Monday, 5 December 2016

The Human League at Newcastle City Hall

The Human League
Newcastle City Hall

The Human League returned to the North East to thrill a sold-out Newcastle City Hall last night.

I saw them at the City Hall almost exactly two years ago but the view from the balcony was very poor, with half of the stage completely obscured. As The Human League show relies heavily on the visual aspect, that 2014 evening had its disappointments.

Lesson learned, a stalls seat was secured for this performance.

The hall was packed out and the audience was warm and responsive, with people on their feet clapping, singing and dancing almost from the very start.

The show started with a very loud jumping bass line, which served the delightful purpose of almost completely stopping the localised audience chatter (although some still sought to rise above it). The light show started as the band swung into action. Then Phil Oakley, unusual hairstyle long gone, strode cooly onto the stage, dressed in serious black (as opposed to the bright white sported back in 2014) and broke into Being Boiled with it's famous opening line of 'Listen to the voice of Buddha...' 

At the end of the song, Phil was joined by Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley, the singing and dancing pair famously recruited as schoolgirls in a Sheffield nightclub back in the very early 1980s. They danced - and occasionally sang - their way through the evening, making a very strong connection with the audience.

The visuals were stunning, shifting the ambience accordingly for each of the songs.

The set list brought a rare outing for some songs but retained all of the obvious crowd-pleasers.

Set List

Being Boiled
The Sound of the Crowd
Heart Like a Wheel
Filling Up With Heaven
Open Your Heart
Soundtrack to a Generation
The Lebanon
One Man in My Heart
Stay With Me Tonight
Love Action (I Believe in Love)
Tell Me When
(Keep Feeling) Fascination
Mirror Man
Don’t You Want Me

Susan and Joanne returned for the second of the encore songs, wearing slightly less than they did earlier.


The Things That Dreams Are Made Of
Together in Electric Dreams

It was an excellent and thoroughly entertaining show, acting as a counterpoint to the equally enjoyable Heaven 17 gig at the end of October, just up the road at The Sage.

We conclude with a gallery showing moments from a very entertaining evening.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Glenn Tilbrook's Arc Return

Glenn Tilbrook
The Arc, Stockton-on-Tees
Glenn Tilbrook made a welcome return to Teesside when he rocked The Arc last weekend.

He last appeared on Teesside back in 2014 and his most recent Arc appearance was in 2013.

He pleased the substantial crowd (not quite a sell-out) with a number of the expected Squeeze songs, including Black Coffee in BedTempted, Labelled With LoveTake Me I'm YoursSlap and Tickle.

He then showed an extended repertoire with a few popular covers, including Friday on My Mind and Tired of Waiting.

There was also room for songs from the underated The Cooperative album (a collabation with Nine Below Zero).

One of the evening's highlights came when Glenn issued the Difford Challenge. The challenge comes in the form of 'I'll play Cool for Cats if someone will come up and sing it.' The song isn't suited to Glenn's voice but he is often asked to play it.

'Phil' volunteered for action and proceeded to bring the house down with an extraordinarily confident performance that had the audience singing along the Cool for Cats line in between the verses. It is the third time I have seen the Difford Challenge issued and the first time I have seen it accepted. it is unlikely to ever be bettered.

Switching from acoustic to electric for the final few songs was a good plan as it ensured the show went out on a high.


The tour rolls on. Catch him while you can...

Friday 2nd Dec Berits and Brown, Coatbridge, Eurocentral

Sat 3rd Dec Hospitalfield House, Arbroath

Mon 5th Dec Heart of Hawick, Hawick

Tue 6th Dec The Brudenell, Leeds

Wed 7th Dec Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Fri 9th Dec St Johns Church, Farncombe

Sat 10th Dec Windlesham Club, Windlesham

Sun 11th Dec The Halls, Blackheath

Mon 12th Dec Norwich Arts Centre, Norwich

Tue 13th Dec Apex, Bury St Edmunds

Thu 15th Dec Union Chapel, London

Fri 16th Dec The Phoenix, Exeter

Sat 17th Dec Cheese & Grain, Frome

Sun 18th Dec The Globe, Cardiff

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Glenn Tilbrook on Tour

Glenn Tilbrook Announces 2016 ‘The Best Of Times’ UK Tour

Glenn Tilbrook, one of Britain’s most cherished singers, guitarists and songwriters, is delighted to announce a 36 date solo UK tour this year, starting in Western Super Mare on October 25th and concluding in Cardiff on December 18th. There is no denying Glenn has been pretty busy over the last couple of years - such is the continuing work ethic of a fellow who’s never been far from the action since Squeeze made their recording bow with the Packet Of Three EP in 1977.

Following the release of his solo album ‘Happy Ending’ in 2014, Glenn embarked on the critically acclaimed ‘At Odds Couple’ UK and US acoustic tours with long-time collaborator Chris Difford. In 2015 Glenn and his Squeeze bandmates wrote, recorded and released their first album of new material in eighteen years - which was written for the BBC drama of the same name, inspired by the memoirs of friend Danny Baker. It was a glorious musical return, ‘Cradle To The Grave’ was met with rave reviews and entered the UK Official Album Chart at number 12. The band embarked on a sold–out tour across the UK, including a packed out date at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall.

As 2015 drew to a close – without stopping to catch their breath- Glenn and Chris headed to the US for an extensive acoustic tour. 2016 has kicked off no differently – Squeeze were a viral sensation in January after a castigating performance on BBC 1’s Andrew Marr Show.

Anyone who has witnessed Glenn on the live stage can attest to the properness of his doings, as it were. Armed with ready wit, raucous vibes and a shed load of grin-inducing great songs, there are few musicians able to connect with their audience on such an immediate and warm level. The ever burgeoning festival circuit is frequently enriched by Tilbrook the troubadour, whether he be leafing through his own plentiful back pages or dashing off impromptu audience requests ranging from Jimi Hendrix to Tony Orlando & Dawn, and all points in-between.


Wed 23rd Nov Queens Hall Studio, Widnes

Thu 24th Nov The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal

Fri 25th Nov The Sage, Gateshead

Sat 26th Nov The ARC, Stockton

Sun 27th Nov Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh

Tues 29th Nov The Tolbooth, Stirling

Thu 1st Dec Oran Mor, Glasgow

Friday 2nd Dec Berits and Brown, Coatbridge, Eurocentral

Sat 3rd Dec Hospitalfield House, Arbroath

Mon 5th Dec Heart of Hawick, Hawick

Tue 6th Dec The Brudenell, Leeds

Wed 7th Dec Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Fri 9th Dec St Johns Church, Farncombe

Sat 10th Dec Windlesham Club, Windlesham

Sun 11th Dec The Halls, Blackheath

Mon 12th Dec Norwich Arts Centre, Norwich

Tue 13th Dec Apex, Bury St Edmunds

Thu 15th Dec Union Chapel, London

Fri 16th Dec The Phoenix, Exeter

Sat 17th Dec Cheese & Grain, Frome

Sun 18th Dec The Globe, Cardiff

Monday, 21 November 2016

Eliza Carthy and The Wayward Band

Eliza Carthy and The Wayward Band
Whitby Pavilion
Eliza Carthy and The Wayward Band's Big Machine Tour produced one of the gig highlights of 2016 with a simply stunning performance at the Whitby Pavilion.

Support came from Marry Waterson (Eliza's cousin) and David A. Jaycock, who offered choice cuts from their new album, Two Wolves. The songs are unusual and demand further investigation. Fortunately, they were selling CDs in the foyer.
Eliza (whom I last saw as part of the Songs of Separation project back in September) and the band - 12 people in total - took to the stage and launched straight into Devil in the Woman, a very strong track from the forthcoming Big Machine album.
Unfortunately, the fast tempo was then brought to a halt when the amp for one of the guitars needed changing. Amp duly replaced, the performance continued with Fitter's Song, after which it was full steam ahead for the rest of the evening.
The range of instruments was extraordinary, moving from strings (stage left) to brass (stage right) with just about everything else in between. Eliza's magnetic stage presence held the main focus of attention but the musicianship was of the highest quality and it was fascinating to see how the 12 performers came together to create the big sound.

After several dark songs, such as Turpin Hero - 'a song about a scumbag and a chicken killer' and Good Morning, Mr Walker - 'a song about marrying an ugly woman for her money' we eventually got on to Gallant Hussar, a song in which nobody dies, acting 'like a sorbet to clean the palate.'

Meanwhile, other big-hitters from the forthcoming album included a reworking of Hug You Like a Mountain, The Sea and You Know Me, the latter being a positive reaction to the hysteria surrounding the refugee crisis.
Best of all was Fade and Fall (Love Not), which is their current single. This was saved almost until the end and was one of the absolute high points of the evening.

There are still one or two dates of the tour still to come. If you have the opportunity to see Eliza Carthy and The Wayward Band in action then make sure you don't miss out. The experience is quite unlike any other.

Big Machine - a must-by - will be available as a single CD and as a deluxe 2CD version from the usual places, including the ever-impressive Propermusic site, from 3 February 2017.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Ian Siegal at The Arc (2016)

Ian Siegal
The Arc, Stockton-on-Tees

Ian Siegal brought The Arc to life last night as his 25th anniversary tour came to town.

Ian has had many adventures since the early days of supporting Bill Wyman and the Rhythm Kings and has built up a very impressive back catalogue of blues. This tour is to showcase some of the material on 2wentsive: The Collection, a brand new, strictly limited edition box set, featuring 38 songs from the 25 years.

He played solo last time I saw him at The Arc but this time he was a three-piece band. No two Siegal performances are ever the same. The extra guitar added considerable kick to the sound.

They played with purpose, as if they had a big point to prove. The first few songs - covering the first half hour or so - segued into one another, without pause for breath. Skinny led the way, setting the high-octane tempo for what was to follow.

Given the celebratory nature of the occasion - clocking up 25 years in the road is no mean feat - the songs were pulled from all across the quarter of a century. For example, we had How Come You're Still Here and Revelator (John the Apostle) alongside the likes of Butterside UpHard-pressed and Mortal Coil Shuffle.

Despite 25 years, numerous albums and excellent reviews, Ian Siegal remains, in some respects, one of best-kept secrets of British blues. Catch him on tour and enjoy the revelation.

Here are a few more photos from the evening with which to conclude.

For tour dates, details of the new box set and other matters, head for the official Ian Siegal website.


Monday, 7 November 2016

KT Tunstall at The Sage

KT Tunstall
The Sage
KT Tunstall's triumphant return to The Sage saw my third sold-out gig in a week.

Back in 2013,  KT toured the Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon album, solo and acoustic. It was a wonderful evening and a difficult one to follow. This time, with the more up-tempo Kin album in the spotlight, the style was very different, with a three-piece band beefing up the sound in considerable fashion.

The evening started in style with an excellent support set my The Braids that embraced a number of music genres, with electronics rubbing shoulders with powerful drums.

KT's set drew upon songs all the way from Eye to the Telescope to Kin. The accent was firmly on the art of positivity,with Kin being symbolic of coming out of the darker period that gave rise to Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon.

Just as in 2013, KT made an immediate and very strong connection with the audience as soon as she bounced onto the stage. She had people dancing, singing and waving their phone torches on the air.

KT made the point that once the doors are closed and the show begins it is just her and us in our own little world, all on the same side and away from the problems of the day. There was no way anybody was going to leave this show feeling unhappy.
KT Tunstall is a remarkable artiste and a fabulous performer. If you have the opportunity to see her live, make sure you don't miss it.

The Specials at York Barbican

The Specials
York Barbican
The Specials brought a full house to York's Barbican centre as they hurtled through their impressive back catalogue at top speed. This continued the coincidental 1980s theme of my last few gigs.

I was surprised they started with Ghost Town, undoubtedly their strongest song, rather than hold it back for the finale, but there's no doubt it proved a very effective opener.
Terry Hall's battles with his personal demons have well-documented. He doesn't look happy on the stage (don't expect anything in the way of small talk) and he exudes a curious form of anti-charisma. It produces an odd effect; when he is off the stage his lack of presence is really felt. When he took a break to temporarily hand over vocal duties to Lynval Golding it acted as a cue for a significant part of the audience to head for the bar.
A lack of new material is another potential stumbling block if The Specials are to remain a growing concern. Yes, their back catalogue is very strong but it would be good to hear something new. Nevertheless, as the old tunes were spat out as if fired from a machine gun, it was clear to see they are still a class act.

There is criticism in some quarters for The Specials being only three sevenths of their former selves (Hall, Golding and Horace Panter), but this numerical observation should not be allowed to act as a deterrent. They still offer a ska experience few can hope to match.

Yes, a gig by The Specials is certainly a lively experience. We conclude with a few more photos from the frantic night.