Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Covers # 113 Jack White

Jack White sings Monkees in German. From the Jo Jo Rabbit soundtrack. A film I'm looking forward to seeing in the new year.

Lyric of the Year 2019

'How long can the world go on under such a subtle God.' 

Purple Mountains - Margaritas at the Mall

2019 Most Played Songs

Like most people Spotify remains the portal via which I listen to most music. Here are my most listened to tracks this year:

Musicians Who Left Us This Decade

As we move to a new decade, here are some important musical heroes we lost in this one. Listed in terms of importance to me so Alan Vega slots in above Chuck Berry. Everything is relative.
  1. David Bowie
  2. Aretha Franklin
  3. Lou Reed
  4. Leonard Cohen
  5. Scott Walker
  6. Gil Scott-Heron
  7. Prince
  8. Alex Chilton
  9. Dr.John
  10. Captain Beefheart
  11. Bobby Womack
  12. Pete Shelley
  13. Alan Vega
  14. Chuck Berry
  15. Roky Erickson
  16. Kevin Ayers
  17. Neil Innes
  18. Ginger Baker
  19. Gregory Isaacs
  20. Trish Keenan

Songs About People # 1,032 Arthur Koestler

Neat song for neat writer.

Song(s) of the Day # 2,169 PAT

Sometimes you come to a record just a bit later than you should have done. Such is most certainly the case here for me. I first listened to Love Will Find a Way Home by PAT a few days ago through a recommendation by the Brooklynvegan.com end of year best of albums list. Had I done so just a few weeks earlier it would have featured and featured high on my own end of year list because it's a quite spectacular record.

The story behind the album, from what I gather, is this. It's a collaboration between artist Jacolby Satterwhite and musician Nick Weiss. The project takes its name from Satterwhite's mother Patricia who suffered from schizophrenia and died a couple of years. So it's obviously inspired by a good degree of personal pain but they've forged something quite beautiful from it.

Patricia left a whole host of recordings of her singing behind her and the two have incorporated them seamlessly into the album itself. If in need of categorisation you'd probably slot it into the Soul and R&B box. The one must hear track is We Are in Hell When We Hurt Each Other which Massive Attack would be proud to call their own. It's that good. The rest of the record is mighty fine too. Hear it if you can.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Neil Innes 1944-2019

In many ways a sad day. More on this later.

Songs About People # 1,031 Christine Keeler

Subject of yet another drama on the BBC right now. Also of this Skatalites instrumental.

Song(s) of the Day # 2,168 The Cowboys

The first thing I thought when listening through to Open Sores, the genius opening track on Bloomington, Indiana's The Cowboys' latest Bottom of a Blooming Flower was, 'this singer sounds an awful lot like Russell Mael.'

It's an unusual reference point. We're very much used to lead singers taking Iggy or Lou as their formative reference points but Mael was always the most inimitable of vocalists. As the record forges onwards, the impression ossifies, Sparks are clearly a key influence which ensures things remain lively to say the least. Elsewhere the usual Glam, Punk and New Wave markers come to mind.

Bottom of a Blooming Flower is enormous fun. It's clear the band are having a wail of time and they bash things out each and every one of the sixteen tracks here with enormous relish and aplomb. One to make you go back to the original Seventies classics from which it lifts its gas. The Cowboys stand on the shoulders of giants but also remarkably on their own ten legs. A record that very well might make you smile. It certainly made me do so...

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Vaughan Oliver 1957- 2019

Songs About People # 1,030 Uma Thurman

In addition to being mentioned in the lyrics of Courtney Barnett's Avant Gardener, Uma Thurman also has many, many songs named after her. Many of them quite atrocious. This one's OK.

Song of the Day # 2,167 Stephen Mallinder

Opening track from Cabaret Voltaire's Stephen Mallinder's fine solo album Um Dada, released a few months back.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

How 'bout some Soft Machine?

Thanks to the ever wonderful Duncan Hannah and his Facebook page for this.

Albums to Come 2020

As a year comes to an end, magazines, with pages to fill, start to look to what the forthcoming year has to offer. So me too! Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever's second coming which should be good. Also, Baxter Dury, Michael Head & the Elastic Band, Cornershop, The Weather Station, Nadia Reid, Tame Impala, Orielles, Andy Shauf, La Roux and many more. On a personal note I'd wish for more Protomartyr and Regina Spector...

It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year 2018

Last year's chart:

That's me. And here are my Top 50 albums of 2018. It's been a great year for music. I can vouch for that by the number of fine records that haven't made this list. Among them; Ty Segall, Sons of Kemet, Kadhja Bonet, Hovvdy, Spare Snare, Clint Michigan, Wooden Shjips, Parquet Courts, Walter Martin, Loose Tooth, The Plastic Shoelaces, The Saxaphones, Joan As Policewoman and many more. Here are the the ones that made my list.

1. Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer
2. The Good, The Bad & The Queen - Merrie Land
3. U.S. Girls - In A Poem Unlimited
4. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Hope Downs
5. Elza Soares - Deus E Mulher
6. Lawn - Blood On The Tracks
7. Low - Double Negative
8. Phosphorescent - C'est La Vie
9. Emily Fairlight - Mother Of Gloom
10. Gwenno - Le Kov
11. Bill Ryder- Jones - Yawn
12. Cat Power - Wanderer
13. Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel
14. Trembling Bells - Dungeness
15. Blood Orange - Negro Swan
16. The Goon Sax - We're Not Talking
17. The Lavender Flu - Mow The Glass
18. Richard Swift - The Hex
19. Young Fathers - Cocoa Sugar
20. Papercuts - Parallel Universe Blues
21. Natalie Prass - The Future & The Past
22. Olden Yolk - Olden Yolk
23. Tomberlin - At Weddings
24. Say Sue Me - Where We Were Together
25. Alela Diane - Cusp
26. The Essex Green - Hardly Electronic
27. Vital Idles - Left Hand
28. Eleanor Friedberger - Rebound
29. Elephant Micah - Genericana
30. Amen Dunes - Freedom
31. Air Waves - Warrior
32. Emma Tricca - St.Peter
33. Fog Lake - Captain
34. Rosali - Trouble Anyway
35. Cafe Racer - Famous Dust
36. The Innocence Mission - Sun On The Square
37. New Silver Girl - New Silver Girl
38. Blue Orchids - Righteous Harmony Fist
39. Whyte Horses - Empty Words
40. The Orielles - Silver Dollar Moment
41. Kikagaku Moyo - Masana Temples
42. Yo La Tengo - There's A Riot Going On
43. Adrianne Lenker - abysskiss
44. The Shacks - The Shacks
45. Santigold - I Don't Want: The Gold Fire Sessions
46. Frankie Cosmos - Vessel
47. Wussy - What Heaven Is Like
48. Nap Eyes - I'm Bad Now
49. Amaya Laucirica - Rituals
50. Holy Tunics - Butterdish

Songs About People # 1,029 Helena Blavatsky

For fascinating Nineteenth Century Russian Occultist, Philosopher and Author Helena Blavatsky. The song, from Mikal Shapiro, is rather marvellous too!

Song(s) of the Day # 2,166 Boy Scouts

Oakland's Taylor Vick's sound is so warm and familiar that she feels like a friend. Here are a few selections from her latest album, Free Company.

Not every song you hear has to re-shape the universe. Some are just happy to be in it and these songs fit snug as a bug in that particular rug.

Free Company kicks back and watches the world go by. Its only 33 minutes and 9 tracks long but its duration is a breeze. Some songs are slightly better than others and those are the ones I tried to post here.

Friday, December 27, 2019

David Bowie

Chart of Charts - Albums 2019

' Natalie Mering sings like Karen Carpenter with a film degree' The Observer Magazine.

So to the combined totals of the End of Year Charts I've posted over the last few days: Mojo, Uncut, The Guardian, Q, Best Ever Album site plus my own. With Weyes Blood Titanic Rising coming out on top of this Chart of Charts and by a clear margin. Not something you might have imagined at the start of the year. It is a rather gorgeous record and seems to articulate a very contemporary kind of textured nostalgia. Sharon Van, Big Thief's U.F.O.F., Cate Le Bon, Little Simz and Fontaines featured in all six charts and Bill Callahan, Aldous Harding and Purple Mountains also had respectable showings in several.

Of the records that didn't make my own list, Nick Cave is the most obvious noticeable absentee. I have to say that I don't like Ghosteen at all. I have rated a lot of Cave's recent work but this consistently sent out all the wrong notes for me though it's clear that others are much taken by it. It's  a deeply sincere album but it just didn't speak to me.

I can understand Norman Fucking Rockwell's high showing much more easily. It's a sleek and polished coffee table record that knows and gets exactly what it wants and plays to a similar Netflix sensibility as Titanic Rising doesLana Del Ray manages to reforge her brand more than you'd have ever imagined she'd be able to way back when she first arrived all those years back.

Elsewhere, I've got the greatest of respect for Springsteen but spent little time with his new record. I find Michael Kiwanuka rather overrated though his album is certainly solid. Black Midi do nothing for me at all, Brittany Howard, I can't really stomach. Billie Eilish and Lizzo are both very good though not staples of my personal playlists. Elsewhere, I've got a fair bit of time for most of the records here. It was a good year for music I'd say and it's pretty self-evident that women hold the reins right now.
  1. Weyes Blood - Titanic Rising
  2. Lana Del Ray - Norman Fucking Rockwell!
  3. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Ghosteen
  4. Cate Le Bon - Reward
  5. Little Simz - Grey Area
  6. Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow
  7. Big Thief - U.F.O.F.
  8. Fontaines D.C. - Dogrel
  9. Bill Callahan - Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest
  10. Angel Olsen - All Mirrors
  11. Aldous Harding - Designer
  12. Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains
  13. Ariane Grande - Thank U, Next
  14. Michael Kiwanuka - Kiwanuka
  15. Bruce Springsteen - Western Stars
  16. Billie Eilish - When We All Feel Asleep Where Do We Go?  
  17. Tyler, The Creator - Igor
  18. Dave - Psychodrama
  19. The Comet is Coming - Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery
  20. Solange - When I Get Home
  21. Vampire Weekend - Father Of The Bride
  22. Fat White Family - Serf's Up!
  23. Bon Iver - i,i
  24. Joan Shelley - Like The River Loves The Sea
  25. Black Midi -Schlagenheim 
  26. Jenny Lewis - On The Line
  27. Hot Chip - A Bath Full Of Ecstasy
  28. Slowthai - Nothing Great About Britain
  29. Brittany Howard - Jaime
  30. FKA Twigs - Magdalene
  31. Thom Yorke - Anima
  32. Lizzo - Cuz I Love You
  33. Lee 'Scratch' Perry - Rainford
  34. Robert Forster - Inferno
  35. Catherine Polachek - Pang
  36. Richard Dawson - 2020 
  37. Julia Jacklin - Crushing
  38. Big Thief - Two Hands
  39. Jessica Pratt - Quiet Signs 
  40. James Blake - Assume Form 
  41. Kevin Morby - Oh My God
  42. Jenny Hval - The Practice Of Love
  43. Sleater-Kinney - The Center Won't Hold
  44. Oh Sees - Face Stabber
  45. The National - I Am Easy To Find -
  46. The Murder Capital - When I Have Fears
  47. Modern Nature - How To Live
  48. Sarathy Korwar - More Arriving
  49. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Colorado
  50. Vanishing Twin - The Age of Immunity

Courtney Barnett - So Long Marianne

Courtney Barnett and her band's MTV Unplugged Session, recorded a few months back but just out. A lot of it does what you'd expect. Not dramatically reconstructed versions of favourites old and new.  A couple of covers. And most interestingly this. Courtney does Cohen. Such a brave thing for anyone to do, but after all she's a brave, determined artist. The rendition is almost flat and really shouldn't work but remarkably it does. I almost had tears in my ears by the time it came to an end first time I heard it.

Songs About People # 1,028 Thomas Edison

Edison rhymes with jettison. And medicine.

It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year 2017

1. Protomartyr - Relatives in Descent
2. Les Amazones D'Afrique - Republique Amazone
3. The Feelies - In Between
4. Big Thief - Capacity
5. Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruins
6. Oh Sees - Orc
7. Jane Weaver - Modern Kosmology
8. Kelley Stolz - Que Aura
9. Benjamin Clementine - I Tell a Fly
10. Dag - Benefits of Solitude
11. Ratboys - GN
12. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile -Lotta Sea Lice
13. Kevin Morby - City Music
14. Girl Ray - Earl Grey
15. Perfume Genius - No Shape
16. La Feline - Triomphe
17. Nadine Shah - Holiday Destination
18. James Elkington - Wintres Woma
19. Mick Head & the Red Elastic Band - Adios Senor Pussycat
20. Holiday Ghosts - Holiday Ghosts
21. Jesca Hoop - Memories Are Now
22. Peter Perrett - How The West was Won
23. H.Grimace - Self-Architect
24. Baxter Dury - Prince Of Tears
25. Wild Pink - Wild Pink
26. Hurray For The Riff Raff - The Navigator
27. Amadou & Mariam - Le Confusion
28. Novella - Change Of State
29. Tim Cohen - Luck Man
30. CTMF - Brand New Cage
31. '68 - Two Parts Viper
32. Trevor Sensor - Andy Warhol's Dream
33. Faith Healer - Try
34. Mary Epworth - Elytral
35. Grandaddy - Last Place
36. NE-HI - Offers
37. Entrance - Book Of Changes
38. Catholic Action - In Memory Of
39. This Is The Kit - Moonshine Freeze
40. Guided By Voices - How do You Spell Heaven
41. French Vanilla - French Vanilla
42. Spinning Coin - Permo
43. Ibibio Sound Machine - Uyai
44. Travis Bretzer - Bubble Gum
45. Sweet Baboo - Wild Imagination
46. Fresh & Onlys - Wolf Lie Down
47. The New Year - Snow
48. Kacy & Clayton - The Siren's Song
49. Bread & Butter - Bread & Butter
50. Karen Elson - Double Roses

There were lots of others that might have been there. Including these:

Priests, The Mountain Goats, Broken Social Scene, Waxahatchee, Beach Fossils, Bonny Doon, Sneaks, Stef Chura, Surfer Blood, Black Springs, Century Palm, DUDS, Mount Eerie, Bedouine, Ron Gallo, Sinkane, Flat Worms, Happyness, Valerie June, Zara McFarlane, Bill Baird, Chastity Belt, Wand, Rhiannon Giddens, Jay Som, Laura Marling, Tinariwen, Spoon, Rose Elinor Dougall, Moon Duo, Julien Baker.

Song of the Day # 2,165 Fadoul

Many thanks to my niece Elena for introducing me to the joys of Habibi Funk this Christmas. Turkish and North African crate digging from the Seventies and Eighties. Classic stuff!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Songs About People # 1,027 Gil Scott-Heron

'It's true what Gil Scott-Heron says. It begins all in your mind...'

It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year 2016

A reminder of countdowns for albums of the year of previous years when I've done this. Commencing with 2016 when I first started. The Year Bowie died:

By no means definitive. It was just records from 2016 I like and I made the order up as I was counting down to Bowie. Plenty of good and some great stuff missing. It was a dreadful year for music deaths; a wonderful one for new music; a bewildering one for the world!

1. David Bowie - Blackstar
2. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
3. Regina Spektor - Remember Us To Life
4. The Avalanches - Wildflower
5. Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker
6. Kacy & Clayton - Strange Country
7. Kevin Morby - Singing Saw
8. Sunflower Bean - Human Ceremony
9. Nap Eyes - Though Rock Fish Scale
10. Lambchop - FLOTUS
11. The Moles - Tonight's Music
12. Agnes Obel - Citizen Of Glass
13. Fantastic Negrito - The Last Days of Oakland
14. Warehouse - super low
15. Parquet Courts - Human Performance
16. Helado Negro - Private Energy
17. Eerie Wanda - Hum
18. Childish Gambino - "Awaken My Love!"
19. Kikagaku Moyo - House In The Tall Grass
20. Esperanza Spalding - Emily's D+Evolution
21. Margo Price - Midwest Farmer's Daughter
22. Big Thief - Masterpiece
23. Black Marble - It's Immaterial
24. Nothing - Tired Of Tomorrow
25. Xenia Rubinos - Black Terry Cat
26. Allah-Las - Calico Review
27. TOY - Clear Shot
28. Wilco - Schmilco
29. Omni - Deluxe
30. Chris Cohen - As If Apart
31. Exploded View - Exploded View
32. Goat - Requiem
33. De La Soul - And The Anonymous Nobody
34. Lawrenca Arabia - Absolute Truth
35. Fumaca Preta - Impuros Fanaticos
36. Public Access TV - Never Enough
37. The Coathangers - Nosebleed Weekend
38. Teleman - Brilliant Sanity
39. Beyond the Wizard's Sleeve - The Soft Bounce
40. Papooz - Green Juice
41. Cool Ghouls - Animal Races
42. Eleanor Friedberger - New View
43. Alex Cameron - Jumping The Shark
44. Angel Olsen - My Woman
45. Holy Wave - Freaks Of Nature
46. Ulrika Spacek - The Album Paranoia
47. Cate Le Bon - Crab Day
48. Steve Gunn - Eyes On The Line
49. Beth Orton - Kidsticks
50. DIIV - Is The Is Are

Song of the Day # 2,164 Bobby Wright

Michael Kiwanuka in this month's Q Magazine:

'I'm intrigued by black singer-songwriters. Bobby Wright had a band and the rest of them were drafted to in the Vietnam War. All of them died apart from one, so he went in with the remaining musician and wrote this in tribute to his friends. It knocked me for six.'

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Songs About People # 1,026 Ludmilla Tourischeva

Neat classical piece for classic Soviet gymnast.

Music Books of the Year

  1. Ian Penman - It Gets Me Home This Curving Track
  2. Debbie Harry - Face It: A Memoir
  3. Patti Smith - Year of the Monkey

Music Book of the Year by a country mile was Ian Penman's collection of essays It Gets Me Home This Curving Track. Astonishingly beautifully written, Penman chooses a set of fascinating subjects, Sinatra, James Brown, Elvis, Charlie Parker, Mod, (and more), and sets about them with sustained yet loving precision.  A book for anyone who loves music, music criticism or just great writing.

Stalwarts Albums of the Year

Almost a category unto themselves. Bands whose time in the sun was thirty, forty or more years back but have reformed or stayed together and are putting out records that are worthy of comparison with that of those half their age. Pixies win this year as it seems to soon to put Wilco into this particular category.

  1. Pixies - Beneath The Eyrie
  2. Sebadoh - act surprised
  3. Meat Puppets - Dusty Notes

Honorary mentions for the aforesaid Wilco, Neil Young, Bob Mould, Clinic, Wreckless Eric, Tindersticks and Swervedriver. As I said, a difficult thing to define. Fine set of records mind!

Retrospective Compilation of the Year - The Black Watch - 31 Years of Obscurity

Delighted to discover the wonderful Black Watch this year and spend a fair bit of time with them on here.

Californian band The Black Watch write a lot of songs with the names of famous and notable people in the title. This I know because they've supplied me with five songs in a row in that particular series on my blog over the last few days.

They have at least two other features that are worthy of note. Firstly that they're fantastic and secondly that they're obscure and hence worthy of bringing to other's attention to signal that they're fantastic. This post is all that I can do about that.

The band themselves are quite aware of the fact that they are under recognised. After all they titled their career retrospective, (released this year), 31 Years of Obscurity which tells you all that you need to know except for bout the brilliance of the songs contained therein.

I could have chosen virtually any one of its 22 tracks to post here. They're all great in different ways. Literary, humorous, lush and melodic guitar led songs, reminiscent of  The Go Betweens, The Clientele and other fellow travellers. The fact that the face of singer and primary songwriter John Andrew Frederick is on the cover of this indicates that he deserves most credit. That's an enormous amount of credit. I can only suggest you hear the record.

Covers Album of the Year - Toy - Songs For Consumption

Not a category I'd always run or one where there are contenders every year. This year though, this Toy record stuck out!

A fine late year album of covers from Brighton band Toy. Tipping their hats to their influences while re-inventing the original songs in subtle and nuanced ways. This a warm and sensuous if slightly sinister record and well worth a listen.

Setting off with The Stooges' Down On The Street, one of the finest opening tracks from any album ever frankly, they lay down their ground rules immediately. Rather than trying to ape the track's feral rage they worm inside it instead with an insistent electro pulse, imagining what the song might have sounded like had Suicide played it.

From there to Amanda Lear's Follow Me, something of an unappreciated masterpiece which they do full justice to. And then to Nico's obscure Sixty Forty. Toy are clearly fans first and foremost but they're also sufficiently imaginative and inventive not to play their hand completely straight and subsequently the record starts to cast a dark hypnotic spell.

I personally didn't go for their take on The Troggs Cousin Jane as the original is one of my particular favourites and didn't feel its essential strangeness was taken anywhere new here. Their version of Soft Cell's Fun City is great though, an exploration of metropolitan decadence, discovery and loss.

Choosing to have a pop at Serge Gainsbourg's Lemon Incest as they do next, makes perfect sense given that the album could almost be a soundtrack for for some lush and dubious European movie. Toy are clearly OST obsessives and they've watched and listened well as  Songs For Consumption crafts a genuinely cinematic momentum over the course of its eight tracks.

They play Always On My Mind relatively straight. It's by far the best known track on here and Toy's take is all Tennant and next to no Presley. The song's melody is such a gift that it has to be played faithfully. No real prizes won here. It's just a good song.

To close with John Barry's A Doll's House is an inspired move though. It's a credits roll moment ushering us out of the darkness of the cinema and onto the street. Songs For Consumption is a smooth, considered and seductive record. Not quite Pin Ups, These Foolish Things or Kicking Against The Pricks perhaps but certainly more than a mere footnote. It will be interesting to see where this takes the band next.

It Starts With a Birthstone - Discoveries 2019

  1. The Mystery Lights
  2. Penelope Isles
  3. Wild Firth
  4. Vanishing Twin
  5. Sarathy Korwar
  6. Mega Bog
  7. Jeremy Tuplin
  8. Possible Humans
  9. Program
  10. Good Morning

Music Film of the Year - Amazing Grace

Just one contender in this category. A quite staggering document.

Aldous Harding - Cluny 2, - Newcastle May

Here's an account of my gig of the year.

A couple of years ago New Zealand singer songwriter Aldous Harding used to do a cover of Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights while touring. It made perfect sense really. If anybody should be playing Kate Bush songs apart from the woman herself it's Harding. She did a great job of it. She has the range and the emotive artillery required and an understanding of the essential silliness but the equally essential poetry that's going on in the original. At the end of the song in the link I posted she makes a face of childish embarrassment to her audience. An 'I'm not worthy' look. There was no need. She's more than worthy. If Kevin Morby is the modern equivalent of Bob and Bill Callahan plays Leonard, then Aldous is just right for Kate. The comparisons are not a diminishment of any of the three. In fact a compliment. We're very lucky to have them.

I watched the clip this Sunday morning before going to see Harding play The Cluny 2 in the Ouseburn Valley in Newcastle in the evening. A prize ticket in a tiny, intimate venue to see a very special artist. I'd snapped it up a few months ago as soon as I'd heard she was playing and waited in great anticipation ever since. Watching her do Kate I wondered whether she'd play the song again  that evening. Perhaps it was too much to hope for.

All in all it was a very special day. Nice weather in Newcastle as Spring becomes Summer. I had my lunch and wandered to my local, Rosie's, where James, the perennial barman nowadays, was manning the fort. It was quiet, midday and an empty pub. I put on a few songs, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Love, Cornershop, Mahalia Jackson, things that seemed to fit the early afternoon mood.

Then I wandered down the road to the Tyneside Cinema to watch the documentary about Aretha Franklin Amazing Grace which has just opened. That was an extraordinary thing in itself which will have to wait for a later post but it set me up for the evening. Called Mum and Dad who are both OK. Then after a couple more calls and some texts and another pint at Rosie's took a taxi down to the Ouseburn Valley to The Cluny.

When I got out at the other end there was a definite haze of dope hanging around the place. Lots of, mainly fairly early to late middle aged folk hanging round the venue, several of them dressed in Tie-Dye. The reason soon became clear. Gong, or what is left of them by this point were playing the main venue. Not for me. At least not tonight. I made my way into Cluny 2, just before the support act was due to start.

It was immediately evident that the mood of the evening was polite. Wonderfully so. Not a young crowd but not an old one either. Ranging from twenty to fifty. Stage set up by the venue door, which isn't where it always is. Not where I saw Courtney Barnett for the first time over five years back. Or for Bill Ryder Jones a couple of years later.

Courtney's Dead Fox was playing as support Laura Jean hit the stage. Apt really, as she's been supporting Courtney the last time I'd seen her late last year at Northumbria University. On that occasion Laura Jean had been rather lost on the big stage. Playing alone with guitar, keyboards, sax and effects she's made little sense. Here by contrast, she was in her element.

She played a short half our set of intimate, clever and honest songs and chatted between them to the crowd. Partly about Harding who she called Hannah and said she had looked after years back when she'd been living in Melbourne above a pub of derelict old men. It was great but I went up the winding stairs to catch the last of Newcastle's sunlight. Stood outside the venue for a few minutes and and realised that Aldous Harding was coming straight towards me to turn inside the venue door.

Our eyes met and I got the sense that you do when you see someone in the public eye that they're thinking 'Is he going to bother me?' I'm not like that so I said, 'You're wonderful. Have a good evening.' She thanked me, not once but twice and went downstairs. I went down shortly afterwards to catch the rest of the supporting slot.

After Laura Jean finished with a neat sax solo I followed her out of the doors, (seriously I'm no stalker), and thanked her for her set, telling her I'd seen her supporting Courtney and playing a wonderful version of the Go-Betweens Streets of Your Town with her and her band She seemed surprised that I knew of them. I said I'd seen Courtney here a few years back, 'We play the circuit' she replied then said  'I'm Laura' and I told her my name and we shook hands.

Half an hour seemed too long to wait for Harding to hit the stage. I stood in a thin queue for the bar although I noticed a sneaky type avoiding this most English of laws and getting his beer before me. I got in conversation with the bloke in front of me. I asked him if he knew Harding and he said no, he was here at his girlfriend's behest. 'Sometimes you have to listen to your girlfriend' I said. 'Only about music', he replied. 'I have to manage everything else.'

And then, shortly after nine, Harding and her band were onstage. For a while it looked as if it was going to be a wonderful gig where I barely saw the artist concerned. Harding was almost unrecognisable from the person I'd seen just outside the venue shortly earlier. She'd pulled her long hair on both sides right across her face and crouched deep onstage. I caught only momentary glimpses of her for the first few numbers, all from her latest album Designer.

She's an intense and mannered performer. She positively gurns at stages, baring her teeth, rolling her eyes, leering. You'll never have seen anything quite like it. Not for everyone, although the crowd seemed to me to be absolutely in the palm of her hand. After the first song, the title track of Designer a middle aged Geordie voice was heard to say 'You're great' which she acknowledged politely and eventually moved onto the next song.

But I still couldn't really see her. A too tall man a few rows ahead was blocking my view. I shuffled horizontally trying  not to break the polite, pervasive mood. Still couldn't really see her. The music was magnificent but I seemed destined to be denied a proper view.

Harding began to talk to the audience in between numbers. 'Usually I'm really funny, but it seems not tonight.' was her first rejoinder and from then on she opened up. I'd almost given up being able to see things properly so skirted round the back of the standing area past the bar and towards the exit. Just before it at the side of the stage I finally found the perfect view of Harding and her band. So there I stayed.

So what exactly does Harding do which make her so special? She has precedents and Kate Bush is definitely one of them but by now, moving onto her third album and beyond, she defines her own space. It's definitely intense, the long gap between songs ensures that, but it's a light intensity somehow, and a humorous one. Something quite special anyway.

The band left the stage but were brought back for an encore. A new song, 'Nowhere yet...' called No Peel where she accompanied proceedings by tapping a drumstick on a mug of coffee. Then they were gone. Harding rested her head on the doorway just outside the venue. Then I made my way out. Pausing first for a pee.

I said to the guy in the urinal next to me, 'Well that was something...' He replied, 'I didn't like it.' Each to their own. Outside the venue I saw the bloke I'd chatted to in the queue for the bar, this time with his girlfriend. I asked them if they'd enjoyed it and they both had although she said Harding hadn't played several of the songs she liked best. I told them that previously she'd been known to do Wuthering Heights and we agreed that would have been something. Then my taxi arrived and took me home.

It was one of the best things I've seen...

P.S. No she didn't play Wuthering Heights tonight. She didn't need to.