GIG: Mari Wilson
Date: Saturday 26th September 2009
Venue: Old Town Hall, High Street, Hemel Hempstead, Herts
Cost: £12
Rating: Happy In Hemel

It has only been a few weeks since we last saw Mari performing (see the review from 6th Sept) so we did not expect a major deviation from what we had experienced with that show. We were, however, treated to another great performance, the sound was well mixed, Mari sparkled, and the set list had two extra songs included.

An addition to the line up from the last gig was guitarist Matt Backer who contributed some wonderful bits of lead as well as some gorgeous and sympathetic accompaniment to Adrian York's old school teacher's upright piano. Well it LOOKED like a school piano, but Adrian still managed to make it sound like a Steinway! It's still open for debate as to who had the most shimmiest shoes on tonight - Mari's white-silver shiny glitzy heels or Matt's dazzling shiny silver trainers!

The Beeb was excited by Matt's choice of gig gear. A vintage Gibson 335 was plugged into an old 1949 Fender amp. It sounded amazing. One minute there was honey dripping blues wailing out, the next it was the coolest laid back jazz chords. Wonderful stuff. And for some of the softer numbers in the second half of the set, he switched to a Taylor acoustic.

Adrian sat back behind the piano looking quite relaxed for most of the gig. He really looked like he was enjoying trading licks with Matt whenever they had the chance to do so. As always, his piano solo on Wild Horses (not the Susan Boyle version) was a highlight.

With the set list similar to the last gig, we won't comment on all of the songs, but will highlight a few that really stood out tonight. Mari's singing seemed to come effortlessly on all of the songs and she sounded particularly exquisite on the Paul McCartney song, “My Love” and another stellar performance was delivered on the emotional "I'm Getting There". “Do You Mind” had a nice guitar solo and a great boogie-woogie piano break and Mari’s version of Ellie Greenwich’s song “Be My Baby” is fast becoming a treasure. The additional songs in the set tonight were “Right For You” and "Have You Got What It Takes" both from the ‘Emotional Glamour’ CD, the latter being a very a catchy, Motown-like, girly type song with a "shimmy shimmy baby" hook.

Hearing Mari's new songs from her One Woman show again is quite a frustrating experience though. They sound so good and fill your head with images just like the old days before video. The frustrating bit is having to wait for the stage show to come together so that the songs can be fully realised. Still, the storylines in the songs pretty much guarantees that show will be a winner.

No two Mari shows are ever the same. Constant interaction with the audience keeps her on her toes. A great raconteur, her spontaneous stories plucked from her life's rich tapestry are always different and very amusing (the references to that morning's blow dry had the audience giggling), and now and again touched with poignancy, such as the story about her Dad's false teeth.
The Old Town Hall in Hemel Hempstead is a good sized venue for a show like this. The venue was recommended to Mari by Barb Jungr and it certainly brought out a good sized and very appreciative audience.

Mari has one more show scheduled – 1st November at Pizza Express Jazz Club in London. Check out her website or Myspace page for more details.

For those not familiar with Matt Backer, his CD 'The Impulse Man' is worth checking out. Not only does it demonstrate his strength as a guitarist and vocalist, the songs (all bar one written/co-written by Matt) are strong too.
The songs are all filled with rockin’ riffs and clever guitar licks and will have you tapping your feet along to the powerpop type tunes.

BMX BANDITS with The Primary 5 & Randolph's Leap

GIG: BMX Bandits, The Primary 5, Randolph’s Leap
DATE: Saturday September 12th 2009
VENUE: The Classic Grand, 18 Jamaica Street, Glasgow
COST: £8 (plus handling fee)
Classic Gig on a Grand Scale

The gig kicked off slightly earlier than we had expected, so we missed the first 20 minutes of the first act. Randolph’s Leap, a conduit for Adam Ross, played primarily an acoustic set. The group included a cello and a violin player which made this slightly more interesting than the usual run-of-the-mill acoustic type band. With vocals provided solely by Adam, it was a gentle start to the night, easing us into what was a brilliant night of music. Randolph's Leap may be an aquired taste to the casual listener, but there was certainly something intriguing about the songs.

Next up was a band we have heard about, but not really listened to before. The Primary 5 is actually a six piece and their first number had 3 electric guitars, 1 acoustic and a bass. By the end of the 2nd song, (which had a very “Spector influenced” drum beat), one of the guitarists demonstrated his diversity by taking up tambourine, hand clapping and also a bit of keyboard. Vocals were delivered by Paul Quinn (ex Teenage Fanclub) and Jamie Houston and they sounded great. There is a fixation with West Coast of Scotland bands emulating the sound of the West Coast of the US, and when one of the guitarists swapped his electric guitar for a 12 string (a Rickenbacker look-a-like), the Byrds influence came through.

There was quite a bit of guitar tuning in between songs, and this gave Paul Quinn the chance to explain that the black and white striped top he was wearing was in honour of Jimmy Johnstone, a Celtic Football club legend. He went on to quip that it wasn’t green and white stripes as it reflected the days when he used to watch the football on a black and white TV!

We are not familiar with their material, so we can’t really provide song names, but for their penultimate number, the Spector influence was back, with the distinctive Wall of Sound drumbeat and sleighbells at the start. Their final song (which we did catch the name of), “Mailman” was a rousing number, and was a very strong song to finish the set with.

We were delighted with their performance, and we’d certainly take the opportunity to see them play live again.

The headline band, The BMX Bandits, has been around in a few guises for over 20 years, and tonight was the first time we were seeing them with a slightly changed line up –the return of Jim McCulloch into the band, and also Findlay McDonald and Jim Gash . We had no reason to be apprehensive of anything sounding different, because the Bandits’ songs are strong enough to hold their own. We had driven 400 miles in order to see this gig and we were not disappointed at all. The band was tight, the lead vocals and the harmonies sounded really great throughout, and the sound was excellent (can’t remember the sound engineer’s name, but Duglas gave him a well deserved mention at the end of the show).

The set started with the bright and chirpy, “Do You Really Love Me” which included a short kazoo solo from front man, Duglas Stewart. The set list tonight really allowed Rachel Allison’s vocals to shine, particularly on “Doorways” from the ‘Bee Stings’ CD, and “Thinkin’ ‘Bout You Baby”, a Brian Wilson song, which was recorded by his then wife Marilyn with her group Spring, and which eventually morphed into the Beach Boys’ “Darlin’”. Rachel’s vocals on this song were fantastic, and Minty thinks they should put it up on their MySpace page again, because everyone deserves to hear it!

A particular highlight was a song from the new BMX Bandits album, “Help Me Somebody”, which is extremely catchy, with terrific harmonies from Rachel and David Scott. Other songs included in the set list were E102 (which was the Bandits’ first ever single, back in the Mid 80’s,) "Elegant Lines" which had a young competition winner given the chance to play extra keyboards with the band, "The Sailor's Song" and "I Wanna Fall In Love."

We had an encore tonight – 2 quick songs as the curfew was tight in the venue, and they were very much appreciated by the audience.

Duglas was on top form tonight, eating his customary apple on stage, and providing lots of humour; encouraging the audience to gather closer to the stage (because we smelled nice!), reminding us of Zammo’s warning to ‘just say no’ when he introduced the song “Serious Drugs”, commenting on his new (short) haircut (people were starting to mistake him for Rachel!) and changing his shoes on stage for one song.

The Classic Grand is a fantastic venue, with reasonably priced beer. The bar staff is either very well trained or we just drink a lot, because they remembered the order every time The Beeb visited the bar for our refills! The loos were OK too.

And a final word on the music that was being played in between the bands…. Sounded like a fantastic selection of Girl Group related songs, which we found out afterwards, had been handpicked by Duglas…. Great choice of songs.

Mari Wilson

DATE: Saturday September 5th 2009
VENUE: Pizza On The Park, 11 Knightsbridge, London, SW1
COST: £15 (plus the cost of your dinner)
RATING: Glammed Up

Another gig, another Wilson. This time it wasn’t a well known sweaty Rock and Roll venue, but the sensational Mari Wilson in the more intimate and up market Pizza On The Park in Knightsbridge, London. The Beeb even wore his glad rags and not a T shirt for this outing!
The signs for the way the evening was going to go started with us being able to park the car right next to the venue. Not often that happens in this part of the town. When we went downstairs and were shown to our table in front of the stage we knew we were in for a treat. Great seats.

The venue is very reminiscent of Ronnie Scott’s club in a way. Intimate and friendly. Service was very swift and we had our meals scoffed and were licking our lips before the show started.

It surprised us to realise it had been over a year since we had seen Mari perform. Last time was with a full band line up during a long UK tour, this time it was just Mari and her musical partner Adrian York on piano. Mari always looks nothing less that totally glamorous and tonight was no exception. She just LOOKS like a star!

The show kicked off with her cover of the old Doris Day hit, “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps,” that you may know as the theme tune from the TV show “Coupling.” A new song in the set was McCartney’s “My Love.” On the record the guitar instrumental is one of the Beeb’s all time spine tingling favourites, and he was worried how this was going to work with just a piano. No need to worry, Adrian carried it off with his own sublime take of it. It worked very well indeed.

Mari has been working on a one woman musical show for a while now, and she treated us to some songs from it. “Hits and Misses” is a clever, infectious little song that will stick in your head. “Killing Time” isn’t what you would call a chirpy pop song. In writing a song like this, Mari has obviously dug deep from a pool of sadness somewhere along the road. What it does show is the twists and turns that the musical could take.

“Goody Goody” gave Adrian the chance to show off his best boogie-woogie skills.

And then a treat, Bruce Johnston’s “Disney Girls” was back in the set for tonight’s performance. Mari sings this song so well; you can close your eyes and just imagine you are back in 50’s America, sitting on the porch with ‘mom” and ‘pop’ and Junior having to do his chores.

One of the great things about a Mari gig is her little vignettes about her life and life in general. Having been living in Los Angeles for the past couple of months there was a wealth of ammunition in her cannon. Tales of jay-walking and 80 year olds in the gym had the audience grinning from ear to ear. She is such a natural entertainer on stage we won’t spoil you with her tales. It would be much better if you went along to hear them for yourself.

“Dance With A Stranger” was followed by a bit of audience participation on “Close To You,” before ending the first set with a powerful performance of “I Close My Eyes,” that she used to do when she starred in the musical “Dusty.”

With a quick change of clothes and a chance for some of the audience to finish off their puddings Mari was soon back on stage with “An Occasional Man,” and a lovely tribute to late Ellie Greenwich with her “Be My Baby,” followed by the old Anthony Newly song “Do You Mind.”

A firm favourite in Mari’s shows over the years has been Mick and Keef’s “Wild Horses.” Once again Adrian comes to the fore with a wonderful piano solo. It takes all that the Beeb has every time, not to sing along out loud on the chorus of this one. This is definitely one of the highlights of the show.

Another couple of songs from her up-coming show followed, one of which “Moving In,” all about a woman’s perspective of a guy moving in with her, had the Beeb really worried at one point! The other was a hilarious number called ‘Forever Young.” Both of these songs are on her latest album “Emotional Glamour,” that comes highly recommended by us.

Digging deep from that emotional well again, comes what could be Mari’s best ever vocal on record. “I’m Getting There” may be a song about believing the future will be better, but to believe that in the first place you think to yourself that she must have been down some dark, dangerous road in the first place. In the same way you believed Roy Orbison actually lived every word of every song he sang, one has the same feeling listening to Mari put herself through the wringer for this one. The record is great, but hearing her do it live is almost chilling.

“I Don’t Want To Play In Your Yard,” is a nostalgic little song from yonks ago that was dedicated to her old Dad. Last song of the set was a rousing “I Think I Love You,” and has Mari running round the stage like a whirlwind telling as many people in the audience that she can that she loves them!

Mari and Adrian then came back for the encore and treated us to a couple of her old hits, the gorgeous “Cry Me A River,” and of course “Just What I always Wanted.”

So finally, any apprehensions there may have been about not having a band with her were totally unfounded. What was shown was that the songs Mari chooses to sing are all so good, that they DO work stripped down to the bone. She picks some real gems to sing there’s no doubt, but the really interesting thing is that the songs she and Adrian have written really stand up alongside all those classics. This musical that Mari is working on really sounds like it could be a winner. The songs we heard from it are all so strong and vividly observed from life itself. We can’t wait till it’s finished.

Mari is back in London, this time at the Pizza Express Jazz Club, on 1st November, and has a couple of shows lined up in between. Check out her official website and Myspace page for more info

Pizza on the Park is a lovely venue. It’s not your usual Pizza Express where the wooden floors exacerbate the noise level of people chatting – it is softly carpeted and has a Grand Piano in the corner of the stage, and up-lighting illuminating the white curtain decorating the back of the stage. The tables are laid out so that everyone has a view of the stage, and the staff were mindful during the time Mari was on stage, holding back on taking / delivering food orders until the interval. Even the audience showed respect with total attention during the show – there were no side conversations that we have had to often ‘endure’ at other venues, while trying to take in the artist performing.

The loos? Well they were clean and well stocked, but only 2 cubicles which meant a bit of a queue….. Minty bets that the mens’ had more! The Beeb keeps his toilet secrets to his self!


GIG: Brian Wilson
DATE: Thursday September 3rd 2009
VENUE: The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, Camden, London, NW1 8EG
COST: £35 standing
RATING: Blake's 7 (out of this world!)

Brian Wilson was back in the UK, on a mini tour this week, taking in Glasgow, Liverpool and London - all in 3 days. The Roundhouse in Camden was the venue for the London show, and when the doors opened at 7pm, there was a sizeable queue around the block. There was no delay in getting into the venue and we made our way into the standing area, not far from the front of the stage.

This was billed as a Greatest Hits show; the “hits” were mainly from the era up to and including Pet Sounds but there were many songs included in the set which might not be recognisable to the casual Beach Boys fan; tracks from Brian’s solo work, “Imagination”, “Getting In Over My Head” and his most recent release “That Lucky Old Sun”.

Brian and his band appeared on stage promptly at 8pm, and started the 1st set with “Do It Again”. This being our umpteenth time of seeing the legend live on stage, the opening number was very apt! Straight away, the audience standing near us were clapping along, dancing on the spot (no room to dance other than the spot you were on) which made a great atmosphere.

The set took us through the energetic, “Dance, Dance, Dance” through the teenage angst of the Beach Boys most obvious nod to The Beatles with “Girl Don’t Tell Me” (that Brian dedicated to John Lennon) to the hopeful, “Then I Kissed Her” (in honour of co-writer Ellie Greenwich who sadly passed away last week) and the solitary “In My Room.” These were followed by a couple of songs you wouldn’t usually find on a hits compilation - “Salt Lake City” and “Custom Machine” rounded off the first of the early era “hits”. Brian delivered a storming performance of “Soul Searching” which also included a front of the stage sax solo from Paul Mertens, and “Desert Drive”; songs that appeared on his 2007 solo release, “Getting In Over My Head”.

Next up was “Please Let Me Wonder”, usually a luscious, harmony-filled song but tonight, it was lacking something (maybe the backing vocals of the “missing in action” musical director Darian Sahanaja who was unable to join the tour this time due to previous commitments?) and it fell a bit flat. Jeffrey Foskett took the lead on “Don’t Worry Baby”, another song that hits the highs in terms of harmonies, His vocals were great but we feel the sound engineer could have upped the microphone level as the level was really on a par with a backing vocal rather than a lead.

A soft vocal introduction from Taylor Mills, the only gal in the band, which would send goosebumps down the spine of any testosterone-laden male, led into the rocky “Marcella” which really raised the level of the concert. It is very obvious that the band love playing this song, and Scott Bennett delivered a stellar guitar solo during it. The first half of the show culminated in a short burst of “Rolling Around Heaven” segueing into the timeless classic “California Girls” and as the final bars were being played, Brian got up from behind his keyboard, and left the stage for the interval………

The interval seemed to be very short (or the queue for the bar to get a couple of bottles of water was very long and slow!) and before we knew it, the band was coming back onto stage and Brian was encouraging the audience to sing along with “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream….”.

We couldn’t fight our way through the masses of people to take up the same place we held during the 1st half, so had to be content with a space towards the back of the venue while Brian took us on a ride telling us about the “Little Girl I Once Knew”, singing about “All Summer Long”, and his “Little Deuce Coupe”. Next up was “Add Some Music” which is (in our opinion) the highlight of the 1970 album “Sunflower”. This song just touches every part of your body, from the hair on the back of your neck right through to your little toe. Whilst we prefer this song being performed as part of an “acoustic set” Brian has included in past shows, with the full instrumentation it still delivered.

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” seemed to go down very well with the crowd, getting a rapturous applause, but that could not top the reaction given to the heavenly “God Only Knows” which followed. Brian asked everyone to stand up for this one (he’s a funny guy!) and just about everyone sang along to the chorus. The applause afterwards died down only when Brian started the next sequence of songs which were from his latest album, ”That Lucky Old Sun”, beginning with “Midnight’s Another Day” leading in to “Going Home” an upbeat groovy song which had heads nodding, and closing with “Southern California” a softer, more laid back number which creates images of a hot, dry summer in, you’ve guessed it, Southern California, with the waves washing in from the Pacific Ocean.

And then, the last song of the set…. the ever popular “Good Vibrations” which had the audience dancing again. Brian headed off the stage as the song was coming to an end, leaving the band to deliver the final beat of the drums, clash of the cymbals (Nelson Bragg the percussionist has boundless energy in performing his bits for this song) and twangs of guitar as the applause from the very appreciative audience resounded around the Roundhouse.

Calls for more were responded to, with Jeffrey Foskett appearing back on stage, taking up his spot on the right hand side. One by one, he introduced the band members…… Mike D’Amico on drums, Nelson Bragg on percussion, Gary Griffin on keyboards, Scott Bennett on keyboards, Nick “Wonder” Walusko on guitar, Probyn Gregory on guitar (and theramin and French horn and trumpet among others!), Paul Mertens on Sax and flute, Taylor Mills on backing vocals (with some percussion), Brett Simons on bass and then the main man himself was introduced to thunderous applause.

The encore began with a song Brian introduced as being the first song he had written, “Surfer Girl” and then upped the pace with a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B Goode”, straight into timeless Beach Boys classics, “Help Me Rhonda”, “Barbara Ann”, “Surfin’ USA” and finishing with lots of “Fun, Fun, Fun”. Brian released himself from the sanctuary of the keyboard, and played his bass during the encore songs. Everyone around us was dancing and singing along throughout.

Brian and the band left the stage, only to re-appear for the final time. With just keyboards as backing, Brian, with his band adding fantastic harmonies, sent us all home with “Love & Mercy” a song from his first solo album from 1988 that has become the traditional end of the show song over the years.

So another Brian Wilson gig drew to a close. We must admit, we had some reservations ahead of the show, after reading a few “reviews” from the Glasgow and Liverpool concerts where the sound quality had come under fire. Was this the best Brian Wilson concert we have been to in terms of quality & sound? No, it wasn’t but we really, really enjoyed this one.
The atmosphere was great, enhanced no doubt by the fact the Roundhouse is a standing venue and when you get Brian Wilson fans so closely packed together, the atmosphere ripples through the room and infects your hands and feet, encouraging them to clap and tap along, and before you know what you are doing, you find yourself singing along to the chorus of the ageless classics from the pen (whether wholly or in part) of Brian Wilson. You just can’t help yourself. We feel that the fans who really got the best out this gig were the ones right in the throng of the audience.

This show has had its criticisms on fans’ message boards, with some comments made about the band not really being up for it. What we write in our blog is our opinion, and in our opinion, that comment could not be further from the truth. Indeed, to pick out just a few observations, Scott Bennett really got into it, jumping around the stage and at one point “surfed” his keyboard, Brett Simons was grooving alongside Taylor Mills to the tunes and was even singing along, despite not having a mic most of the time! Jeffrey Foskett was engaging the fans in front (and to the side) of him, Nelson even took time out from behind his multitude of percussion instruments to bang on a few objects alongside Jeff, and Paul Mertens and his Saxophone traversed the whole stage.

The night ended in the Circle bar, mingling with other fans and some of the band members who kindly gave autographs, posed for photos and chatted to everyone. Highlight of the night for the Beeb was bumping into the artist Peter Blake. Peter kindly answered a puzzling point about the Sgt Pepper cover that the Beeb had wondered about for years. A lovely ending to a good night out.

And on our way home, heading towards the M1 out of London, we were in the wake of the EST truck that was carrying the gear away from Camden…..

Hope you like the pictures we have included.
And the customary news on the loos........ Minty loved the fact that during the interval the queue for the Gents stretched out beyond the door and trailed back through the corridor.... the Ladies was completely empty! Hoorah - justice!