DUSTY DAY

GIG: Dusty Day
DATE: Sunday 13th April 2014
VENUE: West 5, Popes Lane, Ealing
COST: £15.00
OUR VERDICT: “Something Special”


Dusty Day is an annual get together of all things Dusty Springfield, organised and run by the boundless energy of Simon Bell, long time backing singer for Dusty and now with the James Last Orchestra. The event raises loads of money for the Royal Marsden, and today was no exception with almost £4K being raised. The afternoon schedule was a mixture of live performances and chat/mingling, along with a raffle and an auction and included many famous faces, including Michelle Collins, ex-Eastender, Corrie actress and a Wilsation from Mari Wilson’s 80’s group, Mari Wilson herself, Madeline Bell and Julie Felix who were all very generous with their time, mingling with everyone and having their pictures taken.

The Beeb with his two M&Ms - Mari and Michelle

 The minute we walked through the door, although obvious that many of those present were long-time friends and this an annual party for them, we were made to feel very welcome, given badges with our names on them so people knew who they were talking to, and before long were chatting away to Trudy and Pat, obvious devoted fans that were happy to share their recollections of Dusty with us.

Martyna Wren
There was a small stage set up and before long, the entertainment started, kicking off with a young 60’s influenced Martyna Wren who started with a great rendition of Goffin & King’s “Oh No Not My Baby” and followed up with “Wishin’ and Hopin’”. That got the afternoon off to a good start.






Mari Wilson
Mari Wilson has a great pedigree of Dusty related projects. Indeed she was Dusty in the West End show in early Noughties and is due to embark on a Dusty tribute series of shows around the UK soon, doing a taster show at London’s Hippodrome on May 2nd. Mari is very comfortable behind the mic, and with ex-Wilsation, Alastair Gavin tinkling the keyboard, she effortlessly enthralled us with “Spooky”, a cracking version of “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” which sent goosebumps down Minty’s spine it was that good, and then rounded her 3 song set off with a fantastic version of The Springfields’ “Island of Dreams” which drew a standing ovation. She really made it her own. An inspired choice and great arrangement. There was an audible gasp from many in the room as that final song started – it seems that it had not been performed live at one of these shindigs before. Mari was certainly on form. It’s not easy to pick just three songs to captivate an audience, but Mari managed to do just that.


The audience were hushed once again, as 60’s folk icon, Julie Felix, with her acoustic guitar gave us one of her own songs and then did “24 Hours from Tulsa”. She finished her set with Madeline Bell joining her on stage, and together they did a wee medley of “Goin’ Back” and “Son of a Preacher Man”.
Julie Felix & Madeline Bell

Madeline, herself an ex-backing singer with Dusty who went on to join Blue Mink, did ”A House Is Not a Home”, accompanied by Ian Shaw on keyboard. There was no need for her to be mic’d up, her voice is that strong and powerful. She was a great bundle of energy on the stage and also dueted with Simon Bell for “Let It Be Me”.

There were many lots for auction and a table full of raffle prizes and our fear was that both auction and raffle would be long drawn out tedious affairs were not realised, as both went quick and smoothly. The Beeb even won a raffle prize, and picked a Springfields vinyl album. 

The Beeb with his raffle prize
 There was more music from Ian Shaw on keyboards, who also accompanied Simon Bell on a rendition of Gershwin’s “Someone To Watch Over Me” and also jazz musician, and power-house of a singer, Liane Carroll who did “How Can I Be Sure”.

A highlight of the day for The Beeb, was getting Madeline Bell to sing-a-long with him, the "Cookability" British Gas advert that she was responsible for on TV for years.


The afternoon was wrapping up at that point so we headed home. It was a great way to spend an afternoon.

The Beeb meets Madeline Bell







MATT BACKER

GIG: Matt Backer
DATE: Wednesday 13th November 2013
VENUE: The Dublin Castle, 94 Parkway, Camden
COST: £4.40 in advance
OUR VERDICT: No Idle Hands here


Matt Backer is a session guitarist par excellence. He has a CV that is just jaw dropping. ABC, Bananarama, in fact anyone who made a record in the 80’s will have benefited from Matt’s contributions at some point. Rumor’s another recent addition to that CV. He’s also MD for Julian Lennon and features heavily as the main guitarist in “Don’t Forget The Lyrics”. It was while he was playing with Mari Wilson when we first saw him. We also caught him when he did his debut gig for Paul Young’s Los Pacaminos, and you could see why he is so in demand.

We caught Matt a couple of weeks ago at the same venue, when he did a warm-up solo performance for this, his full band gig. It was a bonus for us to find out that tonight his drummer was Jim Kimberley from Kellys Heels/Bruise, another couple of Liverpool IPO band favourites of ours. Jim always plays a great beat and is probably one of the finest drummers we’ve seen play.

The “band”/karaoke playing when we arrived weren’t our cup of tea, and as soon as they finished everyone from the pub suddenly made their way into the music room. It became obvious Matt had brought quite a following with him.

The set started with a really slow, moody, bottleneck blues song, which set the tone for most of the night. With Simon Edwards on bass, this turned out to be a great bluesy band. Matt has some really great songs of his own. “Cold War” from his first album is a fine, well observed rocker. “Let’s Art” from the new album “Idle Hands” is quite smart too.

“All That You’ve Wanted” was co-written with Julian Lennon, and if there was any justice in the world this should be a hit! Matt on-stage is very laid back, and tends to let his guitar playing connect with the audience as much as any between song chatting.


The thing with the Dublin Castle is everyone has to do a pretty short set, and Matt’s was no exception. The time just flew in and it all seemed over in a flash. The set was excellent though, and he got a well-deserved reception. It was great to see up close, such a genuinely talented guitarist. If we hadn’t seen him before this would definitely have made us realise why he was such an in demand professional .


To have the opportunity to see him perform his own material was certainly a bonus. His own albums stand up well to anything he has recorded for any of the bands and artists he’s worked with in the past. Another great gig for us and an artist we would recommend to go see.


NELSON BRAGG

GIG: Nelson Bragg at The  Living Room Scene
DATE: Tuesday 12th November 2013
VENUE: The Betsey Trotwood, 56 Farringdon Road, London
COST: free with a whip round
OUR VERDICT: Nelson found his second home


It was a surprise visit to the UK from Nelson Bragg that brought us out to that most excellent musical watering hole in central London, The Betsey Trotwood. Nelson was going to be sharing the stage with Mick Terry, who greatly impressed us at this year’s London IPO, alongside fellow singer/songwriters, Peter James Millson and Jinder.

It was good to meet up with veteran gig-goer John Etherington beforehand too. John always has a story or two to tell from the various gigs he’s been to over the years. Nelson arrived, and it was man hugs all round for one of the top social animals from Brian Wilson’s band.


The stage was set
 The upstairs bar in this pub was a wonderfully intimate setting for a night of acoustic music.

 With a stool on stage for each artist, Mick Terry kicked off the proceedings.
Nelson followed, using Jinder's vintage Gibson acoustic.
Jinder regaled us with some witty patter before his first song, and then handed the reins to Peter.

Nelson tried to show us how Jeff Beck would play guitar on stage during the Brian Wilson/Jeff Beck tour…He TRIED, but of course he couldn’t, much to everyone’s amusement.

And that was the format for the evening. It was a song each from everyone on stage. Nelson treated us to Forever Days, Death Of Caroline and the very Byrds-like Welcome to Nowhereville amongst others. 

Nelson
Jinder was very self-deprecating, pointing out the fact that most of his songs featured trains and death. He did a really lovely tribute to Scottish folk musician Jackie Leven. Peter finished on a really lovely song about his brother…his brother, who Peter pointed out, left before the start of this song! Mick’s contributions to the evening went down very well of course. As mentioned, we knew Mick from the London IPO and he was on top form tonight again. Throughout the whole night, the audience was completely hushed, showing total respect for these great musicians. It is really quite amazing the power an acoustic guitar, great vocals and a good song can have.

So, after an evening in which we were treated to twenty songs from the four artists, Nelson started off the finale with a tribute to Lou Reed. Each one of the singers did a verse each on “Walk On The Wild Side,” aided by the audience who sang along too. A great end to a fantastic night.

L-R - Peter James Millson, Jinder, Nelson Bragg, Mick Terry


Nelson explained afterwards that he can’t stay away from the UK for more than a year…he HAD to come over for a holiday. We’re grateful he managed to fit in a couple of gigs while he was here. It was great to catch up on how great the Brian and Jeff tour was across the pond. We are living in hope that it will happen in the UK now.

Nelson, with The Living Room Scene host, Mick Terry

THE WELLGREEN

GIG: The Wellgreen / Laura J Martin / Euros Childs
DATE: Friday 1st November 2013
VENUE: The Boston Arms, Tufnell Park, London
COST: £12 on the door
OUR VERDICT: Wellgood!


The Wellgreen
It’s always been the case that anytime we go to Glasgow we seem to miss a Wellgreen gig by a day or two for some reason. So we certainly weren’t going to miss them when they came to our neck of the woods for a gig at The Boston Arms.

Stu Kidd
With Stu and Marco, who make up The Wellgreen, playing a simple set up, it is just a joy to hear the harmonies they create between them - just the two of them. Playing a mixture of songs from their eponymous debut album and the new one, Grin and Bear It, they really do know how to put a song together. The influences are easy to spot, all the B’s are there…Beatles, Byrds, Beach Boys etc, but they do have a sound of their own.


Not only do they do the great harmony thing, “Don’t Give My Number Away” being a favourite, they can rock out when the call goes up. No more so than on the brilliant “Red Light”.


Marco Rea

Laura J Martin
The Wellgreen made way for Laura J. Martin. Laura had a very unusual set up. Using loops and pedals, her main instrument was the flute. She also used a mandolin and a melodica which all gave her a very unique and distinct sound. There was a bit of fun had during the trip down to the gig. It turns out Laura’s aunt is Barbra Dickson, and they all turned up at her door out of the blue that afternoon.


 Laura comes across as being indebted to Kate Bush at times, but when she was joined by The Wellgreen later on, the sound they made was like The Velvet Undergound’s “Sister Ray,” with Laura’s flute replacing John Cale’s viola! This was very powerful stuff indeed.


Euros Childs was the front man for Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci while they were going. His experience with years of playing to audiences comes across straight away. He was a great raconteur and connected well with everyone there. We didn’t know any of his songs at all, but we were very appreciative of them. Some were very funny too. We think this reflects the nature of the man. The Beeb even had the good fortune to “win” 32p and a Motorway cafĂ© receipt from Euros himself. Yes, that’s the sort of gig it was.

Euro Childs
With The Wellgreen as his backing band, a bassist and Laura J Martin joining for a few songs, this was such a good set from someone we knew nothing about. He definitely won us over. Euros Childs certainly deserves a bit more recognition from the wider public. He puts on a really fun show and has a wealth of really good songs into the bargain.

The Beeb with Marco Rea and Stu Kidd, The Wellgreen







THE ACE

GIG: The Ace – Plastic Pop Records Showcase
DATE: Saturday 19th October 2013
VENUE: The Dublin Castle, 94 Parkway, Camden
COST: £5.50 in advance
OUR VERDICT: Just ACE!


The Ace rock The Dublin Castle
Not that we need much of an excuse to visit Camden, but one thing was for sure…we weren’t going to miss professional Northerners, The Ace when they came to town to play the Dublin Castle. 

Jonny
The Ace is a terrific three piece mod/beat/psyche band that we’ve seen many times at the Liverpool IPO. There was a definite air of Paisley Pattern shirts amongst the bands tonight, and  The Ace, duly attired, were second on the bill. They always put on a high octane performance and this gig was sure to be a cracker. If you like your 60's mod beat sound, then this is a band you should not miss. The guys drove down from Leeds and were going to make sure it was worth it.


Jonny does an excellent job as front man and main singer, ably assisted by Nige on vocals from time to time. Daz on drums has to be seen to be believed. It never LOOKS as if what he’s playing actually is in time with what the others are playing, but it is! You’ll never see a more energetic man behind the drums and he would give Animal a run for his money. Crazy but good!

A rare shot of Daz being still!

It was a short set, as they all are in this venue when you have multiple bands on the bill, but they put a fantastic amount of energy into what they did play. It was a pity they had to drive straight home afterwards. The band hit the heights with one of our favourites, “Oh Yeah” which has a real authentic 60’s mod beat to it with a hint of My Sharona. Blasting through their 30 minutes (which went by way too quickly in our opinion), they included tracks from their new EP Sonic Snapshots. We particularly liked “The Poet”. This is such a good song and the audience appreciated this one too.

Nige on bass
The guys put a lot of effort into doing this gig, and they made it worthwhile for the audience as well as themselves. They got a great reception and there was a decent sized crowd tonight as well.

Can’t wait to see them in Liverpool next year already!




BAND OF FRIENDS

GIG: Band of Friends - A Tribute to Rory Gallagher
DATE: Friday 11th October 2013
VENUE: The Borderline, London
COST: £17.50 plus a small booking fee
OUR VERDICT:Top Priority..Do not miss!

Minty had an email alert about a gig in the Borderline featuring Band of Friends. This was a band featuring Gerry McAvoy and Ted McKenna, long-time members of Rory Gallagher’s band. With The Beeb being such a big fan of Rory’s music, this was one he didn’t want to miss.

We made an afternoon of it so that Denmark St had the chance to tempt the Beeb to open his wallet again. This gave us plenty of time to get to The Borderline early. In fact, we were just about first in and managed to blag seats at the edge of the bar, right in front of the stage.  This was definitely a male-dominated gig, and as the place began to fill up the men far outnumbered the gals, who we counted only 43!!!!

There was no support act tonight, so it was straight into the show with the band kicking off with “The Last Of The Independents.” Having had the good fortune to see Rory live, it was going to take someone special to fill his boots. Marcel Scherpenzeel on guitar was just terrific and was up for the job.

Within minutes he was soaked in sweat as he put so much energy into his playing. “Continental OP” followed, before being treated to a great set featuring some of Rory’s best songs.  It was obvious that Marcel was steeped in appreciation of this music. At times it was quite uncanny listening to him sing, especially on songs like “Follow Me” and “Tattoo’d Lady”.

Marcel didn’t use the stage as much as Rory, but part of that would be because of Gerry McAvoy managing to run around what little space there is on the Borderline stage. Gerry was also acting as the MC tonight, often taking the chance to tell great anecdotes about being on the road with Rory, even if he did have to handle some hecklers!
Gerry McAvoy

Ted McKenna’s drums were built around what looked like scaffolding. It may be a good job that they were! The energy level and power behind the drumming for most of the night was astonishing. Apart from the odd quiet moment, Ted provided a high testosterone show of drumming all night.

Tonight’s gig also provided some fantastic air guitar playing from the audience. One guy in particular down the front, cleverly managed to switch from air guitar to air drums in the same song, without missing a beat!
By the time we got to “A Million Miles Away” and “Shadow Play” we were heading to the two hour mark. Of course, the place went daft when “Bullfrog Blues” was played for the encore. This was definitely the quickest two hours we’ve spent in a long while.

Marcel Scherpenzeel
Although Marcel’s obvious love of Rory’s guitar playing shone through, he still managed to put his own style on show too. Ted and Gerry made the best drum n’ bass outfit we’d seen in quite some time. That’s what all those years on the road can do for you.

This was far removed from being a tribute band. What we saw tonight was a genuine celebration of the life and music of Rory Gallagher.


We managed to have a chat with Gerry and Ted afterwards too. Ted and The Beeb actually come from the same town and shared some memories from away back in the 60’s and early 70’s.

Ted McKenna and The Beeb could be brothers!

The band has a string of dates all over Europe now, and if you can you should go and see them.



A LIFE IN SONG: LYRICS BY DON BLACK

GIG: A Life in Song: Lyrics by Don Black
DATE: Thursday 3rd October 2013
VENUE: Royal Festival Hall, London
COST: £29.50 plus small transaction fee
OUR VERDICT: Black Magic


It was back to the Royal Festival Hall, one our favourite venues for tonight’s gig, “A Life in Song: Lyrics by Don Black”. There are not too many people who have a career as just a lyricist, but Don Black has to be the top dog in this profession.

We got the tickets because the Beeb has always been a fan, and he knew Don was a good raconteur. So with this evening’s format set to be a mixture of his songs being performed, and a bit of chat with Don himself, it was definitely primed to be an entertaining night. Interviewing Don would be Michael Grade, and the show was being recorded for future broadcast on the BBC.

BBC Concert Orchestra

The BBC Concert Orchestra filled the stage and after settling into their seats, kicked off the proceedings before the first guest of the night, Michael Ball, came on and sang “Love Changes Everything.” Even though Michael Ball may not be our cup of tea, it was impressive to hear such a powerful, theatrical voice booming out over a 50+ orchestra, in a hall built for sound and the audience were already thrilled.

Don and Michael had a good rapport throughout the evening, with Michael having to rein Don in at times for getting ahead of himself in his story. Don, as expected, was very amusing all night.

Michael Grade speaks with Don about his long career

It must have been very hard for the show’s producers to whittle such an impressive catalogue of songs down to a mere handful for a two hour show but the choice was pretty good.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for all of the artists who performed the songs…..  one singer,  who we didn’t recognise, was a bit of a screecher and kind of ruined (for us at least) what is probably one of Don’s finest works, “To Sir With Love”. If only Lulu could have been there!

A major surprise and much to The Beeb’s delight was the introduction of Gregory Porter, who sang a wonderful version of the Michael Jackson hit, “Ben”, ably assisted by Eliza Doolittle (who wore a beautiful, figure hugging fishtailed cream gown). This was the first of a few surprise guests that we knew nothing about. Gregory’s voice was just sublime.

Another was the appearance of Marc Almond. After Don telling the tale of Tom Jones passing out after hitting the last note on the recording of “Thunderball”, it was a brave man who was going to attempt it. Well Marc was quite stunning. Looking stick thin, it’s a wonder where the power came from.  But powerful it was. He acted out the song in that over the top “Jackie” type of performance. He really did wow the crowd big style and sounded terrific.

As if this wasn’t enough, again to The Beeb’s astonishment, Brian May came on and did a wonderful bit of loud guitar work on maybe Don’s most famous song, “Born Free” sung by Kerry Ellis. You’d think with all the money he’s earned from Queen he’d buy a new pair of shoes. He’s been wearing those white shoes since the Beeb last saw him live 30 years ago! Don also reminded us that he wrote the lyrics to Mrs May’s big hit, “Anyone Can Fall in Love”, the Eastenders Theme.

In the middle of all these wonderful orchestral arrangements, out came an absolutely gorgeous looking Katie Melua. She picked up her acoustic guitar, and with a minimal number of chords, threatened to bring the roof of the RFH crashing down with the highlight of the night, a totally stripped down, “Diamonds Are Forever.”  What Eva Cassidy did in making “Over the Rainbow” hers as much as Judy Garland’s, Katie did just the same with Shirley Bassey.

Don’s James Bond collaborator, David Arnold played piano with the orchestra and made a very decent fist of it when it came to singing “The World Is Not Enough.”

Another highlight, and a further  ‘bring the house down’ moment was Richard Stilgoe who took his place behind the grand piano and reeled off a wonderfully funny song, piecing together a load of unused abstract rhyming words that Don has so far, not been able to include in songs! We were in stiches as he cleverly weaved his way through these rhymes.

The guests were numerous, and mostly high calibre. Marti Webb did a couple of songs from the stage hit “Tell Me On a Sunday”, including her huge hit, “Take That Look off Your Face” which sounded as good as it did on vinyl 30+ years ago (Minty has the ’45!). Other guests were Gary Wilmott and Maria Friedman amongst many others.
Don Black soaks is applauded at the end of the show

This show will be shown on BBC4 in December, and is definitely not one to be missed. And it looks like they are going to tour this a bit in April next year (Nottingham Symphony Hall and Manchester Opera House) so you will have the opportunity to experience it live as well.