Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour: Aboard the Endeavour

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour
HMS Bark Endeavour, Stockton-on-Tees 
17 October 2014
As Bridie Jackson and The Arbour continue to become more popular and more appreciated - as evidenced by last year's triumphant Glastonbury appearance and their almost constant touring ever since - there are two things they definitely not forgotten: their propensity for innovation (remember the Banoffee Pie and Walled Garden events?) and an appreciation of their firm North Eastern roots. The pairing of these admirable characteristics brought to Stockton's riverside towards the end of last week.
HMS Bark Endeavour
It had been some time since I last boarded HMS Bark Endeavour. On that occasion, over a decade ago, it was for a much different event.
Previously, on the Endeavour...
In a way, it is typical of Bridie and The Arbour to play there; a mysterious show aboard a famous ship on a very dark Autumnal evening. Space is tight below decks. A small number of tables and chairs, dotted around the room, were unable to cater for the seating arrangements of the entire audience, some of whom bunched together on uncomfortable benches and the rest of whom chose either to sit on the lower deck or dimply stand. Support came in the form of folk trio Little Mirrors, who are soon to start work on their debut album.
Little Mirrors
Bridie and The Arbour were, of course, fabulous. There is still nothing at all to match their unique music (see how other reviewers scrabble around to liken them to unlikely candidates; sometimes a natural force denies the prison of the pigeonhole). 
The darkness of The Arbour's music is at odds with their genial personalities. Musicianship and vocals are never below the exemplary mark. The famous bell plates feature less in the repertoire than used to be the case, but the effect is still as strong and unusual when they do make an appearance. I felt genuinely honored when, towards the end of the set, Bridie dedicated the famous Scarecrow song to me.
The strong set list drew heavily from the New Skin album, with a couple of covers to add the element of surprise.

Set List

Please Forgive Me My Human Ways
Diminutive Man
Fearless (Pink Floyd cover)
Cry Me A River (Justin Timberlake cover) 
Sandgate Dandling Song (traditional) 
All You Love Is All You Are
We Talked Again
One Winter Evening

There was just one thing wrong with the evening - and it's a growing problem at concerts and other events. It seems that numerous people simply cannot differentiate between being at home watching TV and being at a live event. Here, as at so many places, a small minority conspired to spike the enjoyment of the majority with endless, inane chatter. Perhaps a variety of alcohol had loosened tongues (the bar remained active throughout the evening), or perhaps there were other reasons, other spectra. I'm starting to think venues need to take a proactive approach to the growing noise problem although it seems unlikely they will.

Here are a few more photos from the evening with which to conclude this review.

Head for the official Bridie Jackson and The Arbour website for further news and tour updates.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Devon Allman: Ragged and Dirty

Ragged and Dirty
Devon Allman

Devon's 2013 Ruf Records debut - Turquoise - was featured here back in February 2013. Since then, he has been very active as part of the Royal Southern Brotherhood supergroup and he freely admits the experience has raised his game.

''I have to say that playing with Royal took my career to a new level. It's given me more confidence and a new found love for the music. I'm delighted that there's a new shot of fire in my music.''

Track List

Half The Truth
Can't Lose 'em All
I'll Be Around
Midnight Lake Michigan
Ten Million Slaves
Blackjack Heartattack
Back To You
Times Have Changed
Ragged and Dirty
Leave The City

Ragged and Dirty offers a wide range of styles under the umbrella of the blues. Half The Truth kicks things off with a great riff and a hard rocking sound and elsewhere there's ballads (such as Leavin'), soul (I'll Be Around), funk (Traveling), a protest song - albeit a fast-paced one rather than an acoustic warble (Ten Million Slaves) and even an instrumental (the atmospheric Midnight Lake Michigan - at nine minutes and 31 seconds, the longest track on the album).

Turquoise was a fine album, but Ragged and Dirty has moved things up a stage or two further for Devon Allman. The range of styles, the musicianship and the gravelly, bluesy voice see him firing on all cylinders.

For all things Devon Allman, head for his official website.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Elaine Paige

Elaine Paige
50th Anniversary Farewell Tour
The Sage, Gateshead
I first saw Elaine Paige back in 2009 and it looks like this week's show at The Sage was the last chance I'll ever get to see her again.

The sense of looking back on a career spanning half a century was enhanced by numerous photographs and video clips being displayed on a large backdrop screen and by various anecdotes from Elaine herself.
There were costume changes along the way too as she sang her way through 50 years of career highlights.  Icelandic tenor Gardar Thor Cortes made a number of guest appearances during the show - half of them as duets, half of them to let Elaine leave the stage to rest and change.

The show started promptly at 7.30 p.m., without support, and was in two parts (each one lasting approximately an hour). We were treated to fabulous renditions of a host of old favourites, such as Memory and I Know Him So Well.

The Sage was packed to the rafters for this very special occasion. Here are a few photos from a memorable evening.


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Yarm Chess Tournament: Press Reports

Two press reports have appeared about our recent Yarm Chess Tournament.

One was in the Northern Echo.

This picture and report was in the Hartlepool Mail.

(Click on the image for a larger version)

Monday, 13 October 2014

From The Jam

From The Jam
Billingham Forum
It's almost two years since I saw From The Jam, when they were part of the Class of '77 tour. That evening, at The Sage back in 2012, was strange in that the audience was very sparse indeed. Almost embarrassingly so, in fact - especially considering From The Jam were part of a triple-bill that included the Boomtown Rats and The Blockheads.

Back in the North East for their tour commemorating the 35th Anniversary of the Setting Sons album, they have bypassed The Sage this time and headed for Billingham instead. Smaller venue, livelier crowd. When support act The Style Selektors swiftly managed to get a significant section of the audience up dancing and singing to their renditions of Ska classics - from The Specials et al - the atmosphere began to crackle with energy as anticipation for From The Jam's appearance continued to build up. Their official Facebook page had already posted ''Sounding great at the Billingham soundcheck.'' What could possibly go wrong?

Well, after a mere handful of songs from Setting Sons - with the band sounding great - they lost all power from their instruments and microphones. Rapid repairs ensued and they continued, but the same thing happened again. They left the stage a long time as various people ran on to the stage with numerous cables and plugs. The restless audience started singing their own version of Down In The Tube Station At Midnight. Back came the band; back came the problems. Eventually they announced they would give it one last go, but it didn't last long. After blowing the power four times it was time to call it a night. A very frustrating evening for all concerned, not least the band, who were clearly upset about how things had turned out. It remains to be seen whether it will be ''refund'' or ''reschedule.''


Ah well, maybe next time...

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Further Reading

The October 2014 issue of chess includes my reviews of Garry Kasparov on Garry Kasparov, Part 3: 1993-2005 (Everyman Chess) and ChessBase Complete by Jon Edwards (Russell Enterprises).

Click here for ordering details.

Dr Feelgood

Dr Feelgood
Middlesbrough Theatre
Dr Feelgood, survivors of many a line-up change, continue to tour and record as much as ever.

They hit the stage running at Middlesbrough on Thursday night, tearing straight into their trademark British rhythm and blues. There was no support act; Dr Feelgood took a mid-evening break and played two frantic sets.

The set list featured songs from all phases of Dr Feelgood's history, with most of the obvious crowd-pleasers coming towards the end of the second half.

In what has become an increasing trend, the theatre was far from full. I thought I'd been fortunate to secure tickets - front row ones at that - but plenty of seats were still available on the night. Those who stayed away missed out. Dr Feelgood still hold plenty of cures.
Keep up to date with the news and tour dates over at the official Dr Feelgood website.