The future of rock?

I’ve realised recently that our, well my – I ramble too much, reviews tend to be too long and so, starting from now, I’m going to cut them down. That doesn’t mean that every gig from now on is less enjoyable than the ones previously, I just want to be more concise in our writing.  

What do I expect from a gig? Firstly, I expect to be entertained, after all music is an art, and secondly, I want to hear a bunch of songs I know and love. It’s actually a very vague description of what makes a good gig and therefore one of the reasons there hasn’t been a gig that I’ve bought tickets for that I haven’t enjoyed.

There’s a little more… A good support band is always useful, although a bad one can make the main act more special. A good support band will rattle through as many of their songs as they can, talking and interacting with the crowd a little but mainly using the opportunity to showcase their music.

The main band should be a little bit different. I think a good band plays their music but adds in different elements, be it a different version of the song, riffing at the end of it or more interaction with the crowd. Particularly riffing. I like riffing, it showcases the talent within the band beyond what they do in the studio.

Essentially, I want a band to be better live than their records are.

Imagine Dragons (and support Sunset Sons) at Nottingham on Friday 6th November were all of that mentioned above.

The Nevada band are more of a rock band than, I think, the public think they are. They certainly have plenty of pop influences within their music, and that’s what has made them commercially successful, but the four of them seem to want to be fully blown rock stars.

Imagine Dragons, Capital FM Arena, Nottingham, 06-11-15. Photo by Laura Patterson. Must credit on use.

Imagine Dragons, Capital FM Arena, Nottingham, 06-11-15. Photo by Laura Patterson. Must credit on use.

They throw in the riffing, they allow members to show off with solo’s, they play songs that people in the crowd might not know if they don’t know the band and, in a great move, they mash their own choruses together to fit in more of their earlier songs. There was even a touching moment when lead singer Dan Reynolds asked people to be humans and buy their song written to give money to charities helping the refugee crisis. Charity singles are a huge part of rock history!

Lead guitarist Wayne Sermon is clearly influenced by prog rock guitarists, highlighted in his solo section, while combining that with a more modern sound.

The gig was packed full of songs from their new album, all of them sounding better than they did on the record. This is impressive when you consider that their second album really is an impressive work of art. Where Night Visions gave them commercial success and a world wide following, Smoke & Mirrors seems more like the music they want to make and I prefer it.

Songs like I’m So Sorry, Gold, I Bet My Life and new one Roots were all born to be played live. That, right there, is the definition of making good music.

Imagine Dragons, Capital FM Arena, Nottingham, 06-11-15. Photo by Laura Patterson. Must credit on use.

Imagine Dragons, Capital FM Arena, Nottingham, 06-11-15. Photo by Laura Patterson. Must credit on use.

The rock scene is full of snobs. Snobs who refuse to give pop the credit it deserves, who think that the only way to make rock music is to make it away from the public eye. In reality, that kind of thinking will only ever see rock music die out. If rock bands have to infuse their sounds with pop elements to gain a bigger following, then so be it. Rock bands were made to play stadiums. Once Foo Fighters, Green Day and Muse finish there will be very few who can actually do that.

Now, I’m not saying Imagine Dragons will play stadiums. I’m saying that I think their methods point towards the future of rock music. And if I’m right, then it’s a future I’m more than happy to be behind.

Another snobby view is that modern music is talentless and pointless. Seeing Imagine Dragons live is just one of many ways in which you can prove that to be utter trash.


Courtesy of Emma Still

Imagine Dragons played:

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The Second Coming of the Kaiser Chiefs

We are the angry mob
We read the papers every day
We like who like
We hate who we hate
But we’re also easily swayed

The Angry Mob (2007)

For a few years of my youth, I went on weekend trips with a youth group comprised of Manchester churches. Despite never being overly religious, these weekends are a wonderful memory for me. I had friends there and it was always nice to spend a weekend away from school, playing football and the like. It was on the way back during the 2005 edition that the radio was on, and given it was a Sunday evening the chart show was on. If I’m honest, I don’t remember much from the show. The minibus was talkative throughout it, until we got towards the end when the tiredness and Sunday evening blues set in. It was at that point that the presenter proclaimed a new entry at number 6. I was 11 years old and my music taste was expanding following the impromptu buying of a U2 single in France and so anything with a catchy rock tune was appealing to me. That new entry at number 6 was the first time I heard Kaiser Chiefs. It wasn’t the last.

They tell you day after day
To make your way through the factory gates
‘Til they can’t break your will anymore
You are contractually tied to death’s door

The Factory Gates (2014)

During their peak, Kaiser Chiefs were near the top of a competitive field of rock bands. Oh My God was the song that made it to 6th while I Predict A Riot managed to reach 9th and became a classic almost immediately. If children my age weren’t singing to one of those than they were almost certainly belting out Everyday I Love You Less and Less (which was another top 10 hit). Even the fourth single from their debut, Modern Way, reached 11th. In this day and age, that kind of chart domination from a rock band seems improbable, which shows how well they were received. If 2005/06 was excellent for the Kaiser Chiefs from Leeds; they topped it in 2007 with their first (and to date only) number 1 single. Ruby became better known then anything they had done previous and was followed by two more top 20 singles (Everything Is Average Nowadays and The Angry Mob). With catchy choruses, memorable lyrics and a wonderful sing-a-long quality to all their songs, Kaiser Chiefs had created a mass following in little more than 3 years.

I know where I’m going
And that we are in the knowing
And I will stop at nothing
Just to get what I want

Modern Way (2005)

With Employment, their debut, selling more than 2 million copies and going 6x Platinum and their UK number 1 follow up, Yours Truly, Angry Mob, selling 887,000 and being classified 2x Platinum, it was always going to be difficult to keep this level of success up. Despite Off With Their Heads reaching number 2, selling almost 300,000 copies and being classified Gold it wasn’t received with the same reception the other two got. Following a hiatus, The Future Is Medieval was a commercial disaster, despite charting 10th, and Kaiser Chiefs looked finished. The tour that accompanied that album was an intimate venue one, hardly suiting their arena style choruses. It would have been so easy for them to just call it quits there. They had had a good run at the top, to produce 2 platinum albums in the cut-throat music industry of the 21st century is better than most and it was certainly fitting of a once great band.

You can tell we had a hell of a life,
You can tell we had one hell of a time,
You can see we had a colourful one from our eyes,
You can tell there is another to come.

My Life (2014)

On Saturday 7th February 2015 Emma and I saw them rock an almost full Capital FM Arena in Nottingham. For that to happen shows that they didn’t give up on music. Their original drummer, and reportedly chief songwriter, Nick Hodgson had left by this point whilst their lead singer and occasional actor had added celebrity TV talent show judge to his CV. Ricky Wilson has always been bigger than the band. His on-stage antics and likeable personality have marked him above the others, hence why he got acting roles in St Trinians 2 and Harry Potter. Rather than destroy the band, The Voice was the catalyst for the Kaisers reigniting their career. Again, at this point Ricky could have left Kaiser Chiefs behind and focused on TV however he chose not to, and together they wrote Education, Education, Education & War which shot back to where they belong, top of the charts, and has already been classified Gold. Returning to catchy guitar music, their latest offering offers more than that, maturity that only comes following a fall. Coming Home, the lead single, only made it to 31 in the singles chart but given the nature of streaming charts and download sales, it will be very difficult for any rock band to make a serious dent in singles charts these days. Coming Home was harshly described as a Radio 2 single, whereas I thought it showed the Chiefs determination to grow up musically while not leaving their belting chorus roots behind. The rest of the album proved me right about that, being an album about (surprisingly) education and war throughout the ages, including tackling how WW1 has shaped modern wars. It is a brave subject to write music about and they pulled it off with flying colours. It wasn’t perfect but showed enough to prove there is life left in the Kaiser Chiefs yet.

What is the golden rule?
You say nothing

Never Miss A Beat (2008)

Onto the gig itself now, and the evening started with Public Service Broadcasting. If you haven’t seen or heard of them then they are very difficult to explain. Essentially, they have put together different quotes from public service films and played music around them. They refuse to speak live, instead using the computer to convey what they want to say. I absolutely loved it, the music was wonderful and the idea, as far as I’m aware, unique. I like music that is a little bit unusual in its composition and PSB definitely fit in that bracket. All the members wear glasses and have written songs about climbing Everest, the Second World War and a whole album on the space race. According to them they are attempting to teach the lessons of the past through the music of the future. Should you ever get the chance, you won’t regret seeing them live.

I know, I feel it in my bones
I’m sick, I’m tired of staying in control
Oh yes, I feel a rat upon a wheel
I’ve got to know what’s not and what is real
Oh yes I’m stressed, I’m sorry I digressed
Impressed you’re dressed to SOS
Oh, and my parents love me
Oh, and my girlfriend loves me
Oh, they keep photos of me
Oh, that’s enough love for me

Everyday I Love You Less and Less (2005)

At 21:00 sharp, smoke filled the Capital FM arena smothering all of us standing near the front. As it cleared, the opening sounds of The Factory Gates were heard and the band appeared to play E,E,E&W’s opener. What followed was one of Peanut’s famous keyboard openings as Everyday I Love You Less and Less took off. The crowd, who were appreciative of The Factory Gates, sprung into life, mosh pits started and the singing was plentiful, proof that despite Kaiser’s fall the songs remained popular. Ricky Wilson’s role on The Voice meant that there were a lot of fans there to see just him, a lot of them female given the weight he’s lost in the past couple of years transforming him into a very attractive man. He spoke to the crowd for the first time following EILYLAL, mentioning how they were going to rock the arena by playing hit after hit. True to form, Everything Is Average Nowadays followed, the second single from Yours Truly and a definite crowd favourite. It was clear after 3 songs that this was going to be a wonderful gig. Kaiser Chiefs just emit energy and life. They love playing music and they are incredibly good at it. The crowd react well to every single song with at least 30% knowing every word and almost 90% knowing most choruses.

I know there is another way
If you want to see their face again
I know they feel the same way over there

Cannons (2014)

Ruffians On Parade and My Life from their latest album sandwiched Employment’s non-single but apparently well loved Na Na Na Na Naa. In many ways, these three songs sum Kaiser Chiefs up perfectly. All of them are full of energy, with choruses that remain in your head long after the song has finished. Ruffians is present with the weird lyrics that helps separate them from other bands (“I study military maps, it helps me relax”) as well as showing a level of intellect not always present in music these days. Na Na Na Na Naa is a simply composed song with many repeating passages but all that makes it easy to remember and join in with. They wrote the song for their 2005 debut and didn’t release it yet still play it live showing the timeless nature that their songs can bring even if they aren’t released. My Life encompasses the new maturity they have added to their arsenal. More than that though, My Life is tuneful, easy to listen to and memorable. The bridge at the end, with the lyrics mentioned above, is possibly my favourite passage from any Kaiser Chiefs song (although the Roses chorus pushes it close). Following My Life was The Angry Mob as Ricky took a “selfie-mic” (ie a mic with a camcorder on the top) to the middle of the crowd and led the crowd in a rendition of the repeated phrase at the very start of this article. Staying in the middle of the crowd, on a platform near the sound desk, Ricky left Simon, Peanut, Andrew and Vijay to hold the fort on the stage as he belted out the lyrics to Cannons. Their (very strange, not quite working) poem The Occupation read by Bill Nighy allowed Ricky to get back on stage.

The band during Roses.

The band during Roses

I once read an article stating that Kaiser Chiefs had lost 95% of their fans from their first album. It’s this kind of fall from grace which meant they were playing Manchester Academy 2 rather than Manchester Arena and also makes their rise back to somewhere close to the top even more remarkable. I may be reading too much into it however I believe Roses, the next song on the set, references that fall even if it isn’t specifically about it. It’s dark, dark where the roses grow, there’s something that you should know before you see the light. To me, the roses are the adulation they received from fans and the song is a letter to their younger selves, warning them to appreciate their time at the top for it won’t last forever. If plans were hand grenades, we’d all be dead; the festival of grief and there’s places I have to go before I see the light are all phrases used in the song which seem to fit with my theory and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them writing about such a subject. Team Mate was played next, a strange choice by all regards but it somehow seemed to work. Two hits, Modern Way and Never Miss a Beat (the one hit from Off With Their Heads, surprisingly their second biggest chart song) both received a good reception and a hearty sing-a-long like they had at T. It still surprises me that NMAB is as popular as it is, I hadn’t realised at the time what a big hit that was.

Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby
Do you, do you, do you, do you
Know what you’re doing, doing, to me
Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby

Ruby (2007)

Despite Ricky’s huge personality, the band are as together as they have always been demonstrated by the section where they randomly choose a member of the band to pick a song and they play it. Obviously part of that will be scripted, however Simon Rix the bassist was chosen and he decided to play Thank You Very Much, an album song from Yours Truly. This was when things got very exciting for the ‘hit-fan brigade’ for what followed was a run of 4 frankly massive singles. There are few bands with even fewer songs that receive as good a reception as Ruby does at a gig. To follow that with I Predict A Riot meant the crowd was well and truly whipped into frenzy. Just when you thought they couldn’t do anything bigger, they proceeded to cover The Who’s Pinball Wizard. It doesn’t faze Kaiser Chiefs to cover such a huge band, nor should it for The Who inspired them and now they are inspiring other young bands that will have no fear covering Kaisers. To cover is to admire, respect and adore a band and to do it well is merely the icing on the cake. The main set then closed with Coming Home, accompanied with a homemade video of the walk through Nottingham to get to the Arena, a nice touch.

It don’t matter to me
‘Cos all I wanted to be
Was a million miles from here
Somewhere more familiar

Oh My God (2004/05)

During the wait for the encore they played a video of a mock Dave Grohl pep talk where basically he shouted at them for not being good enough. A lot of people were left confused by this but it clearly stems from them opening for Foo Fighters in South America. They came back on stage, joked, “you’ll never guess what just happened” and declared that the next song, a new one, would blow our minds. While it didn’t quite reach those heights, Falling Awake is a very promising start for the next album. Retaining their catchy choruses, a good proportion of the crowd, ourselves included, were joining in by the end. The encore was turning into one for the fans as Misery Company was played next, an album track from E,E,E&W. This I liked, as it shows Kaiser Chiefs haven’t sold out to the fake fans generated from The Voice. They ended as only they could, with the only massive hit they hadn’t played – Oh My God. OMG has always had a charm about it, potentially the easiest chorus to remember (Oh my god I can’t believe it, I’ve never been this far away from home) or possibly because it mentions working in a shirt with your name tag on it, coming back stronger than a powered up pac-man and drifting apart like a plate tectonic. It also features the early Kaiser trademark of one verse, pre chorus, one verse, pre chorus then chorus. Even now it retains the wonderful quality it had when I first heard it, like all the rest of the songs they played for us that Saturday night.

So thank you very much
That’s really nice to know
That you enjoyed the show
And I want you to know when to go

Thank You Very Much (2007)

Kaiser Chiefs have stood the test of time. They have been described as the court jesters of rock, pushed aside for more “serious” rock bands. In an industry dominated by cynicism and the desire for music to be dominated by pricks like Alex Turner and Kanye West, the Kaisers have always been a breath of fresh air. They go against logic that suggests sing-a-long choruses are out of date or that you can’t have a bit of fun while on stage. They’ve suffered a great fall, but have risen once more. Education… showed new depths of song writing, no longer writing about “I came down at your, on the national express, request to touch your breasts” but instead “we’re going to need a lot more cannons if you wanna be home by Christmas”. I’ll never know them personally but it was with a certain level of pride I saw them back at arenas. I don’t particularly enjoy the fact Ricky is on The Voice but he’s certainly used it to his, and his band’s, advantage and that’s all we can ask for. I’ve been with them from the start, saw the depths they fell to and am now looking forward to the future which, whisper it quietly, looks bright. With an enigmatic front man, catchy tunes and a solid back catalogue, Kaiser Chiefs look ready to enjoy a second wave of fame. They started their careers by being the furthest away from home they had ever been, they’ve now come home and, judging by their performance in Nottingham, are far from finished. Will the second chapter be as good as the first? It’s unlikely they’ll have another number 1 single however if they churn out solid tunes then their next arena tour will be sold out, of that I’m sure. All in all, it was a most enjoyable evening and would take every opportunity to see them live again. Are they one of the best live bands of our generation? Most certainly.

It does not move me it does not get me going at all

Na Na Na Na Naa (2005)