In memoriam: Bobby Womack

Bobby Womack, Hague Jazz 2011, 16/06/2011, by Maurice Haak (1920x1080)Comfort and supreme sense of serenity. That’s the feeling that rouse within me when I heard Bobby Womack sing live for the first time at the Camden Roundhouse in April 2010.

I’d heard of this trailblazing soul man before, but at that point I couldn’t actually say I ‘knew’ his music with serious conviction. That night at the Roundhouse, I was there to see Bobby perform with Gorillaz – Damon Albarn and his circus of musical collaborators. My unfamiliarity with his legacy didn’t stop me from appreciating what a special moment it was to be in his presence and feel his energy, however.

I’ll never forget the atmosphere all around me from the crowd that night when he sung ‘Cloud of Unknowing’. A dreamy, ever-so-slightly foreboding song, steeped with organs and strings. It’s classic Albarn at his melancholic best. It’s also seemingly a complete world away from Womack’s lean-in-and-listen soul music, you might think. Yet, every syllable fluttered with emotion. The mood in the concert hall at that moment was breathless – the entire crowd had been beset by the same euphoria. Continue reading

Best albums of 2012

Aaron's albums of 2012, 2500x1000It’s been a momentous year for music – or at least that’s the conclusion I glean from my record collection, which has never been healthier. We’ve had new albums from artists in their prime and a cacophony of fresh-faced newbies all helping to expand the musical spectrum ever more. The critics have laid down their end of year verdicts, and so too have some of my friends.

Now, it’s time for my own subjective list of the year’s top ten albums. Continue reading

Playlist Picks: Damon Albarn, De La Soul and Labrinth

Songs to ponder to, celebrate to and break stuff to

Damon Albarn – Apple Carts
‘Apple Carts’ is a sedate high taken from Damon Albarn’s exquisite new studio album, Dr Dee – based on the stage show of the same name about the life and times of the 16th century scientist cum court wizard. Visions of a pastoral, slower pace of life are caught in Damon’s delicate vocal amid the gentle, effervescent twanging of a lute. Continue reading

Gorillaz @ London O2 Arena

[NB: published on 22/12/10 as I was majorly busy during this time]


Did this really happen? Looking back I can’t quite believe it. It was the night I’d been waiting for all year: to see Gorillaz, and their many guest artists, live on tour.

Following my blissful first time seeing the band play live at the Camden Roundhouse back in April, I immediately jumped at the chance to see them again when they announce their first ever world tour. I snapped up tickets for one of two dates at the London O2 Arena. Originally scheduled for September, the concert itself was switched to November 16 to fit in with the rest of the Escape to Plastic Beach World Tour.

Contrary to having to rush down from Nottingham, it was reading week at my uni so I’d already come down for the week to find the tickets waiting for me (and would you believe it, I received ticket numbers 33 and 34). I had planned to take my brother to see the band this time, but literally and hour before we were due to leave he said he was feeling ill, so I had to ring my main man, Dee, to take his place.

Though I’ve driven past it on many occasions I’d never actually been inside The O2 (or Millennium Dome as it was originally called) until now. Making our way toward the gargantuan structure from North Greenwich tube station its 12 yellow support arms dazzled against the night sky, illuminating the oversized marquee like a spaceship that had landed right in the centre of the city. Inside the thing itself was a myriad of restaurants, cafés, bars and entertainment venues all packed together in one of the most inventive architectural feats I’ve ever seen.


During our exploring, Dee and I ran into two fellow Gorillaz fans, and their friends, that we’d met back at the Roundhouse in April. When the time came to make our way into the arena, we had to pass through no less than three ticket and security checks only to find that there was no cloakroom for standing audience members to dump their bags. On to the music…

Gorillaz in the Midst

Or not quite, as we had to wait nearly two hours before Gorillaz took the stage. Fortunately, support act Little Dragon (who appear on two tracks on Plastic Beach) energised the crowd with a number of hypnotic tunes. Frontwoman Yukimi Nagano was rocking a long oriental two-piece dress and twisted and danced her way across the stage like she was summoning some mystic bird from beyond the sea.

Speaking of which, when the accompanying orchestra played the band in during the island intro the whole place erupted with excitement. I’d brought my compact camera along to get a few shots, but I decided early that I wanted to enjoy this experience to the full and not spend half of it viewing the magic from behind a digital display – the shots you see here are the best of the small amount I took.

For the second time this year, it was a buzz to feel the presence of Damon Albarn and the rest of the musicians standing some five metres above me on stage. The band had played at The O2 just two days ago, but had to fly to Amsterdam the day after. Honestly, it felt so rewarding to hear Damon expressing his relief and gratitude that his home fans had come to show their support. It was by no means a sell-out gig. Why more people don’t feel the magic I feel from this band, and its many associates, is something I will never know.

That night I was treated to a rapturous harmony of music from all corners of the globe, from the Lebanese National Orchestra for Arabic Music to De La Soul. Music from all three of the band’s studio albums – Gorillaz, Demon Days and Plastic Beach – was played, including some favourites I witnessed live for the first time, ‘19-2000’, ‘Tomorrow Comes Today’ and ‘Demon Days’.


And as if seeing the core band – Paul Simonon, Cass Brown, Mike Smith and the rest – wasn’t enough, the sheer number of guest artists left me delirious with happiness: Bootie Brown, De La Soul, Neneh Cherry, Roses Gabor (who kindly signed my tour book after the gig), Kano, Bashy, Yukimi Nagano, Hypnotic Brass and the legendary Bobby Womack. What’s more a special appearance by none other than MF Doom during ‘Clint Eastwood’ was a real shock. They should have brought him on to do ‘November Has Come’ live. Daley, too, was in the house to perform newfound pop gem ‘Doncamatic’, and I have to say that boy has some pipes.

Veikko’s Blur Page has a rundown of the setlist, as well as all the other live dates from the Escape to Plastic Beach World Tour.

Seeing Gorillaz and their guest crew live, for the second time this year, was a tremendous experience that will stay with me long after these years are behind me. EMI could help though by putting out a tour DVD so I can relive the memories of this gig in crisp AV quality.