Editor

Dec 072019
 

Suzanne Kelly presents her annual Christmas tale.

Popular mythology would have it that the original Dick Whittington, born 1354 was born of poor parents; this simply wasn’t true.
Dick was wealthy and became mayor of London; that’s as far as it went.

Popular mythology would have it that Boris Johnson, born 1964, was born of average parents; this simply isn’t true.

Boris is wealthy and became mayor of London and PM: that’s further than it should have gone. Now read on.

A long time ago there was once a poor boy called Boris Whittington whose parents were so poor not all the children could go to English prep schools.

People at his school made fun of his great poverty and his foreign ancestry. He would learn from this.

Our hero was so poor he went to Oxford to study, well – maybe he studied less than some. He did however cut a fine figure for a poor foreigner in the Bullyton Club. He spent all his parents’ pieces of gold on the £3,500 outfit he needed to wear to go to Bullyton Club dinners.

Soon this awkward, sensitive outsider was accepted as being ‘almost one of us’ when he proved what he was made of, and burned a £50 note in front of a homeless person (who might have even been from ‘Bongo Bongo land’ as Boris called some countries).

Poor Boris wanted to better his life, and his fellow Bullyton club members told him of London, where the streets were paved with gold.

“Cripes!,” thought Boris

“I say, that sounds like the place for me, what?”.

So off Boris Whittington bravely strode to London town, carrying in a little handkerchief tied to a steamer trunk in a flotilla of moving vans all of his meagre worldly possessions. He was determined that he would go there and dig up enough gold from the streets to make his fortune.

One day he met a friendly hedge fund manager who was going to London who said he would give him a lift there, so off they went.  When they reached the big city Boris couldn’t believe his eyes, he could see horses, carriages, hundreds of people, great tall buildings, lots of mud, but nowhere could he see any gold.

What a disappointment. How was he going to make his fortune? How was he even going to buy a four-bed flat?

“But corrr! Look at all this Totty!” He thought, and set off to better himself.

By then he had married a pussycat who grew up in a castle in Perthshire; she was called Allegra Mostyn-Owen. This was very useful for a time. They both toiled in the news business for a time. But Boris realised he was destined for greater things, so he sold her on.

Being a man of great character, he decided to start at the bottom and deigned to take a trainee job at Ye Times newspaper.

Alas! Boris thought he would add a little excitement to one of his stories, and surprisingly Ye Times took a dim view of this, so much so that they gaveth him ye sack. The Times then continued its unsullied mission of printing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: well truth as The Digger (who was a sorcerer from the land of Oz) saw it.

After a few days he was so hungry that he collapsed in a ragged heap on the doorstep of a rag merchant owned by two twins Barclay Dee and Barclay Dumb.

Out of the house came a crook:

“How would you like to be a weekly columnist for the Daily Telegraph? We can pay you £275,000 for one column a week – but it’s a start.”

Boris thought long and hard of the sacrifices he’d have to make.

“I’ll do it! Jings! Crivens!” he said.

He suffered. Boris even had to cover an event full of Lefties in 1996. Now the Lefties were not really our sort of people, don’t you know. Some of them weren’t even white; they even let girls be Lefties, and some of those girls ‘dressed up like letterboxes’.

Worse still – the Lefties allowed ‘bum boys’ to join! Cripes! What would Boris write for the Daily Torygraph about this horrible scene?

“The unanimous opinion is that what has been called the ‘Tottymeter’ reading is higher than at any Labour Party conference in living memory,” he wrote.

And the Torygraph readers loved him all the more.

Alas! Boris was notorious at the rag merchant for writing his column during a brief window on Sunday afternoons before sending it to the printing press only just in time.

This left little time for editors to make changes and fact-check his claims, but happily, fact-checking was not high on the Barclay twins’ agenda. So, on Boris toiled, dreaming of better days. He started to wonder if he wasn’t destined for better things and an easier life, like going into politics.

Boris was ever so grateful to the Daily Torygraph’s Barclay Dee and Barclay Dumb but, alas, the editor was always very bad tempered and, when no one was looking, used to beat and pinch him.

Now while Boris was slaving away day in, day out toiling at his demanding job, he acquired a pussy. Her name was Miranda.

London was full of rats and fat cats. Boris realised that the more rats and fat cats he could catch, the richer he’d get. But Miranda really wasn’t much cop for improving Boris’ social standing, so she had to go.  Verily he got shot of Miranda, which opened the cat flap for lots of other pussies, and lo, they verily did make use of it; they were Petronella, Helen (with whom he had a litter of kittens) and most recently Carrie. Carrie and Boris are so fond of each other that to this very day, the sounds of cats screaming and breaking things can be heard from their happy home.

Soon Boris was attracting lots of pussies, fat cats and rats. And lo it came to pass that with the blessing of the Tories, the help of the Barclay twins, and a whole bunch of rats, Boris became Mayor of London.

But our story does not end there.

Boris spent millions on a garden bridge in old London Town; it was never built. The people didn’t care.

One day Boris met a very important fat cat – and the most true Brit in all of Britland: Nigel Farage.

Nigel hated the people from ‘Bongo Bongo land’, people who wanted to come to Britain (except Boris’ ancestors of course!), and the Lefties. And pretty much anyone who wasn’t a white British man.

Nigel made his fortune by representing Brit land in the Union of Europe. This Union of Europe was an evil organisation that allowed people to trade goods throughout European countries, work in other countries, live in other countries, and gave them something called Human Rights.

Worse still, it wanted to harm the fat cats and rats by not letting them give their money to seafaring merchants to take away to the lands of Island of Virgins and Bahamas and verily the lands where the Barclay Twins lived in the Island of Channels. Nigel took a big salary from Europe, and will take a big pension from Europe.

Nigel hates Europe. And so does Boris.

The two of them hired a great big red coach, and painted on it that Europe was costing 350 million gold pieces each week, which should be used to heal the sick instead. Verily the people who had read Boris’ wise words in the Barclay twins’ rag believed every word, and felleth for this hooketh, lineth and sinkereth.

Alas, it was not strictly speaking true.

How the people loved his racism, sexism, lying, propaganda and anti-Europe positions! Yes, Boris was destined for greater things still.

The evil, ageing hag-queen of London was clearly losing her ability to govern. Sometimes when she had to walk across a stage, she had odd convulsions that some mistook for dancing. The Queen of the May had held power for some time now, and had many accomplishments.

She buried news about a disastrous, expensive failure of the Trident rockets, had cut all services to the poor, and made the dying travel to centres where they were told they weren’t dying at all. Who could possibly pick up where she left off?

Yes, you guesseth correctly: Boris soon became the Prime Minister of all of England!

Now, being Prime Minister was even less work than being mayor was. There was always someone with a bag of gold or a perk or a pussy or two who wanted to help him out and do the work for him.

“Cripes! This is great!” Boris thought, as his collection of gold doubloons and totty continued to increase. But it was never enough.

Not long after, Boris heard the merchant twins and other fat cats he knew asking everyone in the Houses of Parliament if they wanted to send anything on board their ship, they thought they could sell. The ship was going on a long voyage to the other side of the world to a place called America and the captain would sell everything on the ship so they could all make some money.

Poor Boris, what could he sell?

Suddenly, a thought came to him

“Please sir, will you take the National Health Service?”

Everyone burst out laughing, but the merchant smiled and said:

“Yes Boris, just what I was thinking, I will, and all the money from her sale will go to you – and to all of us.”

After the merchant had left from the city Dick found there was a small group of peasants who were revolting because they were such smelly oiks.

They somehow objected to selling off the NHS, to Boris’ little white lies about the gold going to the NHS, to leaving Europe, to having their ill and dying being made to work, and their air and land being poisoned.

How would Boris deal with these rabble – especially as the captain of the guard had decided that Boris couldn’t just sweep them all away with the water cannons he’d ordered years before. So, he just closed Parliament down a few times instead.

Boris knew he had to do something to make himself more popular again, so he could keep being the Prime Minister.

He invented an immigration points system to keep the wrong sort out of the UK, threw people out who had come in the Windrush period, and this kind of thing made his peasant fans, Mr Yaxley Lennon and his mates very happy.

Verily, this distracted such peasants from caring about the honey and plenty of money wrapped up in a five pound note the fat cats were sheltering in the Offshore Trusts. But it wasn’t quite enough, and Boris had secret plans underway.

One such plan would happen right here in England; the other was being put into action by the merchant captain at the fat cat’s bidding.

Boris had denigrated women, grabbed them (in an English way – by the thigh, not their pussycats so that was OK); and said women in burkas looked like letterboxes. Sure, he had also said that seeing groups of black kids made him nervous, and black people had watermelon smiles.

But here was the genius plan: He’d just say everything he’d ever said or done was satirical, and the real racism was in the Labour party. After all, the oiks in the streets wouldn’t know what satirical meant and wouldn’t care as long as white people – white men – were still top of the food chain, what?

His old friends the twins and his old newspaper jobs would be delighted to print this story, and so it came to pass. BoJo (as he was unaffectionately known) and his press baron friends painted Labour as being villainous racists, while Boris was made to look like a saint.

Unsurprisingly, this pleased his peasant fans – like Yaxley-Lennon who was also known for violent arguments with women, hating non-whites, and blatant lies. Success! Result!

Across the other side of the world, the merchant captain and his ship had arrived at their destination, Washington.

King Trump and Queen Melania (who had been so poor she could only afford to wear boots, handcuffs and guns before her rise to power) were so delighted that they invited them all to a feast.

The captain had heard that like Boris Whittington, King Trump was a self-made man. Set out into the world on his own with just six million dollars in the 1980s and a family Ku Klux Klan background, Trump had to fend for himself with just a few mafia figures to help him – and that all turned out OK.

Except for a few bankruptcies, people losing their homes and jobs when Trump went bust, black people not being able to own homes in Trump castles, and the odd rape accusation or two (including from his wife Ivana).

But, believe it or not, when the food was brought in none of the ship’s crew nor captain would eat it.

“Oh dear” said the king stuffing a chicken leg into his mouth and wiping his hands on his golf trousers,

“Dontcha like KFC and Chick fil a?”

“No offense your majesty” said the captain,

“but we don’t allow growth hormones in our beef and bleach in our chicken. We don’t allow ground-up bugs in our chocolates (well, not in as high quantities as you do), and we don’t put lots of non-food chemicals into our food. Nothing personal – we just like to live.”

“Not to worry!” laughed King Trump,

“Everyone is healthy here – I’m 6’3” tall and only weigh 185 lbs… or is that 185 stone?”

Chewing on a KFC family bargain bucket, Trump continued:

“To show our appreciation for your country, we’ve agreed to take on the NHS contracts, and as a bonus, when you leave the Union of Europe, we’re going to be your new food trading partner. Everything’s all arranged – just ask President Boris.”

And they all laughed, and the real feast of edible foods was brought out.
The merchant ship captain looked at the huge banquet dais where Trump sat, and behind his thrown was a curtain.

Behind that was an athletic chap, shirtless, sitting on a horse. He seemed to be pulling levers and strings.

Before the merchant ship captain could ask, Queen Melania hissed in his ear:

“Pay no attention to zat mehn behind ze curtain!”

“But it looks like he’s really the one running the show and pulling the strings!”

“I really don’t care, do you?” she purred.

Clinking his plastic cola bottle with a plastic fork, King Trump signalled for the room to be silent for one of his speeches. The captain thought some of the King’s aids rolled their eyeballs.

“Welcome friends from Englandland! We’ve decided to help you out of the NHS – I mean help the NHS.”

“Right, we have even more gifts we want to give youse guys in Englandland” Trump continued.

“The reason you have these terrorists is because you let people immigrate – that means come in – to your country. You gatta do what we do here – when they get to the border, put ‘em in cages.

“Lots of money for getting the little ones adopted – believe me! And the amount of money you can get for keeping these vermin sleeping on concrete floors under foil blankets – ya wouldn’t believe me.”

The captain felt his smile recede as Trump continued:

“Then, you’d also be much better off if you’d all jes get yerselves some guns – yeah, good guys with guns. Not having guns is un-American ain’t that right Mitch McConnell?”

At this several old white men stood up; many clutching fists full of roubles. The man behind the curtain with no shirt laughed.

“You’re too nice over there too” Trump told the captain,

“The press – well, not Boris and his friends – the other press, and these foreigners, these people not following the right religion – you know you have to rough ‘em up a little bit, right?”

The captain felt some colour drain from his face as he started to make his goodbyes. He and all the fat cats had been happy to do a bit of profiteering off the NHS – who wouldn’t be?

But surely England would never stand for people being deported, mistreated and dying in custody? And no one in their right minds would want to see guns on London’s streets: what kind of a maniac would even propose such a thing.

Over 40,000 people were shot in this crazy Trump land last year alone; synagogues, churches had been burnt or vandalised, women were prevented from making decisions about whether to have children or not – with some even going to jail for miscarrying.

“But the worst thing about those Lefties?” Trump asked,

“They wanna get rid of Christmas! That’s right – no ‘Merry Christmas’, no trees!”

At this a group of TV preachers and evangelists ran to the king, and put their arms around him, proclaiming him ‘the chosen one’.

Whether it was the cockroach-infested chocolates or the bleached chicken, the captain felt his stomach turn.

After the feast, the captain and crew made their way to the harbour. They walked the streets of Washington, where dozens of homeless people slept or begged for alms. Some had been soldiers; some lost everything they had due to paying for medical bills.

Shots rang out; school children covered in blood and crying ran through the streets. The brave captain and crew barely made it back to the ship, and they weighed anchor, immediately setting sail for home.

As they sailed into the east, the captain sighed, safe in the knowledge such far-fetched things would never happen; Boris wouldn’t allow it.
When the ship returned to London, the captain was making his way to Boris’ humble home in Downing Street when a newspaper caught his eye.

“Legalise Handguns now! Says Farage”

“NHS will improve under US contracts!”

“Point system for foreigners Boris proposes!”

“Windrush man facing deportation kills himself!”

“Boris leading in polls!”

The captain stood looking at the headlines for a few minutes.

“Maybe the Union of Europe wasn’t such a bad thing after all.” he thought.

Slowing his pace, losing his desire to race to No. 10, the captain saw one ‘Leftie’ newspaper before he left the newsstand which read:

“Don’t forget to vote on Thursday 12 December!”

“No, no I won’t forget that” thought the captain, as he slowly turned from his course to No. 10, and headed home to ensure his voter registration card was at the ready.

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Dec 062019
 

Duncan Harley reviews Cinderella at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen.

Comic Christmas capers in Aberdeen wouldn’t be quite the same without the annual HMT panto and this years rags to riches take on Cinderella stars soprano Rachel Flynn as Cinders with doors opening this month for a five-week run.

Naturally, wicked step-sisters are to the fore and the cast list for 2019 includes Call the Midwife star Laura Main who delivers a sterling performance as the Fairy Godmother, River City funny man Paul-James Corrigan who shines as Buttons, Two Doors Down Joy McAvoy plus River City Sally Howitt as the Stepsisters and Prince Charming is played by Emmerdale Paul Luebke.

Dancer/choreographer Louie Spence plays a delightfully camp Dandini with Alan McHugh leading the action as the outlandishly-costumed Baroness Heifer McHardup.

Outwitting step-sisters involves both humour and determination and there are plenty of laugh-out-loud slap-stick moments along the way alongside a multitude of double-entendres and slick comedy routines.

Lavish special effects and merciless lampoons litter the plot.

Sound and set are sublime and the Trump gets an obligatory bashing as does the city of Dundee. And there is a quite splendidly tongue-twisting comedy-Sushi routine which is to die for.

Last years disappointing dwarfs have thankfully been supplanted for 2019 by an ultra-slick troupe of tap-dancing pumpkins.

Astaire would be impressed. And there are pyrotechnics galore.

But it’s all in the best possible taste as the classic Dandini line ‘Now, this of course is where Prince Charming holds his balls and dances’ clearly illustrates.

Buzzing with energy from very beginning to royal wedding, Cinderella @ HMT sparkles. Go see.

Stars: 4.5/5

Directed and written by Alan McHugh, Cinderella plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Sunday 5 January 2020

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122

Words © Duncan Harley, Images © HMT and © Qdos Entertainment

Dec 052019
 

With thanks to Brookfield Knights.

Since issuing their superb Songs of The Hollow album in 2017, CUA have gone on to become a band that has gathered in more praise than most from all the best sections of the media.

Aberdeen music fans can judge for themselves as the band make an appearance at The Blue Lamp tomorrow, Friday Dec 6.

Awarding the album an 8/10 rating at AmericanaUK, top writer Jeremy Searle said:

“This Irish trio stands right at the forefront of contemporary cutting-edge folk and even that description sells it a little short.”

Issuing a similar judgement for Acoustic magazine, Julian Piper had this to say:

“At its finest, music should confound and amaze the listener, and this trio from Ireland have the luck – and the ability – to be one of those outfits who can pull this off.”

Folkwords said, rightly:

“Unlike anything else.”

As a result, there are many who cannot wait to catch the band in action and this will be their first major UK tour, although they caused a sensation when they attracted a capacity crowd to their Celtic Connections show in Glasgow, earlier this year.

Tickets here: https://www.seetickets.com/event/cua/the-blue-lamp/1464462

Nov 272019
 

Craig Chisholm reviews Liam Gallagher plus support at P&J Live, Aberdeen.

For North East Oasis fans, it was a bit of an exciting day, to say the least.
Noel Gallagher dropped a new single – ‘Wandering Star’ – with his High Flying Birds and, more importantly, brother Liam made his debut solo performance in Aberdeen.

Nearly 10,000 fans packed the new P&J Live Arena to watch their hero blast through a 90-minute set that drew tracks from his two albums ‘Why Me? Why Not’ and ‘As You Were’ but also, to the delight of many, a liberal sprinkling of classic tracks by his old band – and I don’t mean Beady Eye.

The mood was set for Liam’s triumphant performance by the two support acts that were both warmly received by the crowd.

Dylan John Thomas is the opening act. The young mop haired Glaswegian is very much following in the footsteps of friend and mentor Gerry Cinnamon who has recently supported on tour.

His acoustic guitar-based tunes are jaunty and catchy and, unusually for a new act, seems to meet the approval of a large section of the vast crowd. A cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’ especially goes down a treat.

DMA’s are a more familiar act, having sold out the Music Hall just a few months back.

The Australian act play a laid-back indie sound that’s indebted to Oasis without being a pastiche or outright copy.

Their short set draws tracks from both of their albums – ‘Hills End’ and ‘For Now’ – and all get a passionate and appreciative response from the crowd.

However, at the end of the day there’s only one man the audience are here to see – and that is Liam.

Walking on to near frenzied applause he exudes a swagger and confidence that most rock stars, let along normal people, would kill for.
He sets his stall out early with first track ‘Rock n Roll Star’ from Oasis’ 1995 debut album.

It’s less of a set opener than a statement of intent, a manifesto for all the Liam is.

The Oasis back catalogue is mined quite heavily throughout the set – ‘Wonderwall’, ‘Gas Panic’, ‘Morning Glory’, ‘Stand by Me’ and more are interspersed throughout the main set.

The encore pulls out a few of the big hits as well – ‘Acquiesce’, ‘Roll with It’, ‘Supersonic’ and a stripped down ‘Champagne Supernova’, all sang word for word by the audience; all received with near religious fervour.

As an added and unexpected bonus, he’s joined on these tracks by Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthur, original Oasis guitarist who left the band 20 years ago, in 1999.
But this isn’t an Oasis show, it’s the Liam show – and he has his own songs to sing.

Tracks such as ‘Halo’, ‘Shockwave’, ‘Paper Crown’ and ‘One of Us’ are received as warmly by the audience and get the same sing-along treatment as his old band’s classics.

Overall, it’s an assured and confident performance. You could never accuse Liam of being humble or overawed but he genuinely looks pleased with the crowd reaction and the energy and enthusiasm that they exude.

Liam Gallagher Setlist: 

Rock ‘n’ Roll Star
Halo
Shockwave
Wall of Glass
Paper Crown
Morning Glory
Columbia
Stand by Me
Once
One of Us
Gone
The River
Gas Panic!
Wonderwall

Encore:

Acquiesce
Roll With It
Supersonic
Champagne Supernova

Encore 2:

Cigarettes & Alcohol

Nov 222019
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

Aberdeen City Council’s new policy for sealing council flats has been condemned by an animal welfare charity today.

The city recently revised its policy for locking properties but the new policy is potentially harmful to any animals discovered in flats.

John F. Robins, Secretary of Animal Concern Advice Line, said:

“Aberdeen City Council would be well advised to have a rethink on this.

“If a tenant has died or done a moonlight flit it is likely to be several days or more before the Council find out and take action.

“Any animals on the premises may have already died of thirst or hunger and surviving animals are likely to be in a poor state of health.

“Instead of locking them in the property the Council should, if it is safe to do so, take the animals out and have them examined by a vet.”

The council came under fire when it was found to have sealed Michael Stewart’s body in his council flat where it remained undiscovered for two months.

Police eventually found Mr Stewart’s remains after a missing persons report was filed and they broke into the premises.

Bungling council operatives hadn’t even checked inside the flat before padlocking it shut, leading to this change in procedure.

The new policy reads in part:

“If a property [to be boarded up and padlocked shut] is found to have pets but no owner present… ensure that the pet has access to clean, fresh water.

“Regional Contact Centre should be advised that a pet is in the property.”

The city does not mandate animals be rescued, even the word ‘should’ is used about informing any other body that an animal will be locked in the dark, alone, with only water.

The policy does not give a time frame for reporting the presence of an animal either.

Mr Robins finds many faults with the policy and said:

“When dealing with exotic and potentially venomous animals such as reptiles, it might be best to call in an expert to deal with it.  

“Once the vet has seen the animals and passed them as fit, they should immediately be taken to an appropriate place of safety such as the nearest Scottish SPCA welfare centre or a reputable local independent animal refuge.”

The Scottish SPCA seemed to feel the policy was adequate however.

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said:

“Aberdeen City Council have a procedure in place with regards to properties involved in evictions when there are animals present.

“If a pet is in the property, the relevant authorities are to be notified and we will be contacted if necessary.

“As long as the proper procedures are followed in an appropriate period of time, the welfare of the animal should not be compromised.”

The policy does not specify a particular length of time as being appropriate, and the time different animals can be left alone varies greatly.

It seems the actual legal requirements of animal welfare and criminal law have been overlooked by the city, too.

Mr Robins said:

“Apart from the welfare of the animals there is also a legal position to be considered.

“If the animals were abandoned when their owners did a moonlight flit a criminal offence was committed and should be investigated.

“Once the Council has repossessed a property with a resident pet the Council becomes legally responsible for the welfare of that animal until it can be placed in a suitable, safe environment.”

The vague policy singles out dogs, ignoring the fact animals such as reptiles needing heat and light conditions to be constant otherwise they will likely perish.

The city’s policy states:

“If the pet is a dog, Regional Contact Centre should contact Aberdeen City Council Dog Wardens.”

Equally vague, the policy assumes that those present when a flat is sealed will somehow be animal experts.

The policy continues:

“SSPCA can also be contacted for advice if necessary….”

Surely the soundest advice to housing officers and joiners would be not to leave an animal alone in a cold, dark flat for any length of time in the first place.

Aberdeen City refuses to comment further on any matters connected at all with their having sealed Michael Stewart’s body in his flat.

Nov 202019
 

Craig Chisholm reviews She Drew The Gun / Peaness / Freakwave at The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen

The Lemon Tree played host to one of the best up-and-coming bands in the UK, in the shape of She Drew the Gun, along with sterling support slots from Peaness and Freakwave in an exhilarating – and refreshing – triple bill of female fronted bands.

Opening the nights proceedings are Glaswegian’s Freakwave. Their spiky, energetic punk-inspired rock is exciting to watch.

Drenched in a red-lit stage the band blast through a short, passionate set. Each band member has their own individual style – the barefoot bassist, the drummer with his “taps aff”, the guitarist with the bottle of Buckfast in his back pocket. But its guitarist / singer, the enigmatically named Summer Skye, that’s focus of attention.

Dressed in a leopard print top and trousers and Doc Marten books she’s a captivating sight with talent to back it up.

Their set includes a cover of ‘Pure Imagination’ from the 70s ‘Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory’ movie which goes down well.

Second support is Peaness. The three piece from Cheshire have a dreamlike, almost shoegaze in places, quality to their sound.
Their three-way harmonies recall the Gallic indie sound of Stereolab in places, but all recall the dreampop of early Lush.

There’s an Afrobeat influence lurking in their at times that gives them hints of Talking Heads or Vampire. Another band to watch, for sure.

She Drew the Gun deserves to be huge.

Their two albums – ‘Memories of Another Future’ from 2016 and this years ‘Revolution of Mind’ – are both well developed, confident tomes of work.

Live, they are just as confident. The Wirral band plays in front of projections of psychedelic, swirling visuals. And their music is just as kaleidoscopic and trippy.

From opening track, ‘Resistor’ the band blast through nearly an hour and a half of engaging politicised indie pop.

Highlights include their current single, ‘Trouble Every Day’ which is a zeitgeist capturing reinterpretation of the Frank Zappa song, the spoken word passages of tracks such as ‘Paradise’ and ‘Revolution of Mind’ and the final track, a poignant cover of The Beloved’s classic ‘Sweet Harmony’.

Three bands, three distinct sounds but one amazing bill.

Nov 152019
 

Duncan Harley reviews Cabaret @ His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen.

This unfolding story of the demise of the Weimar Republic is seen through the eyes of young American novelist Cliff Bradshaw – played here by Charles Hagerty – and is loosely based around Christopher Isherwood’s classic 1939 novel “Goodbye to Berlin”. 

A central focus is the doomed love affair between English cabaret performer Sally Bowles, played here Kara Lily Hayworth, and Cliff who has come to Berlin to complete a novel but soon finds himself involved in other distractions.

Alongside his pursuit of Sally, a serial manizer, Cliff soon finds himself involved in money-laundering for the fascists and is witness to a moral decay which will ultimately destroy the easy-going morality of a city known by many at the time as the Babylon of Europe.

Much of the action takes place in the Kit Kat Club – a place where ‘Here there are no troubles … Wilkommen, Leave your troubles outside … We have no troubles here! Here, life is beautiful.’

John Partridge plays the magnificently camp Emcee at the Kit Kat. And while budding storm-troopers prowl the streets, paying customers can look forward to an evening of sleazily decadent bondage-inspired entertainment. All of the dancers, both girls and boys, he says are virgins.

‘But you can try them if you like!’

Replete with both a rich tapestry of flesh and a familiar stable of songs: ‘Wilkommen’, ‘Tomorrow Belongs To Me’, ‘The Money Song’, ‘Perfectly Marvellous’ and many more; the plot moves awkwardly between club, street and Fraulein Schneider’s apartment building.

The club scenes are deliciously believable. The rest, less so. It’s not as if the shocking street violence or malevolent menace of fascism is out of place. It’s just that the dialogue in places is somehow dated.

The marketing hype describes ‘Show-stopping choreography, dazzling costumes and iconic songs’ and while this is genuinely the case, the spoken lines often lack lustre and the underlying politics – the elephant in the room – is perhaps understated for an audience distanced from such events by a curtain of some 90 years.

Technically splendid – the set, songs, choreography and lederhosen are magnificent – this electrifyingly camp production sets a high bar which it fails to quite reach.

Stars: 3/5

Directed by Rufus Norris, Cabaret plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday 16 November 2019

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122

Words © Duncan Harley, Images © HMT

Nov 152019
 

Catfish and the Bottlemen @ P&J Live, 7th November 2019. Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

The rise of Catfish and the Bottlemen has been nothing short of remarkable.

In about six short years they’ve graduated from small local venues, such as The Tunnels and Café Drummond’s, to the vast expanse of the new P&J Live Arena with what seems relative ease.

To their credit they look like a band that’s been headlining festivals and playing arenas for years as they gave a slick and well-honed show brimming with confidence and self-belief.

Lead singer, the poetically named Van McCann, has especially taken on the mantle of stadium rock god with consummate ease. He’s a whirlwind of movement – wielding his guitar flamboyantly whilst simultaneously waving the mic stand around the stage, never standing still, never not playing up to the crowd.

What’s noticeable about the crowd is how young they are. The majority are teenagers, hungry for excitement on a wet Thursday night in November. A vast amount of them would have been too young to have seen the bands Aberdeen debut at Café Drummond in 2014.

But Catfish and the Bottlemen is not a band about the past, they’re a band about the here and now. They’re about living for the moment, the visceral thrill of the being young, of being free and not having a care in the world.
And that feeling is what the crowd want, and what they give back.

They’re excited, they’re emotional, and they are fanatical.

This is not a jaded seen-it-all before crowd, this is a crowd seeing it for the first time and loving it. This is a crowd cheering roadies doing mic checks,.

This is not a crowd that care that there’s an outtake of ‘Helter Skelter’ by The Beatles used as the intro tape, Catfish and the Bottlemen are their Beatles.

Looking around the arena, you’re struck by the lack of t-shirts being worn displaying the logos of any other bands, the type of thing you normally see at gigs. The only t-shirts seem to be of Catfish and the Bottlemen themselves. And most seem bought from the merch stands that very night.

Catfish’s set is exclusively drawn from their three albums – ‘The Balcony’, The Ride’ and their latest effort, ‘The Balance’, which was released in April.

There are no cover versions or fillers punctuating their set, there’s no bloated solos to pad the set out. They have confidence in their own material and have an audience that knows every song they’ve recorded word by word. From opening track ‘Longshot’ to the closing ‘Cocoon’, 8000 voices sing in unison.

Where Catfish go from here will be interesting. This is not a band that will rest on their laurels, or do nostalgia tours playing anniversary shows of past albums – they are already headlining festivals such as TRNMST and they’ll be aiming for headlining stadiums.

And this crowd will be there with them and, as they did tonight, they will love it.

Catfish & The Bottlemen Set list:

Longshot
Kathleen
Soundcheck
Pacifier
Twice
Fallout
Anything
Sidetrack
Encore
Homesick
Conversation
Overlap
Rango
Basically
2all
Outside
Hourglass the (Van McCann acoustic)
Fluctuate
7
Cocoon

Nov 112019
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

Aberdeen Voice first interviewed actor Declan Michael Laird in June 2012, when he was a determined, optimistic 18-year-old trying to break in Hollywood.

Quite a few films, commercials and experiences have gone under the bridge since then. This catch-up seemed quite overdue.

“I believe that if things are meant to be, they’ll be” he said at the time – while putting in the hard work to make what he wanted to happen a reality.

Glaswegian Declan started out as a rising footballer, playing for Greenock Morton FC on a youth contract; football runs in the family. His brother Stefan is Aberdeen Football Club’s Academy Head and owns his own coaching company, SJL Coaching.

A combination of circumstances, accident, curiosity, luck, and mostly talent led Declan off the pitch and in front of the camera.

“It was all amazingly sudden,” Declan explained in an earlier Aberdeen Voice interview of his first brushes with acting,

“I went to the first filming and decided this was what I wanted to do – the cameras, the actors, being on set was amazing.  Football, which had been my aim for 10 years, suddenly fell to the back.  I did a few short films back home with independent filmmakers.” 

Determination and drive saw him attend the prestigious Stella Adler school on a full scholarship (the previous person on a full ride to the famous school was Robert DeNiro).

Fast forward to our present talk, which comes on the heels of the film ‘Hot Air’ debuting on Amazon Prime Video.

Hot Air is the latest from the inimitable, incisive Steve Coogan. Laird has a supporting role in the film, also starring Neve Campbell and Taylor Russell.

Before I knew Declan was in this film, it had my attention.

Coogan plays a far-right wing, bitter, manipulative, cynical shock jock à la Bill O’Reilly: a man who plays his perpetually furious, far-right wing listeners like a violin, creating ratings from fomenting their anger.

He has some great lines indicting the kind of journalism that is now poisoning American minds in particular (a disease spread by the likes of Breitbart and Kate Hopkins).

As someone who was on the O’Reilly Factor show some years back, I wanted to see if the dirty tricks, psychological games and ruthlessness would be captured.

They were.

Coogan’s radio talk show host is emotionally wounded and the cuts have festered over time. The Dei ex Machina appearance of his niece (Taylor Russell), child of his damaged, addicted sister provides a way to see how he wound up so twisted.

He gets some killer lines (‘How do you sleep at night?’ Is answered by him with ‘On a mattress stuffed with cash and the broken dreams of Hillary Clinton’), climaxing in his soliloquy damning politics and far-right media near the end.

This movie has a lot to say, and I like how it does it.

Declan does an impressive turn in this supporting role

It was great to see Neve Campbell as the love interest. You can see in her face her conflicting emotions – fondness, perhaps love for the rather unlovable DJ, and turmoil when he gets things so wrong at different times.

If you remember Trump’s preposterous recent pronouncement that instead of a wall we should have a moat, he may have picked that up from this film 

But there is humour, not least supplied by Declan’s character – a trustafarian young Russian man who lives in Coogan’s ultra-exclusive Manhattan apartment building who takes Taylor Russell out clubbing, to Coogan’s chagrin.

Declan does an impressive turn in this supporting role, from his accent, his movements from his hands through his fingertips.

I asked how he got his accent honed.

“I was always the guy doing impressions and mimicking people growing up – it came naturally to me. I did study dialect at Stella Adler as well; there were two years of accent training.”

“I asked the director ‘Do you want me to play it straight or do you want caricature?’ and he said ‘Well, we’re going to put you in an Adidas tracksuit with a thick gold chain.’ – so that told me all I needed to know.”

He was surprised to see Taylor Russell as a fellow actor on the project – he had met her before.

“It was the craziest thing – I met Taylor about three years earlier. We got introduced by a friend of a friend. Then she was in Lost in Space for Netflix.”

He saw her name on the scripts and that meeting came back to him.

“It’s funny how it’s such a small world.”

Ms Russell is in the acclaimed Waves, and has just had a 2020 breakthrough actor nomination for her work on the film in the Gotham Awards.

I didn’t ask Declan the predictable ‘So what was Steve Coogan really like?’ question, but I did ask what it was like to work with him. To many, Coogan is Alan Partridge; to others like me, Alan Partridge is a small part of Coogan’s work.

Declan said:

“He was kind of a quiet person, very polite. He thought I was Russian. When he asked me where I was from and I answered ‘Glasgow’, we got talking more. He was a great person to talk to and had lots of good advice.”

It was a bit odd how Declan landed the role – it was via one Skype call. He had done a reading of one scene with only one read through, and no input came back from the director – which can be very good or it can mean they’re not remotely interested.

“Forty-five minutes later my agent called and said I got it.”

“It was funny… I went to see it in a theatre with my girlfriend and this couple looked at me, and the man did a double-take. I heard him say afterwards to his partner, nodding in m y direction, ‘That’s the guy who was in the film!’ And she said ‘Don’t be ridiculous!’

“I laughed.”

Declan tells me about his girlfriend – they met in New York; she went to NYU and plans to direct and did casting for Netflix. I ask him if he has any interest in directing.

“Directing doesn’t interest me. I look at acting, writing, producing, and she talks about shots, cinematography, lightning.”

What’s next seems to be more acting and some producing.

“Zak Kadison has taken me under his wing,” Declan says of the producing side.

Acting-wise, he will be appearing in Green Fever next year.

Green Fever is a tale of a marijuana farm in California at a time of transition, directed by Gerard Roxburgh, written by Danny Acosta and Paul Telfer.

It is based on true events, but as Declan puts it

“My role is the only real fiction in it; I play a younger brother of a farm owner. The focus is on politics around the time weed was made legal. It’s an action/thriller/heist film.”

I cheekily ask whether the cast are taking the method acting approach to the project; Declan laughs and replies:

“There was a strong talk from the director to everyone about not smoking!”

A Scottish coincidence arises in the film’s crew;

“Gerard’s (the director’s) family come from down the road from my family in Greenock, and Telfor’s roots are in from Paisley.”

By this time, we’d talked politics, Trump (inevitably), earthquakes, San Francisco, football and more, and before I talked him hoarse, we wound up the call.

It is wonderful in such a time of upheaval and problems, and frisson between generations to see someone like Declan whose mature and hard-working beyond his years getting closer to the nearly impossible dream of Hollywood stardom.

If anyone can get there though, it’s him. I can’t wait to see where he’ll be in a further nine years.

Nov 082019
 

Craig Chisholm reviews Happy Mondays/Fat Cops at The Music Hall – 24th Oct.

Madchester legends the Happy Mondays rolled back the years and brought the spirit of baggy and the halcyon days of the Hacienda Club to the Music Hall in an enjoyable and entertaining set.

The evening’s mood was set with an interesting set by support act, Fat Cops.

Their name may not be familiar but some of their faces were – comedian Al Murray was on drums and the guitarist, Bobby Bluebell, is the writer of Scottish pop classic and number 1 hit “Young at Heart” by The Bluebells.

And, just to add to the surreal line up, the keyboard player is originally from Huntly. Oh, and he and happens to be married to Harry Potter author JK Rowling.

Fortunately, their music is decent enough to fend off any accusations of a mid-life crises. Their blend of funk, rock, soul and dance music is catchy and memorable.
Tracks such as ‘Rock Star’, ‘Dehydrated’ and ‘Hot Tub’ quickly draw a healthy crowd through from the bar and earn themselves a few new fans in the process.

With the house lights dimmed and thumping dance music playing in the half hour after Fat Cops leave the stage, the atmosphere for Happy Mondays is reaching boiling point by the time Happy Mondays come on.

Bounding to the lip of the stage and engaging in his signature “freaky dancing”, Bez is the undisputed star of the show.

Not quite as svelte as he used to be, he still manages to dance non-stop throughout the set whilst engaging with the crowd – whether posing for photos wearing a bucket hat that has been thrown on stage or reaching up to the balcony to shake hands with punters.

Lead vocalist, Shaun Ryder, is much less animated but still as compelling as ever.

Hidden behind dark sunglasses and a baseball cap he’s a lot more enigmatic. However, his between song banter is casual and relaxed – although he seems to be constantly looking to a video prompter for lyrics and to find out what song is next.
His voice may not be as it once was but he still has that star quality.

The rest of the band, including Shaun’s brother Paul on bass, is tight, with original backing singer Rowetta making up for any slight misgivings in Shaun’s vocals through her powerful performance.

The set list is comprehensive and trawls through the Mondays classic catalogue – ‘Dennis and Lois’, ‘Kinky Afro’, ’24 Hour Party People’ and ‘Loose Fit’ are all given an airing.

Undisputed highlights, however, are ‘Step On’, ‘Hallelujah’ and a banging ‘Wrote for Luck’.

A great performance by a great band who, despite their well-documented years of excess, still have the energy and enthusiasm to get the crowd excited.