Review: Ruts DC – O2 Academy Oxford – February 18th, 2019

My first time for a gig at Oxford – and at this particular venue. The venue is pretty small…would maybe hold 750 tops. I like these size venues though, esp. for GA standing gigs.

The support act was The Professionals, with drummer (and Sex Pistols legend) Paul Cook the only existing original member of the lineup. I didn’t really look up the support act before the gig, so it was somewhat of a surprise when my friend and companion for the gig said that Cookie was playing as part of the support act. I’m getting my quota of drumming legends in these days!

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And as I didn’t know the support act that well, I didn’t know much of the material performed, although of course Silly Thing sounded familiar to me when it started. I think if I have things right they also performed Just Another Dream and Join The Professionals. Pretty sure they also performed I Didn’t See It Coming, and probably did 1-2-3 as well. It was a fast pace set as you would expect from a punk outfit. Short, punchy songs. Lots of energy. I enjoyed their set. Sound level was loud. My ears were stuffed before the Ruts even came on!

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And as for The Ruts? Well, we were given the full theatrical intro for what is a 40th anniversary tour of their debut album, The Crack. With a backdrop of a huge canvas print of the album’s artwork, they played the whole album in tracklist order, starting with their biggest hit, Babylon’s Burning – which I filmed.

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And of course, they just got tighter and tighter through the set. Segs seems like he should have been the frontman all along to me. No disrespect to Malcolm Owen intended at all, just me wanting to give credit to Segs. He’s fab and just takes it in his stride. They found an absolute gem of a guitarist in Leigh and, speaking as I did earlier of drumming legends…hell! For me, Dave Ruffy is right up there as one of the best drummers around. Sublime effortlessness.

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The setlist is pictured above. Nearly 24 hours later, and my ears are STILL ringing. If you’ve never seen them live and you like this genre of music (punk/ska/rock/pub rock), get along to one of their gigs. You won’t be disappointed. Honestly, they really are one of the best live bands going round right now. They never disappoint, and last night was no exception.

Review: John Grant – Cambridge Corn Exchange – Feb 7th, 2019

Again, support was from E.B. The Younger, performing tracks from his upcoming release, To Each His Own. Songs performed included lead single from the album, Used To Be. Also performed were Out Of The Woods, On An Island, and Don’t Forget Me.

The harmonies that Pulido and Creamer have together are rather wonderful. Pulido says on his website that Harry Nilsson is a major musical influence, and it is certainly evident in Pulido’s own sound.

I will give the album a few listens on release, and will probably invest in a copy. I have enjoyed watching both of his performances. Below is a clip of him and Dan performing When The Time Comes. Also captured is Pulido’s banter and engagement with the crowd. He likes a natter, and that’s a cool thing in my eyes.

Once again, the crew went quickly into action to have John out on stage promptly at 8.45pm.

The first thing I have to say about the venue, Cambridge Corn Exchange, is it has great acoustics! And whoever is doing JGs sound gets it absolutely spot on, no matter what venue he’s at. Outdoors at festivals, indoors in mid-sized capacity theatres, or in more intimate places like Union Chapel in London – I am always impressed by the sound quality and volume.

The lighting on this tour has also been superb.

The show started with (possibly my favourite track on Love Is Magic – I grapple with either this or Metamorphosis being my fave track on the album) Tempest. Again, we were treated to all bar the complete Love Is Magic album (the only track off the album not performed was The Common Snipe), interspersed with tracks from his previous three albums. Tracks included Grey Tickles, Black Pressure – Pale Green Ghosts – Sensitive New Age Guy – Global Warming – Glacier – Sigourney Weaver – Fireflies – Outer Space – JC Hates Faggots – Queen Of Denmark – Black Belt – GMF – and the most beautiful version of TC And Honeybear…I was in a flood of tears. I find it just the most heart-wrenching beautiful song.

It’s an extensive set and was much appreciated by the crowd in Cambridge. And John was feeling the love too. I thought Glasgow was amazing last week, but everything was just somehow taken up a notch again at Cambridge.

I could watch John perform every single night for the rest of my life and be in raptures. He’s both funny and humble, can take the piss out of himself, throw shapes about the stage and look like a dancefloor mega god, and then sit at his keyboard and deliver songs with such elegance and poignancy. The man is absolutely amazing.

Review: John Grant at Celtic Connections – King’s Theatre, Glasgow – Feb 1st, 2019

Support was by E.B. the Younger – the moniker of Midlake vocalist Eric Pulido, soon to release his solo debut. Now THERE’S the connection – John, of course, working with Midlake for his Queen Of Denmark debut.

Eric was joined on stage by keyboardist Dan. The pair of them have great vocal harmonies. He performed songs from his new album set for release in early March.

His music is quite easy going and he established a good rapport with the audience and was even piggybacked off stage by Dan at the end of the set. I look forward to seeing him again on Thursday night.

The stage crew set to work very quickly to get things set up for John. Only a short break was endured before he arrived on stage with regular, established band members, including the incomparable Budgie on drums. The more I watch him, the more I fall in love with his style and realise what a truly incredible drummer he is.

All was flowing well. I have to confess, once inside the King’s, it did seem a little strange a venue for what is essentially a rock gig but the crowd were into it and we were enjoying ourselves.

About the fifth song in they started to play album opener, Metamorphosis, and there was a technical problem. The song was halted, crew rushed on stage to sort it out, and while the problem was being rectified, John sat is his still fully functioning (and unaffected by the fault) keyboard to perform TC And Honeybear – which is just the most stunning and beautiful song. I wasn’t expecting him to perform too many of his older tunes, so it was a real treat. Was almost thankful for the technical hiccup!

By the time TC And Honeybear was through, the problem had been sorted and off we went with Metamorphosis again.

Others in the set included Preppy Boy, Smug Cunt, He’s Got His Mother’s Hips, Tempest, Love Is Magic, Is He Strange, Touch And Go – pretty much the whole album bar The Common Snipe (at least I think he did Diet Gum as well).

Those in the set not on Love Is Magic performed were Grey Tickles-Black Pressure, Pale Green Ghosts, Global Warming, Queen Of Denmark, JC Hates Faggots, Sensitive New Age Guy, GMF, Black Belt, Glacier, Fireflies, Caramel and Sigourney Weaver.

The surprise…or perhaps disappointment…of the night was that he DIDN’T perform Marz! I was okay with that, but I’m sure other fans would have been disappointed. If they were, it didn’t show in the crowd’s reception. Standing ovations towards the end of the set and after every song performed as an encore.

The crowd loved it. You could feel it. And apart from the technical fault at the start of Metamorphosis, the acoustics and sound levels were great.

I get taken to another place at a JG gig. I just lose myself, esp. on the more emotional tracks. Glacier was beautiful and epic, as was Queen Of Denmark. And…Budgie has me in awe. I love that man!

Top class, as always. I don’t think JG could ever do a shit gig. Well, I’ve never seen one.

Bring on Thursday and Cambridge!

Review: Loudon Wainwright III at Celtic Connections – Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow – Jan 30th 2019

I had been lucky enough to get myself a free ticket to see a recording of The Afternoon Show on BBC Radio Scotland yesterday morning. I knew Grant Stott would be presenting the show, and there would most likely be live music, but that was all I knew.

The Cottiers was packed out for the show. We all got seated and some of the musicians entered the room ready to start recording. I see this guy enter the room and I think “Geez, that bloke looks like Loudon Wainwright III – OMG… is it?!”

Yep! It was. I was chuffed! I had wanted to see him for years. I mean I am by no means a huge fan of folk music… not much of a fan at all, really. There are some exceptions, but generally, I don’t go out of my way to seek it out. LWIII is one of those exceptions I have always found him humorous and fun.

He was so great at the Afternoon Show, that as soon as it wrapped up and we were done, I walked down to the Royal Concert Hall and grabbed a ticket for the gig.

His support act, Karen Casey, had also performed on the Afternoon Show and I enjoyed her too.

She was great last night as well. She’s got wonderful talented musicians playing with her and she has a wonderful voice. She chatted a bit between songs and shared funny anecdotes. I enjoyed her set.

There was a lot of love in the room for LWIII as he walked on stage.

Funny from the get go. He spoke of his father. A fractuous relationship he had with him. His dad was a renowned writer for Time magazine. He shared some extracts of columns that his father wrote for Time. He told us that through the passage of time, after his dad’s death in 1988, he got to know him better and understand him better.

I can’t remember all the songs he did. I am not familiar with their titles, so they didn’t stick in the memory. But the ones I do remember from last night that he performed – Meet The Wainwrights – a theme for a show he did in which he, Rufus, his partner and their daughter Lucy toured Alaska with fans for a five date tour with the family – he had fun anecdotes to share about all that too. Five Years Old – a song he wrote about missing Martha’s 5th birthday.

One I recorded called “It Ain’t Gaza” – I will post it when I get home. Just a great thing about… if you think things are shit to just put it in some perspective.

It was a great show. I’d love to see him again. Funny, a little sad now and then and thought-provoking too. I’m so glad I went.

Review: Massive Attack – SSE Hydro, Glasgow – Jan 28th, 2019

First gig of the year could not have been more epic and compelling.

Due on stage at 8.30pm but fashionably late – the lights in the Hydro switched off about 8.45. The crowd went nuts… but they made us wait just a bit longer.

Incredible from the get go. You’d have thought someone just put the CD on over the speaker system… but no. Apart from some parts (loops, etc) that I assume are a backing track… it was all live. Two drummers! Love it!

Horace Andy performed tracks. And for a 67 year old man, he’s sounding great and still got the moves.

Several songs in, and out comes the Indie/New Wave Queen of Grangemouth… ladies and gentlemen, Ms Elizabeth Frazer. Of course she got a huge, rapturous welcome.

She performed Black Milk and the crowd went nuts after.

I’m not overly familiar with Mezzanine as an album… but they were performing tracks in a mixed up order.

A small pause after about 75 minutes on stage, and back they come with Horace Andy to perform a stonking version of Angel. And then the roof gets blown off the Hydro as Liz comes back out on stage and the opening chords to Teardrop start.

I’ve never heard a reaction like it after the song was done. I’m surprised it wasn’t a standing ovation, frankly.

A stunning gig. Great visuals. Some not easy to take. Text on screen. Thought-provoking messages. Almost like being at a live Adam Curtis screening.

I loved every second of it. And I definitely want to see them again.

I was a bit of the way up, so I don’t have the best pics, but here are a couple. I grabbed video footage of Angel but will have to share that when I’m back home, I think.

What an opener to the year!

Tripping Oot In Glasgow

Okay. I need to look to the good things I have coming up. Even though I am absolutely skint ta bloody fook (all of this stuff was arranged MONTHS ago with the optimistic viewpoint that I would have the funds now to manage it. NOPE!) – I have THREE gigs and one BBC Radio Scotland recording to go to. So, whilst being skint TF, I’ll be busy AF too.

I arrive in Glasgow on Monday morning, January 28th. Dunno what I’ll do through the day that day. Will probably get to the city centre around 11am – flight arriving to time, that is.

First gig on night one is Massive Attack at the Hydro. Never been a “HUGE” Massive Attack fan, as such…but have always loved what I’ve heard. Never seen them live. Never been to the Hydro – so, it’s going to be a new experience all round. Night one I stay at a hotel a short walking distance from the Hydro, to save myself the hassle of trying to get elsewhere within the city, and only needing to walk less than half a mile.

The 18 year old me would be ASTONISHED at what the 48 year old me will be doing in a couple of weeks time. Not only am I travelling to a city MILES away (approx. 370 of your finest imperial miles, in fact) but I am staying there – alone. Gigging – alone. Walking the streets of Glasgow – at night – ALONE.

I didn’t go to my first gig until I was 19 – a date with my new (and subsequently only) boyfriend. Every gig I had been to from there I was always with someone. Sheltered. Too scared to “live a little”. I never went to a single gig alone until 2017. And, funnily enough, it was in Glasgow. And, well, I walked the streets of Glasgow alone that night. And last year as well, when I was up there in January, taking part in a TV quiz. I’d gone to see a play the night before recording started – and had to walk through the city centre to get back to my hotel. So these days I very much try to live by the “life’s too short” philosophy and just stop trying to be a chicken shit. I am still a chicken shit about loads of things.

Anyway, I digress. The next day – I don’t have much planned. I’ll be staying up around the Finneston way for the rest of my stay in Glasgow. So I may just meander around Kelvingrove, The Hunterian, take another visit to the Mitchell Library and I want to check out the transport museum this time round too. THE CRAN! Got to check oot the Cran this time.

Wednesday I am going to a recording of The Afternoon Show at the Cottiers for Celtic Connections. There’ll be some free live music to enjoy, so that’ll be cool. It’s an early start for something called “the Afternoon Show” – admission to the recording starts at 9.30am for a 10am recording start time. I changed where I was staying, cos I was over the other end of the city staying somewhere else which was 4 miles away from the Cottiers so thought I’d better get my butt a bit closer. Had I been in better condition than I am currently, the notion of a four mile walk wouldn’t have worried me at all. And had it only been two miles away, I’d have stayed where I was, but there we go.

Thursday…nothing planned for the day, yet…but the evening is the Bard’s Tale concert. So I’ll need to be in the centre city and down by the Royal Concert Hall around 6pm.

Friday, a similar thing. Nothing planned for certain during the day, but the evening is the John Grant gig. And I am staying only a quarter of a mile from the venue, so, very handy.

Saturday – my flight leaves Glasgow at 3pm, so I won’t have a lot of time to do too much.

There’ll be a few people to catch up with through the week as well. And I wanted to take a look at areas of the city of interest for OTHER reasons. I may even sneak over to Edinburgh for a day as well. We’ll see.

So…it could turn out to be a jam packed week! And I really don’t want a cloud of negativity hanging over me during this week. No way. Despite being worried about the money situ…I can enjoy myself while being careful.

That’s Entertainment – AND Inspiration!

Wow! What a story, Lesley O’Toole! Your first professionl journalist’s interview being granted by Jim…and from there?! I’ll let Lesley tell the story herself in these two wonderful posts shared on Instagram.

Thank you for sharing the story, Lesley.

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Jim Kerr and me: December 8, 1982 at London’s Lyceum. In 1984 when I was still a law student at Bristol University, and still wild about Simple Minds, I wrote my first ever professional magazine piece – an interview with Jim. All the Scottish bands and loads more used to stay at London’s (in)famous Columbia Hotel so I wrote to JK c/o the hotel, asked him if he’d do the interview, and included a stamped addressed envelope. He wrote back saying: “Yes, 2pm Sunday.” I already had my own fanzine but this was the start of my “proper” career as an entertainment journalist. I still wonder if I’d be a lawyer now were it not for this. I certainly wouldn’t be as blessed and happy as I am living in LA. So thank you Jim for saying yes, and thank you Simple Minds for 35+ years of pure joy. Breathless with excitement for more of it at LA’s beautiful Orpheum Theatre later. ❤️🙏🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿🎤🎸🥁 . . . . . @simplemindsmusic @gedgrimesmusic @cherissedrums #simpleminds #jimkerr #orpheumtheatre #thewaywewere #myfaveband #columbiahotel

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#FBF Simple Minds have been my favourite band for too long to mention – since I was a kid anyway. Jim Kerr was also my first professional interview as a journalist and who knows if I’d even have become one were it not for that and him. Last month I found myself in the front row for their concert at LA’s gorgeous Orpheum Theatre. And then Jim spotted me and sang to me. Which song? Only my all-time Simple Minds fave – Someone Somewhere in Summertime. Gigantic coincidence or no? No in fact – but some sort of conspiracy perpetrated by my friend Ged Grimes, their brilliant bass player, who somehow remembered my fave song, saw me in the audience and conspired with JK. I have no photos or video (these were taken later that night) but it will be in my head forever. Ged and Jim – thank you! I adore you both and this meant the world. And Happy St. Andrew’s Day to all my Scottish friends. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿❤️🎤 . . . . . . . @gedgrimesmusic @simplemindsmusic #gedgrimes #jimkerr #simpleminds #orpheumtheatrela #orpheumtheatre #someonesomewhereinsummertime #magicmoment #standrewsday #scotland #lovescotland

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