Monday 25 February 2019

Anita Harris at the Princess Alexandra Auditorium

Anita Harris
Princess Alexandra Auditorium
2019 may have started slowly in terms of gigs, but February brought a resurgence of activity which will not diminish until the end of the year.

It is six years since Anita Harris was last on Teesside, when a storm led to a significant portion of the audience staying at home. There were considerably more people in the audience this time, which was good to see.

Anita, just four months shy of turning 77, put on a very entertaining and enjoyable evening, with songs and stories charting her career all the way from her very early days in Las Vegas and as a member of the Cliff Adams Singers ('Sing Something Simple' should ring bells to those readers of a certain age) up to her most recent appearances on reality TV shows, including Masterchef.

Along the way there were plenty of anecdotes about time spent with stars such as Harry Secombe, Dudley Moore, Tommy Cooper and David Nixon.

A repertoire embracing virtually everything from Burlington Bertie to Memory (from Cats) represents a very fine body of work. Anita is a hard-working and extremely glamorous lady, who always finds time, post-show, to chat with her fans.

Tour dates and news can be found over at Anita's official website.

Steve Harley Acoustic Trio at Arc

Steve Harley Acoustic Trio
Arc, Stockton-on-Tees

It is strange to think nearly a year had flown by since Steve Harley was also on Teesside, when he appeared at Yarm School's Princess Alexandra Auditorium.

The Cockney Rebel himself was still walking with a stick following his broken hip, which meant he had to spend the show sitting down. However, even though this is clearly a source of frustration for him, it did not look out of place in an acoustic show.

The trio was completed by Barry Wickens (on violin and guitar) and James Lascelles (keyboards and percussion).

Arc was packed out, which is always good to see, and there was an atmosphere of great anticipation as the trio took to the stage. There was no support act; the trio played two long halves.

There is an intensity to Steve Harley's performances and it seems to me it takes a few songs before he relaxes with the audience. After that, the between-song chat grows more personal and a two-way connection is made. The are shared memories of previous visits to Teesside, including Redcar's Coatham Bowl back in 1981.

The set list was crafted to include all the hits and more, with Mr Soft, Sebastian, Stranger Comes To Town and Best Years of Our Lives all present and correct. Mr Raffles, which its crowd-pleasing and oft-repeated cry of 'We're having a party!' closed the first half on a high.

Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) was saved for the finale; no Steve Harley show would be the same without it, of course. He speculated as to why this had been chosen for the current Viagra television advert, when he thought Mr Soft may have been more creatively appropriate.

It was a fine show and the locals were in good voice, too; especially the chap two seats away from me, who was definitely having a party which, judging by his demeanour and vocal delivery, must have started some time before the show itself.

The evening was undoubtedly a great success for Arc as they continue to bring a very impressive number of big-hitters to Teesside.

Follow Steve Harley's news and tour dates of at his official website.

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 to 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.