Thursday, 30 May 2013

Walled Garden Festival (Part 3)

Tonight we conclude our coverage of the Walled Garden Festival, held at Preston Park in Eaglescliffe.

Following the star turn by Bridie Jackson and The Arbour, Lilliput took to the stage. By now, the temperature had started to drop quite rapidly and the first signs of drizzle were making their damp presence felt. Lilliput's enthusiasm was not to be dampened.

The finale to the festival was provided by Rob Heron and The Tea Pad Orchestra and despite the enveloping dusky drizzle they inspired most of the crowd to get up and dance.

Their CD, Money Isn't Everything, was reviewed here back in December 2012.

As the final vestiges of the sun boiled away for the night, so the festival drew to a close. It had been a notable and innovative success. Hopefully it can be established as an annual event.

Head to this page for more information on the Music in Museums project.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Walled Garden Festival (Part 2)

The highlight of the inaugural Walled Garden Festival was undoubtedly the performance of Bridie Jackson and The Arbour. As organisers and hosts, a strong sense of focus was required. It's never easy combining organisational duties with playing, but this quartet made it look easy.

Pre-performance focus
As usual, they played a very impressive set including their most recent single - Scarecrow - and their next one, a terrific new version of Prolong. (Incidentally, Prolong is one of a number of songs covered in our 2010 interview, which can be found here.)

The festival crowd was fully focused on the performance. One young fan simply had to get closer to the music.

Early on in the set, a trio of ducks flew over the bandstand. They circled a couple of times before coming in to land. They then spent the remainder of the set pottering around near to the Arbour. Immediately after the performance, they flew off again.

This all has a curious historical significance, for when I first met them, Bridie and The Arbour went (for one night only) by the name of Bridie Jackson and The Puddleducks. So in this way at least, things had come full circle after almost exactly three years.

A magical moment

It was a top quality performance. Soon, Bride and The Arbour will be off to Glastonbury to take their unique music to a whole new audience.

Check out the Acoustic Stage! (Click on the image for a larger view)

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Walled Garden Festival (Part 1)

As previously mentioned, a new project has been in the air for a while. Last night saw the idea come to fruition with the first Music in Museums event, which proved to be an impressive festival featuring a whole host of North East talent.

Not content with signing to a label, releasing an alarmingly good single and winning a national contest to earn a spot at the legendary Glastonbury Festival, the indefatigable Bridie Jackson and The Arbour continue to innovate and spread positivity wherever they go.

Creating, organising and curating this event (the first in a series) must have taken a considerable amount of time and energy. From where I was sitting, it looked like a sound investment.

Posters and flyers had been appearing everywhere over the last couple of months. And when I say everywhere...

Flushed with success'd better believe it.

In the first of three reports, I'd like to post a few images from a special night.

First on the main stage (or bandstand!) was Ditte Elly.

Next we saw By Toutatis.

All good stuff so far (and the same can be said about the hot pork sandwich and the enormous piece of banana cake). But the best was still to come...

Midge Ure At The Arc

Midge Ure
The Arc, Stockton-on-Tees
It was good to see Midge Ure back in the North East. It gave the adventurous Arc their second sell-out in under a week.
Between his solo songs he reminisced about such things as Top of the Pops, appearing with Slik at BBC Radio Tees, interviewing Spider From Mars Trevor Bolder (who died last week) and Joe Dolce (the man who kept Vienna from the No.1 spot back in the day).

The set list featured a good variety of his solo work in conjunction with a number of classic Ultravox numbers, brought right up to date with good versions of Brilliant and Contact.

Midge was very relaxed and in good voice; the audience was friendly and appreciative. It was a very good evening.

Set List

Dear God
Cold, Cold Heart
Call Of The Wild
No Regrets
Fade To Grey
Lady Stardust
Light In Your Eyes
Guns And Arrows
Man Of The World
Beneath A Spielberg Sky
One Small Day
Dancing With Tears In My Eyes


Love's Great Adventure
If I Was

Keep up to date with Midge's tour dates via his official website.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Rising Damp

Rising Damp
Darlington Civic Theatre
Resurrecting classic sit-coms on the stage is all the rage. In recent times I have enjoyed new versions of classics such as Dad's Army, Porridge, Hi-de-Hi! and Up PompeiiRising Damp is the latest one to receive the treatment and it works very well.

Starting in the Autumn of 1969 with Rigsby showing Alan into his new room (a seedy top floor flat, complete with peeling wallpaper, filthy kitchen area and rickety beds), the first half of the play does very well to establish the quartet of characters (Phil and Miss Jones soon make appearances).

We move on a year for part two and the magnificent set ages too. Posters of Fleetwood Mac and Che Guevara adorn the walls and various other artifacts are present, including medical student Alan's plastic  skeleton. The attention to detail is admirable.

As is the norm for such ventures, the play adopts a number of stories from the original TV series. Here we see the boxing match, staged for the honour of Miss Jones, the 'tablets that turn your water green' and several other classic incidents.

The characters are allowed to develop, with great pacing. It soon transpires that Rigsby is not exactly the war hero he pretends to be, Phil is hardly the son of an African chief and Alan's knowledge of the erogenous zones was taken from books and not personal experience.

The cast did a fabulous job of stepping into very famous shoes and director Don Warrington - the original Phil - keeps things tight and and humorous.

The Saturday matinee performance was poorly attended (a number similar to the Hi-de-Hi! show I saw at the same venue) but the applause was warm and genuine.

Follow the news and tour dates over at the official website.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Suggs At The Arc

My Life Story In Words And Music
The Arc, Stockton-on-Tees

The Arc pulled off another significant coup when they brought Madness frontman Suggs to Teesside. The venue had sold out some weeks before, and for a show as good as this it should not have been a surprise.

The show was virtually identical to the one I saw in Islington back in 2011, with just the odd tweak here and there (such as a quick topical reference to Jimmy Savile during Suggs's reminiscences about Top of the Pops).

The main difference between the two shows concerned the amount of hecklers. In this category, Stockton knocked Islington into a cocked hat, although Suggs was more than equal to the task. As he appeared on the stage, resplendent in green and blue checked suit, one local wag bellowed: ''Jolly Green Giant!'' to which Suggs replied, ''Not so much of the ******g jolly!''

Elsewhere, a couple of other vocal local yokels seemed convinced they were part of the act and were not shy about contributing their own lines.

Despite such distractions, Suggs told his fascinating, amusing and - at times - very moving life story in great style.

For some time, he has been planning a book based on the show but progress has apparently been slow. The current (intended) publication date is October 2013.

The show stood up well to a repeat viewing and I can recommend it for anyone seeking an excellent evening of entertainment.

Keep up to date with the tour over at the official website.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Jack Jones At The Grand Opera House, York

Jack Jones
Grand Opera House, York

Billing a show as part of the ''Farewell UK Tour'' was always going to create an emotionally charged atmosphere. However, the fears of the audience were allayed early in the evening when Jack Jones, one of the all-time greats, explained:  ''I don't want to suddenly find I've passed away not having done a farewell tour. I am not retiring!'' The plan is now to play more select dates rather than set out on longer tours. At 75, a little slackening of the pace is perfectly understandable.

The evening started with a selection of vintage TV and film clips on a screen before the six-piece band took to the stage, followed eventually by the man himself, who wasted no time in launching into A Song For You, which was highly appropriate for the evening:

''I've been so many places in my life and time
I've sung a lot of songs I've made some bad rhyme
I've acted out my love in stages
With ten thousand people watching
But we're alone now and I'm singing this song for you...''

The first half of the show lasted approximately 70 minutes and there was another 45 minutes following a short interval.

Jack was happy to accept requests via Twitter, which made an amusing impression, as did his later use of an on-stage iPad to scroll through his messages. He engaged very well with the very appreciative audience throughout the evening. At one point during the first half he came down from the stage to mingle with the audience as he sang Under My Skin, shaking hands and allowing photographs as he went.

The evening had a pronounced air of introspection, with anecdotes occasionally punctuating the songs, but never to the point of obscuring the musical aspect of the evening. Ghostly luminaries from the past, such as Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland, were name-checked back into existence.

Vocally, Jack produced a very impressive performance, with his powerful voice featuring excellent range (fuelled by frequent sips of water). It all made for a memorable and classy evening!

Set List

Part 1

A Song For You
Gypsies, Jugglers and Clowns
Embraceable You
I Got Plenty Of Nothing
Bess, You Is My Woman Now
Without A Song
Under My Skin
Oh God How Much I Love You
Hopeless Romantic
Something In The Way She Moves
What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?
Wive And Lovers
Lollipops And Roses

Part 2

The Love Boat
Send In The Clowns
Man Of La Mancha
The Impossible Dream
Music Of The Night


''I'm not through yet. You don't want me to be through, I think...?''

From A Distance
(Presented in ''mash-up'' style!)
If (A Picture Paints A Thousand Words)
We'll Be Together Again

Follow the news and tour dates over at the official Jack Jones website.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Mark Knopfler At The Metro Radio Arena

Mark Knopfler
Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle

Mark Knopfler's return to North East England was a mixed experience.

Musically, everything was exemplary. The band mastered an impressive array of instruments, from guitars and saxophones to fiddles, flutes and even a set of uilleann pipes. Mark Knopfler's guitar playing was, of course, fabulous. On the other hand, I found his voice to be disappointingly weak, rendering significant chunks of the lyrics to overwhelmed.

The crowd was one of the worst I've known for being eternally mobile. It seemed that no row in any block was immune to the problem of people getting up, mid-song, to head for the bar areas. Then they would disturb everybody again on the way back. It was quite common to see whole rows of people laving at the same time. This sort of thing needs addressing.

There was no support act but the band played for a full two hours. Dire Straits songs were kept to a minimum (Sultans Of Swing and Money For Nothing were notable absentees) and the 2012 Privateering album was well represented (five songs, I think).

A good show, but it could have been better.

Set List

What Is It
Corned Beef City
Father And Son
Hill Farmer's Blues
5.15 a.m.
Back To Tupelo
I Used To Could
Romeo And Juliet
Gator Blood
Haul Away
Postcards From Paraguay
Speedway To Nazareth
Telegraph Road


So Far Away
Going Home