After writing / ranting about this on goodness knows how many occasions it’s depressing that, if anything, the secondary ticket market (aka bulk buying tickets to gigs, shows and sporting events to prevent real fans from buying them then ramping up the price by whatever figure you think you can get away with and flogging them to people with more money than sense) seems to be flourishing. In the latest round of insanity someone’s trying to sell Radiohead tickets for almost £6,000, or a mind melting 91 times its original face value. I guess if people are mad enough to pay it the touts (most of which are massive companies now) will just carry on regardless. Still, it gives me a good reason to stick up a ruddy great track from The Wonderstuff so silver linings and all that jazz.
Thursday, May 19, 2016
If you’re unfamiliar with US punksters Green Day you might be forgiven for thinking this was a topical Trump based musical but no, it’s another moronic president (let’s face it a Trump win looks more likely by the day), George ‘Dubya’ Bush, rather than the world’s most famous combover that the band had in its sights on the original album and single it spawned way back in 2004.
Ambitiously conceived as a punk rock opera American Idiot focuses on three disillusioned young men from the fictional Jingletown, USA, each of whom takes a radically different path through life, fatherhood, joining the military and getting off their face on drugs. Frustrated with the general state of their nation (no change there sadly) and lives the three, Will, Johnny and Tunny, resolve to escape Jingletown and head off for the big city but Will’s girlfriend Heather drops the bombshell that she’s in the family way and he decides to stay behind. The other two hit the road and Johnny ends up taking heroin, unleashing an alter ego known as St Jimmy, whilst Tunny does his bit for Uncle Sam and enlists with predictably dire consequences. That’s the basic plot, conveniently set up to incorporate the original album’s songs without too much awkward shoehorning.
Of course the original source material’s pretty awesome with the title track itself, Boulevard Of Broken Dreams, Wake Me Up When September Ends and Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) arguably amongst some of the best songs of the noughties and this particular cast, to borrow a suitably American phrase, knock every single number right outta da park. From the titular opening number there’s enough energy on stage to power Jingletown itself with some particularly energetic muscle tearing brain damage inducing punk rock thrashing about that'll make you want to tear up the theatre seats and join ‘em onstage. Hell yeah, now that’s an opening. American Idiot’s made for a theatre like the Northcott too. Relatively intimate with no raised stage and a sound system that’s capable of making your vital organs vibrate like they’re in a food mixer you’ve got an immediate connection with the action that’s almost impossible to achieve in a bigger venue so even if you’ve seen American Idiot a dozen times you won’t have experienced it like this.
There are some West End worthy performances too, with Amelia Lily as Johnny’s feisty but caring love interest Whatsername (that’s actually the character’s name by the way...I’m not losing my marbles) and Lucas Rush channelling his inner Keiths (Flint, Allen and Moon) as Johnny’s wickedly self destructive alter ego St Jimmy.
Making, as far as I’m aware, his professional acting debut singer songwriter Newton Faulkner was a revelation with some beautifully nuanced moments, notably Act 2’s drug taking scene, painful to watch but wordlessly capturing the loneliness and desperation of addiction which ain’t easy without making it all seem a little OTT. Almost unrecognisable after chopping off his trademark dreads for a recent video he does a pretty good ‘dude’ accent too.
Of course his vocal talents are what he’s best known for and in particular he gives some of the more reflective songs like Boulevard of Broken Dreams a vulnerability that even gives the original a run for its money (by a convenient twist of fate Newton’s first group was a Green Day covers band too, not a lot of people know that...unless they look at Wikipedia...but that’s cheating).
Like all great shows – and this is a real belter – the whole cast perform their socks off though (actually that’s the one item of clothing that Newton’s left with for part of the show but you get the point) backed by a proper kick ass live band that’s worth the price of a ticket on their own.
Sell your granny (too much...okay, maybe just pawn her for the night then) and go see this show right now, you’re guaranteed...oh go on then it’s predictable as hell but let’s just say it anyway... the ‘time of your life’.
American Idiot is on at Exeter Northcott Theatre until Sunday May 22nd. Tickets right here (grannies not accepted as payment...).
All photos courtesy of Darren Bell.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Sadly Brum's always undersold its musical heritage, from giving the world heavy metal thanks to the mighty Black Sabbath, through to some of the bands that defined the 80s, step forward Duran Duran and Dexys Midnight Runners, and on to more recent gems such as the criminally underrated Mistys Big Adventure, Goodnight Lenin, Miss Halliwell/The Day Ends and many, many more. Of course Brum also played a huge role in reggae with Steel Pulse, Musical Youth and UB40 all achieving global success but many other bands released some awesome cuts back in the 70s and 80s that perhaps only made it as far as City Road (that's a niche Brum reference for you right there).
Thankfully some of these gems from Brum and beyond (all Midlands based though) have been collected and remastered in a brand new series of releases called The Midlands Roots Explosion, Volume One came out last year and Volume Two's set to drop this Friday on double vinyl (if one form of music HAS to be heard on vinyl it's reggae). You can grab a copy right here via Reggae Archive Records. Highly recommended. Here's a little highlight...
Monday, May 16, 2016
I guess if you’re going to leave 22 years between singles you’d better make your comeback a belter and, judging by the general consensus of opinion a few days after its release, The Stone Roses new single All For One has missed the mark a little. I’m a Roses fan, the debut album was a stone cold classic and when I finally caught them live a few years back at the pissfest that is V Festival they were on top form. In the cold light of day (and lord knows I've given it plenty of spins now) All For One clearly isn’t a classic, but then again neither is it the complete bag‘o’shite that some people are claiming though. It’s just a dumb (lyrically in particular) – but pretty catchy – pop song that’ll no doubt have the lager louts and ladettes throwing their cans of Carlsberg in the air and singing themselves hoarse at the live shows. Any resemblance to the Dogtanian and the Three Muskahounds theme tune is purely coincidental...
Thursday, May 12, 2016
How did I miss the new Gregory Porter album, Take Me To The Alley?! Good grief...that's the fractured multi-channel blink and you'll miss it Instagrammalammadingdong world we live in I guess. Anyway fortunately I was in a car tuned into Radio 2 last week (let's rocccccccccck!) and caught the single from it in which young Gregory funk things up a little, advising us not to "lose our head of steam". Er...wise words.
As a bonus here's his soulful tribute to Prince from a recent Later...show. Lovely, lovely stuff.
Monday, May 09, 2016
One of the benefits of the vinyl revival is a bit of a rebirth for record fairs. Oh dear...dangerous. I've been to a few down here in Devon and it's ruddy easy to stagger out with a bagful of buys. Last Saturday's haul included a stack of Jackson 5 albums in various states of decay (I think the previous owner may have eaten their dinner off them...found a pubic hair too so presumably they snacked naked) but I did manage to listen to this track, Lovely One, through the snap, crackle and pop and it's a belter. Turns out it was a single back in 1980 but it must've passed me by at the time. Anyway if you've not heard it you're in for a bit of a treat. Enjoy!
Friday, April 29, 2016
10 years. That’s how long I’ve been writing this blog. 10 ruddy years. Lord knows how many acts I’ve seen in that time but, for a while at least, a gig a week wasn’t uncommon and once or twice I even hit the dizzy heights of four in a row. I know...hardcore eh?
Anyway, way back in 2006 when I was a fresh faced 36 year old (ahem) one of the first bands I reviewed and got behind were The Foxes, purveyors of classic English pop who bravely gave up their ‘proper’ jobs in a bold attempt to make it in the evil old music biz without the aid of a net...or label. They had the tunes. They had the energy. But, and this is something that’s all too familiar sadly, they simply didn’t have the luck that springs some bands to fame and fortune and denies others the success they deserve.
But now the band’s lead singer, Nigel Thomas, is back, back, back with a brand new solo album that’s a winning mix of indie rock and more stripped back folkier stuff. Opening number Fever’s all old school Hammond organ, stabbing guitar and white boy blues, Ghost Hunter adds a little skank swing to affairs and the album’s title track features some gloriously dirty guitar solos. The mellower material’s just as strong, in particular the folk tinged 5476 Miles and the lullaby lilt of Que Sera (shades of Lennon at his most loved up and blessed out solo best).
Recorded and mixed by Luke Oldfield (before you ask, yes, Mike’s son) it’s an accomplished collection of songs from a man whose own musical journey has hopefully only just begun.
Physical copies (CD and Vinyl!) of Travelling Man are available right here. It’s also available via Amazon and iTunes.