Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Travel Mayhem In Leeds

Today we set Son a challenge. To get the train from Warwick Uni up to Leeds where we'll meet him for tonight's Feeder gig.

Having got to Coventry from Uni, his train then suddenly terminates at Birmingham International and by the time he’s got another one to New Street he’s missed his connection to Leeds. He won’t arrive until 9.05 and they could be on stage at 8.30.

By now we’re on the M1, a gloriously and surprisingly quiet M1, so we make good time. We are organised as ever. A packed lunch for the way up and coffee for the trip home.

We find the venue quite easily and are just outside by 7.20, looking for somewhere to park. All the nearby car parks seem to be private so we make for the huge multi-story across the dual carriageway but when we get there it has a big sign saying it closes at 21:00. Not helpful. We find another one but its £6 to park and only takes coins, we do not have that much change. Then the one way system tips us in the wrong direction and with no signs saying City Centre, Train Station or Universities, we get completely lost. L takes over the driving and I google map us back to the city centre.

Eventually we’re back at the venue, this time we spot some car parks on the way and go into one of them. Then we join everyone else driving up and down levels looking for spots that don’t seem to be there unless you’re disabled or a mother with baby. Other events appear to be happening tonight, including Plan B at the Academy, so it’s really busy. In the end L pretends to the mother and I pretend to the baby. Then we rush to the venue and race up the steps. It’s now 8.40, Son could have almost beat us there. Thankfully we’re told that we don’t have to rush, the band aren’t on until 9.00. Still a rush for Son, we tell him to jump in a taxi as soon as he arrives at Leeds station. Time for a pint I think.

Our late arrival means that we don’t get to see the support band ‘Cape Fear’. Had we managed to park on our first lap of Leeds we would have done but it wasn’t to be. The students union turns out to be a good venue, with a nice high stage. It has to be as we can’t get near the front due to being so late. The sound is pretty good too.

Feeder re-emerged at the start of the year as Renegades and played two blindingly good low-key tours showcasing their new material. Now with an album of that name released they’re out to promote it but back under the Feeder banner.

The now familiar strains of ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ signal that this is going to be basically a Renegades show in all but name, just on a bigger scale and with the hits re-added to shut up the handful of hecklers who disrupted a few of those shows.

It’s also though, about bums on seats or more precisely feet on floors. Like a lot of bands they are finding that the records aren’t selling much but the gigs are. So the band are playing a lot of gigs at the moment and by the time their current schedule ends in March 2011 they will have played nearly 80 gigs in 15 months. Serious gigging and there's no sign they're done yet. Apparently they have another album in the can, that may contain lighter material, though the band haven't confirmed this and to be honest Grant and Taka appear to love playing the heavier Renegades stuff so much. The record was originally rumoured to be out around now but it's now shelved until at least early next year, perhaps longer.

The band take to the stage, then seconds later ‘Barking Dogs’ launches itself out of the kennel and growls its arrival (sorry), opening the night in breathless fashion. A style that is typical of their new record.

If nothing else the Renegades experiment showed what a tight live band Feeder still are and you can hardly spot the join as they vault back eleven years for 'Insomnia'.

Like the opener, ‘Sentimental’ is also from that first Renegades ‘Black’ EP and its heavy chords continue the raucous theme. Feeder's new material has been a trip back to their dark side of old and a welcome one. A dark side of short, sharp, adrenalin fuelled tunes.

Even when they do show their lighter side, when the first of their two suicide infused power ballads arrives in the form of 'Feeling A Ooooh Ooooooh Ooooooh Moment', it’s as if the track has been taken out the back, given a bit of kicking and then let back on stage. It seems a much more intense animal tonight. During which Son rings and I leave L in our spot to go fetch him. She would be too polite to push her way back to the same spot. Son and I have no such airs and graces.

The band are just about still a three piece, although the keyboards are back for those softer moments, of which there aren’t that many, even then the keyboards are kept pretty much in the background.

‘Renegades’ itself, a track as good as anything they've ever done, with its subdued opening before it explodes into life, gets the crowd really jumping for the first time tonight and starting to appreciate this new/old Feeder sound.

Then just as the tone has been set, most of the big hits arrive in a clump in the middle with newbie 'Down To The Ooooh Ooooooh Ooooooh River' for company, and this disrupts the tempo a touch. Of the ‘big’ tunes, ‘Pushing The Senses’, which I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for, is the pick of the bunch. Pretty awesome tonight.

Karl Brazil is, with respect to Mark Richardson and the late Jon Lee, one of the ‘keenest’ drummers I’ve ever seen and he tries to leave the imprint of his drum kit on everything but I swear he was drumming something else, possibly ‘Home’, over the top of ‘Just The Way I'm Feeling’. Which has also been roughed up a bit at the edges but if anything comes out sounding a bit muddled.

Well ok, I don’t like it much anyway, the song grates on me but always has, though I can’t begrudge the band their moment. It’s such a sad song that draws heavily on Jon Lee's suicide. There’s also the fact, admittedly, that this song and the following one about drinking cider from a lemon get a very big crowd reaction.

Then we’re back to those heavy guitars for 'White Lines', so good they played it twice. Well the first verse anyway, after Grant messed up but I think he was the only one who noticed and then 'Home' which just seems to get faster each time they play it.

Throughout the show Taka Hirose prowls the stage with his bass guitar, showing no signs of his alleged passport problems. Apparently the Home Office don't believe he’s been living in this country since 1992... and if he went out of the country he may not get back in again. Which could cause a problem or two for the upcoming European Tour. Tonight though, he's seems to be an adopted Yorkshire man.

Unlike with ‘Silent Cry’, Grant seems to like their new record and pulls heavily on it tonight. Whereas on the tour for that album they played very few tracks from it live. So it’s no great surprise to hear nothing from that album tonight. Perhaps they’re trying to forget that record ever happened, which would be shame. Just one track tonight would have been a nice touch but Feeder never were big on surprises. Well until recently, when the Renegades tour briefly broke the mould.

The big moment for me comes after they close the set with ‘Call Out’ and return for the encore for which the crowd are already singing ‘da da da’. For God’s sake Grant just play the damn thing when they ask for it and don’t be so predictable by leaving it until the end. Better still, why not blow everyone’s mind and open with it or something. Encores should be for surprises.

I had mentally pencilled in a ‘predictable’ encore of ‘High’ followed by ‘Seven Days’ and that ‘da da da’ number but we do get a treat. Even a surprise if you like. ‘We’ve not played this one for a while’ he admits, as he lights up my evening with the wonderful ‘Yesterday Went Too Soon’, performed all too rarely. You see, it’s not difficult, I’m easily pleased. One more like that and they’ll be carrying me out on a stretcher.

Then he decides to ditch 'the big rock ending' he said they had planned and play some old ones instead. ‘Ooh good’ me thinks, fingers crossed for 'Sweet 16' and 'Descend' again, which were so wonderfully resurrected for those Renegades shows. Get that stretcher ready... but no. He means ‘Seven Days’ and that ‘da da da’ number. Well suppose they are old too, it’s been ten years now. Nothing from ‘Silent Cry’ is maybe understandable but nothing from either ‘Polythene’ or ‘Swim’ is just criminal.

That said it’s a lively finish, a good finish, sending the crowd into delirium and yes I do love ‘Just A Day’ as much as everyone else but it’s all a bit too predictable.

Still an excellent gig though. The Renegades stuff still sounds awesome and largely blends with the older stuff well. Now if Grant just had the conviction to draw on their amazing back catalogue a bit more, because he clearly has a liking for the grungier stuff, then we'd really be in business.

(Thursday 21st October)

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