Tag Archive: o2 Academy

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.

Extreme + Leogun @ 02 Academy Birmingham, UK – 7 July 2014

So let’s take ourselves back in time to 1990 as a over 2,000 people head into Birmingham to see veteran (this makes me feel old) rockers as they bring their classic album, Pornograffitti to town. They be performing it from top to bottom in it’s entirety in track order. Get your singing voice ready and be prepared to rock with Extreme.

Extreme were formed in the mid 80s in the Boston area of Massachusetts, USA. After initial success they got the deal and recorded the album they are performing tonight, ‘Extreme II: Pornograffi’  featuring the mega ballad ‘More Than Words’ that struck a cord in the UK making Number 2 in the charts in ’91, let alone world wide acclaim. The band went on to release a further 2 albums before disbanding in ’96. Lead singer Gary Cherone went on to join Van Halen (following in the shoes of Dave Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar) before going solo; Nuno Bettencourt, the uber-talented guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, also went solo between forming  bands, – before Extreme sporadically come back together over the years, performing and producing their fourth studio album in 2008. Extreme 2014 edition are Gary Cherone (vocals), Nuno Bettencourt (guitar and keys), Pat Badger (bass) and Kevin Figueiredo (drums).

So when Extreme has this success in their hey day, they were at odd with a grunge obsessed rock scene. I saw Extreme at this time, at Wolves Civic. It was at a time when a) bands stopped touring because there was no money in it (!) and b) there was NO venues in Brum (!!) – literally the nearest venue mid sized venue was Wolves Civic. It was half empty and most the people were there to see a set they thought would variation on the ‘More Than Words’ theme. But to their shock it was a heavy rock gig and I remember most the audience being totally flummoxed. I enjoyed it. But then again, I like the alternative / heavy side. And it was a rare gig at the time.

Support tonight comes from Leogun – pronounced ‘Leo-Gun’- which according to their Facebook page – “Believed to be a were-lion, LEOGUN was a half man, half lion.” 

This three-piece hail from Londinium, and deliver an eclectic mix of  blues, soul and one hell of a whole lotta rock & roll.  Leogun are funky, rocking and grinding it down – old style rock and roll with stoner rock thrown in for good measure, their mob-heads head-banging to their rock funk sound. Definitely a band for the future – expect to see far more of them – and the audience really appreciate them tonight.

So as the lights go down and there’s very big cheer, the speakers pump out thunder and pianos, the audience clap clap clap – and the guitar cranks up….

Cherone version 2014 has the all hair back, and Bettencourt remains great eye candy for the ladies. First track is ‘Decadent Dance’ all funked up and chanty – though maybe hasn’t stood the test of time musically too well. Regardless the crowd love it – the light’s are on the crow, the band grinning like Cheshire cats.

And as they roll through the rock funk album, Extreme remain musically tight – vocals fully harmonized; rocking on down. Pornograffitti ‘live’ is far heavier than on vinyl, CD, digital (whatever the current options!) and Cherone know’s which city he’s in – ‘Birmingham’ as he encourages the audience.

Then the bass boots up, the guitar cranks in and we’re into the track with the ‘replacement’ word – we’ll be ‘Getting the Funk Out’ then. The crowd sing the chorus nice and loudly.…  “If you don’t like what you see here, get the funk out; we won’t try to force-feed you, get the funk out….” Accompanied by this chant, Bettencourt completes with a guitar epic and receives a big cheer.

Bettencourt’s the one doing the talking, he’s chatty and seated and his acoustic guitar has appear ed on stage. There just Bettencourt and Cherone, the later now with his hair tied back. And here we go…’More Than Words.’ The crowd sing – every word. Bettencourt stops playing and watches in wonder; Cherone conducts. As a recent artist I reviewed commented: every band, no matter how big has a magic moment. And this be Extreme’s. No lighters waving from side to side these days – just everyone feeling the need to film… “Beautiful’ acknowledges Bettencourt. And huge applause – this track maybe Extreme’s albatross, that single track that identifies them about above all the rest, but they are milking it for very moment – and the crowd love it.

There can be problems when bands perform albums in track order – because the set can dip – and the next few we’re back into their rock n roll funk – Cherone is enthusiastic, energetically pacing the stage, encouraging the audience – Bettencourt in full on axe merchant at times – is ludicrously talented. ‘It(’s a Monster)’ gets us bouncing along. “How are you feeling tonight ‘cos you sound incredible…”

Seated again – things calming down from the frenetic rock funk – Bettencourt does chopsticks on a piano – before he goes all classical and blues, Cherone joining in on vocals  – a total departure in genre – ‘When I First Kissed You.’

Bettencourt quips he can no longer do what he is about to do – yeah right – as he gives us a frenetic guitar rendition of ‘Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee’ as he becomes full on axe-merchant and the band continue with ‘He-Man Woman Hater.’

And then we get sing-a-long-Extreme-in-Brum – with full on harmonies “…all for one and one for all…”. Outside on Bon Jovi, Extreme have got to be one of the most sing-along bands.

Thank you for making us feel so much at home… sing along with this one please…”  ‘Hole Hearted’(ly) we do. This is exactly what Extreme do best.  And then we get a snippet of acoustic version of Queen’s ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ – we’re still singing!

Extreme are a band clearly love playing live.They’re energetic and enthusiastic – each member showing of their individual musical prowess in bucket-loads. This album was released right in the middle of grunge – in some ways out of time for such a glam-pop-funk-rock themed album. And you have to say, while Extreme rock out as good as any band, it is their sing-a-long hits ‘Hole Hearted’ and ‘More Than Words’ that are the clear standouts by a country mile. Extreme are fun – and if you like your music on the lighter side – be warned at times they are heavy and loud. Did we get the funk out? We partied indeed – we didn’t get outta there. Worth seeing – if they’re your thang – more than words can say.

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Setlist:
Decadence Dance
Li’l Jack Horny
When I’m President
Get the Funk Out
More Than Words
Tie Your Mother Down (Queen cover)
Money (In God We Trust)
It (’s a Monster)
Pornograffitti
When I First Kissed You
Suzi (Wants Her All Day What?)
Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee / He-Man Woman Hater
Song for Love
Hole Hearted

Encore:
Play with Me
Rest in Peace
Am I Ever Gonna Change
Midnight Express
Cupid’s Dead

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Review for Gig Junkies; pictures Katja Orgin

The Stranglers + Nine Below Zero @ 02 Academy, Birmingham – 22 March 2014

My calendar was set for date 12 months ago even before the dates were announced. Like clockwork this is a annual night out that’s almost set in stone. And this time it’s a tad special. With a glint of ruby, this band are celebrating 40 years in the business. There can be few as resilient and as enduring, with a back catalogue to die for, than what these icons of the alternative possess. With a true stubbornness to call it quits, we’re here to see one of the UK’s most enduring bands – The Stranglers.

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The fans tonight are keen and up for a party, quite rightly, as we wait for the support to come on. Nine Below Zero are an English blues band formed in ‘77. Dennis Greaves, Brendan O’Neil, Mark Feltham (also a member of Rory Gallagher’s band) and Brian Bethel (part of the Blow Monkeys) were a popular alternative to the mainstream in the early 80s. And since, they’ve achieved cult like status across Europe since. “Oy stop your nagging will ya!” as they go into a rimp-romping blues riff by the same name. With cover a cover from the legend that is Wilko Johnson, NBZ give us total rhythm and blues with harmonica in tow. ‘Three times is enough’ takes us back to ska / early Madness – NBZ are great fun and hugely slick. “We’ve only been in the business 35 years! Mark’s mom asked him if we were on the tour with the Strangles! If they’re the Strangles, we’re Nine Below Under…” A cover of Canned Heat’s ‘On the Road Again’ get’s us boogying, before “Let’s have a go at one we did as kids…” as they go into ’11 + 11.’ They tell us they’ll be back in Brum later in the year – check them out – they’re well worth a punt as they finish their set with a harmonica-blues, hornpipe-like, rip-roaring edition of ‘Riding on the N+L.’

Academy is packed tonight; the lads still pull in a large crowd and we’re here to party. While we wait in good spirits, the partisan Brum crowd sing along to ELO’s ‘Mr Blue Sky’…

Formed in ’74 by founding members Jean Jaques (J.J.) Burnel, Jet Black and Hugh Cornwell, Dave Greenfield joined them within a year. A series of successful punk hits, then embracing a more commercial yet unique sound during the eighties, The Stranglers became a regular not only in the charts, but on the touring scene. Cornwell left in ‘90, they uncompromisingly replaced him with Paul Roberts. Then 14 years ago, Roberts left and still not in a mind for calling it a day, The Stranglers duly replaced him with vocalist and guitarist Baz Warne, who fits in so well, that you‘d think he’d been here for the full forty years. The incredible Jet Black, is still here, still drumming away at 75, but now sharing the role with touring drummer and ‘youngster’ Jim Macauly. On stage there be two drum kits, side by side.

The lights go down and we get THE classic Stranglers intro ‘Waltzinblack’ which morphs into chains clunking and doors slamming shut. To a huge cheer from the crowd, the original Men in Black set off as they mean to go on with ‘London Lady’; J.J. taking vocal duties, before THAT bass riff and we’re into ‘No More Heroes.’ Already we’re all singing our hearts out; song completes to a huge cheer. As the reddened set fades to blue it’s ‘Coup de Grace…’ which fades into the in your face ‘Was It You?’ – J.J. back on vocals.

Warne: “Good evening Birmingham how the f*** are you? Thank you for coming to our fortieth – we’ll just keep on going shall we?” Yet another big cheer – a hallmark of the evening. ‘Threatened’ is just part of a set that covers every genre they’ve ever dabbled in – from the sublime to in your face punk – as J.J. gives it his all on ‘Somat Outanowt.’ I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, J.J. is one of the best bass players you’ll ever see – the rhythm section of the band in such synch, it seems effortless. ‘Still Life’ maybe the more beautiful side,  before another another classic J.J.bass riff and they’re walking on the beaches, looking at the ‘Peaches’ to yet another huge cheer.

Warne has acoustic guitar now as they deliver ‘Midnight Summer Dream’. The crowd chant in unison “Jet Black, Jet Black, Jet Black….” and he is indeed here to take his place, before they deliver The Stranglers at their most beautiful ‘Golden Brown.’ We love it – cheers for Warne as he takes to the front on the stage and we sing. We cheer. Again. Pure class.

The broad grins from the band tell you exactly why, after 40 years, they’re still doing this.

It may be a bitterly cold near spring night outside but in here it’s ‘Always the Sun’ and we sing the chorus loudly. The chanting goes up again…. “Jet Black, Jet Black, Jet Black….”as the band roll into ‘Genetix.’ Warne introduces Black as he takes his leave  and Brum boy and touring drummer Macauly takes his place. Warne: “And for people of a certain age – that be all us really – it’s physical time…” And as the beat goes on Warne and J.J. stomp across the stage, linking arms to pirouette before they’re into ‘Thrown Away.’ The band are so tight, Warne so fully synched into the band live that you would never think they’d been others in his place.

The punky ‘Nuclear Device’ leads to another classic – ‘Skin Deep’ – which we bop along and sing along before the customary huge cheer. Birds squawk – we’re now in…. bang! to ‘Valley of the Birds.’  And from drums, to beat, guitar, then bass – giddy-up it’s ‘Nice n’ Sleazy.’

Warne: “Dya mind if we have a break – we’ve just done 10 songs without a break…” We know how you feel, we’re standing, dancing, some seated and we feel kinda guilty;  if the band can deliver like this after forty years we’re not going to complain about any aches and pains we may have. “… and we’re getting old! What’s that?” Warne asks a audience member – to a confused response “You’ve had one too many sandwiches my friend…”

Then into ‘Walk On By’ the band jam away, effortlessly in perfect musical harmony, making it look so easy. On and on and on and on.… A moment to chill, as the waves wash over us and then crank up into ‘Freedom is Insane.’ Catch your breath, here we go for the crescendo; ‘Duchess’ which we complete with “God forbid!”, then ‘Five Minutes’ and the the main set completed with ‘Hanging Around.’

Wow. After a frenetic 1 hour 45 we all, let alone the band, finally get a break. The encore doesn’t let up the pace at all. Warne: “You lucky devils – you enjoying yourselves?” As we power into ‘Norfolk Coast’, followed by ‘Something Better Change’, we chant back, before a drum solo and J.J. shouts the line to bring it to a full stop. Final song gets us singing again- ‘All Day and All of the Night’. We’re loving it. As the band depart: but it’s not over, they’re not done yet. Quick break and it’s ‘Tank’ complete with a shirtless (and still very fit) J.J. plus a stage invader.

Warne completes the night with a huge grin and “Thank you very much. Goodnight.”

Wow. Probably the best I’ve seen them and that’s saying something, The Stranglers are always standout. Over a two hour set – The Stranglers remain one hell of a class act, slick and professional yet still remain uncompromising, at times beautiful whilst at other moments in your face.  And they still clearly love what they do. After all these years. They played 31 songs and I can still count a long list of the tracks they didn’t play.  This is part of a 22 date UK tour – Bristol and Manchester are, quite rightly,  sold out. Then 15 dates in Europe and they’re back over the summer for festivals – including V in August. Go check them out – you won’t be disappointed Their annual Birmingham date is in my diary already for next year for when the Men in Black return…

Tonight, at times, my thoughts went to a friend; a long term Stranglers fan.  He was diagnosed with the big C and over the past few years, no matter how difficult, he’d made the annual trip to see them – and loved every single minute. But he didn’t make this 40 th gig. A life cut short way too early. I believe he was here in spirit, with a grin as broad as each band member as The Stranglers delivered their classics in all their glory tonight.

So to finish this review with words from J.J. Burnel himself:

“On this, the occasion of our Ruby Anniversary, I would like to take this opportunity to stick my fingers up to everyone who wrote us off and dismissed us. However I would like to thank those who saw beyond the words of the critics and drew their own conclusions. He who laughs last, laughs longest AND loudest. This year we will make a lot of noise with our friends…”

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Setlist:
Intro – Waltzinblack
London Lady
No More Heroes
Coup de Grace
Was It You?
Threatened
Somat Outanowt
Peasant in the Big Shitty
Still Life
Peaches
Midnight Summer Dream
Golden Brown
Always the Sun
Genetix
Thrown Away
Never Look Back
Nuclear Device
Skin Deep
Time to Die
Lowlands
Valley of the Birds
Nice n Sleazy
Walk On By
Freedom is Insane
Duchess
Five Minutes
Hanging Around

Encore I:
Norfolk Coast
Something Better Change
All Day and All of the Night

Encore II:
Tank

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Review for Gig Junkies; Pictures by Ken Harrison.

Kim Wilde’s Christmas Party featuring Nik Kershaw @ 02 Academy Birmingham, 19 December 2013

It’s Christmmmmmassssss! (in a Noddy Holder like scream!) And tonight we’re invited to a party with an 80’s festive vibe, Kim Wilde’s Christmas Party to be precise with support from former snood wearer Nik Kershaw.

Ticket sales sadly aren’t the best tonight – if you are lucky there’s 500 people in the main Academy tonight. But that hasn’t stopped some punters wearing Christmas hats and reindeer antlers and hopefully that won’t stop the party either.

Starting off at 8pm we have Nik Kershaw. His star shone pretty brightly in the early 80’s – his first two albums selling well, singles spending in excess of an accumulative 60 weeks in the UK charts in 1984 and he got to appear at Live Aid at Wembley in ‘85. Commercial success may have waned since them but he’s continually recorded and regularly plays live.  And at 8pm he appears on stage, minus the snood these days! “Good evening… are you looking forward to Christmas? I’ve borrowed Kim’s band. If you know some of these join in – if you don’t don’t ‘cos that’ll be rubbish.”

First up a cracking rendition of ‘Wide Boy’ – before the drums start up and the tune comes in  and we’re into ‘The Riddle’. And we all sing along…

“Near a tree by a river there’s a hole in the ground, where the old man of Aran goes around and around, in his mind is a beacon, in the veil of the knight, for a strange kind of fashion, there’s a wrong and a right, but he’ll never, never fight over you…”

photoFor some bizarre reason I can quote these lyrics off pat. This may be a small crowd, but we don’t care; everyone cheers.  And then we’re into ‘The One and Only.’ Chesney eat your heart out (this be a Number 1 hit Kershaw wrote it for him). We sing along, Kershaw gets a great response. He needs to clear space in his garage (album plug here), so a track from his latest album ‘The Sky’s the Limit’ before we get ‘Wouldn’t It Be Good.’ We’re happy and we’re dancing and we’re singing. Kershaw still has great talent and vocals – he’s friendly and engaging, the party has started. And we clock that the bass player in Kim’s band is Nick Beggs formerly of KajaGooGoo.

We’re loving this little set; it may be Christmas but right here, right now it’s summer as we join in to ‘Won’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.’ We grin and sing and Kershaw gets us singing the line alone, conducting the audience. Short and immensely fun set to get us in the party mood.

Kim Wilde holds the record of being the most charted female solo artist of the 80’s with 17 top 40 hits. And they just love her in Germany and Switzerland. With 80s a huge nostalgia, she’s gained recent record contracts with major labels and this year issued another album – it being Christmas, smattered with festive tracks, it’s called ‘Wilde’s Winter Wonderland.’

With just a 15 minute internal, Santa blares out hohoho! And Wilde takes to the stage belting out first track ‘Trust a Stranger’.  She too gets a great response. Next up ‘View from a Bridge’. Again gets a good response; these are the hits and she’s belting them out one after one. Next up ‘Chequered Love’.

“Fantastic to be here…” as she’s tells us what’s going to happen in this evening’s entertainment. She’s well chatty, bantering with the audience and is clearly excited to be here.  As she goes for it on ‘Walking on Glass’. As do the band, who are truly professional and class. Begg’s too is giving it some on his bass, the band contain a family affair – brother Nicky, who has written her hits over the past thirty years is on guitar and niece Scarlett is on backing vocals.

She hasn’t done any Christmas shopping yet – it’s overrated. And so to cover version ‘If I Can’t Have You.’ She’s good at getting the audience participating and we’re all clearly having a good time, people are boogying, dancing away. She says she’s got a lot to smile about these days, she’s so happy to be here after all these years. And then to a classic: ‘Cambodia’. Which we clap, clap, clap. Big cheers, before she sings the last line with Scarlett as the track rolls on. This is 80’s. So we get 12″ remix.

The band have “buggered off” leaving Wilde with the two family members. Someone shouts, “I love you!” “Are you an English person?” she asks? He’s Welsh. “I love you too…” She refers to her brother “…being a really good person to her drunk with on the tube…” (Check out the link on YouTube as her and her brother serenaded commuters…. this entertaining video has had over 2 million views). First track of this segment is ‘Four Lettered Word.’  Wilde is chatty, yakking away with the punters; apparently she’s getting forgetful in her old age – she doesn’t know why? She wants it to snow, so she can make a snowman. Queue song: ‘Hey Mr. Snowman.’ A few tracks off her new album, ‘New Life’ has a ditty that rolls and rolls and is overlaid with vocals; with rising tunes the new tracks roll around the venue. “This is the last of the Christmassy song for a while…I recorded it with daddy…” who is 60’s legend Marty Wilde, and who also is still performing today, after 50 years in the business. He’s not here tonight but the other family members take on his duties. With a Japanese feel it’s ‘White Winter Hymnai’. Apparently we will be returning to Christmas later “in a very different way.”

She declares she’s an 80’s girl and she loves singing 80’s song. And so her take on Erasure’s ‘A Little Respect.’ The band belt it out. Wilde and her band are very professional “… Thank you for coming out… thanks from an old girl… This one is for you.” She does yak, as they say she has the gift of the gab. And here is ‘You Came.’  And the set starts to crank to up again to ‘Keep Me Hanging On.’

Quick break and back on akin with bunny ears and white fluffy coat, as this is Christmas! Kershaw is back too (on guitar not singing); he really is a tiny person. Wilde acknowledges local legends and goes for a Holder in her own unique style. Scream everybody: ‘It’s Christmasssssssssss….’ And now for a bit of Wizard ‘I Wish it could be Christmas Everyday.’ It’s literally snowing in the Academy. We’re all feeling festive; Wilde places festive reindeer antlers on Kershaw’s head. This is her drunken tube song and the one she sang it with the late great Mel Smith for Comic Relief; ‘Rockin Around the Christmas Tree.’ Kershaw stands in for Smith in this one, except he’s singing. The entire band have reindeer antlers on.  And we get Santas rocking out on the screens behind.

“Thank you. Goodnight. Adieu.”

And for one final encore which starts up with electronic beat. Crowd clap. The not so Christmassy ‘Kids in America’.  “Thanks so much – have a safe journey home and have a Happy Christmas!”

Well this was billed as a festive party. Nik Kershaw started us off by putting us in the mood and we grinned and danced and sung. Wilde and her band gave us a party – make us smile, feel festive and have a good time. This was a ‘smiley’ gig. Happy Christmas to one and all indeed.

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Nik Kershaw Setlist:

Wide Boy
The Riddle
The One and Only
The Sky’s the Limit
Wouldn’t it be Good
I Won’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me

Kim Wilde Setlist:
Trust a Stranger
View from a Bridge
Chequered Love
Water on Glass
The Second Time
If I Can’t Have You
Stone
Love in the Natural Way
Cambodia

Acoustic set:
Four Letter Word
Love Blonde
Wonderful Life
Hey Mr Snowman
New Life
Hope
White Winter Hymnai

A Little Respect (Erasure Cover)
You Came
You Keep Me Hangin’ On

Christmas Encore:
Merry Christmas Everybody (Slade Cover)
I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday (Wizard Cover)
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (with Nik Kershaw)

Encore II:
Kids in America

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Revelations featuring The Mission + Field of the Nephilim @ 02 Academy, Birmingham 17 December 2013.

And all we want for Christmas? Well we’ll take a bit of nostalgic Gothness as Revelations rolls into town. Featuring the Fields of the Nephilim and The Mission, this gig was ‘announced’ well over a year ago. In September 2012 The Mish supported The Cult (initially with the intention of Killing Joke in tow) at this very venue (downgraded from the LG Arena) in one of their first full band reformations in a few years. In the middle of the gig Hussey announced he was talking to his mate Carl McCoy (who surprisingly few in the audience recognised) about a December gig. Well it wasn’t December 2012 – 2013 it was and here we be…

So we’re here early and so are a good few of the punters, at 7.40 there’s probably a good 1,000 here as the Nephilm are due to take the stage at 7.30 (okay so they are a tad later than billed). The Fields of The Nephilim formed in Stevenage in ’84, gaining cult success. With mythical and magical themes and Aleister Crowley influences they pulled in fans of Goth but the music scene of the time was split, the subcultures of different genres fussy in who they would follow. FOTN gained a loyal following but not necessarily those who followed The Sisters, The Mish and Bauhaus before.  I caught them early on, in a darkened tiny room that was the original legendary JBs in Dudley. By ’91 lead singer McCoy walked – he formed the Nefilim, whilst the other band members continued under the name of Rubicon. Over the years there’s been differing line-ups, sporadic appearances as The Nephilim and once again as the Fields of the Nephilim, the occasional album and emerging in 2008 to play live gigs. This is FOTN first outing in a few years – there must be a full moon, set in the right time, with the right spiritual aligning…

We’re expecting a darkened stage, full of dry ice, FOTN in the shadows, McCoy singing in his deep dark growl. And so the dry ice starts to slowly waft across the stage and over the audience, expectations are coming true. Minutes now, I suspect we wait.

McCoy still has the hat, the hair and the voice. Oh and the shades. And he still looks like he’s walked out of a dustbowl. This is 80s goth in full flow; think Sisters with a truly darkened rolling vibe…. FOTN still remain far more powerful than the insipid inspired Goth groups that followed. Is there a space in modern rock for these guys? Hell yes. And then some. Far more stage, presence and image and atmosphere than many of such indie ilk, but don’t expect conversation. McCoy is not chatty; this is performance, possibly spiritual experience for him, who knows, as he morphs into character.

FOTN are hyper serious. It’s image. It’s pure heavy rock goth. The bass beat. The band is tight; the full experience that is FOTN permeates the Academy. They are loud and are getting a great, well deserved response from the crowd. Occasionally we get men in the crowd standing on the shoulders of others – quite precariously as it happens. Arms out wide – but not moving. Epically dark. McCoy just stands between songs, head bowed, back to the audience. This is indeed the church of the Nephilm.

He speaks. “Thank you.”

An hour’s set and a break. Revelations is clearly, in reality, a double headliner.  Ethereal musical interlude as we wait for their return, then silence and they’re back. Big cheers for the band and especially for McCoy. ‘Moonchild’. I have been transported in time. Set completed with ‘Last Exit for the Lost’; arms in the air, fans mesmerized.

Four more words: “Thank you very much.”

After an hour and 10 they leave the stage.  An epic performance indeed.

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And the crowd swaps. FOTN fans move to back; some leave. Oh, the subculture of genres still exists.

The Mission morphed out of the Sisters of Mercy, becoming the Sisterhood (which Eldritch then claimed) and then re-incarnating themselves as The Mission. Single ‘Serpent’s Kiss’, off ‘Last Chapter,’ soared high on the indie charts and album ‘God’s Own Medicine’ went gold.  ‘93 was their last chart success with ‘Tower of Strength’, as lineups continually changed; the band struggled on and eventually split in ’96, before a variety of incarnations and recordings over the years. Appearing last year with The Cult, this year they’ve been in the studio and recorded album ‘The Brightest Light.’

And so we wait. And wait. It’s after 9.30 – the lights go down to what appears to be a classical ‘Dam Busters’ theme, which morphs into a dirge. Finally they appear on the darkened stage. A cheer, as in the darkness, Hussey is spotted.

A drumbeat starts up; first song a newbie and The Mish clearly need warming up. In their defence the sound in this venue has notoriety for being poor. This version of Hussey is the lesser grey haired, black-sunshaded variety that looks like he’s just walked out his house – akin in jeans and shirt – no black or floppy be-scarfed hat in sight. The audience appears initially confused, and then they wake up and chuck beer as we get ‘Beyond The Pale’. Sound remains poor, but the faithful have their hands in the air and up goes the paper confetti.

Hussey: “Cheers – how the f*** are you?” Then a dig at the support for being “…a Goth Christmas road show…” He’s telling hecklers to f*** off, threatening them with his friends. He says he was in a really good mood. Clearly he isn’t now – Hussey appears to be having a hissy and as he garbles, he admits he doesn’t know what he’s saying. Methinks he’s already partaken in too much falling down water. Next track “…breathe deep, then deeper still…” – ‘Naked and Savage.’

Another new track from their new album; “Have you got it?” the crowd respond positively – though Hussey doesn’t believe them – they haven’t sold many. He says he’d too download it for free if he could. The new stuff live doesn’t have the same power or carry as the older.  Tonight, in Brum, his niece is here. Her name is Sophie and it’s her fourth Mission gig. And it’s her birthday. So we sing the song. The Mish play another newbie ‘Belief.’

‘Severina’, as people stand on the shoulders of men, is somehow lacklustre. ‘Butterfly on a Wheel’ is a tad better. ‘Sacrilege’ has the potential to deliver – there are indeed highlights within the song – the potential of what should be from The Mission – but it’s not quite there. Arms in the air to another classic, the epic ‘Wasteland’ albeit delivered manically fast. But the faithful don’t care.

Last song is another newbie. ‘Swan Song.’ Lots of people are leaving… some have departed already as the Academy crowd starts to thin out – the completed set gets a lukewarm response and we wait quietly and expectantly… Will they return?

As the bass player returns he sarcastically says “… and the crowd went wild…” Uh-oh. A complication with iPad and mike stand (?) and we’re trying to shake, shake, shake to the ‘Crystal Ocean.’ Hussey sounds more pissed. ‘Like a Hurricane’ we sing along and indeed men and girls are on shoulders again. It’s now 11pm. Curfew time. The bar closes shutters down. ‘Blood Blothers’ is delivered at breakneck speed. Then another ‘Deliverance’ rambles, but the faithful sing back. Hussey is wandering, around the stage, in the pit; offering his near empty bottle of red wine to the front of the audience. The bass player is somehow precariously lying on the amp at the side of the stage attempting to play. The song completed with Hussey singing the final line with just the drummer. And they’re off. People are still leaving. There’s no rapturous applause – a response yes – but some confusion. Will they return one again – they’re well after the venue curfew? But they do. The bass player returns to tell the audience he’s totally twatted. We’ve noticed.

The finale, once again, has glimpses of what The Mish can deliver – ‘Tower of Strength’ gets hands in the air and a potential people pyramid. Hussey goes a-wandering again – he’s in the pit, lauding the attention. As the track comes to a close, bizarrely Hussey starts singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ before telling a heckler to “shut the f*** up!” and meandering off stage. The bass player, so blasted, has once again managed to lie on the amp, in a vague attempt to play horizontally. He’s too obliterated to get down; he’s carried off over a roadie’s shoulder, to which the crowd cheers.

Tonight was a weird one in loads of ways. What a mixture. FOTN were surprisingly relevant. The stars and mystical forces were clearly aligned. Atmospheric, though not overblown, tight and powerful. They delivered and then some. They may not have the commercial back catalogue that The Mish have but they delivered on every other level. Well worth catching for the experience if you can and should McCoy choose, their time may well be here, now that genres are intermixed, playing festivals outside of their genre is a huge option. Lesser known bands have done more.

And so to The Mish. I’ve seen these guys’ lots of time, from The Powerhouse as ‘Serpent’s Kiss’ broke, to a vague memory of their dizzy heights at the NEC. And I’ve seen them when they’ve been pissed up before. They’ve a powerful back catalogue, songs like ‘Tower of Strength’ stand out when played on Kerrang! radio. With an announcement of this gig over a year ago, tour dates released months ago, a new album in tow, this could have been so much more. The rare performance of FOTN didn’t just blow The Mish of stage – they totally annihilated them. Rock n’ roll pissed up performances may have a coolness to them but only if you deliver.  This Mish set was definitely one for the faithful. What a shame.

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Setlist

Fields of the Nephilim
(Dead but Dreaming)
Chord of Souls
For Her Light
At the Gates of Silent Memory
Love Under Will
The Watchman
New Gold Dawn
Psychonaut
Mourning Sun

Encore:
Moonchild
Last Exit for the Lost

 

The Mission
Black Cat Bone
Beyond the Pale
Hands Across the Ocean
Naked and Savage
The Girl in a Furskin Rug
Belief
Severina
Butterfly on a Wheel
Everything but the Squeal
The Crystal Ocean
Wasteland
Swan Song

Encore 1:
Crystal Ocean
Like a Hurricane
Blood Brothers
Deliverance

Encore 2:
Tower of Strength

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Review for Gig Junkies. Pictures Ken Harrison

Alice in Chains + Ghost + Walking Papers @ 02 Academy Birmingham, 13 November 2013

If you were to do a ‘Rock Family Tree’ of the Seattle music scene and those associated with it, it would become a crazed scribble like a spider had gone mad on the page. And in Brum tonight (another ‘legendary home of metal’), some of that scrawl comes our way, with a rather unusual left-field ‘blip’ in the middle. Alice in Chains, with a Ghost and some Walking Papers.

First up and a very early start Walking Papers. From Seattle, this blues-rock band was initially a duo of Jeff Angell (Post Stardom Depression, The Missionary Position) and Barrett Martin (Skin Yard, Screaming Trees). Within a short time, Duff McKagan joined them on bass (you may have heard of a couple of bands he’s been in: Guns n’ Roses, Velvet Revolver…) as did Benjamin Anderson on keyboards. Sometimes, when his other band isn’t doing much, some bloke called Mike McCready pops along to join them on stage (he’s busy at the mo, doing his ‘day’ job  – with Pearl Jam…).  Walking Papers released their self-titled album in October 2012 and are a great start to this evenings gig.

Then comes the ‘blip’ in the Seattle proceedings. Well this band make interesting reading. Ghost. Scandinavian black metal. You want a line-up? Well that may be a tad difficult, the vocalist is know as Papa Emeritus II and appears on stage as a Roman Catholic cardinal, in full regalia with skull face paint and crucifix mace. The rest of the band, ‘nameless ghouls’ wear hooded robes and Darth Vader-like masks. All members are anonymous. Lyrically they choose the dark side; blasphemy and sacrilege be their gospel. And, apparently, they have Black Sabbath similarities.

However, if you are expecting screamy, screamy loud, fast metal rock – you couldn’t be more wrong. Coming onto stage to monastic Gregorian chants, they are a weird mixture of Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, monastic chants and operatic overtones. Ghost sound-wise sit far more commercially acceptable and Euro mainstream rock-pop than expected. They’re big in their home country, Sweden and have two albums out if you want to check them out – ‘Opus Eponymous’ and 2013 outing ‘ Infestissumam’. The good cardinal is polite, refined and engaging. They are entirely different, nothing about Ghost is the norm, or obvious for that matter. Ghost may have been inspired by many differing sources, but the way they have brought this together is indeed different. With only a handful their faithful congregation in the crowded Academy tonight (including a couple with painted faces), by then time they left their stage, they certainly left many more intrigued by their performance. Worth checking out.

So as Ghost disappear from view, we get a half hour break while the stage is set for Alice in Chains. None of the original ‘Seattle scene’ bands had an easy life outside of the (unwanted?) commercial success and AiCs story is another with a poignant sadness. Emerging in the early 90s (managed at the time by Susan Silver, former spouse of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell…) their first three albums gained huge success selling over 25 million worldwide. Jerry Cantrell, Layne Staley, Sean Kinney and Mike Inez (who replaced Mike Starr in ’83) were one of the biggest selling bands of the 90s. But after their ’95 self titled album, Staley desperately lost his way to drug oblivion, eventually succumbing in 2002. (Former bassist Mike Starr, allegedly the last person to see Staley alive, also battled the disease, sometimes publicly, before he too, lost his life in 2010).

Mid 90s onwards, with little choice, AiC went into what seemed a perpetual then permanent hiatus. Then in what only be described as possibly one of rock’s greatest come- backs, William DuVall took on Staley’s legendary vocal duties. It may have been a risk, Staley stood out from the crowd, but once again AiC starting performing. I saw them on a sunny afternoon at Download, they were surprisingly impressive. Then came 2009 album ‘Black Gives Way to Blue’; critically acclaimed and a commercial success, followed by another powerful album this year – ‘The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here.’

So onto blackened stage, mike stands bejeweled with plectrums, in full AiC tradition, a powerful, gut-wrenching power-grind starts up. ‘Again’. During the song’s musical interlude the house lights come up – the crowd give the horns to the band – and to DuVall. ‘Check My Brain’ from ‘Black Gives Way to Blue’ has that grinding saw-edge start-off riff. And they don’t let up, into ‘Them Bones’, a classic – a song about mortality.

‘Hollow’, a newbie continues with all the vengeful grind and power that you expect; DuVall’s harmonised vocals with Cantrell crawling through the song. ‘Man in the Box’ another classic – DuVall gets the audience to clap – we are indeed a very happy bunch. This is a set of the new and the old. Tracks off the new albums go down well with the packed rock crowd, respected the same as the old stuff, although the classics, as with many groups, do receive that little bit more rapturous applause. AiC are here for the music, there’s little chat, no overblown charades, between each song the set goes black before they appear to deliver the next powerful epic. They are far more than just ‘grunge’, AiC are alternative and heavy, grinding guitars – dark and at times beautifully melodic.

‘Love Hate Love’ is delivered in its spooky, menacing way; in it’s full glory. DuVall gives it his all and delivers. From his own vocals to the harmonisation with Cantrell, DuVall is no longer ‘the replacement.’ Slowly but surely, he’s becoming his own man.

Set is darkened – we’re into encore and before they re-appear we get an electric warrior excerpt off stage by Cantrell.  Then they’re back on to deliver the grinding and haunting ‘Down in a Hole.’ Nirvana’s Cobain may be noted for lyrics, which all too sadly came true – but take Staley and co. The beautifully haunting ‘Down in a Hole’ from ‘92s ‘Dirt’, with the repetitive chorus of “Down in a hole, feelin’ so small, down in a hole, losin’ control…” with the all too sad premonition… “Down in a hole and I don’t know if I can be saved …”

And then two more, to wet our rock appetites even more, the bass beat that gives us ‘Would?’, written as a thought to Mother Love Bone’s Andy Wood, one of the first from the Seattle bands to loose his life to drugs.  And finally, Cantrell’s tribute to his father – ‘Rooster’.

There is no doubt of that the memory of Staley permeates through the set – Cantrell acknowledges that. AiC live with the past but move forward at the same time. They are not a tribute act to themselves (as some like to say), AiC are here to deliver and boy do they mean business. Listen to their albums, a musical inspiration to so many. Tonight’s crowd were a mix of fans of the original works, but also their latest two albums have brought more into the AiC fold.

Asked recently if there would be another album, Cantrell reckoned there would be in about three to four years. Judging by the audience response tonight, we can’t wait. So are AiC still a force to be reckoned with? You. Bet. Ya. Again… and again… and again…. and again…

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Setlist: Alice in Chains

Again
Check my Brain
Them Bones
Hollow
Voices
Man in the Box
No Excuses
Grind
Got Me Wrong
It Ain’t Like That
Stone
We Die Young
Love, Hate, Love

Encore:
Whale and Wasp (excerpt)
Down in a Hole
Would?
Rooster

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Listening:
Walking Papers
Walking Papers [2012]

Ghost 
Opus Eponymous [2010]
Infestissuman [2013]
Alice in Chains
Facelift [1990]
Dirt [1992]
Jar of Flies [EP] [1994]
Alice in Chains [1995]
Black Gives Way to Blue [2009]
The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here [2013]
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Review by for Gig Junkies. Photos: Ian Dunn

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