Category Archives: live reviews

Memories of my first ever live gig – Slade at Donington 22/8/81

When I went to Monsters of Rock at Donington, aged 15, in 1981 it was not only my first ever festival but also my first ever live rock gig of any type. It still remains my favourite gig of all time, in particular the set by Slade that afternoon.

We arrived at Donington a little late and by the time we had parked and got into the arena the band More were most of the way through their set. The next band on were Blackfoot who I have no real recollection of at all. What I do remember is the anticipation of waiting for Slade to come on. After several years in the doldrums Slade had burst back into the charts a few months earlier with ‘We’ll Bring The House Down’. Their storming performance at Reading Festival the previous year (when the band replaced Ozzy Osbourne at the last minute) had already become legendary and this all meant that in the space of a few months Slade went from being a band that sang about Christmas that I vaguely recalled from my childhood to being my number one favourite band in the whole world. And that was even before I witnessed what would become (and still remains) the most remarkable live performance I’ve ever seen. Loud guitar-driven rock, commanding showmanship, unforgettable songs and sheer over- the-top-eccentricity, it was an absolute master-class in compelling live performance.

On the back of the previous year’s Reading appearance, the early 80s heavy metal crowd had really taken Slade to heart. Looking at the setlist from Donington now the songs basically fit into three categories. Firstly, there were, unsurprisingly, the 70s hits like ‘Gudbuy T’ Jane’ and ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’. Secondly, there was newer material like ‘We’ll Bring The House Down’ and a sneak preview of their soon-to-be-released new single ‘Lock Up Your Daughters’. Thirdly, there were the old 50s rock ’n’ roll covers, which Slade had begun inserting in their set in their wilderness years in the late 70s but had kept in as they began to be embraced by the heavy metal crowd. Although the look couldn’t have been more different, this latter group of songs demonstrates how much late 50s rock ’n’ roll and early 70s glam rock had in common in terms of song structure, lyrical themes and instantly memorable choruses.

It was Noddy Holder’s masterful ability to connect with the 65,000-strong crowd, however, that was perhaps even more memorable than the songs. Witty, irreverent and on a mission to entertain no matter what, in spite of the non-stop rain, Holder was able to strike an instant rapport with a huge festival audience in a way that few can. And that’s before we even get on to discussing the surreal sea of moving objects that danced above the heads of the crowd throughout the entire set. Although ever-more hostile missile throwing was to mar a number of festivals around that time, with Slade it was turned on its head and rather than being fuelled by aggressive machismo, chucking stuff about became a life-affirming celebration of communal craziness. White plastic beer bottles full of beer, bundles of hay that had been laid on the ground in an attempt to soak up the mud, packed lunches, burger buns – everything that could be thrown in the air was thrown in the air . The band, of course, joined in with one toilet roll after being another lobbed out into the crowd during Mama Weer All Crazee Now. When the crowd called for Merry Christmas at the end of the set Holder told us all that if we wanted it we would have to sing it ourselves, which is precisely what everyone did…

After Slade finished, and soaking wet from rain, beer and mud and covered head to foot in hay we made our way further towards the back of the crowd to catch our breath and I wondered whether I would ever see anything on stage quite so magnificent ever again. There were more fantastic performances to come that day – with memorable sets from both Whitesnake and AC/DC (once a completely underwhelming performance from Blue Oyster Cult was out of the way). However, even though I’ve seen many exceptional performances from many exceptional bands over the years, nothing has ever quite matched the intensity of seeing Slade at Donington.

Setlist:

Dizzy Mamma
When I’m Dancin’ I Ain’t Fightin’
Take Me Bak ‘Ome
Lock Up Your Daughters
Everyday
Somethin’ Else
Pistol Packin’ Mama
Gudbuy T’Jane
We’ll Bring the House Down
Get Down and Get With It
Mama Weer All Crazee Now
Cum On Feel the Noize
Born to Be Wild
Merry Xmas Everybody

Related posts:
Slade at Minehead 2015
Slade at Hastings 2015
Slade Fan Convention 2016
Slade, strikes and the three-day week

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Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam at Union Chapel, London 3/3/17

I must confess that my introduction to the music of seminal psychedelic-tinged band Traffic was via the cover of Hole In My Shoe by Neil out of The Young Ones (Nigel Planer) in 1984. The end of the sixties was then only 15 years previously but, culturally, it seemed like a million years away. While everyone in my year at sixth form found Hole In My Shoe utterly hilarious, it did tempt me into finding out more about the original and taping a copy of a ‘Best of Traffic’ compilation LP that I borrowed from Preston Record Library.  On the album I found not only the original, still very quirky, Hole In My Shoe but a load of other treasures: Dear Mr Fantasy, Medicated Goo, 40,000 Headmen and more.

Traffic split in 1975 and Dave Mason had already left several years before. However, having enjoyed seeing Traffic’s Steve Winwood in 2013 I jumped at the chance to see Mason when his Traffic Jam tour-dates were announced – his first UK tour since the seventies he tells us tonight.

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It’s the aforementioned Mr Winwood who is most closely associated with Traffic’s legacy in Britain these days, so it’s really welcome to see Dave Mason publicly celebrating the part he played in this iconic band. The first part of the set focuses on the Traffic era, including 40,000 Headmen, Medicated Goo, Dear Mr Fantasy and Feelin’ Alright. After a short break the second half of the show focuses on both Mason’s post-Traffic career but also his influences that inspired him to get into the music in the first place, with a pounding, soaring tribute to Hank Marvin in the shape of a cover of The Shadows’ Apache. Another tribute was to Jimi Hendrix, with a stunning version of All Along The Watchtower (the Dylan song that Hendrix made his own and which Mason played acoustic guitar on.)

Mason’s voice is in fine form and he gives us some outstanding lead guitar throughout the set but special praise should also go to his keyboard player, Tony Patler, who provides some perfectly evocative Hammond tonight, as well as some really rich, bluesy vocals. My only minor complaint was about the impact of the building’s acoustics. Union Chapel can be a wonderfully iconic venue but, sitting near the back, I did find the echo of the drums a bit clattery and overwhelming in this cavernous Victorian chapel at times. However, having purchased his current ‘Traffic Jam’ album, recorded live at the New York City Winery (which Mason later signed for me) I am pleased to report a much superior sound mix and can really enjoy the contributions of all four musicians.

And what of Hole In My Shoe, Mason’s quirky sitar-based hit that led me to discovering Traffic in the first place? He hasn’t played it in years and hasn’t touched a sitar in years either, mainly because he would struggle to get down on the floor to play it these days he tells us…

Sitar or no sitar, it was a great performance tonight and it’s good to see Dave Mason rightfully staking his claim in the Traffic legacy in his home country once again.

Setlist:

40,000 Headmen (Traffic)
Pearly Queen (Traffic)
Medicated Goo (Traffic)
The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (Traffic)
Rock and Roll Stew (Traffic)
Dear Mr. Fantasy (Traffic)
Feelin’ Alright (Traffic)

< INTERVAL >

World in Changes (from ‘Alone Together’)
We Just Disagree (from ‘Let It Flow’)
Look at You Look at Me (from ‘Alone Together’)
Apache (Shadows cover)
Good 2 U (from ’26 Letters 12 Notes’)
Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave (from ‘Alone Together’)
All Along the Watchtower (Jimi Hendrix/Bob Dylan cover)
Only You Know and I Know (from ‘Alone Together’)

http://www.davemasonmusic.com/home

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Dodgy at The Carlisle, Hastings (Fat Tuesday headliners 28/2/17)

“Are you sure this is actually England? Are you in the Euro-zone here?” asks Dodgy front-man, Nigel Clark, as he surveys the Fat Tuesday crowd in The Carlisle pub on Hastings seafront for their third gig of the evening.

Indeed, there is something unique about Hastings as far as music is concerned, and not something most of us would expect to find in England. In my quarter of a century being based in London I had the joy of attending some very memorable gigs. But never could I stroll along to my local and expect to find a top-ranking act from the Britpop era performing a gig in the pub – and for free!

Now in it’s ninth year, Hastings Fat Tuesday ( a long weekend of endless gigs and celebrations) has been been building a formidable reputation. The grand finale night, Fat Tuesday itself, saw 24 bands play 3 gigs each across 12 different venues venues. Unfortunate timetabling on my part, before I’d got fully acclimatised to Hastings’ seemingly never-ending calendar of events, meant I had a long-standing engagement doing a talk at the White Rock Hotel on the same evening. But as soon as I was finished I was able to hotfoot it down the road to see Dodgy do their third and final performance of the evening.

Always a welcome part of the 90s Britpop scene when guitar-based, accessible tunes were back in vogue and back in the charts, Dodgy made some catchy, memorable, era-defining songs. Having reformed a decade ago, they were clearly loving being part of Hastings Fat Tuesday. And the crowd were clearly loving having them there, too. It might have been a freezing cold February 2017 outside. But inside the Carlisle, with the late thirty-somethings and forty-somethings dancing away as the likes of Staying Out For The Summer, So Let Me Go Far and Good Enough rang out, the sun was beating down and it was Glastonbury 1997 all over again.

Dodgy, it’s good to have you back and it was good to have you around for Fat Tuesday.

http://www.dodgyology.com/

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Review: Hastings Fat Tuesday 2017 – Unplugged Saturday 25/2/17

The view from The Royal Standard

My review was originally published on The Stinger independent music website here

The ‘Unplugged Saturday’ ran across sixteen different pubs in Hastings Old Town on Saturday afternoon as part of the Fat Tuesday weekend.

Each bar was hosting ten different acts for fifteen minute acoustic slots between 1-6pm, with each performing at multiple venues. That gives you 160 separate performances to choose from – all free – so punters had a choice of strategies. You could either stay in the same place and take in a succession of acts, loyally follow one band around all afternoon or, what I suspect the majority did, take a bit of a mix and match approach trying out a few different venues and a few different acts.

In order to have the best possible chance of taking in as many acts and as much variety as possible for this review, however, I parked myself in the Royal Standard on the seafront for the full afternoon. (Well, it would be the full afternoon but I got slightly sidetracked en route and missed the first act – apologies to Strum & Bass!)

So, first three general observations about the afternoon:

1. The variety of acts was enormous – from the jazzy vibes of Andy Harston, to the massed choir of Vocal Explosion, to the raucous punk-folk of Matilda’s Scoundrels there was a real range of musical styles and formats.

2. It all ran like clockwork – getting large numbers of musicians and their instruments performing around the town and ensuring everyone gets to the right venue at the right time ready to start and finish bang on time is obviously a logistical operation but, impressively, it all ran very, very smoothly, certainly in the Standard.

3. The livelier acts tended to make the biggest impact – having just fifteen minutes to build a rapport with audience and complete the set meant that the acts who could immediately grab the audience by the throat were tending to have more impact than the more reflective singery-songwritery types

It was enormous fun and a great annual celebration of the town’s live venues and live music scene. Much as I enjoyed it I’m sure it’s probably not how most of us want to consume live music on a day-to-day basis. So as well as enjoying it for its own sake I also took it very much as a showcase for particular acts I’d like to see a lot more of in the future.

And three acts who really stood out for me:

Again, apologies for missing the Strum & Bass duo – their brand of vintage slap-bass acoustic rock n roll (which I checked out on You-tube when I got home) would normally be right up my street.
But here are three acts who definitely stood out for me at Unplugged Saturday that I will certainly be checking out again.

1. Matilda’s Scoundrels – How come it’s taken me this long to check out Matilda’s Scoundrels? Hastings’ ‘folk-punk’ band are brilliantly entertaining, reminding me of a cross between The Levellers, The Clash and folk-festival favourites Blackbeard’s Tea Party.
They brought a big crowd in with them and, after bringing the house down, took a fair chunk of the crowd out with them again when they set off for the next venue. Fortunately, I was able to catch them on the Sunday at Flairz, as part of the Off Axis event, for a half-hour full electric set. I’m a total fan. I’ll be seeing a lot more of this band I hope.

http://www.matildas-scoundrels.com/

2. Harry Osborne – While all the acts were well-received I did stress that the 15 minute format in a crowded pub probably created a bit more of a challenge for some of the less raucous, more reflective sets. One act who absolutely rose 100% to that challenge was guitarist/singer, Harry Osborne, who was able to create an immediate connection with the audience and went on to deliver some fine songs and sensitive guitar playing. Definitely on my ‘one to watch’ list, a talented, engaging singer-songwriter who can also be found performing with a band Someone /Anyone.

https://www.facebook.com/harry.harryosborne

3. Le Skiv – The last act of the afternoon I the Royal Standard Le Skiv were a brilliant way to finish. Describing themselves on their Facebook biog as “incorporating the feeling of a Nova Scotian kitchen party to create a good ol’ sonic hoedown” they pulled off that vibe perfectly. Banjo, guitar and percussion, lovely harmony vocals and some lively but beautiful songs they went down a storm and are another band I want to catch more of.

https://www.facebook.com/weareleskiv/

A brilliantly fun (if fairly drunken) afternoon with a list of bands I am keen to see more of, Fat Tuesday’s Unplugged Saturday was a definite hit.

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Daria Kulesh at Cecil Sharp House 23/2/17 (Album launch: ‘Long Lost Home’)

Folk singer Daria Kulesh, Russian-born but British-based, has not chosen an easy subject matter for her newly-released solo album Long Lost Home, which is being formally launched at Cecil Sharp House tonight. But it’s an absolutely fascinating one and, as we find throughout the performance of all twelve songs from the album tonight, it is also a deeply moving one.

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Long Lost Home tells the story of Ingushetia (or the Ingush Republic). It is now a republic within the Russian Federation, bordering Chechnya, but it’s one with a dark and tragic history. On 23 February 1944 (exactly 73 years ago from tonight’s performance) Ingush civilians were falsely accused of collaborating with the Nazis and the entire population were either deported or shot under the orders of Stalin. Ingushetia was the lost homeland of Kurlesh’s maternal grandmother. And it was through her grandmother that Kulesh was to learn so much of her ancestral home and the tragedies within it but also the everyday lives and loves of some of her ancestors, a number of whom are brought movingly to life once more in Kulesh’s songs.

Possessing a beautiful clear voice that is both powerful and pure, Kulesh is immediately able to connect emotionally with her audience as the lives of the characters in her songs unfold. Musically, she’s supported by a fine cast of musicians, both on the album and on stage. Kulesh herself plays the shruti box (Indian drone instrument) but we also have a rich tapestry of sounds from traditional Russian/Kulesh stringed instruments through to the dulcimer and the double bass and even, for one song, the Scottish bagpipes.

Yes, much of the subject matter has a darkness to it. However, as Kulesh herself emphasises there’s also a spirit of hope and humanity and kindness to these songs. The last song of the album Only Begun ends on a very optimistic note. It’s not quite the end though. Kulesh and her colleagues are called back on stage for an encore. As an added bonus, Timur Dzeytov, a traditional Ingush musician who accompanies Kulesh on the album and here tonight, also plays a couple of Ingush dance numbers, complete with some impromptu Ingush dancing, to round off the launch of Long Lost Home.

Daria Kulesh can be proud of what she’s achieved here, both through her very unique contribution to the UK folk scene and through this perfectly fitting and timely celebration of Ingush culture and history.

http://www.daria-kulesh.co.uk/

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Which have been your favourite band reunions?

Seven spectacular reunion gigs

The communal celebration of a band’s legacy, the return of a classic sound and unforgettable songs, the emotional resonance of seeing members sharing a stage again after many years apart; there can be something very,very special about reunion gigs of your favourite bands. As the reunited line-up of Ozzy, Geezer and Tony prepare to play their final Black Sabbath show I look back on some pretty special band reunions. In no particular order, here are seven spectacular reunions I’ve been lucky enough to witness in recent years.

1. Black Sabbath 2014 and 2017 – Truly one of the great reunions of modern times, even without original drummer Bill Ward. Back in 2014 when Sabbath played Hyde Park I wrote ‘Osbourne’s ups and downs have certainly been well-documented and Iommi has been undergoing debilitating bouts of chemotherapy over the past two years. All of that is a world away from tonight’s performance, however, and the band members are all blisteringly on form. They commence with a stunning version of War Pigs and one by one the classics are reeled off: Snowblind, Fairies Wear Boots, Iron Man. The sound is great. The guitars, drums and vocals are everything you would want at a Sabbath gig.’ When dates were announced for The End tour I had zero hesitation in snapping up a ticket. Reviews from 2014 here and from 2017 here.

2. Status Quo ‘Frantic Four’ 2013 and 2014 – Although Status Quo continued to fill arenas each year, there was something very special and very emotional about seeing the classic ‘frantic four’ line-up of Alan Lancaster, John Coghlan, Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi walk on stage at the Hammersmith Apollo after a 32-year absence. The earthy, rocky, bluesy brand of boogie they played that night was quite different from the keyboard-heavy pop-rock act that normally tours under the Quo banner these days and the crowd were absolutely ecstatic. Sadly, following the tragic death of Rick Parfitt, it’s something that can never be repeated now, but I was lucky enough to see them on both the original reunion tour in 2013 and the follow-up a year later. Here’s my review from 2014.

3. Mott The Hoople 2009 and 2013 – I have loved Mott The Hoople ever since discovering one of their albums second-hand as teenager in the early 80s. And although I’d seen Ian Hunter solo before I was amazed to open the Guardian guide one Saturday morning and see an advert for a Mott The Hoople reunion at the Hammersmith Apollo with all the original members, 35 years after the bands demise. Although alzheimer’s was beginning to take its toll on drummer Dale Griffin he joined the band for the encores in 2009. Hugely emotional, it was a glorious celebration of a criminally under-rated band and remains one of my favourite gigs of all time and remains a text-book case of how to pull off a reunion with dignity, style, emotion and meaning. I saw the band again at the O2 when the reunion (sans Griffin) was repeated four years later. The sad deaths of both Dale Griffin and bass-player Overend Watts in the past year remind us how privileged Mott fans were to get their long-awaited reunion when they did.

4. Beach Boys 2012– While I’d seen a couple of stunning solo shows from Brian Wilson, I’d never been at all tempted by the Mike Love-fronted band that continued to tour under the Beach Boys name. But when it was announced that the surviving Beach Boys (Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks) would be re-uniting to celebrate the band’s fiftieth anniversary I snapped up tickets for friends and family as soon as they went on sale. A mega run-through of Beach Boys hits, a gloriously full sound (aided by musicians from Brian Wilson’s musically brilliant touring band) and a beautifully authentic-sounding new studio album, too, this was definitely a reunion not to be missed. Al Jardine’s voice was particularly outstanding still.

5. Blur 2009 and 2015 – Blur’s Hyde Park reunions have become something of a tradition. I saw the first in 2009 and although I missed the one for the 2012 Olympics I did see them again in 2015. ‘The crowd is hugely good natured and it’s very much a communal celebration in Hyde Park. These songs have stood the test of time and are rightly held in great affection, as are the band who play them’ is what I wrote at the time. My full review from 2015 here.

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6. Fotheringay 2015‘Sandy Denny was the finest British female singer-songwriter that ever lived. Fotheringay was the short-lived band she formed in 1970 on leaving Fairport Convention. It lasted less than a year, but forty-five years on the surviving members have reformed for a short tour and are playing their first London gig since 1970. Band reunions can elicit mixed reactions and some questions went through my mind on this one. However talented the remaining musicians are, would this be a worthwhile exercise with the band’s two main front-people, Sandy Denny and her husband Trevor Lucas, long since deceased? As soon as the band come on stage, though, and open with Nothing More, the opening number on the original Fotheringay album, all doubts are set aside.’ Full review here.

7. The Kinks (well Ray and Dave) 2015 – Who knows if there’ll ever be a Kinks reunion. I did, however, catch a solo gig of Dave Davies in Islington back in 2015 with a very nice surprise at the end. Here’s what I wrote at the time: ‘Of course, when he came back on for an encore we could all guess absolutely what the song was going to be. What we couldn’t guess, though, was who would be joining him for that final song. “A surprise for Christmas!” announced Dave and on walked his brother Ray, the two of them sharing a stage together for the first time in 19 years. The audience as one are hit with amazement and wonderment at this beautiful and unexpected moment in rock’n’ roll history. Ray was in fine voice as he sang You Really Got Me and Dave cranked up the guitar. The audience went wild. Excitement, joy and genuine emotion as that 2 minutes and 14 seconds of one of the greatest rock’n’roll songs of all time blasted out from the stage.’ Full review here.

Of course, there are some band reunions I would love to see if ever they were so inclined (Gillan, Supergrass, the surviving members of the Byrds) and there is one I would have loved to have seen happen more than anything (Slade) but the possibility of that seems ever more remote with each passing year. However, I do feel genuinely lucky to be present at each of those moments described above.

Which have been your favourite musical reunions and which bands would you like to see re-unite?

 

Black Sabbath at the O2 31/1/17

How do you end the most iconic heavy metal band of all time?

At one point, a couple of decades after their 70s heyday, it looked liked it might be with a constantly changing cast of replacement musicians, declining album sales, less than enthusiastic ticket sales and something of a whimper rather than a bang. But, following an initial reunion in the late 90s, a mega-successful album with ‘13’ and a hugely successful world tour which reunited three of the original four members in 2013/4, fans hoped that there would at least be one more opportunity to say a final farewell, even in spite of a hugely worrying lymphoma diagnosis for Tony Iommi.

So here we have it: The End – Black Sabbath’s final farewell tour which reaches it’s ultimate conclusion with a couple of dates at London’s O2 and two final concerts in the band’s home city of Birmingham. And it’s every bit as magnificent, spellbinding and heavy as Black Sabbath should be. From the familiar doom-laden chords of the opening ‘Black Sabbath’ to the unforgettable riff of ‘Paranoid’ for the encore, every single minute of this concert was special. Geezer Butler delivers those unmistakable bass-lines, Tony Iommi delivers that unmistakable crunching guitar and Ozzy Osbourne delivers those unmistakable wailing vocals – the essential and unchangeable ingredients that make Black Sabbath what it is. Yes, it’s a shame that Bill Ward is not here to participate in this final tour but drummer, Tony Clufetos, does an absolutely outstanding job with immense energy. I doubt, really, whether anyone could have done it better.

Ozzy, as always, is a fascinating character. Between songs he shuffles around the stage like the mumbling, slightly bewildered figure TV viewers came to love so much. But the second a song starts he is instantly transformed into the wailing, demonic rock god that fans of the ultimate heavy metal band have always known.

My first ever live experience of Black Sabbath was with Bev Bevan out of ELO on drums and Ian Gillan out of Deep Purple on vocals, encoring with Smoke On The Water (?!) How fitting that what is likely to be my last has Tony, Geezer and Ozzy performing Sabbath exactly the way it should be performed. It was an absolutely magnificent performance, stunning setlist and suitably evocative special effects. The atmosphere at the O2, which can be a bit lacking at times however good a band is, was absolutely electric from start to finish.

Whatever happens now this band has made it’s mark on rock music a billion times over and their contribution will not be forgotten. Thank you Black Sabbath.

Setlist:
Black Sabbath
Fairies Wear Boots
Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes
After Forever
Into the Void
Snowblind
War Pigs
Behind the Wall of Sleep
N.I.B.
Hand of Doom
Rat Salad
Iron Man
Dirty Women
Children of the Grave
Paranoid

http://www.blacksabbath.com/

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Previous review:

Black Sabbath at Hyde Park

2016 – The top ten most popular reviews on Darren’s music blog

Happy New Year and thanks to everyone who visited this blog during 2016. Here were the ten posts with the biggest number of hits this year:

  1. Sweet at Bilston – December: “The band produced some excellent hard rock back in the day and it’s nice to see that side of the band being properly celebrated, in addition to the more obvious but still equally wonderful glam rock side” – full review here
  2. AC/DC at the Olympic Stadium – June: “as I’m listening to Axl Rose belting out the likes of Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and High Voltage I can’t help feeling he’s absolutely nailing those old Bon Scott tunes – full review here
  3. John Cooper Clark & Hugh Cornwell at Kentish Town – November: “It’s a veritable celebration of late 50s/early 60s pop culture and it is, my gig companion for the evening whispers to me, the most surreal gig I’ve ever been to.” – full review here
  4. Saxon / Fastway / Girlschool at Shepherd’s Bush – November: “Saxon in 2016 deliver the old material as good as they ever did, produce truly stunning new material and perform with a confidence and authority as befits one of British rock’s truly great bands.” Full review here
  5. Ian Hunter at Shepherd’s Bush – November: “The Rant Band are on great form, as ever. Ian Hunter continues to be both a great rock and roll performer, as ever, and a thought-provoking singer-songwriter, as ever. Let’s hope there’s a good few more tours in him yet.” Full review here
  6. Ian Hunter at Minehead – January :(yes – clearly a lot of Ian Hunter fans visit my blog!) “not only is Hunter still going strong, still singing and still performing but that he is still a major creative force, writing songs and making albums as consistently original and wonderfully compelling as the ones he made over four decades ago.” Full review here
  7. Mott The Hoople Fan Convention at Hereford – June: “Forty-two years after their original demise Mott The Hoople is still a band that’s loved, celebrated and cherished by its many fans – and rightly so.” Full review here
  8. Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Minehead – January: Sadly, the band have now called it a day following Mick Ralphs’ stroke this year. Let’s hope Mick has a full recovery and let’s hope it’s not the last we have heard of lead singer Adam Barron “he is, in my mind, fast establishing himself of one of the finest blues rock vocalists of his generation.” Full review here
  9. Me! – yes my own biography at number 9. You read the blog, you want to find out a bit more about who is behind it so here I am. Full details here
  10. Slade UK and Pouk Hill Prophetz at Wolverhampton – March: Another fan convention – Slade this time and a chance to see the Pouk Hill Prophetz. “Where the band really excel, particularly in the later set, is in the delivery of pre-glam era “before they were famous” Slade songs – stunningly authentic versions of songs like Know Who You Are and Dapple Rose.” Full details here

Thanks to visiting everyone and here’s to 2017. Although it’s now inevitable that a number of music icons from the 60s and 70s are passing away let’s hope the rock obituary writers are not kept anywhere near as busy in 2017.

Darren

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Sweet at Bilston -our number 1 for 2016 (Photo credit: Eileen Handley)

 

Sunny Afternoon (the musical based on the story of the Kinks) at The Theatre Royal, Brighton 22/12/16

I’m not normally a huge fan of musicals. However, I am a huge fan of The Kinks so when the opportunity to see Sunny Afternoon came up I was never going to say no.

With most musicals I generally find the mix of dialogue and song unconvincing. The one musical I have properly enjoyed prior to this was Buddy, telling the story of the rise and fatal crash of Buddy Holly & The Crickets. This at least made sure that the only musical parts of the dramatisation were when the characters were realistically engaged in rehearsing, recording or performing.

With his love of love of music hall and vaudeville, however, this was never going to be an option for Ray Davies and it’s very much a musical in the fullest sense of the word – with choreographed dance routines, whole-cast sing-alongs, chunks of dialogue delivered in song and the full works. Normally, the sort of thing that would make me run a mile. But, as well as good, loud, convincing performances of many Kinks songs there was much I found to like in this production. It ostensibly tells the story of Ray Davies’ battle between artistic integrity on the one hand, and the demands of the 60s-era music business on the other. But the fiery relationship between Ray and brother Dave is also examined. (Why do nearly all brothers in bands have such fiery relationships?). Although there is a temptation for the Dave character to come across as a two-dimensional wanna-be-rockstar-cum-actual-rockstar he is brilliantly played by Mark Newnham and some of the complexities of the character and his relationship with his brother are convincingly explored.

Some of the more overly-theatrical elements of the show irked slightly but there were some really powerful scenes, too. My favourite bit is towards the end when the band are in the studio laying down the parts to Waterloo Sunset. It’s genuinely moving seeing the characters lay down hostilities and come together in this scene, emotionally as well as artistically. Overall, even for a hardened sceptic on this whole theatrical genre, I found Sunny Afternoon hugely enjoyable.

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http://sunnyafternoonthemusical.com/

Related review:
Dave Davies (with Ray!) Islington 2015

Sweet at The Robin 2, Bilston 19/12/16

While this time of year often provides opportunities to see The Sweet at various provincial theatres around the country it is always nice to see the band at a proper dedicated rock venue. And the Robin in Bilston, near Wolverhampton, is packed out with Sweet fans from across the UK and further afield.

Tonight the band are going to “heavy it up” declares Andy Scott, following a deluge of requests from fans in the run-up to the gig. What this means, therefore, is that as well as those unforgettable Sweet hits, the audience also get a taste of the band’s brilliant 1974 rock album Sweet Fanny Adams, with ‘Set Me Free’ and ‘Into The Night’ from that album making a welcome appearance on the setlist, alongside ‘AC-DC’. The band produced some excellent hard rock back in the day and it’s nice to see that side of the band being properly celebrated, in addition to the more obvious but still equally wonderful glam rock side. It certainly hits the spot as far as the audience are concerned.

andy

Of course, before The Sweet even began churning out those glam anthems, they had a run of ridiculously cheesy but inanely catchy bubblegum, hits penned for them by songwriting due Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. For many years, the policy of Messrs Scott and co was to forget these even existed but in recent years they’ve made their way back into the setlist. But now the ephemera of the bubblegum era is completely stripped back and they are re-invented as chilled-out, folky, acoustic sing-alongs. Surprisingly, it works – and the audience lap these up, too.

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Of course, no Sweet gig would be complete without those glam mega-hits: whether it’s the Chinn-Chapman covers like ‘Hellraiser’, ‘The Six Teens’ and ‘Wig-Wam Bam’ or the self-penned hits like ‘Action’ and ‘Fox on the Run’. Add in some majestic versions of ‘Lost Angels’ and ‘Love is Like Oxygen’ and the inevitable ‘Blockbuster!’ and ‘Ballroom Blitz’ for an encore and it’s a perfect Sweet mix.

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There are numerous 70s pop-rock bands ploughing the 70s circuit, many of them continuing to offer a night of nostalgia and guaranteed fun; even if, like Sweet, you will only find one or two original members these days. But few, if any, offer the degree of perfection, professionalism and top class musicianship as Andy Scott and his colleagues, Pete Lincoln, Tony O’Hora and Bruce Bisland do.

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Sadly, I never got to see the classic irreplaceable Sweet line-up of the 70s. But I’ve seen numerous line-ups over the past quarter of a century and this is undoubtedly the strongest since then.

Glam rock and hard perfection. Keep at it boys

Setlist:
Action
New York Groove
Hellraiser
The Six Teens
Set Me Free
Into The Night
AC-DC
Lady Starlight
Lost Angels
Co-Co / Funny Funny / Poppa Joe
Teenage Rampage
Wig-Wam Bam / Little Willy
Love Is Like Oxygen
Fox On The Run
Blockbuster!
The Ballroom Blitz

http://www.thesweet.com/

Photo credits: Eileen Handley

Related posts:
Sweet at Bilston 2014
Sweet at Dartford 2015
Blockbuster – origins and influences