no-man live at the Assembly, Leamington Spa

5 11 2011

no-man played live for the first time since 2008 as part of the online record label Burning Shed’s 10th anniversary event on 14th October 2011. This was the same line-up of musicians that the band used for the three European mixtaped shows, the only change was the use of acoustic, instead of electronic, drums.

Whilst the show was noticeably shorter than the Bush Hall show I attended in 2008 (the 2011 gig weighing in at around 45 minutes), it was a much more cohesive, powerful and assured performance.

no-man have been my favourite band since stumbling upon their Loveblows & Lovecries – A Confession album in 1993 (not having heard a note of the band’s music but being hypnotised by the sleeve-notes and album art-work).  With each album, I’ve grown to love the band’s music more – which is unusual, as a lot of band’s peak with early releases and go downhill, desperately trying to recapture past glories. Not so for no-man, whose recordings have shifted away from it’s electronic roots and constantly evolved over the years, though the live appearances slowed to a trickle. Whilst I caught an early Porcupine Tree show (in a tiny local pub in Kent, with about 30 people in the audience), I did not get to see no-man live until Tim & Steven performed at another Burning Shed event, this time in Norwich in 2006, then finally seeing a full no-man show when the band performed at Bush Hall in 2008.

The 2008 Bush Hall show was certainly a memorable and emotional evening, captured perfectly by Richard Smith’s excellent mixtaped dvd.  But for me, the real no-man experience was this magical 45 minutes at Leamington Spa.  I’ve seen hundreds of different live shows across many genres, committing many individual live performances to memory, and of all these performances I have seen since my first live show back in 1979 (Thin Lizzy at Hammersmith Odeon, in case you are wondering),  I have compiled a list of  my favourite gigs (Thin Lizzy never made it into the top 10, though it was a great first gig). Vivid memories of performances by the likes of The Stranglers at The Rainbow, The Police at Lewisham Odeon, Kate Bush at the London Palladium, The Who at Wembley Stadium, Prince & the Revolution on the Parade tour, Nine Inch Nails a couple of years ago and more, have now been joined by this no-man show.

The performance was more confident than the last no-man gig, and was helped by the addition of acoustic drums, which gave the band so much more power and percussive depth. Opening with a track the band had not performed live before, the sweet pop of wild opera‘s my revenge on seattle, with it’s slow build-up, was a wise choice of opener. By the time the bass drum kicked in during the latter stages of the song, you could feel the excitement in the audience.

The bass heavy, lyrically disturbing time travel in texas ratcheted up the noise, and was a perfect example of where this line-up of no-man could go if transferred to a studio environment (which I hope happens one day).  The 2011 version was so much more powerful, and added a real sense of menace to the song.

all the blue changes was the personal highlight of the gig for me.  together we’re stranger is the album that took a long while to finally hit home, at one point it was my least favourite no-man release but it’s now one of my most cherished albums, what the hell do I know? This edgy live version displayed some wonderful interplay between the musicians and transported the band to a different level on the night. A real shiver down the spine moment.

pretty genius (the third wild opera song of the evening, and no-man’s least popular album according to Tim) felt more like the album version, mainly due to the more powerful drum sound, and then there was lighthouse. A key track on the returning jesus album (and the band’s most “progressive” song) lighthouse retains its power and beauty in a live format, and the instrumental coda after the organ break always sends me somewhere. If they had played just this one track, I would have still left the venue a happy and content man.

The surprise of the evening was the performance of beaten by love, an (unreleased by no-man) song from 1987.  A very dark song, that would not have sounded out-of-place on wild opera or a recent NiN album even, which sort of threw a curveball into the set. Though it went down well with the crowd, the inclusion of an unfamiliar song maybe interrupted the flow a little, but no-man like to challenge and stimulate their audience, so I’m not complaining.

wherever there is light received the warmest response of the evening, and was closer to the schoolyard ghosts studio version than the 2008 live incarnation.  Sad songs are definitely the most uplifting.

The set ended with another track from the last no-man album, the slow-burning mixtaped, a song so much more powerful live than in its recorded form.

The audience summoned the band back for an encore, flowermouth‘s things change, the perfect no-man show-stopper. Tim jumped down from the stage when his vocal duties were over, watching the end of the song, including the wonderful violin solo from Steve Bingham, with the rest of the audience.

And that was it. Hopefully it won’t take another three years to get no-man back together again, and when it does happen, it’s clear the current no-man live band deserves to remain unchanged, as this line-up has got a unique chemistry and a real empathy for the material.

“You’d kill for that feeling again…”

my revenge on seattle
time travel in texas
all the blue changes
pretty genius
lighthouse
beaten by love
wherever there is light
mixtaped
encore: things change

Somewhere in the Midlands, no-man happened to be: Tim Bowness (vocals), Steven Wilson (guitar), Michael Bearpark (guitar), Pete Morgan (bass), Andy Booker (drums), Stephen Bennett (keyboards) &  Steve Bingham (violin).

***Update December 20th 2011: the concert is being released on CD as Love and Endings by Burning Shed in February 2012 – listen to lighthouse (live) from Love and Endings below***

Listen to lighthouse (live) on iPhone or iPad

no-man store on the Burning Shed
mixtaped / returning DVD at the Burning Shed

no-man website

no-man Twitter

no-man on Facebook

listen to no-man on Soundcloud

all photos on this page by Charlotte Kinson

Blog post from no-man live band member Steve Bingham





Memories of Machines – “Warm Winter”

17 05 2011

Memories of Machines is a collaboration between no-man vocalist Tim Bowness and Giancarlo Erra from the Italian band NosoundMemories of Machines formed in 2006, and Warm Winter is the band’s first release.

“Stories
Come out of other stories
Lead to other stories
New memories of machines”


The album opener, New Memories of Machines sets the scene for the album, which is a mix of electronic and acoustic sounds, making an album of songs alternating between traditional and ambient / classical arrangements.  The album kicks into life with the second track, Before We Fall, with a powerful interplay between the acoustic and electric playing of Giancarlo, and backing vocals from All About Eve’s Julianne Regan.

“It’s not love how you see me
It’s not love how we touch”

Listen to Before We Fall

iPhone / iPad link: http://soundcloud.com/tim-bowness/before-we-fall

Regular Bowness listeners will already be familiar with Beautiful Songs You Should Know, which appeared on no-man’s Schoolyard Ghosts album from 2008, as well as an earlier Nosound version in 2006.  The Memories of Machines version has a more organic feel than no-man’s take, and is driven by Marianne de Chastelaine’s emotive cello lines.

There is a lot of optimism in the first set of songs on Warm Winter, almost as if the early part of the album maps out the formative stages of a relationship (playing a prospective lover the songs that have defined your life to date, moving to an unfamiliar city, “Trading the ghosts for someone new”) and as the album progresses, the songs document the cracks that appear in the relationship.

Warm Winter is a piece of rare beauty, and I’m sure will be an album highlight for a lot of people.  It’s also possibly the most uplifting song sung by Bowness to date.  I personally find that sad songs are the ones that usually affect me emotionally, but Warm Winter is a rare exception to that rule.  Whilst it is certainly not a KC and the Sunshine Band soundalike, it is uncharacteristically positive.  The track also has one of Tim’s finest vocal performances, with echoes of mid-period Bowie in the vocal phrasing and ending with a powerful guitar solo (one of the few on the album) from Giancarlo.

The optimism starts to peel away with Lucky You, Lucky Me, and the appearance of the mellotron heralds an appearance from Steven Wilson (no-man / Porcupine Tree), who also adds guitar to the track, in addition to his role in mixing the whole album.  One of the highlights of the Warm Winter album is the mix, and the man Wilson (as usual) does not disappoint.  A lot of attention has also gone into the sequencing of the album, and it deserves your full attention, sounding at it’s best played in the way the band intended you to hear it, not with the songs scattered with no care all over some random playlist.

“I take my words
And use my words
To heal the hurt and the blame.”

Change Me Once Again is a tale of control and compromise, with a haunting chorus lit up by a simple piano riff and the layered vocals of Julianne Regan.

Listen to Change Me Once Again:

iPhone / iPad link: http://soundcloud.com/memoriesofmachines/change-me-once-again-1

Something In Our Lives features an appearance from OSI / Fates Warning’s Jim Matheos, whilst Lost And Found In The Digital World is built over Robert Fripp’s soundscapes and haunting trumpet from UMA’s Aleksei Saks, giving the track a Brilliant Tree era David Sylvian feel.

“Lost and found in the digital world.
Lost and found.
It’s time for letting go.”

Schoolyard Ghosts is a solo Bowness composition that was originally destined for the last no-man album of the same name, and although the song didn’t appear on the no-man album in the end, some of the tune leaked into no-man’s Mixtaped.

Add to this the performances on the track from recent no-man live band members Michael Bearpark, Stephen Bennett, Andy Booker and long-term Bowness collaborator Peter Chilvers, and the track Schoolyard Ghosts will sound familiar to most no-man listeners.

“You and Jules down vodka shots
To hide the feelings that you’ve got.
You love her eyes, you love her mouth,
You love her put on Rock-chick pout.”

An intensely personal Bowness lyric and the only track with real progressive leanings (the keyboard solo recalls …And Then There Were Three era Genesis), Schoolyard Ghosts has some wonderful interplay between the musicians.

“The schoolyard ghosts that haunt your dreams,
Hold you back and make you feel unclean.”

As the final note fades, the album’s closing piece, the nearly 7½ minute long At The Centre Of It All slowly fades into view.  This track became my instant favourite when I first heard the album, and my opinion hasn’t changed many months later.

A mostly electronic piece, with suspended piano notes and deep cello cutting through the glacial strings, a delay-heavy Bowness vocal intones

“All the things that were meant to be,
All the love you were meant to feel,
Became too hard to reveal.”

Porcupine Tree’s Colin Edwin contributes double bass to the song, as Giancarlo’s restrained guitar bookends the deep synth lines, as the “Beautiful Songs You Should Know”  sadly become “Just pointless lists at the centre of it all.”

A moving end to a beautiful album.

Tracklisting:

New Memories Of Machines (1.31)
Before We Fall (5.12)
Beautiful Songs You Should Know (4.59)
Warm Winter (5.34)
Lucky You, Lucky Me (4.17)
Change Me Once Again (5.56)
Something In Our Lives (4.11)
Lost And Found In The Digital World (5.14)
Schoolyard Ghosts (5.32)
At The Centre Of It All (7.26)

Memories Of Machines is:
Tim Bowness – vocals, guitar on Schoolyard Ghosts
Giancarlo Erra – guitars, keyboards

Produced and arranged by Tim Bowness and Giancarlo Erra
Mixed by Steven Wilson at Nomansland
Mastered by Jon Astley at Close To The Edge

© 2011 Mascot Records

Buy Memories of Machines at Amazon UK
Buy Memories of Machines at Amazon US
Buy Memories of Machines from The Burning Shed








%d bloggers like this: