NETFLIX SERIES REVIEW. The MCU welcomes Iron Fist ahead of The Defenders

Genre: Comic Book/Martial Arts action
Rating: ★★★
Words by: Dan Tull

The final chapter in the buildup to Marvel’s first TV crossover event has landed. Iron Fist is the fourth Netflix series following Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. With this, the stage is set for The Defenders later this year. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s essentially the “Avengers of the streets”. Iron Fist is a martial arts odyssey that sees protagonist Danny Rand (the titular Iron Fist, played by Game Of Thrones alumni Finn Jones) engaging in a one-man-war on the same mysterious organisation we first saw in Daredevil, The Hand. If I were to rate this against the other Marvel shows, I’d say it’s the weakest. That isn’t to say it’s bad, it’s just not as tight as the first series of Daredevil or Jessica Jones.

 

Iron Fist has been a show that even before it’s release endured some major controversy. For one, concerns over whitewashing became evident and there were further issues over the general quality of the show. As a result, I feel that much of the press was quite heavily influenced by this early panning and it became immediately trendy to dislike the show. With this in mind, I went into this with a mind as open as possible, which wasn’t overly difficult considering I’m probably one of the few people who actually quite liked the source material.
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To begin with, let’s just get the obvious controversy stuff out the way. Yes, more diverse representation in media should absolutely be commonplace, and we’ve seen it handled extremely well in previous Marvel shows such as Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. That said, I feel as though this is a case of there being very little Marvel could do to get it right and please everyone. If they’d cast an Asian actor to play a historically white character, there would also have been outrage from passionate fans alike. This is an issue that should definitely be included prominently within discourse around the entertainment industry, as representation is still disappointingly low for a lot of groups within film and television. It is just a case of getting the balance right and representing these people well instead of just including a token individual in order to tick a box.

Iron Fist tells the story of Danny Rand, the lone survivor of a plane crash that killed his parents over the Himalayas. He is quickly taken in by a group of warrior monks and trained in the ways of Martial Arts. Ten years later, he returns to New York City for personal reasons and finds himself caught up in a world of intrigue, deception and shady corporate dealings. It also turns out that whilst away he has become blessed with the eponymous Iron Fist and can summon it by focusing his chi. This manifests as an unbreakable glowing fist that causes varying levels of destruction.

For the first few episodes, the series hums along at a slower pace than the previous Marvel shows. However, this is not really a criticism as I found most of what I was seeing entertaining. I would say that the first third features far less martial arts than one might expect from a show like this. The plot occasionally feels overly contrived, especially when we start to unravel the truth behind series antagonist, Harold Meachum (played by Lord Of The Rings’s David Wenham). If I were to rate this against the other Marvel shows, I’d say it’s the weakest. That isn’t to say it’s bad, it’s just not as tight as the first series of Daredevil or Jessica Jones.

The show is at its best when focused on the relationship between Danny and Coleen Wing (fellow Game of Thrones star Jessica Henwick). The whole storyline that plays out here is compelling enough to maintain an interest throughout the show, amounting to a decent sub-plot. Unfortunately, the show finds a strange main plot that left me a little confused as to what certain characters were trying to achieve. Harold Meachum seems to be a duplicitous business tycoon for no other reason than it fits a stereotype. By the time we reach the end of the series he betrays Danny for no apparent reason. The same goes for Harold’s estranged daughter, Joy Meachum (played by Jessica Stroup), who spends most of the show supporting Danny only to seemingly be plotting his murder come the finale.

We also get a decent redemption arc for Ward Meachum, the brother of Joy. He starts out the series as a cookie cutter villainous board room douche and develops into a deeply sympathetic character who, moving forward, may prove to be one of Danny’s stronger allies.

As far as ties to the wider MCU go, we get the obligatory references to the Avengers as well as a couple of characters crossing over from previous TV shows. Jeri Hogarth (Carrie Ann Moss from The Matrix) returns from Jessica Jones and of course, Rosario Dawson’s long suffering character of Claire Temple returns. Having been promoted to a major role in Luke Cage, she finds a middle ground in Iron Fist. I have to say, she’s the most contrived part of the show. Whilst her appearances in Luke Cage and Jessica Jones felt relatively natural, her appearance here is ridiculous. She just seems to exist and tags along on the missions that Danny Rand and Coleen are on just to provide a link to the other shows. Undoubtably she’ll be the one who unites the Defenders.

 

In general, I found Iron Fist to be enjoyable. It certainly has many flaws but it’s a good enough addition to the MCU TV series as we move into the Defenders.

The Good

  • Finn Jones as Danny Rand is a great solo performance despite controversies on his casting

  • Jessica Henwick is a breakout as Coleen Wing

  • Some pretty amazing fight scenes

  • A dragon now exists in the MCU which is great

  • The hints towards mysticism are a welcome addition

The Bad

  • The plot sometime meanders to the point of being irrelevant

  • What even are Harold Meachum’s motivations?

  • Also, why does Joy Meachum now want to kill Danny?

  • Claire Temple’s appearance is simply too much, even though she’s the glue that holds these shows together she is utterly superfluous in this

LIVE REVIEW. Natalie McCool at The Cluny 2 with Katsi and Mat Hunsley

Date: 16th March 2017.
Venue: Cluny 2, Newcastle
Genre: Alt-pop
Words and Photography: Victoria Ling


North East newcomers, Katsi started the night bringing their haunting harmonies with a few original numbers and selected covers of Fleetwood Mac, Britney Spears and TLC. With Katsi’s interesting mix of minimal guitars and carefully constructed vocal layers, this could be a duo to watch out for.

I was quite anxious for the next support as I had heard great things about their music and even met them but and never actually seen what they could do. What was to come? Would it be an anti-climax or would I like them as much as those who had recommended them so highly? Mat Hunsley is the artist in question and he was everything we wanted and more. He begins solo and then his set becomes “instantly happier” as drums and bass join him – his words not mine! With both set-ups he was captivating as he performed a set of original folk material with an indie undertone.

unnamed (5)Having seen Natalie McCool on her last tour on the back of a successful Pledge Music campaign for her magical debut album The Great Unknown’, I was very excited to hear she was coming back to Newcastle to coincide with the release of her single ‘You & I’.  McCool oozes stage presence wherever she goes and with drummer Laura and keys player James added to the mix, there’s that extra bit of fierceness to the set up. Kicking off with the energetic ‘Magnet’ sets the tone of the night and with a slight technical hitch early in the set of tangled wires before her poppiest song of the night, ‘Cardiac Arrest’, McCool still has it under control and the audience still engaged. I mean if you don’t loose your shit getting tangled in wires and pulling out your mic, you have a lot to be admired for. Even with the slight confusion over the set list, everything is calm and the show goes on. This is what I love about Natalie McCool live and with the company of her band on stage – the joy and chemistry between them is so genuine. Everything is free flowing and everything is so real.  These little hitches make YOU feel more engaged so when the songs about Natalie’s exes are performed you feel like she has caught that bit of you in the performance…. that is if you have had an ex!

Highlights of the night were definitely ‘Sorry Sight’, a new song and ‘Feel Good’, from the album. Sorry Sight has a slight touch of Florence and The Machine as Natalie’s vocals do some impressive acrobatics. We are told it might get a release and if it does I will be the one shouting about it.  Feel Good is a personal favourite. Great on the album but when you witness it live, it is like an out-of-body experience – you can feel that guitar, those drums and the keys just get under every part of your skin. Basically, everything you want to feel at a live gig whatever the genre of music – Feel Good is one of those few moments for me.  Then Natalie tells us ‘Fortress’ is going to get a release soon with an added choir. Can you imagine that performed live? Brilliant with this three-piece set up but add that choir and I might just loose it when I next see Natalie McCool live, as I was on the verge of it this night.

 


Make sure to check out Natalie McCool’s new single You & I here. You can also follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

 

Through the eyes of Lil Vik

LIVE REVIEW. The Sherlocks at Wedgewood Rooms with support from Crown Of Thieves and Jordan Allen


Date:
February 23rd
Venue: Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth
Genre: Indie/alternative
Words and Photography: Martina Di Gregorio

The Sherlocks, the fast growing indie band from Sheffield, played at Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth as part of their tour that is selling out impressively fast considering they have only been signed for three months.

Crown Of Thieves kicked off tonight’s gig slowly warmed up the audience with some hard rock music and light hearted jokes. The leading vocalist went from sitting down and drinking his beer during the bassist’s solo to passionately bending to the ground during his high notes – definitely was an interesting way of starting the night!

They were followed by Jordan Allen, who did a perfect job of engaging the audience through their intense performance. They did not stray away from the audience, not even post-set as Jordan signed merch for all those people that rushed to purchase their new EP, ‘Living La Vida Loca in Bolton’. The band never gave up on making the audience scream for them, and the efforts certainly paid off.

But the real highlights of the night were of course The Sherlocks, who stole the spotlight and proved just why they have risen so high so fast. The set started with ‘Last Night’, and the lead vocalist, Kiaran Crook, didn’t miss a single note while balancing his trademark stage presence with vocal performance. The crowd grew increasingly excited with every track, screams erupting every time they announced the next upcoming song. It was impossible to stay still in the sea of people jumping around and swaying to the electric beat in the Wedgewood Rooms tonight.

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Fan favorite ‘WIll You Be There?’ was the fourth song played and everyone simultaneously lost it in a moment, understandably. But the track of the night had to be ‘Live for the Moment’. As Kiaran encouraged the chorus reprise, bassist, Andy Davidson took over the stage and deployed his best tricks, grabbing the attention of everyone in the room. Josh Davidson and Brandon Crook were solid performers as well. The chemistry between the band is incredible, you can really see the authenticity in the band members’ connections and nothing could have stopped them tonight.

There was no need for the band to even try to encourage engagement from the crowd tonight, as they were already jumping and screaming within an inch of their lives. They even played new songs such as ‘Nobody Knows’ and ‘Candle Light’, giving the audience a taste of what to expect as The Sherlocks continue to grow and experiment with their sound.

The penultimate song was their most recent single ‘Was It Really Worth It?’ and once again the audience were completely engrossed. They are definitely on the path to becoming big with their ever growing fan base and packed out gigs. With the amount of shirts thrown onto the stage, the summer should bring about class festival performances. The Sherlocks’ increasing on-stage confidence also shows as the band power through technical issues and sound malfunctions, nothing can stop them now. Tonight, the Bolton lads were full of energy and certainly did not disappoint dedicated fans or sceptical newcomers. 


The Sherlocks have just announced another tour, check out all the details here. You can also show your love on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Make sure to also check out Crown Of Thieves and Jordan Allen

 

MDG

 

 

LIVE PREVIEW. Why You Need To See The Magic Gang play The Green Door Store

Date: 13 April 2017
Venue: The Green Door Store, Brighton
Genre: Alternative Rock

If there’s one thing we love, it is the showcasing of authentic and interesting talent in independent music venues, and Bushmills ® Irish Whiskey have announced that it is launching a nationwide tour to do just that featuring: We Are ScientistsThe Magic Gang, VANT and The Wytches.

The Bushmills Tour’ is part of the #AnswerTheCall campaign that aims to showcase creators, artists, entrepreneurs from the music industry and beyond to showcase their talents and inspire others to fulfil their true calling. The Music Venue Trust have reported an estimated 40% of music venues closing in the past 10 years – which sucks – so here, Bushmills are aiming to celebrate these iconic venues that remain the lifeblood of the UK music scene – which is great!

One of the UK’s most impressive new bands, The Magic Gang are going to be kicking off this tour at the Green Door Store in Brighton next month as part of this tour. With irresistible tunes such as ‘How Can I Compete‘, and ‘Jasmine‘ are sure to be lashed out to the budding Brighton crowd, and with the Summer just about on the horizon, now is the perfect time to get a glimpse into what the festival favourites are going to have in store.

It is bands such as The Magic Gang that are so important within alternative music (no matter what flavour of alternative is the one for you) as they are continuing to emphasise the importance of independent music venues as well as the huge sweeping festival fields and stadium halls. So yeah, it’s pretty important and it’s gonna be pretty cool.


Tickets for the full tour are now available through Dice

See you at The Green Door Store next month!

 

LIVE REVIEW. Martha Hill live at The Cumberland Arms

Date: 18/02/17

Venue: The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle.

Genre: Alt folk/blues

Words and photography by: Victoria Ling


One girl. One cello. Ceitidh Mac instantly silences the room as she takes to the strings and held us there for her full set that included a cover of John Martyn’sOver The Hill’. Cietidh is an artist that engages with her audience to a point that they are hesitant to move in case of unwanted disruption or missing a second of the performance. What an attentive audience…well at least for the opening act.

Hailing all the way from the North West in Manchester and joining the tour in the North East of Newcastle is Pip Fluteman (with fellow musician James on guitar and fiddle) This duo followed on from Ceitidh and brought something entirely different to the stage. Pip has us laughing and in some parts of his set and goes as far as declaring James as single which is met with some of the audience getting straight onto Tinder. It’s quite refreshing really how effortless Pip’s stage presence it, his performance is on point but the real connection with the audience comes from his talks in between songs, he’s really not afraid to drop a few jokes in here and there. His explanations of songs such as Dandelion Days’ and ‘She Was The Circus’ has the audience laughing, but also struck with admiration as his set is delivered with passion and clear brilliance.

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It was finally time for the main act of the evening, with the room now at full capacity and many being turned away at the door.  Martha Hill is becoming quite a name and definitely has a following here in the North East, as soon as she stepped onto the stage and opened with ‘Reborn’, you could feel the electricity fill the room. As a photographer, it became increasingly hard as every inch of the floor was taken up by everyone who was lucky enough to get a ticket. The third number of the set, ‘Traveller,’ sees the return of Ceitidh and the addition of Shannon on the keys, both creeping quietly onto the stage whilst front woman, Martha plays on. Everyone is so consumed that it is like the appeared from nowhere as all eyes and ears are fixated on center stage. Martha herself goes from the guitar to the drums and in doing so becomes quite theatrical and majestic. The crowd does become more animated in their engagement with a few cheers here and there while also remaining attentive with a roar of appreciation for ‘Blue Moon’, her debut single released just before Christmas. It is ‘Boom’ however that brings in the audience participation of a few finger clicks that go with the song.

As Martha and her band exit the stage you could still feel an electric buzz from the audience. By the look on Martha’s face, it is like she simply cannot believe this reaction.  Martha takes a spot on the stage by herself and treats the audience with a final song, an old folk classic of the North called ‘Geordie’. This seems fitting considering Martha has become an adoptive Geordie and this night on the Newcastle leg of her tour – a great homage to both the artist and the audience.


Make sure to check out Martha Hill’s single ‘Blue Moon‘ on Soundcloud now.

You can also catch her live in Edinburgh on 16 March. Check out her Facebook and Website for updates.

 

Through the eyes of Lil Vik

 

 

FILM REVIEW – Logan

Release date: 2 March 2017

Genre: Action Drama

Rating:★★★★

Words by: Dan Tull

 

2017 is shaping up to be a mammoth year for the superhero genre. A total of six superhero films are due this year, along with countless TV series. From an avid fan of this genre, even for myself this is rapidly approaching the over-saturation point. Nowadays just to watch a Marvel or DC film you need to have done some significant homework to understand what’s going on, which in Marvel’s case involves trawling through almost ten years of film history. Whilst I understand and appreciate the idea of films that are related within a shared universe, films should still be able to stand alone and be fully experienced by viewers who are new to the shared universe. Logan is a respectable rarity in its ability to achieve this.

It is my belief, and one that many others share, that these films are soon going to lose the interest of people. There are simply too many coming out every year for the casual viewer to differentiate between them. Whilst some innovations and creative leaps are made on occasion (Deadpool, Doctor Strange), others still fall into the same boring rehash of a plot we’ve seen hundreds of times.

Swolverine-story_647_102116025055o when it came to Logan, the third solo Wolverine film and tenth overall X-Men film, I was something of a skeptic. The X-Men series has never been consistent, and while on the whole I’d say they were good, there are many that aren’t. In fact, remember the first Wolverine solo film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine? It arguably stands as one of the worst comic-book adaptations ever made.

However, with all of the above in mind, Logan categorically succeeds to satisfy and impress. The film requires no previous knowledge of other films in the series. Yes, it does call back to previous vents but the viewer does not need to have seen them to understand the context. Everything you need from this film is contained within.

This is perhaps the most refreshing superhero film I’ve seen since the Dark Knight. Logan isn’t weighed down by having to reconcile a while cinematic universe worth of plot details and it isn’t focused on crafting a franchise beyond itself. It is a self-contained story that excels in developing its own plot, setting and most importantly; characters.

article_post_width_xThe chemistry between Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Stephen Merchant (cast superbly as albino mutant Caliban) is totally believable, as a weary and senile Professor X struggles to stay lucid while Logan and Caliban desperately try to care for him. This triad of characters serves as our hub for the first third. The action really kicks off when we are introduced to eleven year old Laura (played by Dafne Keen). Despite having barely any dialogue, Laura is a welcome addition who brings about a contrasting flare to the story line. Keen is able to communicate precisely how Laura is feeling and what she is going through, purely with facial ticks and body language.

Logan is of course an R-Rated film. This was a cause of concern to many fans, who thought that since the success of Deadpool (another R-Rated X-Men film), this was simply an effort to cash on that. This is not the case. Logan uses brutality inherent in the Wolverine character to devastating effect. His claws slice through limbs and skulls with all the gory details exposed and laid bare. It doesn’t look glamorous like Wolverine may have in past outings. It feel visceral, savage and painfully real.

I tremendously enjoyed the first two thirds, which the final act lagged a bit in it’s set-up, the ending certainly makes for a welcome change in superhero movies. There’s no CGI filled cluster-fuck with a thousand things going on at once. Logan doesn’t face a giant silver robot with a samurai sword. Instead, the final battle is set in some woods with all the tension and drama coming from the stakes, which the first two thirds have carefully built up.

If there is one fault I have with this film, it falls into SPOILERS so read on at your own discretion.

The ‘big bad’ of this film is a perfect clone of Logan, played by a de-aged Hugh Jackman. Whilst I feel that the film portrayed this version of Logan as a manacing, beastial threat, I couldn’t help bu remember the last time Wolverine fought a version of himself in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and it made me quite sad and disappointed.

SPOILERS END HERE

 

Logan for its minor faults is a tremendous film. It has completely bucked the superhero formula and makes for a deeply emotional journey that tells the ultimate Wolverine story. Standout performances from Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Stephen Merchant make the whole thing believable, something that is desperately needed within this genre at the moment. I hope that more directors view this as an example of wonderful storytelling within a superhero universe.


Make sure to give the latest X-Men film a chance and watch it at your local

DT

INTERVIEW. Talking Tunes, Knitting, and Ray Romano: Getting to know Vertigo

Knitting and Ray Romano may not seem like central parts of the typical band, but the lads that make up Vertigo are not typical. They may not be a household name yet, but they are definitely on track to being so. In less than a year of performing together Vertigo have become a mainstay of Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley precinct, known to pull large crowds on days when everywhere else seems to be dead.

Through this live exposure Vertigo managed to broker a deal with The A&R Department, known for their work with Harts, Meg Mac and SAFIA, and ultimately grab some studio time at Airlock Studios to record a few tracks for their upcoming EP ‘No Feeling is Final’.

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We had a chance to sit down with singer Hamish, and guitarist James, to talk all things Vertigo. The lads, who met at high school, with the exception of bassist Hugh, have recently released their lead single ‘Get Away’. The track begins with an energetic guitar riff, joined by rapturous bass and the powerful drums of Nelson, before settling down into the bass driven verse of the song. The vocals of Hamish fit exquisitely amongst the distinctly heavy instrumentals of this tune, which is akin to ‘The Hunter’ by Slaves with markedly better vocals.

The lyrics of the track, written collectively by the boys, are quite poignant, pleading a friend to leave a corrosive relationship. Despite the subject matter of the song, Hamish told us that while the realism of the song makes it appear to be based in personal experience, it was not. James then said “We were writing it like it was a pretty generic human experience.”

Get Away’ was one of the first tracks the lads wrote when they were first starting out, back in March 2015.  As Hamish quipped, “Our writing has definitely matured a lot since then”.  They credit this maturity to having performed live.  According to James “they were writing really elaborate, debatably self-indulgent music” prior to performing live. The experience of gigging on a stage has taught the boys how to work a crowd, using the reception of each song to adapt their set list.

The lads opened up about playing a private gig at a 50th, and how they managed to cater to that very different audience. “We played a 50th the other week… for this big country family. So we were like ‘we should probably learn some Johnny Cash. So we learnt ‘Ring of Fire’. When we were learning we were like what the fuck are we doing. What has Vertigo become. But then we whipped it out live and the crowd went wild… We played it twice and it went off even bigger the second time.”

Johnny Cash may never be heard again, at least not from these blokes, but it highlights the emphasis that Vertigo have put on performing live and creating a great show for their fans.

Vertigo not only care deeply for performing, and for their fans, but they also have a deep bond amongst themselves. Hamish highlighted this when he said “It’s like being in a relationship with three guys.”

ray-romano-covered-with-silly-string_pn016918The boys clearly get along.  My afternoon of sitting with Vertigo was filled with laughter and jokes, often at the expense of themselves and their hobbies. Hugh spent the weekend they recorded ‘Get Away’ learning how to knit, since he had recorded the bass early and had time to kill. Or at the expense of those surrounding them. Prior to their first gig at Rics, James’ Mum ignited the bands light obsession with Ray Romano, often referring to the Brisbane venue as Ray’s. This collective joy of their creative process bodes extremely well for future performances and for their upcoming EP ‘No Feeling is Final’. They are definitely a band to watch in the future thanks to their collective drive to make great music, and have a good time while they do it.


They will be playing at The Brightside’s Homegrown Battle of the Bands in Brisbane on March 15th and at Blackbear Lodge of April 23rd.

Keep an eye out for their upcoming single ‘Velvet Revolution’, and their EP ‘No Feeling is Final’, both coming out later this year. You can also keep up to date with all things Vertigo here

 

S.M.

 

LIVE REVIEW. Samuel Jack at the Slaughtered Lamb

Date: 10/02/17

Venue: Slaughtered Lamb, London

Genre: Soul

Words and Photography by: Victoria Ling
Samuel Jack returned to Slaughtered Lamb to celebrate the release of his single ‘Surrender’ on the back of his last visit here last October – come show time, there was a buzz in the air as this artist is slowly but surely making a name for himself with all of the radio airplay he has been getting.

Giorgia-May, a petite Neo-Soul Jazz artist with a big personality kicked off the night and got most of the crowd fixated on her set. In fact,  at one point, the eager listeners at the front had to silence the late-comers joining the night, as May is someone that, given the chance, will stop you in your tracks to take note, especially with her song ‘I Want You,’ that has a Corrine Bailey-Rae vibe to it. Besides this niche comparison, May definitely stands out on her own and in her short support slot impressed the audience leaving the room full of even more anticipation for tonight’s headliner.

cAs the room fills, and the first notes on the keyboard start, the audience are ready and as Samuel steps onto the stage, his band are already in full swing. ‘Making It Rain’ is a tremendous opener. As the title suggests, it is quite the stormy affair, and the audience were now pretty much huddled in for the rest of the night. A few new numbers make the set list, such as ‘Refugee’, which Samuel describes as a tale about current issues of the world. Hearing this live really does cut into the soul, you can really feel the message within these passionate vocals especially when he sings, “where are you now?”.

fIf you have been to a Samuel Jack gig before, you’ll know a certain cover song always seems to make the set list, and despite him wanted to steer away from them, the opening chords of Coolio’s ‘Gangster’s Paradise’ always sends the audience into hysteria. During this moment, the audience are singing word for word and at one point are even stealing the lead vocal spotlight. This passion and crowd engagement is what makes every Samuel Jack performance so memorable. If it is not for a sing-along, they engage with your mind, body and soul. This is also reflected in the moment when he finally performs what we’ve all been waiting for, ‘Surrender’. And, boy, is the crowd ready to SING. When the chorus kicks in, it’s like the choir has come to town as the audience are immediately on their feet and clapping into euphoria. When ending a set on such a high, there has to be an encore and of course, Samuel cannot resist as he sings two numbers including last year’s EP title track, ‘Let It All Out’ which only escalated the audience’s choir-esque flow, leaving us all with a sense of satisfaction for the night.

 


Give Samuel Jack some love on FacebookInstagram and Twitter

Check out his music here.

 

 

Through the eyes of Lil Vik

LIVE REVIEW. Norma Jean Martine at The Servant Jazz Quarters

Date: 8 February 2017

Venue: The Sevant Jazz Quarters

Genre: Country

Words and photographyVictoria Ling

 


After Norma Jean Martine’s show at Servant Jazz Quarters in January SOLD OUT within hours of going on sale, a second date was added for the following month which unsurprisingly also sold out due to the venue’s intimate close quarters perfect for a peaceful evening such as tonight.


Liverpudlian country singer Laura Oakes opens  the show immediately and her distinct echoes around the room draw in the early comers to the front. She was accompanied by a fellow guitarist and the onstage chemistry between the two echoed to her interaction with the crowd. How can you not be taken in with a Laura Oakes performance? Originals like ‘Better in Blue Jeans’ and ‘Snakes & Ladders’ had the audience captivated, as did the wonderful rendition of Elton John’s classic ‘Rocket Man’ as she induced her unique country twist onto it.

There was a very relaxed atmosphere as Martine took to the stage. Many people gathered like they were having a reunion -this is the beauty of music. This is the beauty of Norma Jean Martine – bringing many people together for just a few hours while witnessing her brilliancy as she opened her set with the stomping ‘Animals’. When she performed the track ‘Angels On My Shoulders’ there were whoops from the audience as this was a live exclusive, although a few similar faces from her January date nodded knowingly as they knew this was happening for the second time. Such a heart-warming song and definitely one of hope considering the direction the world is taking! These first two numbers have Martine centre stage with the mic grasped tightly in her hand and her band lending their support with Gary on cajon, Rick on guitar and Eddie on keyboards, but for ‘I Want You To Want Me’ and ‘Hang My Hat’ the lady of the night showcases her own keyboard talents Norma2.jpg and steps into Eddie’s place bringing the audience to a standstill. She then turned to the guitar for ‘Only In My Mind’, the title track to her debut album.  Martine seems very relaxed on this night and makes the audience laugh with her heartwarming stories, including that this song is about her crazy thoughts that are only in her mind. As she introduces ‘Welcome Stranger’ she jokes for those of us not on dates maybe we actually are but we do not know it yet. Could Norma Jean Martine be anymore endearing? The answer is more than likely yes as she takes back to the keyboards running through the rest of the set before the penultimate ‘No Gold’. An encore is penned in but she jokingly points out that Servant Jazz Quarters is so small that there is no point is stepping off stage for it. No Gold was, as with the whole night, performed to perfection, with the audience singing as well as moving along too, with every centimetre they could find to move around.

I’m Still Here’ was the final track and as soon as she got up from behind the keyboard the audience jokingly chanted for more. Gary and Rick get up to exit the stage and Eddie rejoins on keyboards and after a few introductions and giggles, the crowd finally settle back down as she sings this ‘special’ song about her Dad after a song-writing session with Burt Bacharach. The room is silenced during ‘I’m Still Here’ as the audience hang on her every note ,bringing a close to a most intimate but relaxed gig.

 


Check out Norma Jean Martine on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also let Norma serenade you here, you won’t regret it

 

Through the eyes of Lil Vik

ALBUM REVIEW. The xx – I See You

Release date: 13 January 2017

Genre: Indie-alternative

Rating: ★★★

Words by: Martina Di Gregorio

The xx have been making headlines the last couple of months by releasing singles from this album, announcing world tours and breaking records for the most dates at a London venue showing how the influence of The xx has not diminished since their last album and the silence that followed.

I See You really hits the right spot with indie guitar pop, R&B, stripped down music with electro-pop influence of Jamie xx that really gives that extra kick to the sound that we all used to love from The xx. There are heavy guitar or bass drops, but the music gets stripped down to the core by making the real protagonists of the albums the vocal chemistry between Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft, as well as adding that extra dance vibe that makes Jamie xx’s solo work a blessing for The xx as he found that magic sound to really give the band a sense of purpose.

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The lyrics all revolve around all those dark emotions and heartbreak that people go through during their life, making this album a very powerful weapon for The xx to really make an impact in a world where poetic and powerful lyrics are very much outshone by catchy beats and a repetitive clichè choruses that make people feel safe.

The album kick-starts with ‘Dangerous’,which tricks the listener into thinking it might be a happy song as the melody starts with trumpets but slowly fades into darkness as Oliver and Romy haunting voices sing about an unsteady relationship that could break apart at any time but their refusal to let go, and their need to fight for something that maybe shouldn’t stay together. Other songs such as the ballad ‘Performance’ really showcase the hard work and thought the band has put into their sounds, with violins being used to give that sense of melancholy as well as absolute silence to really make a statement and show that sometimes less is more: there isn’t always a need for energetic beats to make a song great, sometimes just vocals are enough to show off talent.

Yet, although The xx discovered and played with many styles in this album, they seem to always focus on  their rough vocals, like with ‘Test Me’, which has scattered vocal samples and cryptic, gloomy noises that make it the darkest song of the album.

Overall, I See You really is about The xx growing and working with their sounds, as the vocals sometimes get lost in a sea of electronic noises and beats that take away from their poetic lyrics, which were what really made this band stand up. Although they do tend to go for a minimalistic sound in certain songs, it seems that Jamie xx’s solo work has made a huge impact on their sound and it is not clear whether it was really necessary. It gave the band a sense of purpose and, something that was lacking in their previous work. It was unclear what they wanted their sound to be like, but this change seems to have taken away a bit of the magic that we all loved from The xx. Nonetheless, the album is still able to strike a chord and show off the huge talents of the two vocalists, and although this is not a five star album, it will still live in the hearts of many fans for years to come.


Listen to the latest offering from The xx here
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MDG