Thursday, 23 January 2020

Project 30, Year 3: Semi-finals

The draws for the semi-finals of the two main Project 30 tournaments have now been made by star juniors Evie and Jessica.

Royce Parker defeated Kevin Waterman in the last remaining quarter-final game of the KO tournament and we now have these pairings:

Matt Jackman v Royce Parker

Richard Harris v Sean Marsh

Each of the rounds will feature one game played at the normal time limit (36 moves in 90 minutes followed by an extra 15 minutes on each clock to play to a finish). Colours will be decided immediately before the games in the usual fashion.

Drawn games will require a replay with colours reversed, which can be played at any time limit agreed by both opponents. If both players cannot reach agreement the aforementioned timings will be used.

The Rapidplay semifinals will be played with these pairings:

Mike Pointon v Peter Harker

Matt Jackman v Sean Marsh

This round will feature six games (three with each colour) with 30 minutes on each clock. Players winning their mini-matches will progress to the next round. Players losing their mini-matches will be eliminated. In the event of a 3-3 tie, the players will contest two five-minute games and keep on doing so if further scores of 1-1 are recorded.

The final will feature eight games, with all of these rounds following the same tiebreak method as the other rounds (if required).

The games in both sections need to be played by the end of April 2020.

The full Quarter-final results can be found here.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Judy Collins at The Sage

Judy Collins
The Sage
It is hard to imagine I will be able to come close to the number of gigs I attended in 2019, but at least I have made a start.

Despite being just a few months short of turning 81, Judy Collins shows little sign of slowing down. Indeed, following last year’s release of two box sets covering her years with Elektra (1961-1984), she has now brought out a brand new album, Winter Stories,  recorded with Jonas Fjeld and Chatham County Line. Jonas was originally going to be with Judy Collins for the Sage evening but for reasons unknown to me it was announced he 'will no longer be performing.' Instead it was just Judy on guitar and Russell Walden on piano, although Judy took to the stage - and piano - solo for most of the second set.
Sage 2 is the perfect venue for an intimate gig. I was surprised to see it wasn’t sold out; logically, there cannot be very many UK tours still to come for Judy Collins.

It was an evening of instantly recognisable songs, the likes of which we remember listening on the radio many years ago without ever thinking we would one day be able to hear them 'live.'

They included Chelsea MorningTake Me Home, Country Road - bookended with parts of Leaving on a Jet Plane - Goodnight Irene, River, Highwayman, Suzanne, Both Sides Now and, to finish the second set, Send in the Clowns. The encore brought a sing-along Amazing Grace and then it really was goodnight Gateshead.
Little stories between the songs brought out snippets of Judy's extraordinary life in music, all the way from the earliest years of singing in small clubs, through the excesses of the 1960s (although it was drink rather than drugs that would plague her life for so many years), including her time in a sanatorium during a dangerous brisk with TB, up to the desire to keep on performing at such an advanced age ('the doctors say for every cigarette you smoke, God takes away a minute of your life and gives it to Keith Richards'.) There were also stories of other major personalities with she worked over the years, such as Leonid Cohen, and a confession Judy found Bob Dylan's early forays into performing folk songs to be rather bad.

The audience was quiet and very respectful; 'anything with a screen' was disallowed by the pre-show announcements, which explains the lack of photographs in this review.

Even though some of the extreme of the vocal range have become more of a challenge with the advancing years, this was a wonderful evening of folk and pop with a legendary singer and a great start to the new year of gigs. 

Monday, 13 January 2020

Project 30, Year Three: Quarter-final Update

The third year of Project 30 is progressing well and it is now time for an update on the results.
Quarter-final KO Results

Matt Jackman 1-0 Sean Cassidy

John Garnett 0-1 Sean Marsh (First game drawn; Rapidplay replay required)

Kevin Waterman v Royce Parker

Richard Harris 1-0 Bye

Quarter-final Rapidplay Results

Matt Jackman 3-1 Richard Harris (Richard won the first game)

Mike Pointon 2.5-1.5 Royce Parker (Royce won the first game and the second was a draw)

Sean Cassidy 0.5-3.5 Sean Marsh (The first game was a draw)

Peter Harker 4-0 Bye

The games in both sections need to be played by the end of January 2020

The draw for both sections will be made very soon.
The results from the first round can be found here.

Incidentally, the much-delayed KO Final of Year Two of Project 30 was played this month and after a very tough battle the result was:

Matt Jackman 0-1 Sean Marsh

The Final of the Year Two Rapidplay featured the same two players and the final result was:

Sean Marsh 5 Matt Jackman 1 (Draws in games three and four)

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Influential Music of 2019

Here are a few of my favourite albums from 2019.

Why not give them a try?

Sound of the Sirens
This Time
A major talent, fully deserving of greater exposure. Highly original songs, powerfully delivered.
Jah Wobble and The Invaders of the Heart
Ocean Blue Waves
Jah and The Invaders are easily one of the best groups around. They are on a productive high and every album sounds very different. Nobody works harder on the stage and they are touring almost constantly.

Stray Cats
The return of Stray Cats came as a big surprise. '40' celebrates the number of years they have been together and the new songs formed the backbone of their triumphant reunion tour.

Joan as Police Woman
A fabulous collection from a wonderful artist. New song 'What a World' is just one extraordinary highlight from the three discs of wonderful and thought-provoking songs.

In Stereo
Said to be already in the can when Bananarama briefly became a trio again, this upbeat dance album sees the duo on top form. Definitely one to catch 'live', if you can.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor
The Song Diaries
Greatest hits with an orchestral backing! The 2019 tour was wonderful and the new arrangements add extra dimensions to the classic songs.

Dawn Landes
My Tiny Twilight
A six-song, all-killer EP from a very talented singer/songwriter. Hopefully the exposure gained supporting Nick Lowe on tour this year will raise UK awareness to Dawn's work.

Patty Griffin
There is always room in the world for more Patty Griffin albums. This year's self-titled offering was her first after  period of illness and it was so good to see her touring again this year.

Rachel Harrington
Hush the Wild Horses
Rachel's return to writing and touring was doing overdue. This set of songs, showcased at the  Summertyne Americana Festival, reminds us of what we have been missing. Don't vanish again, Rachel.

Eilen Jewell
I love Eilen's music and Gypsy is a very strong album. The short Winter tour of the UK gave me the opportunity to see Eilen and her excellent band once more, on what was certainly one of the best evenings of the year.

Real Life
Emeli Sande
My final recommendation ties in with my last gig of the year. Real Life offers a selection of songs which should resonate deeply with most listeners.

What musical treats will 2020 bring, I wonder...?

Best of the Year: 2019

I set out with the deliberate intention of making 2019 the best-ever time for gigs and the year was clearly a great success in that particular area.

The pursuit of musical excellence took me to stadiums, a castle, several basements and a plethora of local venues too.

Some of the artistes were new to me and some were making very welcome returns to the diary.

I embraced virtually every genre of music including rockabilly, rock, rock and roll, pop, country, folk, Americana, punk, post-punk, electronic and just about everything else between the respective extremes, including numerous tribute acts. Some artistes were coming towards the end of their careers and some were just starting out.

2019 is unlikely ever to be matched (but that will not be for the want of trying).

It would normally be a very difficult task to choose the top highlight from such an extraordinary range but this year the pick of the bunch just has to be the full Stray Cats experience. To see them in action on all four dates of their UK Tour was a dream come true.


Here are links to all of my gig reviews of 2019. The next post will look at some of the best new music of the year.

Reviews of 2019


Jah Wobble and The Invaders of the Heart

The Hootones

Steve Harley

Anita Harris


Freya Ridings

The Cureheads

Siouxsie and the Budgies

Vonda Shephard and Sharon Corr

Shakin' Stevens

Amy Macdonald

Sound of the Sirens (1)


Moya Brennan

The Kast Off Kinks

Wilko Johnson

Lucy Rose (1)


The Goldhawks (1)

Big Country

Nick Heyward

Mott the Hoople


The Bluejays (1)

Katherine Jenkins


Patty Griffin (1)

Leo Sayer

Patty Griffin (2)

Lauren Daigle

Emma Stevens

Glen Matlock

Martin and Eliza Carthy


Roy Orbison and the Travelling Wilburys Experience

Johnny Cash Roadshow

Totally Tina

The Spice Girls

Alice Jemima (1 and 2)

Sophie Ellis-Bextor (1 and 2)

Bikini Kill

Dawn Landes

Nick Lowe

Stray Cats (1-4)

Gladys Knight


The Who

Danny 'O' and the Astrotones

Joan as Police Woman

Kylie Minogue

The Local Honeys

Rachel Harrington

Rachel Harrington

Massy Ferguson

Sham 69

Killing Joke

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas

The Goldhawks (2)


The Bluejays (2)

The South

P.P. Arnold

Heaven 17


Midge Ure


Christina Aguilera

Shakespears Sister

Wishbone Ash

KT Bush Band

Sound of the Sirens (2)

Nancy and The Dolls

Adam Ant

Alice Jemima (3)

Sophie Ellis-Bextor (3)

Eilen Jewell

Sarah Darling

Lucy Rose (2)

Dawn Landes (2)

Emeli Sande

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Emeli Sande 02 City Hall, Newcastle

Emeli Sande
02 City Hall, Newcastle
12 December 2019
December’s gigs have all been excellent in their own different ways - and this one was no exception.

Emeli Sande's new album, Real Life, hit the ground running in September and this well-crafted show acted as a perfect showcase for the new material, together with prime cuts from her earlier releases.

The event started in unexpected fashion, with Emeli tucked away stage left, on the keyboards, playing and singing Survivor. After that, she took centre stage and went through the card. Her extraordinary voice was strong and highly emotive. The new songs came across excellently, with Honest being a particular highlight. The established classics were present and correct, including powerful renditions of Clown and Read All About It (Part III).

In fact the evening was every bit as great as I thought it would be - with only one fly in the ointment. Certain parts of the audience seemed determined to try and spoil the evening for everyone else. There was too much coming and going for drinks, followed by the same people needing more toilet trips - and even more drinks. Some appeared to take delight in talking over the entire set, including the quiet moments during which Emeli introduced the more personal songs and explained their meaning. Out of all the audiences in manifold locations I have been to during this busiest of all years for gigs, this one was definitely the worst. Venues need to be more proactive to prevent such problems from building. Drunks should be thrown out; people leaving the room should not be allowed back in until there is a suitable break.

Anyway, this looks like being my last gig of 2019 (although late additions cannot be ruled out) and soon I will write about which gigs were the best of the year.



Dawn Landes at Middlesbrough Town Hall

Dawn Landes
Middlesbrough Town Hall
9 December 2019
My first night back on Teesside after a hectic time in London saw the run of December gigs continue in style.

I had become aware of Dawn’s music a couple of years and took the first possible opportunity to see her play when she visited York in 2018.

Then I saw her again at The Sage earlier this year when she was supporting Nick Lowe on his tour. Post-show chat revealed Dawn was coming to Teesside in December, which seemed too good to be true. It was fortunate indeed that the date in question just managed to avoid my time away,

The Courtroom of the Town Hall is an intimate little venue with an interesting history.

The seats at the front are very neatly on the stage itself. 40 or so people were there for the evening. A small crowd, but an appreciate one all the same. After all, it is not often Middlesbrough offers an evening of Americana.

Songs from Meet Me By the River and Bluebird enjoyed an almost equal part of the set list and that meant we were in for an excellent selection, including Bluebird, Try To Make the Fire Burn Again, Bloodhound, Traveling and What Will I Do. There were plenty more songs besides, including I’m Your Mama, Amelia and a particularly good cover of What is the Color of the Soul of a Man.

Jonah Tolchin, who has proved very able support, joined Dawn for a couple of songs at the end of the evening.

It was so good to see Dawn on Teesside and we are looking forward to the next time she comes to the North East.