Monthly Archive: May 2014

Belinda Carlisle + Gabe Lopez @ Town Hall, Birmingham – 13 May 2014

One time member of one of the most successful American female bands of all time and pop icon in her own right; this singer is returning to the UK on a 7 date mini-tour which starts off tonight in Birmingham’s Town Hall. Following the recent chart success of new single ‘Sun’, one time Go-Go and pop goddess Belinda Carlisle is here tonight to give us a clue as to whether Birmingham is indeed heaven.

Carlisle started out as a punk drummer before founding The Go-Go’s with Jane Wiedlin. The Go-Go’s went onto become one of the most successful American bands of the early 1980s, helping usher new wave music and becoming the first all-female band in rock history to ever achieve a number 1 album with their 1981 multi-platinum debut, ‘Beauty and the Beat.’ When the band split in ’85 nothing was stopping Carlisle and she embarked on a solo career and a succession of successful hit albums beckoned. ‘Heaven on Earth’ made top 5 in the UK charts featuring international hit singles ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’, ‘I Get Weak’ and ‘Circle in the Sand.’ Carlisle has subsequently released 7 solo albums and this year sees the release of her greatest hits, ‘The Collection’, featuring a couple of new tracks including ‘Sun’ her first single in nearly 17 years.

Tonight’s audience is an eclectic mix of avid fans from a mixture of backgrounds – a few keen and enthusiastic individuals keen to catch up with her after the gig at the stage door.

But they will have to wait a little as first up on stage is American pop-rock singer/songwriter Gabe Lopez. “Who is this Californian Gabe Lopez and why is he in Brum?” He asks us, before telling us he’s of Mexican and Irish descent and is here because he co-wrote and produced Carlisle’s new single ‘Sun’ and she invited him on this mini-tour. It’s his first time in the UK (he doesn’t get out much!), the first time he’s played live to a UK audience and he loves us.

Lopez is solo on stage, with backing track, electric guitar and a rising and unique voice – he starts off with ‘Summertime’ which is initially just vocals before turning all pop-rock dance. He has an album on pre-sale entitled ‘It’s Obvious It’s Obvious’. Catch it now, while it’s cheap, he tells us. This set is a mixture of pop-rock dance and ballads – including his take on U2‘s ‘One.’ He’s a happy soul, engaging with true vocal talent – check him out online or catch him on this tour.

Quick break and we pop to the various bars in the Town Hall before taking our seats (it’s a full house tonight) for pop iconBelinda Carlisle. Big cheer as she takes to the stage, the seated stalls crowd are already on their feet. She has a six piece full band with her and tonight’s ride starts off as she’s into ‘Runaway Horses.’

“Hello Birmingham…” as the lyrics sing out to the next pop hit: “We dream the same dream, we want the same thing…. Oooohhhhh…” we sing. It’s been around a decade since she played Brum and since then she’s released a couple of singles she tells us. It was her son that found her recent song and she acknowledges her support act and talent Lopez that gave her recent hit ‘Sun’, which with support from Radio 2 made the top 40. Carlisle is mid-fifties, but looks a damn sight younger and fitter than her years, as we’re into another hit: ‘I Get Weak.’ The crowd are here for the hits and that’s exactly what she’s here to give us: sing along to ‘Circles in the Sand.’ Some tracks she hasn’t played live before or for a while – ‘Valentine’ was first aired during an Australian tour in 2013. We bop along to the hispanic inspired ‘La Luna’ – while ‘Goodbye Just Go’ is clearly Carlisle taking out her anger at her man.

Back to upbeat ‘Summer Rain’ and then we clap along with her for ‘Big Scary Animal’ – though neither of those appear to be in sight. And those hits keep coming – ‘Leave the Light On’ – everyone’s dancing, going back to those 90s heydays. And then we all join in…  ‘Live Your Life Be Free.’

Just over an hour and we’re into the encore ‘A Woman and a Man’ which gets our feet a-tapping and our heads a-bopping and for some in the audience, true over-exuberant dancing. And now for a mixture of Edith Piaf meets Grace Jones as we get her take on ‘La Vie En Rose’ all danced up.

“You might know this song.…” as it starts off acoustic….. And we sing along with the first verse before we’re into the full live version. ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth.’

There are many die-hard fans here tonight, who have travelled quite a way to see their beloved Belinda. They are gonna be waiting at the stage door for her. Carlisle is very professional and  clearly enjoying the first date of this small tour; these days there’s no need for big tours  – she’s been there and done that. Nicely sized venue to enjoy herself and showcase her long repertoire of songs to her loyal fans. So did Birmingham live up to their expectations? For them it clearly was indeed – Heaven on Earth.


Runaway Horses
(We Want) the Same Thing
I Get Weak
In Too Deep
Circle in the Sand
La Luna
Vision of You
Goodbye Just Go
Summer Rain
Big Scary Animal
Leave a Light On
Live Your Life Be Free

A Woman and a Man
La Vie En Rose
Heaven is a Place on Earth


Review for Gig Junkies; pictures Ken Harrison

Black + Sam Holmes @ The Studio, Bromsgrove Artix, UK – 4th May 2014

Tonight we’re in Bromsgrove at the Artix for what can only be described as an truly intimate gig. This artist released a single that had a domino effect across the charts over most of the world and then found himself struggling with what exactly what the hell was going on. The beautifully melancholic track was ‘Wonderful Life.’ And tonight the elusive Black (aka Colin Vearcombe) is showcasing a range of his songs including the new.

Hailing from Liverpool, Vearcombe started out way back in ’81.His journey wasn’t an easy one from the start. His first signing with a label wasn’t a fruitful one, and he ended up issuing the first release of ‘Wonderful Life’ on an indie label – it reached 72 in the charts, leading to a more productive deal with a second major label. His debut album ‘Wonderful Life’ made number 3 in the charts and went on to sell 1.5 million copies, featuring top ten singles ‘Sweetest Smile’ and indeed that song. But he was frustrated with the world he had been thrust into – it just wasn’t his scene. Second album ‘Comedy’ was Black at his most lyrical, critically acclaimed, but failed to reach the dizzy commercial heights of the first and made 32 in the UK charts. Third album ‘Black’ was also critically acclaimed, but failed to sell and he departed ways with another major label.

But that didn’t stop him – albums were issued under his own label, both as Black and under his own name – they continued to sell in Europe but less so in the fickle UK market. He’s release 9 albums since, he’s stripped back live – preferring to go solo and acoustic, where his voice was more clearly defined and truly appreciated by his fans. In 2013 the remastered digitized version of album ‘Wonderful Life’ was re-released and he’s currently crowd-funding his new album – due later this year.

First up we have support act Sam Holmes plus her guitar. A singer songwriter, with lilt-like voice and her lyrical take on life, she’s been inspired by the likes of Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Amy McDonald. Her set includes ‘Deep Water’, ‘Charlie’ – about a sad lady she saw on a Paris weekend visit (although shed no idea if this woman was called by that name), Bob Dylan cover ‘Make You Feel My Love’ and her “angry song” ‘Falling Down.’ She’s out and about playing the odd gig – you can find out more on her website.

The Studio is a tiny room and incredibly warm already as onto the tiny stage comes Black joined by guitarist Calum MacColl (the son of folk legends Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger) for their acoustic set. “You alright?” and a quip about toilet queues and that it would probably be a good time to go now, given the audience is all in their seats. First up is ‘Alive’ – it has a country music vibe, whilst ‘Charmagne’ is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams.’ Black still has those deep vocals and is quite chatty (apparently you can’t shut him up when he gets going). He suggest we don’t mess up in front of him – being the observant one who put what he sees into his lyrics – you don’t want to “go into the writer fitter.”  Third track of the night and we’re into hit ‘Sweetest Smile’ a sad introspective view - “I think my heart must be made of clay, ’cause everyone said it would be broken someday…”

He’s drinking water at the mo (avoiding Guinness) to keep up his energy levels. A suggestion that we visit the bar may not be a good one – it’s 9.15pm at the venue and the bar already is closed. ‘California’ and his vocals fill the tiny room  before he explains that his future plans are a new Black album and that we can become ‘patrons’ (it’s all about crowdfunding – see below) and  “…it’s me not begging…” he says and explains he’s showcasing some of the new tracks tonight for this forthcoming venture. ‘Beautiful’ has a Sinatra feel whilst ‘Cold Chicken Skin’ bops along in a mid-west American country style. Black confirms: “No chickens were harmed in the writing of this song…..’

He’s a Bond (as in James Bond) fan – especially of Flemming – and this one is his take on a Bond theme – all big and epic. ‘Sun Flower’ – completed and MacColl hopes Barbara Broccolli is in the audience.  “Love Show’ comes with a quip that they actually managed to complete the song at the same time. ‘Quinns Old Flame’ is his story song; ‘Two Churches’ a power driven epic – starting off with ‘Paint It Black’ melodies. ‘Walk on Frozen Water’ is followed by another chatty interlude where Black and MacColl discuss the timely question “Are you having a good time?” Black concludes with the type of songs that he writes, have you ever know him to ask that? And comments that THAT song of his appeared on a compilation entitles ‘Songs for Miserable B*****ds’…. We laugh.

‘Walk on Snow’ is deep and eerie which rises intro a crescendo before dropping whimsically back. Black: “You are a game audience and I respect you, we are about to enter the charade that is the encore, where I go and hide behind something…”  before final track of the main set ‘Fly Up to the Moon’ takes us back to the country vibes.

So he’s back from whatever he’s been hiding behind with a glass of red wine in hand. And next up is THAT song.  His views on this track are kinda interesting – as he says on his website:

“Once you’ve had a hit, if you can write another song without having that in the back of your mind, you’re not crazy. It’s taken some time to be able to do that. For a long time, I would find myself hearing ‘I like it, but it’s not Wonderful Life’…”

And he’s just singing, with echo on the mike – no guitar. It remains a beautiful track. Then we have ‘Where the River Bends’, before a song he loves, dedicated to Hugh who’s here tonight “….unless he got bored and left early…” It’s Black’s take on ‘Blue Moon.’

Black is a deep and introspective character and his voice tells a million stories. Accompanied by MacColl on this acoustic set – they clearly have a great time and gel well.  And so if you like Black you have the opportunity to become a ‘patron’ to hep fund his new album – in return for exclusives and more. He’s going to be working with legendary producer Calum Malcolm (Blue Nile) and with MacColl. Visit and you can become a patron from everything from the new album download, to signed guitar, to a song written especially for you. By Black.


Tomorrow is Another…
Sweetest Smile
Cold Chicken Skin
Who You Are
Love Show
Quinns Old Flame
Two Churches
Good Liar
Walk on Frozen Water
Water on Snow
Fly Up to the Moon

Wonderful Life
Where the River Bends
Blue Moon


Review for Gig Junkies; pictures Ken Harrison

An intimate night with Dexys

An intimate night with Dexys

Well we’ve all sung along – be it ‘Geno’ or ‘ Come On Eileeen’ and now Dexys are back in the Midlands with a special performance at Coventry’s Kasbah on Wednesday 25 June, their first show in the city for over 30 years as part of a trio of intimate shows before making their Glastonbury debut days later.

Dexys' Kevin Rowland and Pete WilliamsFounded way back in Brum in ’78 and still fronted by Wolverhampton-born Kevin Rowland, Dexys are returning to the region where their incredible journey began and the band will feature special guest,  former Bananarama and Shakespears Sister, Siobhan Fahey.

Dexy’s sensational One Day I’m Going To Soar live show, which followed the release of the 2012 album of the same name, their first in 22 years, was hailed as a tour de force by fans and music critics alike.

Speaking ahead of the Coventry show, frontman Kevin Rowland said, “The performance will be the festival set – a slightly edited version of the One Day I’m Going To Soar Show, plus a few Dexy’s favourites. Sadly, Madeleine Hyland is unable to do the shows, but we are delighted that Siobhan Fahey will step in to play the female role.”

Find out more at their website: 

You can catch them at:
Tuesday 24 June 2014 : Waterfront, Norwich
Wednesday 25 June 2014 : Kasbah, Coventry
Tickets, priced £25.00, are on sale now at 
Friday 27 June 2014 : Roundhouse, London
Saturday 28 June 2014 : Glastonbury Festival