Dec 112019
 

Craig Chisholm reviews Airbourne plus support at The Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen, 18th Nov.

Lugs were left ringing after the historic Beach Ballroom was shook to its foundations with a night of ass kickin’, high voltage rock n’ roll.
Headliners Airbourne took their latest tour to Aberdeen with support from Tenessee rockers Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown and up-and-coming Sheffield band Cellar Door Moon Crow.

Cellar Door Moon Crow are the musical anomaly on the night.

They play a rock / rap hybrid that’s reminiscent of the Beastie Boys around the period of ‘Licensed to Ill’ where monster riffs from bands such as AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin were sampled and rapped over to create a template that has endured to this day.

Indeed, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin snippets and samples can be heard throughout Cellar Door Moon Crow’s set along with nods to Neil Young, Frank Sinatra and Steppenwolf. The duo – hirsute brothers Phil and Tom Goodwin – get the crowd going with their eclectic set and seem to win over quite a few of the uninitiated.

Their debut album ‘You Got This’ is available now if you want to check them out.

Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown are a more straight ahead proposition that look to have a few fans in the audience already, judging by the reaction they receive.

The play a boogie-infused style of rock n’ roll that is hard edged and blues based. It’s heavy on incredibly talented guitar theatrics that will appeal to musicians and anyone that appreciates good musicianship.
A couple of the tracks tone down the histrionics and are more subtle, swampy and bluesy. These are the most interesting in my opinion. But the four piece band – including Graham Whitford, son of Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford, on guitar – go down an absolute storm with the audience with whatever style they play.

By the end of the set the drummer is on the barrier, leaning into the crowd, bashing out a rhythm on a drum and the place is going wild.

If the venue is at boiling point by the end of Tyler Bryant’s set then it is overflowing when Airbourne take the stage.

The Australian band are the latest in a long line of hard rockin’, hard drinkin’ bands to emerge from the Antipodes over the years. Their lineage can be traced back through bands such as Rose Tattoo, Cold Chisel and, of course, the mighty AC/DC.

Audience interaction is key to their set – four songs in and lead singer Joel O’Keefe is already in the middle of the crowd, astride a roadies shoulder whilst playing guitar and spraying beer over the adoring throng.

They are a party band and despite it being a Monday night, despite you having work tomorrow you are expected to party with them. Beers are shared with the crowd – albeit thrown to fans on their companion’s shoulders – and the floor of the venue is reduced to a sticky mess as sweat and alcohol drip everywhere.

Airbourne are an entertaining live act – it’s not serious, there are no pretentions and the fans are treated with a friendliness that draws them into the band’s world.

Airbourne Set List: 

Raise the Flag
Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast
Burnout the Nitro
Girls in Black
Backseat Boogie
Bottom of the Well
Breakin’ Outta Hell
It’s All for Rock ‘n’ Roll
Boneshaker
Live It Up
Stand Up for Rock ‘n’ Roll

Encore:

Ready to Rock
Runnin’ Wild

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 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.

Nov 082019
 

Duncan Harley takes a tour of the newly refurbished Aberdeen Art Gallery

It rained and there was a bag search on the way in to the gallery space, but fortunately we had arrived late and there was no queue. The drenched security operatives cheerfully let me through since I had no bag and just a stick.
A cursory glance into my companion’s crowded handbag convinced them that she was no una-bomber and off we went to see the pictures.

It was day one of the re-opening of the newly refurbished Aberdeen Art Gallery and a tiny sense of foreboding clouded the event – the renovation had included the discovery of plague skeletons – there were 92 of them.

And the original quite splendid white-marbled staircase had it seems been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Clutching our, now soggy, Eventbrite passes we made our way into what might once have been a familiar space.

Various dog-tagged staffers welcomed us into the new space. Commemorative tin-badges were handed out and a quite splendid map detailing the various new gallery spaces immediately made clear that the old, and perhaps dowdy, gallery space had gone to that dusty place where such things go to die.

Seven years and £35m in the making, the new interior is quite breath-taking.

Where the staircase stood, there is now an open central space linking three floors.

Not an atrium in the true sense but not far off in terms of lighting, and acoustically splendid.

Opening morning was accented by a set of coloured musical notes titled ‘The Big Picture’. By Judith Weir – a formidable composer with Boston Symphony and various operas under her belt.

Conducted by John Horton and directed by Roger Williams, the celebratory piece, written specially for the opening of the gallery, took the form of a synaesthesia where listeners were invited to experience five colour-themed movements (Green, Blue, Gold, Red/White and finally Colour) in a cantata for two choirs plus an instrumental ensemble spread amongst the gallery floors.

The resulting sound experience was quite breath-taking, especially when heard for the very first time in a public space.

As Judith’s Big Picture gently reverberated around the building, we headed for the upper floor before making our way down the staircase and through the various new gallery spaces.

There are thankfully a few familiar images amongst the thousand or so exhibits. Eric Auld, Joseph Farquharson, Glasgow Boys and Monet feature. But in the main, the new space is full of new pleasures and a somewhat brave set of decisions.

Photography is allowed – and why should it not be. Accessibility has also been splendidly addressed and the artwork on display boldly embraces most tastes.

Tracey Emin vies with George and George. Martin Parr vies with the old masters who painted Finzean sheep and Victoria’s kilted Albert. And a multitude of previously unseen works inhabit the walls, Dick Turpin amongst them.

And the justice on the cake? The new gallery is free to enter and as often as you like. All we need now is an Aberdeen Museum.

  • Duncan Harley is author of two books about the North-east of Scotland. Both – The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire and The Little History of Aberdeenshire – are available from Amazon.