Tag Archive: Brum Live

Kerrang! Tour 2013 featuring Black Veil Brides + Chiodos + Tonight Alive + Fearless Vampire Killers @ 02 Academy Birmingham, 14 February 2013

So this Valentine’s night, we’ve given up a romantic meal for a night at the O2 Academy for a bit of up-and-coming rock, we’re at the Kerrang! Tour 2013. An eclectic mix of punk rock, in your face screaming and goth glam rock…

Kerrang! was once the place of denim, leather, spiral perms and Iron Maiden. Thirty odd years on, as the rock genre has spread and merged with other genres, the music that Kerrang! plays and promotes has followed suit.  So this 2013 tour is all about new talent and if it’s objective is about bringing the next generation into the world of rock n’ roll than it’s obviously worked. Because the crowd is made up of little people – max age of 15 if I’m being generous, kids with face-paint everywhere and the odd parent in tow.

Couldn’t make the 7pm start – so didn’t catch the band first up on the line-up. The Fearless Vampire Killers – great name for a band, though unfortunately I can’t tell you if they are fearless and how many vampires they may have killed during their set. But, if you fancy a listen, check them out on all their differing media platforms and on their website.

Next up Tonight Alive, with female vocalist Jenna McDougall. Think Paramore and Avril with sweary bits between songs. Commercial punk pop from down under (Australia) which goes down with lots of screaming adulation from the crowd.  “Thank you very much! Lets make some noise! We hear that Birmingham is the place to play this song on the radio – really good to be back.” And now to that song that’s getting the airplay – ‘Listening’ with incredibly loud opening drums.  If the future of rock is 15-year-olds jumping up and down giving the rock fingers than it is indeed very alive and well. As the crowd sing back – “Are you listening?” she goes into the pit to sing with the kiddies before standing on the barrier leaning over them all, slamming her fist into the air. Great rendition, followed by a big scream from the kids – Tonight Alive tonight live, go down well.

So, just before 8.45pm we have Chiodos. Formed in 2001, they undergone some substantial line-up changes and their original vocalist, Craig Owens (and one time frontman of D.R.U.G.S., who co-incidentally supported Black Veil Brides on their tour last year), has returned. We get a handful of tracks from the lads.  “We are Chiodos and we want to see everyone moving….” Chiodos are a post-hardcore metal band, hailing for Michigan, USA. Screamy like Slipknot, mixed with more traditional, pretty hard-core rock this is adult rock for the kids.

“Everybody get your hands in the air – I want to see everyone’s hands in the air – I want to see everyone go crazy in Birmingham!” Must be a tad weird playing to such a young audience, they appear to be slightly thrown by this. Owens is a charismatic frontman, the rest of the guys hugely energetic on stage, and while not many kids here have heard of them,Owens gives them no choice but to get involved. “You guys ready to have a good time tonight?”

“Happy Valentine’s day m******f*****s! This song is about dirty dirty sex!’ Interesting, if somewhat disturbing, given the average age of the audience. “How many of you hate Valentine’s day? Valentine’s day is all about f*****g anyway.” A few dragged along parents go grey… Owens spend time just standing there and the kids scream. Very loudly. Apparently he fits in with everyone here tonight – erm – okay.

“After the gig we’ll be walking round – cos we’re just a bunch of guys who give a shit about what we play…”. Owens does indeed appear within the crowd while we wait in the interval. The kids gather and he disappears to backstage equally as quickly.

As we wait for the headliners – the kids periodically chanting ‘Black Veil Brides, Black Veil Brides, Black Veil Brides…’  a lad walks past in a onesy. Water is being handed out to the audience, as we continue to wait.

A good 45 minutes after Chiodos, bang on 10pm, the lights go out, the stage is draped in dry ice. It’s Black Veil Brides led on by ‘Exordium’; the opening spoken word interlude from their new album ‘The Wretched and the Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones.’ “The Kingdom of God is inside you, and all around you. Not in a mansion of wood and stone. Split a piece of wood and God is there. Lift a stone and you will find God. ” …. erm…okay.

Ridiculously loud ear-piecing screams from the kids accompany the first track, ‘I Am Bulletproof,’ and nearly drowns out the band.  BVB are heavily inspired by KISS – they are probably their bastard offspring; this clearly shows. Musicianship-wise they are very talented. Phones they be a’recording, as always at gigs these days and someone has their iPad mini in the air too.

BVB are Andy Biersack on vocal duties, Ashley Purdy on bass, Jack Pitts lead guitar, Jinxx on guitar and Christian “C.C.” Coma on drums. Biersack: “How are you crazy m******f*****s doing tonight? …. This is ‘The Church of the Wild Ones'” (aka the name of their tour. When it’s not the Kerrang! tour). Next up – ‘New Religion.’ Biersack: “This is a fun tour – one of my favourite gigs so far…” he says, clearly playing to the adoring crowd.

New album plug and we’re into ‘The Wretched and Divine.’ Clap clap clap go the audience as the band play around before going into the track. Bizarrely, as they have just released this concept album, all 19 tracks and 1 hour of rock opera story telling, they are not performing this in its entirety – tracks are intermittent between older songs. The sound on this track the sound is spot on. The band’s vocals are harmoniously in-sync and in perfect kilter to the album. Almost exactly the same.

Next up BVB’s rendition of Billy Idol’s ‘Rebel Yell’, the adoring fans are clearly well immersed in everything BVB. ‘Overture’ onto the stage comes F.E.A.R. (aka Wil Francis (of Aiden and William Control)). F.E.A.R. turns up quite a lot on the album, as intermittent spoken word Orwellian interludes.  The premise of ‘The Wretched and the Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones’ is the BVB and their fans, ‘The Wild Ones,’ overcoming these baddies (the F.E.A.R.) who seek to destroy free will and thought. (That’s it in a snapshot anyway). Biersack: “Black Veil Brides are just a bunch of guys who love playing music… You have all the power you ever need in your own heart. Do not worship false Gods.” Well Biersack – you are clearly being worshipped tonight.

‘Nobody’s Heroes’ and ‘Resurrect the Sun’ are too perfectly delivered – the anthems bellowing out to the young masses. “Last song of the night…” ‘Fallen Angels” gets the crowd singing: “We scream, we shout, we are the fallen angels”, before the encore of current single, the anthemic ‘In the End.’

As we leave the entrance to the O2 is surrounded by numerous, slightly bored parents collecting their kiddies (late night for a school night) and as I walk away one parent, walking fast encouraging his daughters to do so, and who was clearly at the gig, not outside, has “…had enough rock for tonight – we’ve a long motorway drive.”

So what of the Kerrang! 2013 Tour? While it may not have brought new to the table, it did bring rock to the new generation. Tonight Alive gave a great set, female lead Jenna McDougall was ballsy, gave it some and really got the crowd going, culminating in their current hit. Good set.

Chiodos I liked although you could say are work in progress. Owens is charismatic and the band good looking enough to gain adulation from this very young audience. They a band that are re-bonding, so clearly could do with time to build their act back together. They seemed a tad confused and clearly played such a young audience up. They’d do better playing to an older bunch and it’ll be interesting to see what they do with their impending album.

Black Veil Brides. For all their detailed creative construction of their new album, of their image of goth, glam and make-up, their technical prowess and all that goes BVB, I was disappointed. Against last year’s gig, when they returned from Biersack’s on stage accident where they delivered and then some and were out to prove a point, tonight’s gig was a promotional billboard – it could have been much more. From the make-up, the glam rock n roll persona for the ladies and smaltzy expletive ridden “are you having a f****** good time?” – BVB have taken the template that made the original bands multi-millionaires. However, amongst many rock fans they are loathed in equal measure for this lack of originality. Performance-wise, tonight, they were professional and the new generation of screaming hordes clearly adored them.

On this form they may sell their radio savvy tracks in bucket loads, they clearly continue to gather momentum – new single ‘In the End’ has nigh on 6 million You Tube views. But is this all to BVB? Will they burn brightly yet briefly? At some stage the make-up will have to go – and I guess only time will tell, as their adoring fans grow up.

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Listening:

Black Veil Brides: Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones  [2013]

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Review for Birmingham Live! Pictures by Katja Orgin

The Levellers + Citizen Fish + Gaz Brookfield @ 02Academy, Birmingham 23rd November 2012

All three rooms being used at the Birmingham Academy tonight, including Therapy? in Academy 2, but we are in the main room: All come all yee faithful followers – lets party with The Levellers.

The 02Academy is pretty full and there’s a buzz about the crowd, in eager expectation of a party. There are the faithful here and those that just know that The Levellers ‘live’ are just an energetic blast. There’s a good vibe, man. And one or two people who, even before the gig has started, have participated in some falling down water…

As you might expect at a Levellers’ gig, the support acts will neither be insipid nor lacking in social and political comment. You kinda feel sympathy for solo singer-guitarists who try to entertain a big crowd before the main band come on stage, but Gaz Brookfield is up to the challenge and easily wins the audience over. He exudes confidence, humour and enthusiasm, as he romps through songs on all sorts of topics, including the pointlessness of voting and the plasticity of much of the music industry. Towards the end, after making another dark social comment, he adds that he is available for children’s parties.

Then, to get us in the mood for the main act we have ska punk band Citizen Fish, a band ‘spawned’ in Bath in ’89. More enjoyable cutting social and political comment set to music by a raucous outfit, with a lead singer with a machine gun delivery of lyrics, who looks and sounds like an underfed Ben Elton (in his classic motormouth stand-up comic days). “Let’s get angry, let’s get mad” he sings. An eclectic mix of ska and punk with political overtones. That gets us in the mood for the main act.

And then a tad before 8.25pm, the venue darkens, dry ice fills the stage and the rag taggle bobtail crew that are The Levellers come onto 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.  Starting off we get ‘We are All The Gunmen’ with harmonised vocals on a blue lit set.  Last time I got to see them was on their ‘Levelling the Land in its entirety’ tour – this time, they have free reign on their setlist – we get the old the new and the downright classic.

“Good evening – how are you doing?” as they blast into ‘Beautiful Day’ and the crowd start to dance. The band are well on form tonight – ‘The Game’ starts of with Sevnik on his fiddle, rises and rises, followed by “A new one…” ‘A Life Less Ordinary…..’

The classics are just that “Birmingham – how are your singing voices tonight? We’ll find out – let’s have a go…” ‘Fifteen Years’ may well be over twenty years old – but we’re all singing…. ‘The Road’ … “every day, every day, every daaaaaayyyyyyyy” with the exquisite fiddler mesmerizing us all.  The whole band bounce in time as they set off on the ‘Sell Out’ another ‘Levelling The Land’ track. We bounce too… The Levellers are a tight outfit, one of the most energetic organized chaos of a band you’ll see touring.

And so the the fluorescent didgeridoo – before leading us into ‘One Way’  – the eco-anthem for the masses – the crowd enthusiastically sing and bounce along. And the songs keep coming – ‘Carry Me’, ‘Dirty Davy’ and the completion to this part of the set ‘Cholera Well.’

Quick break and then; come on everyone – sing along “… far from home…..” We all still partying – “Si wants to say something..” “Liberty!” he screams. The set is filled with dry ice, white lit. And Sevnik cranks it up – we’re still singing, partying, dancing:  “This means nothing to me…the way we want to BE!”

“Thank you, cheers”. The crowd start to leave – as the band leave and roadies swap the set – but no it’s not quite over. The Levellers have invited local talent – singers and musicians to join them on stage for a number. So as the already crowded stage swells  “Well it’s that time of the evening, musicians representing the locality, have said ‘I wanna play with the Levellers’…” and we’re into a pretty good rendition of ‘The Recruiting Sergeant’.

The Levellers were on great form tonight, there was a buzz in the crowd were you wouldn’t know it was nearly mid-Winter – imagining we were dancing away in the middle of a field on a warm Summer’s day.  These guys just put a big smile on your face – 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. There may have been no ‘Beanfield’, ‘Hope Street’ or their dervish rendition of ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ but they just keep it simple – they just do what they do very well: punk, folk, Irish-inspired, fiddly, bouncy music.

Tonight guest list passes were asked for a £2.00 contribution to charity – don’t mind if I do. The Levellers aint daft, they’ve found a way to continue, without the mainstream, doing it their way, and without selling their souls to the devil, yet still able to play to nearly 3,000 people in a gig. And have over 40,000 followers on that old Facebook thing. And they’ve been recording, they’ve recently released their tenth studio album ‘Static on The Airwaves’.

And every year they do the true ‘No Logo’ festival Beautiful Days – which celebrated 10 years in 2012. No corporate sponsorship, no branding, no advertising.  2012  line-up including Frank Turner, PIL, the Model Army, The Waterboys … plus a huge list of others. 2013 tickets are available – £120 to camp 16-18 August in Devon. 2013 is their 25th anniversary. They will be back –  not just one way, but their way. Come and party.

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Setlist:

  1. We Are All Gunmen
  2. Beautiful Day
  3. The Game
  4. Life Less Ordinary
  5. Fifteen Years
  6. Truth Is
  7. The Road
  8. Sell Out
  9. Raft of the Medusa
  10. Before the End
  11. Mutiny
  12. The Boatman
  13. Boatmen Jig
  14. Our Forgotten Towns
  15. One Way
  16. Carry Me
  17. Dirty Davey
  18. Riverflow
  19. Cholera Well

Encore 1:

  1. Far From Home
  2. Liberty Song

Encore 2:

  1. The Recruiting Sergeant

 

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Listening:

Levelling The Land (1992)

Levellers (1994)

Zeitgeist (1995)

Static on the Airwaves (2012)

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Beautiful Days 2013 Tickets are on sale @ http://www.beautifuldays.org/

 

Evanescence + The Used + Lost Alone @ NIA Birmingham, Thursday 8th November 2012

Review for Birmingham Live! Pictures: Katja Orgin.

Beginning of November and out in a mild evening, we’re at the NIA for a bit of rock gothic melodrama – Amy Lee and her support crew are here to bring Birmingham to life – it’s time for Evanescence.  

I didn’t get there in time to see the support act – but a bit of a plug here. Lost Alone are a trio featuring Mark Gibson on drums, Steve Battelle on guitar and Alan Williamson on bass.  Current album ‘I’m A UFO in the City’ is available to purchase through the usual channels with new single ‘Creatures’ released a couple of days ago. Pundits have given them Queenesque / Muse comparisons – listening they have a raw American punk sound with harmonized vocals – a number of reviewers saying these guys are rising stars. On the UK tour with Evanescence, you can catch them on their hometown Christmas gig at Derby Assembly Rooms on 21st December 2012.

Second support, The Used are giving it some screamy rock as I take my seat in the gods. I think I can touch the roof from here, but it’s a great vantage point. When Evanescence announced this gig at the NIA I wondered whether they would take the leap near sold out 02 Academy Birmingham show they played pretty much 12 months to this day. That venue holds about 3,000. Well they gave it a good effort – stage moved forward – third of arena fenced off – standing on the floor – I guess max of 5-6,000 here. Maybe a thought that Brum could do with a venue larger than the likes of the Academy, Ballroom and Institute but not as big as the NIA or LG. Anyway – back to the gig….

The Used are an LA based outfit: Bert McCraken singer, Quinn Allman on guitar, Jepha on bass and Dan Whiteside on drumming duties. New album ‘Vulnerable’ apparently, reflects The Used trademark ability to ‘ turn personal adversity in to art.’  Formed in Orem, Utah in 2001 they’ve had quite a journey – not only in music but in their own lives too. “Without music and you guys I probably wouldn’t be here today – don’t take yourself too seriously don’t be afraid to smile.…”  – you can hear the inspiration behind ‘Vulnerable. These dates with Evanescence are part of a European tour.

The Used think that “Birmingham fuckin’ rocks…. best show so far of the tour.” Band are clearly enjoying themselves McCraken is energetic and chatty and pretty good fun: “ … a lot of hardcore fans here in the UK!” as the singer invites these selected fans to come and have “hardcore fuckin’ sexual intercourse…” And then offers the same to the hardcore Evanescence fans. The Used are American pop punk rock with thrown in screamy bits – a kinda cross between Blink and Deftones. They’re pretty good and go down well with the crowd – although the sound in this venue echoes around and it ain’t the best for rock gigs. Maybe when the NIA gets it’s multi-million pound refit it’ll improve. Fingers crossed.

So between bands – a half an hour break – we have a snooze and listen to the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Alice In Chains and a smattering of Faith No More….

Formed just seven years ago by Amy Lee and Ben Moody, Evanescence’s first album ‘Fallen’ had stratospheric sales: over 17m albums worldwide (winning a vast series of awards including two Grammys) driven by huge hit ‘Bring Me To Life’ (with vocal support from Paul McCoy of 12 Stones). Their follow up album, ‘The Open Door’ continued that success with sales over 6 million and their latest self titled 2011 ‘Evanescence’ looks to be following the trend. The singles are certainly getting airplay…

The band appears on stage, Lee in her usual mystical goth-inspired clothing, to a rather loud scream from the crowd. With far more space then the Academy she prowls the stage, pumping the air with her arm as she sings, engaging the crowd. First track ‘What You Want’ clearly shows the sound is far more balanced than it was for the support acts.

The stage is pretty simple, however they clearly employed a lighting guy who loves to have fun – and it’s pretty impressive, giving full reflective mood to Evanescence’s tracks – ‘Weight of The World’ blasts powerful white light across the stage. ‘Going Under’ Lee and the band go for it – the guys in the band are pretty hardcore, tight and loud. “Hello Birmingham – it’s wonderful to see you – it’s wonderful to see you after all these years…”

Then a piano segment for a few tracks – a real piano is brought to the front of the stage, Lee takes her place, a green spotlight focused just on her. As she gives us ‘Lithium’ from where I am you can see thousands of mobile phones recording. Once it would have been lighters waving, with a few burnt fingers. ‘Lost in Paradise’ is probably one of the standout tracks of the night; Lee’s vocals are pretty impressive on this big epic ballad.

The songs swirl, powerful and strong, and then we get the big hit. Opened up by that piano melody, the crowd sings the words and Evanescence blow us away.

Evanescence had massive success on their first album. 17 million + sales worldwide and 43 weeks in the Billboard Top 10 is pretty incredible. They have brought gothic rock to the masses, there’s a real eclectic mix here, from rockers to little people and everyone in between. Evanescence have brought rock to a young, female crowd, who will hopefully seek to experience more that rock and metal has to offer. If you like Evanescence they give you exactly what you would expect, they have followed ‘Bring Me To Life’ template to the letter – there is no deviation from their gothic metal, ethereal sound, they are far louder and harder rock than on record. It’s clearly a formula that works for Lee and her gang.

Pretty impressive and, at £28.50, not bad for an arena gig. If you like their music – they will impress you. Go and enjoy.

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Setlist:

  1. What You Want
  2. Going Under
  3. The Other Side
  4. Weight of the World
  5. Made of Stone
  6. Lithium
  7. Lost in Paradise
  8. My Heart is Broken
  9. Whisper
  10. The Change
  11. Oceans
  12. Swimming Home
  13. Call Me When You’re Sober
  14. Imaginary
  15. Bring Me To Life

 

Encore:

15. Disappear

17. My Immortal

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Evanescence Listening:

The Fallen (2003)

The Open Door (2006)

Evanescence (2011)

 

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

 

The Cult and The Mission, 02 Academy Birmingham, 15th September 2012

Fire, Rain and Sanctuary. Sacrilege and Deliverance. And a little bit of Wasteland. We get all that plus lots more as The Cult and The Mission roll into town.

When this tour was announced it was announced as a UK Arena Tour. Three classic indie, alternative, rock, goth bands. The Cult, The Mission and Killing Joke. All on one bill. Wow. At The LG Arena – huh? Slightly confused by this – whilst The Cult and The Mission in their hey-day did indeed fill the NEC as it was known then, could they really fill it now? Well the answer became clear – the tour was downgraded to the more intimate 02 Academies across the country. These they did indeed, unsurprisingly, sell out. Then there was the further adventures of Killing Joke. Lead singer Jaz Coleman suddenly mysteriously disappeared to the concerns of the band and then equally suddenly re-appeared in Africa. A web post appeared, allegedly from Coleman, berating The Cult and not wanting to be part of this tour. Apparently a fake post – whatever the story – sadly Killing Joke are no a part of this and as we enter the main Academy room we are greeted with a little sign stating no Killing Joke and that The Mission and The Cult will be playing extended sets.

The stage is darkened, spotlights on the band and dry ice everywhere, The Mish, Hussey still in black, now grey-haired but still wearing those shades: “Cheers, thank you very much… I’ve been told to keep it short between songs – someone reckoned I talk to much…” He announces a new song ‘Falling’ to which the crowd cheekily boo. With this being a ‘double headliner’ gig you get two batches of fans, those for each band. Some talk while the Mish are on, clearly waiting for The Cult – bless, the goths have grown up – parents with kids, the odd punk, the odd goth in hat and black shades.

Hussey is clearly enjoying the gig, his voice is well on form – ‘Sacrilege ‘ gets a cheer, ‘Wasteland’ gets the crowds arms waving; someone throwing the traditional paper pieces in the air. No ‘towers’ of people, this is the Academy, health and safety rules, the odd person on a shoulder get a security guard shining a torch on them. So much for the good old days, when the ‘towers’ were layered four ‘storeys’ high with people. ‘Deliverance’ gets everyone singing along, a quick break then to Hussey once again: “ Thank you… we will be back soon… December…. I’ve a meeting Monday morning …. with Carl McCoy.” (So speculation of a double ‘goth’ headliner – The Mish and The Fields of the Nephilim then). Next up their version of Neil Young’s ‘Like a Hurricane’ before another quick break, as Hussey returns to the stage, he ‘nicks’ a hat from the audience, akin with black scarf. He pops it on, before circulating it to another band member. For the finale we get an extended, extended rendition of ‘Tower of Strength’ to which the crowd enthusiastically join in. An enjoyable set, while they may have been away for a while, they certainly haven’t lost it.

So as the audience swaps, The Mish fans vacating the front of the stage to be replaced by Cult ones, the break between bands is supposed to be about 30 minutes. A slow hand clap starts from the fans, and heading towards a 50 minute interval, The Cult appear, introduced by a dancey Native American chant. The enigmatic Astbury’s hair is slicked back, in shades and fur-collared coat, tambourine in hand. Duffy, the underrated class guitarist that he is, strikes the cords and we’re into ‘Lil Devil.’ The crowd cheer as they do all night. After the psychedelic ‘Rain’ from the ‘Love’ album – Astbury says “Good evening (to a place that didn’t sound like Birmingham!)” in his full on American drawl. The set features new tracks from new album – ‘Choice of Weapon’ – Astbury: “This is for the survivors…. We are the come back kids….”, as well as classics from throughout their career. But don’t expect ‘Resurrection Joe’ which gets a swift brush off from Astbury as an audience member requests it.

This is a five date tour – Killing Joke didn’t make it, but have been out and about gigging recently with new material in tow. The Mish, after a hiatus (Hussey declared in 2008 it was the end of the band) have clearly enjoyed this little tour and are putting together new material and sounds like they will be back in Birmingham soon. The Cult have become perennial tourers, appearing on the gigging scene pretty regularly. While their arena days in the UK are behind them – they still put on a class show. Duffy’s guitar riff intro’s on tracks like ‘Lil Devil’ and ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ will send the hackles up on the back of your neck.

This was a nostalgia tour, with a smattering of the new – worth £35? Well tonight’s gig, regardless of the pre-history of venues and line-ups, sold out. All three bands (here tonight or not) loved or hated in equal measure, are well worth seeing in their own headlining right. They’ll be back – take a peek.

*******

The Mission:

  1. Beyond the Pale
  2. Hands Across the Ocean
  3. Naked and Savage
  4. Severina
  5. Butterfly on a Wheel
  6. Falling
  7. Sacrilege
  8. Belief
  9. The Crystal Ocean
  10. Wasteland
  11. Deliverance

Encore:

  1. Like a Hurricane

Encore II:

  1. Tower of Strength

*******

The Cult:

  1. Lil Devil
  2. Rain
  3. Honey from a Knife
  4. Nirvana
  5. Embers
  6. Fire Woman
  7. Horse Nation
  8. Lucifer
  9. The Phoenix
  10. The Wolf
  11. Life is Better than Death
  12. Rise
  13. For the Animals
  14. Spiritwalker
  15. Wild Flower
  16. She Sells Sanctuary

Encore:

  1. Love Removal Machine

*******

Listening:

The Cult:

Dreamtime [1984]

Love [1985]

Choice of Weapon [2012]

The Mission

God’s Own Medicine [1986]

First Chapter [1987]

Children [1988]

Carved in sand [1990]

Killing Joke

Nightime [1985]

MMXII [2012]

*******

Review for Birmingham LIve!

 

Madonna + Alesso @ NIA Birmingham, 19 July 2012

Review for Birmingham Live! Pictures: Steve Gerrard

So into the city and a torrential downpour as the British summer flatly refuses to appear. And as I arrive at the NIA throngs of excited fans take photos by posters and fan club signs – we’re here to see the self-styled controversial Queen of Pop – Madonna is in town as part of her MDNA tour.

Expectations are high, as a slightly chaotic NIA, listen in to support DJ Alesso, pumping out the rave tunes. The women in the crowd are inundated with samples of Madonna’s Truth or Dare perfume samples as we all walk round to take our seats – Madge is due on at 9.00pm.

The crowd are eager and excited to see their icon. 9.15pm – we’re still waiting. A Mexican wave rolls successfully round the auditorium. Michael Jackson plays through the PA – the crowd are a happy bunch. 9.25pm – we’re still waiting. 9.35pm the huge curtain which has  massive picture of her on it, is pulled unceremoniously down and heaved off stage by several roadies. 9.40pm – we’re STILL waiting. Finally, at 9.45pm, a full three quarters of an hour late, the lights go down, and we’re greeted by 2 monks ringing a bell. An urn is lowered from the rafters, lit up and smoking, it sways across the stage. As acrobatic contemporary dancers contort on pillars, three huge HD plasma screens fill the back of the stage – they divide and in an arched ‘tower’, silhouetted, her Madgeness appears – to huge screams from the crowd and we into ‘Girl Gone Wild.’

The song completes, with Madonna, gun in hand shoots a dancer – and next track – ‘Revolver’ “What’s up Birmingham?” which moves into ‘Gang Bang’ where she progressively shoots a series of dancers –  a streak of blood splatter smacks in HD across the screens. “… Bang bang, shot you dead, shot my lover in the head…”

Now on stage a violinist, we’re into ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ a huge cross backdrop on the plasmas. The track morphs into a gothic drama and into ‘Hung Up’ to which from the depths of the stage appear columns and dancers tightrope walking. Madge joins them, balancing precariously. Now she has guitar in hand, rock chick look, she’s rapping away at the front of the stage to ‘I Don’t Give A *’; an extended V shape, the centre filled with fans, the point in the centre of the auditorium. On screen, duet partner Nicki Minaj joins her….

This was stage 1 of tonight’s proceedings, stage 2 ( breaks to give her time to change), features black and white gravestones on screen, and the contortionist dancers strut their stuff. Intriguing and somewhat painful to watch, the dancers are able to effectively dislocate their shoulders as they warp their arms. Suddenly there’s light – cheerleaders on stage – Madonna in full garb – and we’re into ‘Express Yourself’ pop illustration influenced cartoons grace the screens.  And, even better, as it’s well stuffy and warm in the NIA, someone has remembered to switch on the air conditioning. The song morphs into a drumming rhythm and from between the screens, on foot and from the rafters, a series of toy drummers are rolled out and drum their way through the song. Impressive. “C’mon raise your hands”, as we roll into a drumbeat and ‘Give Me All Your Luvin’.’

Set stops briefly and we get snippets of the hits and classic Madonna imagery on the screens – all to brief – it morphs into ‘Turn Up the Radio.’ “Are you gonna sing along with me?”, she’s back with guitar, “I can’t hear you… louder….” (Well we would, if we knew the words…).

Next section, she’s off, change of clothes again, and back on with her chums Kalakan trio – and sings ‘Open Your Heart’ (with excepts from ‘Sagarra Jo!’) and gets her adoring fans to sing and clap along. “Woohoo” she screams, “Are you havin’ a good time? F*** yeah!” Then a reference to technical difficulties and “What happen to my hotel?” (I’m confused – what hotel, was this an technical onstage glitch that failed to appear – or is this the reason she was 45 minutes late on stage?) “When I make a mistake does that bother you? I’d like to thank my loyal and devoted fans in Birmingham, I see you are not sitting in the little red chairs… write to your congressman (huh?), or whatever it is in this country, to get rid of the f****** red chairs…”  Then a series of questions to which she encourages the audience to respond with “F*** no!” and “A love song to all my fans who have supported me – without you I am nothing…” and she sings ‘Masterpiece’ with Kalakan, while the screens show footage of her recent delve into the world of film direction and Edward and Mrs Simpson.

Next section: Masculine and Feminine – mono footage from ‘Justify My Love’ appears large and in HD on the screens, as they split apart – dancers strut in full cross dressing mono designer ‘clothing’ and in a different ‘tower’ she emerges to ‘Vogue.’ For all you know about Madonna and this time in her career – that’s exactly what you get, sexual and slightly erotic dancing as clothes start to come off… through “Candy Shop’, a smidge of ‘Erotica’ and into ‘Human Nature’. During which she strips down from the male clothing to a skimpy bra, and threatens to strip her trousers – a sneaky peak of the top of a G-string, she moons – “Don’t think Birmingham is ready for that?”, the crowd re-act and the trousers are put back in place. On her back is written NO FEAR and at the front of the V stage, just her and a man on a piano, she sings a slow version of ‘Like A Virgin’ rolling around on the floor, clothing just about keeping body parts covered. At the end of the song, she’s roughly tied into a corset by a dancer, the bloke behind me shouts “Don’t hurt her!”

As she disappearing into the floor (the set is full of gizmos and trapdoors), we’re in the final section – the tightrope (plus dancers) re-appears and on the screen is the video for ‘Nobody Knows Me’ – the one that the Far Right has got upset about in France. She’s back on with guitar, bit of trance nation for ‘I’m Addicted’ with a power beat, ‘I’m A Sinner’ gets all George Harrison and Hare Krishna. Then, probably the standout track of the night – with full gospel choir in tow – it’s ‘Like A Prayer’ – the crowd get on down. She asks a fan to sing, who manages it after screaming at their idol.  And finally the bells ring out again, and they finish on ‘Celebration’ the columns on the stage lift them up high above the crowd, and the ‘cast’ wave as the show closes. “Thank you Birmingham.”

Wow. So That was her Madgeness at Birmingham NIA. It’s great that Birmingham have got such a big gig. The positives it was certainly a spectacular show, the screens, graphics, lighting, and stage gizmos were indeed stunning. The dancers were indeed awesome. And Madge is indeed full of energy, matching her dancers step for step. The not so positives, 45 minutes late, 1 hour 40+ set, mostly newer stuff rather than classic Madonna, meant that even some die-hard fans were left saying this wasn’t the best they had seen her. And then we have the ticket prices. Cheap seats at £55 to top whack, jaw droppingly priced £175 (lets not forget the BF etc) and the not so cheap merchandising. I personally have a real issue with such stupendously priced tickets and, as such, I expected far, far more than what we got for tonight’s performance. The gig was very nearly sold out, clearly people were happy to pay that sort of money to see their icon and many, many clearly had a fantastic time.

 

*************************************

The Prayer Overture: Act of Contrition

  1. Girl Gone Wild
  2. Revolver
  3. Gang Bang
  4. Papa Don’t Preach
  5. Hung Up
  6. I Don’t Give A *

 

Prophecy (Best friend)

  1. Express Yourself
  2. Give Me All Your Luvin’

 

Turning Up the Hits

  1. Turn Up The Radio
  2. Open Your Heart (with Kalakan excepts from ‘Sagarra jo!’)
  3. Masterpiece (with Kalakan)

 

Masculine / Feminine (Justify My Love)

  1. Vogue
  2. Candy Shop
  3. Human Nature
  4. Like A Virgin

 

Celebration ( Nobody Knows Me)

  1. I’m Addicted
  2. I’m a Sinner
  3. Like  Prayer
  4. Celebration

 

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