the current understanding of what Poirot should be and any actor now stepping into the part, be it on stage or television, will be aware that they need to break with any preconceptions held the audience. But as demonstrated by Suchet himself, who came in on the heels of Peter Ustinov, change can come and can be wholly welcomed.
In this touring production by the Agatha Christie Company it is Jason Durr, the Heartthrob from Heartbeat, who portrays Poirot. At first I was thrown by his appearance – handsome, lean and not at all what I thought the detective to be – but the audience was quickly won around by his charming and masterful performance. Durr shows a real talent for engaging the viewer and making them feel as if they are in on the joke with him, whilst remaining haughtily above the shenanigans surrounding him on stage. His calm style and wry humour work perfectly against the heightened dramatics of the rest of the superb cast.
So while not physically what one would presuppose to suit Poirot, Durr shows remarkable flair and creates his own wonderful version of the detective. Perhaps Durr is as he describes himself – “a character actor in a leading man’s body.
The play itself is everything you would expect from Agatha Christie. Prior to both the act of murder and appearance of Poirot, intrigues saturate the art deco style salon where all the action takes place. Lucia, the beautiful, young and naturally mysterious young Italian wife of Richard Amory comes on stage in a state of distress, the apparent cause of her unease being the arrival of a “friend” from her home land. Concurrent to this Sir Claud Amory, her father-in-law and a famous inventor, has discovered that a formula he was working on has gone missing and has called upon one Hercule Poirot to investigate the theft (a poor decision given Poirot’s role as a Herald of Death).
The Black Coffee of the title provides the audience with both dark humour, as characters morbidly joke about poisoning one another, and a clever murder weapon. The coffee, which has apparently been poisoned, changes hands so often that, while taking place before the eyes of all, no one can be sure who did what and why. Leads are pursued in a puppy like fashion by Poirot’s hapless English friend Captain Hastings, played with aplomb by Robin McCallum, while other characters such as the quiet Raynor offer seemingly sensible possibilities, leaving the audience in doubt of motives and causing coincidental happenings to appear more meaningful.
The entire production is slick and enjoyable, with a beautiful set, eerie suspenseful music and gorgeous costuming. The tension of investigation is punctuated by wonderful comics moments, notably those involving Liz Goddard’s gossipy maiden aunt Caroline Amory and Felicity Houlbrooke’s flippant Barbara Amory, a girl with who delights in the sensational and who takes a shine to Captain Hastings, temporarily leading him astray.
If you are looking for easy entertainment and a cast that seems to be having as much fun as it gives to the audience then get yourself to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre this week.