Monthly Archive: October 2012

Alice Cooper + Ugly Kid Joe + Duff McKagan’s Loaded @Wolverhampton Civic Hall 25th October 2012

Review for Gig Junkies. Pictures: Bianca Barrett.

It’s All Hallows Eve (well nearly), the festival of the dead, and the rock god of shock horror macabre theatrics, Alice Cooper is in Wolves with his annual Hallowe’en Night of Fear tour. Promo says to dress up – so the audience should feature a few outrageous costumes, as there will be cash prizes for the winners!

And in support, kinda bizarrely, we have Duff McKagan’s Loaded and returning 80s Californian rock n’ roll surfers Ugly Kid Joe. Tonight doors at Wolves Civic are opened half and hour earlier to fit in all three acts with decently long sets.

I arrive as Duff McKagan’s Loaded are giving it some, rock wise, so to speak. Loaded are former Gunner and Velvet Revolver axe merchant McKagan, Mike Squires on lead guitar, Jeff Rouse on bass, Isaac Carpenter on drumming duties. Performing energetic punk rock, to a surprisingly full Civic, even though it’s just before 7.30pm. “I thought this was Wolverhampton not fuckin’ Birmingham…” as McKagan encourages a response from the crowd. Final song of the set the GnR classic: ‘It’s So Easy’. It’s got far more bass than the original (as you would expect from the former GnR bassist), it suits Loaded to play this – all full of attitude. “We are from Seattle, we will be back…we are Loaded.” A suitably good response, from a suitably good performance – they’re off after a 40 minute set.

Next up Ugly Kid Joe. They split in ’97 only to re-emerge in 2011. With new EP ‘Stairway to Hell’ released June 2012, they played a few festivals across Europe this year including Download. UKJ are Whitfield Crane on vocals, Klaus Eichstadt and Dave Fortman on guitar, Cordell Crockett on bass and drummer Shannon Larkin.

Now I may have seen then in their previous life – its vague I can’t quite remember. And I have to admit, I’m not quite sure what to expect. As the lights go down- the crowd scream – I’m guessing that’s for the vaguely good looking Crane. He’s dressed as I guess you would expect, in baggy three quarter surfer shorts, t-shirt, knee high socks and baseball cap on back to front.  He does the rock horns, the crowd cheer and give the horns back! He’s already winding them up –  live UKJ are far more rocky and slightly more screamy than their commercial hits and first song is reminiscent of the Crue’s ‘Dr Feelgood.’   Next up, I know the words to this, ‘Neighbourhood’ and I realise that somewhere on my shelves at home, I brought this CD!

Crane’s voice is still on song, ripping and shredding and screaming. He gets the crowd to “woohooo”, as he bows. “It’s real good to be here … how you all feeling? New song at end of set – jump when you see me jump.” After banter, singing away, Crane’s climbing up to the balcony, which is pretty high here at the Civic. He takes photo with someone’s phone – “Put your hands in the air and scream” He’s walking round the balcony (another reviewer here tonight gets to touch him, apparently he’s very sweaty but very muscular!) He walks right round the edge of the balcony; people stand to let him by and he sits on balcony edge of the opposite side to compete the song.

I have to say, I’m suitably surprised, he’s great with the crowd – he has everyone in the palm of his hand – like a maestro conducting an orchestra. “Everybody scream for me…..”  “aaaahhhh….” come the response. “How you doing motherf*****ers? Crane jumps and the audience jump!

Crane: “You guys are awesome…. twenty years… grateful to be standing here…fifteen years since we played here – this one is for everyone here…” And everyone sings along, come on readers you know the words “Cats in the Cradle….” Hands wave from side to side – this is a great feel-good factor gig! Puts a big grin on your face on a cold autumnal evening.

He’s still going – speaks to audience member Peter, “Say hi to Pete” – “Hi Pete” responds the audience. “Walk up towards me five steps – everyone…that’s all of you…I want to see you…. Everybody on the floor jump!” And they do, it’s UKJ’s new song!

Then it’s the final sing of their set – another one to sing along to: “Everything about you.” The last line is spoken on the song, the crowd: “Everything about…..” Crane stops us, and counts us in to the last word – hands in the air – “You!” Wowsers – I have to say, tonight, Ugly Kid Joe, your totally rocked Wolves Civic.

So to a break – and to catch our breath in preparation for Alice’s arrival.

The crowd is quite a mixture – the rockers, a lot of them enjoyed Duff. Then we have peeps of a slightly older age, clearly into Alice in his hey-day. And there is a few younger ones – come to check out the shock horror that is Cooper, and some little people. I’ve always been amazed at the numbers of small kids that frequent Alice Cooper gigs, given that they are, in general, pretty bloodthirsty.

And then we have the ones who have gone to town in fancy dress – from faked up Goth, to blood splattered faces. Oh and a devil. Horns included. And a witch. And a white zombie blood soaked man. Man with creepy baby on shoulder (not a real one I hasten to add).

As we wait for Alice we have the competition for fancy ghoulish dress – several individuals on stage for which the audience vote for by the loudest cheer. The Mad Jester just about defeats the Shining Twins into second place.

And the lights drop; the stage is a backdrop with a canopy where two red eyes beam down onto the crowd below. To ‘The Underture’ we have a curtain of fireworks right across the stage (I bet the Civics’ health & safety team took a sharp intake of breath) and through the veil of fireworks Alice appears, in full garb, red and black-stripped jacket and full war paint.

The set and the band are typically over the top. Alice’s band doesn’t just feature one, or two, but a trio of guitarists – Orianthi, Ryan Roxie and Tommy Henricksen plus bassist Chuck Garric and drummer Glen Sobel, with a kit Tommy Lee would be proud of. (Although they are visually very reminiscent of 80s rock glam rockers Cinderella). Tonight’s set will feature the old and classic, plus songs from his latest album ‘Welcome 2 My Nightmare’ – and a few cover versions.

‘Hello Hurray!’ Alice is pacing the stage, baton in hand, twirling it round and around. Tonight he is the ringmeister. Into ‘House of Fire’ – Alice is master of this genre, he slaps his baton on his legs and he is the one in command. He poses, in classic Alice pose – the crowd cheer.  Jacket off – now he’s ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy.’

And if you were thinking of a title of a song, in true Alice style – next up we have ‘I’ll Bite Your Face Off.’ As you do. Okay we’ve had fireworks, you and your band are truly professional, tight, amazing, your voice is still menacing – where’s the blood? Now I don’t usually ask such a question at a gig, it is indeed, something in general I do not want to see. But this is Alice. I’ve seen you before, ripping heads of teddy bears and guts spewing everywhere; decapitations, guillotines, a 101 ways to kill yourself on stage…..

‘Billion Dollar Babies’ – the trio of guitarists open this track up phenomenally well. Alice is back, studded jacket on. He’s got a sword, stabbed onto it are dollar notes, as he sings he struts the stage, shaking the notes off over the audience. Maybe he’ll stab a guitarist? Decapitate one? Er. No. Clearly tonight’s set is ‘straight’ Alice, less theatrics, not quite as gruesome. In saying that, Vincent Furnier himself, is totally ensconced in being Alice – and it’s a great theatrical performance.

“Hey….Hey…Hey… Hey…” ‘Hey Stoopid’ goes down well. ‘Dirty Diamonds’ he’s chucking diamond necklaces into the audience, and we have a bloody….. erm, drum solo, then the bassist, then the guitarists – clearly a musical interlude for Alice to catch his breath.

Light’s flicker, thunder comes through the speakers, a single spotlight is on Alice. ‘Welcome to my Nightmare’ – he makes Freddie Kruger look soft and cuddly. He scowls his way through the track, two minions appear and tie him into a straight jacket, from which he dutifully escapes by the end of the song. ‘The Man Behind The Mask’: a fake paparazzi cameraman gets escorted off the stage. By Frankenstein

Alice is indeed class. He’s been doing this so long, he knows how to deliver it to exact perfection. And blows all those wannabes off stage. If you’ve not seen him, he’s well worth it, not doubt next Hallowe’en he will rise and appear to scare us once more. I had to leave before the end of the gig (it wasn’t local gig for me, train beckoned), so there may have been more theatrics at the end. It’s Alice and my expectation was for blood, guts and gore, especially at Halowe’en…

But all in all, what a cracking night! Great venue (if you’ve never visited Wolves Civic for a gig before, it is indeed, one of the best live venues in the Midlands). And for 36 nicker, this Halowe’en, Duff got us Loaded, Ugly Kid Joe were a revelation, and as for Alice, you didn’t have to ask him what was the matter. He’d have ‘bitten your face off.’

 

Mike Scott @ Hall 5, ICC, Birmingham, 17 October 2012

A quick dash into Brum, need to get there for 7.30pm – just in time for an appointment with The Waterboy. Mike Scott – a spoken word of readings from his new book ‘Adventure of a Waterboy’ followed by a short acoustic set with fiddler Steve Wickham.

This has been relocated from the Town Hall – we’re in Hall 5 of the ICC, in the far corner of the building, a slightly hidden conference room behind the Symphony Hall. Filled with 100 or so people – it’s comfortable, the room is warm, the tiered seats spacey and padded. It has a cozy feel. Lights go down and on to the stage, dressed in back with accompanying hat, on comes Scott.

The ‘set’ is simple – two red chairs, guitar, and table with water, set on top of a carpet. He stands in front of a mike stand, centre stage, book in hand. “Good evening! And thanks for coming along and choosing to spend the evening with me.”

He starts of with an explanation of how the book is written. He’ll be reading the opening vignettes to each chapter. I’m not going to give any spoilers but as the title suggests it’s his autobiographical journey into music as a young boy, from Scotland to London, a mismatch against the back drop of the New Romantic scene, travels and inspiration in Ireland through the highs and struggles as a Waterboy. He reads in his Celtic lilt – it’s entertaining, enthralling and fun, read with expression, and impersonations of those he met throughout his journey. Anecdotes – he’s a great lyricist so you would expect great writing. The book sounds like it will be a captivating read in its entirety.

The readings go on for an hour, but we’re not bored, we listen intently and laugh out loud.

And then to musical set- Scott, with witty anecdote about their initial meeting introduces his musical brother and sidekick for the rest of the evening, Steve Wickham, to applause from the audience. Wickham joins in the story in his mild Irish accent, and they both take their seats – Scott with guitar, Wickham with his fiddle.

First up is ‘Savage Earth Heart’ a rolling track. The duo is well matched and tight. It’s just like they’re sat there busking, truly enveloped in the music. Scott raises and drops his foot to keep in time, Wickham rambles and rolls on his fiddle.

Scott looks and calls for “side stage man Dave” who has disappeared (never to be seen again). He needs ‘a pop shield for the voice’ – apparently he’s getting electric shocks from the mike stand. “If any one’s seen Dave…. ”

The next track ‘Mad As The Mist And Snow’ continues the rolling, folk theme, the following a musical interlude, Scott swapping his guitar for what looks to be a sitar. “Thanks for being so quite when I’m tuning – it’s different to a rehearsal…’ The audience laughs – indeed it is quiet, nobody talks – we’re comfy and cozy and mesmerized.

‘Bring ‘Em All In’ rolls and rolls, before “Gonna play you two love songs – separately – it’s not a medley!” and beautifully delivered is ‘Man Is In Love’ with Wickham’s exquisite fiddle playing and a clappy Irish jig section.

Scott is beguiling – warm and friendly – we get a tale of how, as folk songs travel through time, something goes wrong with the words, that noticed that words just don’t make sense anymore. For example a song that espouses love for a person, and then promptly adds a line – so “if you leave I’ll look for another.” So next up, with lyrics “re-tooled to make more sense” it’s ‘Low Down The Broon.’

As Scott tunes his guitar, he tells the tale from a few days ago. They were performing in Basingstoke and spent night in Newbury. They passed the village co-incidentally called Wickham. And a sign: Wickham please drive carefully. A photo op called – Scott and Wickham (the fiddler) carefully moved the car so it looked like it has crashed into the sign. A snapshot of car, plus sign plus fiddly in middle of road was posted on Scott’s twitter feed. And then to the twist, they’d carefully backed the car into a ditch and were stuck! After many attempts to extract it with the aid of the locals, it was a passing bunch of cyclists that managed to set them free. Even a conversation Wickham had with the AA was entertaining – ‘You’re called Wickham – and you’re struck in… Wickham?” Even one of the aiding cyclists asked, “Are you Irish?” (You can check out this story plus pics on Scott’s twitter feed @mickpuck)

And as if it couldn’t get better next song up – ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ – stripped down, it’s just awesome. A standing ovation and chants of “more” they’re back on to huge cheer.

“The Pan Within” is stunning – close your eyes, the music just melts you away; watch the stage – Wickham on his fiddle is fascinatingly mesmerizing, Scott enthralling in his commitment and passion. This is intimate – I’m dreaming that I’m sure I’m actually sitting cozily in my front room and they’re actually playing there…

“Last night of this short book tour – had a great time just two of us –  just the two if us driving around together…Going back to Dublin tomorrow… ” Scott tunes guitar again, “One more song for ya…”

A goodbye and safe journey – the lyrics say it all “This is wide world we travel… When we too may meet again….” and hope that the angels carry us safely home. A tiny alarm clock going off on stage – Wickham pops and switches it off mid song – clearly time to say goodbye, and to give time for a book signing after this performance.

And a safe journey to you both too. Thanks. It’s been enthralling, a wonderful and unusual night out. Come and play like this in our front room again soon.

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Mike Scott’s memoirs ‘Adventure of a Waterboy’ is on sale now.

Pictures from the ‘Wickham incident’ in Mike Scott’s twitter: @mikepuck