Brilliantly unhinged: Grace Jones, at Hampton Court Palace, reviewed

Some artists need flash bombs to make an impression on stage. Some need giant screens. Some need to run around like hyperactive toddlers. All Grace Jones needed was a hula hoop – not the delicious potato snack, but the plastic ring. For the ten minutes or so of ‘Slave to the Rhythm’ that ended her set on a balmy evening in the courtyard of Hampton Court Palace, she languidly rotated the ring around her hips, all while she strode across the stage, then climbed a set of stairs. Not a single revolution was missed. I realise that you don’t come to these pages for reviews of hula hooping, but by

I’m not sure they ever reached a fourth chord: Spiritualized, at the Roundhouse, reviewed

Every so often, Jason Pierce drifts into focus. It happened at the end of the 1980s, when his then group Spacemen 3 (motto: ‘Taking drugs to make music to take drugs to’) suddenly and briefly went from being those weirdos from Rugby to one of the defining groups of English alternative rock thanks to their album Sound of Confusion (there’s a whole strain of American psychedelia that is explicitly indebted to their two-chord drone). It happened again a decade or so later, when Spiritualized’s album Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space became a big hit, and a staple of Greatest Albums lists. He’s in one of his partial-focus

The perfect pop star: Dua Lipa at the O2 Arena reviewed

Dua Lipa’s second album, Future Nostalgia, was released at the least promising moment possible: 27 March 2020, the day after the first lockdown came into force in the UK. Just as a pandemic swept the world, she was releasing a maximalist pop album that, surely, was designed for the communal experiences no one was having. But something about it connected: Future Nostalgia was a worldwide hit, the first British album released in 2020 to go platinum, the tenth bestselling record in the world that year. It turned out to be the right album for a wretched year. No wonder her show at the O2 was centred on it – every

One of many soul acts looking back 50 years and doing very good business: Black Pumas, at the Roundhouse, reviewed

No musician ever went bust overestimating the public desire to hear classic soul. Slapping on a Motown backbeat has revived many a career and made many a star. At the simplest level, what wedding band are you going to hire: the one playing note-for-note recreations of acid-rock wig-outs from 1968, or the one playing note-for-note recreations of the Motown, Stax and Atlantic catalogues from the same year? It’s hardly evidence of the appalling taste of the music-buying public. If we’re going to play that silly ‘What pop era was best?’ game, then the answer — as any fule kno — is some point between 1965 and 1969, when rock was

Teenage Fanclub are not a dramatic group, but they are lovely

They may no longer get many teenagers at their shows spending all their money on merchandise, then throwing up on the way home, though that certainly happened at the end of the 1980s, when they began, but people do love Teenage Fanclub. Their teenage fans are now middle-aged, and have spent the intervening years growing up with the band. They’ve listened as the group started singing about parenthood, long-term relationships, ageing, and they’ve stayed with a group who reflected their own lives back at them. The music, too, has changed. Where the early Fanclub records were sparky, messy alt-rock, they have spent the decades refining themselves so their songs are