Monday, May 04, 2015

Goodnight Lenin / John McCullagh & The Escorts @ The Rainbow, Friday May 1st

Having dropped the ‘Lennon’ bit from his name (he used to trade as John Lennon McCullagh...genuinely his real name apparently) and picked up a new band (The Escorts...low mileage, furry dice not included) hotly tipped Doncaster troubadour John McCullagh opened up the night with half a dozen or so classic sounding self penned numbers mainly pulled from brand new album, New Born Cry (out today and available right here!). There’s an easy going charm to his performance and even the odd technical hitch doesn’t throw him. Although at just 17 he’s already been gigging like a good ‘un for a few years so that’s perhaps not surprising. Musically there are touches of Jake Bugg, The Coral and Cast (the latter’s John Power produced the album), in other words a bit of a retro cool Merseybeat vibe most noticeably on recent single and one of the picks of the set the jaunty toe tapping She’s Calling Me. At other times when he gets stuck into the harmonica there’s almost a Dylan-ish spirit (albeit a Dylan that hits the right notes in the right order). They save the best till last though courtesy of the New Wavey New York City with its irresistible guitar groove and chorus that practically begs to be sung along with by thousands of screaming fans in Madison Square Gardens. 

More informed folk than I have tipped McCullagh for great things (as well as releasing the album Alan McGee’s a fan and he knows a thing or two about picking a winner...) and it’s not hard to see / hear why. 

One to watch.

By their own admission Goodnight Lenin perhaps pontificated a little too much on the release of their debut album, the appropriately titled In Our Own Time. Much of the material was equally reflective which made a large slice of tonight’s set – new tunes ahoy! – all the more surprising. Opening number Desire saw Lenin get their groove on like never before. This was swiftly followed by Start Over which replaced the gentler Americana feel of old with an almost Springsteen like primal rock ‘n’ blues feel. Reborn in the USA you could say. It’s harder, faster, rawer and ballsier than before. In fact if In Our Own Time was a gentle chat up line and a walk in the woods album number two could well be a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and a quickie up a back alley. It’s the first time I’d heard any of these songs but I’m pretty sure the lyrics for Start Over included the line “When I finally get my hands on you” sung with such gusto by lead vocalist John Fell that oestrogen levels rose by at least 22% in the room. Blimey. After a spirited Old Cold Hands (a stone cold classic) Heart Of Mine’s catchy guitar riffs and repeated chorus simplified the band’s sound further before The Wire added an almost post punk feel to proceedings (some fine guitar playing from Liam on this one) with Fell spitting out the lyrics “I don’t need it, I don’t believe it anymore” like a man on the edge. Last year’s single You Were Always Waiting got a well deserved whoop of appreciation (is it me or has Sam funked up the drums a little more...nice work fella) followed by a good natured heckle from someone in the audience after Fell had raised the prospect of a new album,“It won’t take four years again will it?”. Somehow given the pace of the new tracks and the obvious joy the band seemed to get from playing them happily I don’t think it will. 

Standout track from the latter part of the set was Slow Down, a semi instrumental number that give John Joe the chance to get his fiddle out again (always a bit of a crowd pleaser) and the band achieve a Waterboys-ish rock/blues/country/hoedown on speed type groove. Frickin’ EPIC. 

Cannily retaining the essence of what they were but adding a lot more oomph (that’s a technical term by the way) into the mix, tonight was a fascinating glimpse into a band in transition. Choppier riffs, rawer vocals, songs that go for the balls not just the heart...yep, there’s revolution in the air for the Lenin and you should be ‘Russian’ to see hear it (oh come on...I couldn’t resist that one).  

All photos courtesy of the lovely Mr Richard Shakespeare.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Funke and the Two Tone Baby - I'm Not Well

Multi-instrumentalist one man blues machine Dan Turnbull, aka Funke and the Two Tone Baby, is back with another cracking single, I'm Not Well, which moves seamlessly from a brooding intro into a foot stompin', neck poppin', chord meltin' study of Mr Turnbull's mental health. To cut a long story short...He's Not Well. That being said it's inspired a belter of a track's not all bad eh?

If you like this one (and why the hell wouldn't you?) I can heartily recommend looking up his back catalogue (as it were) and catching him live if you get the chance too, a lovely fella and hugely entertaining performer to boot.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Louie Louie RIP

There are probably a handful of songs in history that just don't seem to get dull no matter how many times you listen to them and Louie Louie's one of them. Sadly the dude that sang arguably the definitive version, The Kingsmen's Jack Ely, has just shuffled off this mortal coil which is all the excuse I need to pop up the song again. There's a pretty exhaustive history of the track on Wikipedia if you're interested but if not just crank up the volume and let rip (although I wouldn't go quite as bonkers as some of the people on the clip're liable to rupture something).

PS: Here's Motorhead's take on it too. Classic Lemmy.

PPS: Oh go on then, here's the Toots and the Maytals version too.

PPPS: And the Black Flag one...can't leave this one out.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Some-swing good is going to happen...

After selling out its first two years Swingamajig is back and bigger than ever with no less than six (or ‘alf a dozen in old money) stages in and around the Custard Factory.

Kicking off at 2pm on Sunday May 3rd and carrying on until an eye reddening 6am on Monday (relax, it’s a Bank Holiday) it’s billed as a 16 hour celebration of “electro swing, gypsy folk and vintage mayhem” with a dazzling line up of top notch live acts and DJs from the best dressed scene around including The Correspondents, Mr B The Gentlemen Rhymer (who I’ve still not seen live, partially because I look uncannily like an older, chubbier version of him and it might all get a bit weird) and recently reformed Hearing Aid favourites The Anomalies!

Last few tickets are £25.00, available right here.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

White Town - I'm Giving Up

The slightly older amongst us may remember one of the most remarkable number one singles of the 90s, White Town's Your Woman which, on top of going on to be a hit across Europe and the US, even got Madonna's juices flowing at the time (there was no need for that was there...I do hope you weren't eating). Anyway, the track was produced in the bedroom of Jyoti Mishra and after what is referred to on Wikipedia as a 'troubled working relationship' with EMI he retreated back there again, sporadically releasing stuff on independent labels (hurrah!). Happily (the music biz needs more Jyoti Mishras) he seems to be ramping up the output at the moment and the latest offering is the rather awesome I'm Giving Up which, to my ears at least, seems to cleverly mash up Northern Soul and Indiepop...quite possibly for the first time in history...and I just can't get enough of it right now. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Producers @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Monday April 20th 2015

As themes for musicals go it’s pretty difficult to imagine a more unlikely subject than Adolf Hitler. That’s the basic premise behind The Producers, one of whom has worked out that he can make more money staging a flop than a hit (hmmm...maybe that’s what the team behind Viva Forever were up to?). Originally a 1968 film from Mel Brooks he waited a mere 33 years before adapting it into an actual musical (a case of art imitating life imitating art etc) which has gone on to win awards and win over audiences across the globe...even in Germany and Austria...which is just a touch odd when you think about it.

It’s not unusual for a show to have one or two scene stealing performers but this version of The Producers has half a dozen of ‘em. Seriously. 

Cory English oozes chutzpah as the OAP ‘servicing’ Max Bialystock (what that man won’t do for a dollar...oy vey!), Jason Manford channels a little Jerry Lewis as the uptight Leo Bloom and Phill Jupitus is delightfully unhinged as the frequently F├╝hrer-ious Franz Liebkind. 

Add in Louis Spence...simply being Louis Spence is enough and he only has to flick his wrist or wiggle his ass to get a laugh (and that’s some talent...try it) as Carmen Ghia, David Bedella who somehow manages to out-camp him (something that should be scientifically impossible) and Tiffany Graves as the English mangling Swedish love interest Ulla and you’ve got a dream cast for this show. 

Bedella’s gloriously OTT Hitler routine deserves a particular mention. Watching him prance around in a gold sequin jacket surrounded by a swastika wearing goose stepping chorus line still has the power to shock if you actually think about it but of course that’s the point. Speaking of which apparently sometime after the original movie came out a woman got into a lift with Brooks and recognizing him said, 'I have to tell you, Mr. Brooks, that your movie is vulgar.' Brooks smiled before replying 'Lady, it rose below vulgarity.' Genius. 

Of course Hitler and the Nazis were a ridiculous joke that turned deadly serious and whilst nothing can be done to undo the horror they unleashed on the world Brooks’ revenge by sending the whole thing up is bitter, sweet and entirely justifiable however you look at it. Here endeth the sermon.  

Growing up during the golden age of Hollywood musicals Mel's also neatly tapped into what makes a great number and, on top of the classic Springtime For Hitler (sample lyric "Don't be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the Nazi party"), the evening’s packed full of glitzy and surprisingly catchy show tunes including the hilariously camp anthem Keep It Gay. Kudos to the band and the supporting cast for somehow sounding and looking like there were several dozen of them on and off stage too, creating a Busby Berkeley feel on a budget (several of the cast played five or six roles minor roles each, which is exhausting enough just to think about).

Smart, funny, satirical and with a cast that makes the most out of every line, gesture and opportunity to dress up (or down in Ulla’s case...see below...ahem) this production really does have the ‘reich’ stuff.  

The Producers is on at The New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 25th April. Tickets here!

All photos courtesy and copyright of Manuel Harlan. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Miss Halliwell - Capitulate

Mondays...don't you just love 'em? Happily this Monday has been made at least 78% better by the appearance of the brand new video from Miss Halliwell for one of their best tracks to date, Capitulate. Okay, so it might scare young children and clearly it freaked the bejesus out of one of the passers by captured at around 3 minutes and 8 seconds in but you can't make a cake without breaking a few eggs can you eh?

The track's pretty much Miss Halliwell's manifesto...not in a 'we'll say whatever you want to hear as long as you vote for us...and then we'll do what the hell we want 'cos we're in power now so nah nah to you' way (lord help us all on May 7th), more a commitment to keeping on keeping on no matter what life throws at you. A lot of people struggle to find a meaning in it all but Miles Perhower strips things back to basics here "Some days are okay, some are excellent" he sings "Find a way to stay sane, everyone will die someday". Hmmmm, I don't know about you but I find that strangely comforting, albeit in a nihilistic existential kinda way.

PS: Don't forget that Miss Halliwell has a brace of dates coming up this Friday and next, details here.