Saturday 28 July 2012

Further Reading

The new issue of Maverick magazine (September/October 2012) is out now.

My review of Suzy Bogguss at Durham's Gala Theatre is included in the Pickin' and Grinnin' section.
Further details are available on the Maverick website.

Friday 27 July 2012

Summertyne Americana Festival (Part 2)

Summertyne Americana Festival 2012 
The Sage, Gateshead 

The evening brought another triple-bill, this time in Hall 1. Jenny O opened the show with an almost identical set to her earlier stint in Hall 2. Next up were glamorous Puppini Sisters, stamping their 1940s/50s style on the evening. In between the classics such as Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend, they threw in the occasional surprise such as Heart of Glass. Very entertaining!

The Puppini Sisters

Heart of Glass - 1950s style!
The headline act was none other than The Queen of Rockabilly - Wanda Jackson, still performing and recording at the age of 74. Wanda was an early touring partner of Elvis; they were even engaged. It was Elvis who persuaded her to switch from pure Country to Rockabilly.

Wanda Jackson

Shakin' All Over!

A real feel-good evening

Well done The Sage - it was another excellent Americana Festival and I'm looking forward to returning in 2013.

Thursday 26 July 2012

Summertyne Americana Festival (Part 1)

Summertyne Americana Festival 2012
The Sage, Gateshead

The seventh in the highly successful series of The Sage's Americana Festivals presented a wonderful selection of artistes and events. They even managed to get the sun to shine for most of the weekend. Congratulations to the organisers for continuing to run excellent events despite universal budget cuts. I was there for all of the Saturday offerings.

The Sage has an ongoing creative partnership with the Americana Music Association in Nashville and for the last few years this has enabled them to put on a trio of acts in the intimate surroundings of Hall 2.

Each of the three played for around 50 minutes and there just a quick leg-stretching break in between. Three hours for £12.50 is terrific value by anyone's standards.

Lera Lynn and Amy Speace were both exceptional. Their respective sets featured involving songs, great tunes and moving lyrics. Both left me wanting more; two more acts to catch again next time they tour the UK. Jenny O. delivered a more curious performance and didn't seem to 'catch' the audience. The performance wasn't an entirely confident one. Possibly, nerves were an issue.

Lera Lynn

Powerful songs

Jenny O

Amy Speace

Reflective, thoughtful songs

A quick word, post-show

The outside area was packed. Everybody was enjoying the sun and the kaleidoscope of acts on the Jumpin' Hot Stage (all free!).
View from the hill

The Pine Hill Haints

Authentic hog roasts, Cajun food and more

The famous Gateshead Millennium bridge

Mary Jean Lewis and the Starlight Boys
Olympic fever was in evidence too.

Olympic rings

It had been a very entertaining day and we still had the evening to come...

Sunday 22 July 2012

Amateur to IM

Amateur to IM, the debut book by International Master Jonathan Hawkins, will soon be published by Mongoose Press. It is scheduled for release in October. Further details are available here and we will doubtless provide more coverage of the book here in due course.

The Hawk has been spotted here at Marsh Towers on numerous occasions. In 2008 he played The Rest of the World in an online correspondence game as part of the revolutionary Chess Links Project.

Last year he was the guest of honour at the Second Mike Closs Memorial tournament, where he demonstrated his crushing victory over Grandmaster Conquest. Jonathan's most recent appearance on this blog came just after his excellent performance at the 2011 British Championship. Tomorrow he will be in action at the 2012 Championship. Follow his progress via the official website.

Saturday 7 July 2012

Adam Ant at The Empire

Adam Ant
Empire Theatre, Middlesbrough

The Middlesbrough Empire has been through several incarnations since it was built in 1897. Music hall days saw luminaries such as Charlie Chaplin and Lily Langtry treading the boards. Its history includes a number of years as a Variety Theatre, severe damage sustained during the Second World War and conversion into one of the greatest conquerors of all variety acts – the bingo hall. Its current incarnation takes the form of a nightclub.

Resonating with the Empire’s fluctuating facade and far from indelible interior is one Adam Ant, who has worn the alternating happy/sad faces of variety for an equivalent period of his own lifetime. How fitting it was that the former leader of the Ants should find the Empire on his tour roster as his comeback continues to gather pace, prior to the release of a brand new album.

What a fascinating interview subject he would make. Do you think he would be interested, for Marsh Towers? Well, maybe one day...

I had never been inside the Empire before and wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. The venue was advertised as ‘standing only’ but I was pleased to find that a balcony area was not only available but also included a few tall wooden seats. Pulling one as close to the balcony edge as possible, I resolved not to move for the rest of the evening, thus guaranteeing a perfect central view no matter how many people squeezed in behind and around me.

I had read some reviews of recent Adam Ant shows to gauge how the evening was likely to go. One had mentioned that his mood had not been so good and he had been unwilling to come out for an encore. Others commented on the late starting time (9.30 pm) and the even later finishing time (following a performance lasting two hours). So just about anything was possible.

At 7.45 p.m. the support act - Georgie Girl and her Poussez Posse - took to the stage. Probably most accurately described as Goth (although the lines are blurry) and dressed well for the show (a dying art in itself) they played an energetic set which I enjoyed and would have liked to have heard more of. They set the scene very well for what was to follow.

At approximately 8.30 p.m., Adam Ant's band took to the stage, followed by the man himself. For some time during the first song he kept his back to the audience and the lighting was kept low to add to the mystique.

The roar from the crowd started off loud and continued to build until Mr Ant finally turned around, heralding a combined explosion of sound, light and action.

The image fuses various historical elements although it is predominantly portraying that of a British Hussar (Crimean War period) with bits of French Revolution period attire and Johnny Depp thrown in. He looks as if he is the last of the Light Brigade, having somehow survived the infamous charge and found himself catapulted back and forth through history to end up in 2012. Given the venue, we had two examples of a faded Empire experiencing a revival of fortunes.

The audience was very responsive throughout the evening. One could feel the energy running both ways; unless I'm very much mistaken, Adam Ant was enjoying everything just as much as we were. The set list shows songs from various stages of his career, including Vince Taylor which is set to feature on his forthcoming CD, Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter.

The classics were all in place too; Stand and Deliver, Antmusic and Prince Charming were predictably popular. Get It On was a major highlight, with Adam Ant providing an introduction about his meeting the late, great Marc Bolan and asking for his autograph and speculating about what he would have thought of today's cheap talent shows.

Set List

Plastic Surgery
Dog Eat Dog
Beat My Guest
Ants Invasion
Deutscher Girls
Stand And Deliver
Catholic Day
Kings Of The Wild Frontier
Whip In My Valise
Vince Taylor
Desperate But Not Serious
Never Trust A Man (With Egg On His Face)
Goody Two Shoes
Vive Le Rock
Christian D'or
Lady/Fall In

Fat Fun
Red Scab
Prince Charming

Second Encore

Get It On
Physical (You're So)

The were incidents of 'unwell' people in the standing section; both were swiftly dealt with by the Empire bouncers.

Meanwhile, Georgie returned a few songs into the set and continue to reappear several times in various stages of dress and undress. She has a very good stage presence and definitely added to the energy of the show.

The evening drew to a close around 10.20 p.m. It was great to see Adam Ant back, especially after his well-documented problems.

A new tour is scheduled for later in the year. Mark a date or two in your diaries - you won't be disappointed by the show.

I'll conclude with a further selection of photos from the evening.

Thank you and goodnight!

Tuesday 3 July 2012

CSC Update

Two new updates regarding the Teesside project have been posted on the Chess in Schools and Communities website.

Schools' Tournament

Training Day

Monday 2 July 2012

Adam Ant

Terrifically entertaining show by Adam Ant at the Middlesbrough Empire tonight. A full review will follow soon, but meanwhile here's a few teaser photos to be going on with.