Nomzamo

Posted on 19th May 2012

Earlier this month, on the 5th May 2012, The Paul Menel Band, stripped down to Paul and Steve, together with special guest Martin Orford, provide support to Pendragon at The Assembly in Leamington Spa. They may have been the supporting band, with an early time slot, but word had got out that doors were opening early, as nearly half the venue was full by the time the guys took to the stage. A great turn out, as even the Assembly staff noted.

Paul and Martin came on stage first for a rousing rendition of the Piano/Vocal Version of No Love Lost. A great start to the set, and got everybody eagerly awaiting the other delights from the Nomzamo 25 Years Anniversary Tour. This tour was a celebration of the release of Nomzamo, the album Paul and Martin first joined forces on, when they were in IQ back in 1987. 25 years later, the songs are as classic as they were back in 1987. Paul then welcomed Steve to join the two on stage. The Nomzamo set then continued with one of the best live performances of Promises (a personal favourite) and Nomzamo, the title track of the album.

To break the set up, the band added a few surprises throughout the set. The first surprise was a track from Martin's latest solo album, The Old Road, with Paul and Steve doing a fantastic job of Ray Of Hope. Common Ground began with Steve sitting on the floor with the acoustic guitar, having forgotten to arrange to have a stool on stage, and ended with some great electric guitar fret work, much to the appreciation of the audience. The next surprise, of sorts, was the Paul Menel Band song She's Up On The Chair Again, taken from the forthcoming album. Then on to the final song from the Nomzamo part of the set, Still Life, with yet more amazing guitar solos from Steve.

As so to the final song of the night. Although I knew ahead of the set what it would be, I hadn't seen the rehearsals, so wasn't quite expecting the result. As Steve stepped forward to the mic I was just expecting some backing vocals, and was just as surprised and impressed as everyone else when he took on the Roger Waters vocals for Comfortably Numb. Paul and Martin handled Dave Gilmour's vocals to great effect too. It was an unusual song for the set, but an absolute delight too.

Seeing Martin on stage again after so many years, was great, to see him playing and singing was fantastic, to see that he and Paul sounded as good as they did 25 years ago, if not better, was a joy. The following weekend they repeated the performance at De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Holland, to just as much applause. Hopefully, this won't be the last time we see Paul and Martin on stage together, as there is already talk of an Are You Sitting Comfortably 25 Years Anniversary Tour in 2014 :)

If you missed the gig, fear not we recorded the whole event, and you can now watch the full set on YouTube. You can either watch via the playlist, or by clicking the links below to view the individual song performances:

Photos coming soon.

File Under: gigs / menel / music
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Things Don't Mean What They Used To

Posted on 26th March 2012

Back in the '90s a young band touted themselves round the Midlands and sometimes further afield. Unfortunately I never got to see them, but did acquire a cassette tape at some point and remember being impressed. I was later told that the keyboard player was my mate Pete Spoz, who I'd got to know as one of the Jellyheads, who used to come along to many of the early Ark gigs. The tape is now somewhere in the loft in one of many boxes og hidden gems.

A few months ago, Pete told me that Giovanni (Pete's brother) was reforming The Sordid Details with Mick Couch, Rick Cox and himself. Here was my chance.

Sadly due to other commitments, of the three Re-Onion dates, Bromsgrove is the only one I could make. So on the 18th March, over to The Hop Pole in Bromsgrove I went for my first Sordid Details gig. Full of friends and family, the night was set for a top gig.

The band began as The Sordid Details, with a great selection of their own classics, along with a couple of covers, the first of which, Wish Away, they were joined by their good friend Ash on vocals. After about an hour they closed the first set with The Stranglers classic No More Heroes.

The second set began with a selection of songs from their days as Stereogram, when they played as a three-piece after Pete left. Pete rejoined them on stage for a run through a selection of covers, and a few more of The Sordid Details classics, before Dave from Jam DRC peformed some guest vocals with the band.

The night ended all too quickly, even though the band had been playing for over two hours! A fantastic night and I'm only sad that I won't be able to see them play The Flapper & Firkin in Birmingham on Saturday 31st March. If you happened to be in town on Saturday and fancy a great night out, you'll not be disappointed with The Sordid Details. Hopefully they'll come out retirement again some day, so I see if my bootleg tape recorder still works!

File Under: bromsgrove / gigs / music / photography
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Sold On You

Posted on 27th November 2011

Two weekends ago, The Paul Menel Band played their first gig with their new line-up. Debbie Saunders joins the band on sax, and adds that soulful sound back into the mix.

The venue, The Marr's Bar in Worcester was a great little club, and I hope I get to see more gigs there. It's only downside was the fact that it is typically an 18s and over type venue, due to licensing, and as a consequence there is a large young audience in the town that aren't able to get in to see gigs. This is a shame as I think we should be encouraging a younger audience to live gigs, as so many venues have closed due to lack of attendance. Hopefully The Marr's Bar doesn't suffer the same fate.

The gig itself was brilliant as always. Due to a late cancellation of the support act, Paul's son Luke Menel stepped in and provided us with a stunning performance of various acoustic indie tracks. Considering his age, Luke is truly a star in the making, and it will be great to see his musical career progress.

Being a small venue, the band's energy was bursting at the seems, and you could tell everyone was enjoying themselves. Several times during the set, Steve Harris looked lost in his only little world with licks flying along the fret board. Steve Swift, Bill Devey and Ian Diment all deftly locked the band into the groove and allowed Debbie, Dr Steve and Paul to soar, as they did often.

During Under Your Wing, Paul brought Luke back on stage to add backing vocals as he does on the forthcoming album, Three Sides to Every Story. The song itself is a very personal song for both Paul and Luke, so it was great to see them both taking centre stage. Tonight was a great showcase for the band, and hopefully some videos from tonight will eventually surface on YouTube as we had several different camera angles on the go.

In the meantime, collating my photos of the night we have the soundcheck, Luke's performance as well as the headliners.

Date: 12th November 2011
Venue: The Marr's Bar, Worcester

File Under: gigs / menel / photography
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If You Think About It

Posted on 6th November 2011

It's been a while since I posted some gig photos, and last week Nicole and I attended a rather fun gig. Our friends the Superficials were playing The Actress & Bishop in Birmingham, and as usual I took a long my trusty camera.

Alas I didn't realise that the batteries need charging so only managed to capture half the gig. Still for me that was still 600 photos! Thankfully I did manage to get some decent photos among those 600, and you can see a selection of them at the link below.

Being the weekend closest to Halloween, unsurprisingly the venue was full of the traditional vampires, ghouls and zombies ... including the staff :) However, the most surprising was a guest appearance by Andy Pandy! I can only assume the costume hire shop had run out of scary monsters.

Superficials were great as always, and deserved the top of the bill. They far and away showed off their quality of musicianship and song performance to be the better band of the night. Featuring many songs from their debut album as well as many as yet unrecorded songs, the band played a fine set. To honour Sir Jimmy Saville, the band dedicated Pushing Daisies to the great man who sadly died earlier in the day. With them playing so many great songs that weren't on the debut album, Surface, though, I am really looking forward to hearing their second album. A great band and a great night.

And should you now wish you'd been there too, another reason for posting the set now is also to highlight and promote a very special gig the band are doing this weekend at The Rubery Social Club, New Road, Rubery on Saturday 12th November.

It's a charity event and all the proceeds go to an extremely worthy cause. If you're in or around Rubery or Birmingham on Saturday and are looking for something to do, your support and attendance would be very much appreciated.

Superficials along with Black Bears and The High Commisioners will be playing the night away, to pay tribute to a young boy called Owen Evans, who sadly died last year from a very rare disease called Aplastic Anaemia. The gig aims to raise awareness for Aplastic Anaemia as well promoting 'A Trek For Owen'.

The whole of Owen's school, Beaconside Primary & Nursery School, have been raising funds by way of charity runs and other events and now Saturday's big event Live Band Night. There will be a raffle during the night too with some special prizes. Tickets are £5 for Adults and £2.50 for Children (Under 12′s).

On 12th May 2012 Owen's mum Sue, his headteacher Paul and family friend Lexi will be walking along The Great Wall of China to help raise £10,000 for Team Owen.

If you can't make the event on Saturday, you can still help Team Owen reach their £10,000 goal by supporting them at JustGiving or buying the special A Trek For Owen wristbands. It really is a worthy cause.

File Under: charity / gigs / music / superficials
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Dreams (Keep Me Alive)

Posted on 21st April 2011

On Saturday, 2nd April 2011, the Superficials played their first gig at The Hawthorns Social Club in Rubery. After being stuck in the studio recording their debut album for several months, it was great to actually hear the songs that Pete had been telling everyone about.

Attended by friends and family, the gig was primarily a private gig in celebration of fellow Jellyhead Craig's 40th birthday. As such, it was a very supportive audience, not that it was hard to win anyone over. The songs are very infecious, the playing was top notch and the performance from the whole band was solid.

The band consist of Martyn Terry on vocals & sax, Trevor Flowers on lead guitar, dB on drums, Cheese on rhythm guitar and Pete Spoz on bass, keyboards & backing vocals. Despite being a new band, the collective members have a wealth of previous experience under their belts, and although it might have been their first gig, you could easily be forgiven for thinking they've been playing together for several years.

Running through the complete album, as well as several unrecorded songs, the band settled into a groove quickly, and took us on a tour of aural delights. Their sound, although very indie/rock in nature has some mod and classic rock influences too, which suits the current climate of interest for indie bands at the moment. Songs like Emergency and The Truth highlight the band's foot-tapping rythmic grooves, Pushing Daises and Futureday bring out a more jangly-pop sound, while songs such as Dreams (Keep Me Alive) show off the band's more soulful side. Although I can't hear specific influences, there are parts that remind me of bands like The Mighty Lemon Drops or The Trashcan Sinatras, and even The Jam. All in all a great mix of tunes and well worth checking out.

My thanks to Pete for the setlist:

Emergency
Superficial
Eye Of The Storm
Spinning Song
Pushing Daises
Dreams (Keep Me Alive)
The Truth
Nostalgia Lies
If You Think About It
Futureday
All The People
Two Thousand Days
Generation
America
28000 Miles

For more details on the band, visit the Superficials page on Reverbnation or follow the Superficials on Facebook. The album, Surface, is out now, and with more gigs lined up, you'd be wise to see them now before the NIA and world wide tours beckon.

Check out more photos from the gig:

This is part one of Craig's 40th Birthday Bash. Part two with The Festival Experience will appear soon.

File Under: gigs / music / photography / superficials
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Walk In My Shoes

Posted on 15th April 2011

I first met Paul Menel back in 1985, when he joined IQ. It was at the old Marquee Club on Wardor Street in London, and ended up being a great night. Last year was the first time I'd seen him for several years, having hid himself away from the limelight. It was great news to hear he was back with a new band and a new album.

The album, Three Sides To Every Story, is awaiting release, although if you were at any of Paul's gigs earlier this year, you hopefully bought one of the 5-track samplers. The new band has been working on the songs, and since the original recordings, the live performances have taken on a life of their own.

Paul and the band will be supporting Khaliq next week at the O2 Academy Birmingham on Friday 22nd April, and have busy rehearsing for the gig. With the departure of John Jowitt, the band have been breaking in new boy Steve Swift to the new live set. With the Khaliq gig being a support slot, the set will maiinly focus on the forthcoming album, but they'll still be something to keep the iQ fans interested too.

The rehearsals themselves went really well, with smiles all round by the end of the night. It was also great to hear Luke guesting on backing vocals, as he did on the original recordings :)

After looking back through the photos, I really am going to have a start a photo collection entitled 'The Many Faces of Bill Devey'. I used to think it was only guitarists that practised gurning during guitar solos, but Bill was putting every guitarist to shame the other night ;)

Expect more photos from the gig after next week.

File Under: gigs / menel / music
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Who Knows Where The Time Goes

Posted on 27th March 2011

Alvechurch Acoustic Roots Review
Friday 25th March 2011
Alvechurch Social Club

Since Alvechurch's very own Slim Pickins was put on indefinite hold, there was still a desire to do something on the last Friday of the month. So in January the very first Alvechurch Acoustic Roots Review took place. The night is quite different from the previous Roots & Blues Club, but does feature some familiar faces. The biggest difference of the night is that everyone is there to listen to some interesting performances, rather than just out for a night of music. It's created a very different dynamic within the audience, the most noticeable affect being that everyone stops talking and listens to each act. As most performers only play two songs each, it allows for a lot of variety.

To beginning the night, as per usual is Paul Chamberlain, who was then followed by Pippa Morley opening with Black Velvet and Angie O'Rourke performing a very pared down version of Dancing In The Dark. Next up were The Withybed Poets. While most of the performers tonight are singers or musicians, The poetry readings from The Withybed Poets added a nice flavour to the night. The first set ended with a change to the planned roster, with Nicole performing a song she had written with Graham Higgins (the act she filled in for), but which has yet to receive a title.

The second set featured a band put together for the night, Public Sector, featuring Graeme, Paul, Keith and Tony. The highlight of their set has to be their own unique interpretation of The Erie Canal, reworked as The Worcester Canal, with the Captain Pugwash theme tune tagged onto the end. The Withybed Poets came back for a second stint, adding Sam to their line-up. Of all the poems they performed The Doctor's Waiting Room by Meg was a personal favourite, which together with her earlier ode to Rugby Players, proved Meg has quite a talent for the comedic poem. Next up was Katherine, featuring a rendition of Joni Mitchell's Marcie. Last act of the second set featured Iain & Nicole. The first song was one penned by Iain, The Snowflake Song, with their second song Who Knows Where The Time Goes by the Sandy Denny, who Iain admitted before playing the song that he only discovered recently, while Nicole has been a long time fan, and has performed a few of her songs solo at the Roots & Blues Club.

For the third set, Pete Gates featured some traditional blues songs on quite a unique brass guitar. Adrian Perry then took us back to the early seventies with rendtions of Ruby Tuesday, and the great sing-a-long Strawbs' Part Of The Union. Interesting to note that most of the audience knew all the words, especially the chorus! Adrian then added backing to final act of the set, Sue & Fiona. Their second song introducing us to some great "Gaelic mouth music".

For the final set, the Acoustic Roots Orchestra take to the stage, with most of the participants having already played during the night. The Orchestra is a result of The Workshop run by Paul to nuture talent within the village, and give those who might not otherwise feel brave enough to play on their own, a chance to meet others and work on ideas and songs.

It was a great night and a great selection of performers. The mix of music and performance worked well as did the idea of having several sets with breaks between. If you like quality acoustic folk, then you'd be a fool to miss future nights. The next Alvechurch Acoustic Roots Review will be on Friday 6th May.

Acoustic Roots Review featured:

Paul Chamberlain
Pippa Morley
Angie O'Rourke
Withybed Poets
Nicole Perrott Hughes
--
Public Sector
Withybed Poets
Katherine
Iain Howarth & Nicole Perrott Hughes
--
Pete Gates
Adrian Perry
Sue Resuggan & Fiona Holmes
--
Acoustic Roots Orchestra

Photos:

File Under: gigs / music / people / review
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She Brings Sun

Posted on 24th March 2011

The Bleeding Hearts
19th March 2011
Katie Fitzgeralds, Stourbridge.

This was the first gig of the year for The Bleeding Hearts, and comes in the middle of recording their new album. As such it was a suitable occasion to air some of their new songs. The night was a good mix of new and old, and even though some live favourites were abscent, it wasn't noticable until after the gig. The new songs worked well with the old, and the band sound tight again, despite not playing live since November last year.

The venue was a small cellar bar, and although it looked cramped on stage, Steve, Gel and Lizzie managed to find space enough to bounce around as per usual, with Gaz and Ewan holding the fort behind them. The recent addition of mandolin to band's overall sound is a good choice. With Gel and Gaz laying a solid foundation to the band's sound, and Steve cutting to the point, it allows both Lizzie and Ewan the freedom to add flavours to the sound the emphaise all the other parts. Steve did comment that Ewan's role in the band was to "keep it nice", Steve own role was to "keep it nasty". It does make for a great punk folk sound.

The set began with a firm live favourite, Democracy, and the fun never let up once. The first part of the set was a run through a selection from the past few albums, before introducing some of the new songs to the set. The first new song, Brian, was in honour of the Family Guy character, before continuing on with the likes of Screaming, The Damage You Do, Fear Of The Dark and She Brings Sun. As per usual, for Hardly Anything Gel traded in his bass for drumstick and tamborine, and frequently emulated and embelished the poses of Lizzie's fiddle playing on the opposite side of the stage. Not quite Duelling Banjos, but they're getting there ;)

Then came a run of three new songs, first Land Of Folk And Glory, followed by the very reggae influenced In The Name Of The People, which kept the groove of the night bouncing along nicely. Finally the last of the new songs, which poked fun at the social networking way of life. For the moment, until I can find a title, it shall be known as The Facebook Song. Finishing off with a couple of older songs, rather than head off to the back room only to come out a moment later to do an encore, the band remained on stage. Final song of the night, Caravan Song, bookended the set with another classic from Fly In The Face Of Fashion.

A great night, and if tonights airings are anything to go by, the new album is going to be cracker. A band not to be missed.

UPDATE: Gel tells me the real name of the new song is Fake Book. A much better title :)

File Under: bleedinghearts / gigs / music
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Promises (As The Years Go By)

Posted on 30th January 2011

On the 14th November 1985 I went along to The Marquee on Wardor Street in London to see the first gig by IQ with their new singer. I had been there 4 months earlier to witness Peter's last gig (at the time) with the band, so like everyone else was keen to see what the future held for the band.

Having got to know the band and crew very well, I got there early and was fortunate enough to be in the club helping Lol focus the lamps when Paul Menel appeared. Doubtless all the introductions washed over Paul, but he and the fans got to know each other well over subsequent years. After 2 successful albums,  and bigger success in Europe for IQ, in 1989 Paul decided to move on. After an initial release of 'Freedom', also featuring Tim Esau, things went quite for several years.

Then in 2010 after some chance meetings, Paul started to pull together a new band, and started writing songs that would be recorded for his forthcoming album, Three Sides To Every Story. With John Jowitt and Steve Harris, both recently of arK fame, recruited into the band, they began rehearsals for a short mini tour.

The first gig at The Peel in Kingston upon Thames, took place on 29th January 2011. It was a great night and it was worth the wait to see Paul back on form again. Playing songs from his time with IQ, as well as several new songs, the band were having a great time, as were the audience. Playing for just under 2 hours, the fans were treated to some classic performances, including two versions of Sold On You, after the backing track in Promises played up in the encore. Surprise of the night was the rare performance of Colourflow, complete with a Dancing In The Dark moment of picking the girl from the audience to sing the duet with Paul.

The new songs fit well with the old songs, and several are a natural progression from the days of IQ. Personal favourite of the night, and on the album too, was Little Gorgeous Fool. Don't miss the band live if they're playing near you.

For more my photos of the gig: Paul Menel @ The Peel 29th Jan 2011

File Under: ark / gigs / iq / menel
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The Last Sucker

Posted on 9th June 2008

Last Monday I finally got to see Ministry, as they took in Wolverhampton on their "C U LaTour" farewell tour. The gig was great, if a little unusual, and featured plenty of moshing. They played for just over 2 hours, and was the same set they've played elsewhere in the UK. The only difference between the UK set and the US set has been to replace the final encore of Under My Thumb (Rolling Stones cover) with What A Wonderful World (Louis Amstrong). I bought the covers album on the way out, and having heard the tracks, I think perhaps the UK set ended on a more upbeat note than the US one.

The main set consisted of 4 or 5 tracks from the last 3 albums, and as such was a very anti-Bush type of affair. Not that I mind the songs, but in the UK the sentiment behind the songs isn't perhaps as powerful as they are in the US. Seeing as it was the first time I had got to see them (I've missed the last 3 tours for a variety of reasons, all of which have been extremely frustrating), I was happy to hear anything. The first set of encores featured So What, NWO, Just One Fix and Thieves, all of which I was more than happy with. It would have been great to have heard others, but had I sorted myself out properly and got to earlier tours I would have.

The band played behind wire mesh, which gave the effect of The Blues Brothers playing Rawhide in that country bar from the film. It actually gave the whole stage a club feel, and the audience certainly reacted as if it was too. There was plenty of moshing going on, but as the venue wasn't completely sold out, there was still space to avoid the mosh if you wanted to. In fact it was probably one of the most polite mosh pits I've ever witnessed, which is possible due to the fact many of the moshers were punks and a couple of girls even got stuck in. Nobody got really hurt and there was very much a good shared riotous enjoyment about it all. I stood on the edge of the mosh pit, and had a great view of the stage. I haven't looked at the photos yet, but hopefully some of them came out.

It'll be a pity not to be able to see the band again, but Al feels his journey with Ministry has come to an end, and seeing as he has plenty of other projects still lined-up, it's unlikely it'll be the last we'll hear of him, and maybe a RevCo or Lard tour might happen. Well I can wish can't I ;)

File Under: gigs / ministry / music
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So Glad 2B Alive

Posted on 12th May 2008

Back in February we went to see Bleeding Hearts as The Adam & Eve in Digbeth, Birmingham. It was also Gel's 40th birthday, and a great gig to celebrate it. It was also great to see Paul Rogers at the gig too, who I hadn't seen since my days with Ark, in fact since 1994. There were quite a few old faces in the audience, as well as plenty of new ones too. The was a complete mixture of old and new songs, with more emphasis on the newer songs. I did mean to make a note of the setlist, but got complete caught up in taking photos.

The Adam & Eve is quite a small pub, though long, so although you can't necessarily see well at the back, you could definitely hear the band. In fact most of Digbeth could probably hear them, and undoubtly would have said they deserved all the encores asked of them. After the live album I was quite eager to see the band again, but unfortunately it ended up being a little longer than intended. Since The Adam & Eve gig, they've done a couple of German tours now, and are set up to do a few UK gigs around the Midlands, so hopefully we'll be catching up with them soon. Expect more photos then, and hopefully a setlist next time around.

File Under: birmingham / bleedinghearts / gigs / music / photography
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That's Entertainment

Posted on 13th March 2008

Last weekend The Coopers played at the last (for now) Scooter Do event. The night was a great finish to what has been a great couple of years. With Kev now back playing drums again, with The Coopers, his weekends are taken up more and more by either work or gigs, and there doesn't seem to be much time for The Scooter Do. Kev has said it probably won't be the last ever Scooter Do, but it will be the last one for quite some time. Perhaps once a year or on a special occasion when nothing else is happening.

I knew a few faces from previous events and The Ship Ashore days, but it was also good to see so many people I didn't know there. Congrats to Kev for making this such a success over the last few years.

The Coopers played a great set, featuring a variety of Mod associated songs from the 60s up to present day, including Time For Action, All Or Nothing and ending with a great version of I Predict A Riot. However, the part of the set that I quite enjoyed was with just Rob and Jeff, with Rob on vocals and acoustic guitar and Jeff on bass, playing That's Entertainment.

After a chat with Kev a while back they've managed to aquire some other coloured lights, although they still have a preference for red, which means it can be very difficult for a photographer. Still I think I did rather well and managed to capture them suitably well on stage. Next time, I've suggested they use a peach or amber instead of the red, as that will give them a much better warmth of colour both live and on film. It would be good to see them on a bigger stage too, as the band didn't have a lot of space to move at the weekend.

We'll have to keep an eye for forthcoming local gigs ... or just get Kev to text us :)

 

File Under: coopers / gigs / music / photography
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Are 'Friends' Electric?

Posted on 11th March 2008

Opening with Replicas

Opening with Replicas

JJ and I went to see Gary Numan last night at The Wulfren Hall in Wolverhampton. After a succesful tour in 2006 playing the Telekon album, which alas I missed, this time around it was the turn of Replicas. Playing the complete album, with b-sides and even a couple of the out-takes it was almost like being there back in 1979. He'd even recreated the same stage set, with the bands of lights behind the keyboard players. Replicas, like most of my generation, was the first album I heard by Gary Numan, albeit as Tubeway Army, and seeing him on Top Of The Pops performing Down In The Park and later Are 'Friends' Electric?, was captivating for an impressionable 14 year-old. It really does seem odd to think I've been a fan for nearly 30 years.

Last week Gary celebrated his 50th birthday at the gig in Manchester, apparently announcing that he was born at 10.30pm, so on the stroke of the half hour, his wife brought out a cake and the audience wished him happy birthday. It must have been quite a strange moment to be on stage, celebrating your 50th birthday, while playing songs that are over 30 years old and still as cherished as they were all those years ago.

The gig last night began with support act, Daggers, who never really impressed me. They sounded too much like so many other bands, and in places their intros even made me think they were about to play a cover by OMD, Ultravox or even Gary Numan. They played well, but they definitely need to strive to carve their own identity instead of chasing the tails of their inspirations.

The audience tape for the night featured Nine Inch Nails and just before the band took to the stage we got to hear Trent's version of Metal. Some of the crowd joined in, and the cries for "Nu-man" died down for a few minutes. The signal came from a stage hand and the lights went out. The bands of lights and backing lights fading up to bright red as the band sauntered on stage. Launching into Replicas, the band showed a very different style to the songs that can be heard on the record. The live sound was much more guitar orientated, understandably seeing as Gary was also playing guitar for many of the songs. It created a very stark sound rather than the big synth sounds that are heard on the album.

Unfortunately, I can't remember the order of songs, but they did play every track off Replicas, the b-sides We Are So Fragile and Do You Need The Service?, together with the later released out-takes The Crazies and We Have A Technical. Ending the main set with Are Friends Electric?, ended the Replicas era songs. returning for the encores the band actually seemed to step up a gear, both Cars and Everyday I Die sounded a lot more like the band were enjoying themselves. The closing song of the night was from the album Pure, A Prayer For The Unborn. Over the last three albums (Exile, Pure and Jagged) I think numan has recorded some of his best stuff. Listening to the band playing A Prayer For The Unborn, it was noticeable that there was a dramatic difference between it and all the other songs of the night. With A Prayer For The Unborn the sound seemed to invade every corner of the room and get inside you, drawing you deeper into the music. This was JJ's first Numan gig, and I wasn't too surprised to discovered that the last song was the one that caught his attention.

There's talk of the next tour featuring The Pleasure Principal. As much as I like the album, I do think I would prefer to hear him playing some new material instead. Last night was a trip down memory lane, and meant I got to hear several songs that I've never heard him play before, and while that's great for a couple of tours, doing a third would just be a bit too much. Still I'll probably go, as I've never yet come out of a Numan gig and felt like I didn't have a great night.

I used my camera phone again, and while some of the shots are a good memory of the gig, I am getting far too frustrated by the ability of the camera for these kinds of pictures. Looking at other pictures on the web, and the fact that several people had camera phones and seemed to be taking far better photos than I was, I'm rather disappointed with the N95. Despite being a 5MP camera, even in daylight unless you are closeup to the subject that pictures just aren't that good. At JJ's suggestion I tried playing with all the settings to see whether it was an improvement. In most cases it was worse. However, I have picked a selection to share here. I also took some videos, but even though we weren't right in front of the speakers the inbuilt microphone just isn't up to the job of recording gigs. I think I'll be doing a little more research later in the year when I get the chance to upgrade my phone again.

File Under: gigs / music / numan / photography / wolverhampton
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Something That I Said

Posted on 29th January 2008

Last night Nicole and I went to see Henry Rollins play in Wolverhampton. He's a lesson for any performer in many ways. He's entertaining, funny, thought provoking, informative and a tour guide. He also performed for just over 3 hours, taking only one drink of water in the middle of the show and spoke non-stop about his life, his adventures and his observations on the world. I've been a fan of Henry Rollins' spoken word performances for many years and have been fortunate enough to see him on several occasions (I can even be seen in the audience of the 'Live In London' Video/DVD), as well as owning pretty much every spoken word album he's ever released. Last night Nicole thought he performed the best she's ever seen him. Admittedly she's only seen him once before, but I would also have to agree.

The show started tentatively, with Henry apologising for not having been to Wolverhampton since the late 90s, about 10 years ago. With Birmingham being only just down the road, that isn't too bad, as he's played Birmingham a few times since then. As long as he plays the midlands I'm happy, as it means I don't have to trek up and down the motorway to see him. Once he got into his stride, and got the feel of the audience, he settled down and got into the flow of his story telling. By the end of his set, he was wise-cracking those leaving to relieve themselves or a couple who had to leave slightly before the end. Not maliciously I might add, but making it obvious you were fair game if you disturbed his flow. Not that he missed a beat anyway. Off at tangents he would recall interesting asides, to return to the main thread of his story just when you thought he'd forgotten where he was going.

Prior to the gig, through the PA we got to listen to a compilation of songs by The Ruts. At first I thought it was The Crack album, but seeing as Staring at The Rude Boys also featured, it must have been some compilation CD or a self made compilation. Henry is a big Ruts fan, and although I wouldn't particularly classify myself as a big fan, I certainly liked them and would have loved to have seen them had I been allowed to go up to Manchester one night, like my friend Alan did. However, seeing as I was only 14 at the time, my parents were rather understandably not going to let me go on my own. Henry told of how the remaining members of the band asked him recently to front a reformed line-up, as it would be Paul's last gig, having just been diagnosed with lung cancer. As he told the story of practicing the songs in his apartment, meeting and rehearsal the band and finally playing the gig on July 16th at the Academy in Islington, London, I couldn't help but wished I'd been aware of the gig, as I would loved to have been there. With The Damned and UK Subs playing, it would have been great, but also getting to finally see The Ruts, would have been memorable. The Damned, UK Subs, The Buzzcocks and others are doing a tour together later in the year, I'm thinking it might be an idea to get tickets.

The major lesson to many performers is not only did he stand on stage for just over 3 hours, but it also only cost £16 for a ticket. That's roughly £5 per hour. It's not unusual these days to pay £30+ for 90 minutes of music (if you're lucky). I walked out of the Wulfrun Hall last night feeling like I went to a gig and got value for money. I'm not a fan of The Rollins Band, and I can't say I was a really a fan of Black Flag either, but as a spoken word performer, Henry proves he has a talent for story telling that few could revival. He's 4 years old than I am, and it's encouraging for me that he's still got the same ferocity and intensity for life as he did when he was first playing in bands. It crossed my mind that unless he comes a cropper on his adventures to Pakistan (he was on holiday in Islamabad at the time of Benazir Bhutto's death), Syria, Lebannon or another interesting place, I'm likely to enjoy hearing his stories and observations for many years to come, to the point I wouldn't be surprised to see him walking the stage in his 80s or 90s, entertaining and thought provoking as ever.

Thanks Hank, it was a great night, and I look forward to the next tour.

I'm currently listening to Get In The Van in the car at the moment, and have The Ruts lined up for later :)

File Under: gigs / henryrollins / spokenword / wolverhampton
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Standing (still)

Posted on 9th January 2008

VNV Nation at Barfly, Birmingham

VNV Nation at Barfly, Birmingham

Just before Christmas, JJ and I went to see VNV Nation at The Barfly (downstairs at The Institute for those that remember that instead) in Birmingham. The gig itself was great and you can see my photos online. However, I was a little disappointed with the photos. A woman near the front looked like she had a camera similar to my Fujifilm FinePix 5100, and I wished I taken mine along now, but seeing as I had my Nokia N95 camera phone with me, at 5MP I thought it would be enough to get some decent pictures. Alas no. I haven't looked into the technical data too well, but I have a feeling that the problem stems from the sensor, as in dark settings the picture pixelates far too much and has difficulty focusing. It seems to work well in bright light, except for camera shake, but for gigs it just doesn't match the quality of my Fuji camera.

With so many people having camera phones, and there were plenty of people taking photos at VNV Nation, I wonder how much effort is being made to stop people walking into gigs with cameras. When I first started going to gigs, walking in with cameras and tape recorders wasn't a problem. The during the late 80s and 90s most larger venues insisted on searching you and confiscating any recording equipment. It meant bootleggers got very good a walking in with tape recorders very cleverly concealed, although that wasn't too difficult with some of the profession recorders as they were quite small.

I haven't done any recording of gigs for a long time, and although I still have my recorder and mic, it is currently awaiting hibernation in the attic. I would have loved to have recorded VNV Nation, and in retrospect I wished I'd recorded KMFDM at Dudley JB's back in October 2005 (my first KMFDM gig). I don't go to that many gigs these days, but one aspect of not having the recording equipment strapped to me is that I can jump around, shout and sing without worry that I'm ruining the recording.

I'm well out of the tape trading scene these days, so if there are any recordings of the tour, whether or not Birmingham is among them, I don't hold out much hope of finding a copy.

The band looked like they really enjoyed the gig, and for their first time playing Brum it went down very well, so fingers crossed they'll return next time around. There has always been a big goth scene in Brum, so hopefully the likes Apoptygma Beserk and Front 242 can be tempted this way. And while we're at it, a visit from Fields Of The Nephilim and/or Last Rights wouldn't go unappreciated. Although most of all I'm hoping to finally get to see Ministry on their final tour. Oh and KMFDM can come back too :)

File Under: gigs / music / photography / vnvnation
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Twenty Years On

Posted on 3rd January 2008

Ark Appreciation Pages

Ark Appreciation Pages

Sometimes it's easy to think we live in a small world.

Over Christmas I played a few games of Hunters And Gatherers with DanDan. It's a game he really likes and the rest of my games are little too advanced for him at the moment. As a consequence I don't get to play Settlers Of Catan, El Garnde, Rail Baron or Elfenland very much these days. Every now and then I think about going along to a local games club, but never seem to get around to it. On New Year's Day I decided to lookup the Halesowen Boardgamers website again, except it seems I found the old website. I've thought about going along a few times over the last 5 years or so, but with their meetings clashing with Perl or Linux meetings, it's not happened.

As the website I found (the old one as it turned out) hadn't been updated in a while, I felt prompted to check whether the group is still going and sent an email. It seems they do still meet, every Wednesday at the same venue. Then I got a second email from Dave, who helps run the club. He'd had a quick look at my website and was surprised to discover that I had been involved with the band Ark. It turns out he was the original drummer with Damascus, the band that laid the foundations for Ark, and I even had him listed on the website! He tells me he has lots of stories, photos and even some tapes of the early days, so fingers crossed some of them may materialise on the website at some point. If nothing else he says I've definitely got to come along to a club meet :)

Even though Ark ended over 12 years ago, there is still a lot of affection and interest for them. Band members still occasionally drop me a line to let me know what they're doing or help to fill in some of the gaps on the website. Fans often ask if I have various releases available. Every now and then I'll meet someone who has seen them live, usually at Edwards No.8 and will reminisce how much they enjoyed the gig. With Gel still playing locally with Bleeding Hearts and John Jowitt still playing with IQ, there is still plenty to keep the interest going. As such, this year more than ever, I plan to upgrade the Ark site. I have been doing bits in the background for most of last year, but I have so many photos and tapes I really should get a move on and make them available. Who knows may be it'll mean I get to meet a few more band members and fans.

Another music/techie crossover moment happen a few months ago when I was arranging some dates with Leicester LUG to go over as part of the 2008 Birmingham.pm World Tour. Gary who organises the meetings also happened to look at my website and discovered that I was involved with Prolapse. It turns out he knows Turk, and used to work with a few of the guys, and sees them occasionally around Leicester too. It's quite possible we've even met a few times at the gigs. I'll be doing a couple of talks for the LUG this year, so it'll be fun catching up with Gary to see what other stories he has to tell of the band :)

In these instances it isn't really a small world, partly as Haleowen and Leicester aren't that far away, and also that both Ark and Prolapse are fairly recent memories, but it is nice to cross paths with people who remember the gigs and have interesting tales to tell. Plus they were both great bands and are worth remembering. I'm looking forward to meeting up with both Dave and Gary, and hopefully it'll prompt me to sort out the photos and tapes I have of both bands :)

File Under: ark / games / gigs / music / prolapse / roadie
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Kings of Evermore

Posted on 17th October 2007

Bleeding Hearts @ The Boarshead Taphouse, Kidderminster

Bleeding Hearts @ The Boarshead Taphouse, Kidderminster

A couple of weekends ago, I went along to The Boarshead Taphouse in Kidderminster to witness the live recording of the new Bleeding Hearts live album. After playing for around 2 hours, and considering it was free entry, I would call that value for money. I told Nicole's brother that I'd got him in on the guest list, which he thought was great until he saw the poster advertising free entry :) The boys played a great selection of old, new and unreleased songs and ripped up a storm. The live album is only likely to feature around 10 songs from the 20+ set, so hopefully they'll be able to include a few classics in there.

As previously, I took my camera along. The first 30 minutes of the set I tried to record on video. Unfortunately several people kept wandering in front of the camera, so although none of the tracks are suitable for professional airing, Nick was thinking of adding one or two to Bleeding Hearts's own website. I now have a new 5"+ tripod, so hopefully I can get a better viewpoint for recording video in the future. I ended up taking over 1,000 photos, which worked out at roughly 16 shots a minute, and whittled it down to 175 for my selection. I've given the boys over 300 to choose from for their own purposes and have already asked whether they can use them on the inner sleeve of the album, which will be nice.

However, the venue wasn't the best for lighting, so I had some problems with some of the shots. I haven't got a top of the range camera, so lighting is important. Despite trying several settings to get the best out of the camera, the shutter speed still isn't fast enough for my liking. There were some great shots I would have liked to have got of Gel and Nick, but the light from the PAR cans was just too weak to capture them mid-movement. The Roadhouse photos came out much better simply because of the professional lighting rig the venue has, so I hope this set doesn't prove too disappointing for them.

A while ago I considered buying a small lighting rig, so that when I take photos of Nicole or her band, Slim Pickins, I can focus the lights and use the colour gels, just as I want them. Then I can bring them along to gigs for friends like Bleeding Hearts, and give them a much better stage lighting, and thus take much better photos. Unfortunately these sort of small rigs don't usually turn up on eBay, so I'll have to put the feelers out to my music industry contacts to see if anyone is selling off some old equipment. They'd be great for house parties for the kids in the summer too. DanDan and Ethne can pretend they're doing a real gig :)

For my selection of photos from the Bleeding Hearts gigs, see the links below:

File Under: bleedinghearts / gigs / music / photography / roadie
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Achilles Last Stand

Posted on 13th September 2007

So Led Zeppelin are reforming for a special tribute concert for Ahmet Ertegün. Following my rant last week about the ticket prices, I was a little disappointed to see all the tickets would be £125, but seeing as this is a one-off gig and all proceeds are going to support charities in Ahment's name, it is a little different.

I would love to go, but seeing as the gig is on Nicole's birthday (26th November 2007) and ticket prices is really a little more expensive than I would like, I probably won't. However, I am rather pleased to see an event like this being handle pretty well when it comes to tickets. Firstly they are being distributed by public ballot, which is likely to mean the real fans actually get the tickets. Harvey Goldsmith has also warned that anyone found selling their tickets on eBay will have them cancelled. It seems the promoters have thought about this with a little more care than some other concerts, where the tickets have sold out in seconds and largely to touts in the know, large corporations and those lucky enough to get through on the phones.

I would love to see the band, as I never got to see them back in the 70s. I only started going to gigs 8 months after John's death. Oddly enough the only member of the band I have ever met is John Bonham! But that's another story. A friend who was a few years older than me, got to see them at Knebworth in 1979 and recalled an amazing gig. One thing that did cross my mind about the forthcoming show is that they are being supported by several other acts. This is likely to mean you're only going to get about 60-90 minutes worth of Zep. For many who have never seen them this will be cherished, but back in their hey days, it wasn't uncommon for them to do nearly 3 hour sets.

For those of us that can't get to see the event, I'm really hoping it gets filmed and released in its entirety. If they ever do decide to tour though, I really hope that I can get to see them, as even all these years later, I'm pretty sure they are going to put on an amazing performance.

File Under: gigs / ledzeppelin / london / music
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Living For The Weekend

Posted on 4th September 2007

On Saturday Nicole and I went to see Hard-Fi at The Irish Centre in Digbeth, Birmingham. Except it's now "The Irish Club" and thus confusing everybody, especially Brummies it would seem on some of the forums. It's been a while since I've been to the venue, and it was certainly one I always enjoyed attending. In fact I've seen some fantastic gigs by Melissa Etheridge, IQ, Indigo Girls and Ghost Dance among many others over the years, and Hard-Fi have only added to the list.

The gig was a high octane blast from start to finish. Opening with the new single, Surburban Nights, they gave us a tour of both albums before ending with Living For The Weekend some 90 minutes later. They demand a lot of audience participation throughout the gig and got it every time. In fact I was surprised to see such enthusiasm for even the newer songs that were being officially released until Monday. They are the kind of band that are hard to resist in my opinion. They have some great songs that you can't help but bounce to.

One thing that did surprise me was the rough age of the audience. I had expected most to be around the early to mid 20s, but I would have said the majority were around 30. The band themselves are all around the 30 mark, so perhaps it shouldn't be surprising, but I had expected there to much more of a younger following. It was a very mixed audience though, both in terms of age and sex, which made for a much less intensive and aggressive atmosphere than I've seen at indie/pop gigs before. Maybe the audience are just growing up to realise you can have fun and jump around without the need for "moshing".

If you can't get to see Hard-Fi on this short tour, I suspect they'll be back for more later in the year, but in the meantime check out their new album, Once Upon A Time In The West, and their first, Stars Of CCTV, if you haven't already heard it.

Speaking of the new album, apparently the album cover has caused some controversy due to it's minimal artwork. Personally I think the album cover, along with the single cover and the website are excellent. Shows they have a great sense of humour.

File Under: gigs / hardfi / music
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Message In A Bottle

Posted on 4th September 2007

Recently someone posted to the Birmingham Perl Mongers mailing list trying to sell their tickets for The Police at the NIA. When I originally heard that The Police were getting back together I was delighted, as I never got around to seeing them in the early 80s. Then when they announced the tour I was eager to get tickets. Unsurprisingly everywhere sold out within minutes. Unless you were one of the privileged few, and I mean privilege in terms of your affluence, then you stood no chance.

What is wrong with ticket prices these days? The Police tickets were over £50 for the cheap seats and over £150 for good seats. The guy who posted on the list had been charged £144 for 2 tickets and these were in the upper tiers, not even on the floor! Seeing as fans bought them, there is obviously a demand, but it's one of the reasons why people are buying less music these days. Greedy promoters, record companies and many bands themselves are taking as much from their fans as they can get, at the expense of other smaller bands, who can barely get anyone to see them for £5.

The Police are not the only ones, every major band that has toured the UK playing the 10,000 seater venues in the last few years has started to charge exorbitant fees to see them. The cheapest ticket for the NEC Arena I've seen in the last few years has been over £30. Even Crowded House, who are playing later in the year are the same. When they last played a full UK tour, I saw several dates up and down the country, as the tickets were around £15. I won't be going to see them on this tour because it's just too much to pay. There are plenty of bands that I would love to see again, Peter Gabriel, Yes and others, but ticket prices are rarely priced to make me feel like I'll get value for money. I've seen several comments about the rip-off of ticket prices, but the rip-off doesn't end there.

The venues are also guilty of ripping off fans when they charge over £3 for a small bottle of Panda Cola, that can be bought in the corner store for about 40p and probably from the local cash'n'carry for about 5p a bottle. I can understand a slight markup, but when fans are being ripped off to the tune of several hundred percent for very basic food or drink, it's a joke. Especially when you are banned from taking food and drink into the venue.

Once upon a time I used to go to around 100-200 gigs a year, up and down the country. In my late teens and early twenties I wasn't on a big flash salary, in fact my first proper job was working in a warehouse. I could afford to go to the gigs as they were roughly the same price as an album at the time, about £10. Rather than buy an album, I'd buy a ticket to go and see a band. More often than not, I'd actually pay nearer £5 and see gigs in smaller venues such as Rock City in Nottingham, Princess Charlotte in Leicester, The Roadhouse in Manchester or The Marquee in London. Top name bands would tour those venues in preference to the big Arenas so they could actually see the fans.

I can understand why some bigger named bands would want to play the Arenas, as it means they get to play to more fans with fewer dates. Some bands don't actually like touring, so playing a UK tour of 7 dates is often preferred over one that might take 3-4 weeks. But why should that mean you now have to rip off fans and double, triple (or worse) your ticket prices. That £50 you're charging for a "cheap" seat, means that your fan is sitting so far back they need binoculars to see you, they rarely hear decent quality sound, they have to sit awkwardly on uncomfortable plastic seats and cannot get up and dance or jump about as they get told off by security staff and ejected from the venue if they refuse to sit down.

There are some bands who I greatly respect for taking the time to play venues where they can reach the fans. Nine Inch Nails could easily play Arenas in the UK, but they don't and only charge £22.50 a ticket, which considering their status, I feel is quite reasonable. They also give value for money, as in addition to their performances recently they were giving away USB memory sticks with a song from Year Zero on it at gigs. Prince has even started giving away albums at gigs. The Cure usually play the larger Arenas now, but the last few times I saw them at the NEC tickets were around £18. Considering they play for nearly 3 hours, that is most definitely value for money. I wonder how long The Police will be on stage for? If they play more than 90 minutes I would be very surprised. It's not been unheard of for major acts to play an hour (mostly solo artists from what I've heard) and head off to the hotel.

If you're going to charge stupid money for tickets, give people a reason to feel like you actually value their faith in you, give them a show that is out of this world, give them something to remember for years to come. I would love to see The Police, but I won't be seeing them on this tour. It's been reported that they are recording another album, so I suspect they may tour again. I hope that the next tour has more reasonable ticket prices and that the prices for this tour are only because they knew they could get away with it for reforming. I seemed to recall that The Eagles dropped their prices on tours after reforming, so it's a possibility.

In the meantime I'm looking forward to seeing Henry Rollins in January and Jello Biafra next month. Both are doing spoken word tours and both are charging less than £20 to see them :)

File Under: commerce / gigs / music / rant
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My Generation

Posted on 17th June 2007

The Coopers

The Coopers

Nicole and I went to see The Coopers last weekend, as our friend Kev is the drummer. The gig was an open rehearsal, but could really be considered as their first gig. They invited friends and family and as such quite a number of regulars from The Scooter Do turn up. They play a variety of Mod songs dating from the late sizties to the early eighties, with The Who's My Generation and I Can't Explain, and The Small Faces' All Or Nothing, getting a great response from the audience.

I think the singer did get his eras mixed up as when he said they were going to do something from the 80s, then played Teenage Kicks ... from 1978. However, they did redeem themselves with a great version of Time For Action. I haven't heard that in years. I used to prefer The Lambrettas myself, but I thought My World by Secret Affair was better than Time For Action, but apparently that is one of Kev's favourite songs.

File Under: gigs / mod / music / photography
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