Monday, 18 February 2019

The Hootones at the Georgian Theatre

The Hootones
The Georgian Theatre, Stockton

Back to the local Teesside scene at the ever-innovative Georgian Theatre (one of the region's best venues for old and new music alike) and I was happy to support The Hootones with their Gypsy evening.

I had already encountered key members of The Hootones last year, in the form of Serinette as part of the Day In Day Out festival back in August 2018 and as Samantha Durnan, supporting Heather Peace at Arc.

Melissa Rose opened the show with a very interesting set, combining covers with her own songs.
Following a short break, a deluge of dry ice heralded the arrival on stage of The Hootones and they hit the ground running with a bullet-paced set of covers in their tribute to inspirational singers.


The set list shows the range of songs in their impressive repertoire and the list of artistes represented makes fine reading too, with Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac, Alannah Myles, Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell, Cyndi Lauper, Annie Lennox, Blondie, Bananarama, Belinda Carlisle, Madonna and The Bangles being all present and correct.


Set List

Edge of Seventeen
Black Velvet
Because the Night
Big Yellow Taxi
Girls Just Want to Have Fun
Broken Glass
Sweet Dreams
Heart of Glass
Heaven is a Place on Earth
Papa Don't Preach
Walk Like and Egyptian


Material Girl
Like a Prayer

The venue was packed out and the audience very appreciative. This was, apparently, the first major show The Hootones had performed, making it an exemplary debut. They played with admirable energy, looked and sounded great and made a considerable impression. Hopefully they will return to The Georgian Theatre in the not too distant future.

Follow news and tour dates for The Hootones over at their official website and keep up to date with the ever-growing number of shows at The Georgian Theatre here.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Jah Wobble and The Invaders of the Heart at The Cluny

Jah Wobble and The Invaders of the Heart
The Cluny, Newcastle
Train strikes, snow and ice can make a formidable team, but not strong enough to keep me from travelling North to see one of my all-time favourites.

The Cluny is a small, friendly venue and it was packed out, with a palpable sense of anticipation in the air as the clock ticked a few midgets over the previously announced starting time.

Jah emerged on his own, hinting the Invaders were still indulging back stage. He could not refrain from mentioning his beloved Spurs had won 1-0 earlier the day. ‘Who was it against? Oh yeah – Newcastle!’

He was soon in his trademark chair, playing a classic bass riff as the Invaders - Martin Chung on guitar, Marc Layton-Bennett on drums and George King on keyboards - took the stage to join in.

The power of Jah’s bass is well known, of course…but I was still surprised to see a man near me collapsed, spark out, after the first three notes. He did make a valiant attempt to keep his beer upright on the way down, but it was all in vain – and then all over the floor. The man was carried out and was never seen again.

Jah has been around for a while but it would still surprise some to experience the sheer range of his repertoire and just how many genres feature all across his back catalogue. Yes, his PiL years are represented, but the style of Public Image is quite different. On this occasion it was followed immediately by a dub version, which was different again. Poptones made an appearance too, which proved to be a relief to all concerned as a man at the front of the audience – who was noticeably unwell in a Jeffrey Bernard kind of way – had been calling out for it repeatedly since the start of the gig.

Elsewhere, either side of being taken to Java, we experienced choice cuts from various eras. Visions of You and Becoming More Like God drew the usual particularly enthusiastic reaction, as did covers such as The Liquidator and Theme From Get Carter.


There wasn't an official encore for the two-hour set; Jah prefers to do without the artifice, so after a brief explanation as to why he wasn't going to leave the stage just to come back moments later, the show continued.

One has to expect the unexpected at a Jah Wobble gig and this time he took time out for a little spoken word.

One thing we can always expect is a top evening with absolutely superb musicianship. I feel sure this will prove to be one of the gig highlights of 2019, despite plenty of very stiff opposition (my gig diary is really filling up, and it's all killer.)

I had previously seen Jah Wobble at Olympia (2013), Stockton's Georgian Theatre (2014), Brixton Jamm (2015) and Rich Mix in Bethnal Green (2016). Each show has been very different. At Rich Mix, for example, the line up was augmented by a series of guest stars, including Nick Turner, Youth and Aurora Dawn, to mark the launch of the Everything is Nothing album. A lot has happened since 2016; four more albums have been released and another is imminent.

Jah’s recent output – alongside the strongest incarnation of The Invaders of the Heart – demands attention. He remains one of our most underrated artistes but I would strongly recommend getting along one if his gigs as soon as possible.

Keep up to date with Jah Wobble over at his official website.

Toyah at Arc

Arc, Stockton-on-Tees
It had been a few years since Toyah was last at Arc, but she did appear at Yarm’s Princess Alexandra Auditorium last February

This was the first night of the 11-date Electric Tour, which runs alongside Toyah's acoustic and festival tours.

Support came from local Glam Rock outfit BQSL ('Be Quiet. Shout Loud!') who were extremely original and entertaining.

The Arc was packed, despite the sudden turn for the worse with the weather. A little snow and ice wasn't going to stop anyone getting out to see Toyah.

The theme of this particular tour was songs written by Toyah herself, so we were treated to a full evening of classics from the earliest days onwards: It’s a Mystery; I Want to be Free; Good Morning Universe; Danced were all present and correct, but a shout-out from the audience for Echo Beach was politely declined – as were a couple of non-musical suggestions from the lively vocal locals yokels.

It was a very entertaining evening. Toyah has certainly not lost any of her sparkle or originality and there was even talk of a new album, scheduled to be released this April.

For all things Toyah, head for her official website.

Here are a few photographs from the excellent evening.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Project 30: Round 2 Updates

The second rounds of both competitions are now almost complete and here are the results to date.

KO Championship
Round 2

Paul Weightman 0-1 Sean Marsh 

(In a first for Project 30, this game was broadcast 'live' on the Internet thanks to Paul's hardware and skill.)

John Garnett 1-0 Richard Harris
(An interesting and unbalanced game was brought to a premature end due to an unfortunate oversight.)

Mike Creaney 0-1 Rayelynn Posadas 
(A devastating kingside attack ended Mike's resistance.)

David Baillie 0-1 Matt Jackman
(I watched this fascinating encounter 'live' at The Buffs. Matt's kingside attack decided a tough contest.)

Rapidplay Match Championship
Round 2

Rayelynn Posadas - Peter Harker

Sean Marsh 3-0 Sean Cassidy
(We still have one game to play. Sean C. should have won game 2 but severe mutual time-trouble randomised the position in my favour.)

Mike Pointon 1-3 David Baillie
(Two draws and two wins saw Redcar's top player advance to the semi-finals.)

Mike Creaney 0-4 Matt Jackman 
(Matt on top form is virtually unstoppable. He will be a very difficult opponent for anyone in the semi-finals.)

All games in both events should be completed by the end of February 2019.

Monday, 31 December 2018

Influential Music of 2018

Music has always given me so many hours of inspiration and enjoyment. I have listened to hundreds of albums this year (without exaggeration) and here are the stand-outs.

Why not give them a try for yourself?

Caro Emerald: Acoustic Session
This album was released in 2017, but was toured during 2018, giving it every reason to be included here (the same applies to the next one on the list).

Caro Emerlad's gig at the York Barbican was one of the events of the year; a real show with superb music and the atmosphere of an evening-long party.

Imelda May: Life Love Flesh Blood
I was in the very fortunate position of being able to see Imelda May for the third time earlier this year. She sang through most of Life Love Flesh Blood, which sees her leaving behind the rockabilly roots to present a full set of thoughtful, touching and beautiful songs, which should definitely connect with all listeners on some level. One of the best albums of any year.

Dawn Lanes: Meet Me At The River
The intimate surroundings of The Basement in York gave me the perfect opportunity to spend an evening wrapped up in the music of Dawn Landes. A fabulous singer/songwriter with a really lovely voice, Dawn deserves to be much better-known in the UK.

Christina Aguilera: Liberation
I like music to challenge me; its an essential duty. This diverse album is not exactly easy listening but it is a real 'grower', demanding attention, focus and an open mind. It is no good using this album as background music while doing anything else! In a world seemingly awash with mush, this will make you think.

The Damned: Evil Spirits
Remarkably, The Damned returned to their top form in 2018 with their first album in a decade, backed up by a major tour (one of the gigs of the year). The album is full of excellent songs - Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow, Look Left and Evil Spirits, to name but three - and should act as a real eye-opener for those who have neglected The Damned.

Pistol Annies: Interstate Gospel
The Pistol Annies (Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley) have returned with their third album. Country and Gospel - with a very sharp cutting edge. Miranda Lambert was sensational in concert last year, when I saw her in Hammersmith, and I am hoping this innovative trio will be putting together some UK dates for 2019.

Sounds of the Sirens: For All Our Sins
The vocals of Abbe Martin and Hannah Wood are powerful and the songs are excellent. They are all set to make a big impression in 2019, so now is the time to give their music a try. Pop/folk, for those who must have everything neatly pigeonholed.

Hailey Tuck: Junk
Hailey Tuck! A remarkable talent. Brilliant 'live' (as proved in Middlesbrough earlier this year) and hugely charismatic, Hailey invites you to step back to the 1920s - the era of the Flappers - while keeping one foot in the present. We need more tour dates next time!

Jah Wobble: The Butterfly Effect
Jah has had a very productive year. The current incarnation of The Invaders of the Heart are helping to push the boundaries and their almost constant touring has led to very fruitful studio time.

The Butterfly Effect offers a series of challenging songs and tunes that simply need to be listened to. Yes - of course - Jah goes all the way back to the days of Punk with PiL, but leaving the musical analysis there may be the choice of many, but it is downright lazy. The genres embraced and enhanced by this extraordinary man and The Invaders of the Heart deserve much more attention.

Hollie Cook: Vessel of Love
I found this wonderful album by searching out more material by Jah Wobble, who is present on some of the tracks. 'Tropical Pop', if you like...full of dreamy Reggae, powered by worthy bass. A soundtrack to my Summer, this album will prove uplifting.

Confessin' the Blues - Curated by The Rolling Stones
The Stones know the Blues - and here they are, curating a superb collection of originals (some of which they covered in their time) to offer up two discs brimming with extraordinary music. Get back to the roots!

Lauren Daigle: Look Up Child
Lauren Daigle is going to take 2019 by storm. This extraordinary album is absolutely full of brilliant songs. Lauren's voice has been likened to Adele's and it is easy to see why - at least on first impression. Yet a few more listenings should be more than enough to tune into Lauren's unique personality and inspirational ethos. Go and listen to it and then try telling me the songs don't make you feel something. Fingers crossed for UK tour dates in 2019, as I'm sure it will definitely prove to be one of the gigs of the year.