Category Archives: live reviews

Dweezil Zappa at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 13/10/17

This review was originally published by The Stinger here

‘Dweezil Zappa plays whatever the f@%k he likes’

As soon as I saw those words on a seafront poster advertising the show at Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion this was on my list of gigs to see this month. There have been ongoing and fairly ferocious spats between the Zappa siblings about how they take forward their late father’s legacy. And with admirable chutzpah from Dweezil this is being billed as ‘The Cease & Desist Tour’ following the lawyer’s letter he received.

Performing to a packed-out De La Warr, the performance is a vivid reminder of what a fantastic range of musical styles and influences Frank Zappa incorporated into his output, as well as what a fantastically accomplished writer and musician he was. From perfectly polished orchestral pop pastiches, to improvised jazz rock work-outs, to exquisite blues rock guitar solos the versatility of Dweezil and his band is truly impressive.

Of particular note, alongside Dweezil Zappa’s beautifully dexterous guitar playing and obvious love for his father’s music, are guitarist/lead vocalist Adam Minkoff, who has joined the Zappa band for this European tour, and female lead vocalist Cian Coey, who delivers some truly stunning vocals.

Set-wise, it being the fiftieth anniversary of the release of ‘Freak Out’, the debut from the Mothers of Invention, songs like ‘You’re Wondering Why I’m Here’ make an appearance, alongside later material like ‘Cruising For Burgers’ and ‘Studebaker Hoch’ as well as surprises like a wonderfully smooth rendition of the James Bond theme. There is no support tonight. Save for a short interval it’s just three exhilarating hours of Zappa. Climaxing with an inspired rendition of the Beatles’ ‘I Am The Walrus’, the audience are up on their feet for a rapturous standing ovation. Band and audience alike seem very pleased with their evening spent in Bexhill.

Succumbing to cancer in 1993, Frank Zappa was an early reminder of the mortality of that generation of musicians from rock’s late 60s/early 70s golden age. Such deaths are now reported with alarming regularity, of course. But whether it’s Zappa, Bowie or any number of rock ‘n’ roll’s true creatives, legitimate questions do arise about how we continue to celebrate their respective legacies. While few of us would opt to be stuck in an endless repeat cycle of non-stop tribute acts (or, God forbid, hologram shows) we do clearly want to find ways of continuing to enjoy such music in a live setting. In this respect, Dweezil has put together something that is creative, ambitious, affectionate and totally appropriate.

Dweezil Zappa does indeed play whatever the f@%k he likes. But he plays it so well. And he does his father proud.

Set-list:

Latex Solar Beef
It Can’t Happen Here
You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here
Bow Tie Daddy
Harry, You’re a Beast
The Orange County Lumber Truck
Motherly Love
Any Way the Wind Blows
Mom & Dad
Tell Me You Love Me
Cruising For Burgers
James Bond Theme
Studebaker Hoch
Rollo
Advance Romance
I’m the Slime

– Interval –

Zomby Woof
Would You Go All the Way?
Wind Up Workin’ in a Gas Station
Dirty Love
Daddy, Daddy, Daddy
What Kind of Girl Do You Think We Are?
Bwana Dik
Lumpy Gravy
Village Of The Sun
Echidna’s Arf (Of You)
Let’s Move to Cleveland
Inca Roads
Duke of Prunes
Doreen
Dinah-Moe Humm
I Am the Walrus

https://www.dweezilzappa.com/

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Photo credit: Simon Putman

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W.A.S.P. at White Rock Theatre, Hastings 12/10/17

This review is also published on Get Ready To Rock here

Loud, brash, obnoxious, Blackie Lawless’s LA metal outfit W.A.S.P. burst on to the scene in the early 80s and were never far from controversy. Over time, however, the band evolved and their output started showing signs of growing maturity. To be honest it’s not going to be too difficult for your music to start getting more mature if your first record is called ‘Animal (Fuck Like A Beast) is it?

The W.AS.P. of the early90s had moved on to recording a full-blown concept album. ‘The Crimson Idol’ tells the story of a boy Jonathan and explores themes of estrangement, drugs, fame, money and suicide. It has become something of a cult heavy metal album and, twenty-five years since it was originally released, Lawless and his band are touring it in full.

Apart from the ever-present Blackie Lawless, W.A.S.P. has undergone numerous line-up changes over the years and no-one else on stage tonight originally performed on ‘The Crimson Idol’ album. Nevertheless, the band are in fine form and there is some powerful playing from new drummer, Aquiles Priester, and from lead guitarist, Doug Blair. Lawless’s distinctive vocals are as strong and as recognisable as ever.

Songs like ‘The Invisible Boy’ , ‘Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the New Morgue) and ‘I Am One’ are superb tracks and stand up well on stage. Unlike when some acts choose to revisit an album in full and take the opportunity to reminisce on the history behind every track, there is little in the way of on-stage chat tonight, but Lawless is a charismatic stage presence nonetheless. Visuals from the accompanying film for the album play on three large screens at the back of the stage, adding to the atmosphere. It’s a great album and a great performance tonight.

However, throughout the show part of me was excitedly anticipating the encore and, hopefully, a run-through of some of the great songs from the earlier, dumber, stupider, trashier era of W.A.S.P. It wasn’t a long encore – three songs – as the band didn’t get on stage until 9pm, having only just arrived in the UK following the Scandinavian leg of their tour. But we did get gloriously over the top versions of ‘L.O.V.E Machine’ and ‘Wild Child’ which made a fitting end to the proceedings. Was I disappointed that we didn’t have a bit more of this? A little – but that has only made me more determined to catch Blackie and the boys again when they are next over…

Set-list:

The Titanic Overture
The Invisible Boy
Arena of Pleasure
Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the New Morgue)
The Gypsy Meets the Boy
Doctor Rockter
I Am One
The Idol
Hold on to My Heart
The Great Misconceptions of Me
The Real Me
L.O.V.E. Machine
Wild Child

https://www.waspnation.com/waspnation.htm

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Fairport’s Cropredy Convention August 2017

This review was also published by Get Ready To Rock here

Fairport Convention’s festival at Cropredy has been an annual fixture for almost four decades now but the big celebration this year was marking the fiftieth anniversary of the band’s formation. In the eight years since I have been going it has always been quite an eclectic bill, straddling folk, rock and retro pop. This year it leaned more towards the folk-rock end than normal because, it being the fiftieth anniversary, a number of sets from ex-Fairport members and close associates were on the bill. This meant there were lots of acts that I was really looking forward to, this time, even if there was perhaps a little less variety in the festival line-up than normal.

Before we got to the three-hour set from Fairport Convention on the Saturday night, therefore, there were plenty of highlights over the three days: including the ever-impressive Show of Hands; last year’s festival darlings, The Pierce Brothers, who returned for a repeat performance; and the Gigspanner Big Band (where Peter Knight’s trio join forces with folk duo Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin). Of the Fairport friends and family spin-offs we had Ashley Hutchings’ recreation of Morris On, a stunning solo set from Richard Thompson and original Fairport vocalists, Judy Dyble with her Band of Perfect Strangers and Iain Matthews with Plainsong. Lots of highlights there.

And niggles? With a three day festival and three days of camping and drinking and music we normally choose an act we’re not too bothered about for a bit of early evening down time back at the camp-site. On the Friday, the Trevor Horn Band drew the short straw for us this time. I’ve never been too bothered about either ’80s Yes or Buggles I figured. But sadly it meant missing a surprise guest appearance from Russ Ballard. ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ (Ballard’s hit for Rainbow) and ‘God Gave Rock n Roll To You’ (the Argent classic). Both sounded great from the comfort of our gazebo anyway…

Marillion sounded good but they did a dedicated fans’ set rather than a festival set. I’ve got my one greatest hits album and was really hoping to hear a few more songs I was familiar with that I could sing along to. To me, Marillion not doing ‘Kayleigh’ at a festival is as daft as Petula Clark not doing ‘Downtown’. Happily the latter obliged. Would I pay to go and see a Petula Clark gig? Probably not. But was singing along to ‘Downtown’ in a field with several thousand others one of those not-to-be-missed life-affirming moments? Absolutely!

While it might not have been my favourite Cropredy line-up ever, it was definitely, without a doubt my favourite Fairport performance of all time. Fairport Convention are a band that never knowingly pass over the chance to celebrate an anniversary and they certainly pulled out all the stops for this one.

Things began with a couple of songs from the modern-day Fairport and then suddenly, magically we were transported back to 1967 with all of the surviving members from the first album reconvening on stage for a stunning recreation of the first track on the first album ‘Time Will Show The Wiser’, followed by ‘I Don’t Know Where I Stand’ and ‘Reno, Nevada’. It completely captured the magic of that first album and was really special seeing Ashley Hutchings, Simon Nicol, Richard Thompson, Judy Dyble and Iain Matthews sharing a stage together. When early Fairport reconvene like this I am always reminded of when groups of old school friends get together they often seem to slot back into the roles and pecking orders of decades ago. Even though he has not been a member of the band for 48 years, Ashley Hutchings effortlessly slots back into the role of band leader, doing all the talking and introducing the songs.

Tragically, it is now increasingly challenging to reconvene some of the later later line-ups of the band and more and more stand-ins are required. Nevertheless, Chris While does a superb job filling in for Sandy Denny and likewise Chris Leslie for Dave Swarbrick’s fiddle parts, in renditions from the iconic Liege & Lief album. Songs from other classic albums Full House, Nine and Rising From The Moon (with Sally Barker on vocals) also get a good airing.

The set-list is heavily weighted towards the band’s first eight years or so, with only a smattering of songs from later eras but considering Fairport’s outstanding legacy of truly groundbreaking from this period that seems entirely appropriate.

Having seen Fairport Convention on stage some twenty-five times now and never once failing to enjoy them, for me this has easily been the best. A stunning way to celebrate fifty years.

Fairport Convention set-list:
Bottom of the Punchbowl / East Neuke of Fife / Ye Mariners All
Summer By The Cherwell
Time Will Show the Wiser
I Don’t Know Where I Stand
Reno Nevada
Suzanne
Farewell, Farewell
Crazy Man Michael
Come All Ye
The Deserter
The Lark in the Morning Medley
Tam Lin
Walk Awhile
Poor Will and the Jolly Hangman
Sloth
Now Be Thankful
Sir Patrick Spens
Fotheringay
The Ballad of Ned Kelly
Talk About Money
Rising for the Moon
White Dress
A Surfeit of Lampreys
The Hiring Fair
The Hexhamshire Lass
Jewel in the Crown
Who Knows Where the Time Goes?
Our Bus Rolls On
Dirty Linen
Matty Groves
Meet on the Ledge

http://www.fairportconvention.com/

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Other recent reviews:
Come All Ye box set – album review
Fairport’s 50th anniversary concert at Union Chapel

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and Sweet at Birmingham Genting Arena 28/6/17

When I was a teenager getting seriously into rock and metal in the early 80s I was lucky enough to see some of the biggest acts around: AC/DC, Sabbath, Quo, Ozzy etc. One band I never got to see, however, was Rainbow and one guitar wizard I never got to see (in any formation) was Ritchie Blackmore. For some inexplicable reason (and I am normally really on the ball with this) I failed to get myself a ticket when Blackmore revived the Rainbow name and announced a tentative return to rock ‘ n’ roll last year. So when a further tour was announced this year I made absolutely sure I was going to be there this time.

The evening was going to be made even more special when I found out the support act would be Sweet, who I have been following for as long as I’ve been following Rainbow. Unlike Rainbow, I have seen The Sweet many times before over the past twenty-odd years – but usually in small rock venues or provincial theatres, never in an arena with a 15,000 strong crowd. In some ways, both Rainbow and The Sweet summed up the music of the mid 70s: the albums-based rock was brilliant and the singles-based pop was brilliant, too. Perfection!

Tonight would give Andy Scott and co the chance to rekindle their relationship with many older rock fans as well as hopefully winning over some newer fans, too. ‘Hellraiser’, ‘Teenage Rampage’, ‘Blockbuster’, ‘Ballroom Blitz’ et al all go down an absolute storm. My only complaint was that the set was heavily weighted towards the old hits, with little time for the harder-edged album-oriented rock of which the band have an impressive, if less well-known, back catalogue. However, we did get stunning versions of ‘Set Me Free’ and ‘Love Is Like Oxygen’ and hopefully Andy Scott’s continuing version of The Sweet has a good few more fans after tonight.

“I’m playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order,” Eric Morecambe once famously said. No-one in their right mind could ever accuse guitar god, Ritchie Blackmore, of that. But funnily enough I was reminded of the old Morecambe & Wise gag when I was thinking about Ritchie Blackmore’s set-list at Birmingham tonight. Pretty much all of the songs that I very much hoped he’d play were in there – but the set order seemed to be in random shuffle mode with little attempt at any sort of thematic approach. We jumped from the polished commercial rock of Joe Lynn Turner-era Rainbow, to Coverdale-era Deep Purple, to the infectious pop-rock of Graham Bonnet, to the heavy prog-tinged majesty of Dio-era Rainbow and so on and so on. I suppose the main message was: “I have been involved with creating some amazing music in different bands with different vocalists and different styles – and whichever order you put them in they are all amazing…” Which is true!

After years away from doing gigs of this type and making albums like this Blackmore’s stunning guitar skills have not dimmed. Never guilty of being flashy for the sake of being flashy or of putting technical prowess ahead of creating beautiful melody, there is an elegance about his playing that is a joy to see live. Ronnie Romero, too, I thought was a good choice of vocalist. Of all the iconic vocalists Blackmore has worked with over the years, Romero probably sounds closest to Joe Lynn Turner in style, but he handled all of the material well from Gillan through to Coverdale, Dio, Bonnet and Turner. Towards the end a keyboard solo seemed to go on forever but that is a minor quibble. At the age of 51, the teenage rock fan in me has finally got see Ritchie Blackmore live on stage and has finally got to attend a Rainbow gig. He is happy.

Set-list – Sweet:

Action
Hellraiser
The Six Teens
Set Me Free
Teenage Rampage
Wig Wam Bam / Little Willy
Love Is Like Oxygen
Fox On The Run
Blockbuster
Ballroom Blitz

http://www.thesweet.com/

Set-list – Rainbow:

Spotlight Kid
I Surrender
Mistreated
Since You Been Gone
Man on the Silver Mountain
Soldier of Fortune
Perfect Strangers
Difficult to Cure
All Night Long
Child in Time
Stargazer
Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll
Lazy
Catch the Rainbow
Black Night
Carry On… Jon
Burn
Smoke on the Water

http://www.ritchieblackmore.info/

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Rock Goddess at The Borderline, London 23/6/17

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

The time is definitely right for a NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) revival and it is great to see a good number of bands from that late 70s/early 80s era recording and touring once again, even ones that have not been active for a good number of years. The original line-up of Rock Goddess (Jody Turner guitar/vocals, Julie Turner – drums and Tracey Lamb – bass) reformed in 2013 but, over thirty years after they recorded their last album they have just released a great new EP. The lead track ‘It’s More Than Rock and Roll’ is a perfect slice of NWOBHM at its finest: the heavy riffing influenced by the original generation of hard rock albums, combined with the accessible sing-along choruses of the glam rock singles era and the down-to-earth streetwise attitude of punk – all the essential ingredients of the NWOBHM movement that gave hard rock the shot in the arm it needed.

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And three decades on the three women still put on a great live show with bags of energy and some irresistible rock ‘n’ roll tunes. Gigs at London’s newly spruced-up Borderline off Charing Cross Road tend to start and finish pretty early as the place transforms itself into a nightclub once live bands have left the stage. With no support act the place was looking a bit empty when I first walked in thirty minutes before the band were due on stage. Tinged with a certain amount of nostalgia and also fired up from hearing the new EP I really wanted the band to have a good crowd for this gig but I needn’t have worried. The place rapidly filled up and was positively pulsating by the time the band came on. Old crowd favourites like ‘Satisfied Then Crucified’, ‘Heavy Metal Rock ‘n’ Roll’ combined with songs from the new EP, the aforementioned ‘It’s More Than Rock and Roll’, along with two other great tracks: ‘Back Off’ and ‘We’re All Metal’. The latter turned into a brilliantly raucous audience sing-along with Jody Turner stepping out into the crowd to get everyone bellowing along with her.

In what was a very male-dominated world, Rock Goddess were a band that showed real promise when they started out and sadly, they disappeared far, far too soon. Three decades on it is great to see them back – even if all-women metal bands appear to be almost as rare today as when Rock Goddess cut their first single.

Set-list:
1. Satisfied Then Crucified
2. Two Wrongs
3. Back Off
4. Take Your Love Away
5. Bite
6. To Be Betrayed
7. You’ve Got Fire
8. Back To You
9. This Time
10. Heartache
11. It’s More Than Rock and Roll
12. Flying
13. The Love Lingers Still
14. Make My Night
15. Drive
16. This Is The Day
17 God Be With You
18. Heavy Metal Rock ‘n’ Roll
19. We’re All Metal
– Encore –
20. My Angel
21. Love Is A Bitch

https://www.facebook.com/Rockgoddessrocks/

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The Stone Roses at Wembley Stadium 17/6/17

This review is also published on the Get Ready To Rock website here

For a band that have still only managed to release two albums (and one of those pretty underwhelming), whose singer is hardly renowned for having the strongest vocals in the world, and whose members spent the majority of the past twenty-five years ignoring one another and doing other things the Stone Roses sure know how to fill Wembley Stadium and others like it. Why? The answer is simple: they made one of the greatest albums of the late 80s, some would say of all time. Track after track on Stone Roses, the bands paint-splattered, lemon-garnished, debut album, are absolute classics to be played, sung-along to and celebrated again and again and again.

Combining jangly sixties-esque guitars, rhythms of the emerging dance scene and some youthful rock ‘n’ roll swagger and applying it all to some really well-written memorable songs the Stone Roses were an absolute breath of fresh air for guitar rock in the late 80s. Indeed, the band’s first album makes up most of the band’s set-list tonight, with ten of the album’s eleven tracks making it into the set. A small handful of songs from their “difficult second album” make it to the set as well as a handful of early singles like the lovely ‘Sally Cinnamon’ and last year’s new single ‘All For One’ (their first in twenty years) which captures the mood in the stadium tonight and has clearly become a firm crowd sing-along.

However, from the moment they first walk on stage to play ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ to the last climatic strains of “I Am The Resurrection’ the whole show is pretty much a celebration of that unforgettable and seemingly unrepeatable debut album. Timeless classics like ‘Waterfall’, ‘Made Of Stone’ (up there with The Kinks’ ‘Waterloo Sunset’ for memorable rolling bass lines in my view), ‘She Bangs The Drums’ and ‘This Is The One’ all become glorious communal sing-alongs.

Ian Bown, John Squire, Mani and Reni pulled off a brilliant show tonight and there is rightly a huge amount of love for the Stone Roses in Wembley stadium tonight.

I’ve been to quite a few big Wembley Arena/Wembley stadium gigs over the years and as the crowds make their way along the overcrowded walkway to the even more overcrowded tube station it’s common for fair bit of of communal singing to break out. Tonight, unusually, it isn’t a song from the headliners that rings out from the crowds but rather Oasis’s ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’. London has certainly been battered and bruised these past few weeks and perhaps needed a bit of Manc-flavoured love and solidarity sending its way. It got it tonight.

Setlist:

I Wanna Be Adored
Elephant Stone
Sally Cinnamon
Mersey Paradise
(Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister
Where Angels Play
Shoot You Down
Waterfall
Don’t Stop
Begging You
Elizabeth My Dear
Fools Gold
All for One
Love Spreads
Made of Stone
She Bangs the Drums
Breaking into Heaven
This Is the One
I Am the Resurrection

http://www.thestoneroses.org/

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From The Jam at White Rock Theatre, Hastings 15/6/17

This review was also published by the Hastings Independent on 7/7/17

For those who tend to overlook the White Rock Theatre for offering little more than a constant diet of musicals, panto and the sort of saccharine golden oldies shows your nan would go to see, tonight demonstrates why they offer more than that. Tonight the brash excitement and explosive anthems of The Jam came to town. The band may have split forever in 1982 and Paul Weller may not have shown much interest in revisiting his Jam-era back catalogue in his solo career. However, for the past decade bass-player Bruce Foxton along with guitarist/vocalist Russell Hastings have been touring as From The Jam.

The whole evening has a distinct flavour of the late 70s mod revival to it. Fellow Mod travellers, Secret Affair, are the support act. While no-one can really pretend they wrote the most epoch-defining songs of the era their soul-infused pop-rock is well received and the energy levels really go up when they end the set with their hit ‘My World’ along with a spirited cover of ‘I Don’t Need No Doctor.’

With From The Jam, however, the energy levels are palpable as soon as Foxton, Hastings and co. take the stage. The classics come fast and furious: ‘In The City’, ‘The Modern World’, ‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’, ‘That’s Entertainment’ and, of course, ‘Going Underground’. In both looks and vocal delivery, Russell Hastings is not a million miles away from Paul Weller. It’s very much not, however, one of those weird tribute shows where band members start play-acting the roles of former personnel. Hastings has a charisma and stage presence in his own right. Foxton is as awesome a bass-player as ever and contributes occasional lead vocals as well, just as he did back in the days of The Jam. With superb drums and keyboards they are a tight and impressive foursome on stage. They certainly know how to work the crowd.

“We are, we are, we are the Mods” chanted the audience for what seemed like forever after the band left the White Rock stage to deafening applause. After perhaps the longest break I’d ever recorded between a band leaving the stage and returning for an encore, the guys are back with ‘A Town Called Malice’, ‘Saturday’s Kids’ and ‘Eton Rifles’. It’s a brilliant end to the evening.

A superb and much-cherished band, Bruce Foxton can be enormously proud of the part he played in The Jam. No-one can blame him for wanting to celebrate the band’s legacy in this way and the audience reaction from the absolutely packed-out White Rock shows there is still much love out there for the band’s music. So there should be.

https://www.fromthejamofficial.com/

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Fairport Convention – 50th anniversary gig at Union Chapel, London 27/5/17

This review is also published on the Get Ready To Rock website here

Folk-rock pioneers Fairport Convention have never been a band to shy away from celebrating their own legacy. When they decided to split in 1979 they held a big outdoor farewell gig in Cropredy, Oxfordshire that proved so successful they decided to stage it again each year, evolving into the big three-day festival we know today. Thirtieth, fortieth and forty-fifth anniversaries of the band have all been celebrated with emotional reunions of surviving ex-members and a similarly nostalgic trip down memory lane is scheduled for Cropredy this August.

An anniversary concert in north London, not far from where the band performed their first ever gig fifty years ago to the day, drips with symbolism. However, unlike the lavish reunions of the past, tonight was scheduled to be a fairly ordinary gig half-way through the band’s spring tour, albeit one that coincided with an extraordinary anniversary. For a band that has done more anniversary performances than many acts have done albums I was beginning to wonder what, if anything, would make tonight’s gig that bit more special than many of the other admittedly excellent performances I’d seen from this band.

The answer lay in the rapturous and sustained applause the band receive as they walk on stage tonight, even before they play a single note. The spontaneous wave of love and and affection is palpable and tonight was clearly going to be as much about the audience as about the band. Performing a mixture of songs from their new album 50:50@50 and older staples, original member Simon Nicol (joined 1967) together with “newbies” Dave Pegg (joined 1969), Ric Sanders (joined 1985), Chris Leslie (joined 1996) and Gerry Conway (joined 1998) provide a nice overview of different eras of the band. From the late 60s classic Sandy Denny/Richard Thompson era the unforgettable ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ is an obvious highlight. While from the mid 80s, when Fairport became a working, touring band again, Ralph McTell’s ‘Hiring Fair’ is another genuine highlight of tonight’s set.

A couple of “surprise” moments are when Pentangle’s Jacqui McShee joins the band on stage to sing ‘The Lady of Carlisle’ the track for which she provides guest vocals on the current album; and when Sally Barker (who reprised a number of Sandy Denny songs when she toured with the surviving members of Denny’s post-Fairport outfit Fotheringay a couple of years ago) lovingly recreates the magic of Denny’s ‘Rising For The Moon’.

‘Matty Groves’ and ‘Meet On The Ledge’ are two songs the band could never get away without performing and for many years now have been the traditional climax to any Fairport gig. After an energetic ‘Matty Groves’ the band are serenaded with a spontaneous audience rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ when they come back on for an encore. As tonight seemed as much about celebrating the longevity of the Fairport audience as celebrating the longevity of the band, this seems an especially nice touch and makes the ensuing sing-along to ‘Meet On The Ledge’ all the more poignant. Happy 50th Fairport!

http://www.fairportconvention.com/

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The Copper Family at Hastings Jack In The Green 30/4/17

This review was also published in the Hastings Independent 12/5/17

The Copper Family of Rottingdean, Sussex have been noteworthy singers of traditional song for at least a couple of centuries now. Songs being passed down from one generation to the next was nothing particularly unusual at one time. However, as the late Bob Copper point out in his autobiography, their family has been “slower than most to forget them.”

What has also become a tradition over these past fifteen years or so is the Copper Family performing each year in Hastings as part of the Jack In The Green weekend. John Copper tells us that a repertoire of some ninety songs dating back as far as the seventeenth century have been performed and sung and passed down by his family over the generations, with a further ten “more recent” songs added by his father and grandfather in the last century or so. It is from this collection that family draws all their songs that they perform to this day. Traditional staples like Banks of Sweet Primroses and Claudy Banks feature in the set today, just as they have been staples of Copper family sing-alongs for centuries.

The performance is as much a history lesson in rural life, folk-song and family dynamics as it as singing concert, which just goes to make it all the more fascinating, particularly with the insights given by the two older members of the family, John and his sister Jill.

As John Copper stresses, the meticulous way in which these songs have been handed down through the family from one generation to the next provides an authentic glimpse back into seventeenth century life. It is genuinely moving and awe-inspiring to see the family still celebrating those songs today, particularly when they bring some of the youngsters up to join them and we see several generations up on stage together.

No-one in the family is ever pressured to start singing, says Jill Copper, when we chat afterwards. She didn’t start singing in public until she was 27, she tells me, but she is clearly delighted when the children get up to sing alongside her, suggesting that there are likely to be a few more generations of singing Coppers to come.

An intrinsic part of the Jack In The Green festivities in Hastings, if you have not seen a Copper Family performance yet and you have any love at all for traditional music and/or local Sussex history, do make sure you get yourself along for their performance next year.

http://www.thecopperfamily.com/

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Molly Evans & Jack Rutter at St Clement’s Church, Hastings 29/4/17

My review was originally published by the Hastings Online Times here 

Hastings’ annual Jack In The Green is renowned for its May Day parade and its morris dancing but the programme always throws up a handful of good concerts, too, and that is before you even get to the Hastings folk week events in the week that follows.

One of the highlights this year was Molly Evans & Jack Rutter performing in St. Clement’s Church in the old town. Molly Evans is an upcoming traditional singer from Cheshire who has just released a well-received album. Jack Rutter, meanwhile, is one third of folk trio (and one-time Young Folk Award winners) Moore Moss Rutter. Evans and Rutter have been playing together now some two years and Rutter, along with his colleague Archie Churchill Moss, plays on Evans’ album.

Evans has been immersed in traditional song since being carted around folk festivals as a tiny child, she tells us. That love and passion for traditional song shines through, both in her between-song chat and in her singing itself. However, perhaps even more fascinating this evening is her reworking of material from children’s fantasy author and folklorist, Alan Garner, and it is these songs that form the basis of her new album and much of the set tonight. Folklore tales and poems collected by Garner as well as extracts from some of his own novels have been given a new setting and a new life by Evans. We are soon transported into a world of faery kings, hobgoblins, mysterious woods and running hares.

Evans has a strong and distinctive yet really beautiful voice and one of the things I particularly liked is her lovely flat northern vowel sounds. If you are singing about Cheshire farmers’ daughters or gruesome 18th century northern folklore tales you don’t really want to be doing it in BBC English do you?

Rutter, too, is an extremely talented multi-instrumentalist (playing guitar, bouzouki and concertina this evening) and provides wonderfully atmospheric musical accompaniment to Evans’ vocals. There is also something rather special about performing material of this type in a beautiful cavernous old church. When Rutter puts his guitar down and picks up his accordion the sound from it absolutely fills the building in quite a spectacular way.

For Jack in the Green weekend you could hardly have asked for more suitably evocative material from two really talented performers.

https://www.facebook.com/MollyEvansMusic/

Evans Rutter Hastings

Related review:

Moore Moss Rutter at Cecil Sharp House