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Finally the wait was over, Flight of the Conchords made it to Amsterdam!! Positively giddy with excitement myself and my motherflippin FotC partner in crime entered Melkweg only to find a room ful of chairs!! Oh no! We had wanted to be within sweat-spray distance of New Zealand’s finest gangsta folk duo, but we made do with seats on row ten in stead.

Jemaine and Bret opened the show with The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room) and the crowd gave a huge warm welcome. They make up a ludicrous story about the origins of the venue name ‘Melkweg’, claiming it pays tribute to the olden days when the people of Amsterdam used to don wigs made of old milk. “It was a bit smelly though. Yeah.. those were the days”. Milkwig laps it up.

The set continues with gems like Robots, Jenny and Think About It. After a while the boys admitted they hadn’t really played for a year and were a bit rusty, this then became the running gag of the evening. Before playing a new song about wooing ladies in the thirteenhundreds, they explicitly asked the crowd not to record and YouTube this delicate moment. They threatened to out Holland for being a filthy country due to the recent binman strike if we broke our promise, which went down with a big laugh.

Later on you could see they were struggling with the in between song banter, “this is the longest gig ever”, “we have now officially run out of things to say if you hadn’t noticed”, citing jetlag as the culprit. However, the moments when the boys address their mistakes or mux up the words and burst into laughs are actually the funniest. They play Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymnoceros at practically twice the normal speed, after Jemaine finally gets the hang of the guitar tabs, but it works out alright.

They play a few more songs than planned because “we’re staying until we get one right!” and end the main set with hilarious version of Mutha’uckas with Bret on a mini drumkit swallowing all the supposed swear words until there are hardly any lyrics left.

The encore, with Bret & Jemaine coming back on stage wearing flashing robo-boxes on their heads, is ironically plagued too when a piece of their equipment won’t work: “This is awkward. It was supposed to be our grand finale”. But it is soon fixed and Too Many Dicks (On The Dancefloor) is a worthy gig closer.

A wonderful evening with the New Zealand (“much funkier and more modern than your old Zeeland”) twosome. But where were the season 2 classics like Hurt Feelings and Sugalumps? Just as wel I’m going to see them again in London in two weeks!

SETLIST

01 The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room)

02 Robots

03 Jenny

04 Think About It

05 [New song about wooing a lady]

06 Bus Driver’s Song

07 Foux du Fafa

08 Boom

09 I’m Not Crying

10 Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymnoceros

11 Bowie’s in space

12 I Told You I Was Freaky

13 Business Time

14 Ladies Of The World

15 Song For Epileptic Dogs

16 Mutha’uckas

[encore]

17 Too Many Dicks (On The Dance Floor)

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Thoughts whilst on my own waiting for a gig to start:

  • Must find a good spot. Now that socialising is not a factor I should at least see the band properly.
  • Must check my email. And Twitter. And Facebook.
  • Ok, try not to look self conscious.
  • God these two girls in front of me never shut up!
  • Why does the woman in the pink mumu keep looking at me?
  • People must think I’m some sort of social outcast! No no, there are many completely normal reasons I could be here alone. Maybe the person I was going with suddenly died. Hmm that’s a bit dramatic. Swine flu perhaps.
  • Wow that Dave Grohl of a guy over there is cute!
  • Have I checked my mail yet?
  • Right, I am now embracing my new found coolness as lone gig attendee. I am an independent cultured young woman about town.
  • Is mumu lady trying to cruise me!?
  • Maybe I should write all of this down.
  • Oo now I might look like some hip music journalist type who goes to gigs alone all the time, professionally. Excellent!
  • I should check my mail.

And what was the actual gig you might wonder? It was Grizzly Bear at the Melkweg and it was wonderful! Opener Southern Point was stunning and towards the end Foreground was breathtaking, not a noise in the room.

But I have realised that when it comes to this Brooklyn foursome there is only so much of their dream sequence soundscapesque harmonious ooh- ing and ahh-ing I can take before I crave one of Daniel Rossen’s lead vocal songs that at least resembles the concept of a song and has vaguely intelligible lyrics.

Other than that: fantastic!

Florence by Fotografieke
Photo by Fotografieke

The Machine started playing, the Melkweg crowd waited in anticipation, and suddenly on walked two metres worth of legs in killer heels, attached to the rest of Florence. As she stood behind her flower covered mic stand, spotlight bouncing off her intense red hair, she had already won half the match.

Since seeing Florence + The Machine at Lowlands in August they seem to have gone for a more down tempo approach in quite a few songs in the set. Particularly early on, songs like My Boy Builds Coffins and Kiss With A Fist were performed slower and more drawn out. Halfway through, the energy picked up when Florence instructed the audience to start jumping during Dog Days Are Over.

Florence2 by Fotografieke
Photo by Fotografieke

I really enjoyed the next few songs, highlights would have to be HowlCosmic Love and Fever Ray’s If I Had A Heart introduction to a beautiful performance of Blinding. There was a two song encore with You Got The Love and, of course, Rabbit Heart.  It was quite a short set, I was left wanting more. Shame, because I’m sure some of her demo material, Hardest Of Hearts for instance, would stand up fine.

All in all a wonderful evening with the beautiful spellbinding songstress Florence and her Machine. Although, dare I say I did miss a bit of oomph in songs like Drumming Song and Hurricane Drunk, and a bit of sparkle compared to the magic of Lowlands?

SETLIST

01 Bird song
02 My boy builds coffins
03 Kiss with a fist
04 Are you hurting the one you love
05 I’m not calling you a liar
06 Hurricane drunk
07 Two lungs
08 Dog days are over
09 Howl
10 Druming Song
11 Cosmic Love
12 Blinding (intro: Fever Ray’s If I had a heart)
— encore —
13 You got the love
14 Rabbit heart (raise it up)

Watson Melkweg 09
Pictures thanks to Toofonky

It’s no secret, I’m a bit of a Patrick Watsonite (as can be read here and here). I’ll refrain from an all out gush-post, although it is quite tempting as tonight was the best I’ve seen them yet. I was expecting a regular here’s-our-new-material gig with some of their tried and tested numbers mixed in. I was however treated to a surprise, because low and behold, when the screen with the tauntingly repetitive cartoon show lifted, it revealed the band was considerably bigger than usual.

Enter the Wooden Arms (incidentally the title of their 2009 album release), a string quartet with violin, viola and cello. Their fusion with the band made the new material sparkle all the brighter, a warm glow reaching all the way to the back of Melkweg‘s captivated audience. This glow was enhanced by some great (low) lighting, making it all feel very intimate.

When time came for their tried and tested acapella song amidst the audience the set-up was different: Watson dons a Terry Gilliam-esque structure of megaphones towering over his head and we are treated to a bare version of The Storm rather than Man Under The Sea. It still works a charm.

All of the new material really worked well, with Kuster’s awe inspiring percussion at it’s vigorously beating heart, as could clearly be heard during his solo in Beijing. Other memorable moments included the intrumental Hommage, Where The Wild Things Are (with a tongue in cheek battle between the original band and the stringplayers), Machinery of the Heavens and oldies Luscious Life and Drifters.

On the down side I really missed the female vocals, particularly on Big Bird in a Small Cage. Maybe Dolly would be up for some guest performances?

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Photos thanks to Woes van Haaften

That’s basically all there is to do at a Friendly Fires gig: shake it right down. The fiery four piece live band from St. Albans, England definitely had all the indie kids shaking what their moma’s gave them in the Melkweg tonight.

Delightfully disco, synthesizingly danceable, hysterically eighties but right at home in the naughties, Friendly Fires’ self titled debut album packs a powerful pop punch in under 40 minutes. Sadly this meant they left the crowd wanting with their equally short set, but what’s to complain when you’ve been treated to the likes of Lovesick, Jump In The Pool, new single Skeleton BoyFotobooth, On Board, the awesome White Diamonds and well chosen set closer Paris.

Lead singer Ed Macfarlane infectiously girates his way across the stage in a Prince-come-Pelle-Almqvist fashion, all the while managing to deliver the vocals in tune. The band as a whole seemed really into the concert and gave a very energetic performance, which was copied by the first few rows of the audience by bouncing all over the place.

The encore Ex Lover was probably the weakest song of the night, but it was the only one off the album left to play. What a shame they didn’t take the opportunity to play the irresistible Bring Out Your Dead from their 2007 Cross The Line EP, then it would have been sheer perfection.

Check out some excellent shots of the Friendly Fires and their support act Heartbreak in action, thanks to Woes van Haaften.

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