Category Archives: Live Reviews

‘I’ve Been Worryin” That I Need To Update My Blog

Wow, what happened? It’s been months since I’ve been on here. Almost as if I’ve forgotten about this completely! However, don’t fear – my brain hasn’t ceased to whir. And, my music taste is as fantastic as ever, if not better – I still have a lot to write about!

So, my new favourite person has to be, Ben Howard. This amazing musician has taken over my speakers, and seemingly many others’ for the last few months, and since the release of his debut album, ‘Every Kingdom,’ I have been ever so slightly obsessed. This young man from Devon plays acoustic guitar in a very unique way, whether he’s slapping, whacking, strumming or tapping. However, there’s always one common theme. Whatever he does sounds absolutely AMAZING. This, combined with his Devonshire, but faintly Scottish-sounding accent and the soft harmonies provided by cellist India Bourne provides the ultimate music to relax, cry or celebrate to. Which is why I decided to go and see him this December at the Junction in Cambridge. And what a great decision that turned out to be.

Supporting was Brother&Bones, or rather their frontman – Rich Thomas. A lovely guy, with an uncanny resemblance to Dave Grohl and a voice just as powerful. He blew me away with his strength and emotion, and the sound quality was something I’ve never seen equalled for a warm up act. Check out ‘Back to Shore’ below for a taster of what Rich and Co. are capable of:

Ben Howard himself was a combination of relentless energy, mixed with soothing harmonies and chilled out ‘rain songs.’ Those which will become classics, such as ‘The Wolves’ and a very special extended version of ‘Keep Your Head Up’ which has now racked up well over 1,000,000 views on Youtube, had one of the best crowds I have heard in a long time screaming along with happiness. On the other hand, the slower songs were just as beautiful in their own right. Songs for ‘rainy days’ such as ‘Promise’ and ‘Everything,’ from which the album’s title derived, had the crowd, minus a couple of idiots determined to prove that they weren’t at  an ‘N-Duz’ gig, in awed silence. Ben showed his appreciation afterwards, saying ‘thanks for keeping quiet.’ This was fairly successful in keeping the other two shushed for the rest of the night!

That is something quite special about this man. He has an unexplained ability to simply make me smile – something which, these days, is quite rare to find with new music. And the crowd weren’t the only ones with a smile on their face. Ben Howard’s genuine disbelief at his reception on his first visit to Cambridge only made the move even better. And whilst he only had limited material, onstage for just over 75 mins, every second was golden. A quality of sound that was rare to find live, complete with harmonies and bucketloads of texture, such as from opener and personal favourite of mine ‘Depth Over Distance’ paid complete justice to the seemingly endless talent of this man and his band. I MUST see him again. No question about it, Ben Howard is something very special.

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Frank Turner – Live @ St Paul’s Church In Cambridge

After headlining his biggest show yet at Brixton Academy at the end of 2010, Frank Turner made the decision to go to to the opposite end of the scale to promote his upcoming album – England Keep My Bones – which is due to be released on June 6th.
Last nights venue – a tiny church in the heart of Cambridge – was a brand new experience. After entering, you took your pick – would it be the pews or the tiny standing area at the front? There can’t have been more than 300 people packed into the tiny venue – and it was fantastic!

Photo courtesy of Kon2Photography

First up for the night was Ben Marwood – a singer/songwriter from Reading. Much like Frank, his songwriting style is aggressive and passionate (and sometimes bitter too!), shown by song titles such as ‘Tell Avril Lavigne I Never Wanted To Be Her Stupid Boyfriend Anyway.’ He was a great warm up act and a nice guy too! Check out his website at: http://www.benmarwood.com
Next up was Franz Nicolay – A man whos name and appearance wouldn’t look out of place in Gogol Bordello. Like a thinner, more friendly relative of Mario Kart’s Wario, he was reminiscent of a circus ringleader from way back at the start of the 20th Century! Anyway – lets get to the music! Self described as punk rock cabaret, he has a unique blend of genres that make for a sound that fantastically eccentric, and thought provoking too. A little weird at times, but intriguing none the less! Have a listen to ‘This Is Not A Pipe,’ and check out his website at: http://www.franznicolay.com
Next up was Frank himself – Appearing on stage as understated as ever, breaking into ‘I Knew Prufrock..’ you could tell this was going to be an amazing show!

With the upcoming album, out next Monday, it was inevitable that there would be some new material. The new single ‘Peggy Sang The Blues’ has already been well received with radio play on Xfm and 6Music, as well as another new song ‘I Am Disappeared.’ He played both of these with great success – I can’t wait for the new album! Frank also performed another as yet unreleased track called English Curse – a powerful a cappella song based on English Folklore from the New Forest – Only Frank could!

Other highlights included ‘The Road’, ‘I Still Believe’ and two cover songs – Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road and a cover of the Postal Service’s ‘District Sleeps Alone Tonight,’ during which he invited Ben and Franz back on stage, for a new take on one of my favourites. However, the true highlight for me, had to be the final song of the set, ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends,” where Frank smashed the very few barriers that existed between musician and fan and played the song in the crowd, proving to me that this man is never better than when he’s live – He has to be one of the most passionate men I have ever seen – a truly great performer! Thanks Frank.

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My Chemical Romance – Live At Wembley Arena 12 February

With the release of Danger Days last November resulting in a yet another wave of MCR hysteria across the globe, there were bound to be some shows in the band’s ‘favourite place in the world!’ After rave reviews of their first show after the release of the new album at the Hammersmith Apollo, and being a huge fan for a long time, it was a show that I had to get to!
A few weeks before, the support acts had been announced as Lost Alone and The Blackout. Lost Alone I had never heard of before, but they did their best to get the crowd warmed up. They definitely had plenty of energy, and there were some decent solos dotted around, but they didn’t seem to have a defined style, switching between pop-punk, rock and metal. Personally, I don’t think the lead vocalist, Steven Battelle’s voice suited metal particularly, but credit to the band for the energy they injected into the tricky job of first support act a such a big gig.
The Blackout were up next – a band I’ve liked for a long time, but have never really got into properly. These welsh boys are much more established amongst the fans, and this was clear straight away. Lead singer/screamer, Sean Smith did a great job of getting the crowd warmed up. Their mix of screamo, punk and metal sounded great live, and the show was packed with energy. Highlights for me included Save Our Selves, new single Higher and Higher, I Don’t Care and Children of the Night, as well as an interesting cover of Willow Smith’s dreadful song ‘I Whip My Hair!’
Next up, the band we’d all been waiting for. I’ve got to say, My Chemical Romance fans are amongst the most devoted I have ever seen. Legions of fans showed up in the distinctive masks and scarves that are a trademark of the new album, some even with their own ray guns!
The screams of teenage girls as the band took to the stage were probably louder than the band themselves, as they launched into the hit single from Danger Days, ‘Na Na Na.’
Next up was an older one, Give ‘Em Hell, Kid, from Three Cheers. Again, this frantic song was packed with energy. One thing I wasn’t sure about was what had happened to Gerard’s voice. When he started talking, it was as if he’d been replaced by Michael Jackson. Maybe he had a cold, but his nasally voice sounded pretty odd!
The songs throughout the night were all packed with power, and there was a good mix from all of their albums:

Songs like Vampire Money and Party Poison were great for getting the crowd going, whilst Cancer, The Ghost of You and The Kids From Yesterday had hands swaying all round!
Over all, it was a great night, and MCR are living up to their reputation of being one of the liveliest, most interactive live bands around. Highlights for me included Mama, Hang ‘Em High, SING and Teenagers, with the only song that fell behind being Destroya, but then again, I don’t like the original of that song anyway, so it’s no surprise!

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Bullet For My Valentine – Live At Wembley Arena – December 12th

Welsh wonders Bullet For My Valentine, as you should know, are one of Britain’s leading metal bands, if not one of the best live bands out there, so when they came to Wembley at the end of their European tour, it was an opportunity not to be missed.

We turned up a bit late, so unfortunately missed half of Atreyu’s set – they’ve been one of my favourite bands for a long time now. We still managed to hear The Crimson and Lip Gloss and Black which were both great, but it sounded as if we missed a lot of their big hits, such as Right Side Of The Bed, which was a shame.

Next up was Bring Me The Horizon. Now I’m sorry if you don’t agree with me here, or if you think I sound like an old fogey, but I really can’t see the appeal of these guys from Sheffield. I had a listen beforehand and it sounded pretty horrific, and the guys I was with aren’t keen on them either, so after a few songs we decided that they weren’t for us and made our escape into the foyer. And I’m glad we did – the racket we heard whilst in the foyer would have made my ears bleed for sure.
Anyway, after BMTH were safely off the stage, we decided to get back to our seats for the band of the night.
The night for me began as the giant Union Jack dropped to the floor, and the band launched into Your Betrayal, one my favourites from their latest album, Fever.

BFMV continued to blast out the hits throughout the night, with riff after riff, and solo after solo. Padge’s solo midway through the set proved to me just how talented these guys are – here’s a band that certainly deserves the great reputation that they’ve gained over the last few years.

Highlights included Your Betrayal, Pleasure and Pain, Hand of Blood and of course Tears Don’t Fall, which had the entire arena screaming back the rousing chorus. Despite being a fairly short set, the band made up for it with all the energy they put into the show, as well as the the technicality of all of their songs, which must be a killer to play night after night!
It was a night to remember, for not only me, but probably the band as well, as they seemed so grateful to all the fans on the night, and it must have been great to end the tour at such a famous and prestigious venue.

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Frank Turner @ The Corn Exchange – December 6th 2010

This week has been a good week! Not only has Beans on Toast’s new album been released, I also went to see a close friend of his, Frank Turner this Monday. Frank Turner is a unique gem of the punk rock world. Having been educated at Eton and hailing from Winchester, he is not exactly a your typical punk rock sewer rat, however don’t think that I hold this against him, because I absolutely do not! Despite his privileged roots, Frank is one of the sensible ones who can see there is still a lot in the world to shout about, and his very special brand of acoustic folk/punk does exactly that.

This year’s tour, much like Beans, sees Frank back on the road with a full band, rather than just him and an acoustic guitar. However before we could experience Frank, first came the support acts! Unfortunately we missed Dive Dive, but arrived in time to see Ed Harcourt – and he was amazing! He produced the single most impressive sound I have ever heard from one man, and he played too many instruments to keep count of, including banjo, guitar (both electric and acoustic), trombone, drums and piano! His songs were really emotive and he kept the whole crowd transfixed throughout. I’ve since listened to his new album, Lustre, and have fallen in love with his weird and wonderful style!

Next up was the main man of the night – Frank Turner took to the stage with the upbeat Eulogy. After briefly calling for our support due to a sore throat, the show went on – see the setlist below:

Highlights for me included ‘The Road’, the new hit-to-be ‘I Still Believe’ with it’s catchy chorus that is sure to get future crowds involved in arenas across the globe! Also, the hilarious ‘Ballad of Steve,’ written by Frank and his friend John Snodgrass about the famous story of flight attendant Steve Slater, who jumped out of a plane after its landing on the runway as a protest against his mundane worklife. Another personal highlight was Long Live The Queen and, of course, Photosynthesis – a great way to end an amazing night!

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The Gaslight Anthem – HMV Hammersmith Apollo

Now this was one gig that I had been looking forward to for absolutely ages. The Gaslight Anthem – one of the most exciting bands of recent times – were playing at the infamous Hammersmith Apollo; an opportunity I simply couldn’t turn down.

We arrived as the doors opened, and to my amazement, managed to get right to the barrier, only metres away from my favourite band! This was the closest I had ever been to any band on stage, never mind The Gaslight Anthem!!

The night began with Sharks, a punk band from Leamington Spa, near Birmingham, who delivered an energetic set tinged with rock n roll, with enough power behind them to warm up even the quietest among us! The band, who were highly recommended by Kerrang! a while ago, have racked up an impressive record in terms of who they have supported. Past headline acts include Gallows, The King Blues and Lostprophets.

The next act was Chuck Ragan, one of my new favourite singer/songwriters. The ex-member of Hot Water Music was accompanied by Jon Gaunt on the fiddle, and the duo gave for a simple, yet powerful delivery. Chuck, although relatively new to me, was clearly well known to a large part of the audience, and songs such  as ‘Do You Pray’ and ‘For Broken Ears’ were performed with true emotion, and it was clear that Chuck and Jon put everything into their performance.

Chuck left us all in good spirits for the band everyone had been waiting for. The crowd went wild as The Gaslight Anthem took to the stage. Surprisingly, the first song that the band erupted into was High Lonesome, from the ’59 Sound, not that I had any complaints. It was to be the start of a very good night!

Following this came a few songs from the new album, American Slang, including The Diamond Church Street Choir, one of my favourites! Other highlights for me included Great Expectations, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, Casanova, Baby! and I Coul’da Been A Contender. The band ripped through these tracks, with barely a pause.

However, there was one point during the evening, when Brian stopped us all for a few minutes, to let us know just how much the show actually meant to them. He told us that a few years ago, they had been travelling through the streets of London, late at night, after headlining at a much smaller club (I can’t remember the name) and Brian was woken up by his bandmates who pointed out the Apollo, which their hero, Bruce Springsteen had famously played in 1975. Brian told us that he had made a promise to the rest of the band that ‘they would play there one day,’ expecting to be back in maybe a decade. Yet only two or three years later, there they were, headlining at The Apollo. So the night was a big moment, not just for me and the rest of the crowd, but for everybody in the band!

Throughout the night, there was not a single bad song. In my opinion, every song was performed to perfection. Brian alternated between guitar and just vocals, which apparently was also another first for the band, allowing him to pay much more attention to us in the crowd!

The slow songs were also played at exactly the right moments. Rather than killing the momentum, the catchy, singalong choruses of songs such as ‘She Loves You’ and ‘Here’s Lookin’ At You, Kid’ were a perfect finisher to an amazing night!

Below, you can find the entire setlist. The pictures throughout are from gigwise.com.

The Gaslight Anthem Setlist HMV Hammersmith Apollo, London, England 2010, American Slang Tour

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Black Mountain – Shepherds Bush Empire

On the 7th October, I had the slightly surreal and unusual experience of going to see a band I knew almost nothing about. We had been invited months ago to go and see Black Mountain at the Shepherds Bush Empire at the beginning of October, however as many times as I tried to remind myself, I never seemed to get round to having a listen to the critically acclaimed Canadian quintet.

So I turned up on the night, not really knowing what to expect. The support band was The Black Angels, from Texas, who I think had potential, however the dreadful sound mixing and severe feedback combined with distortion made for painful listening, which took a long time to get used to.

Although this sounds harsh, I really was glad when The Black Angels left the stage, as my ears had taken a real battering over the past half an hour or so, and they welcomed the break!

After a short break, Black Mountain took to the stage. The Canadians have clearly developed an impressive British fanbase, as the crowd down below us went wild.

Although many songs were slow for the most part, Black Mountain delivered every dark, bluesy, 70’s-style prog rock tune with power and emotion. The drummer, for example, came on in only a vest (and some shorts obviously), and within minutes it was soaked through! The songs, thick with various layers of sound were riddled with haunting keyboards and synths, which matched lead singer Amber Webber’s voice, accompanied by complex, throbbing guitar parts that shook the venue to its core. Powering every song were the booming drums from the back of the stage, which shook every fan to their core.

The crowd went wild for cult hits such as Rollercoaster and Angels, and despite being skeptical about how much I would enjoy the show, Black Mountain really impressed me with their brooding, haunting tracks, combining blues, psychadelia, progressive rock and the occasional lighter, acoustic moment, reminiscent of Led Zeppelin and Hendrix.

All in all, Black Mountain’s unique take on classic genres make for a very thought-provoking listen, and are a must for any Zeppelin fans, looking for something new to complement their old favourites. I would really recommend having a listen, and even trying to get to a show if you can, as they really are worth the money.

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10th September – Muse – Wembley Arena

Hello again!

On 10th September, I went to Wembley for what I knew would be the show of a lifetime, and I have to say, it certainly met my expectations.

This was the first time I have visited the stadium, and it was one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. The sheer size and capacity was astounding! We had relatively good seats and despite being a long distance away from the stage, the two huge screens either side of the stage were more than enough for us to see everything in detail.

We arrived in time to see Lily Allen, the last of three support acts, who was on impressive form, belting out hit after hit. However, halfway through her set, on came Professor Green, and judging by the reaction from the crowd, he was relatively well-known!? Personally, I’ve never heard of him, however this was a true sign, as if you would ever need any more proof, that Muse are now a fully mainstream, chart-dominating band. Anyway, I can’t say that I’ve been converted to a Professor Green fan, as it seems that he just shouted over original Lily Allen songs, adding nothing at all to the music.

Any doubts that I had about Professor Green were completely forgotten about as Muse took to the stage. We were instantly bombarded by the huge sound that Muse have become known for, the same sound that makes them perfectly suited for playing stadium shows.

As Muse took to the stage, the crowd erupted into crazed screams and cheers. I remember hearing that there was about 80,00 people who turned up on on the night – not bad for a band that used to sprinkle themselves in confetti in order to provide a ‘good live performance.’ There is no denying that Muse have travelled thousands of miles musically since they first began in 1994,however this may soon no longer be a metaphor as this is the band who said they they wanted to be the first ever band to play in SPACE!!!

Anyhow, the setlist consisted largely of many of the huge hits and crowd pleasers that you would expect at this kind of show, such as Hysteria, Supermassive Black Hole, Feeling Good, New Born, Time Is Running Out, Butterflies And Hurricanes (complete with beautiful piano solo!), Plug In Baby and Starlight of course, as well as many hits from the new album, such as the Queen-esque United States of Eurasia, the 80’s-style Undisclosed Desires, the rousing Resistance and the hit single Uprising.

However, when going to a show at Wembley Stadium, you know that the songs themselves will only make up about half of the experience, the rest depends on atmosphere and the effects. Now, when it comes to effects, Muse are on a completely different level. Fronted by the eccentric Matt Bellamy, you are guaranteed for a completely out-of-this-world show in terms of the staging and effects used. As for the stage, the outside of the stage was designed to look like a huge, tilted skyscraper, which served as projectors for huge images of the band throughout the night. There were numerous firework and pyrotechnic displays throughout, as expected, but this was only a tiny proportion of the completely over the top, yet fantastic visual displays! In 2007, Muse  took to the stage flanked by men in neon yellow radioactivity suits, whereas this year, we saw a politically edged theme take over, with flag waving protesters making their way across the front of the stage, accompanied by images of anti-war protests across the world.

The real surpirse of the night came when a giant UFO was released from behind the stage, and began to float around the stadium. As if this was not eccentirc enough, a leotard-clad woman soon dropped from the UFO’s underbelly, and began floating almost at touching distance from the cloud.

The night drew to an end, as expected with an amazing rendition of Knights of Cydonia, with haunting harmonica intro played by Chris.

To finish off, this was one of the best shows, if not the best, that I have ever been to see. The combination of lighting, staging, the atmosphere and the truly incredible sound that I never knew could be made by just three people was really amazing. Muse will go on to much greater things, I am sure, and this may even include playing in space, if they carry on at their current rate!! If you get the chance to see Muse, ignore the expensive ticket price that you are bound to find attached, and take the opportunity to see one of the best bands on earth today!

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Sonic Boom Six @ The Borderline – 16th July, 2010

The Borderline Club in Charing Cross Road was much smaller than I had expected. We arrived to find that there was barely a queue, and once inside it was virtually deserted.

The first support act was Gecko , and I’m pleased to say that they’ve gained another fan! They had a great upbeat mix of Reggae, Ska, Rap and Punk, combined with interesting lyrics which included a song about libraries, Guanabana Juice, and  the rhyming of ‘Suit of Armour’ with ‘Llama!’ The band put their all into the performance despite the very small audience. Check out their myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/gecko.

Next on the list of support acts was Mike TV. They could be seen as the English version of Blink 182, with pop-punk sung in cheesy American accents, and this was fun for a little while, however, after realising that every song sounded the same, I found them really annoying!

The final support act was Moral Dilemma, a hardcore punk band. They clearly had a strong political view on the world, and on London in particular, but I found that the relentless screaming just became a little tedious after a while!

They were definitely a very diverse and interesting range of support acts,and I’m sure that every member of the audience must have had at least one act to satisfy their tastes.

So, it was finally time for SB6 to take to the stage. This was the first show on the new interestingly named ‘Too Orangey for Crows’ Tour. I had seen them previously at Slam Dunk Festival, however at the time I barely knew any of the songs, so I was hoping for a more enjoyable experience. After requests on the last tour for more brass, they had reintroduced the saxophone and a trombone, which added an interesting twist to many of their songs. They played a great set list which included songs such as Piggy In The Middle, Northern Skies, Sound of a Revolution, Bigger than Punk Rock and The Rape of Punk to Come. They also covered Addicted To Bass, which was really great! I had heard this previously at Slam Dunk, and it always seems to go down well with the crowd.

I have to say, despite twisting my ankle that day, and having to hobble around for the evening, the gig was great. It was plain to see that the bands all put so much effort into every song, and it looks as if the tour will be a great success. I would recommend booking tickets if you are interested in a unique mix of Punk, Ska, Rap and Reggae with real meaning to the lyrics, as they have just released the details of tour dates all over Britain.

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The King Blues – Colchester Arts Centre – May 2010

Sorry again for these posts being out of  time order, but I just feel that this was such a great show, I just had to write a review!

The Colchester Arts Centre is a great little venue. It’s an old church, which, in my opinion has been put to much better use! They hold comedy shows, jazz, folk and rock gigs, at pretty reasonable prices.

The King Blues were supported by two great acts – The Dirty Revolution and Mouthwash. The Dirty Revolution are a Welsh Ska-Punk band, who played a pretty good selection of songs, including ‘I love Reggae,’ ‘Sometimes You’re Too Rude’ and another called ‘My Bum..’ No prizes for guessing what that song was about!

Mouthwash were on next, and these guys were another new discovery for me. I love their mix of punk, hardcore and ska. Since the gig, I’ve really started listening to them a lot. They ripped through tracks including ‘Fools Gold’, ‘Drop the Bomb’ and ‘Live Like Kings’, aswell as ‘That Girl’ from their new album, which is ridiculously catchy!

Whilst we were waiting for The King Blues to take to the stage, I found about a charity on the merch stalls. S.O.P.H.I.E is a charity set up in memory of Sophie Lancaster, a young teenager who was beaten to death after trying to protect her boyfriend from a violent gang, who attacked them simply because of the gothic lifestyle they chose to follow. The charity aims to raise awareness of prejudice amongst subcultures, and create a lasting legacy for Sophie. (Visit http://www.sophielancasterfoundation.com for more details on the charity, or information about donations)

A short time later, a guest speaker came to the stage, to give us a rousing anti-BNP speech! It’s great to see such a young band being so socially and politically conscious. It gives me hope that there is still some meaning left in today’s music!

The King Blues came to the stage, starting their set with a climactic buildup into ‘Blood on My Hands’, featuring some crazy ukelele strumming from Itch! They began with some new tracks, including the single, ‘Headbutt,’ and ‘Holiday.’ I’d recommend you watch the video for  Headbutt. Both of these new songs look destined for plenty of radio play, but I have no fear that the King Blues have ‘sold out,’ or even lost any of their morals. The set continued with plenty of crowd pleasers, including ‘Mr Music Man’ from debut album Under the Fog, I Got Love, The Streets Are Ours and My Boulder. The show finished with one of Itch’s poems ‘Five Bottles Of Shampoo,’ about the attitudes of many of today’s men towards women. Itch comes across as the perfect punk – he writes awesome, original music, with fantastic lyrics and campaigns against everything that he believes is wrong with today’s society.

Highlights included meeting Itch, and his dog, Meatball after the show, watching Itch climb up on top of the bar and scream his lungs out, and the cover of Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Bonkers,’ which, in my opinion was much better than the original!

I would really recommend that you get to see the King Blues as soon as possible. They are a great live act, and I’m sure that with their increasing popularity, it will soon be much more difficult to get to see them in such small venues.

Here’s a video of the start of the show – The song is Blood On My Hands

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