18
Jun 12

Linkin Park – ‘Living Things’ album review: Best of both worlds

I’m writing this review a lot earlier than I expected to. As with all Linkin Park album releases, their new album has been leaked online more than a week in advance. It shouldn’t surprise anyone – even Mike Shinoda. Although my CD is already pre-ordered, I couldn’t help myself from finding what one of my favourite bands had in store with their follow up to 2010′s A Thousand Suns – an album that brought the band a lot of acclaim, and hate. I loved it, and hoped the band would pushing musical boundaries.

Linkin Park chose to work with legendary producer Rick Rubin again, the third time since ‘Minutes to Midnight‘ (2007). So how does the fifth studio album fare? More importantly, how does it sound?

Linkin Park Living Things new album cover

The fifth studio album by Linkin Park

Continue reading “Linkin Park – ‘Living Things’ album review: Best of both worlds” »


06
Nov 11

Metallica Live in India: The Bangalore experience (Photos, videos… and a few words)

October 30th, 2011. Sunday. The big day.

Metallica Bangalore concert tickets DNA

The one band Bangalore had been waiting for over 20 years is finally in town!

We reached Palace Grounds around 2pm and the line even before the gates opened were extending outside the venue for nearly a kilometre!

Palace Grounds TV tower grey cloud Bangalore

Grey clouds did mean it was going to rain

Bangalore crowd Metallica concert

By 3pm, we managed to get in. Erm, some what.

Metallica concert crowd Palace grounds entrance

They were only allowing people in slowly and in batches, so still a lot of waiting until we were anywhere inside the actual concert area

Not that there wasn’t enough ‘entertainment’ around us. Needless to say, some in the crowd were high even before the concert. One guy climbed up a tree to get an idea of what was taking so long, which only drew cheers from the crowd. Then the crowd shouted: “JUMP! JUMP! JUMP! JUMP!”. The look on tree guy’s face was as though he faintly understood what the crowd below were chanting. When the crowd realized he wasn’t going to jump, they then shouted: “PUSSY! PUSSY! PUSSY! PUSSY!” It was freakin’ hilarious! :D

But all order broke loose when we heard a police siren and looked back to see a police vehicle escorting a convoy of high-end SUVs. The crowd made way assuming it was the Metallica themselves making their way to the venue. The cheers gave way to resentment when the license plate of the Range Rover said ‘Member of Parliament’. After that, the mood changed to anger and abuses hurled at the convoy. (The Range Rover was driven by Rajeev Chandrasekhar)

Eventually, the calm that was maintained ended as the convoy had to pass through and the crowd gave up on being patient and just ran past the gates and towards the concert grounds. You can’t blame the organizers when MPs themselves create havoc and only care for their own interest. Not to mention abuse a police escort to come to a concert!

Fortunately, nobody was hurt. I eventually regrouped with my friends and everybody formed another big line leading up to the concert ground.

Bangalore TV tower Palace Grounds Metallica concert

I was okay missing the first two opening acts. I didn’t want to rush or be rushed.

Bangalore Metallica concert day clouds India

As long as I was inside before Biffy Clyro hit the stage

Because it rained, the grounds were muddy and even though DNA (the organizers) covered the grounds with massive green mats (of some sort), the mud was still seeping through, given how many feet were pressing down on it. Past the security check and frisking, we finally entered the grounds by 5:30pm.

The audience was divided in an ‘H’ formation and the section close to the stage was already packed with people. I had no desire to be squished, so we went to the second section and secured a spot in front of the middle screen.

Biffy Clyro opening for Metallica Bangalore

Fortunately, Biffy Clyro hadn’t taken the stage yet

Biffy Clyro opening act Bangalore rock in India

Biffy took to the stage just before 6pm and hit the audience hard with their alternative rock. It also began to rain again, but the lead singer said that it only made things better!

Biffy Clyro Bangalore concert rock in India

Even though I only knew “Mountains,” “Bubbles” and their breakthrough chart single “Many of Horror,” Biffy Clyro still played a very good set

Biffy Clyro playing Bangalore concert

The mostly shirtless Scottish band truly lived up to their reputation as one of UK’s best live acts

My phone began acting up while I recorded “Many of Horror,” and I ended up losing the video. So here’s just a little bit of “Mountains”:

Biffy Clyro left the stage by around 7pm.

Metallica concert Bangalore India crowd

It was now time for the ultimate moment

But not before the crew could sweep water off the stage, set everything up and do the usual checks. During that time, a roadie came on stage, took the mic and requested the people in the front section to go back a bit. He said they had no intentions of repeating what happened in Gurgaon (the concert in New Delhi was called off the day before because apparently the crowds pressed against the barricades too hard, causing it to break).

It took some time, which wasn’t unexpected given how many people wanted to be as close to the stage as possible — and there probably wasn’t any space at the end of the section for people to go back any further. When the roadie kept repeating “You guys aren’t helping,” those around me in my section got agitated and began jeering, with some even chanting “Delhi crowd – go back!” (No offense Northern brethren, it was only for fun)

15 minutes or so later, we were ready. The stage was set. As it neared 8pm, the lights dimmed and “Ecstasy of Gold” played on the speakers! The time had come:

After opening with “Creeping Death” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” James Hetfield got everybody fist-pumping again with “Fuel“. Metallica’s 80′s hits “Ride the Lightning” and “Fade to Black” followed.

Metallica James Hetfield screen Bangalore concert

James then asked the audience if anybody bought Metallica’s last studio album ‘Death Magnetic,’ to which a good chunk of the audience responded to with a “yeah!/yes!/yup!/illegally downloaded!/wooh!” (Hey, at least he didn’t bring up ‘St. Anger‘).

“Cyanide” from DM was succeeded by the hugely popular “Memory Remains,” which saw the crowd sing along for quite some time even after the song ended. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” followed, after which James spoke again before going into one of Metallica’s most popular songs:

All Nightmare Long” was another song from Death Magnetic Metallica played. Then, every fan knew what came next when the lights dimmed and machine gun fire came out the speakers:

After two hugely popular numbers, the band returned to …And Justice for All with “Blackened“.

Metallica Lars Ulrich Bangalore concert

Then came the big two:

The band all waved to the fans and walked off the stage. Everybody knew the show wasn’t over, but still chanted “We want more!”

Metallica returned to the stage for the encore and paid tribute to Diamond  Head with their cover of “Am I Evil?,” from their covers album Garage Inc.

Metallica members on screen Bangalore concert

Metallica Bangalore concert crazy fan India

It was a joy to watch this North Easterner who was head-banging like crazy… and then attempted to crowd surf. Guess how that ended! :)

“Battery” from Master of Puppets was the second last song on the set list. James spoke some more before closing out the night with the final song — “Seek and Destroy” from Kill ‘Em All.

Metallica Bangalore concert India

Aside from our tri-colour flag, Malaysian, Croatian(!) and other flags were being waved about

The band members – James, Kirk, Lars and Rob – all came forward, waved to everybody, spoke on the mic… and then gave away a shit load of guitar picks and drum sticks!

We left the (now even muddier) grounds very satisfied after a 2 hour show.

Metallica Bangalore concert crowd leaving

The ‘Black army’ of well over 25,000 slowly leave Palace Grounds

The show did have its share of minor technical issues (DNA, I mean actual glitches). The speaker in front of us did lose sound for a song and half, and the middle screen flickered occasionally. But all-in-all, I don’t think any of us had any regrets spending Rs. 2750 ($56) to see Metallica. James Hetfield sounded amazing, Kirk Hammett’s guitar solos were jaw-dropping, Rob Trujillo is a beast on bass, and Lars Ulrich really does stand and pound the drums! Seeing all that made it well worth the wait.

Technically, the Bangalore gig wasn’t supposed to be Metallica’s first performance in India. That privilege went to Delhi as part of the inaugural F1 Rocks for the 2011 Indian Grand Prix. Some in attendance went online and stated that it was a ‘racist’ roadie who riled up the audience when the people in front wouldn’t move back from the barricades as it was giving in. Others blame the organizers for the fiasco. Watching this video, in my opinion, what ultimately nailed the coffin on the Gurgaon show were the idiots who went on stage and started trashing it!

I was really shocked on Friday night when I heard, what was to be the ‘Metallica’s first concert in India,’ was cancelled! It was embarrassing. Sure, I can talk about how much “better” the Bangalore crowd is, but at the day, the international news headlines stated “in India” — and it got a lot of international press!

Which is why I was glad the Bangalore concert was a successful one without any major issues. I don’t think anybody attending wanted to risk any chance of cancellation of the only other show in India!

But that sense of satisfaction didn’t last very long. A few days later, news broke of a few who had their belongings stolen from the venue! A Malaysian couple who came all the way just to see Metallica play apparently found out their bags were robbed of their passport and money. I can’t imagine how badly their night ended after how good a time the rest of us had!

In DNA’s defense, it was very clearly mentioned behind the ticket that bags (I’m talking about the backpack variety) are not allowed inside the venue. 99% of crowd came without bags. But the few who came with bags had to leave them at some unsecured spot which was accessible to low-life loiterers from outside who had no clue even what somebody else’s passport is worth! But at the end of the day, those who lost their valuables blamed the organizers. Naturally.

Putting myself in DNA’s shoes, I can imagine the headache of organizing a concert of such scale in India. First, there’s the logistics of it all, but the worst part is dealing with:

a) the worthless public officials from whom the organizers need to get clearances from, and you just know bribes are involved

b) the concert crowd themselves

During the show in Bangalore, there were a few idiots who climbed up the scaffolding in front of us to get a better view. Did the thought that it’s dangerous to do so ever cross their minds? Yes, they were brought down swiftly by a policeman and a DNA staff, but why do they need to be told so? After paying Rs. 2750, did they feel it entitled them to do whatever they felt like, even if it meant compromising the safety of everybody else around them?

Friends of mine (not in my group) who showed up to the venue a bit late told me after the concert how a cop manning the front section told them he wouldn’t allow them in as there were already too many people inside. So how did they manage to get past that? They paid the cop Rs. 500, and he let them get closer to the stage.

Now who are you going to blame? DNA Networks? The Metallica roadie who supposedly hurled abuses at the crowd because there were just too many people pressing up against the barricades? No point blaming the authorities when the people are no better.

There’s a reason why Metallica would be especially concerned over crowd safety. The Gurgaon incident isn’t the first ‘riot’ to ever break out at a Metallica gig. Shit has happened at Metallica gigs before, but it’s not always the band to blame. They still have to play it safe because the next day, it’s their name that makes the headlines.

In some ways, it comes with the territory. Heavy metal fans can get aggressive very easily. Mix alcohol to that, and you just make it even easier. Which is why I was glad DNA chose not to sell alcohol inside the venue despite the concert being sponsored by a vodka brand. Things could have gotten much worse if they had.

Despite the many event promoters entering the Indian gig scene, we still have a long way to go. There are still many world famous bands with a huge fanbase in India who are yet to play here (Green Day, Link Park, Bon Jovi, U2 etc, just to name a few). Sure, we may not have a venue like Madison Square Garden or an O2 Arena, but understand one thing — if we did, the tickets wouldn’t have cost Rs. 2750 ($56). India still pays far less for a ticket compared to developed markets. In some ways, I’m cool with that. I only need the band, good sound and clear screens.

I come for the music — nothing else matters.


24
Oct 11

Coldplay – ‘Mylo Xyloto’ album review: It’s more pop, but it’s still great music

Let me state this first: Coldplay are one of my favourite bands from the last decade, alongside Keane and Linkin Park. And like Linkin Park, they began their rise to worldwide fame in 2000 – and like the American band, have sold in excess of 50 million albums – and just like them, Coldplay are popular on every continent on earth. The only thing that sets the two bands apart are their style of music — which couldn’t be more different.

But what has Coldplay become?

Back at the time of Parachutes, they were considered ‘indie’. Then that very album made them a ‘mainstream’ act, and they kept getting more and more popular with A Rush of Blood to the Head, and my personal favourite Coldplay album X & Y. The band hit their absolute peak* two years ago with Viva La Vida… or Death and All His Friends. Coldplay are now a bona fide stadium band. Epic songs with massive sing-a-long moments and grandeur productions with each new album.

But with Mylo Xyloto, Coldplay seems to have turned it down a notch. Well, at least that’s they promise.

Coldplay Mylo Xyloto album cover new

Mylo Xyloto is Coldplay's 5th studio album

1. “Mylo Xyloto” – The album kicks off with a mesmerizing 40-second xylophone instrumental

2. “Hurts Like Heaven” – A fun, fast paced track which reminded me a lot of U2′s early songs from the 1980s (like “Out of Control“). This song was on the set list for Coldplay’s recently concluded festival tour, and after hearing the studio version, I feel this song sounds so much better live. Not a huge fan of the vocal effects they added to some of the lines, but none the less, a great lively song to kick things off . – 4/5

3. “Paradise” – The second single they released before the album came out. At first listen, I wondered if Chris Martin’s friendship with Jay-Z was starting to influence the music because “Paradise” has traces of an urban influence. Keeping their stadium-status alive, Coldplay trains the listener so you know when to start clapping and which part to sing along to by the time you see the band play live. For a second single before the album even came out, my hopes were high — because I was reminded how “Viva La Vida” succeeded “Violet Hill”. “Paradise”  just doesn’t seem to have ‘wow’-ed me like I hoped I would have. – 3.5/5

4. “Charlie Brown” – Of all the new songs Coldplay played on their festival tour, this was the one song that instantly won me over! Just like the opening guitar notes to “Strawberry Swing,” the guitar riff in Charlie Brown is an instant Coldplay classic. And just like “Strawberry Swing,” this song follows the ‘no real chorus’ formula as well. Definitely one of the best tracks on the album, and worthy of a single release sometime in Spring 2012. – 5/5

5. “Us Against the World” – Reminded me of the placing of “A Message” in X & Y. “Us Against the World” is a stripped down song lacking any drums, but not entirely acoustic in its music. Another song the band previewed live in the past few months, which by now, one should assume they chose the best tracks to promote the album. – 4/5

6. “M.M.I.X.” – A 53 second instrumental interlude

7. “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” – The first single to be released and despite the claims by Chris Martin that the new album would contain “new sounds,” this song convinced me otherwise. It sounds like a track that didn’t originally make the cut on their last album. Which is not to say it’s a bad song. An organ hook, thumping drums and builds up to an explosion of stadium sound that’s sure to get you jumping. I liked it, but it’s just another attempt at “Viva La Vida” — just not as memorable. – 3.5/5

8. “Major Minus” – We got an early listen to this song as it was featured on the “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” EP, released back in late June. Another killer song that sounds so much better live. Massive U2-influence on this song too, but now from another era of U2′s music. Great track none the less. – 4/5

9. “U.F.O.” – The only acoustic song on the album, and a rather short one too (2:19 minutes in length). Nothing special to say about it really. – 3.5/5

10. “Princess of China” – When I saw the “featuring Rihanna” part, I really did not know what to expect. Surely I wasn’t expecting one of the best songs on the album! After “Lovers in Japan,” here’s another mystical song which strays away from the norm for Coldplay. I’m not a Rihanna fan, but her vocals on this electro-pop track perfectly compliments Chris Martin’s voice. The “oh” chant and the “la la la-la” bits make you wonder if such fillers are now a mainstay of Coldplay songs. – 5/5

11. “Up In Flames” – Beats you normally you wouldn’t hear on a Coldplay album, this ballad sees Chris wail the title repeatedly in the chorus with minimal music. Probably the least challenging song for drummer Will Champion to play, given it never really goes anywhere. My pick for the weakest track on the album. – 2/5

12. “A Hopeful Transmission” – A 35 second prelude to…

13. “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” – … which just bursts into brilliance! I did get a bit of The Killers-vibe, but the second last song on the album is again, one of the best tracks in my opinion! Absolutely loved it on first listen, and I ignored the fact there was still one more song to go before I could conclude this review. Surely Coldplay can’t leave this track out on their set list for their forthcoming tour in support of Mylo Xyloto. – 5/5

14. “Up With The Birds” – Closing out Mylo Xyloto, Chris Martin sings the opening lines from Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”, and for a while it’s just echoing vocals and organs. But like how “Death and All His Friends” closed out the last album, “Up With the Birds” does rise up towards the end, but never to the bombastic extent “Death and All His Friends” did. A fitting end to this slightly subdued album. – 3/5

U2′s influence on Coldplay is undeniable. Johny Buckland’s guitar work is a few-effects short of Bono’s. Choosing the “father of ambient music” Brian Eno to produce this album (he also worked on Viva La Vida) just confirms the admiration the England band have for the Irish legends. Eno’s the man behind Joshua Tree and six other U2 albums, but that collaboration created wildly different music in the 1990s and U2 still aren’t afraid to try out different sounds. Coldplay’s music on the other hand, sticks to a formula. That formula has produced consistent radio hits by the plentiful, but some will argue if Coldplay are less challenged to try anything else for a change.

As a fan of ambient music, I don’t mind Coldplay’s collaboration with Brian Eno. It has produced some great music so far and I hope the relationship continues.

Coldplay Mylo Xyloto album art new

'MX' is another worthy addition to my Coldplay collection

I know it’s seriously uncool in certain circles to admit you are massive fan of Coldplay, but that disdain isn’t out of real hatred for the band’s music. It’s got more to do with the fact that any band or artist who receive a lot of radio airplay and are considered a mainstream act are automatically placed in the ‘uncool’ bucket.

But I’m no music elitist and have never cared about pretending to be one, despite the range of music I listen to. I have never stopped myself from listening to music just because of a thumbs down from critics — or in the case of Coldplay, being referred to as “shite”. What Coldplay’s success proves is that British pop isn’t dead. Along with the second coming of Take That, only a few chart-topping acts can still write great pop songs that are quintessentially British in their sound. In my opinion, their music topping the charts is far better than the X-Factor covers or shameless songs like JLS’ “She Makes Me Wanna” (which rips off Chris Brown’s “Yeah 3X,” which itself rips off UK-talent Calvin Harris). Don’t even get me started on British urban artists from UK’s boroughs acting as though they grew up in the ghettos of America.

Fine, so the latter are all examples corporate-driven music. But you can’t sell over 50 millions albums in an era when people hardly pay for music, or manage to stay relevant at a time when David Guetta spear-headed dance pop dominates the charts if you don’t get your act together and continue to write great songs time and time again — whether they be labelled ‘pop’ or ‘rock’. There’s none of the drama associated with Coldplay like there was with biggest British band that preceded them, Oasis. I worshiped Oasis in the 90′s — but even I got tired of the Gallaghers!

And that’s why I love Coldplay, and Keane, and yes, even Radiohead. Chances are I’m not the only one. I’m sure there are many Coldplay fans who also listen to Keane & Radiohead just as much. Of course, there also those who wouldn’t even mention the three bands in the same sentence — unless the sentence read “Radiohead is better than Coldpay and Keane!” Each to their own I say.

All-in-all, ‘Mylo Xyloto’ is still a good collection of music. It may not have great singles like the past four albums, which I feel will result in the album not selling comparatively gangbusters, but it’s still a worthy buy.

My final rating for ‘Mylo Xyloto’ – 4 out of 5 (Very Good)

*I placed this asterisk because I genuinely feel Viva La Vida is when Coldplay peaked. Every band has that one album which signifies they have made it to the top of the world. For Def Leppard, it was “Hysteria,” Metallica had the “Black” album, and for Coldplay, it’s Viva La Vida.

That is not to say Coldplay are going to fade away or call it quits (despite the rumours). With five stellar albums, Coldplay have enough singles to release a Greatest Hits collection, and then take a year or two off. Focus on family, take on other projects, a solo album perhaps. When they do come back, maybe they’ll say they’re trying to re-invent themselves and then end up working with Brian Eno again to produce the kind of music we expect to hear from Coldplay. Us fans won’t be disappointed, the band will still sell out stadiums and they continue to stay together as a group. As a fan, that’s all I really care about.

Coldplay can’t get any bigger than they already are. They have already earned themselves the title of being one of “England’s greatest bands” — ever.

 

P.S: If anybody at Coldplay’s management is reading this, please send the band to Bangalore, India for a concert! The only taste of Coldplay’s music we got was when a goodgreat British tribute band called Coldplayer played here a few month ago.

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