Gary Numan

21 March
Foundry

It's almost a year since I interviewed Gary Numan for Now Then, when we discussed his decision to leave the UK, partially driven by a desire to live in a warmer, drier climate.

It made me wonder how Gary had felt trudging up and down the country in blizzards and sub-freezing temperatures as he reached the midsection of his current UK tour. A tweet from him earlier in the week captured life on the road in the midst of a winter blast as they drove down a snow-covered motorway north of Manchester. The cold and damp were hopefully soon forgotten inside the Foundry, as Numan and company were reacquainted with the kind of heat he’s now used to in LA.

Starting with his trademark brooding and cinematic end-of-the-world synthesised sounds, Numan entered the fray offset by new backing visuals that cut him out from the rest of the band. Kicking off with ‘Ghost Nation’ from his current album, Savage (Songs from a Broken World), the temperature ratcheted up as ‘Halo’ kicked in. The loyal Numanoids were then treated to the first of the classics as a fresh version of ‘Metal’ rocked the superb soundsystem. Numan has always made the effort to revise his tracks with fresh live iterations and tonight he pushed that envelope to the full, as ‘Down in the Park’, ‘Cars’ and ‘Are 'Friends' Electric?’ were all dusted down and given modern outlooks, all sounding really incredible.

Rarely, Numan is both a performer and visual artist, and this was taken to a new level with four animated screens that cast him and his band as shadows in front of a scorched earth, with red clouds and sci-fi backdrops. The Numan crown jewels were joined by modern classics ‘My Name Is Ruin’, ‘When the World Comes Apart’ and ‘Love Hurt Bleed’. As always, the packed and loyal crowd knew there’d be more as Numan came out to deliver a double-header encore. The penultimate ‘A Prayer for the Unborn’ was usurped by the epic and wholly sublime final track, ‘My Last Day’. It was one of the finest moments I’ve ever witnessed from the veteran performer who is clearly back at the top of his game.

Andy Tattersall

Field Music

23 March
Foundry

After eventually finding my way through the maze that is Sheffield Students’ Union and entering Foundry, I was surprised at the space to manoeuvre, given that some of my fondest memories of the venue are busy Tuesday Club nights. Quickly spotting the Brewis brothers modestly manning their own merch stand, I managed to pluck up the courage to go over for a handshake before support act Mary Epworth began.

Turns out I needn’t have worried about nobody showing up to support the bands, as by the time the first song kicked in the room was full. Mary and her group were dressed in futuristic uniforms and quickly had command of the room with their electronic psy-pop, intense sax solos and assortment of percussion.

Crowd suitably warmed, Field Music took the stage, first with Peter on guitar and David on drums, but as always the pair seamlessly switched jobs throughout the set. I was happy to hear plenty of songs from new album, Open Here, and fan favourite Commontime, with some of their older catalogue mixed in for good measure.

The atmosphere throughout the evening was easygoing and fun, with both brothers chatting away between songs and making the audience laugh. They’re natural entertainers. They were backed by a larger band than I was expecting, which not only added to the sociable vibe on stage but gave the music a full and well-rounded sound.

With so many instruments available, the tracks mimicked the album recordings almost exactly, although jokes were made about speeding up the tracks to make watching them live worthwhile, rather than just sitting and listening to the records. New track ‘Count It Up’, featuring a few improvised lyrics, went down a storm, but the clear crowdpleaser of the night was ‘The Noisy Days Are Over’, which had everyone singing and dancing along.

Tasha Franek

Sinai Sessions #01

10 March
Trafalgar Warehouse

It’s no surprise that Sinai Sessions #01 sold out before some people even knew the night was occurring. Sinai are synonymous with reggae, dub and soundsystem culture, while Mungo’s Hi Fi is one of the most recognisable soundsystems anywhere in the UK. Having the two together on one night sounded as good as the pairing looked on paper.

Three days of work was put into preparing Trafalgar Warehouse for the event, and on entering the venue the tropical atmosphere created by the decor was fit for the occasion. This was further complemented by other areas of the event, with Caribbean food available and live visual artists painting on canvases throughout the evening. The Sinai Sound System crew set and maintained the vibe from the get-go, supported by vocalists Robert Lee and Charlie P.

It was obvious when Mungo’s Hi Fi began to play, even if some members of the audience weren’t aware that the Glasgow soundsystem was in full effect. The way cans and tables shook at the high power of the system was a good reminder that the system is a staple at multiple festivals for a reason. It could’ve carried the night itself with little trouble, but guest MC Forca delivered and Parly B blessed the microphone with seamless vocals.

Among all of this was Tailored Sounds, who provided cool saxophone to top off a fine selection that included everything from classic dubs from Richie Spice to fresh tracks from dubstep heavyweight Commodo. Sinai Sessions #01 met all expectations. #02 can’t come any sooner.

Akeem Balogun

La Belle Époque Weekend

9-11 March
Various Venues

Over a long weekend, Music In The Round and University of Sheffield Concerts presented chamber music by French composers Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy. Despite this narrow focus, a remarkable range of music was programmed – early Ravel differing significantly from his later pieces, with the same true of Debussy. Performers spoke of each composer’s switch from romantic, impressionistic early compositions to far more abstract later works.

Guest harpist Catrin Finch played three pieces with Ensemble 360, including an unusual arrangement of Ravel’s Sonatine for flute, viola and harp that the audience particularly loved. It was a pleasure to hear the harp in the round, if an all-too-rare occurrence. Another guest performer who delighted his audience was James Newby, a gifted baritone whose performances of songs by Ravel and Vaughan Williams were splendid and heartfelt, ending on a genuinely humorous note with his hearty rendition of ‘Chanson àboire’ (Drinking Song).

Standout Ensemble 360 performances were Ravel’s Tzigane for violin & piano and Sonata for violin & cello, and the Debussy string quartet. Full of energy and intricacy, the Tzigane had a dance-like momentum and centre-stage violin. The sonata, created in memory of Debussy, was written in counterpoint, with the cello often, very unusually, pitched higher than the violin. Enjoyment of the latter was heightened by a succinct yet enlightening introduction from Ensemble 360 violinist Benjamin Nabarro, while the Tzigane benefited from being launched into without any introduction at all.

MITR gets this balance right. When introductions are given, they’re especially beneficial for those of us with a limited understanding of classical music, giving insight into the context, as well as structural and even technical aspects of what we’re experiencing. But the music is just as often allowed to speak for itself.

Samantha Holland

The Altered Hours

9 March
Picture House Social

Was there a kid at your school who, when they ran, always looked as if they were about to pitch over and fall flat on their face, but somehow never did? Well, last-minute replacement support act Yo Dynamo sound like that kid looked. Two-man band, drums and bass; cro-magnon melodies against math-rock rhythms and more time changes than Liam Fox’s Rolex. Once the new band silliness wears off, they’ll be killers. For now, they’re taut, raucous fun.

When Naguals (formerly Sin Sun Sin) take the stage, they look like butter wouldn’t melt, but that illusion is dispelled once they start playing. If the first lot didn’t sound like anyone, then this lot sound like a dozen different bands at once, not just in terms of influences, but also sheer thickness of sound. It’s a cathartic and cavernous anger-fugue of a comedown, in the best possible way.

What of The Altered Hours, then? I promised myself I wouldn’t do this anymore, but I can’t resist: My Bloody Banshees & Mary Chain. Or perhaps early Jefferson Airplane reinterpreted by the Warlocks? Comparisons are invidious, but when a band does such a great job of smooshing together all the best aspects of psychedelia into one throbbing, reverb-soaked ocean of shuddering sound, the best a scribbling hack can do is point in amazement at things he vaguely recognizes as they float past him.

It’s the mix of boy vocals and girl vocals that really makes the magic happen – well, that and a whole lot of guitar pedals, from the look of it. Hard to believe this is only their first tour. Go see ‘em now, so you can say you were there before they got famous.

Paul Graham Raven