Tag Archive: Birmingham

Peter Gabriel + Jenny & Linnea @ LG Arena, Birmingham, 28 November 2014

Tonight to the last time for this particular Gig Junkies team at the LG Arena before it morphs into the Genting Arena. We’re here to see a performer who founded one of the biggest bands in rock history way back in 1967, who became prog rock legends. Just seven years in he left, they went on to sell over 140 million records – but he didn’t do too bad, businessman, singer-songwriter, record producer, humanitarian activist, and a solo performer in his own right – tonight he’ll be performing his classic,  most commercial and ridiculously successful 1986 album in it’s entirety – welcome tonight Mr. Peter Gabriel, performing “Back to Front’ including ‘So’ in it’s entirety.
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When Genesis started out in the late 60’s early 70’s they were different, prog rock, bizarre costumes and art. Internal frictions amongst other reasons meant in the mid 70’s Gabriel walked – paving the way for drummer Phil Collins to take up the vocal mantel and the commercial success the other members went on to have as Genesis, solo artists and supergroups is legendary. Meanwhile Gabriel stuck to his creative roots issuing his own unique solo albums. Then came ‘So’. To put in context just how successful this album went fivefold platinum in the states, triple platinum the UK, spawning five singles and a Grammy nomination. Single ‘Sledgehammer’ with the iconic plasticine animation, reached #1 in the US Billboard charts and won a record ten MTV awards. It is still the most played music video ever on MTV.

But commerciality isn’t, and never has been, what Peter Gabriel is about. It’s concept, music, journey, detail, art, performance. Tonight we will be treated to yes, ‘So.’ in it’s entirety – but also other songs in an entirely different manner.

First up at 8pm we have two ladies on stage, who will both be part of Gabriel’s band later in the evening, Jennie Abrahamson and Linnea Olsson; Abrahamson being accompanied by Olsson on cello.  Abrahamson is from Sweden, a place known for breeding bands and artists in the line of “northern melancholy”; she’s only  kept a slight tint of that moodiness in her richly coloured and playful pop tunes. Critics have called her a “younger, more accessible Kate Bush”.

And then – slightly earlier than planned – Peter Gabriel takes to the stage. Tonight he’ll be performing with his ‘So’ live band – bass-wizard Tony Levin, guitarist David Rhodes, keyboardist David Sancious and drummer Manu Katche. The set appears clutter with equipment,  blazing white light blast across the stage from the sides. Gabriel gives us a hint of tonight’s performance. It will be a ‘meal’ of three courses – the starter is semi acoustic and experimental, the second, a savoury dish, is electronic, the third, “if you survive that far that is”, the complete album of ‘So.’

‘What Lies Ahead’ is a work in progress, with Levin on guitar and Olsson on cello, Gabriel sings from his piano – beautifully haunting. The arena house lights are still on as the other band members join him on stage.  ‘Come Talk to Me’ has an acoustic drumbeat, and Celtish rising melody – the crowd give a big cheer upon completion. This entree is laid back, like a studio music session we’re invited into. And then the next song starts up – stripped back – but we recognise it – ‘Shock the Monkey’ which rises to a funky beat. He get’s up clapping – and we’re singing. Class.

Next up ‘Family Snapshot’ – Gabriel on piano – just his voice – before the house light’s drop, the lights shone in monotone, ballad, power, beauty, ballad. And the cluttered stage comes alive – there are five triple lighted mobile rigs – like triffids rising from the shadows.

We’re into part 2. ‘Digging in the Dirt’ is dark electronic funk – the ‘triffids’ float around the stage, up and down, round and round, the two screens at the side of the stage take the feeds from many stage cameras, edited monotone, industrial effect – white circles on the floor – filmed from above, him in the centre. Gabriel takes to the front of the stage – he’s walking around, becoming a character – tambourine in hand – to huge applause. ‘The Family & the Fishing Net’ is prog rock electronic darkness, one of the lighting ‘triffids’ travels to the front of the stage – the crew dressed in boilers suits and masks – the ‘triffid’ becomes part of the performance – a camera is in its lit ‘head’ – and we can see Gabriel interacting in detail on the screens. And next up – ‘triffid’ back to is place behind the set – the band ‘fights’ with all five of them in ‘No Self Control’ – almost a fight against industry. ‘Solsbury Hill’ written about the real spiritual place in Somerset, the set is finally sepia from monotone – Gabriel and the band are skipping – we’re singing – an upbeat, joyful, smiley song.

Big Cheer – ‘Why Don’t You Show Yourself’ – is the last track from part 2 – and then here we go. Part 3. ‘So.’

The rising ‘Red Rain’ sets the stage bright red – heavier and far more powerful live than on album – beautifully performed. Then a cheeky little beat – before THAT melody – ’Slegehammer.’ We’re singing, Gabriel’s doing the Pop’eye biceps move – a reminder of the video – before him and his band put their best feet forward and put the moves in.

‘Don’t Give Up’ is quite beautiful – Abrahamson taking on Kate Bush’s vocals and doing them more than justice as at the end of the song, Gabriel and Abrahamson embrace. The album rolls on and the band delivers – we’re entranced. ‘Mercy Street’ starts off stripped back before the haunting dark melodies, the triffids are on the move, Gabriel lying on the floor in his circle – the ‘triffids’ have surrounded him, and gaze down at him.

And then the set is garish and bright. The song is big, everything is big. It’s ‘Big time’. We’re singing. It’s bigger than big. ‘We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37)’ is dark and menacing – very ‘1984’ atmospheric chant.’In Your Eyes’ an African rhythm, Abrahamson , joins with Arabesque vocals. “ … I am complete…. in your eyes, I see the doorway to a thousand churches…. in your eyes, the resolution of all the fruitless searches…. in your eyes …I see the light and the heat…. in your eyes….”

‘So.’ maybe over – but what a treat – a standing ovation and total applause as Gabriel introduces the band. Band introduced, and he acknowledges the road crew – however, said crew have nicked another crew member’s wombat – and we chant ‘let the wombat go.’ Needless to say a huge applause to the crew – who tonight have done an amazing job. The band bow, and back by poplar demand, turn their backs to the audience and bow again.

And to encore – ‘The Tower that Ate People’ electronic, industrial despair, that even Reznor couldn’t compete with.  The ‘triffids’ march to the front of the stage and line up in a barrier, the band and Gabriel immersed in red smoke. And Gabriel is indeed eaten by a tower. Wow.

“For all the liberties won by young people. For the 43 young Mexican students who recently handed themselves across to be assassinated – this is for all the young people who stand up for the freedom we take for granted. For all those young people who are risking their lives….”

This can only be one song. ‘Biko’.
Stephen Biko was a black South African anti-apartheid activist, arrested in 1977, badly beaten and who later died of his injuries – fighting to stand up from freedom.

And we sing. Our fist in the air in Gabriel solidarity. The cameras focuses in on his face – even today, this track released in 1980, raises the hairs on your arms, and brings a tear to Gabriel’s eye. We chant along as one by one the band members leaving the stage – leaving the drummer beating away, encased by the ‘triffids’…..

Peter Gabriel’s “Back to Front’ is performance, art, beauty, power, fragility, darkness and the light. It is an entirety – from semi acoustic, to full on raging electronic enthralling visual and audio delight. Every element from sound through to rig, film on screen, and beautiful vocals is considered in detail. Pure treat, stunning and a pure delight.

Towers may not have eaten the punters tonight, but the monkey was well and truly shocked.

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Setlist:
What Lies Ahead
Come Talk to Me
Shock the Monkey
Family Snapshot
Digging in the Dirt
Secret World
The Family & the Fishing Net
No Self Control
Solsbury Hill
Why Don’t You Show Yourself

So (in it’s entirety)
Red Rain
Sledgehammer
Don’t Give Up
That Voice Again
Mercy Street
Big Time
We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37)
This is the Picture (Excellent Birds)
In Your Eyes

Encore:
The Tower that Ate People
Biko

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Pictures courtesy of Ken Harrison. Review for Gig Junkies.

The Levellers + The Selector + She Makes War @ 02 Academy Birmingham, 14 November 2014

Tonight we are assured of somewhat of a party as The Levellers declare early on in the set, they will be playing their greatest hits. The o2 Academy is three-quarters full and there’s a expectant buzz about the crowd; the faithful here and those that just know that The Levellers ‘live’ are just one hell of an energetic blast. And it’s a good mixture of age too – older people and little people – after all The Levellers are very much a family affair.

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Tonight’s line-up of acts are an eclectic bunch. First up and very early (this gig has a 10pm curfew so club night Propaganda can take place later) is She Makes War (aka Laura Kidd) one time member of Erica Nockall’s (The Wonder Stuff) band and here in her own right tonight. She’s currently crowdsourcing her new album ‘Direction of Travel’ and doing a bespoke tour in 2015 – but a ticket she’ll arrange the right size venue.  Kidd is a talented individual, I saw her recently at the Hare and Hounds, where she created her music as she goes along, singing or playing and then recording and feeding it back into a multi-layered loop, which she then sung over. Kidd is indie in sound and style, with smatterings of PJ Harvey and Melissa Auf der Maur. Shame it was too early for most the punters who bought tics for tonight’s gig – all round creative talent you can find out lots more about Laura Kidd at www.shemakeswar.com

A jump in genre, we get 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. They get a good response as usual, the growing crowd bouncing along to the hits from their hey-day including ‘The Selector’ and ‘On My Radio.’  The Selector regularly play live; if  Ska and 2Tone are your thang, then you’ll be sure to catch them again soon.

And then bang on 8.20pm, the venue darkens, to a cheer, the hornpipe jig starts up. Dry ice fills the stage and the rag-taggle-bobtail crew that are The Levellers take to the stage. Mark Chadwick, Jez Cunningham, Charlie Heather, Simon Friend, Jon Sevink (the fiddler) and Matt Savage as usual, fill the stage, bouncing around – hugely energetic live. And start off as they mean to go on; it is indeed a ‘Beautiful Day.’

Chadwick: “Good evening everyone… how you doing…. Party!”  And as Sevnik fiddles, we sing: “….the girl from Fifteen Years ago – has packed and gone away…..” before they take us straight into ‘Belarus.’

It is indeed their greatest hits and they churn them out in frenetic manner. ‘Far From Home’ – the best so far – and we are all singing and dancing away. Then special guests on stage; for this one Pauline Black joins them – apparently she’s gonna “up the game” as they take us into ‘Together All The Way, ‘ while the brass section from The Selector joins for ‘Dog Train’ and we sing the La la la’s….

This rag-tag band-of-brothers are on great form tonight, there’s a buzz about the place – you wouldn’t know we’re rapidly heading to Christmas, we’re all dancing away in the middle of a field on a warm Summer’s day…

Get ready to jump, as ordered by fiddly Sevink, and we do, singing away on ‘Sell Out’ the rebellious political mantra about being sold down the river. Sevink, very tall and lanky, leaps and spins around the stage, occasionally standing on a platform to tower above us – all the time fiddling away – he is stunning in his playing. And then, the man with the didgeridoo is here, garbed in florescent clothing and face paint, the Aboriginal instrument festooned with lights…. the drummer on a single drum marching around the stage for ‘The Boatman’ and next, joined on stage by Laura Kidd, it’s ‘This Garden.’

“Birmingham – can you have too much of a good thing?” Chadwick asks. Oh no we can’t as the man is back on his wooden trumpee. there is only ‘One Way.’ And as they deliver us ‘Too Real’ rolling masses of people float overhead – to reappear from the pit with huge grins on their faces – don’t think crowd surfing is for the young – no, there be older people gleefully floating too.

‘Hope Street’ – everyone is singing. “Just checking you hadn’t fallen into a coma or something…” Chadwick cheekily quips. Like that’s something anyone is going to do tonight, we ‘Carry Me’ followed by “Come On’ to which over 2,500 punters all sing back, much to the band ’s appreciation. ‘Cholera Well’ is it’s usual frenetic delivery, followed by ‘Liberty’ – as more paper is fired over the crowd from a cannon, and we chant “This means nothing to me, to me. The way we were, is the way I wanna to BE!” And after an hour and twenty of true frenetic energy – they’re off. But not for long…

‘Just the One’ – we’re all in party mode now and then we are all red and Sevink is the devil with the fiddle, the whirling dervish – as we get The Levellers truly energetic take on ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ – before a second quick break – before the finale ‘The Riverflow’ – a set which ends to massive cheers bang on the 10pm deadline.

The Levellers just put a big smile on your face, they make you feel life is worth living . They may have matured, but they haven’t lost any of their passion, enjoyment – they clearly have a blast on stage and expect everyone else to do so. They just do what they do very well: rebel-punk, folk, Irish-inspired, fiddly, bouncy music.

And don’t forget their no logo, no corporate, no advertising Beautiful Days festival, which started in 2003. Next year it the weekend of  21-23 August at Escot Park in Devon and invariable will have a great line-up.

Tonight guest list passes were asked once again for a £2.00 contribution to charity, this year it is for ‘The Sophie Lancaster Foundation’ – stamping out prejudice, hatred and intolerance everywhere. The Levellers have found a way to continue, label and sponsor free, without the mainstream, doing it their way, and without selling their souls to the devil. Blood, seat and tears, really didn’t matter – today, with big grins on our faces, was indeed, a beautiful day..

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Setlist:
Beautiful Day
Fifteen Years
Belaruse
World Freakshow
Far from Home
Together All The Way
Dog Train
Sell Out
Exodus
Julie
Boatman Jig
This Garden
One Way
Too Real
Hope Street
Truth Is
Carry Me
Come On
Cholera Well
Liberty

Encore I:
Just the One
The Devil Went Down to Georgia

Encore II:
The Riverflow

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Listening:
Levelling The Land (1992)
Levellers (1994)
Zeitgeist (1995)
Static on the Airwaves (2012)
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Review for Birmingham Live.

Difford & Tilbrook @ Town Hall, Birmingham – 12 November 2014

Tonight to the delectable Town Hall in Birmingham and a journey through the entertaining lives of two classic songsmiths. In the late 70s, early 80s the band that featured these guys turned out ht after hit – the lyrics such that these two individuals were deemed to be the Lennon and McCartney of their generation. The chap who played the keyboards tottered off on his own journey of ‘The Tube’ and ‘Later…’ and Jazz while the band became these core duo and a rotating shift of other musicians. And so for something different tonight, part Q&A, part acoustic trip through their music journey – welcome ‘The At Odds Couple – welcome Difford & Tilbrook.

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Difford & Tilbrook – the songwriting team of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, known for their work as the principal writers for Squeeze. Responsible for the group’s many hits -‘Cool for Cats’, ‘Up the Junction’, ‘Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)’, ‘Tempted’, and many more, they have both written independently outside the band and together – and tonight features solo, collaboration and band.

Difford & Tilbrook was also the name under which the songwriters recorded and toured following the temporary break-up of Squeeze in ’82. That band reunited in ’85 after only one self-titled album had been released from the pair. Having been issued during this brief three-year hiatus, many fans consider Difford & Tilbrook to be the “lost” Squeeze album. By ’93 Difford and Tilbrook were the only original members left in Squeeze, and the band continues to be whatever rotating band membership assembles around the two songwriters.

Tonight’s gig is sold out and there’s no support but we will be delivered two sets from the duo. The stage set, meanwhile, is set like a bedsit, tables, lampshades,chairs, beds, and in the centre a late screen. Cosy. This is a two man show – just acoustic – and as they start, they pretend to get out of bed before their journey starts…

Their lyrics are a take on life, what they see – the duo sing in perfect harmony- a insanely talented pair be these two. And they have THOUGHT about not only their songs, but the stage set up, the visuals and videos on the screen to accompany the songs. So many times, we see acts who just turn up on stage – this package, with Difford & Tilbrook’s music and audience engagement, plus the cosy set and respect for the classic historic hall and acoustics,  has been well planned and thought out – and is a more than a pleasure to see.

‘Electric Trains’ accompanied by sepia train line journey on the screen, ‘Is That Love’ gets a big cheer, newbie from new album for Squeeze (from a forthcoming TV show) ‘A Beautiful Game’  clearly related to ‘the beautiful game’ as we get football on the screen – and goes down well. A song they wore for K.D. Lang – which she didn’t like ‘cos out was about boys – ‘Cowboys are my Weakness’ gives a video of plastic toy soldiers, doing things that plastic toy soldiers really shouldn’t be doing.

Between every few songs we have ‘the Man in the Golden Cape’ – quite literally – as Miles appears in the audience with a mike for audience members to ask questions.

“Are you cool for cats?” and the pair respond – chalk and cheese one likes dogs and the other cats. “What favourite lyric was inspired by real life?” “Let It Go” comes the answer.
“Madison Square Gardens or Birmingham Town Hall?” –  well that answer had got to be Birmingham Town Hall. Some questions are cheeky “How did Jools (Holland – former keyboards with Squeeze) become really rich and you didn’t?” – and Difford & Tilbrook respond, as they do with all questions, with candour, whit and respect.  Tilbrook’s ditched is recent beard (he now carries it around in a bag!)

Being touted as the ‘South London Lennon and McCartney’ made then pretentious for a while, but it became meaningless after a while – although a compliment. A punter tells Tilbrook his last solo album was brilliant – and he takes the full opportunity to cheekily plug it – it’s in the foyer – they’ll be signing after the gig.

And we get the classics –  ‘Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)’ (which a fan, when she was young though was about snogging – the guys don’y want to delude her innocent thoughts about what it was actually about), the first set ends with ‘Up the Junction.’ ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ is here too, and the hits keep coming ‘Tempted’ – and the video shows us fruit – cos hey we be “tempted by the fruit of another” and we sing.

Difford solo slot includes ‘Fat as a Fiddle’ (he eludes to his weight – up and down – out of cheesecake v gym – the cheesecake always wins…), ‘Wrecked’ about his youth when him and his housemate spent most the time, it appears, wrecked. Tilbrook gives us ‘Persephone’ – a song about a Victorian dressed burlesque dancer he met at a festival, who was , er, quite entertaining; ‘Ice-cream’ apparently written and performed in Birmingham in 1906 by his grand-dad – easy lyrics we sing it back and laugh. And as Difford rejoins him on stage – he’s asked what he’s been doing – “I’ve been been Ironing. My shirt. For tomorrow.”

And to conclude – we get an acoustic version of ‘Coooooollllll for Caaaats’ – we sing – and watch the video – made up newspaper cuttings for key word of the song and ‘dodgy’ archive footage of Squeeze.   Bt it’s not over – another newbie from the TV Series – apparent the title too – “From the Cradle to the Grave’ before the classic ‘Labelled with Love.”

Difford and Tilbrook gave us a thoroughly enjoyable gig tonight – they may be ying and yang, chalk and cheese – but this ‘At Odds Couple’ made us laugh, made us smile, made us sing – and gave us a compete package on their potted piece of history in a thoroughly enjoyable way.  There’s a few dates left on this tour – thigh many have already sold out. If you get to see em you are lucky indeed as this gig was certainly labelled and bottled with love. Thank you chaps.

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Pictures courtesy of Ken Harrison. Review for Gig Junkies and 102.5 The Bridge.

La Roux + Meanwhile @ The Institute, Birmingham – Saturday 8th November 2014

Tonight we’re borrowing the good Doctor’s Tardis for time travel paradoxically back in time to the modern day. A retro- inspired synth-pop dance-athon back to the future courtesy of 1983, but actually right here, and right now – as we take a trip to The Institute courtesy of Grammy-winning act, La Roux.

La Roux formed in 2006, made up of singer Elly Jackson and record producer Ben Langmaid. Their debut self titled album was a commercial and critical success – winning a Grammy and spawning hit singles ‘In for the Kill’ and ‘Bulletproof.’  The album sold 2 million and spawned 6 million singles sales.The follow up proved a somewhat difficult feet, and Langmaid walked, leaving Jackson on her own, taking the bands name and finally releasing the second La Roux album ‘Trouble in Paradise’ in 2014. Following some low-key dates over the summer, she’s here at the Institute tonight – part of a string of UK dates and then off to Europe.

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Meanwhile…. we still thinking. We’ll maybe not – but we are transported back to precisely 1983 with support band Meanwhile. Think of electronic pop funk – tune that could merrily be the soundtrack to Miami Vice or The Breakfast Club. Lead singer and keyboardist has the blonde lock of Sylvian, with rock out vocals. They’re newbies – and have their debut EP out ‘The Element Yes’ on the 1 December 2014.  If commercial American retro-pop electronica is your scene take a look at em – and maybe give them a like on Facebook to get their likes over 970 and follow ‘em on Twitter – they’ve just 355 followers…

And in between performers tonight, the lights been to the glitter ball in the center of the high ceiling venue – party is a-coming. And  a little after 8.30 (we have a 10pm curfew on the venue tonight before Drum and Bass party night appears) dry ice permeates the stage, lights go down – we’re in darkness. La Roux take to the stage; a panting chant starts up, repeating and repeating as the keyboards join in to screams and cheers from the crowd. This is recent single ‘Let Me Down Gently’ and as Jackson is illuminated from the darkness and the song starts to rise the crowd cheer.

“Hello Birmingham – tech problems as we started up – thanks for coming out… Cold outside innit…?” as Jackson takes us into the next track ‘Fascination’ a full on retro dance track, which get the crowd clapping before morphing into ‘Kiss and Not Tell’ an upbeat clippity clappy track.

Jackson imparts that she forgot to say happy birthday to someone – Mr. Moses clearly isn’t here – “well you try and do something nice….” she quips.  For hit ‘In for the Kill’ many people in the audience get their cameras out – a sea of LED screens – as the spectacular light show gets the crowd bopping.

And the cheers get bigger after each song – and the screams – people ae partaking in falling down water – a young lad in front of us, with his cider mix – clearly things he’s dancing is far cooler than his dads. ‘Cruel Sexuality’ rolls and extends into a bass beat driven dance track. ‘I’m Not Your Toy’ is clearly recognised by the crowd and the fans bop more and hands are in the air.

‘Uptight Downtown’ has a Bowiesque ‘Let’s Dance’ rhythm and the track once again raves down as Jackson takes guitar in hand. “We’d play all night if we could….’ Jackson rues the venue curfew – and we’re in a  Yazoo-inspired tap-tap-tap on the keyboards as we’re delivered  ‘Colourless Colour’  – Jackson’s goals seeming getting higher,  and the crowd clap clap clap as it cranks up the rhythm.

And the dancing man wobbles, his dad dancing days over for now, I fear his legs won’t carry him much longer as he totters off….. ‘Silent Partner’ has a rave vibe – and I almost get to sing Donna Summer’s ‘I fell Love’ though the track doesn’t quite morph.

Encore – stomping drumbeat – ‘Tigerlily’ all atmosphere – and the wobbly man is back – and slumps across his mate. The screaming and cheering is getting louder – and then the main hit ‘Bulletproof’ get’s arms in the air and everyone jumping and singing. With an abrupt stop to the track and it’s over to a huge reponse from the crowd and applause to their reaction from the band. And at just 9.45pm we make our way homeward (or party ward).

La Roux are upbeat – that sort of happy smily synth-pop. It is difficult to know why the second album was quite so hard there didn’t seem to be much of a departure live from the previous album – and nowt particularly revolutionary going on here. But La Roux do what La Roux do best and the crowd do indeed love it. New stuff probably a better fit overseas rather than in the UK, is it bulletproof? Only time will tell.

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Setlist
Let Me Down Gently
Fascination
Kiss and Not Tell
In for the Kill
Quicksand
Sexotheque
Cruel Sexuality
I’m Not Your Toy
Tropical Chancer
Uptight Downtown
Colourless Colour
Silent Partner

Encore:
Tigerlily
Bulletproof

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Pictures courtesy of Ken Harrison. Review for Gig Junkies and 102.5 The Bridge.

John Cooper Clarke + Mike Garry + Luke Wright @ Town Hall, Birmingham, 23 October 2014

Tonight we’re at the beautiful Town Hall in Birmingham, to see a full on punk-rock gig, with a twist. There is no music, no musicians, no instruments, it is the words that are the lyrics and the melody. Tonight we’re here for rock with words, the punk god-father of the satirical, the political and the scathing courtesy of Doctor John Cooper Clarke.
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Q Magazine’s Poet Laureate John Cooper Clarke remains as important these days,  as he was when he first burst onto the scene in a blaze of vitriol in the ‘70s. Thanks to his biting, satirical, and overtly political verse, delivered in a unique rapid-fire performance style, he became firmly entrenched in the punk movement and toured with the likes of The Sex Pistols and The Clash, while Joy Division and subsequently New Order supported him.

Now armed with an honorary Doctorate of Arts, he brings his treasury of punk poetry and two ‘up and coming’ poets – Luke Wright and Mike Garry – for the holiest of punk poet trinities.

Up first Luke Wright takes to the stage – giving us manic, quick fire poetry. He claims he’s  “a stay at home dandy” – he’s been out on his tour in the Autumn with ‘Fat Dandy.’ A poet and sometime broadcaster he writes a new shows each years and touts it round the country – not as some claim he says to “take poetry to the people” but because it pays his mortgage – and he loves it!  He tells us he met  Lenny Henry, asked him if he was stating in a Premiere Inn – response – “Of course not!” Henry didn’t get the irony and quick witted comedy of Wright in that one. He’s books and CDs – well worth checking out – find out more on his website.

Next up - Mike Garry – he’s from Manchester. His poetry is observational, ranting and a raving and social commentary. And he’s fast – the poetry is the rhythm of his music – the ability to recant the lyrics of his poetry at speed with no reference is pretty incredible and mesmerising to watch. He loves Birmingham. And gives us a poem about a s**t club – the Embassy – and the characters that are there, their lives are maybe what they may seem to be. He’s impressing himself here – and now for a sonnet –  another look at societies throw away attitude – ‘Pay As You Go.’ He’s here with books (a merchandising plug – he be there after his act)  and as one falls off stage he tells us not to knick it. He’s a good as stand up comedian as talented poet, next one to the local Manchester legend Tony Wilson – written after his death and performed with New Order. ‘Antony H Wilson’ another social look on life and Wilson’s impact – and the words take on the alphabet letter by letter – clever and emotive. Birmingham is beautiful, although he’s less complimentary about local councils, and at the end of his set he will jump off the stage – “un-risk-assessed”. “Have you been involved in an accident….” a satirical take on the adverts we see on TV, before a poetry eulogy to his mother who died. Funny but sad too – and we feel.

And now to THE main man. The Godfather of punk poetry – Doctor John Cooper Clarke. “Evening. ” He’s the chairman of the board, dressed in top to tail in black, blackened hair spiked, darkened glasses.

He got here late, he tells us, he’s gonna read ‘the Guest List’. “Would it kill ‘em to buy a ticket?” he quips and leaps into a fast paced rendition of everyone he knows, names rhyming. Apparently Birmingham is an ‘Atomic City.’

And tells of ‘generalisation’ ( we all do it),  which comes with two other important factors ‘Prejudice’ and ‘Judgement’ – a three pronged trilogy. And poetry to recant in full on observational vitriol as only Dr Clarke can do – “Get Back On The Drugs You Fat F**k” . He’s funny and whitty and fast paced and flies off at tangents – continually challenging, asking questions, pointing out the bleeding obvious. “Dr. Clarke how did you get here?” on birth and life and how he got here rather than the car he travelled in, before he leaps into ‘Hire Car.’

A punter’s question to “Is there a God?” doesn’t get the straight answer, but a tangent circle of responses. As he says “the public are in charge – the public is the governor” as he gives us the old and new in his poetry treasury – including his love story in reverse “T**t!” And his poetry can be two lines, limericks, sonnets, Hiaku or the long ones. He’s the “peoples balladeer; the high court judge” in newbie “The People’s Republic of Doktor Klarke.”

From is back catalogue ‘Beasley Street’ – a real life place and it’s social life, plus a an update to the way the place has changed ‘Beasley Boulevard’ – all ‘Urban Splash!’ Irony, and observation – on ‘golf audiences’ and age. “Age. The silent killer” – he’s been around our entire lives, before “Bed Blocker Blues.

He’s been experiments with Hiaku – poems of 17 syllables. he has a list and number 1 will be the final he reads to us. “Smarter than I have ever been, total idiots. I have met them all.” And his number 1. “To freeze the moment in seventeen syllables is very diffic…”

And he completes with his personal favourite – the classic ‘Chickentown’ – used in the penultimate episode of the Sopranos. When played on the BBC in ’78 the bleep operators got repetitive strain injury. Before thanks to the Arctic Monkeys, who closed their critically acclaimed album AM with a version of  ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ which we receive the Doctor Clarke version – in it’s full and scathing and dark glory.

This trilogy of social commentators were tonight, funny and witty, scathing with vitriol, yet caring and thought provoking.  The good Doctor was mesmerising in his words the hour and a half set whizzed by, with that inherent knack of making people laugh.  Doctor Clarke – part poet, part stand up. And still relevant.

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Pictures courtesy of Ken Harrison. Review for Gig Junkies and 102.5 The Bridge.

Holly Johnson @ The Library, The Institute, Birmingham, 19 October 2014

In 1984 a few people got very hot under the collar about a single. It got banned from airplay on Radio 1 at a time when most the world listened to the station. An outrage many people said. But the people behind this song grinned broadly and merrily wound them up even more. This single became the most controversial and most commercial single of the decade, selling over 2 million copies.There was even T-Shirts. We love a bit of anti-establishment at the best of times. So roll on 30 years to 2014, “Welcome” to a bit of “Frankie Says Relax” with former Frankie Goes to Hollywood frontman Holly Johnson.
Holly Johnson
Wow. It’s been 30 years since the release of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s debut album  ‘Welcome to the Pleasuredome.’ Over 30 years since that controversial single ‘Relax’. Frankie literally took over the airwaves for a brief moment in time.  ‘Pleasuredome’ had reported advanced album sales (in the days of the vinyl record) of over a million copies. Second album ‘Liverpool’ was a harder sell for a number of reasons, and Johnson walked releasing three solo albums  including his platinum selling number 1 debut solo album ‘Blast’ in 1989, ‘Dreams That Money Can’t Buy’ in 1991 and ‘Soulstream’ in 1999. And this year, 15 years on, he’s back with new album ‘Europa.’ Whilst he’s played the odd festival – this will be his first solo tour since 1987… so welcome to Holly Johnson: Unleashed from the Pleasuredome.

There’s no support tonight, although a DJ, Dave Kendrick, gives some tunes including remixes featuring Kraftwerk, Kate Bush and Heaven 17 and a snippet of Frankie. I have to say, we’re too busy chatting to take too much notice.

And just after 9, Johnson takes to the stage with full band in tow and starts off with ‘Atomic City’ and receives a big cheer from the audience – before here comes Frankie – ‘Warriors of the Wasteland’ and the rising epic ‘Welcome to the Pleasuredome.’ Johnson may have recorded these over 30 years ago but his voice remains spot on, the band tight, and we know all the words.

“I’m not allowed to talk… or we won’t get many songs done….” he says in his quiet Liverpudlian accent. Another Frankie -‘Rage Hard’ – the crowd are dancing and clapping and the cheers getting bigger. And now to a solo hit ‘Love Train’ before… “we’re gonna risk a new one on you now… Dare we?” and we’re into a segment of newbies and solo stuff.

‘Heavens Here’ – “a festival treat” and ‘Americanos’ gets us dancing and a cheer on the closing line… “In the land of the free, you can be who you want to be…”

Holly Johnson-12
“Life isn’t always a bowl of cherries. There are moments when you’re feeling all alone….” “Aaaahhhhh goes the crowd in sympathy. “Not tonight!” shouts a punter. And he delivers us ‘Lonesome Town’ before “scaring us with another new one” – title track from his new album – ‘Europa.’

Another excuse to dance. “You are a bit like sardines aren’t you?” he comments on the cosy crowd, “Not much room…..you can always rub up to the person in front of you….” as we’re into ‘Dancing With No Fear.’  He was on ‘Later….with Jools Holland’ and played this one – a ballad and his favourite song on the album ‘So Much it Hurts.’

And then we’re back in time, to  Frankie song he hasn’t sung since ’87, ‘Watching the Wildlife.’ Before a song he calls “the money shot.” Asking is we are ready – hey we know what’s coming – ‘Relax’ – in all it’s beating glory. Johnson has a flashlight and shines it over the audience. We’re a-dancing and singing. Timewarp baby. Awesome rendition – massive cheer.

A quick break and he’s back – with a change of jacket. Apparently he stopped the cold war with this one (so a comedian told him). ‘Two Tribes’. Class. And then to the special one. And it’s not just for Christmas – “I’ll protect you from the hooded claw, keep the vampires from your door” – it’s the epic ‘Power of Love’ The hairs stand up on our arms and we’re singing away. It’s amazing how many of us knew all the words. Spine-chingling.

Holly Johnson is affable and funny. And he likes his songs epic. And no count, those Frankie hits were special. It was great to hear them in full totally overblown and truly glorious colour. Johnson is out for a few dates – go check him out – it’s well worth it. Hopefully, he’ll be out and about far more than he has been for the last few years.
Holly makes you smile. And you can’t ask for much more than that….. according to his website:  Holly Johnson Cosmos Mariner, destination unknown. The Odyssey Continues…

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Setlist:
Atomic City
Warriors of the Wasteland
Welcome to the Pleasuredome
Rage Hard
Love Train
Follow Your Heart
In and Out of Love
Heavens Here
Americanos
Lonesome Town
Europa
Disco Heaven
Dancing With No Fear
Penny Arcade
So Much it Hurts
Watching the Wildlife
Relax

Encore:
Two Tribes
Power of Love

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Pictures couresty of Ken Harrison – Review for Gig Junkies.

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