Monday 14 December 2015

Caro Emerald, BIC, December 11th 2015

We saw Caro Emerald back in 2011, when she was still relatively unknown, at Shepherds Bush and, as you can read elsewhere, had a great evening.

These days, her tickets demand a premium price and I wasn’t planning to go and see her again (or go to any more events this year) until someone on a forum I frequent offered a couple of tickets near my home at a much reduced price. Lauren and I set off for the Bournemouth International Centre on a chilly December evening, parking in the Richmond Hill multi-storey and walking through the Christmas stalls and ice rink in the Winter Gardens before making our way in.

We were a little unsure about the fact that our tickets were seated, as we usually stand (and dance!), but once inside, it became clear that we were missing nothing as the ‘floor’ was covered in seats too! Our seats were in the first section of seats and offered and excellent view of stage.

At 7:45 sharp the support act came on. Andreya Triana is a singer with an impressive voice, although I struggled to think who she sounded like on the first few songs. She was impressively backed by just a single guitarist and it took a lot of nerve to perform to a venue the size of the BIC with just your voice and a guitar, but the duo did it impressively and deserved the warm applause they received.

There was a 30 minute interval (and a couple of drinks) and we were back into the hall for the main event.

The band appears in twilight and, expecting Caro to suddenly appear in a spotlight on stage, it was a shock/surprise to suddenly see and hear her a few rows down, on a staircase amongst the crowd.

She started with a heartfelt rendition of “The Other Woman” (oddly the track that I’d heard first on my MP3 player a few days earlier) before returning to reappear on the stage and rattle through “Absolutely Me” (“When it gets to Friday, what you get is absolutely me” – Very apt!), “Riveria Life” and her breakthrough single “Back It Up”.

She then performed a newer track “Quiksand” and a couple of other familiar tracks mixed in with a couple of enjoyable covers, “History Repeating” (a favourite of mine) and “All About That Bass”.

Eventually she turned to the audience and said “If you’re going to stand up, now is about the time to do it” and when people started to sit as she finished she said “Ah, ha, what are you doing?” – By then everyone (who could stand – The audience was pretty elderly overall, which hadn’t been so predominantly the case back at Shepherds Bush) was on their feet and stayed there through to the main set ending “Stuck” (She ticks my boxes, this being one of my favourite of hers too!)

Whilst the encore is a bit of a cliché these days, there was no disgusing the enthusiasm of the crowd for me as they clapped and stamped and called for a return.

Of course, return they did and delivered “Tangled Up”, new track “Helicopter Boy”, which would, I suspect, be a storm with a remix and summer release and the rousing “A Night Like This” which had everyone singing along.

After Shepherds Bush I wrote “In years to come, people who weren't there will tell you they saw Caro Emerald at Shepherds Bush!” and it’s true to say I didn’t feel quite the same way after the BIC.

Back in 2011, she was slightly shy, slightly bemused by her success and it had the feeling of an intimate gig with someone who only a (sizeable) few were aware of. In 2015, her success has made her more confident, more polished, but no less enjoyable or entertaining.

Quite why the BIC felt that such a feel good performer (and her entertaining band, at moments I had flashes of being at a Kid Creole & The Coconuts concert again - It had the same kind of all round entertainment, fun, feel-good vibe) would attract an audience keen to sit and not dance is beyond me, but overall we had a good time and came away humming and chatting excitedly about our favourite moments.

If you’ve not seen the ‘shocking Miss Emerald” yet, treat yourself to a fun evening out - We were certainly glad we had again and, so it seemed, had everyone else there!

Miss Emerald: Intro
The Other Woman
Absolutely Me
Riviera Life
Back It Up
The Lipstick On His Collar
Pack Up the Louie
Black Valentine
History Repeating (Propellerheads cover)
Dr. Wanna Do
I Know That He's Mine
All About That Bass (Meghan Trainor cover)
Just One Dance
Liquid Lunch
You Don't Love Me
That Man

Tangled Up
Helicopter Boy
A Night Like This

Wednesday 18 November 2015

New Order, Brixton O2 Academy, 17th November 2015

Last time I was here was to see New Order for the first time, despite being a fan since their earliest days, and I thought it would be the last time for both venue and band.

I wasn't a huge fan of Brixton Academy (I much prefer Shepherd's Bush) and I figured New Order probably wouldn't tour again, but after releasing a brand new studio album, Music Complete, to some considerable acclaim, they were back on tour.

When the tickets were released, I decided I'd give it a miss. I'd seen them and enjoyed the gig and I wasn't sure it'd be as good a second time around, but finally my resolve weakened, when a second date was added, and I bought a ticket.

Boy, was I glad I did!

After a support act, whose name I never heard, but actually sounded (amidst the usual awful support act sound - The singer being almost inaudible for the first 3 songs) quite interesting - I shall have to find out who they were - New Order, unlike last time, were pretty promptly on stage at 9:10 (I remember feeling - and reporting - that I felt they'd left their arrival a little TOO long last time), suggesting they were either keen to get going or desparate to get it over with, thankfully it proved to be the former!

The last tour had very much been a retrospective, showing off their extensive, influential back catalogue and proving, for any doubters, that New Order without Hooky were still capable of putting on a great performance.

What this show had was an energy, excitement and even innovation that had been lacking on the previous tour. A reviewer elsewhere said "At long last, they seemed to be enjoying themselves" and that's exactly what it felt like.

If Music Complete is their last album, it'll be a shame as it has some good tracks, but more importantly, the band seemed to have actually enjoyed the process of making it and seemed to have been reinvigorated by the process.

Of the original members, Bernard ('Barney'), Stephen and Gillian (returned for the last tour) remain, but the new-ish members fit in well, Tom Chapman on bass taking on the unenviable task of doing Peter Hook's bits with confidence.

In fact, enthusiasm and confidence were the key elements of this show.

The band were enjoying their performance and the enjoyment made it better, of course that meant the crowd were having a great time and even the new tracks were greeted with enthusiasm.

They started with Singularity, the current single, and then rewarded the audience with Ceremony and then a particularly impressive performance of Crystal, which stood out as easily a match for earlier, better known tracks 586 followed, with Restless (from the new album), Lonesome Tonight and Your Silent Face.

Elly Jackson, from La Roux, then joined the band on stage for a couple of tracks and was warmly welcomed and applauded - I like La Roux and think her involvement on Music Complete, and on stage, added a welcome vocal variety.

The main performance continued through Bizarre Love Triangle, Waiting for the Sirens' Call and Plastic (again from Music Complete) and then rounded out with The Perfect Kiss, True Faith and Temptation.

As all bands do, they came back a few moments later for the inevitable encore, giving us two Joy Divisons songs, Atmosphere and Love Will Tear Us Apart (a better rendition than the previous concert) and then rounded off with "Just one more", Blue Monday, which whilst it was a good finale and performed well, I still don't entirely think works as a live performance, maybe I've just listened to it too many times!

Overall, though, I came away thinking this was one of the very best concerts I'd been to. I'd said much the same about the last New Order gig and that was true at the time, but I suspect partly because it was the culmination of an ambition I never realised I had.

This performance was much more exciting and enjoyable, I thought, worthy of a new young band rather than a band retreading old material.

As "Storm Barney" blew across the UK, Barney (and the rest of New Order) gave us a storming performance that will remain impressed on my memory for years to come!

Judging from the audience's (of impressively varied ages, it was probably 50-50 20 somethings and 40-50 somethings) response most people felt the same!


5 8 6
Lonesome Tonight
Your Silent Face
Tutti Frutti (with Elly Jackson)
People on the High Line(with Elly Jackson)
Bizarre Love Triangle
Waiting for the Sirens' Call(Planet Funk remix)
The Perfect Kiss
True Faith

Atmosphere (Joy Division)
Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division cover)
Blue Monday

Friday 30 October 2015

Milton Jones and the Temple of Daft, Basingstoke, 20th March 2015

My son (now 18) loves Milton Jones' humour, so part of his birthday present was tickets to see him in Basingstoke again.

The first time we'd seen Milton Jones we'd all really enjoyed it, but a second visit a couple of years ago left me wondering if maybe I'd seen enough.

So, having first encountered Milton on Radio 4, I was pleased to see "...Temple of Daft" is based on the same kind of premise as one of the radio shows, where he'd recount his various exploits in a particular career.

Temple of Daft (If the posters and the title don't give it away) was his attempts to revive his Archaeology career.

Of course it was really just a loose premise to include the kind of puns, one-liners and word plays that Milton is famous for, but I, personally, found the plot added something (other reviewers, seemingly not familiar with his use of this style in the past, seemed confused by it).

It's been far too long to recall any of the jokes, but, as usual they came thick and fast and were mostly very funny and only one or two were familiar from previous shows or TV appearances (unlike some comedians).

In the past Milton has started the show as his grandfather, in a kind of prequel, but this time he was his explorer Great Uncle Randolph Digby Jones, recounting stories of his daring-do's!

We had a rather poor support act, who's main point of 'comedy' was how racist the audience was towards him. Not funny, at all, but (his act would say) I'm probably only saying that because he was Asian or Chinese or Black or Welsh or whatever. He wasn't funny and I can't remember anything else about him than that!

Fortunately, once Milton was back after an expensive ice-cream (for us, I don't know if he had one), the rather bad taste left by the support act was swiftly washed away by the clever puns, word play and generally good-natured and distinctly oddball comedy that Milton Jones is famous for.

As a fan of the "Very World of...", I really enjoyed the plot driven construct of "Temple of Daft". Sure he (I suspect deliberately, as I've read it happened elsewhere) sometimes seemed to get a bit muddled with the plot, but it moved things forward in a distinctly "Indiana Jones" way all the time supporting his jokes and wordplay.

Personally, I found this more enjoyable than the last time I'd seen him. Straight stand up is fine, but it's a finite resource and one man constantly throwing out one liners is funny, but less so the more you see it.

Temple of Daft offered something different to support the one-liners and, for me, was a great success.

Both my wife and son enjoyed it greatly too and, if there were unhappy members of the audience, I didn't cross paths with them as we made our way through the streets as all I heard were people recounting their favourite joke or saying how they'd definitely go and see Milton Jones again.

I suspect we will too...

Thursday 22 October 2015

The Specials, O2 Academy, Bournemouth - November 18th 2014

This town was most definitely NOT a Ghost Town!

I've never seen the O2 Academy so busy, even the KFC across the road(where my daughter and I grabbed a bite before going in) was buzzing with excited 50 somethings.

As with The Beat (we had seen a couple of weeks earlier in Reading), the audience was most definitely 'of a certain age', but there were hundreds of people whereas the excellent "Beat" gig had been pretty quiet.

We squeezed in and found the place heaving.

I must admit, by the time I arrived I wasn't really looking forward to this gig as I'd only arrived back from a business trip to the US that morning, but as it went along I found I couldn't help but enjoy myself.

They started well, with "Ghost Town", which was always a favourite of mine and then rattled through a top notch 'greatest hits' performance.

Terry was his usual 'non-plussed' self and the rest of the band (all of them!) were performing well, it was, it has to be said, a very polished performance and you'd need to hate Ska or be in a foul mood not to have enjoyed it.

A lot of the 50 something men there were clearly reliving their skinhead days and it got pretty boisterous and we shuffled backwards away from the fat blokes barging into each other as the evening went on, but the Academy is a small venue, so we never felt like we were out of the action or distant from the performance.

Highlights for me were "Rat Race", "Gangsters" and "Man at C&A", but you got the distinct impression the band have been doing this a long time and could turn out a good performance in their sleep.

They ended their short encore with "Enjoy Yourself" (in spite of my tiredness, I had, and clearly most others had too!) and "You're Wondering Now" - made famous again as the theme to "Death In Paradise".

Maybe it was me, or maybe it was just a tad too slick, but whilst I'd enjoyed the gig and didn't think it bad value for money (although I did blanch a little when I saw the tickets were £50 a head!), it hadn't been the sheer fun that "The Beat" gig in Reading had been a month earlier.

It was good to see "The Specials", but I think that's done now...

Setlist (From London gig a couple of days earlier, so probably the same).

Ghost Town
Friday Night, Saturday Morning
Do Nothing
International Jet Set
Man at C&A
Pearl's Cafe
Hey Little Rich Girl
Rat Race
Blank Expression
It's Up to You
Doesn't Make It Alright
Nite Klub
(Dawning of a) New Era
Do the Dog
Monkey Man
Concrete Jungle
A Message to You, Rudy
Little Bitch
Too Much Too Young

Guns of Navarone
Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think)
You're Wondering Now

Sunday 18 October 2015

The Beat, Sub89, Reading, November 7th 2014

Perhaps more accurately we saw some of the Beat

The Beat were always my favourite Two-Tone act, with something unique to their style.

These days Dave Wakeling operates as 'The English Beat' (The name they were known as in the US) and 'Ranking Roger' touts his band as 'The Beat' and it was this latter act we saw at the tiny Sub89 venue in Reading.

The support act were excellent, although it pains me to say I've forgotten their name. They seemed an odd choice to support the Beat at first, being a kind of 'folk rock' band, but they clearly understood how to get an audience on side and it only took a couple of tracks to get the audience fully behind them! Great value for a support act!

After a short break, The Beat came on. I must admit, I only really remember "Ranking Roger" chipping in the odd aside on Beat tracks from the 80s, but clearly I was doing him a disservice as they rattled through a 'greatest hits' (plus one or two new tracks, including one by "Ranking Jnr", Roger's son who introduced an un-needed rap element to proceeding, in my opinion, but on the whole we got vintage Beat, which was the crowd wanted).

What was especially impressive was the sheer energy and exuberance of Roger and the band. It didn't feel like a load of old men playing tracks from their youth and I wish I had half the energy Roger has (I suspect his son does too!).

Two Tone was always the music it was ok for men to dance to. I love dancing personally, but often you go to gigs and men shuffle their feet or jump up and down at best. Not here, everyone, man, woman and kids too young to have been a glint in their parents' eyes when the Beat were current, were dancing with abandon throught.

We get a rendition of "Stand Down Margaret", "Get a Job" dedicated to David Cameron and a first rate cover of "Rock the Casbah" dedicated to Joe Strummer, along with all the great tracks the Beat are known for.

Some won't acknowledge a band called "The Beat" without Wakeling, but if you can set aside that prejudice and just enjoy Ranking Roger's outfit on their own merits, I defy you not to have a great time.

My 22 year old daughter and I reckon this is the best gig we've been together and I'm hard put to think of one I've ever enjoyed more.

We paid £16 each for our tickets - You won't get better VFM!

"The Beat" are back at Sub89 on 8th April 2016, sadly I'm on holiday that day or we would be back, but treat yourselves!


This is from another concert around the same time and isn't in order, but does pretty much cover what was played.

Whine & Grine/Stand Down Margaret
Too Nice to Talk To
Best Friend
Doors of Your Heart
Click Click
Rough Rider
How Do You Do
Rock the Casbah (The Clash cover)
Hands Off...She's Mine
Noise in This World
Spar Wid Me
The Tears of a Clown (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles cover)
Two Swords
Big Shot
Rankin'Full Stop / Mirror In The Bathroom / Twist & Shout
Ranking Roger Jr Rap
Save It for Later (Pete Townshend cover)

Florence & The Machine, Alexandra Palace, September 24th 2015

Early Florence & the Machine performances reminded me of a Siouxie and the Banshees tribute act

This is meant in a very positive sense, in that I recall seeing the Banshees at their height and being transfixed by the way Siouxie dominated the stage. Florence Welch, perhaps alone, has got close to that in the intervening years and I was quite pleased when I asked my daughter who she'd like to see if we got the chance and she replied, without hesitation "Florence and The Machine".

So, when gigs at Alexandra Palace were announced a few days before her birthday, I bought Lauren and I a ticket each.

Ally Pally isn't the easiest place to get to (or back from!) for us, but we got there in plenty of time to get some food and drink (very good tacos and, for once, the drinks weren't a total rip off - Well done Ally Pally!).

The Staves acted as the support act. I had heard of them, but honestly they seemed very dreary to me and most of the audience seemed a bit perplexed by their very low key performance, although there were clearly a few fans amongst the predominantly female audience. Thinking that maybe they suffered the usual curse of poor sound balance for a support act, I checked them out on YouTube, but I guess I have to admit they just weren't Lauren and my thing and they seemed particularly odd a choice as a 'warm up' act.

Fortunately Florence and the Machine don't need a 'warm up', as the moment the lights went up and "What the Water Gave Me" started it was clear we were in for a slick, polished performance by Florence Welch and 'the Machine' (a full band these days).

Rattling quickly through a number of her biggest hits and upbeat tracks from the most recent album, I was left temporarily reeling and wondering what she was going to do for the rest of the show, but I needn't have worried as the whole show delivered from beginning to, short, encore without flagging for a moment.

These days Florence is a star performer, up there in terms of professionalism with the biggest acts, but sadly a little of that 'magic' has been lost along the way. I didn't feel the way I had at that Banshee's gig and the way I had when I first saw TV coverage of her at Glastonbury.

It would be churlish, though, to say that spoilt the gig in any way. It was top notch entertainment, delivered by a performer at the top of her game and clearly enjoying performing at the same level as the crowd were enjoying being there.

Alexandra Palace was a good choice for Florence and The Machine, too. Big enough to accommodate a big fan base, but retaining an intimacy that somewhere like a Stadium or the O2 just don't have. It felt like a big, small venue and we came away humming and happy... if only the venue wasn't in such an awkward place to get to!

If you get the chance to go see Florence, do, but if you went to see her in the early days, you saw something magical!


What the Water Gave Me
Ship to Wreck
Shake It Out
Bird Song Intro
Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)
Third Eye
You've Got the Love (The Source cover)
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Cosmic Love
Long & Lost
Queen of Peace
Dog Days Are Over
What Kind of Man
Drumming Song