Monthly Archive: October 2013

Alison Moyet + Alex Cornish @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham, 28 October 2013.

I mentioned to someone the other day I was reviewing a singer who started off in a band called Yazoo. They thought I meant Yazz (as in ‘The Only Way Is Up’) #fail. So to explain to this person, read on because tonight, in the delectable Symphony Hall, we here to be entertained by the iconic and beautiful bluesy dulcet tones of Alison Moyet.

To explain (especially to that person!) Alison Moyet was one half of the legendary Yazoo, the duo forming after Vince Clarke walked from a little know band called Depeche Mode after just one album. Moyet was just 21 when she gained the dizzying success with Yazoo – a band who became legends in their own right, albeit all far too short-lived – and went on to release her first triple platinum solo album ‘Alf’ at just 23. Throughout the 80‘s she was one of the biggest female solo stars in the UK and gained awards and plaudits including a Grammy Nominations and inspired a soulful generation. Latterly she’s continued to record, acted, took to the West End stage in Chicago and toured in 2008 with a reformed Yazoo. Tonight is the old and the new although primarily she’s in town with new 2013 album ‘The Minutes’ which we are told touches on the synth pop of her days in Yazoo, with elements of RnB, modern club and electronic experimentation. So she’s circled back to her roots, back to where it all began…

Support tonight comes from singer songwriter Alex Cornish. He’s a classically trained multi-instrumentalist from Dunbar in Scotland who makes and records his music at home. He takes to the stage introducing himself as the “…warm up for Alison Moyet – no pressure then!” As a sing songwriter his music tells tales, his first track he plays keyboards; the set drenched in dry ice. He’s recorded and self-released three albums (and is ‘still not famous’) but if you’d like to buy them you can buy all 3 for £15 tonight (a quip that the audience don’t seem impressed and that maybe he needs to change his pricing for Birmingham!). And he’s running out of copies, to inspire the audience to rush across and buy them.  In between his soulful songs he’s chatty, funny and engaging. Apparently something to do with the XFactor is going on in Brum today – he’s seen a small boy with guitar – and really felt he needed to rush up to him and say – you don’t need to impress Simon Cowell to be a successful musician! ‘Give Me Time’ is dedicated to this young boy. Cornish has been tipped by Radio 2, BBC6 Music, The Times and many more and he’s currently recording his new album – he’s well worth a listen and you can find out lots more including tracks to download for free on his website: www.alexcornish.com

And so to the main act Alison Moyet. The stage is drenched with dry ice again; her two musicians take to the stage, behind their keyboards and here is Moyet, dressed in trademark black. First track up is ‘Horizontal Flame’, a great dance track, to which she receives rapturous applause. “Thank you so much… first time back to an electronic palette in nearly 30 years…” She explains tonight set will be made up of new tracks from her new album and some old stuff (which gets a bigger cheer). “Please don’t sound so happy…” in reference to the older tracks and the audience responds by cheering mentions of the new stuff rather than old. But next track is indeed an oldie, Yazoo’s ‘Nobody’s Diary’, written when she was just 16. The track is great, remixed and more upbeat, Moyet’s bluesy voice still reaches the levels exactly where you would expect it to reach.

‘When I Was Your Girl’ is the recent single; it’s funky, dance and powerful.  In 2013 Moyet is entirely comfortable and confident in herself and is hugely chatty and engaging. She makes the audience laugh; for the next track she had to restart this three times the previous night as she kept forgetting the lyrics; “…it’s hard to remember…” she jokes, “…see you on the dark side.” And we’re into ‘Remind Yourself’, another dance track. This is probably the most commercial Moyet has been in years (and no where near in a bad way). Old track ‘Is This Love’ receives a huge cheer as the audience recognizes it. As she sings, it sends the hackles up on the back of your neck, it may be remixed but it’s more haunting and melodic than the original.

Punters shout for songs: “Request for songs?” she says, “I got a list!” holding up the setlist to the audience as we laugh. “I shall not be taking requests…. I can’t hear what you are saying, but I hope it’s nice….” The mood in the auditorium is upbeat, everyone thoroughly enjoying the gig – we’re all mesmerized by Moyet, not only in her vocals but in the whole performance. ‘Filigree’ a new song, has all those elements of the early days of Yazoo – it’s almost like Vince Clarke had walked on set. ‘A Place to Stay’ is another moody, mesmerizing, powerful yet emotional track, fitting her vocals beautifully.

“You know this one, it’s been covered so many times and I’m in danger of becoming a tribute act! I don’t want to become a cheap karaoke!” It may be remixed and developed and reconstructed but is still totally recognisable – it’s the stunningly redelivered ‘Only You.’ ‘Apple Kisses’ has a blues meets electronica; it’s sexy and alluring as Moyet purrs her way through the track. ‘Changeling’ is a full on dance track. Stuff people like Adele doing Bond themes – peoples working on the next film – give this woman a call!

‘This House’ once again, the hairs on the back of our necks are standing up. ‘All Signs of Life’ – she asks the audience a question, to which she doesn’t expect a huge response: “Is there any long distance cyclists out there?” To which the response was indeed muted. “…well if there is anyone out there you may see yourself in this song… this song is about… long distance cyclists!” It’s a full on dance track. If this is Moyet celebrating her middle age, then all the ladies in the audience definitely want whatever she’s on. ‘Right as Rain’ is a saucy little number, Moyet purrs through it as sexily as anyone. And we get her first single from ’83, ‘Love Resurrection’ stunningly delivered to a huge cheer. People are up on their feet now – the audience thoroughly enjoying Moyet’s set, clapping along as she delivers us yet ANOTHER stunning rendition in the form of Yazoo classic ‘Situation’, delivered with all the Clarke inspiration, yet remixed with a funky beat.

Quick break for encore, returning to a cheer that raises the Symphony Hall roof, we get ‘Whispering Your Name’, which is truly captivating. “You’ll get three songs, then we’ll finish and you’ll leave… I’m telling you this so you don’t hurt my feelings…” Moyet is, as ever, straightforward and to the point. Yellow beams shoot up from the stage, and we get a dancified version of ‘All Cried Out’; Moyet still has the range, immaculately delivered. And to complete another Yazoo classic, as we dance on our feet, it’s something none of us want to do, it’s ‘Don’t Go’ as we recognise Clarke’s synth beat. She stops the song; so engrossed with dancing and being over excited, she forgot to sing! The crowd cheer. “Pretend I didn’t do that…” she jokes. The crowd cheer, before it all restarts and we dance. “You have been tremendous… thank you.”

Wow. I am so lucky; I get to review so many gigs. The good, the not so good and the frankly not very good at all and then sometimes, you get to see a standout. An event that sticks out as, quite frankly, stunning. Alison Moyet’s gig tonight was exactly that. In a great venue, the whole package, from the band to Moyet’s vocals and hugely chatty and entertaining delivery – this for me, has got to be the gig of 2013. If this is Alison Moyet’s mid life crisis / celebration – well it’s a hell of a one and one she is clearly enjoying. You go girl! And long may it continue. And if you want me to recommend if you should see Alison Moyet on this tour: Go. Run out. Right now. Get tickets. Ms Moyet is NOT to be missed.

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Setlist:

  1. Horizontal Flame
  2. Nobody’s Diary (Yazoo)
  3. When I was Your Girl
  4. Ordinary Girl
  5. Remind Yourself
  6. Is This Love
  7. Filigree
  8. Falling
  9. A Place to Stay
  10. Only You (Yazoo)
  11. Apple Kisses
  12. Changeling
  13. This House
  14. All Signs of Life
  15. Right as Rain
  16. Love Resurrection
  17. Situation (Yazoo)

Encore:

  1. Whispering Your Name
  2. All Cried Out
  3. Don’t Go (Yazoo)

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Listening:

Yazoo

Upstairs at Erics [1982]

You and Me both [1983]

Solo:

Alf [1984]

Raindancing [1987]

The Minutes [2013]

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Review for Gig Junkies. Pictures Wayne Fox.

Travis + Thomas J. Speight @ O2 Academy Birmingham, 26 October 2013.

On a wet and windy night in Brum we feel that we really should be chilling out in meadows in a festival field on a summer’s day, as the uplifting and charismatic Travis make a return. Instead we hum the lyrics to one of their biggest hits as we make our windswept way to the O2 Academy – why indeed does it always rain on me?

It has been a while. Travis have been off doing family things, hanging out with their kids and taking a break, never splitting (although the muso press may like to speculate). Formed in Glasgow in ’90, a late star of Britpop and very possibly the leading inspirational light for (the recently split or not as the case may be) Keane and more the commercially recognisable Coldplay. Travis are still Fran Healey (vocals), Dougie Payne (bass), Andy Dunlop (guitar) and Neil Primrose (drums). It was the late 90’s that brought the album ‘The Man Who’ (including that rain song), huge success, massive world tours and the plaudits and awards, as did the follow-up ‘The Invisible Band’.  BRITS, Ivor Novellos, Q Awards and then some followed. Success was slightly curtailed in the early noughties by a dreadful near death incident where Primrose broke his neck in a swimming pool accident. Primrose thankfully fully recovered and Travis went on to record and tour before their ‘family’ break. Now to 2013, after a five year break, they are back on tour with new album in tow – ‘Where You Stand.’

Support tonight is from a Thomas J Speight. Expecting a man with guitar, we’re wrong – there’s him with a band and accompanying female vocalist. They / he are light but enjoyable, harmonised folk vocals. They fit the bill well: the gathering audience clapping, they are going down well. “Thank you for being so awesome so far – only second gig in Birmingham…” Lots of people talking as Speight takes request for an audience member in a long distance relationship, so for Terry, we get their song about such a situation. With T’s and CDs for sale and an appreciative audience (and an support from Sir Paul McCartney as one to watch) summer festivals clearly beckon in 2014.

Quick interlude as the kit is swapped and on to a blackened set and accompanying strumming guitar, the lads from Travis appear on stage, Healey akin in trademark hat. First track ‘Mother’ goes down well as a guitar-laden Healey bops around the Stage. The set is streamed with red light and we get the uplifting a boppy ‘Selfish Jean.’

Healey is chatty, affable and entertaining: “Hi everyone, how you doing? It’s great to be back – thanks for coming tonight to see a very small man sweating a lot – I’ve got very large sweat glands!!! So great to be back…” Big cheer from the crowd.  “Kids are best song you’ll ever write about…” “aaaah…” go the females in the audience as Healey relates his latest inspirational musical subject matter. Tonight they’ll be playing old songs and the new.  ‘Morning’ has the infectious rising chant of “on and on and on and on….” Travis are indeed still quality, truly professional energetic and really rather fun.

Quite a few audience members have been clearly participating in the falling down water, there’s one or two dad-dancing or staggering around, their feet not quite doing what is required. Healey gets everyone to put their hands up, wave them side to side, “tick tock, like a metronome” and everybody does as we go into ‘Love Will Come Through’ which all too sweetly rolls. Travis are clearly enjoying being back on the road, big smiles across all the lads faces, as we’re into ‘Driftwood’ and we all sing along.

They played London recently (the partisan Brum crowd boo). Healey comments on the ‘need’ for people to take video be it by smartphones or even iPads etc. He doesn’t care if the band is being filmed (he genuinely really doesn’t mind) but he does point out the bleedin’ obvious to which any gig-goer will agree. Those behind those filming can’t see the stage. “Remember – ask the person behind if it’s okay. And they’ll say no.” The comment gets a big cheer from the crowd.

For ‘Where You Stand’, Healey’s off the stage, he’s standing on the barrier singing over the crowd. “The security guard was like …bleurgh…” he quips. ‘My Eyes’ was written when he found out he was gonna be a dad. ‘Reminder’ is a song for his seven year old; if for some inexplicable reason, he wasn’t around, this song is a list of instructions. It’s the hits get the biggest cheers as we sing along to ‘Side’ “That the grass is always greener on the other side, the neighbour’s got a new car that you wanna drive…” “ And we “sing, sing, sing, siiiinnnnggg…..” along to ‘Sing.’ Healey engages with the crowd throughout; he’s a surprisingly good showman.

‘Blue Flashing Light’, with a lighting display surprising of blue flashing lights is probably the heaviest track of the night, followed by last of this part of the set: ‘Turn.’ And for the encore we get a few more tracks and a final reminder of what we can expect when we leave the venue: “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?”

Travis are fun. And talented. And professional. Coldplay will charge you 70 nicker in an arena or stadium. But you couldn’t do far better than to pay a little over £20 to see Travis in a small venue. Travis are a band that well, just makes you want to smile. Indie pop sugar pop happy days. And they’re still on form. So we leave smiling. And singing. And as we leave and get wet once again, we’re humming their song again…

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Setlist:

  1. Mother
  2. Selfish Jean
  3. Pipe Dreams
  4. Morning
  5. Love Will Come Through
  6. Driftwood
  7. Warning Sign
  8. Re-offender
  9. Where You Stand
  10. My Eyes
  11. Reminder
  12. Writing to Reach You
  13. Side
  14. Closer
  15. Sing
  16. Slide Show
  17. Blue Flashing Light
  18. Turn

Encore:

  1. Good Feeling
  2. Flowers in the Window
  3. All I Want to Do is Rock
  4. Why Does It Always Rain On Me?

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Listening:

The Man Who [1999]

The Invisible Band [2001]

Where You stand [2013]

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Review for Gig Junkies. Pictures: Ian Dunn.

Public Image Ltd + The Selector + Erica Nockalls @ 02 Academy Birmingham, 20th October 2013

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 15.56.32Tonight’s gig is most definitely something old, something new, nothing borrowed, something blue. The shiny and new is Erica Nockalls, something old (as in historic) are Coventry’s 2Toners The Selector and the entirely relevant and slightly blue legendary John Lydon and his band of brothers – aka Public Image Ltd.

We arrive pretty early, before 7pm, and there’s already a queue. Security come out, doors open. Then doors close and security go back in. Okay – what be going on here? 7.15 the queue is growing and we’re still waiting. A quick chat with a security guy who’s ventured out and we discover that sound checks are still ongoing. Five minutes later the doors finally open and we queue to go in. Bizarrely paying punters with tickets in hand appear to be outnumbered by those on the guestlist – Nockalls (and her other half Miles Hunt) have been offering up guestlist places like there’s no tomorrow and The Selector too have a group of people in tow.

As we enter the main 02 Academy at 7.25pm, Erica Nockalls is on stage, akin in leather and pink tutu. “Thanks for having us….” The venue is pretty sparse and usually absolutely freezing cold, as she sets off her rock-punk set. I saw her at the Hare and Hounds recently – she is different and pretty good. Nockalls graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire after which, she’s spent the last eight years being the fiddly with The Wonder Stuff. And she’s worked with The Proclaimers and recently toured with Fink.  “This is my own band – I’ve played on this stage a number of times… let’s see how much trouble I can get in on my own.” An appreciative Hunt is at the sound desk; his tousled head bopping up and down.  Her debut album ‘Imminent Room’ is out now. In her own words “I hadn’t been able to find any good new music to listen to, so I thought I’d invent some of my own”.  The sound check issues are showing, unfortunately the sound isn’t good, way too loud to get a true reflection of Nockalls’ ability.

The Academy is still pretty empty as on come the 2Tone ska band from Coventry – The Selector. Formed late 70s, they’d split by ’83 with singer Pauline Black leading a reformed version for 15 years from ’91.  Confusion over differing versions of the band – a legal challenge ensued and Black’s official line up tonight now be the official version of The Selector. A big cheer comes from the audience and they start to bounce along to the self- titled ‘The Selector.’ The band are energetic and enjoyable; “get on the ‘Train to Skaville’” ‘James Bond’ all skaed up with their Licence to Kill. ‘On My Radio’ we all sing and bounce and the set finishes with ‘Too Much Pressure.’ It’ll be 35 years since The Selector started out next year – you can catch them on tour in 2014 and back at here at the Academy on March 13th.

Even though we had the earlier delay, the bands on stage timings are now back on track, though bizarrely, and I really don’t understand why, the crowd is pretty sparse. If you take away the long list of people who collared a guestlist entrance I suspect this gig was lucky not to be downgraded to the Academy2 – there must be between 500-800 people here. I didn’t expect a sold out gig – but I expected far more than this.

Formed in 1978, Lydon remains the only sole consistent member of PiL. Their musical sound covers a diverse experimental range of sounds; from screaming chants and bile ridden attacks of ‘Public Image’ and ‘This is Not a Love Song’ through the ‘rise’ of their 1986 release – classically and simply marketed as ‘Album’, ‘Cassette’ and ‘Compact Disc’ – mixed with the trademark Lydon sneer and haunting, rising melodies. In ’92, PiL were officially in hiatus, Lydon occasionally appearing with the reformed Sex Pistols, and in a brilliant turn on “I’m a Celebrity…..” a total polar opposite of what one would expect, but no parody – maybe two fingers to the reality TV  genre, they clearly signed him because of his unpredictability. Far more astute than that, he walked, but we all knew he would have won, hands down. To quote a comment from the time on the PiL website “He also brings quality TV to the masses”. Too right.  Lydon’s ability to do the polar opposite of what people would expect of him, took him to ‘Country Life Butter’ adverts and gave him the financial ability to go back to his true love; to reform and tour PiL in late 2009. Since then they’ve gone from strength to strength, playing the US and European festivals. In 2011, PiL were awarded the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Music’ at the Mojo Honours list. On 28th May 2012, on their own self funded label, PiL Official Ltd, they released their first studio album in 20 years – ‘This is PiL’ to critical acclaim. Track ‘Under the House’ featured in the Olympic 2012 Opening Ceremony and earlier this week Lydon received the prestigious BMI Icon Award for songwriters – recognising his work with the Sex Pistols and PiL and impact he’s had on social culture:

“It couldn’t be more appropriate and timely, really, considering the body of work I’ve just had to go through and endure to get my Public Image back up again, form our own label and be completely free and independent of the large corporations. This is very, very timely for me. And I think, you know, what took you so long? [laughter]” – John Lydon, BMI Q&A

For Lydon PiL is serious. It’s about their music. Delivered immaculately. This is not about John Lydon misbehaving, spitting venom and winding the crowd up.  Bang on 9pm, the venue is darkened and a single light shines of the PiL logo fixed to netting at the back of the stage. Lydon greets us with ‘Good evening….’ and we’re off. ‘Deeper Water’ is off the new album – this is a song that rolls and licks with Lydon’s vocals as he yowls and purrs. No words between songs and we’re into ‘Albatross.’

“ ‘ello Brum. Are you ready?” The crowd heckle; it’s part of the crack at any PiL gig and we’re into ‘This is Not a Love Song’, still snarly and irreverent, but all funked up.  “Are you there? Are you ready?’” comes the snarl. The technical sound difficulties continue, the band still play on; Lydon “I can hear f**k all… just f**king disortion…” It’s not getting sorted. “Carry on playing…” and the band duly do. “I’m getting a real problem here…” To the crowd: “Now it’ not Johnny throwing a diva…. I aint got no tits….” and slowly, from his side the sound is rectified but not to the audience. The balance is out, Lydon sounds like he’s singing in an enormous tin can – it’s difficult to hear the rhythms within the songs.

“This is what you want…. This is what you get…. This is what you want… this is what you get….” Lydon chants leading into ‘The Body.’ To crowd applause and wolf whistles. “And the crowd went wild…” he quips. The mighty ‘Warrior’ rolls on next – many of the songs are longer editions they are not just three minute; at least 10 each.

A break between songs, as Lydon speaks to the drummer – the crowd start chanting “You fat bas***d…” A classic Lydon retort; “Where’s your f***ing manners? – Can’t you see we’re having a chat…” and we get ‘Death Disco’. The set is completed by new track ‘One Drop’ and Lydon plays to the crowd as they exit stage right.

Back on “You all be tired… you must have run the marathon. Who won? I was there in mind, spirit and complete f***ing drunken laziness…” And we get the in your face ‘Public Image’ which receives a huge cheer before the class act that is ‘Rise’. The sound by now is excruciatingly loud and distorted. “It’s good when they put the lights on you… my god you’re ugly… but not as ugly as me…” Then get down and dance as we get PiL doing the Lydon/Leftfield dance/ trance classic ‘Open Up…’

“Thank you Birmingham – for putting up with us…”  Lydon is totally and completely sincere in his comment.

I’ve seen PiL before. They are indeed a stunning and awesome sight. Unfortunately tonight, the venue that let them down, the sound balance was mostly terrible. A great show, but we didn’t hear PiL in their true glorious colours.

Lydon has been accused of becoming almost becoming a cartoon character of his punk and eccentric image. But what he is, is far more. More than just a national treasure, he provides a masterclass in longevity, charisma and that chameleon approach to being open to create and vocalise, logic and create music in a truly different and unique approach. Fiercely articulate and intelligent, he is far more than just the obnoxious lead singer of a punk band that may have changed the world thirty odd years ago – PiL over the years have created a series of foot stomping classics, utilizing rock, dance, folk, ballet, pop and dub.

Lydon was key to changing the world of music. He truly deserves all the accolades chucked at him and you know really, he’s rather chuffed, regardless of his irreverent demeanor.  He helped to give a multitude of musicians the opportunity to create music for the masses that just wouldn’t have been thought possible to achieve. PiL are entirely a class act – and for all who have been inspired by the opportunity to create alternative music, then surely the opportunity to see one of the most eclectic and revolutionary artists of recent times, on form, is a must.  PiL will be back – hopefully at a venue that will do them for better justice. Get the opportunity, a must go and see.

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PiL Setlist;

1. Deeper Water

2. Albatross

3. This is Not A Love Song

4. Pop Tones

5. Careering

[This is what you want]

6. The Body

[This is what you want]

7. Warrior

8. Reggae Song

9. Death Disco

10. Out of the Woods

11. One Drop

Encore:

12. Public Image

13. Rise

14. Open Up

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Listening [PiL]:

Lydon’s response to which of his recordings to listen to:

“I would recommend you see us live and hear what this is truly about, and from there on in you can make your own decisions. For me it’s always been about live performance. That’s the be-all and end-all of it really. That’s the ultimate release.” John Lydon, BMI Q&A

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Review for Gig Junkies; Photos: Ken Harrison.

Tony Hadley @ Symphony Hall Birmingham, 15th October 2013

Tonight in the exquisite Symphony Hall we are here for a ‘different’ and rare concert performance by one of the New Romantic stars of the 80s accompanied by the Southbank Sinfonia Orchestra conducted by Anne Dudley (former core member of The Art of Noise, composer and pop musician). In his very suave crooning style, in one of only three concerts across the UK, tonight ladies and gentlemen Tony Hadley will be performing the hits of Spandau Ballet.

Spandau Ballet formed in the late 70‘s, aligning themselves as part of the New Romantic movement along with the likes of local boys Duran Duran (who bizarrely started off life quite literally a stones throw away in the Rum Rummer (around where the Australian Bar is now on Broad Street). Early 80’s and with MTV in full video flow, Spandau like Duran, found themselves very much the girls’ favourite, with hits like ‘True’ and involvement in the Band Aid single and Live Aid taking them to global mega-stardom. As with many bands of the time, their star shone hugely brightly, albeit briefly and by ’89, after hiatus, a split as the Kemp brothers morphed into the Krays and disappeared into the acting world. Hadley continued, going solo, before in the late noughties it was tour reformation time for Spandau. Hadley’s currently in the studio, recording his next solo effort (which is taking some time), the release date initially due this year, is now looking at spring of 2014. So tonight’s performance is indeed a rare outing for Hadley.

Tonight will be a two-part set. Bang on 7.45pm on come the Orchestra, taking their seats. Then an announcement “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome on stage…. Anne Dudley”, followed by rapturous applause, as Hadley appears suited and booted in a shiny designer suit.

First up we get ‘New York Minute’; the balance isn’t quite there his voice is a little overpowering in accompaniment to the Orchestra. The track rolls on and on, the sound levels out, his voice is still pretty powerful. Hadley: “Good evening and thank you.” Second song – oh risky – this is Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’ – which for me, doesn’t quite work, Hadley’s vocals missing the beat. He explains that this [performance] is very different – the first set is what he wants to do, it is the second set that will be the Spandau classics. On to next track, a cover of The Killers  ‘Somebody Told Me.’ He’s chatty and affable, clearly happy to be out performing and references memories of the old Ronnie Scott’s on Broad Street several times as clearly one of his favourite venues (it’s now a lap-dancing club). Couple of his new songs fit his vocals far better; ‘Heroes and Lovers’ and ‘The Dice’, which he dedicates to his daughter Zara, who is here tonight. The audience listens intently and follows each song with polite applause. “Oh you can hear a pin drop in here…used to do this in Ronnie’s…” as he goes into next track ‘Time in a Bottle.’

The audience seem a tad confused by this set, it is indeed quite an ‘old’ set; it certainly makes me feel a lot older than my years. “This set is different for us and different for us… I did this song with Elvis Presley’s Band in Hyde Park, met Tom Jones – he knows everyone…” Expecting a Presley, or even Tom Jones classic, we get Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water.’

A brief intermission, then to the main set of Spandau classics. We discussed during the interval as to whether, given Hadley was here with an Orchestra, he would attempt early Spandau tracks. This is swiftly answered with the first track: ‘To Cut A Long Story Short.’ The odd person stands and dances, big cheer after the song. Next track featuring the line “…she used to be a diplomat but now she’s down the laundromat…” that’ll be ‘Highly Strung’. I guess with Spandau, it depends which era of their music you like – the more naive, cruder early stuff or the later glossy, shiny hits. For me, in this set, it is the older tracks and ones that Hadley has least performed that are delivered the best; Dudley clearly has got her hands on just how the Orchestra should deliver such tracks. A song Hadley refused to do when Spandau reformed “… all loin clothes and Robin Hood outfits…”, ‘Musclebound’ has a cheeky spring in its step. A track from the first album never performed before, ‘Toys’, also has the magic of Dudley. ‘Chant No 1.’ has a good rhythmic beat and people start to boogey. The classic ‘True’, a single that went to Number 1 in 21 countries (“..we’d have probably been dropped by the label if this hadn’t happened…”) gets the audience waving their arms from side to side (given that waving lighters are a thing of the past) and receives loud applause and wolf whistles. Hadley speaks to audience members as they start to shout, “We love you Tony!” “I love you too…” comes the reply. He looks up to see girls waving from the top balcony – “Oh ‘ello – didn’t see you up there! Don’t jump…” he quips, as he goes into the aptly titled ‘I’ll Fly For You.’ And to complete the set – the classic and for Spandau pure, ‘Gold.’

Back on for an encore: “Everyone’s worked really hard here…” as he thanks the band, management, audience and anyone else he can think of. “Hope you enjoyed it.” And we’re into the final track of the night, which is, rather bizarrely ‘Fight for Ourselves.’

So thoughts on tonight’s performance. I can’t say I was a massive Spandau Ballet fan, but in the day, the bands of New Romantica for a teenage female audience, guys like Hadley achieved god-like adoration. There were clearly those here tonight that were part of that experience and can still relate to and love Hadley. I think, with Anne Dudley and the Orchestra in tow, I expected to see more of Dudley’s flourish over everything, not just ‘different’, more radical. The first set, being a confusing mixture, it was Hadley’s own tracks that suited him and the Orchestra the best; I really wasn’t sure on the covers. The second set far was better, for me – ‘Musclebound’ the stand out. While the Orchestra performed well, their accompaniment clearly suited the Spandau ballads and on the whole Hadley’s vocals delivered as expected – for me it all seemed a tad safe.

Fair play to Hadley for coming out and performing. For him, this was something different. His new solo outing should appear in spring 2014 – only time will tell if this is another true bit of gold…

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Spandau Setlist:

  1. To Cut A Long Story Short
  2. Highly Strung
  3. Only When You Leave
  4. Musclebound
  5. Round and Round
  6. I’ll Fly For You
  7. True
  8. Through the Barricades
  9. Toys
  10. Chant No. 1 (Don’t Need This Pressure On)
  11. Lifeline
  12. Gold

Encore:

  1. Fight for Ourselves

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Review for Gig Junkies; pictures: Ken Harrison.

New Model Army on the march with new album ‘Between Dog and Wolf’ and UK Tour

NMA_Between_Dog_And_WolfThe Cromwellian Army is once again on the march. Never to be put down New Model Army have a brand new album out ‘Between Dog and Wolf’.  Self-produced and finished earlier in the year in Los Angeles with Joe Barresi mixing (Soundgarden, Queens of the Stone Age, Tool), this album is filled with multi-layered tracks and atmosphere but looses none of Model Army’s passion. It is also the first to feature 26-year-old new bass player and multi instrumentalist Ceri Monger. A full-length film documentary on the history of the band is being finished to coincide with its release.

Formed way back in 1645  [er no sorry that’s the actual New Model Army] 1980 in Bradford, Yorkshire they released their first album in ‘Vengeance’ in ‘84.  Led by Justin Sullivan, NMA have attracted a loyal following over the years, and as a band, have always been overtly political, never fearful of being confrontational. Single ‘ No Rest’ made the top 40 in ’85; the band appeared on Top of the Pops wearing T’s with the statement ‘Only Stupid Bastards Take Heroin’. 1989 album ‘Thunder and Consolation’ was their landmark album and their most commercial – reaching the Top 20 in UK charts.

NMA have never chosen the easy route, sticking to their guns and principals throughout.  The journey has never been easy for the band throughout their history either. Lineup changes, personal tragedies are all part of the band’s history. Even since the late noughties, difficulties have caused them angst. The loss of their manager, Tommy Tee suddenly in 2008, with the band since they started out, was a major shock. In 2011, long time member Nelson left the band amicably after 22 years – days after his final gig, fire destroyed NMA’s studio, equipment and archive material – though they managed to save some touring equipment. Within 3 months they were back up and running, with new bassist Ceri Monger in the fold. After his first gig, the NMA’s van got robbed, most of the guitars and other items were stolen. Kit was borrowed from family and friends and they got through the festival season.

Nothing but resilient, NMA flatly refuse to go away. New album ‘Between Dog and Wolf” remains entirely true to their political souls, starting of with the thumping and brooding ‘Horsemen’ and ending in the same vein with ‘Ghosts’. The album brings NMA back to their best – multi-layered but retaining that simple NMA trademark signature, there’s anger, rhetoric, beautiful with an undercurrent of sinister atmosphere, observational yet in your face, with the band’s passion and tubthumping beats. ‘Did You Make it Safe?’ and ‘Between Dog and Wolf’ both have infectious chants and rising crescendos.  ‘Stormclouds’ with its guitar riffs rises – “bring it on” indeed – live these tracks will continue NMA in the powerful vein The Family know. Another landmark for NMA.

If you liked ‘Vagabonds’ and the ‘Green and Grey’ you’ll love this. If you like the Levellers, and somehow you missed out on New Model Army (who led the way) – you really need to take a peep of one hell of a treat. They’re at The Robin II in Bilston on 17 November 2013; tickets £20 in advance.

Extensive tour of Europe beckons from October – check out UK dates in November and December 2013 – for full listings visit their website: newmodelarmy.org