A celebration of 80s pop from Nena

German 80s pop legend Nena played the last concert of the year at Rockhal on Friday night.

Back in 1983 Nena bust onto the scene and rose to international fame with her German new wave song “99 Luftbalons” and she has stayed an ever present in the German charts since. Although like many artists Nena had a slight slump halfway through her career but over the last decade her last 5 albums all reached the top 10 proving just what staying power she has.

With the release of her 17th studio album “Oldscholl” last year, she played to a sold out den Atelier but this time round she was upgraded to the Rockhal and it’s clear she still has quite a draw, including young children, teenagers and all those who was hitting up the dance floors in their brightly coloured dyed hair and denim jackets back in the early 80s.

With a boisterous Friday night crowd, it didn’t take long before the audience all had their hands in the air swaying side to side as they kicked off proceedings with “Genau Jetzt” from the new album. With such a reaction to new material it must be heart-warming to see how well received her work is after so many years.

Even with the new songs being received so warmly nothing beats a slice of 80s pop perfection like her debut single, 1982’s “Nur Geträumt” which kept that Friday feeling going. This impeccably constructed new wave German sound which utilized the electro synth exposition of the time, sounds just as fresh now as so many current artists are trying hard to emulate 80s pop but few can recreate the immediate and arresting ethos of the originals like this.

With an impressive 9-piece band behind her including her son and daughter, she took a moment out from jumping around the stage to sing a German rendition of Dylan’s “Blowing In The Wind” with her children, which was a touching intimate moment for a show so full of energy and excitement.

With such a diverse audience some were of course more excited about earlier tracks than others and when the first few bars of “Wunder Gescheh’n” kicked in the woman in front screamed and cheered to the embarrassment of her children who were telling her to be quite, which only encouraged the mum to keep screaming. It’s these touching scenes between families that shows the power of timeless music and whilst Nena might not have become a mainstay everywhere else Europe she has in Germany and her music clearly transcends the generations there.

Of course she left the smash hit “99 Luftbalons” to the end, as they threw out two massive balloons over the crowd they kicked into that irresistible groove, although they introduced some cheesy 80s guitar riff on top, which took away the impetus of the classic bass intro. I can understand that after playing the same song for over thirty years it’s nice to shake thing up a bit but to take away the essence of the intro, it just left the song a bit flat.

However, the many slightly inebriated weekend warriors did seem to sing and dance along to a song which was no doubt a soundtrack to their youth.

Rockhal – 16.12.16

A healthy dose of seductive nostalgia from Hush Moss

Berlin based Hush Moss took us back to a time of pastel coloured suits and disco balls at de Gudde Wëllen on Thursday night.

Hush Moss is the brainchild of Eden Leshem, a 23-year-old Israeli living in Berlin. His blend of 70s funk and soul have hit the right notes with all the tastemakers over the last year, which helped him build up plenty of hype around the release of his debut album “It Takes A Lot”.

Taking to the stage in a rag tag array of clothes from dungarees to tracksuit tops and no shoes they visually look to take their aesthetic from a more 80s vibe whilst their sound is certainly leaning heavily on the 70s funk and soul. As the four-piece band including drums, keyboard, bass and saxophone kept themselves to the stage, frontman Leshem barely set foot on it all evening, preferring the venue floor as his stage, swaying and swooning across the room, fully immersed in the songs whilst delivering some silky smooth vocals.

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It took a few songs before the crowd loosened up and finally found their own dancing shoes but once they got going they couldn’t stop as the super smooth funk bass and sax were ever present with their nuanced and textural grooves finding that inner beat amongst us all. However, the floor still belonged to Leshem’s as he continued to shuffle around and duck and dive as the beat swayed from suave revivalist grooves to shimmers of R&B.

These nostalgic peddling seductive R&B songs with the smooth delivery from Leshem evoked the sounds of Stevie Wonder as well the slacker vibes of Mac Demarco which brought their sound right up to date.

Whether it be the synth soul ballads or the swooning funk, the songs gave you a warm comforting feeling, reminiscing for a time you longed-for but have never lived. It’s these strong nostalgic notions that seem to have hit a chord with so many, as they hark back to a time of pastel coloured suits and moustaches, before they were dedicated their own month.

Although last night Leshem was backed by his four-piece band, there is a collective of ten musicians that are on call and ready to play whenever available. Whilst the band felt like a tight cohesive group, they are constantly mixing up the lineup which keeps their stage show fresh and dynamic. Although I don’t need an excuse to see them live again, the idea that the energy on the stage and their approach to the songs might be different each time gives me another reason to search them out when they pass through next time.

de Gudde Wëllen – 15.12.16

Ethereal cinematic sounds of Anenon

 

Rotondes welcomed experimental electronic jazz musician Anenon to its intimate surroundings on Wednesday night.

Anenon also known as Brian Allen Simon is the producer, multi-instrumentalist and founder of the Non Projects record label, whose releases lurk in the avant-garde section of the record store, which is exactly where his own works sit.

Simon’s first two albums 2012’s “Inner Hue” and 2014’s “Sagrada”, both released via Non Projects, explored his interest in the contrasting, yet complimentary, aesthetics of free jazz and electronic music. Later, as he evolved his approach, he shifted focus from music production based on electronic techniques towards a ‘free jazz meets minimal aesthetic’ which was evident on his new album “Petrol”, which was released earlier this year.

Taking to the dimly lit stage with drummer Jon-Kyle in tow, Simon furrowed his brow and immersed his head in front of the laptop as he began to build the layers of his sound whilst the jazz fills from Kyle created the tempo. Regardless of what came through the laptop the human element on each track was always more prevalent as Simon took to the saxophone with the most delicate of touches, and with a tone that gave it a somewhat African sound began to fill the Rotondes with atmospheric downtempo beats and floaty free jazz percussion.

The saxophone was ever present throughout, even when it was sitting back beneath ethereal rhythms it still managed to peer through the mist creating a hazy futuristic feel akin to Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack. This total immersion allowed for the melancholic saxophone to be used as more of an emotional texture than an outright accompaniment.

Managing to weave together classic experimental traits with wiry electronics, jazz improvisation, cinematic sections and spooky ambient sonics is no mean feat and with the use of the laptop Simon brought in the addition of strings which filled out the sound to a more tradition jazz section before delving back into some crunching electro beats. It’s this analogue-digital interplay that was so successful and without changing the pace too much they still managed to keep you immersed.

Gigs like this may never appeal to a mass market but they do help to contribute to a rich cultural scene within a city and Rotondes should be commended for putting on such shows throughout the year. If at least one person walked away feeling inspired, then the night was a success and I’m sure even with the modest crowd that turned up, there were more than a few that will have taken something from the show.

Rotondes 14.12.16

The neon gold of The Notwist illuminates den Atelier

German genre shape shifters The Notwist brought their electric sound to den Atelier on Tuesday night.

Having begun their career back in 1991 with their self titled grunge-metal orientated debut album, The Notwist have become as well known for their eclectic sound as anything else. After experimenting with a whole host of sounds through the 90s they found an international audience with the critically acclaimed fifth studio album “Neon Golden”, with some publications proclaiming it as one of the best of the decade.

Since then they have continued to evolve and having always been lauded as a must see live act they finally released their first live album “Superheroes, Ghostvillains +Stuff” earlier this year.

As The Notwist took to the stage at the early time of 8:40pm there was a somewhat subdued atmosphere around Atelier as the house lights were still up and there was quite a sparse crowd, however I’m putting this down to their stage time which I think caught a lot of the audience off guard. For the crowd who were there early they got to see the band kick off the evening with the ambient intro to “Day 7” which danced around the ever present xylophone with the tranquil texture of Markus Acher’s subdued vocals sitting on top before the galloping drums and synth drove the song forward.

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Whilst The Notwist have been known to jump from genre to genre between albums they are also just as proficient at doing so during the one song, as “Kong” began as a straight forward indie twee number before being transformed through small bells and beads rattles to glittering jingles on the xylophone and looping electronics on the key pads which drove it towards a crushing crescendo. It’s these directional shifts that set them apart from their contemporaries and always keep you on your toes, never quite sure where they’re going to take you next.

With decks and a xylophone on stage the band have the instruments to take each song wherever they want and with “This Ride” they certainly cranked it up a few notches as the driving percussion and a wave of electronic gurgles and throbbing beats took the song to a more Jungle sound live, filling Atelier with a wall of sound.

The beauty in their set is that however much might be going on in each song, and there is a lot, it never sounded cluttered, there is a clarity in the chaos with the feeling that every bleep and tweak is perfectly timed and fully intentional, with nothing left to chance. This almost free jazz ethos is what drives the bands sound to the limit but without ever falling over the edge.

For a band that have their core in alternative indie they certainly know how to transport you into the darkest dingiest of small underground clubs as the hit us with a triple header of “Run Run Run”, “Neon Golden” and “Pilot” which ebbed and flowed before another euphoric crescendo.

With over 25 years of intricate experimental sounds behind them, The Notwist always had the prospect of being an exciting live band and so they turned out to be. I now understand why there were requests for a live album, as their songs grew to new levels in the live environment and produced moments of sheer delight and wonder. If you have even a fleeting interest in the band then make sure you see them live as you’ll not be disappointed.

den Atelier – 13.12.16

Stay Tuned showcase the bustling and vibrant Luxembourg music scene

Saturday night saw Stay Tuned Interviews, one of Luxembourg’s finest music websites, host its first festival by celebrating some of the best music the country has to offer at Kulturfabrik.

Since 2014 Stay Tuned Interviews has brought us interviews, news, videos, photos and articles about music within the country as well as covering international acts passing through. Their dedicated team behind the website brought together their Season Closing Party at Kulturfabrik on Saturday to celebrate the end of another successful year for the website and what better way to celebrate than host a mini festival, bringing together six of the finest act in Luxembourg all under one roof.

Opening the night was the pop punk of District 7 who brought their three chord songs structures and catchy melodies to the Kufa. Their high octane sound was the perfect way to get the evening going as frontman Julien Binda even managed to entice the crowd into a mass clap along, which is no mean feat when you’re on stage at 7pm. Taking the early slot in their stride, they whipped up the eager early arrivals and set the tone for the night ahead.

Following straight after was Tuys, the indie four piece who continue to look to go from strength to strength with another fully accomplished performance. Their ever-growing and zealous fan base were already waiting front and centre for them to take to the stage, ready to sing back every word of their catchy choruses and dance along to their upbeat indie riffs. This blend of pop hooks and indie charm allow Tuys to straddle a fan base that covers the teenagers in the crowd to the more seasoned concert goers. After last years successful EP launch, many in the crowd look keen to hear what they’ll deliver on their debut album whenever it might appear.

tuysstaytuned

After the indie of Tuys it was up to Antifragile to continue on the good vibes as they brought their blend of math rock to the Kufa, merging atmospheric soundscapes with the blistering math rock back drop. Frontman Victor brought about a slightly theatrical vocal delivery which in itself was delivered with verve and passion. Their switching up of time signatures and ability to flow from genre to genre even within the same song kept their set intriguing and certainly added a welcome change of pace to the evening.

After another short turn around, Seed To Tree took to the stage and their infectious melodic indie folk brought the crowd in from the cold night air and even managed to entice some of those hardy souls propping up the bar into the main hall. Along with songs from their well received debut album they played a number of new tracks which went down a treat and has given their fans even more reason to get excited about the coming year and the prospect of a follow up album. Frontman Georges Goerens continued to show off his new found flair as he jumped the barriers into the crowd and ran to the sound desk before clambering on top of it to sing back over the crowd toward the band on the stage. With the band able to bring showmanship as well as a high quality of songs to the table, it shows why they are one of the brightest prospects to break out into the international market.

Taking the sound into the ska reggae direction was The Disliked who brought a whole lot of fun and energy to proceedings as the 6-piece band all danced around the stage whilst their infectious grooves seeped out into the crowd who found their dancing shoes and joined in. It’s quite hard not to get swept up in their good time vibes as you could tell there was as much fun happening onstage as there was off it, with wide beaming smiles and laughter coming from all over. With the festival moving into its fourth hour The Disliked were just the tonic to perk up the audience and recharge us for the final straight.

Closing the evening is arguably Luxembourg’s biggest musical export at the moment, Mutiny on The Bounty whose math rock powerhouse is always a joy to behold. Their tight intricate play and crashing sound was the perfect finish to the evening although this reviewer had to leave to catch the last train before they finished their set and certainly before the after party with Umi and DJ D-Mile’z.

What Stay Tuned managed to produce was another example of what a great close knit and hugely talented music scene there is in Luxembourg with everything from the acts to the running of the night. It just shows that music runs through the veins here as much as anywhere else and it’s good to see that Stay Tuned are ready to showcase it at any chance possible.

Kulturfabrik – 10.12.16

There is no ceiling for Alice On The Roof

Belgian songstress took to the Rockhal stage on Monday night as part of her short European tour.

Having bust onto the top of the charts in 2015 with her single “Easy Come Easy Go”, Alice Dutoit better known as Alice On The Roof announced her arrival onto an already bustling Belgian music scene which boasts such acts as Selah Sue and Oscar & The Wolf, who Alice shares some similarities.

With her debut album “Higher” also hitting the top spot earlier this year Alice is finishing off the year with a short tour which included Rockhal last night before going back into the studio after Christmas to begin work on the follow up.

Flanked by her four-piece band, Alice launched into “Like A Dying Rose” with its flashes of electro pop colouring the room with a warming glow as the snappy beat got the feet shuffling in the audience.

alice-on-the-roof

Her distinct breathy but very clear vocals came to the fore on “Monopoly Loser” as the shimmering electro-pop swept the crowd up in atmospheric walls of synth bliss. It’s these vocals that propel her sound and also draw comparisons to her compatriot Max Colombie from Oscar & The Wolf whose delivery is similar, so it was not too surprising she covered their song “Princes” on her debut EP and played it last night too, fitting into the set seamlessly.

Whilst most of the night was driven by pulsating electro pop rhythms there were moments of introspective solitude as Alice took to the keyboard for the intimate “On The Roof” before being joined by a subtle violin just hovering behind which added an extra layer to the track.

They also took to the funk infused “Feel Tonight” which brought an element of 80s shoulder pad pop which then ran into Abba’s “Dancing Queen” where Alice donned a pair of big bug eyed sunglasses, glamming it up for a moment whilst still managing to put their own stamp on such a well-known song.

With a new record in the pipeline the audience were treated to “On My Own” a new song which she has been testing out on crowds on this tour and I imagine she’ll be happy with the reception it received with the audience clapping and dancing along.

For her fans who are looking for much of the same they won’t be disappointed as it drew from all the same aspects as her previous work. Although it might not convert the undecided as the structure didn’t vary much throughout and whilst there are some really interesting elements to many of the tracks there is very little distinction between each song.

The one moment they really let loose was on “Mystery Light” where they finished in a percussive explosion taking the track to a new level live and providing the highlight of the set.

Whilst Alice seems to channel the likes of Kate Bush and more recently Lorde, it will be good to see her be as bold as those acts on her new record and push the boundaries on a few tracks changing up the structures and preventing her from becoming too formulaic. If that is addressed, then there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful for the new record and that Alice On The Roof can continue to fly the flag for this new wave of Belgian electro-pop.

Rockhal – 5.12.16

Man of the year ScHoolboy Q thrills with his west coast hip hop

American rapper ScHoolboy Q played his first ever show in Luxembourg on Sunday evening and from the reaction of the crowd at Rockhal I think he’ll be back again soon.

Quincy Matthew Hanley, better known by his stage name ScHoolboy Q has taken America by storm over the last few years after joining Top Dog Entertainment where he began working with Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and Kendrik Lamar, with all of them collaborating on each others records and playing live under the name of Black Hippy. These collaborations have brought Schoolboy Q to a whole new audience that saw his last two records “Oxymoron” and “Blank Face LP” hit the No1 & 2 spot on the American charts respectively, as well as notching up three Grammy nominations, so it’s fair to say he has hit the big time.

Sauntering onto the stage with his hoody covering his face to a blaze of red and flashing strobe lights Q didn’t take long to whip the crowd up into a frenzy as he had everyone swaying their hands in the air, yelling the opening lyrics to “Gangsta” as if it was a call to arms.

schoolboy-q

Whilst Q can deliver some lyrics with an abrasive volley there is the constant mellow groove to the backing tracks which brought with it a wonderful juxtaposition that gave you the same feel as drum and bass where you can groove to the laidback beats or get more animated to the vocal rhythms such as on “Break The Bank”.

With the undeniable intro to “Collard Greens” Q was at it again hyping up the crowd as they jumped around once more to the Kendrik Lamar collaborated track. Mentioning he was the first one from his label to make it to Luxembourg he gave us a taste of what we’ve been missing as he launched into Lamar’s “Alright” & “m.A.A.d City” which of course went down a storm.

As Q ran around the stage continuing to hype up the crowd you could tell he takes his style from the old-school hip hop style, not relying on distracting visuals or stage props but just himself and a DJ on a set of decks behind him as he prowled the stage feeding off the crowd’s energy and sending it back at them ten-fold which only energised the audience again and again as they rapped back at him on “Dope Dealer” and “Tookie Knows II” where he was joined on stage by TF.

He would come back for an encore with another fan favourite “Man of the Year” from “Oxymoron” & “THat Part” which had the crowd doing their best Kanye West impressions as they jumped around and sang at the top of their voices one more.

Although Q mentioned he was suffering from a cold he still insisted on keeping the energy high all evening and battled through. With no lulls in proceedings the set flew by at breakneck speed. It just goes to show you don’t need all the stage antics to get the crowd going, just some old-school stagecraft.

Rockhal – 4.12.16