IPO LIVERPOOL - THURSDAY (DAY 3)

The Cavern Pub and Cavern Club
Mathew Street, Liverpool
Thursday 19th May 2016

The International Pop Overthrow is in its 14th year in Liverpool, with around 150 bands playing throughout the 8 days. We see as many bands as we can, some we like, some we love, others not so much. This is a personal review of each day and even though some bands may not have been our cup of tea (we can’t like them all!), they are still worth checking out for yourself. Have fun, that’s what music is all about.

Bands seen today (10): The Shudders, Harvest Moon, Fun Of The Pier, Thee Wylde Fuzz (*), The Lost 45’s (*), Tray Full Of Poppies, Alison Green, Lovely (*), Spygenius, One Two Die Four,
(*) saw part or all of their second slot or had seen them on a previous day

Day 3 was a busy one for us – lots to see. The Shudders are supposed to be a four-piece but with one band member missing, we got 3 guys, with acoustic guitars, with gentle tunes reminiscent of a folk get together around a camp fire All three essentially sang complimentary vocals, but the 3 voices together sounded very good, almost soothing. They were not bad and there was a bit of harmony on the last song where the one lead vocal sang about “Missing You” and the other two provided some really nice, lush backing vocals with some ooo’s and ahh’s, which made it a real stand out number. 

With one band member down they still produced a decent set and we might just check them out again when they revert back to a four piece tomorrow.

The Shudders

A firm favourite of last year’s IPO (indeed David Bash introduced them as one the top bands from last year) is Harvest Moon, from the South of The Netherlands. 

Harvest Moon
The band are big fans of Neil Young (hence their name) but their sound is not a copy of Young. In fact, you can’t really label them into a “type” because today we heard pop, ballads and surfy instrumental.  

It was a very welcome return and with their strong drum beat and clear vocals, they did draw in a bit of a crowd. The lead man of the band, Rob is really enthusiastic, and has a great voice which made us forget about the pelting rain during their song aptly named “Summer”. 

Last year one of our favourite songs was “Dancing” and we were delighted to hear it again. It still has a really fresh sound which made you bop on your stool (it was too early to dance!) and the keyboard shone through on this one.

We got a couple of new songs, a bit more rocky, but still well within their style and we do really look forward to these being recorded and made available on CD. One highlight was as song we think was called “Non Stop Barbarella”, a surf-style instrumental which totally rocked, maintaining that strong drum beat and included some great guitar.
Ending on a ballad, the set was over way too soon. We really do like this band.

Fun Of The Pier
We have not seen hubby and wife combo, Fun Of The Pier for a couple of years due to clashes and it was brilliant to be able to hear them play again, and also on the Front Stage. Think of any acoustic duo who are fans of Crowded House and this is what you get from Fun Of The Pier. 

What a difference a couple of years makes too. Helen was so much more confident, and her lovely voice rang out as we were treated to happy, jolly tempos. 

There was a decent sized crowd gathered in the front Stage to appreciate it too. Joined by David Lloyd for a couple of songs, it added a bit of variety, but you can never take away the thrill of hearing “Inconsiderate” again, a song all about people who talk at gigs! Unfortunately this is something that is par for the course at the IPO.

Thee Wylde Fuzz Show rock the Front Stage
Thee Wylde Fuzz Show, totally rock – so much so we caught both of their sets. 

Their raw garage, psychedelic sound is driven on pure energy and high octane, and the members of the band are also fuelled by the same! 

A frenetic fast paced set, with little pause for breath, you get a full-on psychedelic garage rock experience from start to finish with a bit of jingle jangle from the Rickenbacker guitars, all of which leaves you breathless, yet wanting more. 
Brilliant stuff. 

It is hard to get a decent photo of this band because they move just too darned quick!
Thee Wylde Fuzz Show in The Pub

The Lost 45's
Close your eyes and you were in 60’s Mod London (or Leeds as the band would no doubt correct us!) as The Lost 45’s powered through a brilliant , mod beat set with a hint of Weller-esque influences. 

Open your eyes and you are still there as this band dress for the occasion too. 

We liked them so much we caught both sets as well. In the Pub, a few of the crowd were dancing, and over on the Front Stage, they yelled for more! Vocals were very strong, from the guitarist, the bassist and the keyboard player, and the keyboards really added to the sound. 
Top stuff. No wonder people yelled for more.

Tray Full Of Poppies are Lovely stripped bare! Two of the band are a duo, delivering some slow, ballad style tunes, reminiscent of the Everlys. On the Front Stage, the guitars were a little too loud, so it was hard to hear the vocals over them, but pleasant enough all the same.

Alannis Morrisette had better watch out as Alison Green is about to take her crown! Alison who we last saw as a demure, shy first-timer at the IPO, has now grown into an angry young woman on stage (not in real life), her voice punching out angst which would rival Meredith Brooks, whilst her guitar resonated the same! The Beeb told her afterwards she had broken his ear-plugs and she just laughed at him! A cool kitten.

Lovely
We had the opportunity to catch Lovely again tonight, playing on the front Stage, which is home to The Beatles and this Swedish band were comfortable on it, with their Beatles-esque sound and 60’s Beat look. 

Once again, the vocals stood out against the instruments, while they powered through their set of short, sharp punchy beat numbers, and their sound drew in a bit of a crowd.

Spygenius are no longer Ruthless and they owned the Back Stage tonight, letting our ears wrap around some new tunes, as well as delighting in some old favourites. Starting out with a song that was a bit mean and moody sounding, they drew in a curious crowd who wanted to hear more. 
Spygenius

Pete from Spygenius keeps his eye on us
There is a lot of intellect in this band, and each song has clever lyrics. It doesn't matter if you don’t get them all, as the melodies work and still satisfies the ears. “Imagine you are on a beach”, Pete, the lead vocalist who sports a rather nice Italia guitar instructs us, and sure enough the tempo of the song that follows evokes a sense of sitting in a hot clime, sipping on a cocktail in a Tiki Oasis. 

Our pal thought this was the best of the set, and we would agree it was up there with the best.

Ending on “The Shouty Song” a song that would not be a stranger in a classic punk gig, a couple in the crowd were almost pogo-ing at the back of the room! Welcome back Ruth – we missed you. Just remember to ask for forgiveness tomorrow!


Last year we heard a great buzz about Sweden’s One Two Die Four but sadly never caught any of their gigs. Tonight was different. What a sound, from this large ensemble. The singer is almost operatic in his delivery and has a sound not dissimilar to Sparks. Pretty good stuff going on.

IPO LIVERPOOL - WEDNESDAY (DAY 2)

The Cavern Pub & Club
Mathew Street, Liverpool
Wednesday 18th May 2016

The International Pop Overthrow is in its 14th year in Liverpool, with around 150 bands playing throughout the 8 days. We see as many bands as we can, some we like, some we love, others not so much. This is a personal review of each day and even though some bands may not have been our cup of tea (we can’t like them all!), they are still worth checking out for yourself. Have fun, that’s what music is all about.

Bands seen today (10): Twister (*), Lovely, Richard Batty, Luke Potter, The Grande, The Ragamuffins, Velettes (*)
(*) saw part or all of their second slot

Day 2 was quite a light day for us, starting in The Pub with Durham band Twister. Looks can be deceiving, as this band were dressed in typical heavy metal gear – ripped jeans, vest, messy/long hair….. and what we got was an acoustic heavy rock set in the style of Kassidy. 
The drummer, with a foot pedal and cajon box drum was having a whale of a time, banging the cajon, singing along , with his long hair flying all over the place.
Their set was fast paced, with a strong beat, catchy hooks and they sounded good. Their second song was a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” and in our corner of the Pub a percussion section emerged, with some fans of the band playing along with tambourines and singing along.

Twister on the Back Stage
Not bad at all, so we caught their second slot later on, on the Back Stage. This time they were fully electric, even bringing on their own HUGE Marshall amps, microphones and cymbals and to be honest they came across as quite pretentious by doing that!. The Cavern puts on loads of first class gigs so if their back-line is not good enough……

They took so long to set up, their set started a bit late. And when it did start, it was really heavy and shouty. 
The lead singer will have back problems later in life, with his guitar hanging down so low, he has obviously not taken on board lessons learned from his guitar heroes! Sorry guys – the acoustic set was miles better.

Lovely from Sweden, dressed in black polo necked tops opened the Back Stage tonight. This four piece, who we have seen before in the London IPO, is the quintessential Beat Combo, with a touch of psychedelic thrown in every now and then. Their short, sharp, melodic tunes were brilliant, and the mix allowed us to be able to pick out every vocal and instrument played.

Lovely
The vocals were shared between the two guitarists and a Hofner violin bass player and whoever was not singing lead, contributed fine backing vocals, which included the oooohs and Bop She Bops that gave such an authentic 60’s Beat sound. Brilliant.

Richard Batty
On the Front Stage was Richard Batty who is apparently a regular Cavern performer as a Beatles cover artist. Today he was showcasing his own material. He played some nice pop style tunes, and was ably backed by his band, but there was nothing that stood out for us.

Over in The Pub, basically killing time, we saw Luke Potter. Once again, a laptop appeared, and we got a duo singing to backing tapes whilst playing acoustic guitars. We noticed it took ages for them to set up, and really struggled to understand what was so complicated! The only time the laptop was not used to provide backing tracks was when they did a cover of a Justin Beiber song. Not really our style of music, but there were a few in the small audience who really appreciated it.

The Grande is a local band we have seen a number of times at the IPO but not for a few years so we are not sure when they moved to a five piece, without Melanie on vocals.
The Grande
They have a great country rock / Americana sound and we could have sat and listened to them for a lot longer. The front line of the band covered all the vocals, sharing them between each other and doing backing vocals too. The fact this band have played together for a long time was very evident, as the balance of the instruments and even the solid drum beat never drowned out any of the vocals, which blended really well and were crisp enough to make out the lyrics of each song. Even the guitar solos, on the Gretsch White Falcon were subtle, yet effective.

Even though the pub was so quiet (due to the UEFA cup final with Liverpool playing), the audience were really appreciative. A great half hour spent.

David Jaggs from The Ragamuffins
The Ragamuffins usually are a fairly large band, with a brass section included, but tonight it was just the lead man, David Jaggs, due to the band’s drummer breaking his arm. Turning up just at the start of his slot, he showed how quickly you could set up – an acoustic guitar, a quick one-two into the mic and he was away! 

The Ragamuffins songs are very catchy, sing-a-long type of melodies during the chorus. Versatility is Jaggs’ style, and he moved seamlessly between pop and soul with a Nile Rogers style funk thing going!  We did kinda miss the big band sound though.


From London, The Velettes played the Front Stage and we also saw them again, almost immediately afterwards in the Pub as they closed the night’s entertainment. This three piece from London are very influenced by The Velvet Underground (if you hadn’t already guessed from their name), and the main vocalist was the drummer, standing at the front with a Tom and a snare drum, doing a consistent two-one beat and with reverb on the guitar, they had a moody yet oddly pleasant sound. We really liked them.
The Velettes in The Pub






IPO LIVERPOOL - TUESDAY (DAY 1)

The Cavern Pub & Club
Mathew Street, Liverpool
Tuesday 17th May 2016

The International Pop Overthrow is in its 14th year in Liverpool, with around 150 bands playing throughout the 8 days. We see as many bands as we can, some we like, some we love, others not so much. This is a personal review of each day and even though some bands may not have been our cup of tea (we can’t like them all!), they are still worth checking out for yourself. Have fun, that’s what music is all about.

Bands seen today (10): The Housekeeping Society, Garfield’s Birthday (*), mylittlebrother (*), Neweva, SHIRR, Tytania, The Transmitters, The Armoires, Affairs, The Arrogants
(*) saw part or all of their second slot


The Housekeeping Society
The 2016 proceedings kicked off in The Cavern Pub, with The Housekeeping Society. This is a band we have seen a number of times over the last few years and we are fans of the main man of this band, Ric Neale, an artist in his own right. This four piece from Leeds features keyboards, bass, guitar and acoustic drum box played with brushes and hands, with a few finger cymbals thrown in. Ric on main vocal was very ably supported with backing vocals from the other three. 

They have recently had their laptop and looping gear stolen and had actually debated on whether or not to actually pull out of the IPO. We are really pleased they did stay the course, as we felt their set was one of the best they have played. For us, live music is just that, and whilst there is a place sometimes for technology, we do prefer “au natural”, without backing tracks, sound effects etc.
Ric Neale - The Housekeeping Society
Ric has a sound that is not unlike ex-Brian Wilson band member Scott Bennett during his Dotted Line days -  with a really, really strong vocal, Ric was sounding great today. The guitar was quite ethereal and at times had a bit of a Glasvegas fuzz to it but it was never overpowering.

Stand out songs for us were “Together” and “Suitcase”, the latter being a romantic ballad about the suitcase that only gets dusted off once a year for the holiday season!
A great start to this year's festival.


Garfield's Birthday in The Pub
Next up, Garfield’s Birthday. We were sure we have seen this band play before and we found out later that they have played the IPO over a number of years. 

A three piece, the bass player did that fancy thing of playing bass and singing at the same time and he even did a bit of dancing too. The bass line was quite melodic throughout and you could see the Brit Pop influences. 



Overall, very catchy, feet tapping tunes, in particular a song called “Mr Newton” which was inspired by David Bowie and “Missing In Action” which was a new song for the band and sounded really strong.

Garfield's Birthday on The Front Stage
The band had a good sense of humour too, mentioning that they were giving their CDs away free and commented on how they half expected to see the pile of CDs on the merchandise table grow, as it became a collection point  for returned Garfield’s Birthday CDs!!!

We caught the last part of their second slot on The Cavern’s Front Stage later on. Again the difference in the quality of the sound in the Club versus the Pub was really noticeable. On the front Stage, Garfield’s Birthday sounded much richer. Nice one.

Band no 3, from Cumbria, mylittlebrother (all one word!) are normally a band of 8 but today they had 2 members absent. Not sure how they would have crammed the other two onto the small stage in the Cavern Pub alongside the drums, 2 guitars, acoustic guitar, bass and keyboard! Our ears pricked up immediately on hearing the first song – the intro was a 2 part harmony before any instruments got played this band were going to be good, and we were not wrong. It is unusual to find such a nugget so early into the festival, but here it was!


mylittlebrother play in The Pub
The lead vocalist was also the keyboard player, Will, who had charisma, a great smile and was engaging with the audience, especially when the acoustic guitarist had to quickly re-tune. Additional vocals came from the acoustic guitarist and one of the other guitarists and sounded superb. We learned later that with the 2 band members who were absent today, they normally get a good 5 piece harmony going. The guys (and gal) that played today were pretty awesome and their full line up must really sound something else, and we have their CDs to check them out!
Their latest EP was produced by former Brian Wilson band member Scott Bennett and includes Probyn Gregory playing trumpet. 

mylittlebrother on The Back Stage
Every song was a toe tapper, great melody, fantastic vocals, harmony and instruments that did not drown everything out. We loved this band and caught their second slot over on the Back Stage of the Cavern Club later on. 

There is a vast difference in sound between the Pub and the Club and tonight, that back stage was theirs for the taking and they took it. This second set introduced some different songs from their first set, and Will, the main man noticed that some of the audience had also been in the Pub and he was genuinely touched by that response. We hope we hear more from this fine band. To find out more about them, click here for their facebook page


four from mylittlebrother

Neweva
Neweva from Sweden, are a young four piece who seemed to be missing a bass player - there was a bass line, but it was a track substituting for the real thing! 

Vocals were provided mainly by the front man with the odd backing vocal from one of the guitarists although his mic did not seem to be loud enough, and this band went down quite well in The Pub. 

We find bands from Sweden are either pure Pop  or really heavy rock/metal. Neweva veer towards the latter, however they were not as "heavy" as we had thought they would be and in the end, found their set quite enjoyable. The construction of their songs would sit well in a Eurovision contest.

We had a bit of a lull in the bands we had earmarked to see, and after a quick bite to eat we caught the last half of SHIRR in The Pub. From Boston USA, SHIRR was performing solo, with an acoustic guitar. There is no argument she has a really strong voice, and she comes across as having a great bubbly character, brimming with self confidence. The audience  in the pub really took to her, however, for us there was too much vocal range, up and down a bit like Miriah Carey with lots of "ooos" and "ahhs" tagged on the end of every line. For her second slot later in the week, she will have a band supporting her, and she revealed that set will be a bit more dancey - might check it out.


Tytania
Tytania from Leeds are a four piece who were very promising when we checked them out on Facebook ahead of the festival. From their Facebook, we knew they play a lot of gigs so we expected then to be tight. They were – moving onto each song with hardly a pause, introducing each during the first few bars. 

Whilst they sounded good, and all four contributed brilliantly to the vocals, we did find it a bit hard to distinguish between each song. We cut our time watching them short in order to catch the second slot from mylittlebrother instead.

If you like the 60’s Mod Rock sound and look, then stop when you find The Transmitters. This four piece from Bolton had power and energy as they played on the Front Stage, and also had probably the best guitar player and drummer so far! Unfortunately they suffered from a very transient crowd in the Club this evening, with many coming and going. They played a really solid 60’s sounding mod set, with a drum beat that was not unlike The Knack or Dave Clark, and a lead vocal quite reminiscent of Julian Cope (thanks Davey W for that observation!). We heard our first cover of the night, as they ended their set with the Beatles’ “Hey Bulldog”. Nice set, enjoyed it. You can find out more about this band by clicking here

The Transmitters



The Armoires
On the Back Stage, all the way from Burbank, California were The Armoires. Actually only two of the four were from the band, having the bass player and drummer sourced locally for the IPO! 

They did seem a little unsure at times which we suppose is understandable when half of the band are people you have not played with before. 

However some vocals trailed off and the keyboardist relying heavily on a music stand for the lyrics/music. On the whole they were OK, but we feel would have been much better with the full band which maybe has an extra vocal in there? 

They are playing again on Friday and we will still go along to see them as their songs are good and hold up. For those who know the members of Brian Wilson's band, you could be forgiven for thinking percussionist Nelson Bragg had taken the night off from the the current Brian Wilson UK tour as the guitarist/vocalist could be his brother!
Nelson Bragg look-a-like

We caught the first bit of the Affairs. Another band feeling the need to have technology boost their sound, with a laptop pumping out electronica type sounds and the vocalist danced around the stage like Bendy Ben and sounded like Jim Kerr of Simple Minds. This was quite an 80’s synthesized sound!

We headed back to the Pub to see Mike Badger & The Shady Trio, only to find, despite playing earlier in the evening on the Front Stage, they cancelled this slot. Quite disappointing really as we had looked forward to seeing them play. It seems they never let anyone know either as the sound engineer was caught unawares and even though there were a good few bands milling around, no-one was down to fill the gap!

Our last band of the night was from Lille, France – The Arrogants. Despite playing 3 songs for their sound check (yes, really, three!!!), the sound was awful, though no fault of the sound engineer. Unfortunately we see more and more with young bands, an inexplicable need to turn everything up to 11, guitars on maximum fuzz and the vocal completely drowned out. This is not what they had sounded like when we had been doing our IPO research and checked them out on Facebook! We didn’t stay for the full set – we couldn’t bear it!
The Arrogants

THE ICICLE WORKS

HARPENDEN PUBLIC HALLS
Harpenden, Herts
Thursday 12th May 2016

We bumped into Ian McNabb at the back of the venue and had a chance to say a quick hello before we got into the hall. We also found out there was no support act, and the band were on stage in 20 minutes, so we had to get a shifty on!

Taking our front row seats, we had about 8-10 feet of space between us and the start of what was quite a high stage. There was no danger of neck ache though as within a minute of the gig starting, one couple had got out of their seats and made their way to stand at the foot of the stage, quickly followed by a throng of others which quickly filled that spare space between the seats and the stage. A standing gig it was then!


This was essentially a greatest hits gig from the Icicle Works, leading off with “When It All Comes Down” and included “Evangeline”, “Starry Blue Eyed Wonder”, “Love Is A Wonderful Colour” and “Whisper To A Scream” among many, many others. Minty’s favourite has always been “Little Girl Lost” and this sounded terrific tonight. 

The crowd were really up for this gig, settling any fears Ian McNabb might have had of the South being too posh! The crowd sang all the way through and also added to the general banter between them and Ian. We think Ian must have been really pleased that half of the audience were actually in the mosh pit at the front of the stage for the whole gig, singing and dancing along and he was genuinely pleased that so many had come to the gig on a “school night”!


The sound was immense – the bass line was a bit on the extra heavy side and you could feel your innards jumping up and down at times! The vocal from Ian McNabb was spot on, and there was plenty of opportunity for him to regale us all with his guitar skills, with a few guitar solos.

With a great sense of humour, the second set started with the band doing what must be the first live performance of new single from The Stone Roses, which had been released just a short hour or so earlier! Very tongue in cheek and had the audience laughing.


After the gig, Ian was found hanging around the merchandise table, happily chatting to the fans and signing memorabilia. A good night all round.

THE LONG RYDERS

Under The Bridge
Stamford Bridge, Fulham Rd, London
Thursday 5th May 2016



From Los Angeles, a welcome return to the UK for The Long Ryders. The venue, purpose built for gigs, was a complete sell-out, although you were never totally squished, which was great.

The support act, Neil Bob Herd, who grew up in the Western Isles, kicked off the evening’s entertainment with a short set of country rock numbers which stood out with their witty humour. Speaking with him afterwards, he was really interesting – his roots were in rockabilly and he also plays in Sid Griffins’ other band!.


The venue had subtly filled around us, and as The Long Ryders took to the stage there was a bit of a hoot and a hollering from the crowd, which was mainly middle aged men in music themed t shirts!. 

This is a bit of a super group as they all play with other bands and each brings their owns songs to this band. The result is a mix of some really great songs and sharing of the lead vocal. The first three songs… three different vocalists….. the tone was set for the next hour.


Sid Griffin and his "he's behind you" selfie


Tom Stevens
Minty didn’t really know their back catalogue but found that each song, with a solid beat and a country rock jangle, had her feet tapping and head bopping. The Beeb, just sang along to most of the songs, as did many of the audience! They are a terrific band to catch live. The sound was tight and balanced – no need to turn things up to 11! The band certainly entertained, even going as far as sharing some selfies from the tour on the stage backdrop, in between the LED displays.
Greg Sowders



By 10.20 the last notes had faded away, and the band left the stage after their encore. But fear not, a few minutes later, they emerged from their dressing room and spent the next hour (and more) chatting with fans who had stayed around, signing loads of merchandise and having their photos taken. Having a mutual friend, The Beeb introduced himself to bassist Tom Stevens who we later found out, described The Beeb’s accent as “charming”!




Stephen McCarthy

(click here for The Long Ryders website)

Before we go, a quick review of the venue itself. Purpose built as a gig venue, this is a great place. The design is very circular (even the ladies loos are in a circle with the vanity mirrors in the centre) and if you get there early enough, there are circular booths with seats and tables around the back walls or bar stools around the semi-circle overlooking and framing the “mosh pit”. 
The gig sound is pumped into the toilets, so if you are caught short, you won’t miss any of the songs! Our only complaint was that with only 2 bars and only one of those serving beer (the other is spirits only) the queue for a drink was ridiculously long! 

Getting to the venue is not an easy thing either – one tube line runs past, so multiple changes are needed if you are coming from the centre of London.


The Beeb met Mike at the gig

Photo Op with Greg

With Tom

with Stephen

with Sid


THE COLA JET SET & THE SCHOOL

THE MOTH CLUB 
Hackney, London
Saturday 2nd April 2016


Elefant is a really good record label, with a great mix of Indie bands signed. Tonight was a bit of a showcase for them, and on the bill were two bands we had first experienced at the International Pop Overthrow and have seen a couple of times since.

From Barcelona, The Cola Jet Set have a bit of a girl group sound, but with crunchy guitars. Anna was on lead vocals tonight, reprising the role she left a few years ago as the current singer was unable to travel to the UK. It did not matter that their songs are in Spanish, you get the feel good, happy vibe from every beat and every note and you cannot stop you feet from tapping, and your head from bobbing along.

The Cola Jet Set

Their songs are short, sharp and punchy, with hand claps and harmony. The first part of their set was a selection from their back catalogue and the second half, had songs from their new album, which were rockier and sounded great.

They seemed to have a good fan base who travelled with them, so the space in front of the stage was packed, and a few people were dancing. A great set, and they really seemed to enjoy themselves as much as the enthusiastic audience too.

The School
The main act on the bill were Welsh band, The School.Wearing a t-shirt that said "Writing Songs is For Girls",  Liz, who writes most of the songs, has been transported from The Brill Building and Phil Spector's studio!

Their set was their debut album "Loveless Unbeliever" from start to finish. The gig was running late so The School took to the stage later than planned, and conscious of time and the fact that people had to catch trains home, there was little in the way of chit chat between songs as the band worked through the album, but that didn't matter.


The album's 60's influenced sound was recreated on stage with the help of the usual keyboard, guitars and drums and also 2 violins, a bit of percussion, a trumpet and some lush backing vocals. The drummer was really good, and even threw a couple of extra things in that seemed to be a bit unexpected, but worked!

Liz behind the drum kit

It was a great gig, the sound and balance was very good, even more so when you consider the number of instruments being played.




RUSS BALLARD TOUR

The Stables, Milton Keynes / The Flowerpot, Derby / The Robin 2, Bilston / Nells Jazz & Blues, Kensington London
8th - 18th March 2016

(taken in part from the review that The Beeb wrote which appeared in Russ Ballard's newsletter)

THE STABLES, Milton Keynes (8th March)
A Q&A show in London's Leicester Square Theatre in January had certainly whetted our appetite for the real thing. Now it was time for the first live gig of Russ’s solo career in 40 years......

Nervous? Well, that would be a “Yes” according to Russ when he walked out onto the stage at The Stables in Milton Keynes on the Tuesday night. After a bit of banter, it was straight into “Rene Didn’t Do It.” It was a joy to finally hear an album track, live!

His band, Bob Henrit on drums, Stu Ross on bass, Steve Smith on keyboard and multi-instrumentalist Chris Winter on keyboards, guitar, sax and harmonica had a good time too. First night nerves quickly melted away and the show was a good 'un. 

The set list was interspersed with anecdotes about the various songs Russ has  written and produced throughout his career. The medley of “So You Win Again,” “I Know There's Something Going On” and “New York Groove” epitomised the diverse range of hits Russ has written over the years. Russ' voice soared during his rendition of "I Don't Believe in Miracles" which got a rapturous reaction from the crowd and the set finished with a bit of boogie woogie keyboard, with "Little Queenie".


Russ and The Band have a laugh at the end of the show


The Beeb with Bob Henrit
The show may not have been a total sell-out, but the audience was very appreciative. When the gig was over, there was a bit of after show meeting up in the foyer. It was clear that some old friends were seeing each other for the first time in a while, and for us it was the chance to make new ones, including Sue who is the editor of Russ' Newsletter.

Russ was very generous with his time afterwards, chatting to everyone, and having photos taken with anyone who asked.




THE FLOWERPOT, Derby (12th March)
A few days later we made it to Derby for the next gig, a SATURDAY, and a chance to meet some friends of our own we hadn’t seen for years. Already it was going to be a great night.
What a difference The Flowerpot was to The Stables. It was a real rock and roll pub venue, a few seats around the edge but mainly unreserved standing. The more than decent sized crowd was crammed at the front of the stage ready for action.

The band came on and it was a blistering show right from the start. The set was  unchanged from The Stables gig, but there was some ad lib stuff thrown in, such as "Concrete & Clay". The band were certainly kept on their toes. 


Russ Rocks

All of the songs went down really well, and a great sing along with “God Gave Rock and Roll To You” was a highlight. The sound was very good (Russ and the venue, not necessarily the crowd singing along!!), and it was great to be right up there, and close to the stage. We think Russ felt the warmth of the crowd too and he really seemed to enjoy it. 

Once again, Russ was out chatting with everyone after the show, and our friends were delighted to have some memorabilia signed. The merchandise available was plentiful, and the signed set list was a real bargain to be had at only £1.

As if the gig wasn’t good enough, we had fortuitously and unknowingly booked into the same hotel as the band! We were kindly invited to join them all for a drink and a chat once we got back there. The world became that little bit smaller when I found out keyboard player Steve Smith and I had a mutual friend. Russ was a bit of a raconteur and had a few good stories to tell. A fantastic end to the night.


Photo Bombed by Russ back at the hotel!!!


THE ROBIN 2, Bilston (13th March)
After spending an afternoon shopping in Derby, we made our way to Wolverhampton, booked into the next hotel and headed straight out for something to eat. Bilston does not open on a Sunday by the way, but we eventually found a Wetherspoon pub!!!

Before the show, we had a couple of drinks in Woodies, next door to the venue. Dedicated to the wonderful local hero Roy Wood, and memorabilia all around, with the soft furnishings, this bar was like sitting in someone’s front room. You get into the actual gig through the back of the pub too!

The Robin 2 was cavernous compared to the Flowerpot. This was the biggest audience so far. Beside meeting up again with Sue, we spent some time in the company of a few head-banging stragglers who had made their way back from Friday's Hard Rock Hell gig in Wales. We thought that was actually an outdoor gig, otherwise we might have been tempted to go there too!

Each gig so far has had something memorable about it…beside the music. This time being a bloke in a Kiss T-shirt at the front of the stage who was able to play note for note on his air guitar, everything that Russ played! I have no doubt that Russ’s attention was on this guy when they struck up “God Gave Rock & Roll" and he forgot the words!!  For all the times he must have played this, he did at least have good grace to laugh about that happening.

It was terrific to see a venue this size being so supportive of Russ. This is a great place to see any band.




NELL’S JAZZ and BLUES CLUB, Kensington (18th March)
The last night of the tour, and a bit closer to home for us, London.
Meandering our way through Kensington to the gig, we bumped into Stu and Steve from the band. After a wee chat with them, we got to the club, and managed to blag a table, right front centre of the stage. Result! The venue itself was really nice, a bit of a modern take on Ronnie Scotts, and the stage area was quite spacious.

The Fender and The Les Paul
This time we met Irene from Amsterdam, who joined us for most of the night. The next table to us had a group of Norwegian guys who’d come over for the weekend. They certainly were enjoying themselves too.

Once again there appeared to be a lot of friends meeting up around about us. It’s been a bonus doing these gigs and seeing such friendliness everywhere. Minty came back from the toilet laughing at one point, having heard a group of young "twenty somethings" talking about Russ and wishing they were twenty years older!!!!

Another highlight for us has been hearing the new song “Time Machine” at every gig. Surprisingly, this is the only song he has played from his new album (only available on download) and it really does stand up strongly against anything else Russ has written over the years. Tonight “Voices” was given the audience participation treatment. The old Chuck Berry number “Little Queenie” has been the finishing song on the tour, and tonight’s version was a real belter. A great way to finish the gig.



But the night wasn’t over just yet. Boyhood dreams came true when The Beeb finally managed to get his hands on Russ’s iconic Fender, yes…the one with the holes in it, and have the photos to prove it! Having had posters of this on his bedroom wall when he was a teenager, he was in seventh heaven. 

The Beeb and his dream

These gigs have been such a wonderful experience for both of us. Each gig had its own wee vibe going, and all of them were special in their own way. We really have to thank Russ, Chris, Stu, Steve and of course, the evergreen Bob for all the music and generosity of their time.

A special thanks to Peter Ross from UMU Music, who was very accommodating and helpful too throughout the whole tour.

Well the 40-year wait for The Beeb was well worth it  And if Russ’s next tour is when he’s 110, at least we’ll have 40 years of happy memories to keep us going till then!

The Band.....
Stu Ross
Bob Henrit
Chris Winter
Steve Smith