Could it be true? Are live gigs back? If you haven’t heard the news, it seems the UK is experimenting with hosting non-socially distanced concerts. Liverpool’s Sefton Park hosted 5,000 people (in a venue with a capacity of 7,500) but with zero face masks, social distancing, or vaccine passport requirements. Organized by Festival Republic, this concert serves as a pilot, the first officially non-socially distanced performance in the Northern hemisphere since the outbreak of COVID-19. The lineup included Zuzu, The Lathums, and British band Blossoms.
In the States, Modern English is a one-hit wonder due to their hit “I Melt with You,” which got lots of play on MTV. Perhaps it’s the slight jangle under the new wave vibe that Americans gravitated to, but Modern English never had another top 40 hit in the US. The song has become one of those British hits that are constantly associated with the ’80s, making an appearance in Stranger Things in 2016.
Singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer Bhi Bhiman has released Substitute Preacher II, an offbeat and artful new covers EP that follows the first installment in 2013. In spite of the eight-year gap, Bhiman’s approach to producing covers has stayed remarkably consistent. Substitute Preacher II’s performances mostly feature just Bhiman’s acoustic guitar and mighty vocals, captured in live takes with minimal overdubs. Bhiman saws straight through the trunks of some towering classic rock picks that might at first seem impenetrable to solo-acoustic interpretation: “Back in Black” by AC/DC, Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride.” But with the craft of a master carpenter, he also has the foresight and ingenuity to build something novel from the shreds he’s chopped.
Neighbor is a Boston area jam band which formed in 2019. Formed by keyboardist Richard James, of popular tribute band Pink Talking Fish, the band play a mixture of covers and originals very much in the jam band style. Neighbor’s new cover of Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind” is extremely straight-ahead and traditional. If it weren’t for the keyboard and lack of a second guitar, you might mistake it for a an attempt for a note-for-note cover. Bassist Dan Kelly even tries, at times, to sound like Black Francis, though he drops that pretty quickly.
Dua Lipa’s music has been omnipresent this year. Her Grammy-winning album Future Nostalgia, released last spring, became the soundtrack for a global audience’s new virtual reality. The record is cavalcade of glossy dance pop and a surprisingly transporting at-home listen, offering a fantasy facsimile of a night on the dance floor.
Legendary vocalists Billy Davis Jr. and Marilyn McCoo are founding members of The 5th Dimension, the venerable LA-based vocal pop group. As their otherworldly name suggests, The 5th Dimension had a knack for elevating novel tunes to new realms. Davis Jr. and McCoo’s lead vocals imbued hits like “The Worst That Could Happen” and “One Less Bell To Answer” with a buoyant blend of elegance, whimsy and surreal soul. The pair are old-school song interpreters in the most artful sense, illuminating new emotional planes in their powerful performances.