Thursday, 14 October 2021

Blancmange - The Brook, Southampton - October 13th, 2021

It'd been a long time coming

I can't remember exactly when I'd booked my ticket to go and see Blancmange (Now Neil Arthur and a couple of musicians), but the event was first scheduled for 24th October 2020, a leisurely Saturday evening.

With all the COVID chaos of the last 2 years, though (which had meant my last live music event was February 2020), it was rescheduled twice and here I was on a Wednesday in 2021.

The drive down the M3 was easy enough and I arrived in time to see Finlay Shakespeare, the support act, take the stage.

I can see why his music might seem a good match to a Blancmange audience, but he definitely didn't 'float my boat' - With a strong electronic backing he just seemed to shout his lyrics and get increasingly sweaty.

To be fair, some of the music was quite good, but his delivery was decidedly off-putting. If he cares, I'd suggest he might be better off to find a good vocalist and form a band.

He got polite applause, but I definitely wouldn't pay to see him, if I'm honest.

There was around a 30 minute hiatus while we waited for Blancmange and then two young musicians appeared to take up their places behind a synthesizer and a electronic drum kit.

Neil Arthur then appeared, looking fit and youthful (and remarkably like a friend of mine!) and launched into a rather John Cooper Clarke-like song about winning Crackerjack pencils. There were a couple of tracks like this in the setlist, odd, but not too distracting - I believe they were both from the latest album, but I'll admit I'm only really familiar with Blancmange's early material.

That early material was fairly represented with Waves, Living On The Ceiling, Feel Me, The Day Before You Came (sadly the keyboard level rather swamped Neil's voice on this one) and the encore, Don't Tell Me, all featuring.

With a lot of albums (most from the last 10 years), there was a lot of material I was unfamiliar with, but a lot was enjoyable, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the early stuff the most. On this occasion, being on a nostalgia trip was fine with me, but the whole performance was upbeat and enjoyable.

I wasn't in the best frame of mind for an evening out, my mother having been admitted to hospital that morning, and I didn't know for sure when I set out if I'd attend (I found out she was staying in and I couldn't visit, on the way), but I had a good time and it was an enjoyable and welcome distraction.

Worth the price of the ticket, certainly, and it was great to be able to enjoy a live gig again - Next up, the Goan Dogs again!

Setlist (From Norwich, but I think it's right):
Game Above My Head
In Your Room
I Can't Explain
Mindset
What's Your Problem?
Clean Your House
Waves
I've Seen the Word
Not a Priority
What's the Time?
This A State
Last Night (I Dreamt I Had a Job)
The Day Before You Came(ABBA cover)
I Prefer Solitude(Fader cover)
Living on the Ceiling
Feel Me
Blind Vision
Encore:
Don't Tell Me

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Goan Dogs - Boileroom, Guildford - February 15th, 2020

Another case of trying something new and liking it!

After enjoying Skinny Lister and finding myself deep in the January blues, I decided to see who was playing locally soon.

I scanned the upcoming gigs at Aldershot's West End Centre, but nothing took my fancy, so I started looking at the calendar for the Boileroom in Guildford.

I checked out some of the acts on Youtube and soon discovered that the Goan Dogs seemed quite interesting.

I bought a ticket for a bargain tenner and waited.

Storm Dennis ('The least threatening name for a storm' as Wyse, the support act, described it - I guess she'd never heard of 'The Menace'!) arrived, promising high wind and heavy rain, but Guildford was in a lull from about 7 to Midnight, so I figured it wouldn't be too much of a problem, but as I drove to Guildford it was noticeable how few cars there were on the roads and Guildford town centre was remarkably quiet too.

I found on-street parking and arrived in time for the support act, Wyse.

I was a bit surprised to see there was no wire mesh separating the audience from the, very low, stage, because it had been there when I'd seen Ben Watt and The Hoosiers there, but both times, the venue had been packed and someone suggested it may be put up when busy to stop the audience falling into the performers. There wasn't much chance of that this evening.

Sadly, when Wyse (a young woman, back by Matt - I think - on his guitar) started there were just 15 of us in the venue!

I won't pretend Wyse filled me with enthusiasm, but the two of them were competent enough and warmly received by the small (but growing, slightly) audience, she just wasn't my cuppa, but I can imagine others might enjoy her style (I've read some comments comparing it to Bjork) and she certainly wasn't untalented, so look her up.

A pause, of course, followed while Wyse's kit was removed and then the Goan Dogs themselves arrived and carried out what sounded like a final soundcheck for a few minutes, before wandering off again.

About 9:15 they came back and the lights fell. By now the audience had risen to around 50 people, which was a real shame for the band, performing, they said, live for the first time in two years.

I'd listened to a few of their tracks on Youtube, so knew the first song 'Passing Through' and they sounded pretty good (I did ask the sound man to lift the vocal a little as it was hard to hear and, to his credit, he did and it was better after that), much as you would hope from a live performance of a song you'd only heard recorded before.

The Bristol based band describe themselves as playing 'Warped Guitar Pop' which is fair enough as far as it goes. They're a guitar band and their sound is fairly 'pop-y', but what the 'warped' adds to that is hard to define and I struggled to think of who they reminded me, if anyone, and to be honest, nearly a week later I'm no nearer doing so.

At moments, I detected hints of the early Police in their vaguely reggaeish sound, but I'm quite sure most would struggle to hear it.

Whatever they do, though, they do very well and their distinctive sound worked well, mixing that with witty lyrics on songs like "The Grid", "Flying Business Class" and "Drifting Apart".

They sounded good live with no signs of rustiness in their performance and the audience seemed to really enjoy the gig, I certainly did.

It was, though, a fairly short set at around 75 minutes with no encore - After saying how much I'd enjoyed them, I asked one of the band if they were doing any more songs as he stepped out of the stage area, but he said they didn't have a huge amount of material, not having performed for a while.

Overall, though it was a great little gig, if the tiny audience did keep the atmosphere a little subdued and I hope it was mostly the threat of poor weather that kept people at home rather than hearing them as they really deserve a bigger audience and some proper success.

I hope too, that it won't dissuade them coming back to the Boileroom as I'd go and see them there again.

When you think of some of the performers who achieve chart success, it seems incredible that a bunch of talented lads like Goan Dogs aren't a household name.

If you get the chance go and see them, they are a great band with a distinctive sound and deserve more attention.

Monday, 20 January 2020

The Vox Beatles - St John's Church, Farncombe - January 18th, 2020

What can you say about The Beatles?

Undoubtedly one of the most loved and influential bands of the 20th century, but possibly one whose songs are so ingrained in popular culture that they're taken for granted or even rather disparaged by some in more recent generations.

The one thing you can say without any fear of dispute is that you'll never get to see them perform live! They, famously, gave up touring very early in their career (tired of no-one being able to hear them above the screaming of 10,000 girls and a few boys, no doubt) and, aside from the famous rooftop event at the very end of their career, they never wavered in that.

So that explains, to a great extent, why I was back at St John's Church in Farncombe on a freezing night in January.

Part of it was simply that I fancied a night out, the £16 entry fee seemed very reasonable and the reviews of The Vox Beatles (and some YouTube videos) suggested they were a decent Beatles tribute band.

So, having quite enjoyed the Illegal Eagles a couple of years earlier, despite my doubts about tribute bands, I bought a ticket way back in April 2019 (I think I may even have been the very first person to do so!).

It was a frosty night even as I left home to drive the 15 miles or so to Farncombe village.

Once inside the Church Hall (which doubles as a bar for music events), I was surprised to see a long queue of people snaking from the door to the Church, obviously keen to get a good seat.

I could hear the band warming up at one point and they sounded pretty decent through the door and about 7:35 the door was opened and in we went.

One thing I had forgotten about St John's Church was that the pews are rock hard, once again you could spot the regulars, as they'd bought cushions with them! It was also fairly chilly, but not quite so much that you needed to keep your coat on, which was a relief.

Just before 8, the band appeared, dressed in the 'Cavern Style' leather jackets and black roll-neck sweaters.

From the off it was apparent that, unlike the Illegal Eagles, The Vox Beatles were going to play the characters (John, Paul, George and Ringo) of the band, rather than stick strictly to the music.

The leader 'John' (actually Mike, I seem to recall), quipped Lennon-like throughout, while 'Paul' pulled funny faces (as is still his want) from time to time. 'George' was fairly low key, only 'Ringo', poorly illuminated and stuck behind his drums at the back, seemed unwilling or unable to play to character, although he did perform a few of 'Ringo's songs.

Initially, personally, I found this a little irritating, but after a while I accepted that it was part of the performance and it seemed less jarring as the evening wore on. Now and then, too, they'd drop out of character, which was funny and made it clear they weren't taking it all too seriously.

What helped, of course, was that when playing they were really good.

Both instrumentally and vocally, they produced a sound that was close enough to the original songs to be both enjoyable and memory-evoking.

Although I wasn't born until 1962, when The Beatles started to enjoy mass success, I'd been a big fan in the mid-1970s, before Punk and New Wave came along and stole my attention.

I'd never lost my liking for The Beatles, though, and still have a pretty big collection of their albums (on CD and Vinyl) which still get an airing from time to time, so I was familiar with all the songs they played and, while I wouldn't say they all sounded exactly like the recordings, they certainly sounded close enough for you to think this might have been how they'd have sounded live.

After a few of the rockier early period songs ("Hard Day's Night", "Help", "She Loves You","I Saw Her Standing There"and "I Want To Hold Your Hand", amongst others - I can't find a full setlist), they left for a few minutes and returned in Shea Stadium style outfits to perform later period songs, such as "Day Tripper", "Ticket To Ride" and "The Night Before".

After about an hour, there was a 30 minute interval, while the (mostly pretty old - Older than me, even! - but there were some younger people and not all appeared to be carers!) audience pottered off for a beer, wine, tea or coffee and a much-needed comfort break (and by that I mean a chance to alleviate the buttocks from the solid pew seats!)

When we returned, the band appeared in "Sgt Pepper's" style costumes and started the second part with the opening two tracks from that album (The title track and "With a Little Help from My Friends"), later they came back to the album to perform "When I'm 64".

I'm a little hazy on the exact order, as they didn't play in strict chronological order, but we also had "Taxman", "All You Need is Love" and "Hello, Goodbye" around this point.

The guy performing as 'George' was excellent - They performed "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Something" (as well as "Taxman") and his guitar work sounded impressive.

Around this point, the band split up, 'George' doing "Something" while the others changed and then he nipped off to return with a remarkably quickly grown (And very fake looking!) beard, to return in Apple Roof Top era outfits.

'Paul' gave us "Blackbird" and then, when the band were all back we got a selection of later songs, including "Get Back" (I couldn't help hearing The Rutles' "Get Up and Go" - RIP Neil Innes), the rather unexpected, but welcome "Ballad of John and Yoko" and the very unexpected, but a personal favourite of mine, "One after 909".

There was no encore, but they just kept asking if we wanted 'One more song'? And of course, the answer was yes. We got "Twist and Shout" and "Hey Jude" and in the end, it was only the 11PM curfew that stopped the fun.

If you like the Beatles music and live performance, I can't think of any reason why you wouldn't enjoy an evening with The Vox Beatles.

I certainly did!

Friday, 6 December 2019

Skinny Lister - West End Centre, Aldershot - 5th December, 2019

Sometimes something really surprises you and this was one of those times.

Looking for a bit of live music before the end of the year, I idly explored the West End Centre's website and discovered a band called "Skinny Lister" was playing on the 5th December.

I'd never heard of them, but a quick Google suggested they were a "Punk-Folk Band", not a concept I'd ever encountered, so a bit of YouTube viewing ensued and they seemed a bit like the Pogues or Dexy's Midnight Runners, but with more teeth and less mannered performances (choose which one I mean from that), so I decided they'd be a bit of fun for a cold December evening. What did I have to lose?

I turned up expecting them to be on at 8, even telling my wife I would probably be home by 10PM! However, there was a support act, Jack Humphries, who was a decent performer with a foot-operated drum, a guitar and a harmonica. He did a few of his own songs, including one about getting off with an ex while he was high, and a decent cover of 'Dancing In The Dark', by Bruce Springsteen.

As support acts go, he was pretty decent, I'd not have minded seeing him on his own, to be honest.

After that we had about 40 minutes break until Skinny Lister arrived on stage.

And did they arrive!

None of this shuffling on, waving to the crowd, tweaking their instruments, the 5 men and 1, heavily pregnant, woman, hit the stage and BANG! Straight into their first song.

Two things were immediately clear. First, this was a band who were going to have a good time and they'd make bloody sure you did, too.

Secondly, there was a hard core of fans who clearly knew every song that they played.

So, what does Punk-Folk sound like? At one point, I thought it was a bit like a cross between The Pogues and Stiff Little Fingers - The playing was frenetic and fast and full of brash self-confidence, but there was a definite Folk-y twang to everything.

Frankly, it was brilliant.

The woman explained she was taking it easy as she had a 'little Lister on board' and actually disappeared from the stage a number of times for a few songs, but was back energetically joining in or singing lead for a while.

For around 90 minutes we rattled, exhaustingly, through songs I'd never heard before or very vaguely recognized from my YouTube browsing (Trouble on Oxford St, for example), but which others around me clearly held dear and sang along with every word.

A flagon of something was passed from the stage around the crowd (look up their videos on YouTube and you'll see it's a 'thing' for them), but as I was driving and had already had a pint, I passed, so I can't tell you what it was.

One song recounted the tribulations of putting unleaded in a Diesel Vehicle, another more folk song tune recounted the longing to be Rollin' Over valleys and hills to come home from a distant war. Some sounded like traditional folk songs or shanties (Bonny Away and Raise a Wreck, for example), while others were more Punk or Indie in style (Thing Like That and This is War, for example) and clearly self-penned. The vast majority were energetic and fast, with one or two exceptions.

Aside from a handful of people who clearly have fun in a very different way to me (Despite them not moving at all that I noticed, I assume they had fun as they stayed to the end!) everyone was bouncing and singing along, even if it was only to the catchy, easy to learn choruses, some without words at all!

Honestly, I reckon this was one of the best live performances I've seen - The energy and enthusiasm from the band was both impressive and infectious and I can see why some people were following them around.

At one point the lead singer mentioned they'd just done a tour in the US and Canada, which suggests they must have a reasonable following, but I'd never heard of them before!

After they finished their main set, they came back for a three-song encore, which kept the buzz going for a little longer and the lead guitarist came down and played in the crowd!


Photo from Skinny Lister's Facebook Page

Would I go and see them again? You bet and I suggest you do, too - As soon as you can!

Setlist:

38 Minutes
My Distraction
Tragedy in A Minor
Devil in Me
Artist Arsonist
My Life, My Architecture
Diesel Vehicle
Rattle and roll
Rollin' Over
Wanted
What Can I Say
George's Glass
Any Resemblance to Actual Persons...
Geordie Lad
Cathy
Bold as Brass
John Kanaka
Thing Like That
Bonny Away
This is War
Trouble on Oxford Street

Encore:
Raise a Wreck
Hamburg Drunk
Six Whiskies

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

The Blow Monkeys - Arlington Arts Centre, Newbury - October 31st, 2019

It was my choice, but it was no choice at all...to sit or to stand

The Blow Monkeys were never a hugely successful band, but for a variety of reasons, I'd always enjoyed their material from their heyday of the mid 1980s. The line "You know it doesn't have to be that way" was often twisted into "Tee Po it doesn't have to be that way" after my wife swapped her FIAT Uno for a Tipo and that may be part of the reason that they stuck in my mind over the years.

The fact that they made catchy, politically astute tunes didn't go amiss either, so I had them on my 'will go and see sometime' radar when I noticed they were touring a while back. When I saw they were coming to Farncombe church, where I'd seen Hue and Cry, I snapped up a ticket, only to forget the date and book a holiday! The organisers were very good and refunded my ticket when I explained the problem (I can't see Ticketmaster doing that!), but I still had them on 'the list' and I noticed a new date added a couple of days earlier in Newbury which isn't too far away. Even though it was the night before I went on holiday, I decided to go.

The day before the event, I got a phone call from the venue and, to be honest, I kind of hoped it had been cancelled, because working and packing and an early start meant getting to the gig was feeling like one thing too many and I had considered writing off the ticket cost. However, the call was to say that due to poor standing ticket sales, it would be all seated, which was a big disappointment, I wouldn't have bought a ticket on that basis and I said so, but it seemed a refund wasn't an option, so seated it was.

In the end, I was packed, work was as sorted out as it was going to get and with a start time of 8PM, I figured I could be in bed in time to get a few hours' sleep before a 5AM start. The drive to Newbury was pain-free and I found the venue, part of a private school site, without any problem.

There didn't seem to be a lot of people there and, while I was a little early, by the times the door to the auditorium were opened I can't imagine there were many more than 100 people there.

There was no support act (no loss on the whole and good for me especially this time) and at 8 sharp, the band appeared. Like us all, Dr Robert has put on a few pounds over the years and the rest of the band (I'm not sure if any were original members) were looking, like most of the audience, to be pushing 60, but once they started there was no doubt that much of the sparkle remained, mixed with a high level of musical virtuosity.

I've struggled to find a setlist (those I've found for the same tour definitely don't match this event or each other, so it seems that they mix it up a bit) and can't recall the opener, but I know it was one of their hits.

The keyboard player also doubled up as a saxophonist on a number of tracks, which comprised a mix of the hits 'Choice', 'Digging Your Scene', '(Celebrate) The Day After You', 'Out With Her', 'It Pays to Belong' and'The Man From Russia' and other tracks I recognized less, such as the 'Coming of Grace' and 'The Sound of Your Laughter', but still enjoyed.

They rounded out the set with their career-defining hit "It Doesn't Have to Be This Way' and delivered a short, but enjoyable encore.

The band sounded good and Dr Robert's voice has held up pretty well. To their credit, despite what must have been quite a demoralizingly small audience, they put on an enthusiastic and professional performance and the audience (pinned in their seats, though we were) warmly received all the tracks.

I suspect this quite late addition to the tour was poorly promoted, which led to the poor sales and, from what I've seen on Youtube other venues had a far better turn-out.

I certainly hope so, as the band put on a good set, impressive musically and enjoyable and would be well worth seeing again - I just wished they'd sold more standing tickets as sitting twitching was no substitute for dancing to their catchy numbers.

Setlist from Farncombe Gig:
(Provided for a taste of the tracks performed, but it was different in order and content at Arlington)
Come on Down
On the Wings of the Morning
Choice?
(Celebrate) The Day After You
Crying for the Moon
OK! Have It Your Way
Wildflower
It Pays to Belong
Digging Your Scene
Out With Her
Said Too Much
You Don't Own Me
The Wild River
It Doesn't Have to Be This Way

Encore:
Heaven Is a Place I'm Moving To
Wicked Ways
God’s Gift
The Sound of Your Laughter
Man From Russia
Superfly

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) - G-Live, Guildford - November 11th, 2019

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (henceforth referred to as OMD) have an unusual place in my musical taste.

I bought every one of their albums up until Sugar Tax in 1991, but they also have the dubious honour of producing the only LP I ever returned for a refund in utter disgust (1983's Dazzle Ships, which despite revisionist opinions still sound like an unpleasant cacophony of noise to me, although I kind of wish I'd kept it as it was one of the original origami-style folding sleeves).

Still, everyone's entitled to one mistake and from the electronic gloom of tracks like 'Stanlow', through their infatuation with Joan of Arc and to catchy electro-pop like 'Sailing on the Seven Seas', I'd mostly remained a low key fan - I never thought of OMD as one of my favourite bands, but my LP collection suggests they were!

Having seen them live on TV somewhere, they sounded pretty good still, so I booked a ticket early in 2019 when I saw they were playing my local venue, G-Live. This was billed as their '40th Birthday tour'.

As I've mentioned before, I think G-Live has an acoustic problem, certainly if you're standing, as often the vocals are very hard to hear and, to be honest, throughout the support act Mig15, I was seriously questioning my decision to see OMD there, as the usual problem arose.

However, it seems support acts either get no decent soundcheck time or don't know how to do it and often the main act sounds much better anywhere and, fortunately, this was very much the case for OMD, being probably the clearest vocals I've heard from anyone there.

Mig15 were a lively and enjoyable foursome (with a McCluskey in the line up, I notice - Presumably the 'best Bassist in our house' who Andy McCluskey jokingly referred to later), who, whilst not setting the stage on fire, certainly got the audience nicely warmed up and got a deservedly warm applause.

OMD appeared about 5 past nine to rapturous applause, it was immediately apparent that some people regard Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys as near Messianic figures!

Amidst a dazzle of flashing lights and panels, we heard a fanfare (and various sounds akin to twisting your radio's tuning knob quickly - something anyone under 40 probably won't understand!) from Dazzle Ships and then they immediately got me onside by starting with the distinctly unshowy 'Stanlow' from their first album, a darkly moody electronic track. As it finished the audience roared with approval as if they'd just delivered the final song, rather than the first!

They then performed 'Isotype', which I assumed was an early track, but checking, I find it was released in 2017, explaining why I didn't recognise it!

They followed this with the early 'Messages', another track that I must admit I hadn't expected, followed by one I'd really hoped for but definitely not expected, 'Tesla Girls'.

Paul Humphreys was a static, if quite jolly, figure behind his keyboard, nursing a sore throat (more on that in a moment), while Andy McCluskey was a constantly moving, jerking energetic figure, whether toting his Bass Guitar or delivering robotic dance moves.

The sound, as I mentioned, was great, McCluskey's voice coming through clear and strong - He's not, I suspect he'd agree, a great singer, but his voice has a distinctive note and it was good to hear that the tracks sounded as I recalled them doing so.

A couple of tracks I didn't recognise followed (I'll admit it's a while since my OMD vinyl saw the light of day, so I'm not sure of the era, but I suspect they were post Sugar Tax). Andy McCluskey then sang 'Souvenir' which, apparently, is very unusual ("This is only the second time I've ever done this") due to Humphreys' sore throat. I don't think it was bluff because, from my spot near the front, you could see him reading the words from the sheet of paper he'd put at this feet!

The two Joan Of Arc tracks followed back to back and had the crowd in raptures again.

A little rest followed with more 'noises from Dazzle Ships' and then a few more tracks, including early tracks 'Statues' and 'Almost', 2019 single 'Don't Go' and 'So In Love'.

The main set rounded out with the crowd-pleasing 'Locomotion', 'Sailing on the Seven Seas' (possibly the track that sounded the best this evening?) and the classic 'Enola Gay', their first hit.

A very short interlude occurred before they came back for two more tracks, 'Pandora's Box' ("A new song. From 1991!" as McCluskey quipped) and finally the early track 'Electricity' ("The fastest thing we have").

Then they promised to be back in 2 years, the lights came on and we left.

Overall, it had been a very enjoyable performance, the sound (for once) was great and the selection of tracks was excellent for a 40th celebration, covering everything from their earliest stuff right through to stuff I'd never heard before!

McCluskey was great fun, far more than I'd imagine OMD to be and I would say it was probably the best gig I've seen in 2019.

I'd certainly think about going to see them again, which I rarely do - Now, I'm off to the loft to dig out my LPs!

Setlist:
Souvenir Tour Intro
Stanlow
Isotype
Messages
Tesla Girls
History of Modern (Part 1)
If You Leave
Souvenir(Lead vocals by Andy McCluskey)
Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)
Time Zones
Statues
Almost
Don't Go
So in Love
Dreaming
The Punishment of Luxury
Locomotion
Sailing on the Seven Seas
Enola Gay

Encore:
Pandora's Box
Electricity

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Echobelly - West End Centre, Aldershot - May 16th, 2019

It was my birthday and I was idly thinking that I really haven't seen (or have got plans to see) many bands this year, so I did an online search to see what I could find - What I found was 'A Special Acoustic Evening with Echobelly' just down the road, a couple of nights later...

Now, if you're about 10-15 years younger than me, you probably remember them, the way I remember 'A Flock of Seagulls' or 'The Bodysnatchers' - A band that were around, had some success, but never really hit the 'big time!'.

Me, I recognised the name, but actually couldn't think of anything they'd done, so a bit of Googling revealed a pretty good sounding 'Brit Pop' group with a sweet sounding female lead singer and some year old black and white videos of the singer and lead guitarist, sounding pretty good (maybe better!) still.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and so I found myself snuggling into the tiny arch of the West End Centre in Aldershot.

I grabbed a beer and found the support act had started. A woman singing and playing a keyboard and a chap on a guitar. The singer had definite influences of Bjork. I have to say it wasn't really my cuppa, but the sound was surprisingly good and it wasn't awful, as many support acts are, either through appalling sound balancing or lack of talent.

The archway emptied out and I shuffled forward with my now half empty pint glass.

Unnoticed, and before most of the crowd had returned from the bar or wherever else they'd been, a small woman and a tall man appeared on the stage, which is almost at floor level in the West End Centre.

Smiling, the woman (who was obviously Sonya Madan), said "Hi" and she and the tall man (Glenn Johansson) settled themselves onto their seats. Echobelly, on this tour, are formed of just these two original members, and songwriters, of the band.

The setlist below is from other gigs on their acoustic tour and may not be 100% right, from memory, for Aldershot, but they performed a mix of material from their heyday in the mid '90s and more recent material, mainly from their recent Anarchy and Alchemy album.

Glenn's guitar work sounded pretty good to me (although I'm no musician myself) and I think Sonya's voice is better now than in her '90s performances, richer and fuller to my ear, although there were a couple of moments where I think she just failed to reach a high note, but that may have been the audio equipment rather than her. Generally, though, they sounded crisp and clear and her voice is up there amongst the most pleasant I've heard and overall, the sound in the West End Centre was as good for them as it had been for their support act.

Many of the audience were 50ish year old men, some of who seemed transfixed by Sonya, but I was the only person who cheered when she announced that the next track was 'Faces in the Mirror', from their recent album, suggesting most of the audience were on a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

For me, though, this was a voyage of discovery and I have to say it was a highly enjoyable one.

Glenn's guitar playing and Sonya's lovely voice and the venue lent the whole gig a very intimate feeling and was one of the most enjoyable I've been to.

The more famous singles like King of the Kerb, Dark Therapy, Insomniac and, of course (he writes as if he remembered it!), Great Things, got the best reception, but to my unfamiliar ear, the newer stuff was just as enjoyable and, probably, more mature and rounded (no great surprise that they would get better at writing songs as time goes by, I guess).

The gig was short (before the last song of the encore, Sonya said "This really is it, because we don't have anything else!") at around an hour, but perfectly formed.

I didn't know anything about Echobelly, except the name, a week before, but by the time I left, I was a definite fan.

If they're in your area, go see them!

Setlist

Something Hot in a Cold Country
Car Fiction
A Good Day
Faces in the Mirror
On Turn On
Sparks
Bulldog Baby
Firefly
King of the Kerb
Great Things
Dark Therapy

Encore:
Insomniac
Giving It All