Monday, 18 November 2019

KT Bush Band at The Georgian Theatre

KT Bush Band 
The Georgian Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees
17 November 2019
Several days without a gig had given me itchy ears. Fortunately, The Georgian Theatre was offering a rare Sunday night event and the opportunity was quickly snapped up.

Vic King (drums) and Brian Bath (guitar) were two of the original members of the KT Bush's band back at the very start of her career and now they are back together to bring the songs of Kate Bush back out on the road. The band is completed by Sallie-Anne Hurst (vocals) Steve Bevan (bass) and Emily Francis (keyboards and saxophone).

Having seen Kate herself back in 2014 and twice enjoyed seeing the famous Cloudbusting tribute act, I was keen to see what the KT Bush Band would have to offer.

Vic and Brian's historical aspect certainly added a lot to the show. Brian played on Kate's early albums and was even part of 1979's Tour of Life. The set list drew prominently from The Kick Inside and Lionheart, including the evenings opener, Moving, and the rousing finale of James and the Cold Gun. There were speedy costume additions for Them Heavy People and Strange Phenomena, an acoustic version of Wuthering Heights and plenty of other favourites, including Wow and The Man With the Child in His Eyes.

Sallie-Anne Hurst's voice hit the heights too; it was excellent to hear such classic Kate Bush songs 'live' - especially as it is increasingly unlikely the star will ever treat us to her own renditions again.

The evening was further evidence of The Georgian Theatre's commitment to providing a far-reaching selection of acts. Although the turn out was modest - with the floor usually being arranged with tables and chairs, cabaret-style - we welcomed the opportunity for another local night of top entertainment.

Find out more over at the official KT Bush Band website.

Wishbone Ash at Arc

Wishbone Ash
Arc, Stockton-on-Tees
12 November 2019
50 years is a long time to be doing anything, yet Wishbone Ash are currently celebrating exactly that amount of time since they started. Half a century has brought many changes, with the band’s personnel experiencing change in the style of Trigger’s broom.

Andy Powell is the only founding member in the current line up and he is joined by Bob Skeat, Joe Crabtree and Mark Abrahams.

I am by no means an expert on Progressive Rock, which is a genre I have generally avoided over the years but as this year is my 'no holds barred' year of gigs it seemed a good time to dip in a toe.

It turned out to be a very good decision because not only the was the music of a very high quality, but also there were screens at the side of the stage and they conveyed a pre-show potted history of the group from their earliest years all the way up the present day. This helped me appreciate their musical journey more as the evening progressed. The celebratory nature of the event was enhanced by a set list covering all phases of their lengthy career.

The story is still ongoing; January 2020 will bring the release of their new album, Coat of Arms. The lead single - We Stand as One - was unleashed to coincide with the tour.

It was an entertaining evening and I am glad I made the effort to go out and see Wishbone Ash in action.

Shakespears Sister at The Sage

Shakespears Sister
The Sage, Gateshead
10 November 2019
It was the reunion that never seemed likely to happen. Famously, publicly and unexpectedly sacked at the 1993 Ivor Novello Awards ceremony, one could easily have forgiven Marcella Detroit for staying away from any notion of a revival but stranger things have happened. After all, it must have almost equally unlikely Siobhan Fahey would have returned to Bananarama for an extensive UK tour in 2017-8. There were already rumours of a reconciliation between the ‘sisters’ flying around towards the end of the Bananarama tour and they turned out to be true. The release of Singles Party (1988-2019) heralded their return and this followed up with news of new music - which manifested as the Ride Again EP and a tour. Incredible times.

The Sage once again proved to be an excellent venue. The audience didn’t stretch beyond level one but the atmosphere was great. The people all around me were genuinely excited and there was a heavy sense of the expectation in the air.

There were several on-stage references to the split and their strong desire to make new music, plus some semi-joking thoughts on what the future may - or may not - hold beyond the tour.

They certainly went through the card - there is a lot more to their repertoire than Stay - with a powerful and energetic performance, backed up by a very tight band, impressive lighting and scene-setting backdrops. They made an instant and strong connection with the audience and the set list was tailored to build up and bring everyone to their feet around the halfway mark.

It was a triumphant return and I hope they tour again soon.


Where to now...?

Christina Aguilera at the SSE Arena Wembley

Christina Aguilera
SSE Arena, Wembley
9 November 2019

It was one of the most eagerly anticipated gigs of the year - and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The SSE Wembley Arena (virtually next door to the stadium, which was hosting the England vs Germany international football match on the same evening).

This was a major event rather than just a gig. The theatrical element was reminiscent of Shania Twain’s gig of last year, although Aguilera’s is, of course, deeper and darker.

Finland's ALMA warmed up the audience nicely and then the arena really started to fill up rapidly in anticipation of the main event. The stated schedule slipped into a half-hour delay and the natives were becoming a shade on the restless side. From just behind me, a voice bellowed: ‘I’ve bought me ticket, now where the **** are yer?’

All of the impatient angst is brushed aside once the house lights snap off and the stage comes alive: dancers, lights, music, action. Smoke and mirrors are traditionally used to cover up deficiencies in other departments but absolutely nothing was lacking here. Aguilera’s voice has on top form; strong, powerful, intense.

The tour was promoting hr latest album, the deep Liberation, although there were more songs from Stripped than anything else.

The costume changes were fast and frequent (other artistes could certainly learn a thing or two) and the hits came thick and fast. Beautiful was saved almost till the end and it was the most stripped-back song of the set. Overt theatrics were put aside in favour of an ecstatic stadium sing-a-long.

This was an extraordinary show and the gallery below can only offer a glimpse of the impressive experience.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Project 30: First Round Update

The two main Project 30 tournaments are progressing very nicely and there have already been a lot of exciting and highly competitive games.

Here is an update on the scores so far.

Round 1 KO Pairings and Results

Matt Jackman  draw Peter Harker
(Matt won the 5-minute play-off, 2-0)

Paul Weightman 0-1 John Garnett

Graham Edwards 0-1 Kevin Waterman

Richard Harris draw Mike Creaney
(Richard won the replay)

Sean Cassidy v Rayelynn Posadas

David Baillie draw Sean Marsh 
(The Rapidplay play-off was drawn too; I won the 10-minute play-off game)

Mike Pointon 0-1(d) Royce Parker

Round 1 Rapidplay Pairings and Results

David Baillie v Matt Jackman

Paul Weightman v Richard Harris

Graham Edwards 0.5-1.5 Mike Pointon

Mike Creaney 1-1 Sean Cassidy 
(Sean won the Blitz play-off, 1.5-0.5)

John Garnett 1-1 Sean Marsh
(I won the Blitz play-off, 1.5-0.5)

Rayelynn Posadas v Royce Parker

Peter Harker v Kevin Waterman

The games in both sections need to be played by the 31 November 2019

I enjoyed my games but my path to the respective second rounds was far from plain sailing. John won the first Rapidplay game against me when my sacrifice didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. John should have won the first Blitz game too.

David found a brilliant move to save our KO game. The two play-off games could easily have gone either way too, especially the 10-minute game, which was absolutely wild and completely unclear from start to finish.

I will post some of the key positions here soon.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Project 30: Results Update

Here is an update on the progress of both tournaments.

Round 1 KO Pairings and Results

Matt Jackman v Peter Harker

Paul Weightman 0-1 John Garnett

Graham Edwards 0-1 Kevin Waterman

Richard Harris draw Mike Creaney (Replay required)

Sean Cassidy v Rayelynn Posadas

David Baillie v Sean Marsh

Mike Pointon 0-1(d) Royce Parker

Round 1 Rapidplay Pairings and Results

David Baillie v Matt Jackman

Paul Weightman v Richard Harris

Graham Edwards 0.5-1.5 Mike Pointon

Mike Creaney 1-1 Sean Cassidy (Sean won the Blitz play-off)

John Garnett v Sean Marsh

Rayelynn Posadas v Royce Parker

Peter Harker v Kevin Waterman

The games in both sections need to be played by the 31 November 2019

Meanwhile, the final of the 2018-9 Rapidplay event has now concluded and the final score was Sean Marsh 5, Matt Jackman 1 (draws in games three and four). The match was tougher than the score would suggest. Matt had very good chances in games three and four and turned down a probably three-fold repetition in game five in order to play on for more.

Friday, 1 November 2019

OMD at The Sage

The Sage, Gateshead
Orchestral Manœuvres in the Dark ('OMD') brought the recent 1980s-themed Sage trilogy to a fitting conclusion, with a barnstorming performance celebrating 40 years with all of their greatest hits.

Andy McCluskey doesn't like to see people sitting down and, leadings by example with his own curious style of dancing, he had everyone on their feet in no time at all.

It was a high-energy evening, augmented by the excellent sue of lights and other effects. The Sage was absolutely packed out once again; it seems the 1980s nostalgia is still appealing to a wide audience, which means we should have many such evenings still to come.

Amid a sea of classic songs - all those one would expect to hear - the most famous, Enola Gay, was saved virtually the end, but the encore was strong too and they finished with Electricity - 'the fastest and oldest thing we've got.'

This was my fourth time seeing OMD and I don't think it will be last.