When your age is well above the average of the people frequenting the gigs you go, it becomes normal to believe that the reason why you consider all the bands below the average isn’t due to them, poor boys, but to you, old man.
As a consequence of such a deep thought I started wondering if it was time to give up live guitars and flying pints to use that cosy sofa and listen to my collection of old blues and jazz classics sipping teas.
Apart from the marginal detail that the classic collection is on my shelves because I have been listening to early jazz and rural blues since my NME age, sometimes it is constructive to recognize the axiom is simply wrong.
Riding my scooter on a boring (but not freezing) thursday night, I am about to listening to the umpteenth brit guitar band for the unpteenth time. With my shopping under the scooter saddle, I had already planned to cook my italian dinner at home after the three songs for the photos. To my surprise I left the gig only after the very last note.
Realizing that it is still possible to enjoy a live gig with the only reason relying on the brilliant band on stage it is a wonderful confirmation for the sceptics (as me) of contemporary rock.
Music is not all the same. Bands are not all the same. Musicians are not all the same and even nights are not all the same. Fact, a very important one, to keep it in mind in miserable times.
The View, four Scottish guys from Dundee, are responsible for my rare moment of optimism, so carry on reading, you know it doesn’t happen often.
Cambridge gig ticked all the boxes. A hour of pure, sparkling third millennium brit-pop.
I have seen, photographed, met the View in the past several times. I had never been that impressed, to me they always sounded just another band filling the void left by the Libertines‘ split. The differences, a strong Scottish accent and Gibsons replacing Telecasters, were not enough.
The View first album, Hats Off to the Buskers, was a UK number one and Mercury nominated, people loved it but I was not one of them.
A couple of years spent touring and recording, festivals, cocaine penalties, and travelling the world have been important. The View still look (and are) very young but have clearly matured.
The second album, Which bitch? moves the inspiration from the title to the contents, which is a good thing. With the insertion of more articulate arrangements and different instruments (including the ubiquitous violins), it is not a masterpiece but a clear improvement from the weak start. Apart from the Scottish mate with an Italian name, Paolo Nutini who sings on a track, the additions were well worth if this is the final result.
As regularly happens when a band shift their sound, reviewers get confused and Which Bitch? reviews have been all over the place.
From the very negative (The Guardian) to the very positive (The Observer), the music press seems quite undecided, yet it is appalling to read opposite opinions coming from the same editor. But this is a Guardian’s problem.
Little radio airtime didn’t help the launch, nevertheless the album reached number 4 in the chart and, most important, judging from tonight audience response and online music blog-sphere it is becoming a favourite among fans. Which (Bitch?) is what count.
After too many disappointing second albums, almost any guitar band of the Brit rock circus recorded a poor follow-up, seeing someone showing a hint of an idea and the passion to play it, it’s as uplifting as a hot chocolate after a snowy scooter ride.
Tonight gig started a bit late. Apparently some problems with the set-list. 15 minutes waiting and the roadies replace the first sheets with a different list. Having photographed both, I can tell the 16 songs are roughly the same and in a very similar order.
I want to read it as a special care the View put on to the music they are about to playing.
As soon as the band walks on stage, it rains beer for a good minute. Bent on my cameras, I am soaked. The View, their heads covered with hoodies, were expecting such a sticky reception; my lenses didn’t look as happy.
A wall of guitars, heavy drumming, steady bass and steer energy is the response to the beers and set the field over which the songs develop. This is not going to be a light meal. There is matter and it matters.
A keyboards, to my fear, sits on the back but but it turns out to be complementary to their new sounds that remains heavily guitar-driven.
What impressed me was the musicality of the (new and old) songs. A melodic taste spiced up by riffs, short solos, quick change of tempos. The fast beat stops then starts again. Acoustic and electric guitars merge within the same song without suffocating each other.
Now and then I perceive the risk of falling into Arctic Monkeys zone, but with such a full charge of positive energy, desire of playing and chemistry with the audience (who is there for them and not as a surrogate for someone else) the risk isn’t that dangerous. Actually it is positive.
The View know that the Libertines’ lemon does not have any juice left so they are squeezing few drops from someone else’s fruit to dress their own salad. (I must be still thinking at my dinner).
The references from the past are frequent, these kids have studied the history lesson.
Realisation has a memory of a ska/reggae beat that recall the Clash and memories of early Brixton punks.
Comin’ down, who opens the debut, tonight has such a heavy guitar sound to sit comfortably at the crossroad where the QOTSA met the Stooges, including Kyle Falconer swallowing the mic in Iggy style. Born on my same day, seventeen years later (!!), the View singer is as young as it looks; as young as rock’n’roll will always be.
Among the rock riffs there is space for a new ballad, Covers. Luckily the live version doesn’t host Paolo Nutini cameo and sounds better. It catches my attention for the brilliant opening:
“I’ll pull my covers off my lady in the night,
To see the cold reaction when she realises actions I’ve taken,
To start conversation.”
The band members interchange instruments and roles smartly. They are very attent to the fans response and quickly keep quiet or accompain the audience chants. Many songs are ready for summer festivals. If in a small venue and with just few weeks to learn the choruses they generate massive sing-along I can imagine what is going to happen this summer.
Give Back The Sun is the perfect answer to this icy winter, its steady guitar riff delivers slices of warmth and almost takes the drum role.
The venue lights up to daylight for the early hit Superstar Tradesman. The entire crowd is back singing along with them but the closure is left to a new song, the second single, Shock Horror.
Another sign of confidence from a band ready for glory.
There is no encore and no need for it. As the Manic Street Preachers taught, there is no way to comeback on stage after a powerful performance to sing a couple of songs and retain the same energy. Better leave it.
I drive back home starving but amazed by the concert. The View today are a different band from those four guys aping the Libertines two years ago.
They are a solid rock band. With the Arctic Monkeys they join the exclusive club of Brit bands with a good second album. They have very good songs, a powerful line-up and they can only get better as long as playing live will be synonymous of having fun.
Curious to know what the crowd was singing along (I am difficult to catch Scottish accent, you know!) back home I google for the Superstar Tradesman lyrics to discover an early statement that they are quite clearly honouring.
“I don’t want money I want a thing called happiness
I don’t want cash you know I’d quite like memories
To keep us on track let’s never look back”
The View look very happy indeed, are far from being interested to money and clearly aren’t looking back. Their confindence is a boost on my confidence that “rock’n’roll will never die”.
I must have written about protecting your gear ages ago, but repetita juvant. UK live scene is strictly linked with drinking beer. Punk-ish live scene frequented by people in their twenties is strictly linked with throwing beer on stage.
That funny custom happens mostly at the beginning of the concerts, exactly when you, music photographers, are dealing with your camera functions to have everything ready before the show begins.
Take out of your bag only the things you need cameras, lenses and nothing more.
I still use those ridiculous multipocket photographer jackets that make me look like an explorer who lost his forest, but they work fine.
Put everything else back in your bag and hide your bag under the pit barrier, under the stage platform (if possible) or wherever you feel it is safe. It avoids it being walked on and beer-soaked
Stand, turn your back at the stage, look at the crowd before the start. You will see flying objects, smiling girls and have a chat.
Turn to the stage when the band enters and cover your cameras with your body anytime you can.
Put your lens hood on. Always. It protects from side lights and most important from beer, bottles, glasses, people. Even assuming you have wipes ready, you don’t want to waste the first song cleaning your front glass.
Get out of the pit, find a good spot and start cleaning your gear as quick as possible, before messing up with the pics. Having wipes with you is a good thing.
The more you leave sugary water onto your cameras the higher the risk of damaging the electronics.
PS-The option of going to gigs with waterproof cameras it is still open, you may look weirder than me and my Indiana Jones look.