Category Archives: live reviews

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 includes ‘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:

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.

e8AGpmMA

https://joegideon.com/#intro

Live review: Giants of Rock, Minehead 24-27 January 2020

Now into its seventh year the Giants of Rock weekend at Butlins’ Minehead resort has attracted a little bit of scepticism among regulars over the last year or two – namely how many of the acts appearing on the bill these days can really be considered genuine, bona fide rock giants. There’s some truth in this. Contrasting this year’s line-up with that of the first such weekend in 2014 there’s probably far fewer acts that your average not-completely-obsessed ordinary-joe rock fan would be able to instantly recognise by name. However, Butlins in January has become something of a diary fixture in recent years, there were certainly a number of bands that I was still keen to see, the camaraderie among Giants Of Rock regulars (from unofficial bingo to group photos to late night chalet parties) is second to none and my long-time Butlins’ chalet buddy was definitely up for going again.

And so, I found myself on my way to Minehead once again for another year.

My personal highlights of the weekend I can pretty much neatly divide into three main categories:

  • the classic era of classic rock – The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Hawkwind et al
  • the New Wave of British Heavy Metal – Rock Goddess, Praying Mantis et al
  • and the New Wave of Classic Rock – Scarlet Rebels, Hollowstar et al

On the Friday night I finally got to see Arthur Brown perform ‘Fire’ in all its loopily eccentric over-the-top glory – even if Butlins’ health and safety requirements meant we got a sparkly glittery head-dress rather than actual flames. And on the Saturday night we got a magnificent mix of soulful blues and early Whitesnake classics from Bernie Marsden and a rumbling, rhythmic and suitably spaced-out set from Hawkwind. All three bona fide 100% rock giants in my book – no question.

20200125_203221

Something that’s been a bit of a feature of Giants of Rock over the years has been getting a former drummer along from a big-name band performing some form of tribute to his old band. Last year was the turn of Brian Downey (Thin Lizzy) and Chris Slade (AC/DC, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and pretty much everyone else). Much as I love these guys these tribute-act-with-added-special-ingredient are perhaps stretching the concept of ‘giants’ a tad. This year was the turn of former Judas Priest drummer Les Binks. Unlike Downey’s tenure in Lizzy, Binks was only in the band for a couple of years 1977-79 and only played on two studio albums and the Unleashed In The East celebrated live album. And, quite properly, he doesn’t play any material the band released after he left – which cuts out a fair few Priest classics and many of my own particular favourites (like everything on British Steel, for example). But, boy, do this band know how to make the most of the hand they’ve been given. In Matt Young, Binks has found a front-man with an absolutely awesome voice who does the early Priest legacy proud. Les Binks’ Priesthood massively exceeded my expectations and were a real highlight. Giants? – well maybe not but certainly very fucking good.

On the NWOBHM front, Rock Goddess on the Saturday and Praying Mantis on the Sunday both delivered superb sets. Once again, Butlins’ ever-reliable last minute stand-ins Oliver/Dawson Saxon got a call at the eleventh hour. Given I wanted to enjoy the whole of Arthur Brown’s set it meant I only got to see the last half from Messrs Oliver and Dawson but they are always brilliantly entertaining and I was there for the irrepressible Brian Shaugnessy leading the crowd sing-along to ‘Wheels of Steel’ which is always one of the highlights of any weekend where they play. Unfortunately, I missed Diamond Head this time but given I’d seen them just a few weeks ago supporting Uriah Heep I plumped for Hawkwind on the other stage. Sadly, ex-Mamas Boys’ boy, Pat McManus, was another one I missed but by all accounts his late-night slot was one of the high-points of the weekend.

OD Saxon 2020

Even if the number of actual rock giants have been less conspicuous on the bill in recent years, one of the things that Butlins has achieved is giving a real boost to newer bands and the nascent ‘New Wave Of Classic Rock’ movement. Not only by giving slots for several bands each day on the Introducing Stage but by allowing punters to select three of them to come back on perform on the main stage the subsequent year. Sons of Liberty, and their eccentrically grizzled but thoroughly entertaining take on southern rock, were able to bag a main stage slot on the Friday night whereas the other two winners Hollowstar and Scarlet Rebels (formerly Void) had to content themselves with the 12-1pm ‘hangover slot’ on the Saturday and Sunday respectively. Both of them more pulled than it off as main stage acts, immediately generating rapport with the crowds, a suitably electric atmosphere and equally electrifying performances.

So, the giants quota may have gone down a bit – but in what was my sixth year here I was still seeing classic acts for the very first time, enjoying some familiar old favourites once again not to mention discovering some exciting new bands. Moreover, splitting the bill 50/50 with my chalet buddy, Elise, I ended up paying out what amounted to £44 per day all-in for my accommodation, meals and entertainment. As my late father used to say (a long-time devotee of their Rock & Blues weekends in Skegness) – it’s cheaper being at Butlins than staying at home…

Related reviews:

Giants of Rock 2019

Giants of Rock 2018

Giants of Rock 2017

Rock & Blues weekend, Skegness 2018

2019 in Darren’s music blog – the ten most popular posts of the year

I wish everyone a happy New Year and give my special thanks to all those who have visited (and hopefully enjoyed) Darren’s music blog during 2019. Looking back over the year, here are my ten most popular blog posts from 2019. A bit of a 70s theme going on here as we look at icons of glam rock, heavy rock, folk rock and punk rock…

1. Live review: Giants of Rock, Minehead 25-28 January 2019

The sixth annual classic rock weekend at Butlins including Eric Bell, Scarlet Rebels (pictured above), Geordie and Oliver-Dawson Saxon. Full review here

2. Live review: Mott The Hoople ’74 at Shepherds Bush Empire 27/4/19

If this tour is to be the final chapter in the ballad of Mott the Hoople it serves as a fitting end to the career of a wonderful, unique and utterly, utterly irreplaceable band. Full review here

3. News: All change at The Sweet

With little creative input from me I simply endeavoured to keep fans rapidly updated on changes in the band by publishing the band’s official statement. Full post here

4. Six recently revived rock bands that are turning out to be dynamite

Focusing on Atomic Rooster, Lindisfarne, Geordie, Satan’s Empire, Rock Goddess and Towers of London. Full post here

5. Live review: Steeleye Span at St Mary, Ashford 13/4/19

Lining up alongside Maddy Prior are Julian Littman, Andrew Sinclair, Roger Carey, Liam Genockey and Benji Kirkpatrick. Talented players all, they bring a fantastic assortment of instruments, sounds and techniques with them, not to mention a rich array of voices. Full review here

6. Live review: Slade at Concorde 2, Brighton 21/9/19

Dave Hill is, of course, Dave Hill. Eccentrically-dressed as ever: a diminutive figure bouncing all over the stage, delivering the familiar solos and holding the whole thing together. Full review here

7. Interview with Andy Scott ahead of Sweet’s 2019 UK winter tour

The new line-up, the winter tour, the split in the early 80s, keeping in touch with Steve Priest and Rock Against Cancer I was delighted to have a long chat with Andy. Full interview here

8. Live review: UFO at Shepherds Bush Empire 4/4/19

Yelling along to ‘Doctor Doctor; and ‘Shoot Shoot’ as the guys come back on stage for an encore seems a fitting way to say farewell to a band whose music I’ve been enjoying for almost forty of their fifty years. Full review here

9. Steeleye Span at St Mary in the Castle, Hastings 21/11/19

A second trip to see Steeleye Span this year and a second review that seemed to rack up the hits. Full review here

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

A bona fide rock ‘n’ roll icon. Performing in the pub. Free entry. On a Tuesday night. It can only be Hastings Fat Tuesday. Full review here

Here’s to 2020!

Best wishes

Darren

 

 

 

Live review: Sweet at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 21/12/19

My last gig of the year and my first time seeing the Sweet with their all-new line-up. I’d seen the previous line-up (Andy Scott, Bruce Bisland Pete Lincoln and Tony O’Hora) many times but when I interviewed Andy Scott recently he was positively brimming about how much the new line-up rocked. Lincoln and O’Hara are gone, replaced by Paul Manzi (ex Cats in Space) on lead vocals and Lee Small on bass – and, assisting temporarily, Sweet alumni and ex MSG man Steve Mann on keyboards/rhythm guitar.

Scott promised that as well as the glam singles this new line-up would certainly be delving into the hard rock side of the band’s persona. The Sweet Fanny Adams and Desolation Boulevard albums are duly raided for tracks like ‘Burn On The Flame’, ‘AC/DC’, ‘Sweet FA’ and ‘Set Me Free’ and acoustic versions of the band’s early bubblegum singles are abandoned.

Impressions: the new-look band are definitely fired up, the band rock hard (whether delivering the glam singles or the classic album tracks) while still maintaining those exquisite harmony vocals that are such an essential element of the overall sound. On top of that it has to be stressed that Manzi is just an incredible, incredible front-man. Unlike the previous line-up the vocalist does not have an instrument in his hands and uses every single minute of the gig to zip all over the stage and engage the audience in the most direct way possible.

It’s also very satisfying to see the Sweet boys filling out this considerable venue, too. We might be besides the sea and it might be late December but this is not some Christmas package tour in some rundown venue squeezed in between the tribute acts and the panto but rather a high-octane rock show in the prestigious (and packed out) Grade I listed De La Warr Pavilion.

Of course, we get all the big hits as well: ‘Hellraiser’. The Six Teens’, Wig Wam Bam’, ‘Fox On the Run’ et al and the band encored with some exceptionally energetic delivery of ‘Blockbuster’ and ‘Ballroom Blitz’. The band have proved, beyond doubt, that there’s plenty of life left in the Sweet yet – and, as Andy Scott tells the audience this new version of the band is just in its infancy. We want Sweet!

Set-list:

Action
New York Groove
Hell Raiser
Burn on the Flame
The Six Teens
Peppermint Twist
AC/DC
Turn It Down
Sweet F.A.
Set Me Free
Teenage Rampage
Wig-Wam Bam
Little Willy
Love Is Like Oxygen
Fox on the Run
Blockbuster
The Ballroom Blitz

Sweet Bexhill pic

http://www.thesweet.com/

Related posts:

Interview with Andy Scott

News: All change at The Sweet

Review: Sweet 50th anniversary concert – Berlin

Review: Sweet live 2017, London and Bilston

Review: Rainbow and Sweet, Birmingham 2017

Review: Sweet, Bilston 2016

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: Diamond Head and Uriah Heep at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 6/12/19

Bexhill’s Grade 1 listed modernist masterpiece have had a really impressive programme this year. In the last couple of months I’ve been here to see Justin Hayward and Glenn Hughes – and I’m rounding off the year with a trip to see the Sweet. But tonight we have not one but two classic British hard rock acts.

Filling the support slot for Uriah Heep on this tour are New Wave Of British Heavy Metal veterans Diamond Head. Quite the heaviest band I’ve seen on the De La Warr stage they hit the crowd with classics like ‘In The Heat of The Night’, ‘Shoot Out The Lights’ and ‘Am I Evil’. As with Heep themselves, it’s the lead guitarist who is the mainstay of the band through many line-up changes. But, like Heep’s Mick Box, Brian Tatler has assembled a talented group of musicians and a strong vocalist in Danish-born Rasmus Bom Andersen and they deliver a powerful set. They work the Heep audience nicely and get a very warm response in return.

https://www.diamondheadofficial.com/

With one exception the songs performed by Uriah Heep tonight are either very, very old or very, very new. Apart from ‘Too Scared To Run’, when the band completely re-invented its sound in the early 80s, the set is either songs from the band’s classic early 70s Byron- fronted era or from the band’s latest album Living The Dream.

After experimenting with a more modern sound (the 80s production sheen of the band’s albums from that period now sounds terribly dated, ironically) with the Heep of today it is forever 1972 – in all its progged up, Hammond pounding, era-defining glory. And that is exactly how we love it!

Vocalist Bernie Shaw and Keyboard player Phil Lanzon may have only come on board in the mid 80s – a good decade after the band’s golden period of the early 70s – but they completely get what the classic Heep sound is all about and know exactly what to deliver, whether that’s on songs originally performed by David Byron and Ken Hensley or songs from their latest album. Following the retirement and tragic death of Lee Kerslake and Trevor Bolder respectively, drummer Russell Gilbrook and bass-player Davey Rimmer have also prove worthy additions to the band. Tracks like set opener ‘Grazed by Heaven’ from their recent album sit neatly alongside those from the Demons & Wizards and Look at Yourself albums.

When it comes to introducing one of the real highlights of the set, Mick Box recalls the time the band were in the studio but he had to take a few days out due to contracting some sort of bug. When he returned the band had worked up three separate pieces. Box, however, observed that all three were in the same key and suggested joining the them together and adding a dramatic introduction to create something really special. ‘July Morning’ was born. The band deliver a truly majestic rendition tonight. That’s followed by a much less complex but no less memorable ‘Lady In Black’, Box donning his acoustic guitar and the crowd all joining in with this folky strum-along.

Back for a quick encore of ‘Sunrise’ and the glorious ‘Easy Livin’ the band have certainly delighted their Bexhill audience tonight.

http://www.uriah-heep.com/newa/index.php

Set-list:

Grazed by Heaven
Too Scared to Run
Living the Dream
Take Away My Soul
Rainbow Demon
Rocks in the Road
Gypsy
Look at Yourself
July Morning
Lady in Black
Sunrise
Easy Livin’

Related reviews:

Uriah Heep, London 2014
Uriah Heep at Giants of Rock 2018

Live review: Steeleye Span at St Mary in the Castle, Hastings 21/11/19

Twenty-odd musicians passing through the ranks over the years, twenty-odd studio albums, a top five hit and countless songs depicting the cruel, the gruesome and the other-worldly, the folk rock institution that is Steeleye Span is fifty years old this year. This tour is being billed as a celebration of that and the band’s new album Est’d 1969 emphasises the point further.

The focus tonight, however, is not on self-reverential backslapping but firmly on the songs. As lead singer and founder member, Maddy Prior, said when I interviewed her for the Hastings Online Times recently it is the material that has been at the heart of the band’s success. And what a choice of songs we get tonight: from those like ‘The Blacksmith’ that appeared on the band’s very first album to several (like ‘January Man’ and Mackerel of the Sea’) that appear on their latest. There’s plenty of familiar material, like the wondrous ‘Alison Gross’, from the band’s 1970s commercial heyday, but one of the really nice things about a Steeleye Span gig is they never let the set-list become over-familiar. They mix it up from tour to tour, retrieving old songs from their back catalogue, giving others a rest and introducing the audience to new material. Indeed, the set-list tonight is quite different from the last time they performed at St. Mary in the Castle back in 2017.

The line-up of this constantly-evolving band is pretty much the same as the last time they performed here for us, save for Violeta Barrena filling in on violin for Jessie May Smart who is taking time out from the band on maternity leave. On stage the seven musicians really work well together. The ‘electric’ trio of Roger Carey on bass and Julian Littman and Spud Sinclair on guitars provide some real oomph as the band rock out on some of their harder-edged arrangements and provide a lovely contrast to the elegant beauty of Barrena’s fiddle playing and Benji Kirkpatrick’s mandolin. Long-standing Steeleye Span member and local Hastings musician, Liam Genockey, holds it all together on the drum-kit and all of the band members provide some lovely vocals on the choruses alongside Prior.

Of course, there is one song that never leaves the set. “You know what’s coming next,” says Prior when the band come back on for an encore and they launch into a thunderously energetic and suitably celebratory rendition of their 1975 Top 5 hit ‘All Around My Hat’. Rather than delving into yet another familiar old favourite the band finish the night with ‘Dodgy Bastards’, the title song from their excellent 2016 album and we are all able to leave thanking Steeleye Span for fifty years of incredible music.

Set-list:

First half:

Thomas the Rhymer
One Misty Moisty Morning
The Elf-Knight
Alison Gross
The Blacksmith
The Boy and the Mantle (Three Tests of Chastity)
Roadways
Mackerel of the Sea
Seventeen Come Sunday

Second half:

Tam Lin
King Henry
Black Jack Davy
January Man
Wintersmith
Old Matron
Domestic
All Around My Hat
Dodgy Bastards

img_0060.jpg

http://steeleyespan.org.uk/

Related posts:

Interview with Maddy Prior

Interview with Julian Littman

Review: Steeleye Span at Ashford 2019

Review: Steeleye Span at Hastings 2017

Live review: Glenn Hughes performs classic Deep Purple live, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 16/11/19

“Ian Paice, Roger Glover and Ian Gillan don’t do these songs” former Deep Purple bass player/vocalist, Glenn Hughes, tells the Bexhill audience, as he explains his decision to put together a tour celebrating the legacy of MK 3/MK 4 era Deep Purple at the urging of many promoters.

Having caught Hughes on one of his more regular tours a few years ago I knew we were in for an absolute treat. The few Deep Purple classics he threw into the set-list when I saw him back then completely set the audience alight and he proved, beyond any reasonable doubt, that he still had the vocal ability to hit those high notes and deliver those songs in a way they deserve to be heard. When the Bexhill date was announced I therefore jumped at the chance to see Hughes perform an entire set of Purple material.

As well as still being in very fine voice and being an absolute legend on the bass Hughes has also got himself a very good band together indeed, particularly guitarist, Soren Anderson, who handles the material amazingly well – from the classic Ritchie Blackmore riffs in the MK 3 material to the more funked up jazzy feel of the MK 4 material.

Material from the MK 3 line-up features more prominently in the set and we get some wonderful versions of classics like ‘Stormbringer’ and ‘Might Just Take Your Life’. However, MK4 Purple and , isn’t overlooked entirely. ‘You Keep On Moving’ and ‘Gettin’ Tighter’ from Come Taste The Band, Hughes’ final album with the band, both get an airing. Introducing the latter, a song he co-wrote with the late Tommy Bolin, Hughes tells us he’s played it at every gig he’s performed since 1976 in tribute to his former colleague who died that same year. The Bolin tribute is followed by a raw, emotive and absolutely majestic version of ‘Mistreated’ one of the truly classic Purple songs from any era of the band.

And while the modern-day Gillan-fronted version of Deep Purple may no longer play any of the material that Hughes originally performed on, Hughes and his bandmates are not quite so churlish. They give us a magnificently rocking version of ‘Smoke on the Water’ and, after encoring with a stunning ‘Burn’, they close with a thrilling version of MK 2’s ‘Highway Star’ – Hughes hitting all the high notes in a way Ian Gillan could now only dream of. Back in the day Bolin performed both of these songs live during his three-year stint with Deep Purple, of course, so it seems only right to include them now.

I grew up with most of the songs played tonight, from albums that were frequently pumping out of my dad’s stereo as a kid. Never having seen Hughes and Coverdale with Deep Purple first time around, however, (they split when I was aged 10 – a good five years before I started going to gigs!) I am very grateful to Glenn Hughes for giving these songs a new lease of life and providing me and many others a chance to hear them performed on stage once more. Glenn Hughes has done the Purple legacy proud with this tour.

Set-list
Stormbringer
Might Just Take Your Life
You Keep On Moving
Sail Away
You Fool No One / High Ball Shooter
Gettin’ Tighter
Mistreated
Smoke on the Water / Georgia on My Mind
Burn
Highway Star

tour-poster-696x984

http://www.glennhughes.com/

Related reviews:

Glenn Hughes, London 2015

Deep Purple, London 2015

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Birmingham 2017

Whitesnake – The Purple Album

Live review: Marry Waterson & Emily Barker at St Mary in the Castle, Hastings 16/10/19

Described as English folk royalty meets Australian soul the unlikely musical pairing of Marry Waterson and Emily Barker attracted many favourable reviews when the two released an album together A Window To Other Ways back in March this year. Following a successful tour to promote the album, the partnership is enduring and a second tour kicks off tonight in Hastings’ St Mary in the Castle.

For support, the two are joined by a more enduring (but no less talented) duo: St Leonards on Sea’s very own Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou. Now on to their fifth album together, they recently announced that they would be putting the duo on hold for a while so it was nice to be able to catch them together at least one last time. Delighting the audiences with songs such as ‘Everything You Need’ and ‘We Should’ve Gone Dancing’ from their latest album Fair Lady London, it’s good to hear that they are accompanying Waterson and Barker for the whole UK tour not just for this local gig. That should definitely win them over some new fans – even if expanding their fan-base isn’t particularly going to be their number one priority for the foreseeable future!

Waterson (of renowned Yorkshire folk family the Watersons – daughter of Lal) and Barker (Aussie-born, now UK-based, singer-songwriter) met up via a song-writing retreat and explain tonight how the spark of the ensuing partnership meant they both brought fragments of languishing half-written songs to one another and the album project emerged from there. There’s a lovely contrast between their voices, their delivery and their lyrical style – and they way they deftly draw inspiration from a whole range of musical genres from folk to jazz to country rock to bluesy soul. Having previously enjoyed both artists perform solo it is a privilege to see them work their magic on stage together tonight.

Performing songs mainly from their recent album, like the wonderful ‘Drinks Two and Three’ the two do a remarkable job bringing these songs to life. They are ably aided by two musicians who performed on the album: Lukas Drinkwater on electric and double bass and Rob Pemberton on drums, percussion and sampling.

After enthralling us with the songs they created together, the two give us one song each from their respective solo repertoires. As per a request from a member of the audience, Barker hits us with beautifully melancholic ‘No. 5 Hurricane’ from her last solo album, while Waterson delivers a breathtakingly powerful a cappella version of the traditional ‘Farewell Sailor’.

The evening concludes with the full band giving us a joyous, life-affirming version of ‘Bright Phoebus’ the title track of the ‘lost classic’ iconic folk-rock album by Waterson’s mother, Lal, and uncle, Mike. For all her gorgeous Memphis-tinged soul, Emily Barker it turns out, is a huge long-time fan of the Watersons. Maybe her and Marry might treat us to a performance of the full Bright Phoebus album at some future point?

72342489_10157964192747847_7844635415410638848_n

http://www.emilybarker.com/

https://www.marrywaterson.com/

Related reviews:

Emily Barker at Record Store Day 2017

Marry Waterson and Eliza Carthy – Hastings 2016

Trevor Moss & Hannah Lou – Hastings 2019

Trevor Moss & Hannah Lou – Fair Lady London