Tag Archive: Music

New Model Army @ Nottingham Rock City, 13 December 2014

To a city filled with the myth of the legend on the man who robbed the rich to feed the poor, we’re here to see Cromwell’s army as the ‘family’ roll into town for a special and unique take of this particular band’s 34 year career. With just two dates in the UK – welcome all to ‘Between Blood and Wine’ with New Model Army.

New Model Army formed way back in 1980 in Bradford, Yorkshire, releasing their first album in ‘Vengeance’ in ‘84.  Led by Justin Sullivan, NMA  attract a truly loyal following and as a band, been overtly political, never fearful of being confrontational, is part of their DNA. They’ve 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. Resilient to the last – lineup changes, personal tragedies are all part of the band’s history and are part of who they are.

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And everyone is here for an incredibly early start to a gig – the main band are due stage on at 6.45pm according to their website and Facebook feeds (curfew is 10 – club night after – a usual with such venues these days) and will deliver a two part, over 2 ½ hour one-off set – with additional musical guests and experimentation’s on the old.  NMA are excited about the possibilities as are the early fans who tuned up tonight.

NMA take to the stage around 7.15pm – the venue is already rammed to the hilt, with punters from all corners of the UK and beyond, the faithful, the devotees, the fan, the new the old, punks, rockers, goths, people in suits and fancy dresses, little people – a whole eclectic mix to see these Bradford stalwarts.

The set is dripping with dry ice, spot lights give effect and the menace of Sullivan is already on show. ‘Guessing’ – he’s ranting at the stars. To huge applause from the fans. ‘Rumour & Rapture’ and ‘Christian Militia’ set the tone – and Sullivan thanks and tells us every year is some kind f anniversary – this in particular ‘1984’.  And then to a drum-punching beat (there’s double drummers on stage tonight) to add to the power. Ke’s been to some interesting place and went to one and came back with this ‘Red Rain’ – red set, crankily powerful song, NMA are ramping it up. ‘Stormclouds’ from their latest and up there with their best album ‘ Between Dog and Wolf’ is storming quite literally, followed by their 80’s hit ‘ No Rest. “By God – What is this evil we have done?” we all chant as a question.

To a song “about lots of things, ‘Knievel’ – to song from their other great album ‘Thunder and Consolation’ ‘Family’ to the title track of the new ‘Between Dod and Wolf.’

Part one is over – and we all stop to take breath. NMA are on form tonight and the crowd buzz with anticipation for part 2. It’s very warm inside the packed Rock City and they return ‘ here we go. First start starts with ‘Ballad’ – and starts quietly. Sullivan stops are the first attempt – the crowd is noisy, some tell others to shut up. Again he starts, and again he stops. “Com’on give us a break..” requests Sullivan. “ We’ll ask you very rudely to shut the f** up “ [to cheers from the fans]”… or we’ll f*** off. If you didn’t want to come you shouldn’t have brought ticket.” Shhhhhhh goes the crowd and third time lucky we’re off – and expanded Army on stage, two violinists, cello-ist. The faithful are singing.Next us ‘ Someone Like Jesus’ – haunting rendition.

Wether ballad on full on venomous angst – NMA are in the zone and the faithful be at one. ‘Orange Tree Roads’ about choices in life – the crowd are bopping, heads bouncing, arms the air. And everyone know the words and chants to all lyrics float through the venue. ‘March in September’ we “ooooooo” – ‘Devil’s Bargain’ the stage drenched in red light – a drumbeaten chant.

This one’s a young person’s song. As the young look up to the adults. Sullivan ponders that our own children may be doing the same to us. He hope’s this is not want they are thinking as they give us ‘A Liberal Education’ – the ‘towers’ of fans in force again – a line of five plus people standing on literally the shoulders of others – punching out to the tune.

MA are giving us everything from all their extensive catalos tonight – ‘No Mirror, No Shadow’ from 2007’s ‘High’ – “As you get older you carry more baggage with you?” ponders Sullivan. Tonight we  are part of something. We are chosen. As we chant out way through ‘One of the Chosen’. ‘Family’ starts off in a more acoustic stripped back manner – and then we sing. “Give me some place that I can go, Where I don’t have to justify myself, Swimming out alone against this tide. Looking for family, looking for tribe.” Sullivan ponders that it is an unlikely song to sing along to and the crowd spontaneously  bust into ‘Merry Christmas Everyone…’

“Innocent days….” Sullivan comments, and we’re into the next epic. ‘No Pain.’ And the tracks power along – ‘Angry Planet’, ‘Purity’ and it’s abdicate accompaniment ‘Poison Street’. And the set complete, with the venom angst and chant that is ‘What A Wonderful Way To Go…’

Set complete – the band soak it up 0- mutual appreciation from band and crowd. But it’s not over.
In full violin flow ‘Vagabonds’ – before a huge drum crank – it’s vicious, and venomous and we sing “We are old, we are young, we are in this together, Vagabonds and children, prisoners forever
With pulses a-raging and eyes full of wonder, Kicking out behind us again…” And then we get their take on a Kinks cover, ‘Daylight’. Sullivan tells us that Ray Davies wimped out when heard it.  But hey, f*** it they thought, they’d do it anyway. Before the totally frenetic ‘225’ from ‘Thunder and Consolation’. Rampant.

And another encore – ‘Vengeance and we chant “I believe in getting the b*****ds, getting the b*****ds, getting the b*****ds….” Thanks to all, their crew and their kinda Christmas take, dedicated to Tommy Lee, everyone is singing. We’re in the valleys of the ‘Green and Grey’, where we think most clearly.

Nottingham Rock City. As soon as we walked into the doors decision was made. In all the years, I’ve been gong to gigs, I’ve never made it here before. The dark environment, sticky floors cavernous celling, mezzanine floor, atmosphere and awesome sound system. We’d like to swap Rock City with Brum’s o2 Academy please? Thanks.

I’ve seen NMA a few times over the years – invariably, whatever the line-up, however many fans are there they give EVERYTHING. They are tough. Rugged. Tonight, it was great to see them play probably one their largest solo gigs in the UK for years to the 2,500 punters. NMA and the family in full glorious, in your face, glory.  Track were not old, this was no retro tour, this is current, this is now – bizarrely probably more so then in their entire career. With the incredibly talented group of musicians and this special guests tonight, this was indeed more than special. Tonight, we’re grinning – awesome gig – we all know this is what this band deserve and then some.

Look for family? Looking for tribe? Then join the Model Army.  It’s a Wonderful Way to Go….

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Setlist I:
Guessing
Rumour & Rapture
Christian Militia
1984
Red Earth
Stormclouds
No Rest
Knievel
Waiting
Family
Between Dog and Wolf

Setlist II:
Ballad
Someone Like Jesus
Into the Wind
Orange Tree Roads
March in September
Devil’s Bargain
A Liberal Education,
No Mirror, No Shadow
One of the Chosen
Family Life
No Pain
Angry Planet
Purity
Poison Street
Wonderful Way to Go

Encore I:
Vagabonds
Daylight [The Kinks Cover]
225

Encore II:
Vengeance
Green and Grey

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Listening: New Model Army
Thunder and Consolation [1989]
Between Dog and Wolf [2013]
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Pictures courtesy of Ken Harrison. Review for Gig Junkies

Erasure + Shelter @ Wolverhampton Civic, 29 November 2014

It’s the end of November and Christmas is approaching at a million miles an hour. Here at Gig Junkies, we think we’ve been good little guys and gals so we’ve busily been writing our little Christmas list for Santa Claus. We’ve asked for a barn-storming, sing-a-long poptastic full-on party! And Santa – he say yeah! Yippee! So tonight we’re here at Wolves Civic for a full, over-the-top party with a electronic synth god and a guy with a voice to die for – courtesy of Erasure.

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So right at the turn of the eighties, people dreamed of being in bands.  Once upon a time there was a guy, who formed in a band that went on to have stratospheric success – one of the biggest bands in the world (aka Depeche Mode). But this guy left after the first album. Then he formed a duet with a truly unique blues singer (Yazoo with one Alison Moyet) – more huge success. Two years, two albums later, that too was over was over. Then another act, with a former Undertone (Feargal Sharkey) and yet another hit. Moving on. He placed an advert in the Melody Maker and came across an unknown singer, a young lad called Andy Bell. With a pretty good voice. This time it’s lasted, a music marriage made in heaven…..

Tonight’s support is duo Shelter - who give us synth poptastic music to bop along to, to get us in the mood. They have a debut album out – ‘Emerge’ and play several songs for us including ‘Diablo.’ They had singles out earlier in the year ‘iPop’  and ‘beautiful’ with Andy Bell – check them out on the Ministry of Pop – the UK’s newest independent label for great pop and dance music.

Tonight’s gig is sold out. And the eclectic crowd are well up for the party. One lass is stuck outside – a ticket problem – and is kicking off  and doesn’t appear to make it into tonight’s gig. She’s not happy. Meanwhile back in the venue – lights down and here they come – Clarke suited and booted behind his techno gadgets, and the gregarious and charismatic Bell in top hat, sparkly jacket and shades. First track ‘Oh L’Amour’ is danced up, but that makes no difference – we’re already singing and bopping away.

Bell: “ Good evening everyone! Feels like I know everybody individually you come here so much – looks like we have a full house tonight!!” [Big cheer from the crowd].

And the light’s are a-blazing, pink, white, purple  and we be dancing and singing at the top of our voices. Bell is dancing, joined vocally by two backing singers – his voice floating. And we get a couple of tracks from new album ‘The Violet Flame’ – ‘Reason’ is. we’re told, their take on Northern Soul…

As Bells strips off his jacket – the crowd cheer, and he’s soon in Blonde t-shirt and spangly shorts.  And the hits keep coming – ‘ You Surround Me’,… “We’ll be together again….” we’re into ‘Stop!’,’Victim of Love’ – and we singing away – “Just one psychological drama after another, You are guilty [GUILTY we shout as one] and how you ever entered into this life, God only knows, the infinite complexities of love….”

The beautiful ‘Ship of Fools’ is danced up – well hey, few bands have the genius of Clarke – and he’s clearly been inspired to ‘modernise’ and dance up several tracks here tonight. And more and more, the hits – they keep on coming;  Erasure and giving the fans exactly what Santa ordered  ‘Blue Savannah’, ‘Chains of Love’, ‘Love to Hate You’ – their take on the classic spurned love song  ‘I Will Survive.’ Hey hey indeed. ‘Chorus’ is morphed into a fun on rave, drum and bass – Clarke’s gone all Ibiza. We blame Depeche Mode synth god Martin L. Gore – who Clarke teamed up with in 2011 for VCMG.

Encore and they give us ‘Always’ and ‘Sometimes’ and we’re singing: ”Ooh sometimes…”

Erasure live are a great celebration of life!  Clarke, the genius, has written phenomenal pop songs, I defy you not to sing  along to.  Bell’s voice is a real delight and continues to have a phenomenal range. Erasure were here to gig us a party – and indeed they did and then some – I’ve rarely seen a gig were everyone is dancing and singing at the top of their heads with gigue grins in such a manner. You will dance, you will bounce, you will know pretty much ALL the songs you can sing along to. And you will smile.

A total Christmas uplifting treat thank you Santa!  Don’t stop! Go and party! As Always – More than a little respect….

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Setlist:
Oh L’Amour
Star
Reason
Breath of Life
You Surround Me
Elevation
Stop!
Drama!
Victim of Love
Ship of Fools
Sacred
Breathe
Dead of Night
Blue Savannah
Chorus
Love to Hate You
A Little Respect
Chains of Love

Encore:
Always
Sometimes
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Listening:
The Circus (1987)
Total Pop! The First 40 Hits (2009)
The Violet Flame (2014)

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

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.

Hugh Cornwell + Hazel O’Connor @ The Robin 2, Bilston, West Midlands, 25 November 2014

Tonight, Gig Junkies friends, we are in Bilston, in the Black Country and the delectable little venue that is the Robin 2 to see two blasts from the past – two icons of punk / new wave on a double headlining set - Hazel O’Connor and Hugh Cornwell.

First up, and so a potted bit of history, is Hazel O’Connor. Ms O’Connor is best know for ‘Breaking Glass.’ ‘Breaking Glass’ was a 1980 British film featuring O’Connor, Phil Daniels and Jonathan Price  but it was probably most notable for O’Connor’s debut album and soundtrack to the film, which went platinum and made #5 in the UK Charts with a string of classic hits. This was O’Connor and her most commercially successful. She has continued to record, issuing a plethora of albums since and to coincide with her 2014 album ‘Her She Comes’ she here tonight, with the two legendary performers who feature on the album – saxophonist Clare Hirst (Bellestars, Communards, David Bowie) and Sarah Fisher (Eurythmics) on keyboards.

And indeed her set features an eclectic mix of much of ‘Breaking Glass’ and some new stuff. This trio of women perform well together, O’Connor’s voice remains as powerful, and the interpretation of the old by the trio goes down well as the first track from that album is delivered – ‘If Only.’ “We are three women…” announces O’Connor. “Unless one of us is a transvestite.”

‘Don’t Call Me Darling’ is off the new album – and includes some French lyrics – a protest against sexism in the music industry. She’s definitely NOT your baby.  Back to ‘Breaking Glass’ we have the track inspired by the story of Blair Peach, who died as a result of injuries received in a fall at an anti-racism demonstration in Southall in 1979 – ‘Who Calls the Tune.’

O’Connor is a local lass, originally from Coventry (though she now lives in Ireland).  Chatty and engaging, she tells us she doesn’t do planes – she does boats. Likes tea (which she can drink in peace on said boat) and bags (which will be in her car on said boat and which she won’t loose!). The next song is written for her mother, who was in a hospice. During this difficult time, and to cheer her mom up, there had been a blizzard, so she built a snowman to make her smile and named him ‘Harry.’ This song is dedicated to her mom – ‘I Give You My Sunshine.’

‘Blackman’ from THAT album, is a jazzier version, and somewhat faster; as is ‘Shape of Things to Come.’  And then the cup of tea – it must be THAT track. The last dance in the ballroom as they say. ‘Will You?’ and we sing, and Hirst gives the classic sax tune. Big cheer and thank you.

Encore gives us her rendition of Snow Patrol’s ‘Chasing Cars’ – a laid back version and then the ‘Eighth Day.’ Forever and ever amen, amen, amen indeed.  Great response from the 500 or so punters here tonight. And to complete a sing a-long – with the Bilston Robin 2 Choir (that’s us lot then) – ‘Hey ho I’m Still Breathing.’

And so to a quick break before set number 2. Hugh Cornwell. Cornwell was the original lead singer of iconic The Stranglers and the vocalist and guitarist on some of their classic hits. With them for 16 years, he was on 10 albums and 21 top 40 singing’s before leaving the band in 1990. His latest outing ‘Totem and Taboo’ was released in 2013 to rave reviews and he’ll be playing Strangler’s hits and songs from this recent album for us tonight.

So him and his drummer and female bass player take to the stage and, without saying anything to the crowd, spend 5 minutes tuning, as the crowd wait expectantly before the title track from his latest album ‘Totem & Taboo.’ Then Stranglers track ‘Skin Deep’  and then another from ‘Totem’, the songs intermixed. Cornwell is not happy with the lighting, northe sound, and it takes a few tracks before he settles in and is more comfortable and starts chatting.

‘Duchess’ is given in true Cornwell style, before an older track – requested – ‘Hooverdam’. The crowd chant – “Hughie, Hughie, Hughie” the group of former punks keen to engage with their idol.

For classic ‘Strange Little Girl’ finally we get Cornwell – the voice – the track – he still has those classic vocals. ‘God is a Woman’, again from ‘Totem’ – “….and now we’ve established that – let’s go down to the beach…” – ‘Peaches’ style, which receives the biggest cheer of the night so far. Whilst the ‘Totem’ tracks are delivered well – it is invariably those Strangler’s tracks the punters want to here – ‘Get a Grip (On Yourself)’  from 1977’s ‘Rattus Norvegicus’ (probabaly better known as ‘The Stranglers IV)’get’s those punks pogoing -Cornwell’s version tonight  is raw and stripped back.

Encore starts with a bass rhythm as we go into ‘Totem’ – ‘In the Dead of the Night’ which rambles and stomps – you can hear the core origination from The Stranglers sound. And back to his former band – with ‘Nice n Sleazy’ (which it is), ‘Tank’ and ‘No More Heroes.’ Cornwell’s sound is rawer and punkier – it takes some getting used to as his renditions of these classics exclude the keyboards, which you end up playing as a backing track i your mind.

And another Encore – gives us ‘Bad Vibrations’ and then O’Connor and her females buddies are back as she gives us her take on ‘Hanging Around.’

Tonight’s show was a blast from the past – while there are new tracks there invariably the punters are there to see the classics. O’Connor gave us a good set – the old and the new – but the stand out was probably always likely to be ‘Will You?” Cornwell was punkier and rawer. He’s clearly still angry and snarly. It was great to hear his vocals and at times they really did take you to that place  especially with ‘Strange Little Girl’. It’s a difficult challenge when his former band are out and about and delivering every year – better and better and you have to park aside The Stranglers version 2014 from Hugh Cornwell version 2014, and take’s Cornwell’s version of those tracks in the way he delivers them.

For the fans there tonight – a thoroughly enjoyable evening with their punk new wave idols. Punk aint dead –  this variety of new wave punk is still very much alive and kicking. And is sure as hell isn’t  stuck in Daily Mail Land…

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Hugh Cornwell Setlist:
Totem & Taboo
Skin Deep
Stuck in Daily Mail Land
DagDave
I Want One of Those
Duchess
Hooverdam
Strange Little Girl
God is a Woman
Peaches
Gods Guns and Gays
Get a Grip on Yourself
A Street Called Carroll
Straighten Out

Encore I
In the Dead of the Night
Nice n Sleazy
Tank
No More Heroes

Encore II
Bad Vibrations
Hanging Around

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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.

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