The Cavern Pub and Cavern Club
Mathew Street, Liverpool
Tuesday 16th May 2017

Bands Seen today: 10
Plastic Soul, Micah Gilbert (twice), The Armoires, The Newds, Toxic Melons, The Belmondos, The Reflections, The Cherry Bluestorms, Alex & The Boss Jockeys, Nine Violets

The International Pop Overthrow is in its 15th year in Liverpool, with around 140 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.

Apologies for the poor quality of some of the photos taken in the Cavern Pub - there is a red hue due to the lighting being predominantly red!.

The IPO kicked off at the Cavern Pub, with a band who had travelled all the way from California to play at the iconic venue that is The Cavern. The cost and time away is quite prohibitive for the US bands to bring their full line up over, and we have seen many in the past who come and play solo or use local musicians to cover some of the instrumentation. This year the US bands have essentially clubbed together and where band members are missing, they are filling in for each other. Great team work, and a situation that gives us the chance to watch a few US bands we might never get to see.
Indeed, such is the commarardirie of the US bands, they have put together a "Big Stir International Travelling Roadshow", a tour which is kicking off immediately after they finish their IPO gigs, and takes in a lot of the UK and a gig in Dublin, and also includes some of this year's IPO bands where the Americans are playing in a venue local to them. Check out below for the list of dates/venues......

So, back to the opening of the IPO and Plastic Soul were on first and this was one of the "hybrid" US bands. Head honcho Steve Wilson was backed by an Armoire and two of Huxley Rittman & The Rusty Hitmen to deliver a thirty minute set of US Powerpop. He was polished, confident and gave a great performance. This is what US Powerpop is all about - great songs, good guitars, fantastic beat. He is also a funny guy and had a bit of banter going in between songs.
Plastic Soul

Micah in The Pub
Next up, Micah Gilbert who has planted roots in The Isle of Skye. He moved from Georgia in the US to the Scottish Island a couple of years ago and this year the Celtic influence has shone through, performing an "unplugged" set accompanied by Grace and Alan from "Two Far Flung". 

Keyboard, acoustic guitar, violin, some great vocals, a touch of flute and brilliant songs went into the mix to give us a lovely thirty minutes of Micah's music.
He is a talented songwriter, that's for sure and he has a distinctive vocal well. 

He played two sets today, one in the pub where the sound can be hit or miss and the first part of the set had the violin quite low in the mix. It took a couple of songs for soundman Andy to get it right. But when he did it sounded fine. The second set was on the iconic front stage of the Cavern. 

The sound on the front stage is miles better than the Pub and as a result, the second set sounded far richer. Grace's backing vocals added a lot to the set. It can be tough doing an acoustic-style set, being up against a transient crowd who have not come to listen to the bands, but tonight Micah shone through.

Micah Gilbert on the Front Stage

The Armoires
The Armoires are another of the hybrid US bands. Rex and Christina were supported by Plastic Soul's Steve Wilson on bass and the drummer from Huxley Rittman and the Rusty Hitmen. 

We got a confident performance and a set that had all the ingredients for the easy going West Coast sound from the summer of love era. The jingle jangle of the Rickenbakker, the tinkling keyboard, tambourine and some good vocals were a pleasure on our ears.

The Newds are a fairly large band (3 guitarists) who have a bit of a Graham Parker vibe about them. Their set was essentially a quite fast paced rock/pop one, with one song having a but more of a funk beat to it. It was quite foot tapping set - not bad at all. The appearance of the band was a bit at odds, with the lead vocalist in a full suit and tie, to jeans/t.shirt and the bass player who was dressed more like a roadie for an international rock group tour! They had brought their family along to this gig on the back stage, to the delight of two wee children who must have been dosed up on sugar! This band were quite polished and were obviously comfortable with their material. We enjoyed their set.

The Newds

Toxic Melons
Toxic Melons were introduced as very Jellyfish influenced, but we struggled to get the comparison with only one vocalist and no harmony in the band. The vocalist had the mannerisms of Russell Brand, and the drummer could have been Peter Kay! 

Their set included a few power ballad type songs. Although the vocalist was not a bad singer, the power ballads were not really suited to his voice and we struggled to see what the fuss about this band was.

From Paris, The Belmondos were a big hit with the audience, including us. The drummer was terrific, keeping a great beat all the way through (including a good use of the tom drum, much to Minty's delight), the bass player was solid and really enjoyed himself on stage and the two guitarists were very good. The lead singer had charisma and the set was energetic with catchy pop songs. Definitely a good find at the IPO. A group of girls sitting at the front of the Back Stage were delighted with this band and whooped and hollered after each song, and gave a standing ovation at the end! The Belmondos were certainly one of the highlights of the day. Had a listen to one of the albums too. Excellent stuff.
The Belmondos

The Reflections
A regular at the IPO, London band The Reflections turned more psychedelic a few years ago. The line up has been together for a long time and they know their set inside out.

They have a great 60's beat and vibe about them, and for some songs, has a hammond organ sound works a treat.

 "The Girl From Nowhere" was a really strong song in tonight's set on the Back Stage, along with "Haunted House" and their finale, a cover of Gene Pitney's "Last Chance to Turn Around". 

Never get tired of seeing these guys at the IPO.

The Cherry Bluestorms were back at the Liverpool IPO. This is an authentic psychedelic band from the US West Coast, who have a slick set. Glen played the 12 string Gretsch for the majority of the set, which did drown out the vocals on this Front stage set. That aside, their performance is professional and polished and resonates of that lates 60's West Coast Psych vibe, not just the sound but the look too. The club was really busy so they had a great audience to play to as well.

The Cherry Bluestorms

Alex & The Boss Jockeys
Local Liverpool band, Alex and The Boss Jockeys delivered a brilliant set of 60's beat / Beatles influenced music. They had a fantastic sound and were very energetic. 

Backing vocals from the drummer and bass player were superb and really added to that 60's sound. In our research of the band prior to the IPO starting, we had this band earmarked as one to see and they were very bit as good as we had thought they would be. 

Whether she was a plant or not, there was a dancing granny who bopped and boogied throughout their set, and before long, more of the audience were up and bopping along. A great audience reaction we thought. Great performance.

Nine Violets
Nine Violets were the last band on the Front stage. From our pre-IPO research, we had these pegged as a Crowded House style band, but they played a much rockier set on the Front Stage and were surprisingly good with it. 

The crowd in the club had thinned out by this time, but those that were left were enthusiastic.

So night number one complete. A day of mixing and mingling with loads of friends and the US contingent included. It was a bit of paisley style day too..... loads of paisley shirts were to be found.
Paisley Partners - The Beeb with Rex and Christina from The Armoires

Messing around in The Cavern

Paisley Power!

Big Stir Tour - UK and Ireland
19 May: Manchester, UK
The Dulcimer – with Dave Jaggs and Special US Guests
20 May: Newcastle, UK
Bar Loco – with Toxic Melons and Artisam
23 May: Swindon, UK
The Beehive – with Charms Against the Evil Eye
24 May: Birmingham, UK
The Cuban Embassy – with Sunshine Bloom
25 May: Oxford, UK
Jericho Tavern – with Charms Against the Evil Eye
26 May: Northampton, UK
The Lab – with Charms Against the Evil Eye
27 May: London (Croydon), UK
Oval Tavern – with Spygenius
28 May: Canterbury, UK
The Cherry Tree – with Spygenius
31 May: Glasgow, Scotland
Box – with The Fast Camels
2 June – Dublin, Ireland
Mercantile O'Brien's - YouBloom Festival
3 June – Edinburgh, Scotland
Greenmantle – mylittlebrother and The Armoires
6 June – St. Helens, UK
Tank – The Armoires with special guests


Bournemouth International Centre

Friday 21st April 2017

We missed out on tickets when Frankie played The Royal Albert Hall last year, so  we jumped at this opportunity to see him in the Bournemouth International Centre, and made a full weekend of it on the sunshine coast of England!

This was billed as a Greatest Hits tour, and you do forget just how many hits Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons actually had. The show opened with a short video  which charted Frankie’s musical career, and as it came to an end, Frankie came onto the stage to rapturous applause and immediately launched into “Who Loves You”. 

His backing was from a full band, including trumpet, trombone and saxophone, 2 keyboards, drums, guitar, bass and four guys who sang wonderfully and did some co-ordinated dance moves throughout the whole show. You had the feeling these guys had been part of Jersey Boys at some stage, they looked and sounded the part!!! The Musical Director, Robbie Robinson, has been a Four Season in the past and was introduced as a “dear friend for the last 37 years”. Robbie was loving it all, and his enthusiasm was quite infectious.

We had heard rumours Valli’s voice is augmented through a special microphone so he could still hit those falsettos – it didn’t matter if that was the case. He did sound great and you could tell he wanted to deliver the best show he could - if this means a bit of technical support, that’s fine with us. There was not much time for chit chat, and indeed, the set was so slick there was hardly any chance for general banter between songs as he moved effortlessly through his back catalogue, working with his band like a well-oiled machine.

A few pairs of knickers were thrown onto the stage during the second half, something we reckon happens at all of his shows. During the band introductions, one of the four backing singers, pocketed a rather flimsy g-string that had been thrown!

The show lasted the best part of 2 hours without a break. That’s not bad going for a guy who is about to reach his 83rd birthday in a matter of weeks!!! His energy was similar to the Duracell Bunny, and even at the end of the show he had the energy to walk along the front of the stage and shake hands with everyone (and there were a lot) who had outstretched hands.

Highlights for us were "Save It For Me", “Silence Is Golden”, “Rag Doll”, “Bye Bye Baby (Goodbye)” amongst loads of other hits. “My Eyes Adored You” sounded brilliant, and “December 1963 (Oh What A Night) “ went down a storm and by the end up, the whole auditorium were on their feet, dancing and singing along.

A classic conversation took place with the family seated behind us.
Young guy "Is Aunt Jean coming tonight?"
Mum "No, she was asked but didn't want to come."
Young Guy "Why?"
Mum "She said she'd been to see The Jersey Boys" and that will do her!"

Oh what a night she missed!


Nell's Jazz & Blues
Kensington, London
Saturday 25th March 2017

Although we were about 10th in the queue to get into this "unreserved admission" gig, we were a little disappointed, once we got inside, to see about half of the seats in the venue as "reserved"!!!
Nonetheless, we managed to bag a table near the bar with a half decent view of the stage. It was clear that the majority of the audience found this "reserved" seating a tad frustrating and before long, began to take chairs stacked up at the side of the stage and put them out on the dance floor area in front of the stage.
One "reserved" table with a great review of the stage remained maddeningly empty for the first half of the show... apparently reserved for Jools Holand who didn't bother turning up! By the second half, another frustrated member of the audience commandeered it!

But on to the show.....

Andy Fairweather Low, a member of 60's band Amen Corner and a chart success as a solo artist with "Wide Eyed & Legless" gave us a great show. In between songs, we realised that he is a very witty man and does not take himself too seriously. His banter made us all laugh out loud.

Backed by the Low Riders playing  keyboards, drums, bass, 2 saxophones and a trumpet, it was a full band set. The brass really gave that bluesy/big band feel and sounded great.

Andy himself was on fine form both vocally and with plugging his CDs. We were quite pleased that the gig was not a "Best Of" and he kept the Amen Corner songs he is more associated with until towards the end of the gig, and focused more on his more recent work.

You don't get someone with Andy's wealth of experience put on anything less than a great performance. The lovely thing about this show was the wide range of styles the band played. We had everything from blues, jazz, skiffle, soul, and of course pop. All played brilliantly.

Definitely a band we'll go back to see in the future.


O2 Shepherds Bush
Saturday 25th February 2017

There were 2 acts on the bill before Me First & The Gimmee Gimmees graced the stage. The first was a punk rock band where the guitarist/vocalist infuriated us by changing his guitar after EVERY song. Afterwards we were told it was due to the fact the guitar had to be tuned differently for every song. Funny that, we thought - each song sounded EXACTLY the same and by the way, the lead guitarist didn't have to detune his guitar!!

Masked Intruder
Next up was a crowd pleasing band, Masked Intruder with a guy dressed as a camp US police officer, who constantly harangued the audience as part of his act, until finally ripping off his uniform to be left with not much more than a Borat swimsuit.

Watching from the balcony, it made us appreciate not being down on the floor. It was absolute mayhem, and felt as if things could kick off at any second.

Thankfully is was a bit different when Me First and the Gimme Gimmes came on. Opening with Gershwin's "Summertime", things went from strength to strength for the rest of the night. If you don't know the band, they do punked up versions of famous songs, making them all their own. A great fun band into the bargain.

We had songs as diverse as "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard", "Sloop John B", "Mandy" and "Crazy For You". Endless fun all night. The set finished with a song you don't hear many people doing, Mike Nesmith's "Different Drum".

For the encore we had a German version of Bowie's "Heroes", " a crowd singalong "All My Loving", "I Will Survive", "Jolene" and finally, one of their very best, a blistering version of Boyz II Men's "End Of The Road".

These guys make for such a fantastic night out, not just for the music, but they really are very funny too. Not the sort of gig we would want to ever miss. Do catch them if you get the chance.


Water Rats
Greys Inn Road, London
Thursday 16th February 2017

This was a chance for The Beeb to catch up with a local Coatbridge accent. Pete has been ploughing his furrow for a few years now, both at home and in LA. With a couple of fine albums under his belt, this was an opportunity to catch him playing alongside Steve Craddock, guitarist for Paul Weller's band, and Ocean Colour Scene.

This was our first visit to the Water Rats, and it certainly makes for a really nice, intimate venue. It is a pub with an excellent musical history by all accounts. Bob Dylan's first UK gig, and the first London gig for Oasis was here too.

The support act, Kascarade, from Bradford were really impressive. All the songs seemed to be fit for stadium sing-a-longs. Having siblings in the band really helped when it came to harmonies. The whole band had personality too and their set was really good. It's been a while since we were so impressed with a support band, but these guys were just great.

After a short break, Pete took to the stage with Steve Craddock. With two acoustic guitars, we got a well blended acoustic set which sounded great.

Pete has two great albums out "Rolling Stone" and "Crestfallen". "Let It Shine" and the title track from "Rolling Stone" being particularly strong songs. This was an excellent set from two accomplished musicians, and we look forward to catching Pete again with a full band.
Pete McLeod (L) and Steve Craddock (R)

The Beeb and his Coatbridge pal, Pete Mcleod

The Beeb meets Steve Craddock


Bush Hall,
Shepherds Bush, London
Monday 23rd January 2017

Click here for their website

We got to Bush Hall early enough to get a standing place second row from the front and got chatting to some characters from the same family who obviously knew The Cactus Blossoms and the whole hillbilly/rockabilly festival scene. One of the band had even come out to say hello and have a few pictures taken. Straight away we warmed to them - no airs and graces and they seemed to be really genuinely nice people.

Page Burkum
Despite having different family names, The Cactus Blossoms are two brothers, originally from Minneapolis who really show how keeping it in the family generates a special blend of vocals.

Much as the boys would like us to compare them to artists other than The Everly Brothers, you cannot escape the fact that they do sound like Don & Phil - it is obviously a family thing.

However, other influences such as Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie and that whole 1940's country sound really shone through their whole set.

The Beeb was quite taken with the 1950's authentic wee guitar Jack was playing. A real piece of vintage beauty.

They highlighted songs from their excellent album, "You're Dreaming", produced by JD McPherson. This album has so many great songs on it, the upbeat "Stoplight Kisses", the beautiful "Powder Blue", and maybe the best live performance of the night, "Adios Maria". this last song had the whole of Bush Hall singing along.

For an encore they dedicated Chuck Berry's "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" to Barak Obama, managing to namecheck Michelle too. It was pretty clear what they thought of their new President!

I think we have been lucky to catch them in such an intimate venue. The next time we see them its a certainty that will be bigger venues they play. Who knows....the Albert Hall?

Page (L), Jack (R)

Jack Torrey


The 100 Club
Oxford Street, London
Sunday 22nd January 2017

Colin Blunstone is like a fine wine...... gets better with age!

We have seen Colin perform many times, both in his solo shows and as part of that great 60's band, who have had a new lease of life since the turn of the Millennium, The Zombies, and we were really looking forward to seeing him on stage at one of the most iconic London music venues, the 100 Club.

Emma Stevens
The support act was Emma Stevens, someone we had first come across when she played at the London IPO festival in 2013. At that time she was bubbly, energetic and had a clear passion for music and enjoyed every minute of her performance.

Almost 4 years on, in which time she had some great exposure on Radio 2 and in particular from the late great Terry Wogan, she has not changed a bit. She is still bubbly and comes across as absolutely loving being a musician and very grounded as well.

Tonight we had a set of her own songs, playing guitar and for a couple, ukele. There is something infectious about Emma - she always manages to keep a happy vibe throughout her songs, even when the underlying topic is tinged with sadness, such as the song she wrote to remember her Mum by.

A great set and it went down very well with the audience too.

Colin was backed tonight with the touring Zombies' drummer Steve Rodford, plus a bass player, keyboard player and an exceptionally expressive guitarist. Usually as you age, the ability to sing as well as you did when you were in your 20's fades quite rapidly. For some reason the opposite is true with Colin. His voice just seems stronger and stronger every time we see him.

The venue was packed (and extremely hot!), and our "space" was just right of centre stage so we had a good view. A set of solo songs mixed with some Zombies songs, was perfectly balanced and sounded great.

Colin, at home behind the microphone

The gig was filled with lovely little anecdotes from Colin as well as that wonderful singing voice. Colin is never slow when it comes to praising the song-writing talent of his friend, Russ Ballard. "I Don't Believe In Miracles" is ALWAYS a highlight.

Misty Roses is another bit of a show stopper every time.

The set list is shown below, so you can understand what a great show this was.


229 The Venue
229 Great Portland Street, London 
Monday 9th January 2017

It has been 37 years since powerpop giants The Rubinoos played in the UK and with support from our favourite UK pop punk band the Surfin' Lungs this was a much anticipated gig.

Rain, a late change of venue and a rail and tube strike did not deter the audience who attended in abundance and there were a few familiar faces in the crowd too. The place was a sell out.

Surfin' Lungs
Wearing their trademark white jeans, surf shirts and converse sneakers, the Surfin' Lungs did a fantastic job at warming the audience up.

They powered through their set, giving us a mix of songs from their recent album and some core favourites from their extensive 30 year back catalogue.

The sound was good, great vocals, twangy guitar, everything you come to expect from this great foursome. The crowd were dancing - just fabulous.

Always a treat to see these guys play live and really pleased they got this gig.

The Rubinoos were one of our early connections when MySpace was all the rage but in all fairness we were not overly familiar with their songs. The merch table put that right as we snapped up a few CDs.

Jon and Al from The Rubinoos
They demonstrated their versatility, opening with all four members grouped together doing an acapella "Mr Sandman" before the powerpop was turned on.
"I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" had some of the guys in the audience wishing they were teenagers again.
They did slow things down a little when we were treated to another acapella song - this time a version of The Temptations "My Girl".
As if THAT wasn't enough, a note perfect version of the old Flamingos classic "I Only Have Eyes For You" was just stunning to hear.
"Run Mascara Run" and "Shake Some Action" really rocked too.

Although we sensed a faux reluctance to do it, they did include their version of "I Think We're Alone Now" in their high octane, brilliant set.

What a night to remember. This was the best gig of 2017, even though we are still only in the first couple of weeks of the year- we really don't think another one will top this, for the sheer reaction of the audience, pure pleasure and fun we had and the fact we met up with so many friends.

Hope they come back for more gigs some time soon.

The Beeb meets the Rubinoos

The Beeb with Al