One of the more amusing verbal lashings the Gallaghers dished out a few years back was to Kele Okereke. The Bloc Party frontman had recently described a new band that had taken his fancy as being “interesting”, to which Noel guffawed ”‘it’s either good or bad. It either makes sense to your brain or it doesn’t. There’s no such thing as interesting.”
Noel would doubtless hate Everything Everything. He probably already does. This bunch of fookin’ students are the archetypal ‘interesting’ band and as such are being talked up as one of a clutch of newcomers attempting to forge a new path for the guitar band. A future that, you know, involves something a little more imaginative than adding a synth player.
They do try. Not one of the tracks aired tonight (all from the recent album Man Alive) have what you would describe as a conventional structure. Instead of trusty ol’ verse-chorus-verse Everything Everything have ‘interesting’ bits that are bolted together in some sort of sequence. Sometimes this works. But often it doesn’t, most notably when frontman Jonathan Higgs goes through his paces. The frontman has an impressive range, which goes down, UP! and tries-to-fit-too-many-words-into-one-line. He’s trying. But most of the time he’s just aggravating and his vocal gymnastics detract from the music. Despite being one the few indie vocalists who can actually sing there’s precious little soul here, with the exception of the gorgeous, stirring Weights. Most of these songs have an impressive surface but very little feeling.
One shouldn’t be too harsh though. One plus point is that unlike virtually every other new group you can’t immediately spot their influences. There’s a bit of XTC, a sprinkle of Peter Gabriel. Apparently, the guitarist has a background in (whisper it) jazz. And you get the feeling they’re going to be around for the long haul. Maybe once they stop trying so damn hard to be totally original they might ally their rhythmic nous and considerable arrangement skills to a decent tune, something that engages the heart rather than just the mind. Being merely interesting is hardly ever enough.
Ah, England in the summer time… Tonight has been the hottest day of the year so far. It’s also the day the national football team have been dumped unceremoniously out of the World Cup and I’m here in the centre of London watching another icon of ‘66 reprise his glory years, singing the songs that changed the world.
For that’s what we’re all here for. Hard to remember now but there was a time when Macca fought shy of his status as a member of the most succesful band of all time. Live, Wings hardly ever played any of his previous work and when he started touring again in the 90s Beatles tracks were only dropped in sparingly, as titbits for the fans.
Now they dominate the set. How could they not? Paul turned 68 last week. There won’t be many more chances to catch to see a living breathing Beatle in the flesh. And in his dotage he seems resigned to his role as a piece of living breathing history. To warm us up the preshow tape is cover versions of Fab hits, All My Loving is accompanied by scenes from Hard Day’s Night of the four laughing, running, inventing what a pop group is about.
Yet this being Paul McCartney the brilliance will always come served with a side dish of embarrasment. He greets us by asking ‘are we gonna have some rockin’ fun tonight?’He introduces one song in Jamiaican patois, and then at the end of every song raises his arms in the air in some sort of Macca victory salute. It’s hard not to wince a little. He knows he’s good and he’s always found it very hard to hide it. It’s why those attempts at coming over as the average joe are always so toe-curling, why he came up with the whole wacky thumbs aloft persona.
But then if I was able to dash off effortless-sounding pop at the drop of a hat maybe I would find it hard to hide my smugness. Unlike other legends the McCartney back catalogue is so extensive that forgotten corners of it can be still excavated and produce gems. Middling album tracks like I’m Looking Through You and I’ve Got A Feeling are dusted down. Even Let ‘Em In and Ob-La-Di Ob La-Da, the song that so enfuriated his old bandmates, sound great tonight. Granny friendly? Of course. In fact there’s a granny adjacent to me dancing to it. And sons, mums, twenty somethings and foreign students a-plenty.
Time and again this evening my thoughts were dragged back to the prediction Derek Taylor made on the Beatles For Sale sleeve that the kids of 2000 would still be listening to them. If anything Taylor was hedging his bets, for it’s now clear that theirs is a body of work that will resonate with us for as long as our species survives. In that context to see these songs performed by their author in the city where he wrote them was an absolute privilege.