Tag Archives: live review

live gig review

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: 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

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: Fairport Convention at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 20/2/20

Another February, another Fairport winter tour. There has been a radical revamp of the set-list for this tour, however. This is not unwelcome. In recent years it was getting a tad repetitive. True, they had their 45th and then 50th anniversaries to celebrate and were rightly focused on delivering a set-list that reflected career highlights over the decades. For this tour the set is dominated by just two albums: the band’s latest Shuffle & Go and a revisit of the band’s 1970 album Full House. The latter is itself reaching its 50th anniversary this year (never let it be said that this band ever misses an opportunity to celebrate an anniversary…)

Before we get to any of this, however, the Americana-flavoured songs of acoustic guitar/harmony vocals duo Smith & Brewer go down extremely well. Fairport Convention have long used the support slot on their winter tours in a fairly strategic way to showcase emerging talent and bring artists to wider public attention. But for both musicality and entertainment value this act has been one of the finest to take this slot in recent years and they are suitably rewarded at the merch stand during the interval.

Fairport support 1

After sharing the stage with Smith & Brewer for their final song ‘Don’t Say You Don’t Love Me’ Fairport kick off their own set with much-loved show-opener ‘Walk A While’ but swiftly move on to tracks from the new album. I had not purchased the album prior to the gig so it’s a first taste of these songs. I particularly like the first of these tonight and the opening track on the album. One of my criticisms of recent Fairport albums is that some of the songs from Chris Leslie’s hand have been a little on the twee and whimsical side (‘Our Bus Rolls On’ anyone?). ‘Don’t Reveal My Name’ about the card magician Dai Vernon is dark, brooding and mysterious, on the other hand, and a great addition to the Fairport repertoire. We get a whopping ten of the album’s thirteen tracks tonight, including the wistful celebration of the nation’s pubs ‘A Thousand Bars’ and Chris Leslie’s ‘Moondust & Solitude’ marking the anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. Some impressive songs in there, I will say.

Fairport shuffle

After the interval there’s a few more songs from the new album, a blast of the wondrous ‘Farewell, Farewell’ from the Liege and Lief album and then it’s time to launch into that Full House celebration. Back when it was released in 1970, this was the first of the all-male Fairport line-ups where the band were working out their future direction following the departure of Sandy Denny (along with Ashley Hutchings). The five deliver nicely-worked treatments of ‘Sir Patrick Spens’, ‘Sloth’ and ‘Doctor of Physick’ – albeit with Chris Leslie’s mandolin taking the place of Richard Thompson’s guitar licks (although Dave Pegg tells the audience that Mr Thompson, along with former Fairport drummer Dave Mattacks, will be joining the band to play the Full House album live at the Cropredy festival in the summer.)

The set ends with the usual trio of Fairport show-closers ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’, ‘Matty Groves’ and ‘Meet On The Ledge’ and regardless of whether they have or haven’t played the De La Warr before (there was a bit of a dispute about this between Simon Nichol and Dave Pegg earlier in the evening) the band nevertheless have an appreciative audience tonight.

Set-list

First set:

Walk Awhile
Don’t Reveal My Name
Cider Rain
Good Time for a Fiddle and Bow / The Christmas Eve Reel
A Thousand Bars
Shuffle and Go
Moses Waits
Bankruptured
Moondust and Solitude

Second Set

Jolly Springtime
Steampunkery
The Year of Fifty Nine
Farewell, Farewell
Sir Patrick Spens
Sloth
Doctor of Physick
Who Knows Where the Time Goes?
Matty Groves
Meet on the Ledge

https://www.fairportconvention.com/

Related reviews:

Fairport Convention at Cropredy 2017

Album review – Fairport Convention ‘Come All Ye: The First Ten Years’

Fairport Convention – 50th anniversary gig at Union Chapel 2017

Fairport Convention at Cropredy 2014

Fairport Convention at Union Chapel 2014

Iain Matthews in Etchingham 2016

Album review – Fairport Convention ‘What We Did On Our Saturday’

Album review – Ashley Hutchings ‘From Psychedelia to Sonnets’

Album review – Ashley Hutchings ‘Twangin’ ‘n’ a-Traddin’ Revisited’

Album review – Sandy Denny ‘I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Acoustic Sandy Denny’

Fotheringay at Under the Bridge, London 2015

Fotheringay at Great British Folk Festival 2015

Richard Thompson at Royal Festival Hall 2015

Richard Thompson at Folk By The Oak 2014

Album review – Richard Thompson ‘Acoustic Classics’

Judy Dyble at WM Jazz at The o2

Albion Christmas Band at Kings Place 16/12/14

 

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

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