Thursday 25 April 2019

Mott The Hoople at The Sage

Mott The Hoople
The Sage, Gateshead

Billed as The Class of '74 due to the trio of reunited personal from year, this was an extraordinary show and will, I am sure, remain one of my most memorable at The Sage.

Six years had passed since Ian Hunter brought his acoustic show to Arc, which was a very memorable evening. This time it was definitely a Mott The Hoople extravaganza rather than a solo show, as he was joined by Morgan Fisher on keyboards and champagne plus the wonderfully-named Ariel Bender on guitars. They were joined by Hunter's Rant Band and it all added up to a glorious evening's entertainment.

It is still obligatory to mention Hunter's name for review purposes and, remarkably, he is just a couple of months short of his 80th birthday. He doesn't look it and he doesn't act it. In fact his voice was noticeably much better than when I last saw him and the show lasted just 10 minutes shy of two hours.

Tax the Heat opened the show and did good job in warming up the audience. The show had sold well, but there still a few spare seats at the top of Sage One's level three. Everyone seemed to be in a  good mood and there wasn't too long to wait before Mott The Hoople took to the stage, following an audio clip of David Bowie talking about the band.


The set list stayed very faithful to the 1974 line-up's work, as they were also celebrating 45 years of The Hoople and Live albums.

They definitely know how to put on a show. Apart from excellent musicianship, there were plenty of quirky and eccentric aspects to the evening, including the sight of stage-hand uncorking and then pouring champagne for Fisher, timed exactly so could pick up the glass after a particularly fine piano solo. Meanwhile, Bender clearly had his eccentric dial turned up to 11 all evening as he danced, strutted and solo'd the evening away. When Hunter started to introduce the band, Bender twice went off to find sheets of paper, which he wanted the former to read out loud - and, naturally, they were full of superlatives describing Bender himself.

There was only one way for the evening to end and that was with the obvious song gifted to Mott The Hoople by David Bowie, kicked off by yet another Bender riff.

Set List

American Pie / The Golden Age of Rock 'N' Roll
‪Lounge Lizzard ‬
Honaloochie Boogie
Rest in Peace
I Wish I Was Your Mother
Pearl 'n' Roy (England)
Sweet Jane
Walking With a Mountain
Roll Away the Stone
Medley: Jerkin' Crokus / One of the Boys / Rock 'n Roll Queen / Crash Street Kids / Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On / Mean Woman Blues / Johnny B. Goode / Violence / Cleveland Rocks / You Really Got Me


All the Way From Memphis
Saturday Gigs
All the Young Dudes

It has been a great start to the gigs of 2019 but I am just getting warmed up for what will definitely be my best year to date.

Wednesday 24 April 2019

Nick Heyward at the Georgian Theatre

Nick Heyward
Georgian Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees
The run of Easter gigs finished on a high with the return of another very popular star.

Nick Heyward had been at Arc not so long ago but this time it was an 'up close and personal' experience at a more intimate venue.

Unusually for the Georgian Theatre, this was an all-seated affair, which meant there was a queue to the music room door as people tried to assure themselves of a front-row seat.

It is not just Nick's music that holds appeal for most of the audience; he is still a big hit with the ladies too. This became apparent very early on when he struggled to keep the microphone in position and he was immediately deluged by an army of offers to come up on the stage and hold it steady.


Love Plus 1 was a crowd-pleasing opener; most artistes would have built up to the big hitters, but Nick clearly had great confidence in his material. Several times he changed the set list to cater for shouted-out requests. There were also several stories between the songs, including a tale of Haircut 100's first manager, who didn't exactly come out of the evening with a glowing reputation.

A lucky lady at the front was handed the set list by the man himself. I asked if I could take a photograph and she said only on the condition that I photographed her too. So here we are...

Yes, it was a great week for the Georgian Theatre and several more are already planned...

Big Country at the Georgian Theatre

Big Country
Georgian Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees
Big Country returned to Stockton and just about blew there roof off the Georgian Theatre. The hall was absolutely packed out and I was pleased to be able to follow my usual policy of 'get up close and stay there.'

Zeitgeist 77 were once again the support. This local band has built up quite a following of their own, which is great to see. They did what they do best - and with everything turned up to 11.

Zeitgeist 77
Big Country retain their enthusiastic desire to give everyone a great evening. The set list included all of the usual favourites, delivered in their usual high-energy style.

Set List
It was an evening of singing and dancing, with everyone fully entering into the spirit of the occasion.


All great fun and very uplifting. I returned to the Georgian Theatre the very next night for another sold-out show...

The Goldhawks - Quadrophenia - at the Darlington Hippodrome

The Goldhawks
Quadrophenia - The Album, LIVE!
Darlington Hippodrome
Tribute acts come and go; some are great and some are not exactly in the top division. It's the risk one takes. The Goldhawks are definitely one of the best!

Having seen the real thing back in 2013, I was able to make an authentic comparison. The sound was very loud (in a good way) and the band clearly enjoyed the show just as much as the rest of us. They played with a sincerity often missing form tribute acts and it made  big difference.

Quadrophenia is a difficult album and still lives very much under the imposing shadow of Tommy. Nevertheless, as soon as The Goldhawks smashed into The Real Me, with a power and intensity definitely comparable to the real thing, the tone of the evening was set.

Using backdrop videos and stills of The Who and other Quadrophenia-related imagery, the band tore through the songs with real feeling.
The Goldhawks are returning later in the year with Tommy and a Greatest Hits tour is on the cards for 2020. Definitely worth checking out.

They invite feedback, too!

ABC at the Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall
This was my third time with ABC but my very first visit to the Royal Albert Hall. A plush venue, and no mistake.

I first saw ABC in 2016, in their native Sheffield. The second time was at The Sage in 2017, which lacked Anne Dudley and the orchestra but had the bonus of Kid Creole and the Coconuts in support. Swings and roundabouts.

Anne Dudley and the Southbank Sinfonia orchestra were back for the sold-out show at the Royal Albert Hall, giving the music a plethora of extra textures and nuances.

The Lexicon of Love formed the meat of the repertoire. Indeed, the second half was a glorious rendition of the whole album. The first half featured 'the best of the rest' and all in all it was a very satisfying set list indeed.

Set List

Part One

When Smokey Sings
Viva Love
The Flames Of Desire
(How to Be a) Millionaire
The Love Inside the Love
Be Near Me
Ten Below Zero
One Better World
Ocean Blue
The Night You Murdered Love

Part Two: The Lexicon Of Love

Show Me
Poison Arrow
Many Happy Returns
Tears Are Not Enough
Valentine's Day
The Look of Love, Part One
Date Stamp
4 Ever 2 Gether
All of My Heart


The Look of Love, Part Four
The Look of Love, Part One

Martin Fry, still cool after all these years and still wearing jackets of gold, led the line brilliantly. The sound needed to be big to fill the Royal Albert Hall and it certainly was. The songs have definitely stood the test of time (as so much from the early to mid-1980s 'suddenly' has done) and, with the sole exception of the two disgracefully drunken women in front of me, the evening was a big and through enjoyable success.

Lucy Rose at Stoller Hall

Lucy Rose
Stoller Hall, Manchester
When I name-checked Lucy Rose last month, it was safe in the knowledge that I had a ticket for her sold-out Manchester gig. Admittedly, I had left it a little late and there were only two more left when I bought mine.

Stoller Hall was a new venue for me. The wood-pannelled walls reminded of The Sage and Manchester's own Bridgewater Hall, although Stoller Hall is considerably smaller than either of those  venues.

Lucy Rose gained considerable publicity from her supporting role on Paul Weller's tour of last year. Now, with her latest album, No Words Left, just one month old, it was time for Lucy Rose to take centre stage on her own UK tour.

No Words Left is delicate and introspective. Elsewhere, Lucy Rose has written of her pre-show nerves and how 'What scares me the most is that I don’t want to be famous.' This is perhaps why she surrounds herself on the stage with a six-piece band - all of whom have roles to play, of course - but who spend significant amounts of time resting, due to the stripped-back guitar and keyboard nature of most of the songs.

The set list centred quite naturally on No Words Left and the show was as remarkable as I thought it would be. Take a listen to tracks such as Solo(w), The Confines of this World and Conversation and they will summon up the spirit of the Stoller Hall show.

It was a fine, enchanting evening, augmented by Sammantha Crane and her quirky songs as support.

I hope to return to Stoller Hall, which is an excellent venue. I would definitely like to see Lucy Rose again too, but she seems to have some sport of internal battle going on. Will fame catch her, as her reputation continue to grow? Or will she remain as elusive as the meaning of some of her songs?

Friday 19 April 2019

Scott Lloyd: The Debut Album Interview

Regular readers will know we have featured the work of Scott Lloyd many times here at Marsh Towers. 

Today sees the release of Scott's debut album and I am delighted to present an exclusive interview with the man himself.

Having reviewed your EPs and singles, it is exciting to see your debut album is now here. How long ago did you decide that one day you would get to this stage?

I guess it was always something I wanted to do. An album is seen as the hallmark of a musician and it’s what we use to define their career. I have always seen the day when I’d release an album, I just didn’t want to rush it. I have learnt and benefitted from taking my time with everything. I would hate to burn out too quickly and feel I haven’t given myself sufficient time to coordinate everything, from writing that amount of songs for an album and also having the structure around me to be able to record and release it properly. Both those things came about by having Aardvark Records sign me in 2018 and also meeting Mathieu, the producer on the album.

Tell me about the producer, Mathieu Garcia. How did the two of you come to work together?

Mathieu produced the album and also helped me at a time when I needed some realignment in life and my music. It was late 2017 and I didn’t know what to do next in terms of my career. I believed I had exhausted all my avenues with releasing and creating the recordings. Over the past five years I’d done the acoustic EPs, the self-released/recorded EPs, the backing band live recorded EP etc. and for the first time since I started releasing music seriously, I was lost for what to do or how to even do it. 

So, Mathieu came at a perfect time. We met at an open mic night I was hosting in Manchester and he was wanting to play that night. We got chatting and I explained my predicament. He then explained that he had a home studio and that we could try a few things one day. So I said yeah, and then the following week or so I was at Mathieu’s studio and I was playing him a song I had called Looking Out To Sea. He loved it and that was the start of the album recording sessions really. However, at the time I wasn’t signed to Aardvark so the four songs we’d recorded were only meant to be released as singles and then possibly an EP, at best.

How did you make initial contact with the Aardvark label?

It was Mathieu’s encouragement that lead me to contact any labels at all. I was against it as I had had so many rejections in the past I came to the conclusion that it is easier to release things myself, which I had done previously. Also, the rejection was a bit of a downer to take so I wanted to avoid that. I tend to take things to heart too much, I believe, and because I was feeling at a loss anyway I thought I would avoid any negative setbacks. But still Mathieu insisted that the songs we had done were good enough to get me signed and be released on a label. So, with hesitation, I started researching some independent labels that could be interested. I contacted maybe six(?) labels, had two rejections and one positive reply. This was Aardvark Records. 

They are an independent label based in Cornwall, which is where my wife is from and, also, probably seen as another spiritual home of mine. They said they liked what they heard and would get back to me after A&R heard the songs. After about a month of emails, I met up with them in Falmouth, Cornwall when I was visiting Graces family. They instantly said they liked everything about me and wanted to sign me, in so many words. It was a phenomenal feeling, I was close to tears as I left the pub we met in. To have someone express interest in what you’ve been working so hard for over five years was just glorious. It made me feel good and that I would be able to move forward from my rut. They are a really nice bunch of people. They wanted a run of singles and then an album from me, which I was very much up for!

The background to some of your songs is nostalgia, particularly with youth and families. Do you think these aspects are stronger in the North East than elsewhere or do you find them to be universal?

I honestly think they are universal. They must be. We are all human and think and wonder and remember things with the same emotions. Some of us are more soppy and emotional than others, me for instance. Being naturally romantic about places, memories, people etc. helps me to write in such a nostalgic way. But, the core feeling will be repeated through everyone’s lives, regardless of geography or background. I don’t like it when cities, towns, areas, countries claim to be better then anywhere else. Its all relative and justifiable to what you believe is good. It just so happens that I’m from a town with history and from a family that I can talk about, and like to talk about, because its what I know. 

They always say write about what you know, and I believe that is true. Writing about what you know and believe in brings some depth and character to whatever your writing. This, hopefully, resonates with the listener and connects you to them. That’s a wonderful thing. But I’m just one person telling my story and everyone’s got their own to tell.

Can you tell me what sort of losses have you experienced?

Probably similar to ones that most people have experienced. That lyric from Down To Earth is not only about losses in a physical sense, such as family members passing away, but also losses in terms of moments and times that have passed. So a memory of a brilliant time or moment I had when I was younger, is now only a memory, but at one time it was a real moment and now its lost. Only lived in once and cannot be replicated. It’s about negativity, the whole song is, but then counteracted by what positives I have in life. The positive I use in that song is my wife’s smile, because I’m a soft bugger. It is about how we can always find something to worry about and be sad about but its not actually anything palatable that can harm us or is even something to worry about in the first place. It about looking at the positives.

Mental health is a subject trying hard to emerge from taboo status to something that should be brought out into the open. Have you, personally, suffered from such problems and is writing songs on the subject more difficult than writing about (for example) love?

It is probably as easy as writing about anything else you’ve experienced. Like I said before, if you know about it, write about it. It is easy to write about something you’ve been through or are going through as long as your writing is honest. I struggled with anxiety and depression over a few years recently, as most people do. So, writing about it helped in the way that I could make it real, because when its inside your head its not real and is inexplicable, that is what makes it so hard to talk about, I believe. 

People struggle to talk about their mental health because you can’t put it into words, it’s just too unfathomable to describe. You feel you’re arguing with yourself constantly, trying to distinguish from your mind and reality. I have learned to deal with it by going out into nature more. Actually seeing the world for what it is. Leaving your mind behind you and just experiencing things as they are in the real world. Walking, bird watching and gardening are my new favourite things. Hello 30!

Your inspirations are stated as being a combination of Lennon and McCartney, Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and Bruce Springsteen. Do you find it difficult to avoid trying to mimic their style and tone?

I guess it is only natural that my influences will come out in my music. Sound-wise or lyrically. Although, I honestly don’t worry about it, I just do my own thing. Writing songs as I do, if something sounds too much like another artist I will tweak it or discard it. I do find it hard to listen to new music though. I feel like I can easily do something similar by mistake so my mind naturally rejects it. I don’t want to sound like anyone, obviously that’s impossible but if I just tell my own story then that is enough. No one has that story but me.

If you could play just one song from the album to introduce someone to your music, which would it be?

I think they all say something about me and my music in different ways. I really like them all and I couldn’t be happy with how they sound and come across. But, the one song which I think does tell my story perfectly, lyrically and musically, would be Looking Out To Sea. I think that song is the backbone of the album and really gives the album a new depth. It comes about halfway through and just seems to fit so well. It’s wholly autobiographical. The first few verses and choruses were written very quickly, probably in one day or so. The outro and ending took a lot longer. All in all it was a few months trying to make it perfect and listening to it now I think it is just that. There is not one word or note I would change. I am hugely proud of that one.

You will have experienced a large variety of audiences over your years of gigging. It is essential experience for any performer and only the strong can make it through. Do you still encounter any hostile or disinterested crowds or are things generally much better now you are becoming increasingly successful?

I feel a lot more comfortable in who I am these days, so its naturally easier to be myself and express what I have on stage now. When I started I think I felt like I hadn’t earned my stripes, like it was my apprenticeship before the real thing. At first perhaps I was mimicking my idols and trying to be something I wasn’t, maybe that’s not true but certainly along those lines. The audiences now are great, they always have been, but now I feel like I connect with them more. I love acoustic gigs, they are so intimate. It feels like I can literally communicate with the audience through my songs. Its really nice. I am supporting a singer called Pete Macleod on 10th June at Jimmy’s in Manchester, and that will be acoustic. I am really looking forward to that one.

After completing the album, do you find yourself dry of ideas or is it a case of the creative juices just keep on flowing?

The music certainly isn’t an open tap, but its always trickling. I always have songs I’m writing or have just written or unfinished songs that I can go back to. At the moment its slightly less so as I am so close to the songs on the album its hard to write fresh and new material while they are so much a part of me. I know that as soon as the albums out I will be brimming with ideas and writing full on again. I don’t worry about the droughts, the music always comes back.

What can we expect from you over the next couple of years?

I am certainly wanting to do more gigs, acoustic or full band. There will hopefully be a summer album launch gig in Manchester but that’s just an idea at the moment. While I’m with Aardvark I’m hoping to get at least two albums out, I may go back through my older EPs and record them with Mathieu and do them justice. I recorded all but one of my old EPs myself so I think I would like to hear those old songs rejuvenated a bit. They are certainly a part of me so I can’t discard them. At the moment, I am happy, musically and in my life. So going forward I think I will just do what I always have done, which is to just let things happen.

Scott Lloyd, thank you very much!

We will return soon with a review of the album. Meanwhile, head for Scott's official website for further details.

Friday 12 April 2019

Wilko Johnson at the Princess Alexandra Auditorium

Wilko Johnson
Princess Alexandra Auditorium
Six years have passed by since Wilko Johnson's memorable farewell gig at Holmfirth Picture House. I'll say it was memorable; Wilko had announced he was suffering from an inoperable, terminal cancer and had a few short months left to live. Holmfirth was packed out and the atmosphere was highly charged. I very nearly got into two fights during the first song. It was that kind of evening.

Then came the unexpected and remarkable news that Wilko could be saved by a nine-hour operation and he lived on to tour again...

Yes, a lot has happened in six years - to every one of us. It was therefore a great pleasure to be able to take my place on the front row for a powerful evening of British Rhythm and Blues of the highest order.

Norman Watt-Roy and Dylan Howe on bass and drums respectively, the band was very tight indeed and they rocked Yarm as only they can. Nobody plays the bass like Norman; just watching his facial expressions would be more than enough entertainment for the evening. He is, of course, still a Blockhead; Wilko and Dylan are also former Blockheads. For a trio they certainly pack an incredible punch.

In fact the evening was really a double-header, with a chunky support set given to Glenn Tilbrook, who warmed up the audience in style with a fine selection of Squeeze and solo classics. Glenn was also raising awareness - and accepting donations - for The Trussell Trust, a charity supporting a network of foodbanks around the country. 'Why is this still happening in 2019?' he asked, and it is , of course a very pertinent question.

The Auditorium was packed out for this one and when Wilko took to the stage he received the reception he deserved. In fact, it was a true Feelgood evening, with numerous songs from Wilko's former group featuring prominently on the set list. Of course, Dr Feelgood are still turning in their own right, with a 'Trigger's Broom' line-up, and are well worth seeing too. Yet only Wilko has the original sound of the jagged guitar and highly distinctive, impure vocals.

As usual, stage talk was kept to an absolute minimum and dint extend beyond basic band introductions. Wilko is never on the stage just to talk. Not when he can be machine-gunning the audience, firing off riffs like there's no tomorrow and seemingly making contact with every single person in the audience with his trademark demonic stares.

Let's be honest; the set list and indeed the act hasn't changed very much at all since I first saw him live, in Shildon, back in 2011. Of course, one doesn't go to a Wilko Johnson gig to be surprised. It's all about simply sitting back and enjoying the show.

This was undoubtedly one of the best evenings at the Princess Alexandra Auditorium to date but, as I glance at the calendar, I see there are other strong candidates in the pipeline...

Meanwhile, find out more about the artistes at the official websites of Glenn Tilbrook and Wilko Johnson.