Friday, June 28, 2013

Gig of the weekend...

Miss Halliwell. Sunday 30th June. Adam and Eve pub. Digbeth. Around 7-ish. It's bloody free too.

The RebelBeats - Turned Bad EP

Hey cool cats. What’s goin’ down daddio? Me? I’m a cruisin’ to the sounds of The RebelBeats man. Okay, so maybe we’ll ditch the hip 50s slang for a mo but B-Town based rockabilly punksters RebelBeat really do get you reaching for the Brylcreem, black leather jacket and flick knife with their brand new EP Turned Bad (see, even the title’s kick ass). None of the four tracks here trouble the three minute mark, with the closing number clocking in at a frenetic 1minute 44seconds, but they’re all the better for it. From the swaggering Wanted Man to the punkier title track and onto the pedal to the metal of Love Tycoon (think Thin Lizzy meets Eddie Cochran) it’s a high octane blast from the past that somehow still sounds pretty fresh. Impressively they’ve been able to capture some of the energy of the band’s live show too perhaps most obviously on I’m On The Loose, 104 seconds of rock ‘n’ roll brilliance that could well give Little Richard a run for his money.

Turned Bad’s available on vinyl yet’s screaming (literally) out for a 45rpm release though...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival 5th – 14th July 2013

Top notch artists from around the world. Hundreds of gigs across dozens of venues.  And pretty much all of them FREE. Yes, for nearly three decades the Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival has dished up an ear tingling array of music and this year’s line up is no exception. Here are just a handful of the highlights but trust me, whoever you go and see you can guarantee it’ll be a class act:  

Lewis Floyd Henry – I saw this dude busking around The Big Chill (RIP) a few years back and got a bit of a man crush on him. A one man blues storm. Hendrix lives my friends...

Wednesday 10th July 12 midday Snow Hill Station Square and 5pm Church Street Square

The Lamours – Bringing some lush vintage glamour to proceedings The Lamours gig is one of the few shows you need to pay for but by jove, it’ll be worth it. 

Friday 12th July 7pm Birmingham Botanical Gardens (£15/£10 concessions)

Will Johns Band – Returning after a festival stealing gig last year Will’s simply one of the UK’s best blues guitarists around. End. Of. Story.

Friday 12th July 12.30pm The Mailbox and 7.00pm The Water’s Edge Bandstand

The Good Lovelies – Harmony heaven from the country folk flavoured Canadian trio. If you’re not singing this song to yourself all day long you ain’t got no ears.

Sunday 7th July 7.00pm Star City

Sheep Got Waxed – Okay, so you think you don’t like jazz? Try this Lithuanian combo for size and prepare to eat your words...and ears whilst you’re at it. 

Saturday 6th July 12.30pm The Mailbox 6.00pm The Arcadian

Tipitina – A masterclass in boogie woogie, jazz and blues featuring the wonderful voice of Debbie Jones.

Friday 12th July 11.00am Victoria Square

And that's just a fraction of what's on offer. Check out the full programme right here

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Wake at Indietracks!

Cult Scottish post punk band The Wake have just been added to the Indietracks bill capping off one of the festival's best ever line ups. If you've never heard of this band before they were a bit of a Peel favourite and featured in their early incarnation a certain Bobby Gillespie. Formed way back in 1981 they're deeply evocative of their time with some tracks positively dripping with that gloriously doom laden sound also employed by their contemporaries, Joy Division (there are distinct hints of early New Order in here too...influenced by or an influence on? Hmmmm), coupled with a healthy dose of fellow Glaswegians Orange Juice's twitchy guitars. Cop a load of their greatest hits (and misses) and the next time anyone says the 80s wasn't a golden era for music rub The Wake in their face.

Indietracks takes place 26-28th July 2013, tickets right here, right now.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The old man's back again...

Been away for a few days. Did you miss me? What’s that? You didn’t notice? Oh, and there was I thinking your day wasn’t complete without a visit to The Aid (it's one of your five a day apparently). Anyway, I was listening to Scott Walker albums in the bath last night (as you do) and this track came on. It seemed pretty appropriate seeing as I’m old(-ish) and, technically at least, a man. It’s also really rather marvellous. Old Scotty boy may have gone a little more experimental after his late 60s purple patch but, for lovers of baroque pop things don’t get much better than this. Enjoy. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Carolina TEEN

Oh dear. With a post title like that I can only begin to imagine what kind of oddballs I'll get dropping by.   Relax though, there's nothing in the slightest bit Stuart Hall-ish here ladies and gentlemen ( there a single male TV 'personality' who didn't spend the 60s, 70s and 80s fiddling with kids?), nope it's just the new single from Brooklyn's TEEN. Imagine the Cocteau Twins getting it on with Echo and the Bunnymen and The Inspiral Carpets probably wouldn't sound anything like this. Still, it's ruddy good.

Monday, June 17, 2013

God Damn right it's a beautiful day...

God Damn release their brain meltingly splendid new 6 track EP, Heavy Money today, less than a week after guitarist and vocalist Dave Copson was involved in an horrendous car crash. Happily the latest news from the hospital is encouraging and the outpouring of love and positive comments from friends, fans and the Birmingham music scene in general has been pretty bloody heart warming. If good vibes help in situations like this (and call me an old hippy but I reckon they do) Dave will hopefully soon be back where he belongs, rocking the bejesus out of the place. Get well soon dude. x

Rainy Days and Mondays: The Carpenters Story @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Saturday 15th June 2013

Guilty secret time. I love The Carpenters. Then again maybe it’s not such a guilty secret anymore. Didn’t they get a bit trendy a few years ago? Who cares, that combination of Karen Carpenter’s contralto voice (this is basically pretty deep for a lady) and brother Richard’s lush musical arrangements was and is one of pop’s golden moments. Sadly the delightful Ms Carpenter was haunted by anorexia for much of her short life and passed away back in 1983 aged just 32 so - short of cracking out the ouija board - this show’s as close to hearing her live as you’re going to get.  Tribute shows can be painfully naff and given The Carpenters less than cool image to begin with the whole night could have easily descended into a beige nightmare of sentimentality and MOR mush. Whilst this evening skirted close to this once or twice (I’ve never been a huge fan of the whole clapping and singing along thing) the five piece band (four chaps and ‘Karen’) managed to recreate that distinctive sound remarkably well. If you’re a big Carpenters fan it takes a while to adjust your head though as, for obvious reasons, ClaireFurley looks nothing like Karen Carpenter. Of course this is a very good thing. For much of her career Karen frankly looked dangerously ill (as we now know she was), a fragile creature with a voice way out of proportion to the feeble frame that spawned it. So when that voice – and at times it’s spookily accurate – comes out of the body of someone else it’s all a little...well...unsettling. Shut your eyes for a moment though and readjust and as the night progresses you get used it. I’m guessing it wouldn’t be much of an issue if you hadn’t spent hours watching Carpenters videos. Whoops...there goes another guilty secret.

As you’d expect the setlist is a trawl through many of The Carpenters’ biggest hits, punctuated by little bits of history from jovial musical director and pianist Phil Aldridge, together with a few lesser known tracks including the painfully poignant Now, the last song Karen ever recorded. Listened to all in one evening it’s a neat reminder of just how varied their music actually was, from the jaunty pop of Top Of The World through to the Cajun influenced Jambalaya (On The Bayou), the jazzy This Masquerade and on to the weird sci-fi shout out of Calling Occupants. Richard and Karen’s willingness to embrace all sorts of genres, albeit with that distinctive Carpenters sheen very clearly audible, is perhaps sadly overlooked these days.

With a band made up of musicians who have, at various times, played with Amy Winehouse, Alfie Boe, Chris De Burgh and Westlife (come on now, everyone has to earn a living) the playing is pretty top notch. The dude who played the sax, clarinet, flute, tambourine (often seemingly all at the same time) was particularly impressive. Naturally Claire’s the star of the show though and her ability to make the delivery of these songs sound easy (I’m no singer but I can recognise just how tricky this is) is pretty incredible. Just once or twice in the whole evening there was a slight breathing issue (and I’m being ultra picky here) which kind of underlines this fact. Close To You however was the most perfect rendition you’re ever going to hear and it’s worth the price of a ticket alone. Whilst The Carpenters music is perhaps the ultimate in easy listening performing it this well is anything but. For a couple of hours it really was Yesterday Once More...

PS: For some reason I can’t find any clips of the show online, so I’ve posted the original Close To You up here. Trust me it’s pretty much identical to what you’ll hear. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

When good PR goes bad (EDIT:and then good again)...or how Ray-Ban left us in the dark

Okay, let’s begin this with a little disclaimer. No one paid for their tickets for last night’s Willy Moon gig on a barge so the amount of ire that can be heaped upon Ray-Ban and the hapless PR company that 'organised' this is limited. BUT if you’re going to hold an event to promote a brand in a positive way don’t, whatever you do, cock things up as badly as this.

Here’s the brief background story (life’s too short to spend hours on this). Ray-Ban decided to run a series of gigs across the UK to promote their eyewear and gave out free tickets to lucky competition winners or people who simply tweeted their details. So far so good. Great in fact. What a simply smashing idea eh chums? I’m sure the other gigs were a huge success and everyone had a super time. In Birmingham though there was clearly a bit of a cock up (insert your own Willy/cock/penis jokes here). For some ruddy silly reason the organisers had given out at least twice as many tickets as they had spaces on the barge. Despite turning up nearly an hour before the gig was due to start we were a good 10 or so places away from standing a chance of getting on. Why do this? Why get people to traipse along, raise their hopes and get them to queue up for an hour then happily chug off into the sunset leaving at least 50% of the ‘winners’ behind? You don’t need to be a PR genius to see that this isn’t the way to make a good impression. Having made the cock up though why not use your brain and do something about it? Here are a few ideas for starters. Instead of sailing the boat along the canal leave it moored and let Willy play outside. Far more people would see this (more people...brand awareness...get it?) and everyone would go home happy. Or, at the very least, allow Willy to play a few numbers outside for those who weren’t able to get on the boat. Or have two sailings with shorter performances. See? It ain’t rocket science. It’s just BASIC PR.

Having missed out on the barge gig we were asked to wait around so that we could design our own t-shirts. Okay. I’ll play along. We were ushered into a small tent and given a cheap t-shirt and some marker pens that had seen better days. The spray cans of paint had run out and the metal studs in pots had started to go rusty. Tetanus anyone? It was a remarkably shabby affair, more suited to an inner city playgroup that had fallen on hard times rather than a $multi-million global brand. We were then asked to pose in our creations. You’d expect the PR bods to take pictures to use but again they failed to make anything of what could have been a bit of fun.  If you had a camera (I didn’t) they’d snap a picture of you but what the hell was the point of that? Why not take their own shots and stick them online? know...raise the profile of the whole campaign. Er...isn’t that the point of PR? I have no idea who was responsible for this fiasco but they should start looking for another job. There are plenty of interesting larger venues across Birmingham that would have been better suited to this kind of event or, as already suggested, they could just have had two sailings. For what it’s worth I’ve tweeted Ray-Ban and I’ll post any response I get up here too but I’m not holding my breath.

PS: The lovely Mr Willy Moon was totally blameless in this affair. He came out and apologised to those of us who had been screwed over so clearly he felt bad about the whole thing. 

EDIT: I swiftly received a very nice response from Ray-Ban and the kind offer of a goodie bag. I wasn't expecting this and, as I said at the beginning of this piece, no one had paid for a ticket so there was really no need for them to offer me anything. Good to see a global business listening to a local voice. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wet wet wet

Good grief, you can tell it's festival season again. Lord...or Lordi the poor sods at Download/Downpour this weekend. Still, it's what we do well here in the UK, trudging around in the mud...or a least what we choose to believe is mud but which is actually far more likely to consist of at least two forms of human waste.  Anyway, despite the fact that Sabbath ain't playing Download this gives me as good an excuse as any to stick up their suitably ominous God Is Dead?  Given the fact that god was 'invented' by man in a vague attempt to give life some sort of meaning and purpose this is a darn silly question, but it's Ozzy and he can be forgiven pretty much anything.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Make this Saturday night a cracker...

This Saturday. The Wagon and 'orses, Digbeth. Al Hutchins presents another fine Curate's Egg evening with post punk Peel favourite Inca Babies headlining and support from Brum's own The Courtesy Group and Horse Feathers. Entry just a fiver. Here's a taster...

Neil Young and Crazy Horse @ LG Arena, Tuesday 11th June 2013

As the grinding noise enters its fifth minute an old couple gingerly descend the stairs on their way out of the venue, hearing aids shot to pieces and the last blobs of Poligrip shaken free from their dentures. It’s just the fourth number of tonight’s gig and Neil Young and Crazy Horse seem determined to weed out/annihilate anyone who was expecting a gentle evening of folk tinged loveliness...

Before the sonic carnage, Los Lobos, a band forever associated with that big hit, La Bamba, treated the early arrivers (mainly those who’d given up on the queues for the bar or toilets) to a fine set of country rock and blues. Man mountain (seriously, this dude looks huge) and lead singer David Hildago led an extended rattle through the bluesy Chains of Love and drawled his way through Lobos classic Will The Wolf Survive. It was probably the shout out and dedication of one of the band’s Spanish language numbers to Black Sabbath that got the biggest cheer of the set though. The sheer number of people traipsing in and out of the venue during support bands’ sets in arenas like this does little to help create an atmosphere and frankly a band celebrating its 40th anniversary deserved better than this. An ear opening experience for anyone who’d had them pigeonholed as just one thing.  

Looking round at some of the faces in the audience this evening Neil Young is clearly nothing short of a god. They’ve grown up with him, grown old with him and bought the t-shirts. As both he and they approach their own personal ‘harvest’ these songs are perhaps now taking on new meanings. That’s not to say that Young’s ready to burn out or fade away just yet. On the contrary, clearly there’s still plenty of fire in his belly (or environmentally friendly fuel in his tank if you prefer) judging by tonight’s crowd dividing set. On the one side you’ve got those who appreciate the, let’s say, more experimental side of Young’s oeuvre, on the other you’ve got those who quite like Harvest and After The Gold Rush. Never the twain shall meet.

The signs were all there from the start. Men in white coats bustled around the stage, overacting terribly and gesticulating wildly at a set of giant flight cases which were eventually raised up into the roof to reveal giant oversized amps. An enormous mic was hoisted on stage too. Read the signs people. This was going to get LOUD. Young and the Horse came on stage, standing with their hands on their hearts as the national anthem plays and a giant union jack flag’s unfurled at the back of the stage. It’s an odd way to start a gig to say the least but things would get a lot weirder for a sizable portion of the crowd.

Ragged Glory’s Love To Burn kicked things off pleasantly enough, with Surfer Joe and Moe The Sleaze’s garage rock upping the tempo and Psychedelic Pill’s psymple rock riffs giving the head nodders and toe tappers something to get stuck into. Then came Walk Like A Giant. Like three granite rock statues Young, Talbot and Sampedro gathered in a circle to grrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnnddddddd out minute after minute of noise, driving a small number of the audience out...never to return. Anyone with a reasonable knowledge of Young’s work with Crazy Horse wouldn’t have been surprised by this sonic assault (who can forget the 35 minute album of feedback they released back in the early 90s) but I’m guessing a few people weren’t aware that these dudes can get loud and, hell, let’s say it, wilfully obtuse. After the barmy comes the balm though and as the flag at the back of the stage changed to the Woodstock logo the crowd’s stretched patience was rewarded with the appearance of folk Neil courtesy of Hole In The Sky and Blowin’ In The Wind, sandwiching arguably his greatest moment...Heart of Gold. Now he is indeed “growing old” (unlike when he wrote the song in his twenties) the song’s quiet desperation and fragility is even more moving and tonight’s rendition, just Neil and his harmonica (thankfully we were spared a grunge version), was one of those magical musical moments that any gig goer lives for. Withdrawing to a piano that looked every bit as beaten up as its player the unreleased track Singer Without a Song was perhaps tonight’s best platform for Shakey’s equally tremulous vocal which somehow simultaneously sounds like the voice of someone who’s 16 and 65. It’s almost as moving as Heart Of Gold, although the addition of a young lady wandering across the stage carrying a guitar case did little to enhance the song’s glorious 3am bar at the end of the road mood. Speaking of the demon drink (by the way surely Satan had a hand in the £4 a bottle prices in here tonight...scandalous) new album Psychedelic Pill’s Ramada Inn’s tale of love on the rocks (literally) is rapidly becoming a fan favourite. Deservedly so. Although it clocks in at 15 minutes or so this is one case where length and song gel, the agonising guitar and Young’s pleading “He loves her so” providing a musical kick in the guts that’s all too rare these days. Impressive guitar solos for a dude in his late 60s with an ominously bandaged wrist too.

The treats weren’t over yet though and Cinnamon Girl’s killer riffs (surely a big influence of some of REM’s stuff) and hippy-ish chorus pleased the hairier members of the audience. Clearly Young’s short of material though (joke) given the tiresome extended version of Fuckin’ Up. Getting the crowd to shout “You’re just a fuck up” over and over again (yawn) is the kind of juvenile nonsense you’d expect from N-Dubz. Stop it. Cortez the Killer received an appreciative whoop from the hardcore fans before an impressively meaty Rolling Stones-ish take on Buffolo Springfield’s Mr Soul. Satisfaction pretty much guaranteed. The grunge lovers anthem and Cobain suicide note inspiring Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black) capped off the show with another extended freak out, perhaps justifying some audience members’ grumbles about “too much filler and not enough killer”. But I guess that’s just Neil Young and Crazy Horse being Neil Young and Crazy Horse. You want 3 minute pop songs go see Little Mix (ask your grandchildren). Encore Powderfinger sent both the folkies and the rockers on their way happy, capping off a nearly three hour set that ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous (and all points in between). Young and Crazy Horse certainly don’t play it safe but 45 years into their partnership surely that’s something to be admired? Keep on shocking in the free world dudes...

PS: The vid at the top of this piece is obviously from a previous show but it gives you a decent idea of how things went down last night. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bearwood Shuffle V featuring Moselele, Amelia Wallace. Tempting Rosie, Paul Murphy, Gucci Pimp (& DJ Craig) with compere Gavin Young

Appropriately enough the fifth Bearwood Shuffle saw five great acts take to the Lightwoods’ Park bandstand on a freakily bright and sunny’d almost think it was summertime eh? Moselele kicked things off, an ever growing collective of ukulele players they put their own unique spin on everything from The Killers’ Mr Brightside to The Violent Femmes’ Blister in the Sun. Great fun. Amelia Wallace (does anyone have a link to her website?!) stunned the gently roasting crowd with her own songs and covers including a ‘better than the original’ versh of Alt J’s Matilda (so much lovelier than that bloke with the silly voice...I’m sure he’s a terrific fellow but damn it, he sounds like he’s trapped his nuts in a car door). Tempting Rosie served up another delicious portion of reggae‘n’ska ending their set with the classic Monkey Man which even got me dancing. Not something you’re likely to see very often these days. Expect an essential new EP from them very soon. How do you follow that? In line with the Shuffle’s philosophy of mixing things up the legendary Paul Murphy (possibly one of the nicest and most interesting chaps you’d ever hope to meet) kept me pretty much entranced with a mix of songs and poems including my all time personal favourite Shoplifters Talking Blues. Today’s fascinating fact...did you know that Murph hung around with Lemmy from Motorhead back in the 60s? Nope, me neither. Happily he’s in the process of writing his autobiography (along with several other fascinating projects). Trust me, that’s one book you’re going to want to read. All too soon (tempus fugit) Gucci Pimp rocked things to a close delivering some impressive speaker shredding riffs as the crowd polished off the remains of their picnics. Compere for the day the irrepressible Gavin Young did a top notch job of introducing the bands and DJ Craig (in da park) somehow resisted the temptation of hardcore techno to deliver some suitably summery tunes in between the sets.

Huge thanks to the stallholders, Musoplex for the loan of the sound equipment, all who came along and threw some money in the buckets (including a distinctly chilled out Stuart Maconie from 6 Music’s Radcliffe and Maconie show) and our chums at the best Fish and Chip restaurant in the universe, Chamberlains, who sponsored the event. Without the generous support of all of the above and, of course, then bands themselves these events simply wouldn’t exist. We’ll be back...

PS: The Shuffle got a great mention on the Radcliffe and Maconie show on BBC 6 Music today too! It's on iPlayer right now!

PPS: Photo courtesy of Wayne Fox

Friday, June 07, 2013

It's a sun thing...

Friday again and remarkably the sun seems set to shine pretty much for the whole weekend, which is as good enough a reason as I need to stick up this little beauty from The Violent Femmes. In you're in Brum on Saturday I believe both Tom Peel and Cannon Street are playing at the Custard Factory during the day sometime and, of course, on Sunday there's the Bearwood Shuffle. Whatever you're doing eat, drink and be messy x

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Semi Regular New Music Roundup Thingy

Yes I know, yet another lengthy interval between the last edition and this one. Still absence makes the heart grow fatter or some such nonsense. Turn on, tune in and annoy your neighbours...

Scanners – Control

Patti Smith in an old skool techno club. Boom.

Wolf People – Empty Vessels

Annoyed to have missed Wolf People on tour recently, sadly it clashed with John Grant so I’m afraid there could be only one winner there. Am really liking their prog/rock/folk mix though. 

Habits – Haacksaw

On maaaaaaaaaaaan, this dude sounds like he’s taken sooooo many drugs. In fact I’d be frankly disappointed if he hadn’t. All that brain frying’s been worth it though judging by this postpunktronica beauty. Like Beck’s cooler younger brother.

Taffy – Tumbling

Japanese indie rock? You’re in luck, cop a load of Taffy.  Shades of The Breeders, Elastica and Echobelly in there...yes...Echobelly. Remember them? Oh...just me then.

Kiran Leonard – Dear Lincoln

What is it with young people these days? Far too talented. Here’s another 17 year old genius in the shape of Kiran Leonard. Just listen to this...awesome.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Bearwood Shuffle returns this Sunday!

It’s nearly time for the next Bearwood Shuffle, the latest in a series of outdoor gigs on/in the Lightwoods Park Bandstand, and this time there’s the legendary Mr Paul Murphy (the voice of The Destroyers), the booty shaking Tempting Rosie, the plucking great Moselele and rising singer/songwriter Amelia Wallace. It all kicks off on Sunday June 9th at 2pm and it’s FREE! Hurrah!

Here’s just some of what you can expect:

There are stalls, food, sunshine (yep, even that’s been taken care of) all you need is a picnic blanket and your dancing shoes.


PS: Don’t forget to follow the Shuffle collective on Twitter and / or befriend them on Facebook.   

PPS: Gucci Pimp just added to the line up too! 

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Carnaby Street @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Tuesday 4th June 2013

The nation’s appetite for ‘jukebox musicals’ seems to show no signs of abating (unless you count Viva Forever...but we’ll gloss over that one eh?) and this latest one’s pretty much guaranteed to keep everyone entertained. Yes, we’re in swinging London baby, groovy...far out...shagadelic...etc. for a pretty much non-stop run through some of the era’s biggest hits. Carnaby Street, written by music agent Carl Leighton-Pope (who lived in London in the 60s and worked in legendary venue The Marquee) and directed by Bob Thomson (of Dreamboats and Petticoats and Blood Brothers fame) is pretty much a Now That’s What I Call The Swinging 60s bought to life by an endlessly enthusiastic cast who twist and shout through some of pop’s greatest moments. 

The plot’s a simple one (boy finds fame, ditches his mates then realises the error of his ways) and the script’s as short as the miniskirts worn by most of the cast (including one of the chaps at one point) which leaves time for the bulk of this two hour show to include almost 40 hits songs, everything from DooWah Diddy  through to Born To Be Wild. If there’s one major criticism to be levelled at almost all ‘jukebox musicals’ it’s that they only deliver snippets of songs and the best performances tonight left you craving for the full versions. There were plenty of these moments too. 

Both Verity Rushworth (Penny Lane) and Tricia Adele Turner (Jane) were particularly impressive on pretty much every number, with Tricia turning in a show stealing performance of Anyone Who Had A Heart. 

Paul Hazel camped it up quite brilliantly as Lily The Pink...Son Of A Preacher Man will never be the same again. Channelling his inner Meatloaf Mark Pearce also gave it some real welly as Wild Thing, growling his way through Born To Be Wild and Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood. 

It’s tricky to develop characters with so little dialogue and the male members of the cast, specifically Jack and Jude, had less to play with, emotionally speaking, than the ladies and that perhaps had an impact on believability at times. But let’s face facts here, this ain’t Shakespeare and it never pretends otherwise. 

A cursory trawl through the internet reveals that reviews for this show have been a little mixed so far (then again some critics hate something as blatantly commercial as this almost by default), but you simply couldn't argue with the hundreds of people standing up and clapping along to the final number this evening. What Carnaby Street sets out to do is to deliver a feel good, leave your brain and troubles at home, fun night out for all ages. Does it do this? To borrow the title of one of the night’s bouncier numbers (courtesy of Mr Georgie Fame), Yeh Yeh. Go now...

Carnaby Street's on at The New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 8th June 2013. Tickets here

Monday, June 03, 2013

Brothers of Caedmon @ The Yardbird, Sunday 2nd June 2013

Brothers of Caedmon weren’t the only act on tonight but the other two (a chap called Nick and a group called River Street...who’d apparently only got together a week ago to play at an uncle’s wedding) were both cover bands. I’ve nothing against cover bands really (I know they bring some people out in a rash) but reviewing them just seems a little pointless. For what it’s worth both delivered perfectly competent versions of an impressively diverse range of tracks from Led Zep through to the Pogues from Nick (sorry...didn’t catch his last name) and Buddy Holly to The Specials courtesy of River Street.

Brothers of Caedmon dropped in a couple of covers too but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. A four piece (all around 17 years old) formed just a few months ago and with less than a dozen live shows under their belts they’re already displaying some serious promise thanks to their lively fusion of folk, bluegrass, soul, rock and pop (just got to add dubstep and death metal in there and you've got the full set). Kicking off with the banjo driven Just Go lead singer (and lyricist) Conor’s country tinged vocals added a suitably melancholic tone to the track (sample lyric “Choosing you was my biggest mistake”...hell hath no fury like a songwriter scorned eh?). The folk n’soul of debut single Dragons and a White Nurse, whilst perhaps not yet fully realised, has all the makings of a bone fide hit and closing number This Town, with its Postcard records groove, smoky jazz trumpet and Morrissey-ish mournfulness is a truly fascinating genre shagging beast of a track. What they’ll sound like in a month let alone a year is anyone’s guess. At just 17 Conor already possesses a vocal that somehow aches with a lifetime’s experience though and has to be said...his looks (there’s a touch of James Dean going on there) ain’t going to be a handicap either. Personally I’d lose the cover versions right now though (Coldplay’s Fix You and David Guetta’s Titanium). Trust me, it might be very early days, but already they don’t need ‘em.    

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Goodnight Lenin / Howie Payne @ The Old Rep, Friday 31st May 2013

With their much anticipated debut album still being mixed and just a few festival shows lined up this year (albeit including Glastonbury and Moseley Folk Festival) 2013’s been relatively low key for Goodnight Lenin so far. ‘Low key’ certainly isn’t a phrase you’d apply to tonight’s show though, their first headline appearance since selling out Birmingham Cathedral last December...

First up though Howie Payne, former lead singer of underrated country tinged Liverpudlian combo The Stands. Now solo he’s still pursuing the same musical path, stripped of the rest of the band it’s a simpler affair now, perfectly suited to Payne’s laid back style. 

Pick of the set Some Believer, Sweet Dreamer marries Band Of Gold era Neil Young and to that jauntier Scouse sound of The Coral and Howie’s own former band, whilst the 60’s movie soundtrack feel of Forever In Blue (“I’ll have to get a black polo neck to go with that one” mulled Payne) showed a surprisingly different side. Elsewhere there were hints of the fragile beauty of John Martyn’s best work. A beautifully intimate opening slot from a hidden gem. 
From the first note this evening it’s clear than Goodnight Lenin have been in the gym, musically speaking at least, beefing up their sound and pushing themselves further than they’ve gone before with some impressive (but radically different) new tracks (more on these later). 

Opening number, Ode To Rebellion, is an old favourite but whether it was the venue, the sound guy (kudos to John Nash for doing a cracking job this evening) or those buffed up musical muscles it sounded huge tonight, the combination of John Joe’s edgy fiddle and Sam’s aggressive drumming providing the epic sounding foundations for Liam and John’s trademark twin harmonies. 

This heavier sound, more noticeable on some tracks than others, and a slightly more aggressive style of playing ran through all of the Lenin’s more familiar stuff this evening, with A Cautionary Tale benefitting hugely from having the meaty organ (insert your own Carry On style innuendos here) more prominent in the mix and Edward Colby getting a healthy injection of steroids. Even the slower more reflective stuff sounded phatter (yeah, I’m down wiv da kids) as evidenced on Tell Tale Heart’s mid section, serving up the perfect balance of light and shade beautifully. Some things haven’t changed though and the natural in between song banter (“It’s all scripted really” joked John Joe) produced more chuckles than some stand ups get in their whole careers. Somehow it never interferes with the music though. In fact it’s this lightening of the mood that adds weight to Fell’s more world weary and reflective stuff. The biggest treat of the night though were the new songs. You Were Always Waiting’s late period Beatles meets CSNY...Lenin go Lennon anyone?...could well be one of their best songs to date. Is it just me or could anyone else imagine a huge gospel choir coming in towards the end of this one? Thanks to the band’s habit of rarely introducing the name of the songs I’m guessing the title of the other big newbie, Tiny Moon? Anyway, whatever it was called it sounded like a different band altogether. I scribbled down the words ‘Nights In White Satin on speed’, but I’d had a few ciders by then. It’s the rockiest, most out there track they’ve ever attempted...but it sounded awesome. “We don’t know where that came from” observed John Fell afterwards, neither did most of the audience but I’m guessing they’d like to hear more of it. This could leave the band with a bit of a dilemma. Their much vaunted debut album’s still not appeared and this radical shift in direction might just hold things up further if they decide to bring more of this kind of material in. Hmmmm...tricky. 

It’s a nice problem to have in a way though. Bands that aren’t evolving can tend to have a limited shelf life. Judging by tonight’s show I'm now guessing that their best could still be yet to come...

Photos courtesy of the lovely Mr Wayne Fox. Check out the full set right here, right now...