Thursday 24 November 2022

Skinny Lister - The Old Fire Station, Bournemouth - 23rd November 2022

I'd seen Skinny Lister once before, in the tiny West End Centre in Aldershot, and been mightily impressed with their energy as a live band.

I'd often felt I'd like to go and see them again, something I rarely do, and after hearing their new album and seeing they were out on tour again (they're a hard working band, seemingly always touring and/or recording - They announced another new album is on the way at this gig!) I decided to go and see them at a venue I'd wanted to visit; The Old Fire Station, in Bournemouth.

Bournemouth is about 60 miles away from my home, but I grew up in the area and went to college there, so I remembered the 'Old Fire Station' when it was just 'THE Fire Station', complete with fire engines and firemen, so one Wednesday in November I set off for my last gig of 2022.

The outside of the venue still looks as I remember, although little else did around this part of Bournemouth that I'd not been to in decades, there are now many modern multi-storey buildings around the area, a lot associated with Bournemouth University (back in my youth it was just a Polytechnic!).

Inside was disappointingly bland, just a large open dark space, with a long bar (serving only rubbish lagers, Budweiser and Carling figuring large - I believe this is a Student Union venue when not hosting gigs, but surely some students like a decent lager, at least?) - If I'm honest it looked like a student night club, the sort of place I'd probably have loved when I was 19, although I'd have wanted Stella, at least!.

I arrived as the first of two support acts was part way through his set. Tom Jenkins was a rather moody Welsh singer with a guitar. His songs were rather gloomy, but he'd do himself a few favours to sing more and talk less between songs, in my opinion. He wasn't terrible and one or two songs were quite good, in a gloomy, oh woe is me and South Wales way, but he wasn't (as you may have guessed) exactly my cuppa, especially as I was there for the fun and excitement I'd experienced at my last encounter with Skinny Lister.

After he left the stage a couple of black clad women appeared, one with a guitar and the other on Drums. They were Deux Furieuses and what a noise they made! It was slightly hard to credit that two people could be so visceral and loud. Impressively, though, you could hear most of the vocals (at least until part way through, but I think that was the band's fault as the guitarist/singer indicated a change of some sort to the sound people between a couple of tracks).

They're obviously a political/feminist band (one song was in honour of Sara Everard, another called Bring Down the Government), but I think anyone who likes powerful 'Post Punk' rock would find something to like here - Worth a listen; the drumming seemed especially noteworthy to me.

They were certainly a good warm up act and, after grabbing a pint of the least worst Lager there (Praha), I headed back to the front of the gig.

Maybe it was the layout of the venue, maybe it was just a November Wednesday, but there didn't seem to be that many people here. The Aldershot gig (capacity 200) was packed solid, but here I was standing right at the front, and there were spaces around and behind me.

If the Skinny's were disappointed by the turnout, they didn't let it show.

One of the things that had really struck me the first time I saw them was that they arrived on stage to the first note of the first song. Tonight, like most bands, they shuffled on with the lights down; change this, guys.

If that was a mild disappointment, there was little else to be disappointed about.

Skinny Lister are a 'Folk-Punk' (Their T-Shirts are now branded as 'Shanty Punk' - which does sum them up quite well) band who mix folk, sea-shanties, ballads and rock in a pretty unique blend.

Few other current bands feature a double bass and accordian, but if it all sounds a bit The Furies/Roger Whittaker and real ale and beards, it's nothing like that.

I honestly struggle to think of any act I've seen who engage an audience so entirely and quickly. Even the chilly and sparsely populated venue was soon up to speed, singing along and jumping up and down.

It was clear that many (if not most) people there knew the band and their material, some having travelled some distance (Southampton, Winchester and, of course, me from East Hampshire were all mentioned).

As the band rattled through familiar songs, a couple of new ones, destined for the next album, a guest appearance from 'Party George' (who is Lorna's father and writes some of the songs) and the hits (the main set finished on Trouble On Oxford Street) they never let up the energy or the rapport with the audience. The sound balance (a pet peeve of mine) was good, too, you could hear the singers (Dan mostly takes lead vocals, but Lorna does some) and the instruments.

If it had seemed at risk of being a bit of a damp squib of a gig with the poor beer, chilly air and thin crowd, it all faded away in the excitement of their performance and the fully involved audience around me at the front - We were having a a whale of a time!

Songs like 'Damn The Amsterdam', 'This is War', 'Dresden' (a song about arm wrestling!), 'What Can I Say', 'Rollin Over' and 'Cathy' were rattled off energetically and received enthusiastically.

A video of Skinny Lister in action in London

If there was one more mild disappointment for me it was the lack of 'Bavaria Area' on the set list, a song about being hassled by Bavarian Police, a song I could relate to and liked for it's Ska-influenced beat.

They were back quickly for a two-song encore ('Hamburg Drunk' and 'Six Whiskies') and then off to sign merchandise and have photos taken with fans. That isn't really something I do, but when Lorna briefly became free between photographs as I passed, I couldn't resist telling her how much I'd enjoyed the gig and that I'd seen her heavily pregnant at the last gig in Aldershot. One of the songs she sang tonight was 'Bonny Away' a song she described as 'her song' (her being her now 2 year old daughter), although they recorded it years before she was born. She seemed lovely, with plenty of time for the fans.

I'm not sure I'd rush back to The Old Fire Station. For Bournemouth gigs, the O2 Academy in Boscombe has far more character, but the sound was good and the issues of the layout (with half the audience behind the DJ booths) wasn't a problem on this occasion (I can see it might be for a fuller house).

COVID, no doubt, has done for the communal flagon that was passed around at Skinny Lister gigs of old, but the communal fun spirit in the crowd remains. We're all part of a big family, with a secret - One that needs to be shared with a bigger audience, because if you've not been to a Skinny Lister gig, you really have missed out on a great time!

My gigging for 2022 is done, but Skinny Lister, once again, proved the perfect way to end the year!

Setlist: This is from a European gig and not 100% right, but most of the songs here were played.
38 Minutes
My Distraction
Tragedy in A Minor
Rattle & Roar
Company at the Bar
If the Gaff Don't Let Us Down
Forty Pound Wedding
Geordie Lad
Damn the Amsterdam
Bold as Brass
Bonny Away
John Kanaka
Rollin' Over
What Can I Say
This Is War
Trouble on Oxford Street

Hamburg Drunk
Six Whiskies

Saturday 12 November 2022

Echobelly - The West End Centre, Aldershot - 11th November 2022

I'd seen Echobelly before at the West End Centre, but this time was different

The first time was a very stripped back affair, with just Glenn and Sonya and a tape machine (at one of the first gigs I think they did after starting to reuse the Echobelly, rather than Calm of Zero, name).

This time they were back, but with a drummer, bass guitarist and (tucked away at the back) another guitarist.

The West End Centre in Aldershot is a tiny venue, so I was expecting it to be packed as it was shown as 'sold out' on the email I received the day before.

Aldershot is about a 10 minute drive from my home and I arrived about 15 minutes before the support act, Annabel Allum, was due to go on.

I'd looked her up on YouTube and saw a melancholy, quirky young woman singer, but she sounded interesting enough and a fair number of others joined me in having a listen.

I would say 'interesting' is a good description for Annabel. Although she dresses like a '50s dock worker in her pyjamas and her songs are, indeed, quite melancholy, she seemed quite a friendly, cheerful person between songs.

The sound (as opposed to the sound balance) was different too, just her vocal and her electric guitar, which leant the songs I'd heard on YT a very different sound. Very stripped back and edgy.

She got a good reception and I'd say she'll either be a huge success or disappear without trace, it could go either way!

There was a 15 minute or so interval before everyone returned to the hall for Echobelly.

The background music changed and the (already dark) lights dimmed a little more, while the stage lighting changed and then 3 musicians I didn't recognise appeared, followed by the two I did.

I'm not an old-school Echobelly fan (unlike most there, I'd never knowingly heard a song before looking them up before the previous gig), so I didn't recognise the first couple of songs and I received later songs, like Faces in the Mirror, with more enthusiasm than most.

What had struck me at the previous gig was that Sonya Madan has (still) a lovely voice. Sadly, while the band exuded energy, her vocals were rather lost in the mix.

Someone behind me was grumbling about this as well, but no-one said anything, so I called out that the vocals needed raising.

She replied that she wasn't feeling too well, but would try singing louder - Whether it was that or the engineer changed the mix, but the vocal was clearer on later songs.

Once that improved, it was possible to really enjoy the gig.

It was totally different to the previous one, as I'd hoped and expected, with the 5 piece lineup given the songs more punch than the mainly acoustic set of the duo had.

The crowd responded most enthusiastically to the hits, like 'King Of The Kerb', 'Father, Ruler, King, Computer','Great Things' and the encore finale, 'Dark Therapy', but all the songs got a good reaction, a few of us obviously enjoying some of their later material more than the majority ('Faces in the Mirror' was the first song of theirs I was aware of and stil a big favourite of mine).

The set wasn't very long; even with an encore I was back outside in an hour and a quarter of them coming on stage, but it was highly enjoyable.

I'd be hard pressed to say which gig by Echobelly I'd enjoyed the most - The first was more intimate and allowed us to enjoy Sonya's voice and lyrics more, but this was more energetic.

Either way, I'd say they're a band well worth seeing and judging from the reaction of the packed venue, I was far from alone in that view on that Friday evening.

Apologies for the terrible photos, I had to use my phone this time and it's useless in low light

Bulldog Baby
We Know Better
Car Fiction
Anarchy and Alchemy
Iris Art
King of the Kerb
Hey Hey Hey
If the Dogs Don't Get You, My Sisters Will
Down to Earth
Faces in the Mirror
Father, Ruler, King, Computer
Great Things
Giving It All (Calm of Zero cover)
Dark Therapy

Monday 31 October 2022

10CC - The Anvil, Basingstoke - 29th October 2022

In my early teens, I was very enthusiastic about the music of 10CC.

They managed to mix quirky with rocky with some great ballads and they, without being the 'Prog Rock'/'Public school rock' set, managed to bring something different and imaginative on albums like The Original Soundtrack and How Dare You.

As with many bands of their type, though, they were rather swept away (including in my mind) by the rise of punk and new wave, but in recent years I returned to those albums and found plenty to still like.

I had seen that '10CC' still toured, but as the only original member was Graham Gouldman, I felt maybe they'd be a rather pale shadow of themselves, not that I'd ever seen the original lineup perform live!

More recently though, I'd read that 2 other members of the touring band (Rick Fenn and Paul Burgess) had been in the lineup since the 1970s and had played on some of the albums (Bloody Tourists and Deceptive Bends) that I enjoyed, so spotting them playing at a venue close by, I bought a ticket.

As the event drew closer, I became increasingly skeptical. Gouldman is now in his mid-70s and Fenn and Burgess are no spring chickens and, with an all seater venue, I thought I might be in for a rather gentle evening of nostalgia.

So, it was with some pleasure on my part that, after support act Paul Canning, who was very amusing, although I didn't really warm to his one-man and a guitar set, and an interval, the lights went down and a video started to play Son of Man (A Gouldman and Godley co-operation), giving an audio-visual potted history of 10CC.

This was something a bit different (and hinted at a Godley involvement in the concert, more to come on that).

As the video ended, the band appeared taking their places amongst an array of guitars, keyboards and percussion instruments.

The, mostly over 70 (there were a few younger people), audience warmly received them and they started with The Second Sitting for the Last Supper and then Art For Art's Sake.

Three things immediately struck me during these songs.

Firstly, the sound was good, I could hear the lyrics and the instruments. Secondly, the level of musicianship was high, but with none of the self-indulgence you sometimes associate with 70s music (something that I liked about 10CC way back then - They were talented and clever, but rarely show-offy and always with a sense of humour).

Thirdly, live, the tracks had a harder edge to them than the rather smoothed out recordings have. I guess some wouldn't see this as a positive, but for me it made the live performance far more exciting than I was expecting. They definitely did not sound like a group of old (With the notable exception of youngster, Ian Hornal, taking the Eric Stewart slot on vocals) men going through the motions.

This tour was billed as the 10CC Greatest Hits tour 2022 and there was no shortage of hits, reminding people, if they needed it, that 10CC had been a big group in their time.

After the first two 'heavyweight' tracks, the lighter weight Life is a Minestrone (always a favourite of mine), Good Morning Judge and The Dean and I bounced merrily and energetically along before Old Wild Men (a song about ageing rockstars!) and the quirky Godly and Creme penned track Clockwork Creep reminded us of their more experimental tracks.

A full length version (and a bit, timing it a little over 10 minutes) of Feel The Benefit (parts 1,2 and 3) followed and received a well deserved raptuous applause (although to be fair, the audience seemed happy, and justifiably so, with every song). This was followed by another powerful track in the form of the Wall Street Shuffle.

At this point, Graham Gouldman diverted into playing a new track of his, Floating In Heaven, which was enjoyable enough.

They were back on familiar 10CC tracks with The Things We Do For Love next and then did a cover of one of Hornal's solo songs, a '10CC like song' written with Gouldman. It didn't sound overly out of place, although I detected 'Boom-Bang-Bang-a-Boom' Eurovision elements at times, which I don't think would have made it into a true 10CC track.

After early track 'Silly Love' there was a highlight for me. While the band played the instruments, Kevin Godley appeared on a video screen to sing the vocals for Somewhere in Hollywood, it was a rather inspired moment again, I thought, and impressed me greatly - It was also nice to see, albeit virtually, another original member performing.

My wife would have cringed at the next track, I'm Mandy Fly Me, as she was teased mercilessly with the title at school, but the slightly unsettling supernatural tone of the song has always made it another favourite of mine and the performance (as throughout) was great.

Someone videoed this track - Not great, but they have rules on no cameras! Sound is pretty good, though.

Crowd favourite (and possibly the only track some of the audience remembered!) I'm Not In Love, followed. It is undeniably a great song, but not an absolute favourite of mine, although I was clearly in the minority in that respect.

The set finished with Dreadlock Holiday (and the words "I don't like Basingstoke, I love it", although I'm sure they do that in every venue!), but were back quickly for a two song encore.

The first was an acapella version of Donna, the band's first single, which was enjoyable and quite amusing as Hornal joked around pretending to struggle to reach the falsetto notes (which are very high!).

The final song, which had nearly everyone on their feet and singing along was Rubber Bullets, the perfect feel good set ender.

The Rubber Bullets performance from the Hexagon in Reading.

I had come half-expecting to be underwhelmed, but having listened to the thrashing guitars of a group of youngsters early in October, the tuneful musicianship and powerful, energetic performance of 4 men into their 60s and beyond and one younger one, was eye (and ear) opening.

If I was really looking to find fault, I'd say that Hornal's voice doesn't work perfectly on all the tracks he takes the lead, but equally on some it was ideal.

Far from being disappointed, this was one of the best gigs I've been to and a definite contender for the best post-COVID.

I'm sure many of the bands still touring after 30 years (let alone 50!) really should stay at home and drink their cocoa, but the current manifestation of 10CC are definitely not one of those.

Long may they continue to defy people like me's expectations!

Son of Man(GG/06 song)
The Second Sitting for the Last Supper
Art for Art's Sake
Life Is a Minestrone
Good Morning Judge
The Dean and I
Old Wild Men
Clockwork Creep
Feel the Benefit
The Wall Street Shuffle
Floating In Heaven (Graham Gouldman song)
The Things We Do for Love
Say the Word (Hornal cover)
Silly Love
Somewhere in Hollywood(with Kevin Godley lead vocals on video screen)
I'm Mandy Fly Me
I'm Not in Love
Dreadlock Holiday
Rubber Bullets

Sunday 16 October 2022

Nerina Pallot - Boiler Room, Guildford - 12th October 2022

Great singer, great songs and good sound! A highly enjoyable Wednesday evening.

I only discovered Nerina Pallot while browsing through upcoming gigs at a local venue, The Boiler Room in Guildford.

I've a liking for female singer-songwriters, so I browsed YouTube for some of her videos and liked what I heard and bought a ticket.

I managed to book myself for two gigs, two nights running, so thought I might feel a bit jaded after trekking to Southampton for The Amazons (read about that elsewhere), but I booked this one first and it's a short journey to Guildford.

I arrived just after 7:30 and found I'd already missed one support artist, Lily Gvero, so I can't give you an opinion on her (check out Google, I found one video easily enough, if you're interested).

For a Wednesday night, the venue was already fairly full by 8, when T.I.G.Y came on. This is a husband and wife duo, she with a pleasant voice, but I found them and their songs a bit saccharin for my taste. Certainly not a chore to listen to, but after three songs I did wander off to buy myself a beer (the bar is just one end of the single room, so I was still able to listen).

I managed to shuffle nearer to the front as the venue filled, if not to capacity, certainly getting close to it.

Having expected the venue to be pretty quiet (as it was for the equally good, imo, Ren Harvieu) I was surprised at the size of the audience. Clearly Nerina has a strong following.

One irritation was the wall of bulky middle-aged (no, let's be honest, ageing) men who stood right at the front, blocking the view for most of the people behind them.

I've stood there myself once or twice, but most people bend down a little to provide more of a view for those behind. These blokes didn't and the way they stared, unmoving at Nerina throughout the show did make me wonder if she might need a restraining order or 4!

Anyway, none of that is her, her band or the venue's fault, so what was the gig like?

The band appeared at 9 sharp, Nerina in dungarees and a drummer, guitarist and bassist joining her.

Having seen some videos, I knew that she was likely to play both keyboards and guitar during the set and sure enough there was a keyboard setup near the front of the stage (It once had a cage in front of it - when did that go? Nice that it has, though!) and a taller microphone waiting for her to stand by later on.

They started with 'Cold Places' and then quickly into new song 'Alice at the Beach', which I think is a great song.

Part of Alice at the Beach

An earlier song, 'Idaho' followed and then 'Bring Him Fire' and the upbeat 'Put You Hands Up', which saw Nerina switch to a guitar.

Part of Put Your Hands Up

Nerina chatted easily (possibly a little too, as she got a reminder about the 10:30 curfew handed to her part way through, so possibly skipped a song?) and involved the band (especially her guitarist, the others were at the back, but introduced - Yes, Bastille, it's not hard to do!).

She skipped between old and new tracks (from a just released album), quipping that 'Most of you are only here for the 2nd album' at one point - Not really knowing of her before, I didn't even know which album this was!

Performance wise (aside from forgetting the lyrics to one song and having to look them up on Google, which was quite funny) she was excellent. I really like her voice, a good range, but no vocal acrobatics and able to switch between melancholy ballards, jazzy numbers and upbeat pop with ease.

Part of The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter

The set ended with 'Master Builder' (a song 'ripping off Stevie Wonder' we were told) and then after about 15 seconds they were back for an encore ("I'm glad you clapped because I finished the set too soon after the warning about the curfew and have some more songs to play!" we were told).

It finished, as she often seems to looking through, with Sophia.

After the disappointment of The Amazons (there, saved you reading the review if you can't be bothered), this was a great gig.

Nerina has a great voice, a good back-catalogue of varied material, an easy-going manner and the sound was excellent, with a perfect balance of vocals and instruments.

Perhaps it's easier to achieve a good sound balance in a tiny venue like the Boiler Room (or it may be far harder, I've no idea!), but I know the Guildhall can be good too, so this reminded me that there's no excuse for the sound at the Amazons gig. Still, move on.

Nerina Pallot and her band lifted my mood and I'll 100% go and see her again if she's playing locally.

If you like a female singer-songwriter, I'd advise you to do so, too!

Cold Places
Alice at the Beach
Bring Him Fire
Put Your Hands Up
Mr King
I Don’t Know What I’m Doing
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
Geek Love
Master Builder
Only the Old Songs

Wednesday 12 October 2022

The Amazons - Guildhall, Southampton - 11th October 2022

An evening of thrashy guitars - That's how I'll remember this gig

I heard an Amazons track somewhere and thought it sounded pretty good, so I looked them up and found they were playing the Southampton Guildhall, a venue I'd really enjoyed when I'd seen Editors there, and I rather rashly booked a ticket there and then.

As time passed, I listened to more of their stuff and started to feel that they maybe weren't quite my thing.

Still, the ticket was booked and I turned up in time to catch the support act.

The support act were a band, from the Isle Of Wight, fronted by two women, a Brunette taking the lead and a blonde in support - Oh, Wet Leg? No, sadly not. This was Coach Party.

The thrashy guitar feeling started with them.

Lousy sound for support acts is nothing new, but I couldn't distinguish a word the lead singer sang for a long time and the tunes were pretty much lost in the cacophony.

Maybe I'm being unfair, but I got the feeling someone saw a band that looked a bit like Wet Leg, from the Isle of Wight and snapped them up. Some of their videos look surprisingly like pastiches of Wet Leg's too!

The only song I could clearly hear was 'Everybody Hates Me', which sounds far better on YouTube than it did live!

To be fair to them, they were energetic and certainly warmed most of the audience up, but to me it just sounded like noise on the night.

The Amazons later said that the Guildhall was the first big venue they played, as a support act, and you hope they had the same limited sound check time as they'd obviously given Coach Party.

That said, I'm not sure the Amazons did much of one themselves.

For many of their songs, the vocals were muddy and indistinct, drowned out, once again, by thrashing guitars.

OK, that's their sound, but the guitars were far more dominant than on recordings and it did tend to make many of the songs hard to distinguish from each other, I only recognised a few, although from the singing along going on, the, mostly student, crowd obviously knew and recognised more than I did.

It did start pretty well, with one of the band coming on from stage left, starting the intro to "How Will I Know?", followed by "Ready For Something" and "Ultraviolet", but soon the tracks started to merge into each other with the vocals lost behind the wall of frantic guitars.

A brief acoustic interlude for "Nightdriving" and the quieter track "Northern Star" (where the audience were encouraged to wave their phone lights in the air...Really? In 2022?) were welcome breaks from the the thrashing, but normal service was resumed shortly after each.

This all reads rather negative and I certainly wouldn't rank it amongst my favourite gigs, but they were energetic and put on a good show, I guess they just didn't hit the spot for me.

Clearly a lot of the audience were really enjoying it, but I did notice that a lot of people were drifting away before the end of the set, so maybe I wasn't alone in feeling that it was a bit samey.

They finished the main set with 'Junk Food Forever' (probably their best known song) and were playing right up to the 11AM curfew, so I can't see how they would have squeezed in an encore, but I left as the strains of Junk Food finished to raptuous applause (Earlier gigs on the tour did feature an encore, so maybe they squeezed one in, a setlist posted later suggested they did).

I didn't head home disgruntled, though.

If you gamble on bands you've never seen, you're going to be pleasantly surprised sometimes and less so on others. I guess, realistically, The Amazons delivered what I feared, but not what I hoped.

Contrary to how the sound on recordings, they felt a bit 'Stadium Rock'/'Guns n Roses-lite' to me and I won't bother going to see them again, but I can accept that they just weren't a band that I really found as appealing as I thought I might and that's OK.

Or maybe the whole evening was just undermined by a poor sound man and an inability of the band to realise how bad the balance was!

I'm hoping that my next visit to the Guildhall, to see Belle and Sebastian, will suit me better as the venue is certainly one I like.


How Will I Know?
Ready for Something
In The Morning
There's a Light
In My Mind
One By One
Say It Again
Northern Star
Wait For Me
Doubt It
Nightdriving (Acoustic)
Stay With Me
Junk Food Forever
Black Magic

PS This review - - seems to have a rather mixed view of a gig on this tour, too.

Wednesday 13 July 2022

The Beat - Boiler Room, Guildford - 11th July 2022

I'd seen Rankin' Roger's iteration of The Beat twice and he had been excellent both times, but I was keen to see and hear, original front man, Dave Wakeling's version.

Sadly, Roger passed away a couple of years ago, but I saw Dave Wakeling's version (often referred to as 'The English Beat', as they're known in the US as there was another 'The Beat' there, and Dave, it seems is now domiciled in the US) were playing Salisbury town hall in 2020 and bought a ticket.

Of course, we all know what happened next and that gig was eventually cancelled. Shortly afterwards, though, I saw they were playing at the tiny Boiler Room venue in near-to-me Guildford, so I quickly snapped up a ticket, only for that gig to be postponed, but eventually, two years later, I was off to the Boiler Room on a steamy Monday night to see them.

The Boiler Room is very small and always hot when crowded, as we'd had 30+C temperatures during the day and there were no tickets on sale for the gig, I knew it was going to be hot and crammed, so I arrived later than I often would, part way through the support act, the Skapones.

As the name suggests, they were a Ska band, complete with brass section, and the tracks I heard them perform were typical Ska sounding versions of other songs, Edwin Starr's War and Frankie's Two Tribes. They were pretty good, if not exceptional, from what I heard.

It didn't seem too busy for them, but when I ventured out into the garden (Something I'd never done on other visits), it was rammed and, of course, by 9PM, when Dave and his Beat arrived, they'd all coming inside.

Luckily I was near the front, off to the right of the stage, so had a good view.

Dave, unlike his former band mate Roger, has certainly piled on the pounds over the years, but many of us can say the same.

Londoner Antonee First Class took on the role of Toaster (Roger's role in the original lineup) and did a decent job, if I have to say it's a difficult task.

The only quibble I ever had with Roger's Beat was it didn't sound like the classic beat as Dave was usually the lead singer, but I would say Dave's voice has changed over the years (maybe some was down to the simple difference of recording vs live) and there were only moments where his voice was distinctive enough to echo back to the original tracks, the opening lines of "Doors of My Heart" and "Too Nice To Talk To" being notable amongst these.

That said, the crowd, even in the stiffling heat (which the venue did their best to alleviate by opening doors to distributing iced water to the audience), responded with enthusiasm to every song, often singing louder than Dave.

They opended with "Rough Rider" and then rattled through a selection of their hits.

I was especially pleased to hear them play "Click Click", which I hadn't really expected.

The pace slowed a little with "Too Nice To Talk To" and "Can't Get Used To Losing You", but bounced back with "Doors Of Your Heart".

I think it was at this point that they took a short break 'to rehydrate' and many people (me included grabbed a drink from the bar).

When they returned a few minutes later, they performed 'Ranking Full Stop' and 'Mirror In The Bathroom", but disappointingly (but maybe neccessarily due to the heat) there was no encore and gradually, everyone drifted away.

I had enjoyed the evening, The Beat were always my favourite Two-Tone/Ska revival band and I can listen to their stuff anytime and it had been good to hear Dave Wakeling sing the songs I knew, but it will always be Roger's form of the band that I'll remember for the energy and excitement of the performances.

Setlist - From Colchester, but close if not identical

Rough Rider
Hands Off...She's Mine
Twist & Crawl
Click Click
Save It for Later
Whine & Grine/Stand Down Margaret (Boris)
Two Swords
Too Nice to Talk To
Can't Get Used To Losing You
Best Friend
Doors of Your Heart
Ranking Full Stop
Mirror in the Bathroom
No encore

Tuesday 12 July 2022

St Vincent - O2 Apollo, Hammersmith - 29th June 2022

I discovered St Vincent during the 2020 COVID lockdown and when I saw she was playing in London in June 2022, I bought a ticket. but after seeing her on the BBC's Glastonbury coverage, I wondered if I was going to regret the decision.

Annie Clark (St Vincent's real name) is a divisive, imaginatinive and slightly challenging musician. She always evolves her style from album to album, never resting on her laurels and her list of collaborations speak to her constant search for something new to try musically, but the album that this tour supported, Daddy's Home, had seen her take a turn, both musically and visually, that didn't really appeal to me.

Equally, that Glastonbury performance, a few days before Hammersmith, wasn't something I found enjoyable. Her band gurned and performed '70s glam rock poses, while the sound (and maybe even the arrangements) was muddled and a little, dare I say it, indulgent.

Still, I had a ticket and maybe that Glastonbury set wasn't the right way to judge her performance.

I arrived at Hammersmith in plenty of time, but decided not to join the long queue outside, waiting until it had died down somewhat.

The support act, whose name I have completely forgotten now, was a self-proclaimed 'Black, feminist, Punk Band', formed of 4 women (I think, one, on keyboards, was permanently hidden from my sight, by the front-and-centre drummer, who seemed to be the band leader, but not singer).

The singer was on guitar and looked not unlike the Activist character from TV series 'Outlaws', while on the other side of the stage was a tall woman on Bass.

Their overall sound was OK, except that it was impossible to hear what the singer was singing or even saying, although from the Drummer's comments I imagine most of it was their self-proclamation and various complaints about Black under-representation in Punk and the Roe Vs Wade decision in the US (Both worthy of discussion, at the very least, but I didn't really come along for a political rally).

One or two tunes were OK, but I can't say I'd bother to track them down.

After the inevitable delay while the stage was re-arranged, St Vincent (and her band or is that Annie and her band, St Vincent?) appeared on stage around 9PM to the strains of the old Shep & The Limelites track "Daddy's Home".

I must admit I don't recall the exact order of tracks, so I'm relying on the setlist from

However, it was somewhat reassuring (to me) that the set started with a classic St Vincent track, Digital Witness, indicating that we weren't in for a solely 'new material' set.

Obviously there were tracks from the new album, the second being "Down" from it, but the well known tracks, Birth in Reverse, Fast Slow Disco, New York, Cheerleader and Los Ageless were all there.

Los Ageless was especially majestic, I often feel it's too short when I play it and I wished it could have gone on for 10 minutes or more at Hammersmith.

So, did I enjoy St Vincent at Hammersmith?

Yes, very much.

The band (possibly responding to critcism of Glastonbury, or maybe just less under the influence of something?) were less histrionic and self-indulgent and the sound balance was far better in the Apollo than it had been on the TV coverage of Glastonbury.

I can't say I find St Vincent's current 'image' very appealing (She looks like a waitress from an episode of Starsky and Hutch), but no worries, it'll be different for the next album, you can rely on that, and the music will take a different direction, too.

However, that was soon forgotten as the classic songs were performed and even the new ones sounded better live.

The main set rounded out with "Fear of the Future" and the inevitable encore featured 3 lesser known tracks, rounding out with The Melting Of The Sun from the Daddy's Home album.

I headed back to Richmond where I'd parked on the night bus (The Tube having closed due to rail issues) happy with my evening.

Glastonbury had definitely left me wondering, but an evening with St Vincent at Hammersmith had restored my faith, she (and her band) were great entertainment and I shall look forward to the next iteration of St Vincent with interest.


Digital Witness
Birth in Reverse
Daddy’s Home
Down and Out Downtown
New York
...At the Holiday Party
Los Ageless
Fast Slow Disco
Pay Your Way in Pain
Year of the Tiger
Fear the Future

Your Lips Are Red
Live in the Dream
The Melting of the Sun

EDIT : I found a bit of video from the Manchester gig on this tour on YouTube

Thursday 21 April 2022

Stereo MCs - Sub89, Reading - 20th April 2022

Getting to this gig proved to be an endurance event in itself.

It was moved twice due to COVID restrictions and then the second rearranged date clashed with another event I was going to and I got a refund.

However, when that event itself was cancelled, I quickly rebooked and was off to see the Stereo MCs at Sub89 in Reading on an April Wednesday evening.

It had been a while since I'd been to Sub89 and it seems parking in Reading has got ever more restricted, while the one-way system has become ever more confusing (I'm not convinced I didn't go down a Bus, Cycle and Pedestrian only road at one point, but the sign had enough conditional text to please a reader of a Jack Reacher novel and I thought it said it was only restricted until 7PM!) - Eventually I managed to stop, literally, going in circles and found the Broad Street Mall car park and arrived at Sub89 about 8:40.

Judging from the number of people and the empty floor in front of the stage, it didn't look as though there had been a support act, but it's possible I'd missed one!

I bought a beer and waited, expecting the Stereo MCs to appear a little after 9, but, to zero fanfare or flashing lights, they appeared at 9 sharp.

Initially, there was just the two singers on stage, Rob Birch and a woman. Behind the scenes I could see a couple of people working electronic equipment and the sound was clearly coming primarily from there.

The set started well, moving through Fade Away (the updated setlist says, I'd forgotten, but it was performed at some point) into Everything, Black Gold and Sketch before surprising me by including Connected early on (surely their best known song and most bands would have saved it for the finale or maybe the encore).

Sorry about the sound again, but you'll get a feeling

Being, primarily, a 90s band, I was surrounded by people about 10 years younger than me and it was quite entertaining to see the different style of dancing that that decade featured. I'm pretty sure many of those around me had been regulars at raves in their time. An attractive grey haired woman danced energetically just in front of me, while some middle-aged-spread men waved their arms in the air.

What, though, had always set the Stereo MCs apart for me, was their sound, they were distinctive, catchy, rhytmical and clever and that was all here to enjoy.

At some point, a percussionist joined the singers, I'm not sure when, which added a more organic sound to the performance.

Some other lesser known, but familiar to me and the audience, tracks followed before Step It Up, Ground Level, Running and Deep Down and Dirty rounded out the main set in fine form.

The stage was, as usual at Sub89, minimalist, but that probably focussed the audience on the performance.

As a stage act, Rob B and his fellow vocalist, weren't showy, but exuded a charisma I'd found lacking in the Bastille gig I'd attended recently.

They had a presence all the big video screens and arena venue performance lacked in that. Maybe they'd have struggled at the BIC as well, but in the intimate confines of Sub89, they had the audience from the start and never let go.

Rob's vocals are, of course, more spoken than sung, but the woman (I feel bad for not knowing her name!) had a great voice and the combination was both familiar and pleasing to the ear, with a good sound balance.

The encore featured two songs I don't recall and the setlist didn't identify, although I'm sure I knew one.

They actually came back from that for a second encore where they performed a great version of Creation.

I had been looking forward to seeing the Stereo MCs live, had been disappointed to have had to cancel, but finally I was delighted to have seen them live, it was an enjoyable, involving and captivating gig - Go see them, if you get the chance!

Fade Away
A38 Vibes
Black Gold
On 33
Lost in Music
Elevate My Mind
Step It Up
Ground Level
Deep Down & Dirty
Encore 2:

Friday 8 April 2022

Wet Leg - Pryzm, Kingston - 7th April 2022

Party Music for Sad People

Wet Leg are a band (maybe) fronted by a tall brunette and a more dimunitive blonde (Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers) from that hotbed of musical creativity, the Isle Of Wight.

Both play guitar and produce a quirky, Indie sound that they described in one interview as "Party Music for Sad People".

Having watched some videos on Youtube, I found them interesting enough to see if they were playing anywhere local.

There's a lot of hype around about them, so I feared they may already be lining up big venues, rather than the small ones I prefer, when I came across an offer to buy their CD and see them live in Kingston Upon Thames (a leisurely 30 minutes out of rush hour for me).

The combined price was just £15, so I suspected I wasn't getting a full on gig, but that was fine for the money.

The album was (is, I'm writing this on the day) released on April 8th, so the (two as it turned out) live sets were the day before at Pryzm, which is a nightclub in Kingston Upon Thames.

I arrived in Kingston and parked in one of Bentalls car parks, still not really knowing how long I'd need to be there, but the car park shut at 10:30 and the ticket said that Wet Leg would be on stage at 6:30PM, so I figured 4 hours would be plenty.

When I got to the venue, there was a long queue stretching down the street, so I did the sensible thing and crossed the road and had a 50p half in the Wetherspoons!

I was just finishing my drink when I saw the doors open and the queue start to move.

Once inside we went upstairs to a medium sized room, entering on one level with stairs down to the dance floor and stage. There was another balcony level above, but I'm not sure if it was accessed from the entrance or from above. I'd guess there 300 or so people inside by the time the band came on stage at around 7:45.

The audience was mainly young, Kingston is a University town, but I wasn't the only one with grey hair in the audience and there was a tiny lad with his mum and grandparents in some seats (most were standing), probably not yet 10.

The band came on from the side, their equipment setup for the set.

In the end, they played for about 45 minutes, more than I expected actually.

I have to say, from where I stood on the entrance level, the sound wasn't great, with the singer's vocals (The brunette leads mostly) often hard to distinguish over the instruments, but it was possible to distinguish the songs I knew from those I didn't and the overall feeling of a strong, powerful sound was definitely enjoyable.

The vocal delivery is not particularly melodic, more a spoken one, at one point I was reminded of the Flying Lizard's "Money" performance from long ago, although the band are more energetic than that.

As most people there had purchased a combined CD/Ticket, I think it's fair to say most weren't there to be critical, but as the performance went on, the band seemed to grow in confidence and the audience warmed up.

Songs like "Ur Mum", "Wet Dream", "Oh No" and the finale, "Chaise Longue" were obviously recognised by more people and received the best reception, but generally the band were entertaining and enjoyable.

Apparently there was another set with doors opening at 8:30, so it was relatively short but it had been an enjoyable set and very good value! Perhaps more bands should do 45 minute sets for more affordable prices?

Wet Leg are rather the band of the moment and, if I'm honest, I'm not sure they're not a little faddish, but I enjoyed the gig and am eagerly awaiting the postman with my copy of their CD!

If I'm proved wrong and they've got a long career ahead of them, I certainly won't be unhappy!

Edited to Add : The CD arrived and I have say there are some excellent, varied tracks (listening to 'Loving You' right now, very different and great vocals, so Rhian can really sing! Check out this video for even more proof) on there, so maybe (hopefully) there's a long term future for Wet Leg!

Being in Love
Wet Dream
Too Late Now
Oh No
Ur Mum
It's Not Fun
Chaise Longue
I got this from, but I recall 'Wet Dream' being later in the set. Tracklist seems about right, though

Friday 1 April 2022

Bastille - Bournemouth International Centre - 31st March 2022

Maybe it was just me, or maybe it was them...

Over the last year or so, I've come to enjoy the music of Bastille, so I thought I'd go and see them live.

The nearest venue (outside London) was the Bournemouth International Centre, which is about an hour away, so not too bad (and quicker than going to many venues in London).

In terms of timing, all the ticket said was 'Doors 18:30', which seemed incredibly early, so I arrived about 7:15 and could hear music from the hall and it turned out a support act, The Native, were already playing.

They were a group of lads from, I think, Plymouth, playing Indy style music. For a support act, I thought they were pretty good. The sound balance wasn't too terrible (as it so often is) and their set was enjoyable. Definitely a good start.

There was another drum kit on stage with the word 'Dylan' on and after a short while a young woman with a guitar appeared and a young man sat behind the drum kit.

They started playing and another woman, a blonde, appeared and started singing.

The singer introduced herself as the 'Dylan' in question and their set was equally enjoyable, being quite a rock style set, including a cover of Guns N Roses' 'Paradise City', with a hint of Taylor Swift.

I'm probably just getting old, but it was refreshing to see a young female performer doing something other than RnB and she was pretty good - I hope she goes far.

Once again, for a support act, pretty enjoyable.

About 40 minutes passed and the lights went down again, to be replaced with a huge video display at the back of the stage and Bastille appeared.

Throughout the set the songs were interspersed and introduced by voiceovers (much as tracks do on their albums) and animated videos on the screen, which also showed live video from the gig at times.

I knew a lot of the songs and most of the audience around me in the first hour, when I stood close to the front, were clearly diehard fans (One bloke next to me sang every word of every song at the top of his voice, drowning out Dan much of the time, hence I moved!).

However, while it would be an exageration to say I didn't enjoy the gig, it all felt a little flat much of the time.

The band, aside from Dan, were mainly static, poorly lit and seemed relatively uninvolved. It was noticeable, too that, other than the two backing vocalists, no-one was introduced.

Dan himself skipped from side to side of the stage a lot, sometimes went up to the back of the stage and stood in front of the screen and sometimes reclined on what looked like a psychiatrist's couch, but while he talked to the audience from time to time, he wasn't very charismatic as a front man, in my view.

He also, by his own admission, seemed to be struggling vocally. At times he clearly wasn't hitting notes, showing his frustration, and after about half the set commented that he'd almost lost his voice.

Most of the audience, though, didn't seem to notice or care and cheered every song, bounced up and down to the faster tracks and regularly broke into co-ordinated clapping.

The highlights were the hits, of course, and they ended the main set with their best know, Pompeii, with its 'Eh-eh-oh, eh-oh' chant, following a lively cover of 'Rythmn of the Night'.

The lights didn't go up after that and the audience soon broke into a repeated 'Eh-eh-oh, eh-oh' chant and they were soon back for the obligatory encore.

This was a ballad and the lively 'Shut Off The Lights' to round out.

I like Bastille's music, although you could argue they're a bit Coldplay-ish, but if I'm honest, seeing them live didn't seem to add anything.

Maybe I was tired or just not in the right mindset to fully enjoy a gig that evening or maybe they were struggling to hit top form as they started their tour, but it won't rank as a favourite gig, although I certainly didn't feel it was bad as such.

The support acts had been good and it was good to hear my favourite tracks played live, but I don't imagine I'll go and see them live again.

I suspect, though, that a lot of the audience felt differently, certainly many seemed to be having a great time.

Set List :
Stay Awake?
Distorted Light Beam
Things We Lost in the Fire(New version)
Laura Palmer
Those Nights
Quarter Past Midnight
Back to the Future
Plug In…
WHAT YOU GONNA DO??? (Extended intro)
Good Grief
Give Me the Future
Grip(Seeb & Bastille cover) (Stripped)
No Bad Days
Happier(Marshmello & Bastille cover)
Run Into Trouble (Live debut, New Song)
The Rhythm Of the Night
Future Holds

Hope for the Future
Shut Off the Lights

Saturday 19 February 2022

London Calling (Clash Tribute) - Boileroom, Guildford - Februrary 18th, 2022

Could a tribute band do service to 'The Only Band That Matter'?

This was a weird one, I saw the lead singer of 'London Calling' on the TV quiz, Pointless, and bought a ticket while the programme was airing.

I'm a bit suspicious (maybe the right word is snobby?) about 'tribute' bands, but sadly The Clash couldn't reform if they wanted to and, heh, the ticket was a tenner and a few miles from home, hardly a loss.

I arrived about 8 and, despite the tail end of Storm Eunice bringing down trees left and right, there were already a fair number of people there, maybe being a Friday helped, but they continued to arrive as the evening progressed and, while not as busy as I've ever seen it, it was certainly a good crowd by the time the main act arrived.

Before that, as I arrived in fact, there was a support act whose name escapes me now, but were described (as I recall) as a 'contemporary Punk band, with influences old and new', but to be honest, to my ear, they sounded for the most part dreadful. The 'singer' and lead guitarist, too, acted liked hackneyed Punk stereotypes and what little I could determine of the lyrics fell into the same category.

A woman on a guitar (bass, maybe, I didn't pay a lot of attention for long) was suitably distracted and refused to get involved in the posturing of the others, while the drummer actually sounded fairly good at times.

Perhaps, though, it's just as well I've forgotten their name.

London Calling turned out to do a final instrument check for a bit and then disappeared for another 15 minutes, reappearing around 9:15 dressed as The Clash.

There was a definite sense of expectation in the crowd, a good mix of students and old Clash fans, like myself.

I'd ended up right in the front, but figured I may move back if things got too rowdy, but despite a bit of OAP'ing (Old Aged Pogoing) to one or two of the earlier Clash tracks, the crowd was mainly enthusiastic, but relatively calm.

Forgive the terrible audio on the video clips.

Sadly, I can't find a setlist online, but the set featured a range of tracks, from early ones like Tommy Gun, Complete Control and Jennie Jones, through Capital Radio and I Fought The Law, tracks from London Calling, like Clampdown, London Calling, Guns of Brixton, Train In Vain, Wrong 'Em Boyo and Rudie Can't Fail, Police On My Back from Sandinista (the only track from that album, I think) to Combat Rock tracks, Should I Stay and Rock The Casbah, the latter of which, with White Riot, formed the encore.

So, to the 'only questions that matters', were they any good?

Well, yes, not bad at all.

Never having seen any other Clash tribute acts, I can't say how they compare, but most importantly, they certainly convey the energy and excitement of the Clash tracks live well.

I was especially impressed with the guitarist (playing the Mick Jones role) who seemed pretty accomplished to my uneducated ear, but everyone in the audience seemed to be having a good time (with the possible exception of one man a couple down from me, who never smiled once, even eliciting a comment from 'Joe' to that effect) from beginning to end and it's very much an ensemble performance.

You're never going to see The Clash live again and even if you could, who knows if they'd still be any good these days, so why not go and enjoy their songs live with 'London Calling'?