Jun 282022
 

Craig Chisholm reviews Kasabian at The Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen.

Guitarist turned singer, Serge Pizzorno, is a hyperactive and overwhelming presence.

There’s an air of anticipation – and a hint of worry – in the air tonight as Kasabian take to stage for the first time in months in a relatively low key warm up show for their upcoming tour.
There was major upheaval in the Kasabian camp during lockdown that saw lead singer Tom Meighan convicted in court on a rather unsavoury charge of assaulting his then fiancée.

But Kasabian, to their credit, acted quickly and decisively, sacking him from the band and expelling him from their inner circle.

An incident like this may have spelled the end of many a band or, worse, a public show of contrition and the usual carefully worded apology. Not Kasabian, though, who are to be credited with the strong message that separating from their singer sends out.

There’s no messing around tonight. No easing in the crowd gently. No time for reflection or soul searching.

Hitting the stage in disconcerting and overpowering strobe lights they blast into the banging ‘Club Foot’ with such energy that everywhere in a mile radius of the Beach Ballroom must have thought there was an earthquake happening.

Guitarist turned singer, Serge Pizzorno, is a hyperactive and overwhelming presence at the front of the stage.

Moving from side to side, bouncing, running and jumping like a prize fighter in the ring, your eyes are drawn to him and you’re overcome by his intensity and energy.

Any questions regarding his ability to step up to front man – from his usual role of guitarist – or doubts about his voice being able to carry the tunes, are dispelled tonight. He’s a natural frontman, a consummate showman and his voice is perfect for the songs.

Blasting through a 17 song set, the band show they are more ready for their upcoming headline dates and their support slots with Liam Gallagher at Hampden Park and Knebworth among others.

The hits, such as ‘Empire’, ‘Vlad The Impaler’ and ‘Shoot the Runner’ are all played. There’s a live debut for ‘SCRIPTVRE’ from upcoming album ‘The Alchemists Euphoria’ (Due August 5th) and plenty of crowd pleasers in between.

The sprung floor at the Beach Ballroom was tested to its limits tonight and there’ll be a few lugs still ringing the following morning from the aural assault.

Closing with ‘Fire’, the band end a triumphant show that has dispelled any doubts about their future. They’re in for the long haul and will be headlining arenas and festivals for a long time to come.

Set List:

Club Foot
Ill Ray (The King)
Underdog
You’re in Love With a Psycho
ALYGATYR
Shoot the Runner
SCRIPTVRE
Bumblebee
Stevie
Pinch Roller
Treat
Empire
Switchblade Smiles
Vlad the Impaler

Encore:

Bless This Acid House
L.S.F. (Lost Souls Forever)
Fire

Jun 232022
 

Craig Chisholm reviews The Charlatans and Martin Carr at Aberdeen Music Hall.

The Charlatans are treated as conquering heroes to a partisan crowd.

Has it really been nearly ten years since The Charlatans last played Aberdeen? Last time around they played a run through of their classic album ‘Tellin’ Stories’ and the odd b-side from that phase of their career.

Tonight is also a dive into the past – a retrospective set in support of last year’s compilation album ‘A Head Full of Ideas: The Best of Charlatans’

But before The Charlatans take to the stage for what was supposed to be a 30th – now 32nd – anniversary tour, it’s the turn of former Boo Radleys guitarist and songwriter Martin Carr and his band, What Future, to entertain the crowd.

Most of the crowd seem to be in the bar when they come on but by the end of the set the hall is suitably filled with an audience appreciative of his songwriting skills.

Martin Carr

His bright indie pop still retains a knack for the harmonies and hooks that made Boo Radleys stars in the mid 90s. Leaning heavily on his solo material for the 30 minute set there’s only the one nod to his former band with a closing performance of the brilliant ‘Lazarus’ – which is met with an applause as rapturous to the one given when he says “have a good night – fuck the Tories”.

The Thurso born, Wallasey raised, singer and his band may have won a few more fans tonight with both his music and his politics.

Coming on stage to the pulsating ‘Forever’, The Charlatans are treated as conquering heroes to a partisan crowd.

It’s hit after hit, hook after hook, as they blast through over 100 mins of classics selected from their back catalogue.

The LED backdrop plays videos and shows pictures from the past three decades of their career – ticket stubs, tour posters, old concerts and, poignantly, old footage of late keyboard player Rob Collins and drummer Jon Brooks, who tragically died of a brain tumour in 2013.

But this isn’t a wake, it’s not a simple case of nostalgia and they are certainly not resting on their laurels – this is a band that have embraced all genres, mixed up the past and looked to the future.

From the soulful ‘A Man Needs to be Told’ to the Chemical Brothers infused dance beats of ‘One to Another’ to the Stones-y swagger of ‘Just When You’re Thinking Things Over’, it’s a joyous and life affirming set by a band that have never stood still.

Highlights? Everything. There are no mishits, no songs that make you want to go to the bar.

It’s all killer, no filler, as they say.

Closing – as ever – with an extended ‘Sproston Green’, the band leave the stage tired and exhausted as the crowd, reluctantly, leave the exits the in the very same state.

Setlist:

Forever
Weirdo
Can’t Get Out of Bed
Then
So Oh
You’re So Pretty – We’re So Pretty
Sleepy Little Sunshine Boy
Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over
One to Another
Different Days
Future Tense (with Ian Rankin) (Spoken word)
Plastic Machinery
I Never Want an Easy Life If Me and He Were Ever to Get There
A Man Needs to Be Told
The Blind Stagger
The Only One I Know
North Country Boy
How High

Encore:

Sproston Green

Jun 162022
 

Craig Chisholm reviews Pictish Trail and Savage Mansion at The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen.

A Pictish Trail show isn’t your run of the mill concert.

It’s a glorious mish mash of one man and his acoustic guitar, a band playing electro-indie-psych-rock and some of the funniest between song anecdotes and asides to the crowd that’s guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and a spring to your step.

Pictish Trail is better known to his Mum as Johnny Lynch. He’s a resident of Eigg, a prolific song writer, the head honcho of the Lost Map record label and, as cliched as it sounds, one of the best live acts around just now.

But before he and his band entertain the crowd, it’s the turn of Lost Map signees Savage Mansion to warm up attendees.

The Glasgow based band play an infectious brand of shambolic indie pop that’s a treat to the ears. There are shades of Pavement in there, a hint of Lou Reed in the vocals, all of which combine to create an enjoyable and listenable experience.

Keyboard player Kate is from Aberdeen and, when put on the spot, is asked to name something good about her hometown. She opts for the number 19 bus, which is given a shout out by singer Craig Angus.

Shout out to Savage Mansion too, for a great set.

Headliner Pictish Trail bravely starts the show with two solo acoustic tracks – ‘Easy With Either’ and ‘Nuclear Sunflower’ before being joined by “Eigg’s sexiest man 2009, Joe” on guitar for another track.

Pictish Trail, of course, moved to Eigg in 2010.

Whereby Joe won the award again, apparently.

This sort of quip is just a precursor for the between song banter and shaggy dog tales, including a tale about a near death experience involving a log filled truck with his passengers, comedians Josie Long and James Acaster.

But the humour and laughs are only a small part of an eclectic and joyful set that shows the breadth and depth of Johnny’s talent.

Songs are well crafted, catchy, and clever. Folkie, indie, danceable but draped in a pop sheen.

As he dances through the crowd at one point, still singing, you’re transported to a place of happiness, an escape from the world and its troubles.

Pictish Trail is no stranger to Aberdeen and hopefully he’ll be back soon – if you can’t wait then be sure to catch him in Glasgow, Dunfermline, Arisaig, Oban, Lockerbie and, more local-ish, Findhorn in August.

Set List:

Easy With Either (Johnny solo)
Nuclear Sunflower Swamp (Johnny solo)
Slow Memories (Johnny and Joe)
Double Sided
Island Family
Far Gone (Don’t Leave)
It Came Back
Melody Something
The River It Runs Inside Of Me
Fear Anchor
Turning Back

Encore:

Natural Successor

Jun 142022
 

The Simple Minds 40th anniversary tour finally rolled into town for a marathon two and a half hour set that spanned their entire career. Craig Chisholm reviews.

In fact, it’s been delayed so long that it’s nearer 44 years since their humble beginnings in Glasgow to the arena filling band they are today rather than the 40th Anniversary Tour it was advertised as originally.
Opener ‘Act of Love’ is a song that bookends their career – originally written when they started out in the late 70s, it was pushed aside, forgotten about and never recorded until it finally was released as a “reimagined version” only a few weeks ago.

Guitarist Charlie Burchill plays a striking flying V guitar on it live, a nod to the bands more rock side.

From there, it’s a musical journey into the Simple Minds back catalogue of fan favourites, Number 1’s and the odd album track – spanning genres ranging from the previously mentioned rock (‘Don’t You Forget About Me’, ‘Waterfront’), soaring ballads (‘Belfast Child’, Speed Your Love to Me’) and post-punk, electronic bangers (‘Love Song’, ‘Theme for Great Cities’).

The pulsating ‘I Travel’, played early in the set, seems takes on new meaning it light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine with its lyrics talking of “Cities, buildings falling down” and “In central Europe, Men are marching” as does the haunting ‘Belfast Child’ (“Some say troubles abound; Someday soon they’re gonna pull the old town down”), which singer Jim Kerr acknowledges before playing the song.

Despite being his 60s, Kerr is still an enigmatic and active showman – kneeling on the lip of stage, walking to the wings, gesturing as he sings. He looks as fit and healthy as he did a few decades ago.

He goes through at least four costume changes through the show – albeit just shirts and jackets and nothing too flamboyant.

He’s also still adept at drawing a crowd in as he ever was – waving, clapping, speaking to those in the rear seating.

He knows how to involve the audience, a skill finely honed over the years as the band rose from clubs and halls to massive stadiums and international audiences.

He’s also quite humorous and funny at times – acknowledging the delays in the concert and how Charlie spent the ticket money down the bookies; shouting “sing it in Spanish… Sing it in Italian…. Sing it in Doric” during the “la la la la la” refrain of US number 1 ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’.

Overall, it’s an entertaining and satisfying night by a band that still enjoy being on stage and creating new music – here’s to the next forty years.

Set 1:

* Act of Love
* I Travel
* Celebrate
* Glittering Prize
* Promised You a Miracle
* Book of Brilliant Things
* Up on the Catwalk
* Hunter and the Hunted
* Love Song
* Belfast Child

Set 2:

* Theme For Great Cities
* Waterfront
* She’s a River
* Dolphins
* Once Upon a Time
* Someone Somewhere in Summertime
* See the Lights
* All the Things She Said
* Don’t You (Forget About Me)
* Let It All Come Down
* New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)

Encore:

* Speed Your Love to Me (Sarah Brown & Berenice Scott vocals)
* Alive and Kicking
* Sanctify Yourself

 Posted by at 16:49  Tagged with:
Jun 142022
 

Craig Chisholm reviews.

Like every other gig happening just now, it’s a been a long time coming.
It’s been two long years since tickets went on sale for The Modfather’s Music Hall gig.
But Weller hasn’t been sitting idly by – he’s released a couple of albums – On Sunset and Fat Pop Vol 1.

There’s been a live stream – Midsommermusick – and there’s even an orchestral live album out this month.

So, that alone would be a lot to cram into a setlist for the new tour – but add in another 14 solo albums, 5 Style Council albums and another half dozen by The Jam then there’s a wealth of material to choose from.

But if choosing a set from such a large back catalogue is daunting, it must be nothing compared to being the opening act for such an icon.

However, if John Rush is nervous then he doesn’t let it show. In fact, his solo set is a confident and accomplished performance.

Hunched behind an acoustic guitar, absorbed in his songs he is humorous, appreciative and seems genuinely happy to be given the opportunity to perform in front of a decent sized crowd.

His folk-tinged pop tunes go down well, and he even gets a sing-a-long going near the end with the crowd joining in on backing vocals. In front of a crowd that likely didn’t know about him before tonight, he does well and will have gained a few fans.

Striding confidently onto stage in a seasonally appropriate crimson jumper, Weller oozes confidence and is every inch the rock legend.

Flanked by two drummers, a bassist, keyboard player, sax player and, crucially, Ocean Colour Scene guitarist Steve Craddock, he blasts through a set that lasts well over 2 hours but feels like it passes in half that time, such is how enjoyable it is.

It’s a confident and measured set – just enough of the hits to please the more chart minded fans; a couple of tracks by The Jam to send the punk fans home happy; a nod to The Style Council for the 80s fans and a fine spread of solo tracks from the last 30 years for the solo performer fans.

It’s a tricky skill to keep everyone happy but Weller retains that skill whilst ploughing his own furrow, not afraid to cut loose and experiment.

Highlight of the set is a quintet of tracks from the solo commercial high point, the classic ‘Stanley Road’, performed back-to-back – the title track itself, followed by ‘Broken Stones’, ‘The Changingman’, ‘Porcelain Gods’ and a sublime ‘You Do Something to Me’.

But the biggest cheers of the night go to a couple of classics by The Jam – ‘That’s Entertainment’ and ‘A Town Called Malice’ which bring the house down at the end of the night.

An epic set by an epic performer.

Set List:

White Sky
Cosmic Fringes
Peacock Suit
My Ever Changing Moods (The Style Council song)
Hung Up
Saturn’s Pattern
Old Father Tyme
Shout To The Top
Village
More
That Pleasure
Stanley Road
Broken Stones
The Changingman
Porcelain Gods
You Do Something to Me
Still Glides the Stream
Shades of Blue
Above the Clouds
Wild Wood
Brushed
Into Tomorrow
Friday Street
Can You Heal Us (Holy Man)
On Sunset
That’s Entertainment (The Jam song)
Town Called Malice (The Jam song)

Jun 062022
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

Dear All

Congratulations on your election to Aberdeen City Council.  There are high hopes for your cohort. I write to say I am always interested in hearing from you on the issues.  I am glad that so many of you have communicated with me over the years.

The following issues are of great interest to the public.  None of these issues will be allowed to just fizzle out. 

I will certainly continue my pursuit not only of such stories, but more importantly of resolutions.  Some documentation is attached; more is available.  I invite you to search the archives of online newspaper Aberdeen Voice, www.aberdeenvoice.com and to look at my FOI register on What Do They Know – https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/user/suzanne_kelly/requests 

Size of the city’s deficit:

Debt exceeding £1.4 bn is utterly unsustainable, and expensive real estate ventures/forays into the commercial real estate sector must be better thought out; they are not cure-alls.  

Marischal Square:

Not even the city can say with certainty how much money comes in as rent from the occupants; I was told as much in an FOI. 

Relevant committees must as a matter of urgency weigh up how much is spent on sweeteners (a list appeared in Aberdeen Voice showing millions paid out to companies including Aberdeen Journals Ltd and multinationals – the city resisted supplying this information until the Information Commissioner intervened), and future renewals and new deals need to get the value for money the taxpayer expects but is not getting.

Relationship with Aberdeen Journals Ltd: 

The ethical considerations of continuing to fund Aberdeen Journals Ltd should be examined; I am unaware of any other lucrative sweeteners offered to large or small news outlets operating in the area.

Then again, many news outlets would not want to lose their integrity and independence by taking money from Aberdeen’s taxpayers via ACC.

Click to enlarge.

Union Terrace Gardens:

How was it decided to spend c £26 million to remove 46 mature trees which most definitely cleaned the air, in order to create new shops adjacent to a street with closed-down shops? 

This vanity project needs full investigation – and the state of it at present should be included in that.

Covid is often used as an excuse for the slow pace of the project – and yet construction workers were absolutely permitted to carry on work during lockdowns. 

When granite steps were removed from the site, a councillor was upbraided for suggesting they were gone by an officer who later had to do a u-turn; I am not convinced officers show enough support to the elected councillors.

Aberdeen Inspired:

This business improvement district entity receives money from the central government, and Aberdeen City prepares its billing and accounts free of charge – which is a benefit in kind funded by the taxpayer. It steadfastly refuses to answer FOIs lodged with it.  You should be aware of its early problems.

  • Former head awarded her husband a unilateral pay increase and soon after left. 
  • AI spent c £400k of taxpayer money from central government on the abysmal illuminated street signage.  The signs have malfunctioned – but their biggest drawback is that while they can be clearly seen from both sides of the streets which they hang over, they are only legible from one direction – an error that no first-year design student would make.   
  • No tender exercise was held; an English firm got the £400k – a firm which apparently had a link to John Lewis, a company which at the time had presence on the AI board. 

The money spent on the Christmas fairs, the ridiculously-high figures presented as accurate footfall in the past of over 600k visitors – all this needs to be investigated and remedied. 

There is a definite lack of retail/city planning expertise in the organisation; an ex-policeman has been allowed to guide the city’s retail future and the failures of the lack of relevant experience are all too evident.

Torry:

Very little green space remains, and what there is is under threat from the plans of unelected quangos such as ONE.  Hydrogen is not a viable future, and certainly not at the expense of further industrial builds on green space. 

Biodiversity in Torry has tumbled; environmental issues must be taken more seriously.  I and many are convinced the incinerator will further degrade air quality (I developed asthma while living in Torry); hydrogen industry takeover of green belt is unacceptable to many.

Scotia Homes/Sheilhill Road area / B999 promised road improvements:

When Scotia got permission for the hundreds of new homes in the area, it paid substantial sums towards three specific road improvements which at the time were said by ACC to be for safety reasons. 

The money had long-since been paid with no work done – and inexplicably with the Chief Executive writing that the funds had ‘just’ been received when they had been in-house for years.  Some councillors have tried to help; others have worked to slow and stop the needed road improvements.  This remedial, promised and paid-for work must be done.

Sky walkway at Union Terrace Gardens:

A FOI request about the safety of the walkway is now long overdue.  I requested the necessary risk assessments; they are not forthcoming. 

The very idea of building a sky walkway next to a bridge known for over 100 self-harm events over the years – with the walkway having only balustrades for protection – is an immense risk.  As well as opportunities for self harm, the very real possibility of danger from fallen – or thrown – objects exists, and should be addressed in the documentation for the project. 

Such documentation must be released; the walkway must not open until it can be guaranteed safe.  The liability for lawsuits on the city is enormous, and that needs to be recognised.

ACC Freedom of Information handling:

The city’s FOI team complains it has many FOIs to answer; the media team likewise complains it has many requests to answer.  In years past, journalists were allowed to speak to employees and officers directly and get information swiftly. 

This change was ACC’s decision, although Indeed some news outlets still seem to enjoy that privilege. 

Virtually every FOI request I make is answered late.  Some require appeals to the Information Commissioner which are often successful. Some are delayed by staff asking for clarification of my questions which are already spelled out in great precise clarity – some feel this is a delaying tactic. 

There absolutely needs to be improvements; the Information Commissioner’s Office is looking at these issues.

This includes the removal of the requirement for those asking ACC questions via their website to set up an account with the city – there is no reason a person needs to be logged into the city’s systems – where their activity could be monitored or tracked – in order to make or see FOI requests. 

All FOI requests should be visible and easily searchable on the ACC website. As it is, there is no longer one visible list of FOIs, but smaller sub-lists and subpages.  The whole FOI procedure is cumbersome, slow, and sometimes ignores IC policy, as demonstrated in the judgments against it. Time for change.

Aberdeen Art Gallery: 

You should all be aware of the fact that over the years 1,577 items were lost or stolen – and as it now emerges, destroyed. 

In a report to the Audit, Risk & Scrutiny Committee, officer Sweetnam (?relation to the gallery’s Margaret Sweetnam? – that would constitute a conflict of interest many might think – but the city refuses to confirm or deny the relationship) represented many galleries have such losses.

I heard from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Highlands & Islands.  Not one of these has anything like the losses ACC has.  The curatorial policy has seen some 24 listings for rocks, gemstones, valuable minerals and fossils destroyed:  this is wholly against the policies for disposal published by National Galleries Scotland – policies the Sweetnam report claimed the gallery adheres to.

Nothing should be destroyed unless it is a hazard according to that policy. 

Click to enlarge.

Many catalogue items are undated, don’t show what the item is made of, no indication of size of item or quantity in a listing:  all contrary to same policy.  It is hard not to think criminality is involved in some of the thefts that has not been fully examined. 

The ARS committee is set to look at the issue again in the near future; it is hoped that any report put to it will be robustly analyzed, and the inconsistencies pointed out here are examined. 

It is bizarre that some items donated have virtually no value, and the question needs to be asked of such items what valuation was the donor given and did it offset tax liabilities for the donor unfairly?

You certainly have your work cut out for you.  Serving the public and protecting the public’s money and remaining green space must be top of your list, and I look forward to hearing from any and all of you on the issues.

Yours sincerely,
Suzanne Kelly, NUJ

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
 
 
 
 
 
May 112022
 

Duncan Harley reviews ‘The Spirit of Banffshire’.

I think it was filmmaker Tom Weir who said that in order to have a future, we also need to have a past. He went on to say that the task of recording the best of Scottish history shouldn’t be made too easy.

After all there were lots of false prophets and folk with political agendas.
But Tom, bless his soul, was only partially correct. The preservation of the best of Scotland can be made really easy.

You just need to throw open the barn doors and invite people to contribute their memories for all to see. And that is exactly what the Banffshire Memories Project has done.

A year or so ago, Andrew Simpson – Lord Lieutenant of Banffshire – sent out a call for stories about historic Banffshire and a shedload of tales flooded his inbox.

Compiled from these stories, in essence this is a book with around one hundred and fifty authors which is a dangerous game if ever there was one. But, unusually for such an ask, the finished product delivers pretty much what it says on the tin.

Compiled especially for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee the book celebrates the history and records the memories of ordinary folk who live and work in what is nowadays termed ‘Historic Banffshire’.

Nowadays in the hands of Moray and Aberdeenshire councils the old county boundaries may have gone, but the memories persist and the spirit of the old county lives on in the hearts of many residents to this day.

Spurred on by editors Andrew Simpson and Eleanor Gillespie, the project has enabled more than a hundred local authors to make it into print; many for the first time ever.

Now at this point I have to declare an interest since the volume includes a couple of my stories. But, in essence, my contribution is just a few paragraphs amongst a mass of tales penned by folk who maybe never imagined such celebrity.

First up is Nan Morrison who recalls watching the 1953 Coronation on a 12-inch black and white television.

“It had a lasting impression on all of us” she writes.

Helen Lyon recalls how Coronation Day in Aberchirder was a public holiday and how folk wrapped up in bonnets and scarves to watch the parade of floats which went around the town.

It was a wet and windy day and she writes that “some of the outdoor events were moved into the Memorial Hall”  and that the schoolchildren got souvenir pencils and mugs.

But its not all about the Coronation. There are memories from wartime and schooldays.

Tarlair art deco swimming pool gets a mention, courtesy of Nan Morrison, and Ann Dean writes about Scalan.

Now, I knew, or thought I knew the history of Scalan. But Ann’s tale is not about the training of priests. It centres around the tale of Sandy Matheson. He worked the place until 1981 and is remembered as perhaps the last Tomintoul link with hand sowing, reaping and stooking.

I could go on. But in the big scheme of things, this is a must have book for anyone even remotely interested in the local history of North East Scotland.

Co-edited with Eleanor Gillespie, Andrew’s book marks the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen with profits being donated to charities associated with those members of the Royal Family who have visited Banffshire over the past seventy years.

Highly recommended. Five stars. Eminently readable.

Fully illustrated (197pp) , The Spirit of Banffshire is available by emailing: Banffshirememories@gmail.com (£12 plus £2.50 p&p)

And from the Banffshire Field Club website @ https://banffshirefieldclub.org.uk/

ISBN: 9781800686670

Apr 142022
 

Mike Shepherd reviews “The Poetry Mannie: The Doric Poetry of Bob Smith, Edited by Duncan Harley.”

The Doric dialect is getting a lot of welcome publicity at the moment, not the least because of the efforts of the Doric Board who have supported the publication of this wonderful book of poems (which is yours for £6.45).

There is something particular to the Doric dialect that lends itself to poetry, even if the roll call for Doric poets is not that long.

Yes, I believe I know what that something could be. Having once been told that English is dismally short of words to express the subtleties of human feeling, and that other languages cope much better by comparison, I reckon this is why we Scots have filled in the gaps with highly-expressive dialect words.

Try, for example, translating the word ‘couthy’ into conventional English using a single sentence. That’s not easy.

And because poetry can be considered a vehicle for expressing the nuances of shared experience, Bob Smith’s Doric poetry certainly does that. To live in North East Scotland is to fully connect with the experience described in the following excerpts:

Saturday Afternoons at Pittodrie watching the League Cup.

A hunner and twenty meenits we did get
Yet naebody cwid fin the bliddy net
A penalty shoot oot wi did hae
Nae goals were scored fae open play

Saturday Nights.

Binge drinking quines – there’s nithing worse
They faa aboot an sweir an curse
Wi hurdies keekin oot their draars
They stumble oot o clubs and bars…

And that peculiar Aberdeen obsession with long-gone shops.

Did ye myn o’ Aberdeen Motors
Faar ye bocht an Austin “Devon”
Div ye myn o’ Isaac Benzie
Faar yer mither wis in heaven…

Or litter.

We hiv a problem in Aiberdeen
Keepin the bliddy pavements clean
Litter strewn fae pillar tae post
Plastic cups an half aeten toast…

To read Bob’s poetry is to laugh out loud, although his more serious poems do tackle subjects such as the bizarre doings of politicians and their chums in this part of the world, or the sublime aspects of nature, place, and landscape as per classical poetry.

Now you will enjoy this book so do buy it. And thanks to Duncan Harley, author of The Little History of Aberdeenshire and other books, for compiling Bob Smith’s engaging poetry.

Enjoy!

Apr 012022
 

By Duncan Harley.

A First World War veteran, Laurence Taylor (1899-1949) arrived back in his native North East in the September of 1918 just a few weeks before the armistice between Germany and the Allies which effectively ended the horrific fighting and the loss of millions of lives across the battlefields of Europe.

After four years of trench warfare, the guns on the Western Front had finally fallen silent.

Wounded by shellfire during an abortive attack on a German redoubt near Ypres, Laurence was hospitalised for several weeks in France before being sent home to his native Fraserburgh where he gradually regained his strength and took stock of his new situation.

Battlefield surgeons had amputated a leg below the knee and shrapnel had severed several fingers on his right hand but, despite these injuries, Laurence was determined to resume his career as an accordionist in a Bothy Band.

Now, folk will usually assert that there is no such thing as a left-handed accordion player. But that is not strictly the case.

Given the right circumstances and a bit of determination, it is perfectly possible to play the accordion upside down. And that is exactly what Laurence trained himself to do.

Over the course of several months, he not only regained his mobility but re-learned his accordion skills using an inverted keyboard specially designed for him by a local blacksmith.

Over the course of several decades Laurence and The Big Accordion Band toured the UK and even made it as far as New York on one occasion becoming what was probably the very first transatlantic bothy ballad band.

Towards the end of his life, the lad from Fraserburgh was interviewed for the local paper and asked about the reason for his success.

“It was all down to grit and determination” he said.

“And I would do it all again if I had to. Mind you the left-handed keyboard has taken its toll on my remaining fingers and you can’t really toe tap effectively with just the one leg in case you fall over.”

Asked about the future he stated that he was still good enough to play the bass side but not the treble side but he was still working on a solution.

The years took their toll however and the man who took the bothy ballads of the North East to America eventually ended up on the streets.

Fame and hangers on had taken their toll and drink had gotten a hold of him. The Big Accordion Band had long since broken up and by September 1947, the Fraserburgh accordionist was reduced to playing for drams in the bars and the strip clubs of rural Aberdeenshire.

Laurence Taylor became ill on stage half way through an open-mike performance at McGinty’s Bar near Cullen in 1949 and died aged fifty in a Fraserburgh nursing home after a short illness. His ashes were scattered at sea.

His legacy lives on however. Not least as the first left-handed accordionist to introduce down-town New York to the bothy ballads of the North East.

(Additional reporting by April McGinty)

Mar 152022
 

Craig Chisholm reviews ‘Nouvelle Vague’ – Lemon Tree, 4th March 2022.

The girl singer covering a rock song in more downbeat, acoustic or similar fashion has become a tired trope over the last few years in the pop landscape.

From Birdy releasing a whole album of whispery covers to the Hawaiian singer Malia J sound-tracking the trailer to Marvel’s ‘Black Widow’ with Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, the style has become mainstream, familiar and, unfortunately, a bit stale.

However, one band are the original and the best in the genre and bring more to re-interpreted cover versions than a lot of others – a swipe of Parisian cool, a knowledge that they were the original trendsetters and a simple, joyous fun to their live show.

Starting off with both singers deep in the Lemon Tree audience, lit only by a single torch directed from the stage, the band start the show in atmospheric fashion with New Romantic electro classic ‘Fade to Grey’, originally by Visage.

What follows is a peerless 90-minute show that takes in an inspired selection of songs by acts as diverse as Yazoo (‘Don’t Go’), The Cramps (‘Human Fly’), XTC (‘Making Plans for Nigel’) and The Clash (‘Guns of Brixton’) among others.

At their best, Nouvelle Vague subverts and twist the original narratives of the songs and add new meaning and added depth to them.
The masculine toxicity lampooned in Dead Kennedys punk classic ‘Too Drunk to Fuck’ is retooled for the modern era and raises issues of consent when sang by a woman. Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ allows us to see the other perspective of a break down in a relationship, far removed from the original male narrator’s perspective. 

It’s moments like those that make you stop and think, to re-analyse the song and the song writer – what is the meaning of Generation X’s ‘Dancing with Myself’ when sang by a woman? What does a female perspective bring to The Undertones ‘Teenage Kicks’?

All valid questions and the punters will all have their own opinions or ideas if they stopped to consider the song in question. However, it’s also a Friday and time to unwind – and The Specials ‘Friday Night, Saturday Morning’ is an appropriate choice, with its tales of drunken abandon and living for the moment.

The range of musical styles in their interpretations also adds to the occasion – whilst they are steeped in the Nouvelle Vague’s original Bossa Nova style, they’re not scared to let go with wild disco abandon or an introspective acoustic led style.

Entertainment is ultimately the name of the game and theatrical flourishes such as synchronised movement by the singers, a toast with a glass of wine before ‘Too Drunk to Fuck’ and a spirited kazoo solo during ‘Human Fly’ make a good show.

The band close their set with Modern English’s ‘I Melt Into You’, an appropriate and timely song with current events in Ukraine, which was written originally under the fear of nuclear war and depicting a couple making love as the bomb drops.

But such weighty topics are no excuse to not party and have a good time – and Nouvelle Vague easily provide that and leave a Friday night crowd in Aberdeen more than happy to carry on socialising into Saturday morning.

Setlist:
Fade to Grey (Visage cover)
Blue Monday (New Order cover)
Dancing With Myself (Generation X cover)
Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) (Buzzcocks cover)
Making Plans for Nigel (XTC cover)
Too Drunk to Fuck (Dead Kennedys cover)
Teenage Kicks (The Undertones cover)
Human Fly (The Cramps cover)
All My Colours (Zimbo) (Echo & the Bunnymen cover)
The Guns of Brixton (The Clash cover)
Enola Gay (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark cover)
Road to Nowhere (Talking Heads cover)
Just Can’t Get Enough (Depeche Mode cover)
Heaven (The Psychedelic Furs cover)
Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Bauhaus cover)
Friday Night, Saturday Morning (The Specials cover)
Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division cover)

Encore:
Don’t Go (Yazoo cover)
In a Manner of Speaking (Tuxedomoon cover)
I Melt With You (Modern English cover)