Category Archives: Live reviews

Live review: Sweet at Islington Assembly Hall 28/11/21

Back in 2019, when Sweet were faced with some unexpectedly sudden changes in personnel, it became clear that not only was the band embarking on a change in line-up it was also undergoing something of a change in personality, too. When I interviewed Andy Scott ahead of Sweet’s 2019 UK winter tour he hinted that the band was now headed in a harder rock direction:

“We felt like we ought to go for a bit more like it used to be in the 70s when we did a festival set. You’d get down to the nitty gritty. You play a couple of the heavier rock tunes that people want to hear so that’s what’s happening. It’s a work-in-progress.”

At that stage the refreshed/revitalised Sweet (with Paul Manzi taking over on lead vocals and Lee Small coming in on bass, following the departures of Pete Lincoln and Tony O’Hora, and with Steve Mann guesting on keyboards/second guitar) had only performed a handful of gigs. Back in 2019, as Andy Scott stressed, it was very much a work in progress. Limited rehearsal time before hitting the road probably meant a complete revamp of the setlist was out of the question. However, with a vastly expanded period of preparation following eighteen months of Covid-related postponements and rescheduling, we can now see this new vision for the band coming fully to fruition. Quite simply, this new line-up has given the band a whole new personality.

Sweet now is perhaps less a celebration of the band’s persona as era-defining singles act (albeit all the notable ones are still there in the set). Instead, it’s far about reconnecting with what the original band set out to achieve when they entered the studio to record the likes of Give Us A Wink and Off The Record. Although Andy Scott is now the last man standing (following the sad death of Steve Priest last year) it’s as though this new line-up have bottled up the spirit of what propelled Sweet onwards from the glam years into the mid to late 70s and unleashed it here and now in 2021.

Andy Scott is clearly very proud of this new line-up – as well as being very obviously delighted to be back on the road performing at long last. However, he makes no apology for the tight Covid-related security procedures in operation throughout this tour: “Basically, me and Brucey don’t wanna fucking die,” he tells us. Quite right, Andy. As our last surviving member from the classic foursome we want to hold on to you and no Sweet fan in their right mind would want to do anything to jeopardise that.

It’s an incredible gig tonight though. Paul Manzi is a hugely talented rock vocalist, Lee Small is an equally talented bass-player, the trademark harmonies are all top notch and, together with guest keyboard player/second guitarist Tom ‘TC’ Cory, the three inject a massive boost of energy alongside the truly heroic guitar-playing of Andy Scott and powerhouse drumming of Sweet veteran, Bruce Bisland.

As well as the big hits, the band power their way through the likes of ‘Windy City’, ‘Set Me Free’, ‘Defender’ (a bonus track originally recorded for a 2015 compilation) and an exceptional version of the band’s current single ‘Everything’. The latter is a song that first appeared on the Sweet Life album in 2002 – in my view by far the best Sweet album since the original band released Level Headed back in 1978. It’s great to see a song from this era finally make it back into the setlist – amazing what you can squeeze once you jettison the likes of ‘Co-Co’ and ‘Peppermint Twist’!

For casual fans there’s still a chance to sing along like crazy to ‘Wig-Wam Bam’, ‘Teenage Rampage’ ‘Hell Raiser’ et al and, of course, the band encore with blinding versions of ‘Blockbuster!’ and ‘Ballroom Blitz’. However, it’s now almost impossible to imagine this latest version of Sweet touring provincial theatres on package tours with the Rubettes and Mud as it was only a few years ago. Sweet is back – and in full-on rock god mode packing out decent venues with some energetic, re-invigorated and uncompromising melodic hard rock. And a glorious thing it is, too.

Setlist:

Action
New York Groove
Set Me Free
The Six Teens
Defender
Hell Raiser
Windy City
Everything
Wig-Wam Bam / Little Willy
Teenage Rampage
Love Is Like Oxygen
Fox on the Run
Blockbuster
The Ballroom Blitz

My book ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ is available from all major book retailers – visit here

https://www.thesweet.com/

Interview with Andy Scott

Review: Sweet at Bexhill 2019

News: All change at The Sweet

Review: Sweet 50th anniversary concert – Berlin

Review: Sweet live 2017, London and Bilston

The Sweet versus Bowie: the riff in Blockbuster and Jean Genie – origins and influences

Review: Sweet at Dartford 2015

Review: Sweet at Bilston 2014

Live review: Peter Knight’s Gigspanner at Stables Theatre, Hastings 7/11/21

This review was also published by the Hastings Online Times here

Given both guitarist, Roger Flack, and percussionist Sacha Trochet are both Hastings residents and fiddle-player Peter Knight has a longstanding association with the town going right back to his Steeleye Span days, the Gigspanner concert at the Stables Theatre in Hastings old town was something of a post-lockdown homecoming gig. There was certainly a packed auditorium to welcome back the trio.

Peter Knight’s Gigspanner has now being going for well over a decade, with their first album released back in 2009. Initially starting out as a side project from his main work as part of Steeleye Span, Knight eventually left the folk rock icons in order to make Gigspanner his main priority. Now he’s back to juggling two different bands again with an expanded Gigspanner Big Band – which incorporates multi-instrumentalist dup Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin as well as Bellowhead icon John Spiers joining the core trio. The expanded set-up are in East Sussex next month, performing at Hailsham Pavilion on 4th December. Tonight, however, it’s the regular-size trio version of Gigspanner taking the stage.

With a set that included many Gigspanner live favourites like ‘Seagull’, ‘Butterfly’, ‘Bows of London’ and ‘Sharp Goes Walkabout’ each one is greeted like an old friend. There’s no letting up in the flair, inventiveness and spirit of improvisation to the performance, however, as they distil that trademark blend of English and Irish folk and a vast array of world music influences to deliver something that continues to be spell-binding and utterly mesmerising.

The newest member of the trio, Sacha Trochet, who took over from original percussionist Vincent Salzfaas, has help propel the already excellent Gigspanner to a whole new level, bringing in a much more experimental bent to the percussion and a broader texture of sounds.

It is always an absolute delight seeing Gigspanner and after a big Covid-shaped hole in my gig diary these past eighteen months it’s lovely to have them back.

https://www.gigspanner.com/

Gigspanner at Hastings 2017

Gigspanner Big Band at Hastings 2016

Gigspanner ‘Layers of Ages’ album

Steeleye Span in London 2015

Gigspanner at Hastings 2015

Gigspanner at Whitstable 2014

Live review: The Manfreds at Congress Theatre, Eastbourne 26/10/21

Given they had most of their hits before I was born or not long afterwards, Manfred Mann were never part of my youth – unlike the vast majority of tonight’s audience. However, I’ve long had a soft spot for many of their hits, not least the iconic theme tune they created for Ready Steady Go – again not part of my youth but I’ve seen enough clips to get a warm glow of nostalgia. A short trip along the coast to Eastbourne’s cavernous Congress Theatre then was therefore in order.

They can’t use the name Manfred Mann any more because the actual Manfred Mann has been happily ensconced in the world of prog since the collapse of the original band at the end of the 60s. But the lineage of this modern-day version, who have been gigging since the 90s, is impeccable. It includes Mike Hugg and Tom McGuinness from the original band and not one but both original frontmen, Paul Jones who was lead singer from 1962 to 1966 and Mike D’Abo who replaced him as lead singer from 1966 to 1969. Added into the mix are Jones’ long-time Blues Band colleague, Rob Townsend, on drums, bass-player Marcus Cliffe and saxophonist Simon Currie.

I had high hopes, especially after witnessing a highly-enjoyable gig by Paul Jones’ other main outfit The Blues Band a few years ago. It all seems to start off a little stilted, however, as they rattle through a number of hits – the two lead singers taking it in turns depending upon who was on the original single. Jones explained that a gash to the forehead had taken him off to Eastbourne A & E that afternoon so maybe that had something to do with it – but even D’Abo’s voice seemed to be a little under strain and he was shouting rather than singing the main refrain from ‘Ha Ha Said The Clown’. I don’t like giving bad reviews, especially for such an esteemed institution of  British pop as the Manfreds – but it all seemed to be a little lacking in energy. Then Jones announced that they would be finishing the first half with a blues classic that was the very first track on their very first album – and the band launched into an absolutely stunning – and smoking – version of Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Smokestack Lightning’. The Manfreds seem to move into a completely different gear for this and I was optimistic for the second half.

The second set did not disappoint at all. We got more hits like ‘Semi Detached Suburban Mr James’, ‘Pretty Flamingo’ and ‘Fox On The Run’ but also some numbers, while not Manfred Mann hits were certainly part of the family tree: Paul Jones’ solo hit ‘I’ve Been a Bad Bad Boy’ and the McGuinness-Flint classic ‘When I’m Dead and Gone’.

Always an important component of the original band’s persona there was also far more of a jazz vibe to the second set, which really saw the band getting into the grove musically. The advertised special guest, Georgie Fame, could not make it due to illness and so in his stead the band brought out Zoot Money who entertained the crowds with a few numbers and self-deprecatingly referred to his one and only hit single. He proved a worthy last-minute replacement and was hugely entertaining.

After finishing the main set on a high with a sing-along version of ‘The Mighty Quinn’ the band were back for an encore with a final song that was a surprise to no-one – giving us all a blast and a communal sing-along of ‘Doo Wah Diddy’.

While it seemed to take a little while to get going this ended up being a great concert from some great icons of the 60s.

https://www.themanfreds.com/

Related post:

The Blues Band at St Mary in the Castle, Hastings

Live review: King King at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 19/10/21

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

After numerous attempts at rescheduling during the Covid crisis, King King’s tour in support of their 2020 album finally gets under way. Venue availability, as a myriad of bands all attempt to simultaneously reschedule gigs that have been postponed over the last eighteen months, has meant that the King King tour has ended up in two parts – with half of the dates being played this month and the rest being performed in February of next year. Bexhill is the fourth night of this first leg of the tour.

Supporting King King on this tour are husband-and-wife blues duo When Rivers Meet. Other than quickly skimming their bio on the seven-minute train journey from St Leonards to Bexhill I confess to knowing little about When Rivers Meet in advance of seeing them. When you think of a duo it can conjure up thoughts of some, mellow, semi-acoustic folky-type blues act. But nothing could be further from the truth. As soon as they walk on stage Grace and Aaron Bond deliver loud, raunchy, rocked-up blues with bags of noise and bags of power. “This is the biggest venue we’ve ever played in,” they confide to the Bexhill crowd. They had no need to worry. Their sound is big enough to fill the venue many times over and the De La Warr audience respond enthusiastically to the pair’s six-song set. There is certainly plenty that will appeal to both hard rock and blues fans in terms of this duo’s highly original output. They embark on their own headline tour next April (supported by the redoubtable Troy Redfern) and are well worth checking out.

While When Rivers Meet give us gritty, raucous raunch, King King, meanwhile, take us straight into a world of polished, soulful, big production virtuoso blues rock, instantly evoking the spirit of the genre’s early 70s golden age. While the support act may have been new to me the headliners are certainly not. My late father was a huge follower of vocalist/lead guitarist, Alan Nimmo’s previous outfit: the Nimmo Brothers. Indeed, so great was his dedication that we even had one of their songs played at his funeral. Paradoxically, Alan Nimmo is now reunited with his brother Steve who joined King King on rhythm guitar just in time to contribute to 2020’s Maverick album. There’s clearly a long-standing dynamic on stage between the two brothers and Alan Nimmo relates how one of tonight’s songs ‘You Stopped The Rain’ is written in tribute to his older brother.

Perhaps the most important relationship on stage tonight, however, is the interplay between lead guitarist Alan Nimmo and keyboard player Jonny Dyke. The stunning virtuosity on display between guitarist and organist and the seemingly effortless way the two interact to conjure up such a delicious cornucopia of lush, soulful and emotionally-laden licks is one of the real high points of this band.

Set-wise the songs are drawn from the recent Maverick album (now at long last the band finally having the opportunity to perform these songs live on stage in front of a live audience) interspersed with older material like ‘Long History of Love’ – one of the ever-green crowd-pleasers tonight.

For an encore, King King return sans drummer and bass-player for an uncharacteristically melancholic ‘When My Winter Comes’ – another track from the new album, before the full band return to ensure the audience are sent away with a spring in their step courtesy of stunning renditions of ‘Stranger to Love’ and ‘Let Love In’.

Joyful, life-affirming and exuding polish and class, as I ease myself back into the world of regular gig-going once more King King are just the thing to remind me exactly what I’ve been missing these past eighteen months.

Set-list – King King

She Don’t Gimme No Lovin
Fire In My Soul
One World
Waking Up
Rush Hour
Coming Home
A Long History Of Love
You Stopped The Rain
Never Give In
Whatever It Takes
I Will Not Fall
Encore:
When My Winter Comes
Stranger To Love
Let Love In

https://www.kingking.co.uk/

Photos credits: Bruce Biege

Related reviews:

King King at Hastings 2018

Album review: King King – Maverick

Live review: Big River at The Carlisle, Hastings 9/10/21

I’ve now been out to several live gigs since lockdown restrictions eased but it’s still feeling a bit of a novelty and there’s a definitely buzz from the novelty of being in a live music venue. This weekend was the first time I’d been out to my local rock pub, The Carlisle on Hastings seafront, in almost eighteen months, where I had the pleasure of seeing Kent-based blues rock sensations Big River. While little about the Carlisle seems to have changed in the past year-and-a-half (and why on earth would it) there have certainly been big changes afoot in the Big River camp.

Former lead singer Adam Bartholomew has departed and in his place comes another Adam – Adam Barron. While I’ve been following the career of Big River with interest these past few years, indeed ever since the band was formed back in 2016 when guitarist Damo Fawsett quit another Kent-based rock band – Slam Cartel. Similarly, I’ve also been a real fan of Adam Barron, ever since I first saw him fronting Mick Ralphs’ Blues Band at a Butlins Giants of Rock weekend back in 2015.

To say I’m delighted by these two joining forces is a massive understatement. Barron, hugely influenced by Paul Rodgers with a vocal every bit as rich and soulful and emotive as his hero, has an absolutely incredible voice. It’s not difficult to see why a bonafide rock giant like Mick Ralphs snapped him up prior to the former Bad Company guitarist’s sadly debilitating stroke put him out of action. For anyone with a love of classic-era blues rock Barron and Big River is literally a match made in heaven.

At the Carlisle tonight the new line-up certainly did not disappoint. Barron has effortlessly eased himself into the new frontman position, bringing to it both those incredible vocal performances as well as an immediate emotional connection with the audience. The band are in tremendous musical shape, as well. Guitarist Damo Fawsett delivers some stunning solos – his bluesy, soulful playing the perfect match for Barron’s vocals, together with great driving rhythm from bassist Ant Wellman and drummer Joe Martin.

The set-list is a mixture of Big River’s first album (written and recorded prior to Barron’s arrival) a couple of new songs (including the excellent recent single ‘Don’t Hold Out’ – where Barron brings out his ukulele, not something the Carlisle audience are used to seeing on a Saturday night) and a handful of blues and blues rock courtesy of Robert Johnson and Free.

The whole thing is executed with such style and panache I have to keep reminding myself I’m standing in a pub in Hastings rather than a 2,000-seat arena and an £80 hole in my bank balance somewhere. Big River were always a great blues rock band. Now, however, they are undeniably one of the absolute best. It will be fascinating seeing where Big River go from here. They are almost certainly going to be bigger concern than they were previously and I await their next release with eager anticipation.

https://www.facebook.com/bigriverblues

Related posts:

Single review – Big River – Don’t Hold Out

Album review – Big River – Redemption

Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Giants of Rock 2016

Dave “Bucket” Colwell at Leo’s Red Lion, Gravesend 2016

Live review: Supergrass at Crystal Palace Bowl 20/8/21

My last big gig before the pandemic hit was Supergrass at Alexandra Palace back in March 2020  and, lo and behold, my first big gig post-lockdown is… Supergrass at Crystal Palace. Last year I had numerous other gigs lined up for 2020 and this year I had several gigs lined up for the earlier part of 2021, too – from the Stranglers to Fairport Convention to Sparks. However, the vagaries of tour cancellations, postponements and seemingly endless rescheduling meant that, once again, it would be Supergrass, who I would have the honour of seeing when I first set foot in front of a large concert stage.

I’m certainly not complaining. Always my favourite band of the Britpop era by a mile, I was rather upset when Supergrass called it a day back in 2010 and was utterly delighted when they announced they would be reforming. It therefore felt suitably poignant to be seeing them, once again, for my re-introduction to live music.

It was also rather poignant to be going to an iconic concert venue that has been out of use for far longer than the start of lockdown. Thanks to the work of the Crystal Palace Trust the natural ampi-theatre of the historic Crystal Palace Bowl has bounced back to life after laying dormant for more than ten years. Branded as part of the ‘South Facing’ series, tonight’s Supergrass concert is one of several major gigs at the park throughout August.

Although the band had jiggled around the order, the setlist wasn’t massively different to a year and a half ago. ‘Seen The Light’, Bad Blood’ and ‘Lose It’ were dropped from the setlist in favour of two extra songs from second album In It for The Money: ‘Tonight’ and ‘Hollow Little Reign’. All the obvious hit singles from the band’s original seventeen-year tenure were there, of course, along with a hefty chunk of their first two albums: I Should Co-Co and In It For The Money, the hyperactive punked-up teen angst of the former blending with the more mellow, melodic musical complexity of the latter.

Photo credit: Ryano de Birderac

The band are on fine form and the crowd are absolutely loving it. One thing that was very apparent to me is that when I saw them at Alexandra Palace back in March 2020 there was a constant sea of mobile phones held aloft as fans strove to document as much of the gig as possible. Tonight, however, it’s hard to pick out more than a tiny handful of mobile phones screens glimmering in the crowd. Admittedly, this is not a long-awaited reunion tour so people may not feel the same compunction to film and snap every part of it but, on the other hand, maybe it’s a case of us all spending far, far too long staring at screens over the past eighteen months and tonight, instead, was all about living for the moment.

Welcome back Supergrass and welcome back into my life…concerts.

https://www.supergrass.com/

Setlist:

I’d Like to Know
Mansize Rooster
Diamond Hoo Ha Man
Mary
Moving
She’s So Loose
Sitting Up Straight
In It for the Money
Tonight
Hollow Little Reign
Going Out
Late in the Day
Richard III
Intermission
(Coffee in the pot)
St. Petersburg
Grace
Alright
Sun Hits the Sky
Lenny
Pumping on Your Stereo
Encore:
Caught by the Fuzz
Strange Ones

Related reviews:

Supergrass Live at Alexandra Palace 2020

Album review – Supergrass ‘Live On Other Planets’

Gaz Coombes at ULU 2018
Gaz Coombes at the Roundhouse 2016
Gaz Coombes – Matador
Vangoffey at the Social 2016

2020 in Darren’s music blog – the ten most popular posts of the year

I wish everyone a happy New Year. My special thanks go to all those who have visited (and hopefully enjoyed) Darren’s music blog during 2020. Weirdly, although I originally started this blog nearly seven years ago mainly to cover live gig reviews, I’ve had far more visits to my site this year than any previous year. This is in spite of all the gigs (and the gig reviews!) stopping in March.

Anyway, as we look back over the year here are my ten most popular blog posts from 2020. Although I’ve covered the usual eclectic range of metal, folk, Americana, brit pop, rock n roll and glam rock this year, it seems that people were particularly seeking out my glam content this year. Glam ended up pulling in eight of the ten top slots. Here they are in order of popularity…

1. Veteran drummer Don Powell out of Slade

When Don Powell announced he had been sacked from Dave Hill’s continuing version of Slade it came as a shock to many, eventually being covered extensively in the music press and the tabloids. I posted the sad news up on my blog within minutes of it being announced on Don Powell’s Facebook page – I was first to report it and for the first 24 hours pretty much the only one to report it. My post went viral and was shared all around the world.

Read full post here

2. Glitter, glam and Blackpool rock: interview with glam rock legend John Rossall

Following the release of his highly acclaimed new album ‘The Last Glam In Town’ I talk to former Glitter Band legend, John Rossall. Our chat covers glam rock, show bands, growing up in Blackpool and, of course, John’s new album and the prospect of touring again post-Covid.

Read full post here

3. Sweet launch video to promote new single ‘Still Got The Rock’ and forthcoming album ‘Isolation Boulevard’

Sweet’s ‘Still Got The Rock’ single was released in digital format in December followed by the digital release of new album Isolation Boulevard. The single is reworking of a song that first appeared as a newly-recorded bonus track on the 2015 Sweet compilation album Action: The Ultimate Story, by the band’s previous line-up. The new version features the current line-up of Andy Scott, Bruce Bisland, Lee Small and Paul Manzi.

Read full post here

4. Before glam: the debut 60s singles of Bowie, Bolan, Slade, Mud and Sweet

When glam rock burst into the UK pop charts in the early 1970s the genre may have appeared all shiny and new and suitably outrageous but many of its lead players had been trying to make their all-important breakthrough in the previous decade. Five of the acts we look at here all released their debut singles in the mid to late 60s.

Read full post here

5. Slade legend Jim Lea releases video footage in bid to locate recently stolen guitar

Founder members of Slade were not having much luck at the start of the year. Jim Lea’s cherished Fender Stratocaster was stolen in central London on 31st January. He released a video in the hope that it will prompt members of the public in helping reunite him with his guitar.

Read full post here

6. Live review: Supergrass at Alexandra Palace 6/3/20

The only live review to make the top ten this year, this Ally Pally gig from the Supergrass reunion tour was actually my penultimate live gig before lockdown. (I managed Glen Matlock at the 100 Club the night after). Without a doubt, for me, the greatest band of the Britpop era, I was at the Brixton Academy on the Supergrass farewell tour in 2010 and ten years later I was excited to be their for the their first of two nights at Alexandra Palace on the long-awaited reunion tour.

Read full post here

7. Death of a glam icon – Steve Priest: 1948-2020

Steve Priest, bass-player with the Sweet and an icon of 70s glam rock sadly passed away in June following an illness that had hospitalised him. In an emotional post on his band’s Facebook page, former band-mate Andy Scott paid tribute to the best bassist he ever worked with. A phenomenal bass-player whose harmony vocals were an essential part of the band’s classic sound Steve Priest we salute you – a true glam rock icon.

Full post here

8. Slade at No. 8 in the UK albums chart – their highest position since 1974!

I was well chuffed to see Slade’s new greatest hits compilation Cum On Feel The Hitz go straight in at No. 8 in the UK’s album charts back in October. This was the band’s highest ranking in the UK album charts since Slade In Flame was released back in 1974. Even during the days of the band’s early 80s comeback, a decade after glam, Slade albums were still struggling to make it to the Top 40, even when they had a second run of hit singles.

Full post here

9. Slade’s Don Powell recovering from stroke

The run of bad luck for Slade icons in the early part of the year continued. Don Powell, suffered a stroke on Saturday 29th February at his home in Denmark. Fortunately, his step-daughter Emilie, a doctor, was with him when it happened and was able to act swiftly to call an ambulance and get him to hospital. His wife Hanne released a statement and Jim Lea and Andy Scott both sent their best wishes.

Full post here

10. ‘Confess’ by Rob Halford – a gay heavy metal fan reviews the Metal God’s autobiography

As someone who became a Judas Priest fan not long after my dad brought home a newly-released copy of ‘British Steel’ back when I was a young teenager, and as someone who has known they were gay from around that same time I was particularly keen to read Halford’s memoir. There is a fair bit of revelatory gossip and down to earth black country humour but there are many segments that are deeply, deeply moving, too. One of the best rock biogs in ages.

Read full post here

Related post:

2019 in Darren’s music blog

Live review: Supergrass at Alexandra Palace 6/3/20

Without a doubt, for me, the greatest band of the Britpop era, I was at the Brixton Academy on the Supergrass farewell tour in 2010 and ten years later I find myself in a state of some excitement for their first of two nights at Alexandra Palace on this long-awaited reunion tour. Given there was no particular acrimony when the band originally broke up, and certainly no Gallagher-style public feuding, in the intervening years I’d long suspected (and certainly hoped) that a reunion would happen at some point.

Formed of members of Gorillaz and The Feeling along with producer and Libertines collaborator, Ed Harcourt, support act Loup Garoux are a supergroup of sorts and their alt-rock take on stoner rock is well-received but I suspect most of tonight’s crowd are still making their way up the hill to Ally Pally while they play their half-hour opening set.

The cavernous Great Hall, however, rapidly fills up for The Coral. An inspired choice by Supergrass, they proceed to deliver a masterclass in making the most of a half-hour support slot with devastating efficiency. Giving the crowd a tour de force of some of their best-loved songs (‘Jacqueline’, ‘In The Morning’ et al) by the time they finish with a glorious, crowd-pleasing ‘Dreaming Of You’ they leave the stage to the sort of thunderous applause that most headline acts would hanker after.

After The Coral’s storming set we don’t have to wait too long for Supergrass, however – and what else would you possibly want to open with on a much publicised and presumably lucrative reunion tour when you’ve written a song called ‘In It For The Money’?

“Gaz has done his neck in and we were advised to cancel these gigs,” drummer Danny Goffey tells the crowd. “But instead we found one of those London rock ‘n’ roll doctors who’s pumped him full of drugs.”

The rock ‘n’ roll doctor clearly knows what they are doing. Gaz Coombes and his band-mates go on to deliver a blistering, joyous and uproarious celebration of the Supergrass legacy.

When I last saw Supergrass, on their 2010 farewell tour, the set-list was carefully constructed with a representative selection from each of their six albums – all presented in reverse chronological order. Tonight, however, the set-list is heavily dominated by songs from their first album, the hyperactive teen insanity of I Should Coco is celebrated in all its glory with a whopping ten songs from this 1995 debut. It makes sense. While it’s ten years since Supergrass originally came to and end, it’s actually twenty-five years since I Should Coco first hit the shelves. And, phew, they include ‘Alright’, too, the crowd going suitably crazy as keyboardist Rob Coombes bangs out the familiar intro of that unforgettable slice of mid 90s pop perfection. I was getting close to 30 by the time this came out and, looking around, I’m about a decade older than most people in the room. So this was not exactly a teen anthem for me but, hey, I’m not too musically snobbish to say it will always be one of my favourites.

Crowd-pleasers from the band’s other albums aren’t neglected though and as well as a good smattering of songs from their second album (‘In It For The Money’, ‘Going Out’, ‘Late in the Day’, ‘Richard III’, ‘Sun Hits the Sky’) there’s still plenty of room for later hits like the introspective ‘Moving’ and the glamtastic ‘Grace’ and, of course, the unmissable ‘Pumping On Your Stereo’ which is the grand finale of the encore.

What do you do a reunion for? In it for the money? Or in it for the adoration? Supergrass probably got a very healthy wodge of the former tonight but they most certainly got a huge room full of the latter as well.

Set-list:

In It for the Money
I’d Like to Know
Mansize Rooster
Mary
Moving
Seen the Light
Time
Sitting Up Straight
Late in the Day
Richard III
Rebel in You
St. Petersburg
Going Out
Lose It
She’s So Loose
Grace
Alright
Sun Hits the Sky
Lenny
Caught by the Fuzz
Strange Ones
Pumping on Your Stereo

supergrass tour

https://www.supergrass.com/

Related reviews:

Album review – Supergrass ‘Live On Other Planets’

Gaz Coombes at ULU 2018
Gaz Coombes at the Roundhouse 2016
Gaz Coombes – Matador
Vangoffey at the Social 2016

Lack of plan no impediment to enjoying Saturday Unplugged – live review Hastings Fat Tuesday 22/2/20

This review was originally published by the Hastings Online Times here

Darren Johnson couldn’t get any friends to come with him to savour the delights of Saturday Unplugged, when a myriad of lesser known bands play short acoustic sets in numerous pubs across the Old Town and now St Leonards. But that didn’t daunt him, and of course he had a brilliant time, as logged below. Darren also took the photos.

“Ooh, we’d have loved to have come to Fat Tuesday again but we’re dog-sitting.”

“I really wanted to come but I’ve got to spend the weekend preparing something really important for work.”

“I was definitely going to come but I woke up feeling full of cold so I’m just going to spend the day mooching in bed.”

My various attempts at rounding friends up for Fat Tuesday’s Saturday Unplugged session proved utterly fruitless this year. But I’d agreed to do a write-up for HOT, plus I was really looking forward to it so, sod it, I’m not going to let a complete absence of drinking buddies put me off. What it does mean, however, is that I arrive in Hastings Old Town – where 40 artists play multiple sets across 20 different venues (plus, for the first time, an additional 15 artists across five venues in St Leonards) – without much of a plan for the afternoon.

Plans for previous years had involved doing a bit of background research on each of the acts and working out who to see, or everyone choosing one or two acts and formulating a rough plan from that, or simply holing up in one pub for the whole afternoon and enjoying whatever came along. This year, however, I arrive with no plan at all.

I make my way to the Royal Standard on the seafront, always a nice pub with a great selection of live music throughout the year, and arrive just as the band are about to take the stage for the first slot of the day. Lost Revellers combine gypsy jazz, Celtic folk, Eastern European traditional music and classical to deliver something quite delicious. It’s a wonderful start to the afternoon and they go down a storm as I’m sure they did for the rest of the day.

I decide to hang around for the next band: the Hastings-based Buddha Triangle. There’s an equally diverse range of musical influences on display once more, but this time it’s a blend of soul, funk, reggae and rap. In their 15-minute set they deliver to the audience a taste of each of those. It’s fun, quirky and highly entertaining, but creative and original, too.

Still in the Royal Standard I’ve already had several pints, we’ve not even been going an hour yet and I’m starving. I take some time out from the bands and pop across the road to Neptune Fish and Chips restaurant for a plate of plaice and chips and a cup of tea before deciding to head along Rock-a-Nore to the Dolphin for more music. I get there just as Creature Creature are finishing off their last song. Hmm, they sound quite good. I check where else they are playing so I can catch them later on. Next up in the Dolphin is Earl Grey. No strangers to Fat Tuesday, their acoustic Americana-flavoured vibe with some delicious electric guitar goes down a treat.

Ft Earl Grey

Earl Grey at the Dolphin

Another pint downed and it’s time to work out where Creature Creature are playing and catch up with them (as per my highly improvised plan). I make my way down George Street to the Anchor but before I get there I’m waylaid at Butler’s Gap. A crowd has gathered to watch a busker playing some beautiful slide guitar and the drummer out of Buddha Triangle has set up his kit on the pavement next to him to provide an impromptu rhythm section. The crowd lap it up and it carries on like this until the drummer’s band-mates drag him away in time for their next scheduled appearance. It’s never just about the scheduled appearances at Fat Tuesday though…

I make it to the Anchor just in time to hear Creature Creature. The Brighton-based five-piece initially started out as folk-punk outfit 40 Shilling On The Drum before moving into hard rock territory. For their Saturday Unplugged acoustic set though they return to their folk-punk roots. Highly enjoyable, I will definitely explore this band further in future.

Next I move on to the London Trader and catch most of Doghouse Outhouse. A precociously-talented young bunch of musicians from Kent, their laid-back soul-infused sound gets a huge round of applause. I’m slowing down a bit drink-wise now but decide to head on to the Stag to catch old friends Milton Hide. Amidst all the fun and drunken revelry of Fat Tuesday there’s sometimes a danger that the eccentrically raucous bands on the circuit are the ones that grab people’s attention but I’m pleased to see the gentle and thoughtful observational ditties of this lovely acoustic folk duo are well-received.

FT Milton Hide

Milton Hide at the Stag

We are now moving towards the end of the five-hour Saturday Unplugged session and I glance through the programme to work out where I want to be for the final slot of the day. A taste of Memphis rhythm & blues and early rock’n’roll in the shape of Sister Suzie and her band at the Jenny Lind seems like a perfect way to finish up. It is absolutely ram-packed. I just about squeeze in at the back but can’t hear a thing so, like several others, I go out on to the street to watch her set crowding around the open doorway next to the stage.

An afternoon of great music and terrible fashions – why do musicians’ ideas of quirky always involve one of just three outfits: Hawaiian shirts, ex-military uniforms or those waistcoat/trilby combos? Never mind. A huge variety of music, a great array of talent and copious amounts of tasty beer, Saturday Unplugged 2020 is another big success.

https://hastingsfattuesday.co.uk/

Related posts:

Fat Tuesday preview 2020

Fat Tuesday preview 2017

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

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

Live review: Glen Matlock headlines Hastings Fat Tuesday 5/3/19

Milton Hide release fund-raising single to raise awareness of male suicide

 

 

Live review: Joe Gideon / Simonne & The Dark Stars / Suzie Stapleton at The Piper, St Leonards 15/2/20

This review was originally published by the Hastings Online Times here

In a town not exactly short of live music venues, the newly-refurbished, re-opened and renamed Piper on the down-at-heel segment of Norman Road (as opposed to the lovingly manicured gentrified end), has really begun to make its mark in the months since it opened, attracting some noteworthy artists and pulling in decent crowds.

Joe Gideon first came to public attention in the early noughties with his band Bikini Atoll, which was then followed up with a duo, Joe Gideon & The Shark, with his sister Viva, before he embarked on a solo career.

With a brand new album Armagideon, released on 31 January, Gideon has been working with drummer/percussionist Jim Sclavunos (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds/Grinderman/Sonic Youth/The Cramps) and keyboardist/saxophonist/vocalist Gris-De-Lin (Duke Spirit/Gemma Ray/Leila Moss) who also join him for this current UK tour.

This evening he’s supported by Aussie-born, Brighton-based singer-songwriter Suzie Stapleton and Hastings-based three-piece Simonne & The Dark Stars, the moody but poetic guitar/vocals performance of the former contrasting nicely with the electrifying stage presence and addictively pop-infused melodies of the latter.

The crowd are nicely warmed up and the room suitably full by the time Gideon and his two bandmates take the stage. With a musical persona that emphasises mood more than melody and erudite lyricism over catchy hooks, it’s never going to be something that works for everyone – but, boy, has he got a gift for connecting with an audience.

This alt-rock take on the classic blues power trio (albeit with keyboards taking the place of bass) keeps the crowd mesmerised throughout. Gideon’s songs explore themes as diverse as time travel, primordial bliss and reptile people, accompanied by hypnotic rhythms and powerful, clanking chords. As the gig finishes there are suitable looks of satisfaction on the faces of everyone who ignored the storms and ventured out.

All three acts will have enhanced their reputations as a result of tonight’s gig as, indeed, will the Piper – a venue that appears to be confidently finding its niche and USP in a crowded field.

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https://joegideon.com/#intro