Shepherds Bush Empire

Observations: Still Hup for the Wonder Stuff

In my class at school in the West Midlands, some time around the turn of the 1980s, your indie credentials rested on whether you were a Stuffie, a Poppie or a Neddie. Grunge hadn't quite yet wiped its greasy maw all over the alternative-music scene and the bug-eyed goings-on in Manchester all seemed a little, well, exotic.

The Plastiscines, Shepherds Bush Empire, London

The Plastiscines had created that sense of anticipation that use to follow me in my youth; the excitement before a gig. So there I was, surrounded by youngsters, with glow sticks, hot pants with bare legs unafraid of the cold, and drinking cider and giggling.

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

The Empire's normally heaving, sweaty mosh-pit was furnished with seats for this particular concert, lending the venue a more low-key atmosphere, but one that seemed appropriate for the unostentatious Aboriginal singer-songwriter Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. Supported by a string quartet, second acoustic guitarist Francis Diatschenko and double bass player Michael Hohnen, Gurrumul, who was born blind, was led to his seat carrying his right-handed guitar, which he plays upside down.

Bat for Lashes, Roundhouse, London

When Natasha Khan asks "shall we carry on with a bit more dancing?" she might as well be talking to herself. The trademark cape has a bit more sparkle than previously, but tonight's audience is not looking for a big pop performance. They stand in awe as she powers through the best of Fur and Gold and Two Suns.

Alela Diane, Shepherds Bush Empire, London

In the true tradition of folk, singer-songwriter Alela Diane's shows are a family affair. Her father Tom Menig plays guitar and mandolin, while her boyfriend is the bassist.

Pearl Jam, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

Yes, they're still alive. Almost two decades since the band's formation, and 18 years since the birth of a grunge movement that propelled their debut, Ten, into the history books as one of the biggest-selling rock albums of all time, Pearl Jam remain a potent force, despite an almost paranoid avoidance of the limelight.

Peter Doherty, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

What exactly does the new "r" stand for in the reformed title of Peter Doherty? In formalising his name from the casual "Pete", perhaps what the ex-Libertine desires is "respectability". But on tonight's evidence that new consonant may just as well stand for "recidivism".

Coming soon: A new musical explosion

The NME Awards shows dominate the diary throughout February, kicking off tonight with the Gaslight Anthem (pictured) at London's Shepherds Bush Empire (0844 477 2000), and Howling Bells at Islington Academy (0844 477 2000) tomorrow.

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