Reflections on Dave Gahan and Soulsavers at Town Hall, NYC

 

Dave Gahan and Soulsavers – live at Town Hall, NYC

October 22, 2015

 

Town Hall in New York City is one of those historic theatres, built at a time when acoustics mattered. Not to mention comfort, or the rare quality of being able to see the stage from wherever you are. It’s a far cry from the herd-them-in warehouse style of Terminal 5 or even Barclays Center where Depeche Mode played last time they were in NYC, where the economics of scale count more than quality. Did Dave Gahan choose it specially to highlight the vastly intimate proportions of a new album, Angels and Ghosts, which demonstrates a trajectory that purposely leaves behind the arena appeal of Depeche Mode? Or was it just available? Either way, there’s a quiet hum that fills the room as the mix of post-work suits and leather and black-clad Devotees file in. 815pm, and everyone who expected to make a late arrival is missing the instrumental intro. This is a one on one, intimate encounter, unspoiled by any preliminaries.

 

When the band finally enter, the cheers cascade on top of the applause. But it’s nothing compared to the swell of recognition when the elegantly attired Gahan, maroon jacket, black shirt and trousers, hair slicked back, comes into view. He creates a distinctive silhouette, oddly recognizable even in the half-lit shadows of the stage. When the first song, “In the Morning”, starts up, the lights grow slightly brighter, and the shouts, in contrast, reach hysteria levels. Will the music all be drowned out by the crowd? But the faithful want to hear him. Thankfully, because the sheer power of his voice, warm, and deep, rich, ringing out to the very back row, is almost incomprehensibly good. There’s something of the angel and demon there, that gospel feeling paired with the rock force of a vocal instrument used to carrying over drums and screams and other musicians who want their due. But that’s the magic of the partnership between Gahan and Rich Machin of Soulsavers and the entire outfit – Martyn LeNoble on bass, Sean Read on keyboards, Kevin Bales on drums, Rich Warren on guitar, Duke Garwood on guitar and horn, as well as the great backup singers – Wendi Rose, Janet Ramus and TJ Cole. They form a tight, cohesive outfit that has the chops and ears to listen to each other. There’s a musician’s appreciation of space and timing, and respect for the strengths of Dave Gahan’s voice that hasn’t been seen, dare I say it, since Songs of Faith and Devotion. And clearly it’s not the vocal instrument that has changed much, but the setting.

 

Physically, Gahan resembles nothing other than a sort of magic black-clad sprite (once the jacket goes), a caged dancer, filling up the stage with his presence and wiry energy. In this setting, the time honored Depeche moves – shaking his hips, wagging his ass at the audience, the strange little dance steps – don’t seem to be a nod to his regular band. Now they belong only to him, his lithe figure overflowing with a force he can barely contain, his voice releasing some of the fervor. In songs like “Don’t Cry”, or “The Last Time”, as he calls on the audience to respond, it’s impossible to refuse this exhortation, and the audience begins to be swept away by his intensity, with an increasing abandon. It’s especially at those moments that the gospel feel of many of the songs makes perfect sense. It’s a personal and universal journey. Lines like “This will be my last time, scratching and tapping my troubles away” from the beautiful “The Last Time” speak to a suffering that he clearly is in touch with and remembers, but is able to extend out to all longing, all of our struggles.

 

Of course, there’s no denying that Depeche Mode, from a certain point onwards, spent time exploring the blues and gospel roots of American music, melding them into a dance infused electronic grunge. It was a combination that worked more magically than one would expect from a so-called new wave, electronic band from the other side of the edge of London. But with the stellar production values demonstrated on Violator and Songs of Faith and Devotion, (missed by many), it all worked. And, it’s fair to say when Johnny Cash covers one of your songs, you’ve clearly hit a vein.

 

In 2015, the gospel nod, the slow vibe, the backing singers, made the theatre feel like a church, the streets of NYC left behind, as Gahan encouraged the faithful to feel. To respond! When the band ended with “My Sun” and he said good night, we all knew it couldn’t be the end, whether we’d taken a sneak peek at the LA setlist or not. Those of us that did (confession time) knew more was coming.   And when the band came back on, and Dave said, “you may know some of these, or not”, the wave of adoration that washed up from the crowd as he swept into two of the best known songs from his first two solo albums, “Kingdom” and “Dirty Sticky Floors”, lifted the energy even higher. As the notes of “Condemnation” rang out, the figure on the stage upon whom everyone was irresistibly fixed was a washed clean Gahan who looked for a moment like the passionate lost soul he was in those days, but now able to continue channeling that edge without further damage. And his powerful voice – riding on the support of the excellent Soulsavers – did full justice to the classic. The last song, “Walking in My Shoes”, also from Songs of Faith and Devotion, provided a moment of rare fulfillment, a musical synergy between band and singer and listeners, where all rose together and exhaled as one. That the second part of the show fit seamlessly with the new songs from Angels and Ghosts was testament to the symmetry between the two, the quality of the new offerings standing tall next to the classic history of the past.

 

Someone on Tumblr said “we were in the presence of god.” Perhaps, but certainly Dave Gahan breathed life into all of us, made the audience rise above our dusty, downtrodden souls. A magical moment, as was once said. It was a show that set the bar very high for whatever Depeche Mode might decide to do next. One has to hope that Dave Gahan’s ability to infuse a song with his damaged and resurrected, scarred and persistent strength will be front and center, where it belongs. Thanks to Rich Machin and Soulsavers for a collaboration that respected those considerable abilities – and for the brilliance of the band that let everyone shine that night.

 

 

Review by Alice Severin

review here press

 

Dave Gahan on Le Grand Journal

 

Dave Gahan – website with hologram video 

My interview with the iconic John Taylor of Duran Duran

Q Icon Award last week.  MTV Video Visionary Award tonight in Milan. The global force that is Duran Duran. Time to acknowledge a band that changed everything.

 

Nick Rhodes. Simon Le Bon. John Taylor. Roger Taylor. If you haven’t heard of Duran Duran, that’s unusual. At the recent CD signing in New York, every person who stopped on a busy rush hour street to ask why people were on line when everyone else was heading home, had heard of them. People from different countries, different boroughs, different lifestyles. There was the guy who asked what was going on and then said “New Yorkers. That’s what I love about this city. They’ll wait on line for sneakers, CDs, autographs, they’ll do whatever it takes to get what they want.” Not unlike Duran Duran themselves, who over 35 years of determined longevity, have weathered the” slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”, as one of their countrymen said. They had it all. Every video you’ve ever seen since the dawn of the MTV age owes it all to their willingness to act up for the camera and their sense of the visual which they initially saw in their glam rock heroes like David Bowie and Roxy Music.

Oddly enough, the 80s seem to be enjoying a resurgence. Luckily enough, Duran Duran don’t care. Having succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, 100 million albums sold, sprawling houses, fast cars, and the whole pinup lifestyle, they don’t need to revisit any territory. Maybe that’s what makes their latest offering, Paper Gods, so brilliantly unexpected. It sounds like classic Duran Duran. It also sounds like the newest of the blisteringly new. And by listening to the lyrics of the title track “Paper Gods”, no one could fail to be struck by Simon Le Bon’s ability to analyze the current atmosphere of distrust and disappointment. In fact, there’s a dark side to this album which is startlingly on point. Perhaps especially so, when you consider it comes from a band that for a lot of people are consistently symbolic of a pleasure obsessive culture.

John Taylor, bassist and co-founder of Duran Duran, detailed the wildness of being at the top with an unexpected eye for detail and metaphor in his autobiography, In the Pleasure Groove – Love, Death, and Duran Duran. So it was a real pleasure when Northern Transmissions had a chance to interview the multi-talented musician. Every Duran Duran hit (like the famous bass line in “Rio”) has featured his subtle, deeply forward, riding-the-groove bass playing that owes as much to Motown and dance music as it does to a punk sensibility of taking all the chances. If you’re looking back to the 80s, there’s nowhere better to start than with the musicians who cut a stylish swathe defining the music and video of the time. If you’ve never appreciated the sheer talent and determination it takes to be riding the wave for over 30 years, have a listen to their new album which is a brilliantly addictive musical path weaving through light and dark. And read Taylor’s autobiography to see how crazy the game of being famous can get. Alice Severin had some questions for John Taylor – and he was as just as fierce and passionate about the music as you’d expect.

NT: How are you and where are you?

John Taylor: I’m a little tired this morning after arriving in New York last night from Los Angeles.

NT: The new album, Paper Gods, is incredible. And now it’s your first top 10 in the States for 22 years, number 5 in the UK. But you threw out everything you had at the beginning and started again. What was that like, and how did you reach that decision?

JT: We wrote a couple of songs with Mr Hudson, ‘You Kill Me With Silence’ and ‘Paper Gods’ and felt they set a whole new standard for what we were attempting to do.

NT: I went to see you play the other week on the Today show. Watching you all play live, there’s a certain energy and excitement that comes through- like you’re not just enjoying what you are doing, you’re energized by the music, by the interactions between all of you on stage.

JT: That’s why we do what we do.

NT: One of my favorite songs on the album is Northern Lights. The bass line, the way it plays with keyboard, coupled with the ethereal guitar of John Frusciante – both atmospheric and driving. Why was it a bonus track?

JT: That was a pre-Mr Hudson track but we all loved John’s contribution so we kept it in the race. When it came down to choosing the album running order it just didn’t feel strong enough as a song, nor did it make absolute sense in the album narrative.

NT: I heard somewhere that you write out and decide on the set lists. Do you see yourself as the band leader, a sort of guiding musical and organizational force? Do you feel a certain responsibility?

JT: In my own way I’m driven to make the show as best as I can. I’m a little obsessive regarding running orders, album sequencing, live shows, but that’s just my thing. The great thing about Duran is the amount of territory we cover between us.

NT: You’ve mentioned James Jamerson as an inspiration. And he was one of the greats – as described by Marvin Gaye, who wanted him for What’s Going On – “the incomparable James Jamerson”. Your playing has a lot of that feel – solid, warm, always driving the song but in a very subtle way. When did you start listening to Motown, and what does his playing mean to you?

JT: Funny, I was listening to ‘What’s Going on’ Sunday. The bass playing on that album is a masterclass in inventiveness, subtlety and rhythm. Motown was huge in the U.K – you heard it everywhere. It was inevitable that the sound would get under my skin.

Duran Duran GQ UK photoshoot

Image result for duran duran photos

Image result for duran duran photos

NT: At the GQ ceremony honoring Giorgio Moroder, you nodded in agreement when Nick Rhodes mentioned the band Chicory Tip. Clearly you’ve this wide range of knowledge about bands and musicians and music. How did you start exploring and is thinking about all music interconnected for you?

JT: Gosh that’s a big question. I’m tempted to say, ‘read my book’! You know, if you’re a music person you understand. You just get it, when your schoolmates are into other stuff, like school work…! and you’re the one daydreaming about the new Bowie album or Kanye or whatever music school kids daydream about today. And I never had to stop. I still get to spend my days obsessing about music. Mine or otherwise.

NT: What were your record shop excursions like? Do you like looking for obscure albums?

JT: Well again, I talk in detail about that in my book. I do like hunting through record stores, there are great stores in Atlanta and Austin (for example) and L.A. I like used vinyl – I like sleeves that have LIVED. Sometimes I go in with a sense of something particular but these days my tastes are so varied I can almost always find something interesting.

NT: Your autobiography, In the Pleasure Groove, was a really fascinating read. Do you think you’d like to write another book? You always come across as a very verbal person, with a flair for wit and description as well as being able to pick the right moment.

JT: Yeah, maybe…if I can figure out what the message of a second book would be.

NT: You’ve said that you’re competitive. How do you balance that with the creativity, or are those two elements compatible for you?

JT: They absolutely are. To succeed in anything you have to have a sense of competition. Maybe there is a way to succeed without it, but I haven’t gotten there.

NT: Are you thinking at all yet about the next album, or is the focus on the tour? Do you ever write down ideas on the road?

JT: Not one bit. I’m all about Paper Gods.

NT: And – five records that you always go back to.

JT: The White Album – The Beatles

C’est Chic – Chic

London Calling – The Clash

Exile on Main Street – The Rolling Stones

What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye

Northern Transmissions -John Taylor – click the link

 

 

Mercury Prize Nominees – my interviews with Wolf Alice and Jamie xx

Congratulations to Mercury Prize Nominees – Wolf Alice and Jamie xx. I did interviews with both over the summer. See what they each had to say about their music and why they do what they do.

 

Jamie xx

Jamie xx

Jamie xx

Jamie Smith, better known as Jamie xx, has had a meteoric rise in the music world. He’s accomplished so much already – first with The xx, whose debut album, xx, won them a Mercury Prize, and grabbed top position in a host of end of year lists. Their second album, Coexist, was released to major acclaim, and The xx were in demand. Shows like the limited run series in New York City at the Park Avenue Armory attracted a range of high-profile fans from the art and film world. And Jamie xx has created remixes of artists as diverse as Adele and Radiohead, and worked as a producer with Drake and Alicia Keys. After releasing a number of singles, his first highly anticipated solo album, In Colour, is finally going to be released in June. As he said, “I’ve gone from being a fan of electronic music, admiring great artists and producers, to feeling like I’m a part of their world.” There’s no question that this release will only confirm his status. Northern Transmissions was able to connect with him as he arrived here to prepare big summer of festivals, both here and in Europe and the UK. Alice Severin talked with Jamie xx about the brilliant new album. Soft spoken, he gave the impression of an individual with an encyclopedic knowledge of musical artists and a deep connection to what he does.

I guess when I first play them, I really don’t know how well…basically if they will make people dance or not. I never expected things like “Girl” to work so well live, because it’s not like, it’s not even the same tempo as anything else I’ve played. But it does work. It’s nice, it probably takes people by surprise in a way, it’s a bit different, yeah.

Jamie xx keeps talking – click link

Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice

London-based Wolf Alice fears no genre. As the repressive need for boundaries evaporates, the four piece has jumped into the fray with an array of songs that casually parades their mastery of the free range. From pop to garage, grunge to folk, the band stamps every song with their inventive energy, like on their first official EP, Blush. Songs like “White Leather” scored them comparisons with The xx. No surprise that right from the start, the band has been one to watch. Now Wolf Alice is due to release their first album, titled My Love Is Cool, on June 23 through Dirty Hit/RCA, and the latest single, “Giant Peach,” was one of Zane Lowe’s hottest records in the world. They’ve been on tour in the US and UK, and are now gearing up for festival season, which gave Northern Transmissions a chance to hear from the hard-working band. Ellie Rowsell, the front woman of Wolf Alice, talked about creativity, challenges, and cute pets with Alice Severin.

We just have a lot of influences and we all have a hand in writing, so it makes sense that our sound is quite varied. It’s important to us as we don’t want to be pigeonholed, and we like the freedom of being able to take our music to different realms.

More right this way…

 

 

 

Will there be more books?

Hello and good evening, or good morning, or whatever wherever. A brief update. I noticed that someone out there was searching for “alice severin will there be more books”, which I thought was very kind. This is especially true considering a lot of people put out books every few months, and it’s been a year since my last one – Access Unlimited.
But a new book with new characters is in the works.
So long story short, as they say – hoping to finish the next one this summer, try for late summer/early fall release.
Even shorter version for the tl/dnf crowd – yes.

Have a brilliant weekend.

Alice