Tag Archives: London

Live review: Gaz Coombes at ULU, London 28/2/18

Doing a handful of UK warm-up dates prior to the release of the album ‘World’s Strongest Man’ and a full UK tour in May, I catch up with Gaz Coombes and his band at the old University of London ULU building, now rebranded Student Central.

Stepping out on to a stage so packed out with twinkling retro sound equipment, kitsch standard lamps and vintage keyboards that the uninitiated may have mistaken it for a particularly camp car-boot sale, Coombes is clearly delighted that the crowd have braved the snow and ice to turn out for him.

My fascination with Gaz Coombes began when Supergrass first burst on to the scene in the mid 90s as that cheeky, wacky, slightly zany antidote to Blur and Oasis’s ongoing battle for the crown of Britpop. And since the band’s split in 2010 my fascination has continued as I’ve followed Coombes through his solo career – where he’s just about to release his third album ‘World’s Strongest Man’.

We began to get hints of a more mature, more introspective side to Coombes’ writing with the release of Supergrass’s third album, via tracks like ‘Moving’, and this is very much the path that his solo career has continued along. Coombes has eschewed any temptation to become a one-man Supergrass tribute and, save for the odd rendition from his former band like the aforementioned ‘Moving’, he’s tended to stick resolutely to solo material for his live shows. And, clearly, he’s now getting to the place where he’s got a really strong and growing body of work to draw from. Coombes’ first solo album ‘Here Comes The Bombs’ showed some real promise but was a somewhat austere electronica-influenced affair that took many by surprise. The second, the Mercury prize-nominated ‘Matador’ with its fuller production, beautiful melodies and sensitive song-writing understandably drew considerable praise from many quarters. With Coombes’ third album, however, it may well be that he’s on to something even more special.

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Photo credit: Steve Smith

Tonight’s set-list includes songs from all three albums but, unusually for a live gig promoting any new or soon-to-be-released album, the new songs were amongst the strongest and the most memorable and dare we say it the biggest crowd-pleasers. In terms of highlights tracks from the new album like current single ‘Deep Pockets’ sit really well alongside earlier material from the such as ‘Buffalo’, ‘Hot Fruit’, ‘20/20’ and ‘Matador’. And there’s no risk of austerity in terms of sound on this tour either: we have lush sonic textures on the keys, a captivating rhythm section and a divine-sounding trio of female backing singers supporting Gaz’s unmistakable voice and nifty guitar-playing.

Just as, nearly a quarter of a century ago, Supergrass grabbed my attention because I thought that they were doing something more interesting than either Blur or Oasis at the time, so it seems when it comes to the matter of solo careers, too. I am tempted to conclude that Coombes is doing something more interesting than either Damon Albarn or Noel Gallagher these days and I do think we are going to be in for a real treat when ‘Worlds’ Strongest Man’ is released.

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Photo credit: Tom Rose

http://www.gazcoombes.com/

Related reviews:
Gaz Coombes at the Roundhouse 2016
Gaz Coombes – Matador
Vangoffey at the Social 2016

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Live review: Towers of London at The New Cross Inn, London 14/2/18

This review was also published by Get Ready To Rock here

A decade or so ago glam punk outfit the Towers Of London were steadlily building up a reputation. Tours supporting the likes of the Pogues and the New York Dolls. Festival slots at Reading and Leeds and Download. But then came lead singer Donny Tourette’s appearance on Celebrity Big Brother. Pissed, bratish and annoying, the Sex Pistols with Bill Grundy this was not. It was more like a bad episode of Grange Hill. An equally ill-chosen appearance on Never Mind The Buzzcocks only made things worse and though the band soldiered on for another couple of years it was pretty much all over.

Fast forward to 2018, however and they are back. “I’ve been following these guys for a while – they’ve now grown up, sorted their shit out but importantly they still retain their bite. This album blows the shit out of what they’ve done in the past!” says former Oasis manager/Creation Records boss, Alan McGee, in the publicity blurb.

So I popped along to the New Cross Inn, south-east London, to see for myself what these guys are up to nowadays. And the verdict? Yes – the band deliver a great energetic set and have, indeed, got their shit together. New single ‘Send In The Roses’ is a superb slice of anthemic, catchy glam-punk meets indie disco. Their new material is sounding great and, of course, there’s a few songs from their early days, too – raucous punky work-outs like ‘Air Guitar’ and ‘Fuck It Up’ and campy New York Dolls-esque ditties like ‘How Rude She Was’. The world needs a few more bands like this and it’s good to see them back in business.

The Towers forthcoming new album ‘Super Sounds Of K-Town’ will be released in spring this year. We all deserve a second chance at times. I genuinely hope this band do well and, hopefully, stay around for a little longer this time.

Catch the new video for ‘Send In The Roses’ here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMAEVHnJY2k

https://www.towersoflondonband.com/

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Live review: Sweet in London and Bilston 15/12/17 & 18/12/17

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

After perhaps rather too many Christmas tours of provincial theatres in recent years and, ahem, a tour supporting the Bay City Rollers last year it was gratifying to have Sweet do a short tour of proper rock venues this year. And I was lucky enough to catch them not once but twice. The renowned Robin 2 venue in Bilston, where the tour culminated, has been something of an annual pilgrimage for hardcore Sweet fans, with people travelling in from all over Europe.

First, however, I caught the band a few nights earlier at Nell’s Jazz & Blues in London. This is a small venue with a tiny stage and it was absolutely rammed but the atmosphere was electric. It was evident that the band were also getting a huge buzz from playing to such a responsive audience, too. This was confirmed by Andy Scott when we chatted briefly after the gig and the Sweet legend is clearly humbled by the reservoir of affection for the band as the Sweet approaches its 50th anniversary in 2018.

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With Brian Connolly and Mick Tucker no longer with us and Steve Priest in the States with his own version of the Sweet it’s been left to Andy Scott to fly the flag for the band’s legacy in the UK and Europe. Consistently exacting in his high standards Andy Scott has never been one to just go through the motions when he goes out under the Sweet name. The current line-up of Pete Lincoln (lead vocals/bass), Tony O’Hora (keyboard/guitars/vocals) and Bruce Bisland (drums) have been together a good few years now (twenty-five in Bisland’s case) and it’s clear just seeing them on stage they work exceedingly well together as a unit. The unforgettable riffs and the trademark harmonies are delivered as powerfully now as they were when the band was at its commercial peak.

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Set-wise, for this tour there was a nice mix between pumping versions of the glam-era singles like ‘Hellraiser’ and ‘Teenage Rampage’ and some of the classic harder-edged album tracks like ‘ACDC’ and ‘Set Me Free’ from the ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’ album. In the middle of it all the stools came out for a nice little acoustic set – Andy Scott and Pete Lincoln delivering blinding versions of ‘Lady Starlight’ and ‘Lost Angels’. Tony O’Hora then joined the two for an acoustic run-through of some of the band’s very earliest (pre-glam) bubblegum hits. It’s testimony to the guys’ creativity, not to mention sheer chutzpah, that they can somehow give added meaning to the lyrics of ‘Co-Co’ and ‘Funny Funny’ and get a packed-out rock crowd singing along to every word.

Throw in some majestically symphonic versions of ‘Love Is Like Oxygen’ and ‘Fox On The Run’ and add in a barnstorming encore of ‘Blockbuster’ and ‘Ballroom Blitz’ and on both nights I witnessed very memorable gigs and a very satisfied audiences. Here’s to The Sweet at 50 next year.

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Live photo credits: Eileen Handley, Set-list photo: Darren Johnson

http://www.thesweet.com/

Related reviews:

Sweet with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow
Sweet at Bilston 2016
Sweet at Dartford 2015
Sweet at Bilston 2014
The riff in Blockbuster and Jean Genie

Michael Schenker Fest at Shepherds Bush Empire 2/11/17

Michael Schenker’s career, as well as his personal life, went through an increasingly erratic period a decade or so ago. Having seen Schenker a couple of times in recent years with his Temple Of Rock project, however, it was clear that he has absolutely, undisputably got his shit together again. If more proof was needed, tonight’s gig provides overwhelming evidence of that.

Tonight’s gig, dubbed Michael Schenker Fest, features all three vocalists from the three key eras of MSG: Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley. Barden is first up. While I won’t say he is the strongest of the three vocalists who will appear on stage tonight this is undeniably my favourite era of the band and the classic songs come thick and fast, transporting me back to my teenage rock fan years: Victim Of Illusion, Cry For The Nations, Armed And Ready….

Schenker is on stunningly good form with some stunningly good guitar work coming from his signature Flying V. On stage there’s other familiar faces from the old MSG days, too: Chris Glenn on bass, Ted McKenna on drums and Steve Mann on keyboards.

Next up is Graham Bonnet and while I have heard him struggle a bit at times during previous gigs he is definitely on form tonight. Originally recording one excellent album with MSG and playing just one disastrous gig where he drunkenly flashed the audience and promptly got sacked, much water has passed under the bridge since then. It feels a privilege to witness Bonnet perform Dancer and Assault Attack with Schenker and properly celebrate the part he played in MSG’s legacy. Even the sound system crashing in the early part of Bonnet’s set didn’t dampen the mood (and allowed me a much-needed loo break!)

Then it is the turn of the third of tonight’s vocalists. Robin McCauley is easily the strongest of the three singers tonight. Although set-wise, the earlier songs probably have far more resonance for me than the McAuley Schenker era, he certainly doesn’t disappoint tonight. To end the set he delivers a brilliant rendition of Rock Bottom from Schenker’s UFO days.

That sets the tone for a brilliant out-of-this-world encore which becomes a complete and utter UFO-fest. McCauley, Bonnet and Barden all come back on stage for Doctor Doctor, followed by Shoot Shoot, Natural Thing (with Schenker’s son Tyson joining his father on guitar) and, finally, Lights Out.

Three great vocalists, a brilliant gifted guitarist, some top class musicians and song after song of unforgettable rock classics, this was definitely one of the best hard rock gigs of 2017.

Set-list:

Searching for Freedom
Into the Arena
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Victim of Illusion
Cry for the Nations
Attack of the Mad Axeman
Armed and Ready
Coast to Coast
Desert Song
Dancer
Assault Attack
Captain Nemo
No Time for Losers
Save Yourself
Bad Boys
Love Is Not a Game
Rock Bottom
Doctor Doctor
Shoot Shoot
Natural Thing
Lights Out

http://www.michaelschenkerhimself.com/home.php

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Strawbs at Under The Bridge, London 29/10/17

This review was also published by Get Ready To Rock here

As a kid in the 70s I do recall frequent radio plays of the Strawbs novelty hit ‘Part Of The Union’ in what was that fractious decade for industrial relations. And as an adult and Sandy Denny fanatic, the latter’s brilliant pop-folk album with the Strawbs is frequently in my CD player. However, those two brief snapshots in time can hardly be said to represent the prog-leaning rock outfit that has been the mainstay of much of the band’s output these past forty-odd years. For the most part though it has, until tonight, lain largely off my radar.

Strawbs are still going strong, still gigging and touring. And tonight we are here at Chelsea’s Under The Bridge venue to witness the formal launch of the band’s first new album of all original material in eight years: The Ferryman’s Curse.

The two sets the band perform tonight are a mixture of songs from the new album and those from earlier in their career. As I am unfamiliar with any of the material tonight there appears to be no letting up in the quality of the songs in my view, the new material standing up well against what were clearly crowd favourites from past decades.

Dave Cousins’ vocal delivery is something of an acquired taste I find (and, to be honest I prefer it when long-time band-mate, Dave Lambert, takes the lead vocals for a handful of songs). That does not, however, mean that there is not some stunning musicianship in this band and some extremely well-crafted songs which definitely ensure tonight’s show is an enjoyable one. Lambert delivers some fine lead guitar throughout and the keyboards are equally stunning. Multi-instrumentalist, Dave Bainbridge, surrenders his keyboard to Cousins at one point and joins Lambert in some exquisite twin-lead soloing.

The band work extremely well together on stage, perhaps a sign of how long most of them have worked with on another. Although, there have been numerous personnel changes over the years it’s not simply a case of one original member with a load of random new boys, as is the reality with a number of vintage rock acts these days. Guitarist Dave Lambert, bass player Chas Cronk and drummer Tony Fernandez have been playing with Cousins on and off since the 1970s – and it shows. This is a band in the genuine sense of the word.

An enjoyable gig from a band I finally can now say I know a little bit more about, besides that novelty hit and their brief flirtation with Sandy Denny. Thank you Strawbs.

http://www.strawbsweb.co.uk/

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Gráinne Duffy at Nell’s Jazz & Blues, London 19/10/17

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

Irish singer-songwriter and guitarist, Gráinne Duffy, has been receiving plenty of plaudits since her debut album Out Of The Dark was released back in 2007. She has tended to be labelled a blues artist and, not having seen her before that is pretty much what I was expecting and looking forward to at this gig at Nell’s Jazz & Blues venue in west London.

On taking the stage, however, it soon becomes obvious that while Duffy and her band are incredible blues performers, that label really only describes a part what they deliver. From exquisite blues solos, to polished Eagles-ish country rock, to Stonesy rock workouts, to emotive singer songwriter acoustic renditions, to big fat Bad Company-esque stadium blues rock, to heartfelt soul and even funk, there’s an incredible versatility to Gráinne Duffy’s performance and repertoire.

Whether it’s her own material or her interpretations of some classic standards, Duffy has a soulful expressive voice that makes the songs her own, not to mention some captivating guitar skills and a fine band of supporting musicians. It’s little wonder she’s been wowing audiences from Glastonbury to numerous blues festivals, and although the place was not packed tonight there are enough of us there to give her a rousing reception and an enthusiastic demand for an encore.

Duffy has currently has a single out ‘Where I Belong’ and a new album is due shortly. A talented musician, singer and songwriter, Gráinne Duffy is well worth looking out for if you have not caught up with her already.

http://www.grainneduffy.com/

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Review: ‘Their Mortal Remains’ Pink Floyd Exhibition at the V&A

I was raving about the Rolling Stones exhibition last year, saying they have utterly rewritten the template for what a successful rock memorabilia exhibition should look like and set a new global standard. So when a Pink Floyd exhibition was announced at the V&A I was expecting something really creative. Surely, an arty band like Floyd, and one that has always loved spectacle and grand statements, wouldn’t allow themselves to be outdone by the Stones?

The Pink Floyd exhibition is meticulously curated and a fascinating insight into the band’s history but for the most part I found it very, very traditional. Whereas, the Stones went for breathtaking recreations of their squalid Edith Grove flat, of the studio where many Jagger/Richards classics were laid down and of the very private world of the Stones’ backstage area, Floyd have gone for things displayed neatly in glass cases in chronological order. Don’t get me wrong I loved seeing these items but an exact recreation of the interior of the UFO Club in 1967 or a mock-up of the studio where Dark Side Of The Moon was recorded there was none.

Towards the end of the tour we did get some 3D installations of images from The Wall and Battersea Power Station – and the room devoted to the sculpture from the Division Bell album cover was particularly poignant. Overall, however, while I felt with The Stones I was being taken on a very personal journey through the life of the band, with Pink Floyd I never really felt much more than a visitor to a museum looking at some artefacts, albeit very, very interesting ones.

https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/pink-floyd

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Rock Goddess at The Borderline, London 23/6/17

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

The time is definitely right for a NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) revival and it is great to see a good number of bands from that late 70s/early 80s era recording and touring once again, even ones that have not been active for a good number of years. The original line-up of Rock Goddess (Jody Turner guitar/vocals, Julie Turner – drums and Tracey Lamb – bass) reformed in 2013 but, over thirty years after they recorded their last album they have just released a great new EP. The lead track ‘It’s More Than Rock and Roll’ is a perfect slice of NWOBHM at its finest: the heavy riffing influenced by the original generation of hard rock albums, combined with the accessible sing-along choruses of the glam rock singles era and the down-to-earth streetwise attitude of punk – all the essential ingredients of the NWOBHM movement that gave hard rock the shot in the arm it needed.

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And three decades on the three women still put on a great live show with bags of energy and some irresistible rock ‘n’ roll tunes. Gigs at London’s newly spruced-up Borderline off Charing Cross Road tend to start and finish pretty early as the place transforms itself into a nightclub once live bands have left the stage. With no support act the place was looking a bit empty when I first walked in thirty minutes before the band were due on stage. Tinged with a certain amount of nostalgia and also fired up from hearing the new EP I really wanted the band to have a good crowd for this gig but I needn’t have worried. The place rapidly filled up and was positively pulsating by the time the band came on. Old crowd favourites like ‘Satisfied Then Crucified’, ‘Heavy Metal Rock ‘n’ Roll’ combined with songs from the new EP, the aforementioned ‘It’s More Than Rock and Roll’, along with two other great tracks: ‘Back Off’ and ‘We’re All Metal’. The latter turned into a brilliantly raucous audience sing-along with Jody Turner stepping out into the crowd to get everyone bellowing along with her.

In what was a very male-dominated world, Rock Goddess were a band that showed real promise when they started out and sadly, they disappeared far, far too soon. Three decades on it is great to see them back – even if all-women metal bands appear to be almost as rare today as when Rock Goddess cut their first single.

Set-list:
1. Satisfied Then Crucified
2. Two Wrongs
3. Back Off
4. Take Your Love Away
5. Bite
6. To Be Betrayed
7. You’ve Got Fire
8. Back To You
9. This Time
10. Heartache
11. It’s More Than Rock and Roll
12. Flying
13. The Love Lingers Still
14. Make My Night
15. Drive
16. This Is The Day
17 God Be With You
18. Heavy Metal Rock ‘n’ Roll
19. We’re All Metal
– Encore –
20. My Angel
21. Love Is A Bitch

https://www.facebook.com/Rockgoddessrocks/

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The Stone Roses at Wembley Stadium 17/6/17

This review is also published on the Get Ready To Rock website here

For a band that have still only managed to release two albums (and one of those pretty underwhelming), whose singer is hardly renowned for having the strongest vocals in the world, and whose members spent the majority of the past twenty-five years ignoring one another and doing other things the Stone Roses sure know how to fill Wembley Stadium and others like it. Why? The answer is simple: they made one of the greatest albums of the late 80s, some would say of all time. Track after track on Stone Roses, the bands paint-splattered, lemon-garnished, debut album, are absolute classics to be played, sung-along to and celebrated again and again and again.

Combining jangly sixties-esque guitars, rhythms of the emerging dance scene and some youthful rock ‘n’ roll swagger and applying it all to some really well-written memorable songs the Stone Roses were an absolute breath of fresh air for guitar rock in the late 80s. Indeed, the band’s first album makes up most of the band’s set-list tonight, with ten of the album’s eleven tracks making it into the set. A small handful of songs from their “difficult second album” make it to the set as well as a handful of early singles like the lovely ‘Sally Cinnamon’ and last year’s new single ‘All For One’ (their first in twenty years) which captures the mood in the stadium tonight and has clearly become a firm crowd sing-along.

However, from the moment they first walk on stage to play ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ to the last climatic strains of “I Am The Resurrection’ the whole show is pretty much a celebration of that unforgettable and seemingly unrepeatable debut album. Timeless classics like ‘Waterfall’, ‘Made Of Stone’ (up there with The Kinks’ ‘Waterloo Sunset’ for memorable rolling bass lines in my view), ‘She Bangs The Drums’ and ‘This Is The One’ all become glorious communal sing-alongs.

Ian Bown, John Squire, Mani and Reni pulled off a brilliant show tonight and there is rightly a huge amount of love for the Stone Roses in Wembley stadium tonight.

I’ve been to quite a few big Wembley Arena/Wembley stadium gigs over the years and as the crowds make their way along the overcrowded walkway to the even more overcrowded tube station it’s common for fair bit of of communal singing to break out. Tonight, unusually, it isn’t a song from the headliners that rings out from the crowds but rather Oasis’s ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’. London has certainly been battered and bruised these past few weeks and perhaps needed a bit of Manc-flavoured love and solidarity sending its way. It got it tonight.

Setlist:

I Wanna Be Adored
Elephant Stone
Sally Cinnamon
Mersey Paradise
(Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister
Where Angels Play
Shoot You Down
Waterfall
Don’t Stop
Begging You
Elizabeth My Dear
Fools Gold
All for One
Love Spreads
Made of Stone
She Bangs the Drums
Breaking into Heaven
This Is the One
I Am the Resurrection

http://www.thestoneroses.org/

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Fairport Convention – 50th anniversary gig at Union Chapel, London 27/5/17

This review is also published on the Get Ready To Rock website here

Folk-rock pioneers Fairport Convention have never been a band to shy away from celebrating their own legacy. When they decided to split in 1979 they held a big outdoor farewell gig in Cropredy, Oxfordshire that proved so successful they decided to stage it again each year, evolving into the big three-day festival we know today. Thirtieth, fortieth and forty-fifth anniversaries of the band have all been celebrated with emotional reunions of surviving ex-members and a similarly nostalgic trip down memory lane is scheduled for Cropredy this August.

An anniversary concert in north London, not far from where the band performed their first ever gig fifty years ago to the day, drips with symbolism. However, unlike the lavish reunions of the past, tonight was scheduled to be a fairly ordinary gig half-way through the band’s spring tour, albeit one that coincided with an extraordinary anniversary. For a band that has done more anniversary performances than many acts have done albums I was beginning to wonder what, if anything, would make tonight’s gig that bit more special than many of the other admittedly excellent performances I’d seen from this band.

The answer lay in the rapturous and sustained applause the band receive as they walk on stage tonight, even before they play a single note. The spontaneous wave of love and and affection is palpable and tonight was clearly going to be as much about the audience as about the band. Performing a mixture of songs from their new album 50:50@50 and older staples, original member Simon Nicol (joined 1967) together with “newbies” Dave Pegg (joined 1969), Ric Sanders (joined 1985), Chris Leslie (joined 1996) and Gerry Conway (joined 1998) provide a nice overview of different eras of the band. From the late 60s classic Sandy Denny/Richard Thompson era the unforgettable ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ is an obvious highlight. While from the mid 80s, when Fairport became a working, touring band again, Ralph McTell’s ‘Hiring Fair’ is another genuine highlight of tonight’s set.

A couple of “surprise” moments are when Pentangle’s Jacqui McShee joins the band on stage to sing ‘The Lady of Carlisle’ the track for which she provides guest vocals on the current album; and when Sally Barker (who reprised a number of Sandy Denny songs when she toured with the surviving members of Denny’s post-Fairport outfit Fotheringay a couple of years ago) lovingly recreates the magic of Denny’s ‘Rising For The Moon’.

‘Matty Groves’ and ‘Meet On The Ledge’ are two songs the band could never get away without performing and for many years now have been the traditional climax to any Fairport gig. After an energetic ‘Matty Groves’ the band are serenaded with a spontaneous audience rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ when they come back on for an encore. As tonight seemed as much about celebrating the longevity of the Fairport audience as celebrating the longevity of the band, this seems an especially nice touch and makes the ensuing sing-along to ‘Meet On The Ledge’ all the more poignant. Happy 50th Fairport!

http://www.fairportconvention.com/

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