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Review: Tinchy Stryder, Edinburgh

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Tinchy Stryder makes no secret of the fact he is one of the smallest people in the music business. The pseudonym, he says, comes from a nickname afforded due to the fact that he is a tiny 5’1”. But that’s not to say the ego that comes with being a fairly regular mainstay of British rap and his own clothing brand indicate this is something he feels uncomfortable about. As one of the first to make his name from the crowd that has now spawned Professor Green, Tinie Tempah and Example, Tinchy is far from stunted as far as musical accomplishments go.

Tonight however, size, or lack of it, is not on his side. Despite the name recognition Stryder has and the relative shelf life that his previous hits (Number 1, You’re Not Alone, Take Me Back et al.) have given him, the Picture House is embarrassingly empty. The venue has given Edinburgh the much-needed capacity to host more established artists in the capital, but at around a third full for a self-proclaimed ‘Star in the Hood’, its hard not to question why Stryder didn’t opt for a venue that is a bit, well, smaller.

Not that our host for the evening seems to take much notice. Swaggering onto the stage clad in sunglasses and flanked by his usual troupe, many of whom are sporting products from the main attraction’s clothing range, the venue might as well be full for the energy Tinchy puts into his show.

The crowd, in part, reciprocate this enthusiasm. The 200 or so Tinchy diehards at the front are unfazed by their diminutive number and are evidently enamoured by Stryder’s performance. The rest of us perk up a bit when the hits are rolled out, though there is a feeling that a striking lack of atmosphere combines with a minimal knowledge of Tinchy’s music beyond his better publicised singles, to make for an uncomfortable time for some.

There seems little worth in discussing the merits of Tinchy’s artistic talents- if you don’t like British rappers who take themselves seriously, it’s unlikely one of them doing just that will change your mind. Tinchy shows tonight that he can rap and that he is an engaging live performer for the most part.

But the cringe effect of him standing in front of a minimal crowd asking “You louder than London?” makes it hard not to think that Tinchy might be a bit big for his boots tonight. Maybe this just isn’t his scene?


Written by Nick Eardley

November 9, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Laying it bare: The Airborne Toxic Event

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As they bring their acoustic sessions to Britain, the LA band discuss laying themselves on the line, their new DVD and maturing for their second album.

The Airborne Toxic Event don’t do aloof. The ballads that dominated their self-titled debut album – charting frontman Mikel Jollett’s breakup with his former girlfriend – are honest and forthright. Why would the band be any different?

Returning to the UK to celebrate the release of their first DVD- All I Ever Wanted- the Californian quintet could be forgiven for feeling a bit more like rock stars.  They’ve built up a strong following of committed fans both sides of the Atlantic and have just played one of America’s finest music venues.

But, after two years of relentless touring as their self titled debut album went viral, they are used to talking about the trials and tribulations of their progression from touring in a transit van to hosting the British premiere of their first documentary at one of the country’s top independent film festivals.

The Pleasance is the perfect setting for first night of their maiden acoustic tour in Britain. In August, it is the hub of the world’s biggest arts festival, hosting some of the biggest names on the comedy circuit on an hourly basis. For the rest of the year, it is a students’ union, hosting sports science students nursing a cheap pint after a days work. It’s not especially glamorous, but it’s both intimate and welcoming.

This brief visit is about going back to basics, offering something different that reflects the setting. The band’s followers will be well accustomed to the high-octane intensity that has come to personify their shows. But more versed fans will also know about their youtube acoustic sessions- one take, one frame, unplugged versions of the tracks on their album. This foray is about bringing stripped down musical talent to the fore.

“It’s different,” says Mikel. “You can say things with a whisper or a shout. It’s easy to slam on a distortion pedal and just scream, but not so much to have a song that doesn’t require tones of production.

Among their five members are Anna Bulbrook and Noah Harmon- both classically trained musicians – Anna normally found playing violin or viola at the band’s shows, whilst Noah switches between bass guitar and acoustic double bass.

“I’m really fond of being able to have these quiet moments where Anna will play some beautiful lines on viola and we get some upright bass going- I really missed those moments on two years of crazy loud Airborne touring.”

Crazy and loud may be the thing they are best associated with (if you’ve been to an Airborne Toxic gig where one of the band didn’t jump off an amp, you’re in the minority). But this tour and the show that is the focus of their new DVD are quite different.

It was two years of touring on the back of their first album that persuaded the band to delve deeper into their bag of tricks. On returning to Los Angeles in December last year, their homecoming show had to be a bit different.

They got to work on preparing a show that would bring what Mikel calls “something special” to the newly refurbished Walt Disney Music Hall- east LA’s grandest music venue, which recently underwent a multi-million dollar refurbishment. Used to hosting the LA philharmonic, it is considered to have among the best acoustics in the world.  That one concert, drummer Daren Taylor says, “took more work than any other show.”

Mikel continues: “The fact that our stupid little rock band was asked to play it was a huge honour. We really wanted to live up to it- we had one fucking record, how were we gonna play a gig of this magnitude?

“We decided to involve as much of he local community as possible- we had a children’s choir from East LA, we got dancers from LA, and we got a marching band from a high school down the street.

“We tried to turn it into something that wasn’t really about us, but just kind of about our ability to create an event for the people that were there. It wasn’t so much a question of ‘come look at us’, but ‘here’s what we can all create if we work at it.”

The Calder string Quartet playing the intro to ‘Wishing Well’ and the two-minute brass band build-up to ‘Does This Mean You’re Moving On’ show how well the band’s tracks work with wider musical accompaniment.

Combined with the striking reality of ‘Sometime Around Midnight’ and ‘This Losing’ (I admit to them that I feel like we’ve all been through the same break-up), the DVD is a showcase of the Airborne Toxic’s diverse talent and their ability to sing about young relationships as well as anybody else.

But there’s also that something new that they need to do for themselves. In contrast to the appealing reality of the first album, the past two years have been spent together on a bus. How will they keep that emotion, so characterizing of band, alive for their second album?

“I felt very conscious that this wasn’t going to be some stale second record that isn’t moving,” says Mikel.

“The title track is about dying and losing family members. We have two songs about being on tour; the sense of displacement and how you really long for things you never thought you would.

“There are some very strong ideas and passions to be found in these things as much as there is in a really though break-up with a girl. I agree with you- people like the Airborne because of that sense of connection and hard times, being honest with yourself about how difficult things were is really refreshing. The new record does that in spades.”

Darren chips in: “The new album is sort of a step in the way of maturity I guess. It’s a step away from what we did on the first album, but still related.”

And it will be accompanied by another acoustic series- the band are already planning how to keep the raw edge with their new material.

“We’re going to do a project called the bombastic which is going to be a series of web videos- one frame, one shot. There’s something honest about it. The hard thing is to just stand there and play your song.

“Everybody fakes it and you live in a world where everyone is faking it really well. So we’re like, let’s do something you can’t fake and one bombastic we’re going to do the same thing as the acoustic series, but larger productions.”

The band’s name is taken from the second part of Don DeLilo’s ‘White Noise’, a novel where there is so much information in society, it’s not clear what is real. For Mikel, their routes won’t be forgotten.

“The reason we called ourselves this is because of the cloud in the novel that comes in and is a metaphor for the oversaturation of information and simplification. In the face of that, we’re just trying to sing some honest songs.

“We’re not about posturing but much more just serving music and sharing a moment. That’s always been the idea.”

Written by Nick Eardley

October 10, 2010 at 1:43 pm

The View- Stroppy frontman brings an abrupt halt to proceedings at the Bongo Club

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Bands need a strong frontman; one who can engage with and entertain the audience at gigs. A commanding singer who can hold the audience in the palm of their hand is, more often than not, the making of the most memorable live acts. The View, in this respect, have a problem.

Singer Kyle Falconer is a mixed bag. When they are on form, the 22-year old is an asset loved by the band’s devotees. But when things go wrong, it’s normally something to do with Falconer. This was the case during the band’s last showcase in Edinburgh, when he was barely able to speak after drinking too much before a gig. The same reason led to an early departure at another date in Nottingham.

Tonight’s gig is pitched as an exciting preview of the Dundee band’s third album at the packed-out Bongo Club. Despite opening with their debut single ‘Wasted Little DJs’, the plan is to stick to the testing of new material, delving into the lesser-known album tracks before finishing with some crowd pleasers.

And for the most part, it works. This is an impressive first outing for the new material, performed with confidence and impeccable timing. Third albums often prove tricky as bands try out previously-uncharted styles with mixed results for loyal fans (see Franz Ferdinand), but the tracks showcased tonight reaffirm that The View have a talent for producing material that follows the formula that won them their fan base, without sounding worn or repetitive.

But again it was Falconer’s temperament that meant the show ended in disappointment. After being hit with a plastic cup Falconer claimed was ‘piss’, the band rushed through ‘Shock Horror’ before storming off having been on stage less than an hour, and with 5 songs left on the set-list. Bassist Kieron Webster tried to defuse the situation, but the rest of the band had no choice but to follow when the frontman decided that he’d had enough.

Despite telling the crowd to blame the offending thrower, it was another letdown for the band’s faithful followers. A quick change of top might have been enough for most, but Falconer was clearly in no mood to return.

So while The View exhibit their strengths with their new material, Falconer once again showcases their main weakness. Very few bands can maintain a dedicated fan base with a frontman who does more damage than good, and this could prove to be The View’s downfall.

Written by Nick Eardley

April 19, 2010 at 1:41 pm

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