Lisbon and Declan McKenna – Leicester Cookie – January 22nd

Last Friday night, I nipped along to the fab Leicester venue, The Cookie, to review a gig. I was hoping that this review would get featured in the Leicester Mercury (as per my review of Drenge the following night).. For some reason, I can’t see that it’s been published.. Never mind – I’ll feature it here…. 

 

The last time that I saw Lisbon in Leicester, a crisis had just beset the band. They’d had guitars and instruments stolen in Birmingham and so needed to beg and borrow temporary equipment to play. I was struck by how decent and calm this young band appeared in the midst of disaster. 

Fortunately, on Friday night at the Cookie, no such predicament was in play. Lisbon had a full kit through which they could inflict their funky radio-friendly indie swagger on a half full but wholly appreciative audience. “It’s Friday night, let’s go crazy yeah?” urged lead singer, Matthew Varty, with genuine, Geordie exuberance. “Keep your dancing going”, he maintained as the band launched into new single, ‘Vice’. Varty worked the crowd hard and, as a result, we bopped to their beat.

“This is a song that’s very close to our hearts. It’s about the town we were born in; a place very far from here.” announced Varty by way of introduction to one of Lisbon’s minor hits, ‘Native’. These young lads are clearly not in a rush to forget their Whitley Bay roots even though headline tours and radio airplay are inevitably pushing them away from home comforts. 

 

Despite still having youth on their side, Lisbon must feel like senior citizens in contrast to their support act on this tour, Declan McKenna. No more than 17 years old, it’s Declan who, arguably, the crowd had flocked to see. Winning the Glastonbury emerging talent competition last year thrust this young man into the limelight. It’s fair to say that he’s still honing his live craft. 

Almost apologetically, Declan introduced songs that “you probably don’t know”. Assisted by an equally young band (two boys and two girls), this is awkward, angular, art pop. The plonk from the Korgs and the Casio mesh with the strum from the sticker-covered, beaten and bruised guitar to give us a very 2016 version of new wave post punk. Stand-out tracks, ‘Paracetamol’ and ‘Brazil’ lead the way as Declan slyly and shyly engages with those gathered to watch. It’s possibly heaping a bit too much praise to say that this Declan Mc reminds me of the early years of another Declan Mc (Elvis Costello) but they certainly walk in similar water.

 

Opening the night was the local Ali Clinton Band. This powerhouse,blues-rock trio, led by the sickeningly brilliant guitar playing of Ali, appeared, on the surface at least, to have little in common with either Lisbon or Declan McKenna. But, tonight has all been about precocious (in a positive sense), young talent. The three acts on this bill can all be filed in that particular cabinet.

 

Sergio Mendes – Magic

Sean, why have you never featured anything from South America on Sonic Breakfast before?” asked an imaginary friend the other day.

I had to concede that I had no answer to this question. The friend, created just so that I could find a way to begin this blog-post, had a point.

I knew the name of Sergio Mendes, one of the most successful Brazilian musicians of all time, but couldn’t ever recall listening to any of his compositions. Jazz piano with a bossa-nova beat was never high on my list of must listens. My horizons should have been broader. The World Cup in Brazil wasn’t the best for the English team and supporters but at least we were introduced to some new sounds.

 

I was sent a copy of Sergio Mendes’ new album, ‘Magic’, alongside a pretty lengthy press release. Maybe there would be things I’d appreciate within this record; for Mendes is ‘a grand conceptualiser’, ‘a truly singular artist’ and ‘curious and intuitive’.

Mendes makes considerable use of collaboration on this album. Janelle Monae, John Legend and Seu Jorge are names I recognise but the cast also includes names that are new to me; Milton Nascimento, Carlinhos Brown and Maria Gadu. They’re all given scope to show off their talents with Mendes almost taking a back seat in proceedings.

A couple of days ago I walked to the train station. It’s a forty minute walk from my house. There was a spit of rain but no downpour. I thought I’d put my headphones on and listen to ‘Magic’ as I walked. I was transported back to the summer. There’s such a sunny warmth within this music that it can’t fail to energise, even if the weather is dismal. Thirty minutes later, I was at the train station.

‘Magic’ – it’ll give you a spring in your step and put a smile on your face.