Minty has loved the Girl Group sound since before she was a teenager and tonight she saw that historic sound recreated to perfection on a live stage.

Backed by drums, bass, guitar, two keyboards, a horn section and two "Ronettes", Ronnie Spector walked onto the stage to great applause.

The show kicked off with "Baby I Love You" and that set the bar really high for the rest of the show. With a backdrop of film and photos being shown, in between songs Ronnie shared memories of her time as a Ronette, ranging from their appearance on the Dick Clark show, being on tour with The Rolling Stones, time with Johnny Thunders, the way they got into the Peppermint Bar in NYC when they were mistaken for the dancers to recall just a few of the stories.

Ronnie's voice was amazing, and the band really did recreate that wall of sound. She encouraged people up to the front, and started to shake hands as she walked along the front of the stage. The Beeb did not need any extra encouragement and he raced to the front and shook her hand and she blew him a kiss too!

Highlights were "Walking In The Rain", "Be My Baby", a fab version of "Don't Worry Baby" and the surprise inclusion (because it got The Ronettes back on the Billboard chart last year), of "Sleigh Ride" complete with the clip clop of reindeer hooves!

She also included a lovely tribute to her "Big Sis" Estelle, who passed away 10 years ago, with a cover of The Bee Gees "How Do You Mend A Broken Heart" which brought a few tears to her eyes.

The encore started with a lovely tribute to Amy Whitehouse, with film of her looking at a Ronettes album in a record store, and talking about how they had inspired her, and then Ronnie covered "Back To Black" which set the whole of the Roundhouse on fire. Amy's mum, who was in the audience and has been a friend of Ronnie's for some time, must have been very moved by this tribute in Camden.

With the addition of a 24 piece choir, the night rounded off with "I Can Hear Music", before she walked off the stage to a standing ovation, rapturous applause and lots of whistles. She nailed it and she knew she did.

Videos below
Walking In The rain (part)

Don't Worry Baby

Be My Baby

I Can Hear Music




We have seen Brian Setzer on his own and with The Stray Cats but never with his Orchestra and never with his Christmas show.
Being in Los Angeles at Christmas gave us the opportunity to experience the "Christmas Rocks! Tour".

Security was tight at the Theatre, with bags searches creating lengthy queues.

Once inside, there was a section of the lobby with Brian Setzer's guitars. The public could try these and have their photos taken, but the queue for that was really long so we had to pass on that one.

The minute Brian Setzer walked on the stage, the crowd were on their feet cheering and the majority remained standing for the whole show.

The show was really fantastic, and works with the Big Band. Full on energy, high octane performance great sound, and a really up for it audience - all ingredients that produced a fabulous show. No wonder these Christmas shows sell out.

Brian Setzer sure knows how to rock and bring everyone along with him. The set was a mixture of Christmas songs, covers and Stray Cats numbers and the encore with the Nut Cracker Suite was something else which the crowd went wild about.

The Set List
Dig That Crazy Santa Claus
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
Gettin' in the Mood (For Christmas)
Stray Cat Strut
Boogie Woogie Santa Claus
Gene and Eddie
Angels We Have Heard on High
Runaway Boys
Jump, Jive an' Wail
Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)
The Dirty Boogie
Hey Bulldog
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Tribute to Roy Clark
Rockabilly Boogie
Ring of Fire
Fishnet Stockings
Rock This Town

Nutcracker Suite
Jingle Bells

BRIAN WILSON - Christmas Show


Friday 21st December 2019

In November 1964, The Beach Boys released their Christmas Album. In November 2018, 54 years later, Brian Wilson took it on the road and the tour reached Orange County on 21st December.

This was a new show for us, having experienced a greatest hits around Pet Sounds Live for the last few years and we were looking forward to it.

The stage was decorated all Christmassy and the venue was pretty full. with a few odd empty seats. We had first row seats on the first tier balcony....... high enough to not have heads in the way and also not too far back from the stage.

There was no messing about as Brian and his band took to the stage and started immediately with Side 1, Track 1.

Brian was middle centre, behind a white Baby Grand, and seemed to be on form tonight, contributing to the vocals.

The main vocals seemed to come from new addition to the band, and son-in-law Rob Bonfiglio who delivered superb falsetto and lead vocals across the whole show. He did not dominate the stage, but there was something electric about him that drew your eye to him, be it his voice, his little shimmys, the way he played the sleigh bells or just his obvious enthusiasm for being up there. That enthusiasm had also rippled through the rest of the band, who had a good mood and vibe about them, and were much more energised and together versus some of the shows we had caught over the last couple of years where delivering Pet Sounds (again) had seemed to have signs of the band just going through the motions to deliver a show.

Al Jardine's voice has remained strong and he is a a formidable force in the band, adding so much harmony to the overall sound.

After the last track of side 2, we got some more Christmas songs, taken from Brian Wilson's own solo Christmas album and other Beach Boys recordings, before the finale was built up with some of the hits.
Blondie Chaplin got his spot with a superb version of Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run". He was on fire tonight and had spotted a blonde lady in one of the boxes to the side of the auditorium and he spent the rest of the show flirting with her!!

During "Good Vibrations", The Beeb made his contribution to the show from his seat - the "hum de dums" that were added to the Brian Wilson solo SMiLE version. Afterwards we got a message from Probyn saying "That was YOU lot on Good Vibes!! Next time I am calling security". Well, actually it was only The Beeb doing them, but it was funny to know that it had been heard on the stage!!! The guys sitting next to us recognised The Beeb's version,

There was no encore as such  as the band did not leave the stage, but once Fun Fun Fun finished, the band introductions were done, and then we were treated to a superb vocal from Rob Bonfliglio on "White Christmas" before the band gathered around Brian at the piano and sent us on our way with "Auld Lang Syne".
Other Christmas highlights of the show were a jazzy style "Frosty The Snowman", a reggae style "Blue Christmas" with Blondie on lead vocal, and "Winter Symphony".

Some more photos of the band, and then a couple of videos at the end you can check out.

Paul Von Mertens

Al Jardine
Blondie Chaplin

Probyn Gregory

Gary Griffin & Darian Sahanaja

Jim Lespesa

Probyn Gregory

Rob Bonfliglio

Gary Griffin

Darian Sahanaja

Mike D'Amico

End of Fun, Fun, Fun

White Christmas

Auld Lang Syne

The Set List

1. Little Saint Nick
2. The Man With All the Toys
3. Santa's Beard
4. Merry Christmas, Baby
5. Christmas Day
6. Frosty the Snowman
7. We Three Kings of Orient Are
8. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
9. I'll Be Home for Christmas (If Only in My Dreams)
10. Blue Christmas
11. Christmasey
12. On Christmas Day
13. Winter Symphony
14. Christmas Time Is Here Again
15. Holy Night
16. Run Rudolph Run
17. Wouldn't It Be Nice
18. Sloop John B
19. God Only Knows
20. Darlin'
21. Sail On, Sailor
22. Good Vibrations
23. Help Me, Rhonda
24. Barbara Ann
25. Surfin' U.S.A.
26. Fun, Fun, Fun
27. White Christmas
28. Auld Lang Syne


The Cavern Pub and Cavern Club
Mathew Street, Liverpool

The annual International Pop Overthrow Festival spans 8 days and features around 150 bands. This festival goes a long way to keep music live and give some great bands the chance to showcase their music to an audience who may never hear about them otherwise.
The artists range from a solo singer/songwriter with an acoustic guitar to a full on rock band and loads in between! During the festival we try to see as many artists as possible, some are good, some are not so good, and some are wee nuggets. This blog is our own personal review and where an act may not our cup of tea, they are still worth checking out as they may be yours. 

Bands seen today:
A View of Earth From The Moon, WHY NOT NOW, David Luke, Twister, The Aim, Jose Estragos Band, Edgar Road, The trip Takers, Watchtower, Jack Bartlett, Last Fakers

(we apologise for the quality of the photos - the red lighting in the cavern Pub make decent pics impossible!!)

A View Of Earth From the Moon
The 16th Liverpool IPO kicked off, as always in the Cavern Pub and it started off well.

Jon Fickes, aka A View Of Earth From The Moon had come all the way from Seattle to delight us.

Usually he would have a band, but today he was flying solo, just him, an acoustic guitar and a box full of harmonicas. More often than not, we find that a solo guy trying to so songs usually done with a band fall a bit short, but not in Jon's case. He proved the point that good songs will stand out no matter how stripped down they are.

We suppose you could liken him to Dylan, but his voice is 1000 times stronger and more tuneful. He was everything good about a guy with a guitar on his own. He was also very gracious to the audience, who really did seem to appreciate the 30 minutes. We have to like this guy - any American who says he is looking forward to drinking his weight in Stella in a bit of a bad ass!

Next up was a local band from Liverpool whose name shouts at you because it is all in upper case!! - WHY NOT NOW. Despite some decent backing vocals from the bassist and the other guitarist, the main lead vocals really dominated and whilst he had a strong and distinctive voice, it did get a bit samey after three or four songs. Their set was rocking enough, but the over-powering lead vocal really distracted from what should have been an actual band sound. We think some of the problem may have been down to him. More of that later though.
David Luke
We had not intended to catch David Luke as our IPO research had revealed him as a covers' artist who uses backing tracks. However, he had a full band behind him today which took
around 25 minutes to set up! Way too long for an IPO set.

Once they got going we were impressed, and surprised to hear original material. The songs were toe tappers and they ended strongly on a song called "Country Girl" which was a bit of a nod to Keith Urban's style. We actually enjoyed their set, although introducing each and every single song with the hoary old "And it goes like this" had some of our company in giggles!

Next up was Twister. We have seen this heavy rock band last year and in the pub they do more of an acoustic set before wheeling in their Marshall Stacks for their Back Stage slot later on! So, the pub it was then!!!

They look like a heavy rock band - tousled hair, black t shirts and jeans. Both the guitarists are good singers and with the acoustic set, can be heard no problem.

They did Pink Floyd's "The Wall" and really made it their own. We'd like to have seen the electric set, but experience taught us it's not worth the bother as it would have only been good songs made intolerable by painful, unnecessary volume.

We caught the last 20 minutes of the set from The Aim. A bunch of upbeat Cockney lads and a gal. Their sound was mod rock/ska/soul and drew in quite a large gathering in the Back Stage. The lead singer had a lot of character, and their whole set was very energetic. We liked them. You just know they would rock any pub gig they play in.
The Aim
Jose Estragos Band
Spain always delivers at the IPO, and The Jose Estragos Band have appeared just about every year.

It is not often we actually get to see them so we made a point of seeing their Back Stage slot today.

They stay true to their roots with the majority of their set is sung in Spanish, but today the audience were appreciative of covers of "That Thing You Do" and also The Ramones' "California Sun". This is the sound the Cavern was built for!

Edgar Road from Elgin rocked the front stage. The drummer was very good, pounding the tom drum a lot. Their sound was rock infused with a bit of symphonic keyboard without being Prog Rock! The keyboard player really did enjoy herself and her vocals added a lot to the overall sound.
Edgar Road

The Trip Takers
Scicilian band The Trip Takers were one we had really wanted to catch as they have a Mod/Psych with a hint of Beatle sound.

Tonight was not good for them. The sound engineer really struggled to get any balance (again) and everything was muddy. It was obvious the band were not happy and things were not gelling.

Also, maybe their English is not too good as they did not engage with the audience at all....... apparently they had vinyls for sale, but as they did not tell anyone, I guess they did not sell any!

We saw Watchtower in 2015 when they announced at the end of their set that they were calling it a day and splitting up, with the gig that night being their last. We had really liked them so were really pleased to find they have reformed and were on this years' bill.
Even though they were a three piece (as opposed to a four piece in 2015), we were not disappointed. They have personality, and the bass player got a wiggle on from the start, hopping around or shimmying. They had a great beat and the lead singer gave a few interludes from time to time of surf like guitar complete with whammy bar, on his Gretsch. They were fun and finished up on a cover of Led Zep's "Rock and Roll" with the Bass player taking the lead vocal, doing a fine impersonation of Robert Plant. Brilliant set.

Jack Bartlett
All the way from Devon, Jack Bartlett, in a smart Mod style suit and a slightly gravelly voice opened his set by going straight into a cover of The Jam's "That's Entertainment"before he introduced himself.

His set of eleven songs had 7 covers in it. The four songs of original material were actually extremely good, in particular stand out songs were "I Can't Help Myself" and "10,000 Dreams" where you can hear his mod and 60's influence shine through. His original material is usually done with a 5 piece band but the fact that the songs sounded great with just Jack  and an acoustic guitar is testament to the quality of the songs - they really stood out.

We wish he had ditched some of the covers and had the confidence to do more of his own songs.

We stayed for the last band, Last Fakers. This was another band with sound issues, but not really the fault of the sound engineer this time. They just would not turn down, and the drummer beat seven shades of s@@! out of the drums which along with the bass, just drowned out the vocals and the harmonica player. Every time the sound engineer adjusted their volumes, they just turned it all back up. Seriously, there was absolutely no point in the harmonica player being there at all. It was as if none of the band knew what a sound balance was meant to achieve. Each and every one of them seemed to just want to be the loudest. We left sharpish!


The Rising Sun Arts Centre,
Silver Street, Reading

Saturday 19th August 2017

We have seen many Surfin' Lungs gigs over the years and never get tired of seeing them. Tonight it was a special gig to celebrate the launch of their latest album, Surf Factor 8 on red Vinyl.

Two support acts, Horse Rock an amusing, masked surf instrumental band and Psych punk band Go Go Cult warmed everyone up (literally as the room was very hot!) before the Surfin' Lungs powered through a brilliant set of old and new songs.

 Their musical career spans 30 years so there is a wealth of material to pick for a set list and tonight it was really balanced between songs from their very first vinyl release "Cowabunga" ("389", "Who Stole the Summer", "Quasimodo a Go Go" and "Down At The B-Club"), and then one or two from each subsequent release, right up to songs from that new vinyl Surf factor 8 and a few covers thrown in too. 

The encore was "Pray For Sun", again from their first release and a cover, "Peppermint Twist".

Highlights were "Where Young Men Go To Cry" which has a great "Be My Baby" Hal Blaine drum beat, the mafia influenced instrumental "The Godfather" which is definitely one of Minty's favourites and from their new album, "Don't Take My Baby". 

"The Beach Will Never Die" and "Pray For Sun" went down very well.

A good thing about the Lungs is that they have always kept true to their sound  which means that one album is just as good as another and their set lists flow really well.  They are high octane, fast paced but filled with great melodies and harmony. Think The Ramones meet The Beach Boys and you've got their sound.

Loved every second of this gig.

Surfin' Lungs (L-R Clive, Chris, Steve and Ray) promote the red Vinyl of "Surf factor 8"


4 dates:
Galway International Arts Festival - Sunday 23rd July 2017
Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin - Wednesday 26th July 2017
Hammersmith Eventin Apollo, London - Tuesday 1st August 2017
Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow - Thursday 3rd August 2017

Rather than capture our thoughts on each concert individually, this is an overall view across our "mini tour".
Brian Wilson - London

Beat Root Revival - London
For all of the gigs we caught, there was a support act - Beat Root Revival, a duo made up of Ben Jones and Andrea Magee. We were really excited to hear that this duo, who are originally from Kent and Northern Ireland but are now based in Austin Texas,would be opening the Irish shows as we have known about Ben for  quite a number of years.

We have seen his previous bands The Lovedays and The Rifle Volunteers, as well as performing as himself at some of the International Pop Overthrow Festivals in Liverpool and London. A few years ago he went over to perform at one of the IPOs in the US and then made his home in Texas, where Beat Root Revival play regularly.

Beat Root Revival - Glasgow
The pair are two great personalities who really engage with the audience and they sounded great too.

For the main part, Andrea played the Bodhran (that's the handheld Irish drum to a layman!) whilst providing some superb vocals and Ben amazed us with his slight of hand on the guitar, loops to give the extra backing, drum pedal to give that extra oomph and also some stunning vocals.

We can hear the influence from Fleetwood Mac in their sound and indeed they included a cover of "Dreams", which Andrea played the tin whistle on which really added their own Beat Root Revival flourish on it to make it their own.

Their own material is pretty fantastic too, and after seeing them play four times, we had some really firm favourites, such as The Cheese Song (officially "Forever"), "Instincts" and "Before It Gets Too Late" and we got their whole back catalogue from the Merch table.

Their signing off song was a tribute to the Beatles, with a cover of "Come Together" which apart from the "shoot me" and the chorus, sounded nothing like the original, it was really refreshing. Eight minutes of Beat Root's take on the Beatles, performed in Glasgow can be seen at the bottom of the blog. Check out Ben's dexterity on the guitar!

The people of Austin are lucky to be able to have the chance to see this pair play frequently in their adopted town. A few of the Brian Wilson fans we caught up with after the gigs commented on how good this duo was and how much they had enjoyed seeing them.

What we really liked was their obvious delight at being asked to cover the support slot for Brian's shows. After years of attending Brian Wilson concerts as fans and being among the audience, to be able to share the stage must have been a dream come true.
A chance to say hello to Andrea and Ben in Galway

And... to the main attraction........ The Brian Wilson shows were in two parts and each show was pretty much the same set with the exception of the Glasgow where the show was a bit shorter. Kicking off with "California Girls", the recognisable opening chords got everyone cheering and got the show off to a great start.

Brian Wilson - Galway
Matt Jardine hits the falsettos
Brian was quite prominent on lead vocals for much of the performance, with Matt Jardine taking the falsetto parts in Pet Sounds, and the lead on "Don't Worry Baby" and "Let Him Run Wild". We were quite impressed with Matt on this tour and our appreciation of him grew considerably. We could see how much more comfortable he is with filling those higher notes when Brian trails off.

Al Jardine covered the car song medley, and "California Saga"  along with his leads on some of the Pet Sounds songs, his signature tune being "Sloop John B". He still has a great vocal range and a strong voice which really does add to the shows.

Al Jardine - London

Blondie Chaplin - London

Blondie Chaplin, a Beach Boy in the early 70's during the Holland era, turned everything psych rock with his Shamen style moves, guitar shredding and strong vocals on "Wild Honey", "Sail On Sailor" and "Feel Flows" - the latter one being a surprise and an absolute treat to hear.

He even sneaked onto stage during some of the other songs to lead the audience into a handclap during "Little Honda", or just shimmy around the stage playing the tambourine like he was casting some kind of magical spell over the show.

During the Dublin gig, we saw him to the side of the stage, out of normal view, dancing wildly to the car songs!!!

Darian Sahanaja (with Nelson in the background) - Galway

Darian Sahanaja has really made "Darlin'" his own now, taking the lead vocal at all of the shows and the acapella ending is just superb.

The crowd went wild after each performance and he genuinely appeared to be very humbled at such a great reactions. The man is too modest!

Some other songs outside of the usual hit factory were in the set and sounded great, like "Aren't You Glad", "Salt Lake City" and "Let the Wind Blow" (which was an addition for the London and Glasgow shows).

The second half of the show was the entire "Pet Sounds" album. We have always loved this album and have seen it performed many, many times since over the last fifteen years. We think it is marvellous how it is recreated so authentically on stage, despite the intricacies of the instrumentation and harmonies produced on the record.
Brian - Dublin

The stand out song is always "God Only Knows" when the crowd start to cheer at hearing the first note from the French Horn played in the intro. The crowd sing "God only knows what I'd be without you" back at Brian so loudly, it drowns the band out and Brian just stops and absorbs it all. He can feel the love from the UK and Irish crowds and it is no wonder he can smile to himself. The reaction of the crowd once the last note has faded away is nothing short of immense, a standing ovation that lasts for a long, long time, until Brian asks the audience to "please be seated". That produced a chuckle in Galway as it was a standing gig!
The backdrop in Galway - Brian in profile from 1966
After the humourous band intros, the encore is the standard fayre of "Fun, Fun, Fun", "Help Me Rhonda", "Good Vibrations", "Surfin' USA" and "Barbara Ann" and ended with the get home safe song "Love & Mercy".

There has been comment in press reveiws about whether Brian should still be touring. His voice is obviously weaker than it was when he started to tour again in the UK in 2002 and at times he sort of speaks/sings and can be a bit breathless. But he really looked comfortable during all of the shows we saw. Being really high up in Dublin, we had the birds eye view and could see he was actually tinkling away on the old Joanna throughout the show too and his demeanor did not suggest he was having to deal with any demons or voices in his head whilst on stage.  He smiled a lot and joked around and when he wasn't singing, he was really absorbing everything.

A nod must go to the rest of the band who have not been mentioned above. The rest of the band excelled in all of the shows. They are great on all of the "hits" but they really do shine throughout the whole Pet Sounds set. Without their attention to detail, the show would not work.

Probyn Gregory - Glasgow

Multi-instrumentalist Probyn Gregory holds so much of the instrumentation together, switching so smoothly from guitar to trumpet to trombone to theramin to the exquisite French Horn on the opening of "God Only Knows", AND adding backing vocals.

He is amazing to watch and never seems to drop a beat. He must have an extra arm somewhere to cope with the pace of the instrument changes! He is pivotal to the show.

Nelson Bragg is stunning on percussion and fascinating to watch in action, He is like the Tasmanian Devil, creating a whirlwind around himself as he single handedly takes on all of the many pieces of percussion needed to recreate that authentic "Pet Sounds" sound mastered by Brian Wilson and the Wrecking Crew 5o years ago.

Nelson Bragg - Dublin
His energy is something else as he chimes the triangle, shakes the tambourines, taps the cowbell, shakes sleighbells, clinks finger cymbals, bangs the tom drums, shakes the shakers to name but a few of the various instruments he plays and don't forget the "beep beep" of the bicycle horn at the end of "You Still Believe In Me"

Mike D'Amico has really turned into a great Pet Sounds drummer and is master of the Floor Tom and Bass drum all the way through the rendition of the iconic 1966 album. He is right at home behind the rig, with the Brian Wilson drumhead. As Brian Wilson yells "Let's hear some drums!!!"

Mike D'Amico - Dublin
The interaction between Mike and Nelson is very evident, side by side, working off one another and culminating in the drum off on the instrumental track "Pet Sounds". This just gets better and better every time they do it and attracts such a loud roar from the crowd and some comments of admiration from the Big Guy Brian Wilson himself. Check it out for yourself in the video below, from Galway.

The Drum off - London

Nelson Bragg - Mid "drum off" - London
Paul Von Mertens - Galway

Musical Director, Paul Von Mertens is surrounded by a multitude of wind instruments: flute, oboe, harmonicas and saxophones and has the opportunity for a few sax solos where he takes the spotlight at the front of the stage.

Nicky Wonder - London

Nicky "Wonder" Walusko commands not only the lead guitar but also the baritone guitar and his opening on "Pet Sounds", (that song without words), is sublime. The acoustic on "In My Room" shone through.

Bob Lizik is a quiet and unassuming bass player who seems to be quite at home keeping the rhythm.He has played with Brian for so long it must be intuitive now. Off stage he is a pretty good guy too.
Bob Lizik - Glasgow
Gary Griffin - Glasgow

Gary Griffin on keyboards has been a more recent addition to Brian's band, but he fits in well. He can also boast of being in the screen biopic "Love and Mercy" playing one of The Wrecking Crew!

Standing alongside one another, Gary and Darian interact and swap places between  two sets of keyboards and vibes, delivering some great vocals and playing the odd tambourine too.

Gary Griffin and Darian Sahanaja - Dublin
The sound was really good on this tour, even the marquee and outdoor shows in Galway & Glasgow respectively. London was a little muddy, but a special mention has to be made about the sound in Dublin. It was so crisp you could hear every note played, every word sung, every breath taken and every handclap added in backing. Did you know the sound guy, Chris was the subject of an article about being in charge of the sound on Brian Wilson shows in "Sound on Sound". Check it out.

After Glasgow, the band were racing off to the next venue, and it was left to a small crowd of fans to continue the party until around 3am the next day.
"See you all next time"

The Beeb with Darian and Nicky - Glasgow

Minty and Darian - Glasgow

The Beeb and Bob Lizik - Dublin

Minty with Wondermint Nicky in Dublin

The Beeb bumps into Blondie and Nelson around Dublin

Below is the video of Beat Root Revival doing their take on the Beatles "Come Together".

And here are the band introductions, compered by Paul Von Mertens