Tag Archive: THSH

Mike and The Mechanics + Sadie and the Hotheads @ The Symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK, 1st March 2014

The Symphony Hall and surrounding area is a very busy place tonight. Ant and Dec (not in person) are filming a fling thing in Centenary Square, while there’s a posh black tie do on in one of the halls. But we’re here in the lovely Symphony Hall auditorium to see Mike Rutherford’s ‘side project’ Mike and the Mechanics.

This little off shoot of his hasn’t done too badly. Releasing 7 albums and selling more than 10 million records, they be here tonight celebrating 25 years since the release of ‘Living Years.‘  Rutherford’s other band didn’t do too bad either, notching up over 130 million record sales, making Genesis one of the biggest selling bands ever…

That doesn’t mean to say, it’s been easy. The sudden death of one of the original singers, Paul Young, left Paul Carrack as the only vocalist in a band that featured two lead vocalists. So after quite a hiatus, Rutherford had a swap-around and setup a second incarnation recruiting two new singers. So to confirm these days, Mike and The Mechanics are: Mike Rutherford (Genesis), Andrew Roachford (solo performer, known in his own right, for ‘Cuddly Toy’), Tim Howar (musical stage performer who’s recently appeared in the West End rock musical ‘Rock of Ages’), Anthony Drennan (guitarist with The Corrs, Genesis, Clannad and many more), keyboardist Luke Juby (Leona Lewis, Delta Goodrem, Olly Murs and as part of the band for both XFactor and Britain’s Got Talent) and drummer Gary Wallis (Nik Kershaw, 10CC, Il Divo, Westlife and longest serving member of Mike and The Mechanics with 21 years by Rutherford’s side).

You could say that tonight’s audience is tad older and more refined I guess. Before the gig we’re chatting to some lovely people from Tamworth and Bristol who tell us Mike and The Mechanics are really good – having seen them many times. So we have a positive prognosis for tonight then.

First up Sadie and the Hotheads. Conceived in 2007 when Elizabeth McGovern took guitar lessons from Steve Nelson. He encouraged her to begin to write her own songs and they put together a band of musicians to support the project. Just to clarify, Elizabeth McGovern is better known as an actress, notably as Cora, Countess of Grantham, of Downtown Abbey fame. There a band of seven on stage, McGovern dressed in sparkly silver top and tiny black skirt. The band are an eclectic mix blues meets country with traditional folk mix coming from a left-field stance. She tell’s us she happy to be here tonight and are indeed going down well with the audience. “This track may be familiar…” and as McGovern dances a bit like a zombie; it’s an alternative folky, slowed down version of The BeeGees ‘Staying Alive.’ It’s a bizarre yet surprisingly good take on the track.

She works with a charity called World Vision*, for which she sponsors a child called Justina in Sierra Leone, and she’s keen to promote what they do and the band are indeed at merchandising stand with the charity after their set. Sadie and the Hotheads are interesting, featuring harmonised vocals in an alternative folk way. Check them out, when McGovern and co. next pass by.

And so in the interval we get a bit of Hall and Oats (they’ll be playing here later in the year), ‘Cry Wolf’ by A-Ha and a smattering of The Clash – ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go.…’

And just around 8.30pm, the lights go down, intro music starts and on they come, big cheers and wave to Rutherford. “Hello Birmingham…”

First track ‘A Beggar on a Beach of Gold’ gives us Roachford on keyboards and taking the vocal lead Howar, who has a surprisingly powerful voice and already he’s clearly having a blast fronting the band, there’s a cheeky impish quality about him.  Howar: “Thank you. Anyone for a cup of coffee?” and we indeed go into ‘Another Cup of Coffee’, this time with Roachford on vocal duties.

The band are clearly already enjoying themselves, Howar sings and grins from ear-to-ear, with cheekily infectious enthusiasm in his delivery; Roachford plays keyboards with huge style and accomplishment and his vocals too soulfully soar.  This is already a gig that makes you smile. For ‘Get Up’, there’s is a great camaraderie between the singers and band; the singers just having fun, with one another taking vocal lead from one another and harmoniously dueling.

Rutherford: “Birmingham, it’s Saturday and it’s great to be here…”  There’s cheeky banter between the band as Rutherford implies they’ll deliver their entire back-catalogue tonight…‘Try to Save Me’ was written with Roachford who vocally delivers, before Howar takes duties with the lyrically challenging ‘Seeing is Believing.’ As Rutherford introduces the band, Howar is introduced as delivering ‘vocals and visual interpretation’, which we get – while Roachford delivers in great style, Howar not only brings his powerful voice, but the over emphasised display, akin to musical stage performances. ‘Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)’ is delivered with a great rendition by Roachford taking the lead.

And then to a Roachford track ‘This Generation’ given in all it’s energetic glory, a total clap along – and as the band stop and we continue to clap; Roachford: “Who needs a band? We’ve got the best clappers in the world here….”

Big cheers as crowd recognise the next track, this time a Genesis classic: ‘Turn It On Again.’ Wow! Our jaws drop as Howar, who has a tenor-like voice so far, turns vocal chameleon and sounds uncannily like Collins. He hits the mark and then some. It’s unlikely you’ll ever see Genesis do this (Collins officially retired a few years ago, although is threatening to re-appear, Banks recently killed off any suggestions of reformation) and so it is a pure treat in all its glory.

So to a plug on Mike and The Mechanics retro stuff that’s just been released (quite a list, to which a band member retorts they’ll probably be a pizza too), before new track off said singles collection, ‘When My Feet Don’t Touch The Ground’ – delivered by Roachford. We’d already been told keyboard player Juby is a talented multi-instrumentalist (as well as providing backing vocal duties) as he has indeed taken up bass guitar and by the following song, ‘Everybody Gets a Second Chance’, clearly still bored with keyboards – he’s on sax .

And as the tracks flow, the two singers, swap and intermix, a vocal joust, before we’re given the Roachford classic ‘Cuddly Toy’ which features not just 5 (times) but 21, as the band go dadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadada – every band member bang on time, an expert musical delivery.

And now to another Genesis classic – once again with Howar taking on Collins, as we get ‘I Can’t Dance’ and Howar, Rutherford and Drennan start to do the classic band walk (check out the original video) across the stage. Roachford takes us on the vocal journey for the tour titled ‘The Living Years’, an anthemic prayer and audience arms start to sway from side to side. We’re in full on party mood now, as they deliver ‘All I Need is a Miracle’, Howar giving it his full vocal range… ”sing-a-long-a-Birmingham – cos this is the home of Led Zeppelin” as he get’s us to repeat “all what, all I need, give it to me baby.”

Quick break for an encore, and ‘Over My Shoulder’ is all acoustic guitars, whilst Howar brings the mike stand to the front of stage to give whistle duties to the bass, sax playing keyboardist Juby. Ridiculously talented bunch this lot are and by god it shows.  But there’s no ego’s on stage tonight – these guys are clearly having great fun, a total blast, and it’s totally infectious too – we are very much at their party. Final track ‘Word of Mouth’, starts with a drum solo – we’re all now in full on party mode in the glorious hall, as Howar gives us semaphore arm gestures to copy far to more than just swaying side to side. Howar: ‘I love you…you guys can sing…’ As this cheeky imp introduces the band for a second time, guitarist Drennan gives us a solo, with amongst other the theme to the Birmingham-based soap ‘Crossroads,’ Roachford gives us a bit of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ on his keyboards, Rutherford receives a huge cheer and delivers us Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’.

Set over, they’ve had a blast, we’re in party mood and in a line the band members bow, clearly on a high from their reception tonight. Rutherford maybe one of the biggest selling artists ever, but as he departs the stage last, he bows down in acknowledgment to the crowd. Respect.

Mike and The Mechanics, a bit like Genesis, weren’t exactly my cup of tea. But their music, permeated the airwaves, and it’s surprising just how many tracks you know. Rutherford has amassed a hugely talented group for his new Mechanics, the expectation of quality was there; but the truly amazing level of talent, musically and vocally in the cascading soul range of Roachford and powerful soaring vocal ability of Howar, took this gig to another level. Wow! is the word tonight, and we leave with big grins and are totally blown away. For around £30 in the best live venues in town, it was a total treat. If you get the opportunity to see them, grab it with both hands, no miracle needed.

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World Vision (every child free from fear) is the world’s largest international children’s charity, working to bring real hope to millions of children in the world’s hardest places.  Their local staff work in thousands of communities across the world to free children from fear. They live and work alongside them, their families and communities to help change the world they live in for good.

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Mike and The Mechanics setlist:
A Beggar on a Beach of Gold
Another Cup of Coffee
Get Up
Try to Save Me
Seeing is Believing
Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)
Don’t
This Generation (Roachford)
Turn It On Again (Genesis)
When My Feet Don’t Touch The Ground (New)
Everybody Gets a Second Chance
Nobody’s Perfect
Cuddly Toy (Roachford)
I Can’t Dance (Genesis)
The Living Years
All I Need is a Miracle

Encore:
Over My Shoulder
Word of Mouth

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Review for Gig Junkies; Pictures by Ken Harrison.

Heaven 17 @ Town Hall, Birmingham UK, Friday 14 February 2014

So on this Valentine’s eve, storms are plummeting the UK but in Brum the weather isn’t too bad, although traffic out of town doesn’t look the best. But that’s okay cos we’ve been tempted –  we’re in town and we all be snug and cosy in Birmingham’s Town Hall for an evening of romance, Heaven 17 style.

Indeed Heaven 17 have a back story. Inspired by the godfathers of electronica Kraftwerk, two members of the Human League, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh walked away and formed a band / production company B.E.F. (British Electric Foundation). Initially recording music under the guise of B.E.F., they subsequently recruited photographer Glenn Gregory on vocals and eventually became Heaven 17. Now it is just Gregory and Ware, accompanied by two lasses on vocals and Berenice on supporting keyboards. And no support tonight and we’re told they’ll be promptly on at 8pm and off after an hour and 10. Early night for us then. It’s about half full in the beautiful Town Hall, if it be a tad austere. So it’ll be interesting, to see if Heaven 17 can deliver in such a venue, especially that all that is on on stage, against the black- clothed backdrop, are two keyboards and four mike stands.

Cheers from the crowd as Ware, then Gregory in dapper suit, takes to the stage. First up League song ‘Circus of Death’. This is Heaven 17’s first gig of 2014 (although Ware quips that Gregory still thinks  it’s 1981 or earlier). The beat delivers us next ‘known’ track (given that when it was originally released, at a time when most kids listened to Radio 1, DJ Mike Read effectively banned it due to its left wing lyrics.) ‘Fascist Groove Thang’ comes across great live; Gregory’s voice is still strong, deep and sultry. There is no ‘set’, no exotic lighting or effects –  just these guys performing. They are indeed be great live (I’ve seen them before) but not sure this is the best venue for them especially given as we’re seated.  But even up here in the dizzying heights of the Circle, people are on their feet and dancing as we’re into ‘Crushed by the Wheels of Industry.’

Gregory quips that he was learning lyrics on the way here, as they deliver ‘Play to Win.’ Most the crowd are on their feet now and the atmosphere is indeed beginning to permeate through the venue. “Don’t sit down again….” Gregory orders the crowd in a friendly way, as they deliver us ‘Geisha Boys and Temple Girls’. And now another early League track, ‘Black Hit of Space’, as Ware gets to play with his theremin (as he moves his hand between the electronic antennas we get a spooky Dr Who-like effect).

We’re promised they’re writing a new album  which may be with us by the end of the year (but maybe not it’s been a fair few years since the last new release). The band explain that its like a creative love fest, without the sex. “It’s like being married then..” shouts an audience member.

‘Let’s All Make A Bomb’ is followed by the sultry and smoozy ‘Come With Me’; a great rendition that goes down well. Happy Valentines indeed Birmingham.  Next track, we feel like we are waiting for aliens to land, and electronica (plus the theremin) gets noticeably spooky, bizarrely this is ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’; Gregory’s vocals are incredibly powerful against the electronic backdrop. He’s accompanied by Ware (who’s vocal may not quite match the power of his colleague). “He’s my Valentine…”  – Gregory points to Ware and we all laugh.

And next up a track that ‘kills’ Gregory every time he performs it live ‘We Live So Fast’, which indeed cranks up the pace  faster and faster… ‘I’m Your Money’ accompanied by a joke that it was written last week, as they’re living in the present and not thirty years ago.

Bowie’s ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ – Gregory’s powerful vocals cover one of the legend’s tracks, however it lacks the powerful bluesy guitar of the original. Interpreted pretty true to the original,  it would have been nice to see the guys play around B.E.F. style  Then Ware’s and Gregory’s favourite Heaven 17 song ‘Let Me Go’, before the 12 inch mega house-influenced remix, with a bit of ‘Love to Love You Baby’,  that is their classic hit ‘Temptation.’ It very nearly blows the roof off.

Quick break and they’re back, “Let’s keep put in the party mood…” as Heaven 17 deliver us ‘Penthouse and Pavement’. Next song dedicated to the local club night where they’ve PA’d –  ‘Only After Dark.’ Clap. Clap Clap. Clap. Listen to the voice of Buddha, we are indeed as we’re into the League’s ‘Being Boiled.’

The set thankfully was longer than anticipated – Heaven 17 gave us 1 hour and 35 of their time. I’m not sure this is the best venue for them –  they are more suited to a more intimate, club type venue where we can all get down and party. And indeed they gave us some stand out tracks tonight ‘Come With Me’, ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ and ‘Temptation’ very possibly the stand out. Bit more of a mixed set than I’ve seen before but still a good punt. They will be out over the summer in the 80s ‘Rewind’ festivals and, if they get their act together, I would suspect will be back with their new album in tow. Be tempted.

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Setlist
Circus of Death
We Don’t Need This (Fascist Groove Thang)
Crushed by the Wheels of Industry
Play to Win
Geisha Boys and Temple Girls
Dive
Black Hit of Space
Let’s All Make A Bomb
Come Love With Me
You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling
We Live So Fast
I’m Your Money
Boys Keep Swinging
Let Me Go
Temptation

Encore:
Penthouse and Pavement
Only After Dark
Being Boiled

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Listening:
Heaven 17 – The Luxury Gap (1983)
BEF  – ‘Music For Stowaways’ and ‘Music Of Quality And Distinction Vol.1’

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Review for Gig Junkies; Pictures by Ken Harrison.

Kraftwerk Uncovered – Live @ The Town Hall, Birmingham, UK, Saturday February 8th February 2014

So a limited crowd tonight, a couple of hundred snugly in the Town Hall avoiding winds and horizontal rain to see a Kraftwerk extravaganza: Kraftwerk Uncovered – Live. This is another cultural event that the Birmingham’s Town Hall / Symphony Hall (THSH) group should be justifiably proud in presenting, celebrating creativity, and exactly because it is not a safe option – it certainly couldn’t be classed as mainstream.

Let’s be clear about this – this is something completely different – we’re here for an experience – similar to the Joy Division Reworked, that THSH put on last year. Contemporary orchestra Icebreaker are here tonight with their own unique take on the music that was created by the legends of electronica – Kraftwerk. Created by German sound-scape artist and composer J. Peter Schwalm, this intentionally deconstructs Kraftwerk’s music and features award-winning visual artists Sophie Clements’ and Toby Cornish’s creative cinematic works, filmed in the Ruhr, the region in Germany from which Kraftwerk started off life.

So it will be interesting to see how the inspired performance delivers.  So in jeans and T’s the orchestra take to the stage. Icebreaker are indeed different – not your usual take on an orchestra – instruments include panpipes, accordion, drumkits, guitars in the mix with your traditional orchestral and percussion instruments – plus the additional of two electronic keyboards.  The first half hour set is not Kraftwerk, but features Erik Bunger’s Variation on a Theme (featuring snippets of KC & the Sunshine Band), Michael Nyman’s Think Slow, Act Fast and three track montage from Moss Side Story original written by Barry Adamson (of Magazine and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds fame). It is a unique way of looking at things, electronica done by live instruments and people – and it does take some getting used to. It is indeed the alternative to the alternative. There isn’t any visuals here – just the orchestra on stage – so it’s very much close your eyes and take in the music.

Barry Adamson’s reworking includes tracks ‘Chocolate Milkshake’ and ‘Under Wraps’ – and was apparently written for a fictitious film, written about the seedier side of life and drug culture in Moss Side, Manchester.  The music has a bluesy feel – I’m not sure I’m feeling in Moss Side – more like 60s / 70s New York or London and I’m waiting for Michael Caine to make an appearance. First set over and I’m pondering about what this is all about.

Half hour break and we’re into set number 2 – Kraftwerk. The origin’s of this piece of work goes back to 2009, after Icebreaker took on Brian Eno’s Apollo for  London’s Science Museum.  So the music starts up and the mono visuals are played on screen as we go into

‘Heimcomputer ‘(from Computer World 1981). It is a bizarre take as we get Kraftwerk deconstructed with real instruments especially as confusingly there electronic music too.

‘Megaherz/mitternacht’ (from Kraftwerk 1970 / Autobahn 1974) the visuals take us to arthouse, grainy, mono and sepia toned footage of the exterior of houses, a time warp  -they seem 70s and architecturally simple. Next performance, ‘multitanz’ is inspired by the track Tanzmusik (from Ralf & Florian 1973). Sans footage this time, musically Icebreaker are very good.

And now accompanied by visuals of triangles, squares and circles, ‘Modul 6’ (inspired by the track Radio-Activity from Radio-Activity 1975) factories spewing smoke in sepia tones. With German words its almost a modern Metropolis on screen – metal structures, concrete structures and symmetrical flats.

‘Morgenspaziergang’ (from Autobahn 1974) becomes the polar-opposite we have canals and water and greenery – all in mono footage; accompanied by lilting flutes and pan pipes, clarinet accompanies by violins. Mellow and quote beautiful.

And then to ‘Spiegelsaal’ (from Trans-Europe Express 1977)  – as floating mono squares zooms across the screens. And windows. This track too is beautifully delivered – the pan pipes replacing that dum dum dum keyboard sound.  Images show communist inspired  Germany – images are 70s-like – that ‘iconic’ feel run down, functional, Bauhaus created living.

And now the finale – ‘Autobahn’ – images of looking down at the central white lines and tarmac of the road, an autobahn indeed. And a 60s garage. And as the drumbeat kicks in for a crescendo…and we’re going along the road. And now were on the motorway, and as the track rises – the autobahn in full flow.

Well tonight was a different experience. I remain a tad confused and I’m not sure just who this was delivered for in terms of audience. However, the performance by Icebreaker was great and exceptionally well delivered. Kraftwerk took a leftfield approach, sampling sounds, using electronica to develop sounds in their own unique way. It was the polar opposite of what was delivered tonight – so in a twist, their replacement for live instruments is now being delivered by –  live instruments. For me I’m not sure if it worked, unlike the Joy Division Reworked which was indeed leftfield of leftfield, I guess I was slightly disappointed that Icebreaker didn’t go further – it seemed a little safe, given that Kraftwerk have always been, and continue to, push artistic and creative boundaries.

Tonight’s performance has been supported by Arts Council England, Science Museum London, Goeth Institut, Edge Hill University and Third Earl Music.

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Review for Gig Junkies; Pictures by Ken Harrison.

Go West + Hue and Cry + The Christians, Town Hall, Birmingham, 6 November 2013

Well there’s total traffic meltdown tonight in Brum, but no problems for us – we’re seated cozily in the beautiful Town Hall listening to a bit ‘Love and Pride’ by King and ‘Footloose’ (Kenny Loggins) to get us in the mood for some 80s retro courtesy of The Christians, Hue & Cry and Go West.

 

Go West

First up at 7.30 come The Christians. Forming in ’85, three brothers Garry, Roger and Russell took their surname plus Henry Preistman (his middle name) becoming The Christians. These days its just Garry from the original line up, with full band. “Good evening Birmingham. Terrible weather and lots of traffic….” As they start up, they’re pretty slick and give it all the harmonisations the band was originally known for. “Been a great tour so far – don’t spoil it…” Christian jokes. He’s knackered after nine dates out of 30 odd. Next up is ’87s ‘Forgotten Town’, their first single ever released. Good rendition accompanied by a good reception, they are clearly enjoying life on the retro scene. Christian is quite chatty and entertaining; the next song ‘Ideal World’, he thinks means more today than it probably meant all those years ago. There are still a few empty seats: “Do you think they’re stuck in traffic, shall we wait for them?” They have a new album out (only two people in the crowd know this) but it is for sale tonight (and he’ll sign) so next is a track off it ‘Speed of Life.’ Garry loves Brum, (honestly) he really does, as he goes into ‘Hooverville (Promised Us the World)’. A short set, the last song, “…we’re constrained…” it’s ‘Harvest for the World.’ Goes down well with people dancing. And after his set Garry Christian is indeed at the merch stand chatting merrily away to the punters.

Quick break with Terence Trent Darby’s ‘Wishing Well’ before we get a bit of Hue & Cry. Scottish brothers, the Cranes – Pat and Greg, start off their set with ‘Labour of Love’, their biggest hit, which made No. 6 in the UK charts. Tonight’s set starts off with keyboards and vocals. We’re then encouraged to hold hands to ‘Violently.’ Pat is the one singing, has a powerful vocal range when he gets going. He’s feeling “…Liza Minnelli… a bit camp… but not all…” as they deliver ‘Ordinary Angel.’ Now he’ll be flogging their website, no problems with pictures or video: “…stick it inter-web.” “Here’s one you might know…” which is ‘Looking for Linda’ to which the crowd duly sing the chorus back. Greg’s swapping back from guitar accompaniment on a couple of tracks now to keyboards for ‘Mother Glasgow’ from their ’89 album ‘Bitter Suite’ – followed by an encouragement from Pat to start up an online petition to get them to sing it as the opening song at 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Next up, Paolo Nutini cover ‘Last Request’ followed by final track of their set and their first single on a “…pah…” major label, ‘I Refuse.’

And now to an interval and a little more 80s over the PA before Peter Cox and Richard Drummie aka Go West take the stage. Go West have full band in tow, starting off their set with ‘Don’t Look Down’ top 20 hit from ’85. People are already on their feet, dancing away. Straight into the next song, ‘Black & Gold’ Drummie encourages the audience to clap. Here’s something a bit different, they’ve all gone acoustic, three guitars and a couple of the band on rhythm accompany Cox as he sings soulfully ‘Skin Deep.’ Crowd politely cheers and start to clap as they recognise a very mellow version of ‘Call Me’, their ’84 hit that reached 12 in the UK Charts.

So acoustic set over and we’re into their rendition of Motown classic ‘Tracks of my Tears’, another song that has had a little bit of a makeover from their ’93 version which, once more, mellowly rolls on and on. Then we have possibly their biggest 80s hit that starts with bass beat and has bit of a remix before going into the version we all know ‘We Close Our Eyes.’ People start to stand as the audience repeats the second line to Cox and as the guitarist does a funky solo as the track goes on.

Now they’re trying a bit of Kings of Leon. ‘Sex on Fire’ is actually a better rendition than expected and shows that these West men can rock down. Cox’s voice too manages to deliver. This is the track that the crowd gets most involved in. An intro to the band members and then an intro to Birmingham, “…the audience…”, to cheers. And then it is their hit from the film ‘Pretty Woman’, this be ‘King of Wishful Thinking.’ Cox wants us on our feet and hands in the air. And after just over 35 minutes their set is over, as is the whole gig.

Well tonight it was a dolly-mixture of the pop middle ground, harmless bands of the 80s, slightly sugary, delivering pretty well in a nice posh cozy venue. Tickets at £32 maybe a tad steep, you got three bands (x 35 minute sets) for your buck and your 80s retro fix. And on a wet and miserable night or, as Cox pointed out a beautiful autumn evening, there were some very avid fans. Go West young man? It was indeed a gig for you.

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Go West setlist:
Don’t Look Down
Black & gold
Skin Deep
Call Me
Tracks of My Tears
We Close Our Eyes
Sex on Fire
King of Wishful Thinking

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Listening:
Go West – ‘Go West’ [1985]
Hue & Cry – ‘Seduced and Abandoned’ [1988]
The Christians – ‘The Christians’ [1987]

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Review for Gig Junkies. Pictures: Ken Harrison

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Setlist:

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

Encore:

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

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Listening:

Yazoo

Upstairs at Erics [1982]

You and Me both [1983]

Solo:

Alf [1984]

Raindancing [1987]

The Minutes [2013]

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Review for Gig Junkies. Pictures Wayne Fox.

Tony Hadley @ Symphony Hall Birmingham, 15th October 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spandau Setlist:

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

Encore:

  1. Fight for Ourselves

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Review for Gig Junkies; pictures: Ken Harrison.

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