ROCK : What those seeing Bernard Butler saw

OPENING for McAlmont and Butler at the Hanover Grand on Tuesday was Edwyn Collins, once of Orange Juice, now more bitter lemon. As romantic as a tax demand, he sneered through "The Campaign for Real Rock", word- playing rough with "Robert Zimmerframe" and a generation whose "idea of counter-culture is Momma's charge account at Sears". "These lyrics are written to be quoted by rock critics," someone near me muttered, which was embarrassing as I had lifted a couplet from that very song to use in last week's paper.

Collins croons like a deep-voiced Bowie, but his melodies don't do justice to his singing or his words. Halfway through his relentlessly morose acoustic set he stamped his foot and berated the audience for talking too much. Surely a performer shouldn't need to adopt such desperate tactics to win the crowd's attention. Collins managed it by bringing on Bernard Butler to add his mighty guitar to "A Girl Like You".

Since leaving Suede, official Bernard-guest-appearance sightings have ranged from Sparks to Paul Weller. Tonight - after rescuing Collins - he performed under his own name with David McAlmont on soaring vocals. McAlmont, too, recently broke from his band, Thieves; other than that the pair seem like chalk and cheese. Butler's replacement in Suede was only 17 when he joined, but Butler looks five years younger. His hair is snipped to an early Beatles bowlcut, he is so thin that a microphone stand hides him from view, and his biggest fashion statement is a T-shirt with "Labrador" on it (a smirk at Suede's Dog Man Star?).

McAlmont, on the other hand, is 6ft 4ins of dreadlocks and yellow crushed velvet. Maybe his suit was inspired by the previous day's glam-rock theme on Channel 4. The music could have come from the same source. M&B play glittery, romantic pop songs - only occasionally overblown - swathed in keyboards and strings, and ignited by Butler's lurid guitar.

The Suede divorce settlement has been the opposite of what we might have expected: Brett Anderson now has custody of a lean, mean, rocking machine, while Butler has walked off with the lush and lavish glamour. His new songs have more uplifting humour than would be caught in the same hemisphere as Suede (the galumphing music-hall turn "What's the Excuse This Time?"), and an optimism exemplified by their dbut single, "Yes" (Hut Recordings; out tomorrow). McAlmont's post-break up lyric could be directed at both M&B's former bandmates: "Yes I do feel better / I feel well enough to tell you / What you can do with what you've got to offer ..."

It's a brave man who tries to sing along with Butler's molten, flashy fretwork, but then again, you'd have to be sure of yourself to accompany McAlmont's operatic falsetto. And he effortlessly outcamps Brett Anderson. His red-gloved hands are usually on his hips, although he sometimes remembers to give a tambourine a desultory tap. As it turns out, it's Butler who is the more active of the pair: beaming away and frisky as a puppy. Making music like this, he has reasons to be cheerful.

When Tricky talked on Friday night it was hard to believe he was a professional rapper. "The next song is ... is ... is ... 'Pumpkin'," he said, squinting at the set-list at his feet. And, just before leaving the stage: "Next track is ... oh, that's it. Wicked. Heh."

He apologised for being so hesitant: it's his first ever headline show, and he's nervous. But as he's only just finished supporting PJ Harvey on her national tour, it may simply be that he's not a natural performer. Mostly he muttered, head down. His only movement was some shadowboxing, so that in his dress shirt and monocle he resembled a punch-drunk Chris Eubank. Only one of his three female vocalists - Cath Coffey of the Stereo MCs - attempted to connect with the crowd. The Clapham Grand, a cosy venue, seemed cavernous.

One problem is that Tricky's dbut album, Maxinquaye (Island), a miasma of unsettling paranoia, happens to be the most acclaimed record of 1995. Perhaps he knew in advance that he could never recreate its claustrophobic genius on stage.

His band, who look like ageing jazz musos (black clothes, ponytails, even, yes, a beret) made a reasonable stab at it. After a surprisingly jolly "Ponderosa" and a twittering "Suffocated Love", which sounded as if he had sampled an aviary, the mood got darker. (Although not as dark as the stage. The brightest light was a table lamp resting on the keyboard.)

The cumulative effect of Tricky's insidious trip-hop is nicely creepy. But there is a fine line between dreamily mysterious and boring, and overall it was an underwhelming show.

On Thursday at the London Astoria it was 1990 again - that halcyon time when people used terms like "Madchester" and "baggy" without blushing.

The Charlatans brought it back with their easy but purposeful dance rock. They have the advantage of a keyboard player with a Hammond, a rubbery electric piano and a healthy appreciation of Booker T and the MGs; they have a whirlpool of distorted wah-wah guitar; and they have some leery, sneery vocals. They have only one theme, but endless variations.

They are sometimes thought of as the Stone Daisies: like the Stone Roses, but not so good. (Nowadays, of course, that role is filled by the Stone Roses themselves.) Are the Charlatans charlatans? No, because they don't pretend to offer anything more than music to jump around to, and they don't stint on that.

Arts & Entertainment
TV

Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
music

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit