Tag Archives: Hastings Independent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.fromthejamofficial.com/

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Motörpace (Motörhead tribute) at The Carlisle, Hastings 20/8/16

My review originally appeared in the Hastings Independent 1/9/16

When there is so much excellent original music being performed live around the town should the Hastings Independent be reviewing tribute bands? It’s a moot point and for much of the past couple of decades I’ve been pretty dismissive of the whole tribute band scene; but two things began to change. Firstly, being exposed to world-class tribute acts, like Australian Pink Floyd, appearing on festival line-ups alongside original artists and experiencing first hand the sheer quality of the musicianship, regardless of whether it was original or not. Secondly, reflecting on the legacy of some truly iconic acts in the wake of a seemingly endless succession of rock star deaths in recent months, not least one Lemmy Kilmister at the end of 2015, and concluding that it would be a particularly severe case of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face to refuse to celebrate and enjoy the music of, say, David Bowie or The Eagles or Motörhead in a live setting just because the instigators are no longer with us. No-one ever got sniffy about the artistic validity of the Royal Philharmonic performing an evening of Beethoven so should celebrating the music of some of rock’s greatest icons really be that much different?

So here we are at The Carlisle then to witness the Motörhead tribute act, Motorpace. First, however, the band as they put it themselves “are their own support act” and rattle through a number of heavy metal staples by the likes of AC/DC, Metallica and Judas Priest before doing a full second set in full-on tribute band mode. Wisely, apart from the bass player/vocalist sporting some Lemmy-esque facial hair and a vaguely rock n roll-ish leather hat, the band avoid the temptation to play-act the roles of the former members of Motörhead and instead concentrate on getting the sound right; which they do with devastating precision. All the essential ingredients are there: the fast and furious bass-playing rumbling away like some industrial power tool, the hoary, growled vocals, the blinding guitar solos, the power drumming. It goes down really well with the Carlisle crowd which has swelled significantly by the time the band come on stage to do their main set in tribute to Lemmy and co. Punters lap up the likes of We Are The Road Crew, The Chase is Better Than the Catch, Overkill and, of course, Ace of Spades as well as more recent material like Thunder & Lightning from Motörhead’s final studio album, Bad Magic.

I’ve certainly become far more philosophical about tribute acts. If your entire experience of live music was to be nothing but an endless stream of tribute acts, each aping the glory days of bands gone by, that would be rather sad indeed; but as part of a balanced musical diet I see absolutely nothing wrong with taking in the odd tribute concert. This is especially so when the quality of the performance is as good as that delivered by Motorpace this evening.

https://www.facebook.com/motorpacetrib/?fref=ts

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Related reviews:
Motörhead – Bad Magic
Motörhead at Hyde Park

Ryley Walker at St Mary in the Castle, Hastings 5/8/16

My review originally appeared in the Hastings Independent 18/8/16

Although originally billed as a collaboration with legendary folk-rock double bass supremo, Danny Thompson, Thompson has had to pull out of this short tour due to illness. However, this did not prevent the young guitarist and singer-songwriter, Ryley Walker, from delivering a spellbinding performance at St Mary in the Castle. As the promotional blurb for the gig put it, someone who “plays guitar like Bert Jansch and sings like Tim Buckley” should not struggle to draw a supportive audience; and so it proved. 27 year-old Walker, from Illinois, is an exceptional acoustic guitarist, very much influenced by 60s/70s artists like the aforementioned Jansch and Buckley as well as the likes of Davey Graham and John Martyn.

The audience (absolutely typical for a folk/acoustic style gig of this type) is composed overwhelmingly of sixty-something baby-boomers and twenty-something millennials. Those of us in our forties and early fifties, like myself, are mainly notable by our absence. We are truly the lost generation as far as music like this goes. This is our collective loss I suppose; but it’s encouraging that the generation below us are picking up the baton, both as audiences and as performers, as the supremely talented Mr Walker exemplifies. A powerful songwriter and a talented musician with a distinctive voice, he’s not afraid to work across genres and thus brings a range of musical influences into his performance, from indie folk, to jazz to blues through to rock and psychedelia.

It is arguable that the acoustics in this cavernous, iconic former church, and perhaps the atmosphere itself, tend to make it work better for folk acts than for rock bands. This gig is far from a gentle, relaxed strum-along though. It’s an incendiary performance with his two band-mates providing throbbing electric bass and wonderfully atmospheric, powerful drumming that throbbed, crashed and reverberated throughout the venue all night. They complement the guitarist perfectly and it makes for a more intense interpretation of his songs in comparison to his two excellent and well-received solo albums, but that’s all part of the excitement of live performance. There is light and shade and definite changes of tempo during the course of the evening, however. The Davey Graham/Bert Jansch guitar influence particularly shines through on the gentler, more laid-back tunes, where Walker is able to simultaneously coax hypnotic rhythms and beautiful intricate melodies out of his instrument.

“Wow. That was very intense, bordering on psychedelic,” concluded the two women sitting next to me when I asked them what they thought at the end of the night. I wouldn’t disagree at all. Two albums into his career, Ryley Walker is showing exceptional promise.

[Note: since this review Ryley’s third album has now been released. More details on his website below]

http://ryleywalker.com/

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Dom Pipkin at Kino-Teatre, St Leonards 8/7/16

My review originally appeared in the Hastings Independent 22/7/16

With its shopfront facade and trendy gallery-cum-foyer you could be forgiven for thinking there’s something nice but not particularly unique about St Leonards Kino Teatre; but step inside the main auditorium and you are immediately transported into a beautiful dome-ceilinged 1913 cinema that’s been given a pleasing shabby-chic makeover. Just for tonight, however, it’s transformed into a legendary New Orleans piano bar with Dom Pipkin (“piano from London, soul from New Orleans” as his website has it) giving a captivating solo performance of high-octane rhythm and blues piano.

After support from Chasing Shadows, a vocal-guitar duo with an engaging acoustic set of Americana-tinged covers and originals, Pipkin takes the stage and begins a whirlwind tour of New Orleans classics; name-checking the likes of Professor Longhair, Jellyroll Morton, Fats Domino and Dr John.

Playing blues and jazz from the age of 12 Dom Pipkin has now established himself as one of Europe’s top interpreters of New Orleans piano and has built up an impressive musical CV. Past collaborations include projects with Ray Davies, Palamo Faith and Talking Heads’ David Byrne. As well as solo shows, he also performs regularly with his own band Dom and the Ikos, but tonight it’s just Dom and his piano. He combines powerfully dexterous piano playing with a nicely empathetic vocal delivery that suits a range of styles and assists in making the songs his own, whether it’s pounding rhythm and blues, elaborate jazz or soulful gospel.

On top of the obvious well-known classics like Blueberry Hill, Ain’t That A Shame and Iko Iko together with some less well-known historical gems from the New Orleans jazz and blues scene, we also get some real surprises, too. Chas and Dave’s Ain’t No Pleasing You is transported from the east-end boozers and re-imagined as a stomping New Orleans boogie woogie. Cottonfields, which let’s be honest most of us only know via the Beach Boys, is taken right back to its glorious Lead Belly blues heritage. Pipkin is also happy to share his knowledge of the songs and their origins and I certainly came out knowing a lot more about the history of the New Orleans scene and its colourful characters than when I went in.

A talented, energetic performer with an obvious deep love of his subject matter and respect for its history, Dom Pipkin and his piano make for a hugely entertaining evening.

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