Feb 022020
 

Duncan Harley Reviews ‘Beautiful – The Carol King Musical’ at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen.

As jukebox musicals go Beautiful hits the sweet spot. Familiar songs, slick choreography and simple staging litter the production.

Add Daisy Wood-Davis to the mix, sprinkle in a measure of 60’s pop culture fold-in some sugary bio and cook slowly.
Result? Mouth-watering!

OK, perhaps the bio is a little bit hazy in places. The story dwells on Carol’s first marriage and kinda glosses out the other three.

And maybe music insiders would express surprise at the portrayal of a sugar-sweet music industry bereft of draconian contracts and stingy executives.

But this is entertainment at its best, and not by any means a social history class. So, if the audience comes out smiling, all is well in nostalgia-land.

Alongside the familiar Carol King solos, and there are quite a few, the show makes great play of the fact that the early King was in essence a prolific maker of hits. But for other people.

She later found her own voice, but her early career saw her sweating as a jobbing-songwriter in Broadway’s Brill Building churning out production line hits for rising stars. Bryan Ferry, James Taylor, The Carpenters, Roberta Flack, Neil Sedaka and The Drifters all sequestrated her talent to good advantage.

Finally, she divorced from song-writing partner/would-be playwright Gerry Goffin – played here by a splendidly manic-depressive Adam Gillian.

The post-split storyline involves her own solo hits with albums such as Tapestry and Rhymes and Reasons taking the international charts by storm.

Directed by Marc Bruni and based on the book by Douglas McGrath, this musical version of the Carol King story is more than just a Jersey Boys take on the familiar hits however.

The musical reeks of empowerment through adversity and the plot moves steadily but relentlessly through the highs and lows until, at the very end – but no spoilers here, the narrative culminates in a poignant but triumphant conclusion.

Along the way the plot threads a path through sit-com and drama with some twenty-five familiar songs spread along the way.

Favourites? Daisy Wood-Davis shines as Carol with Laura Baldwin’s up-beat Cynthia a close second. Song highlights? Be-Bop-a-Lula, You’ve Got a Friend and of course Beautiful.

This musical drama is stuffed with familiar hits and features ‘guest appearances’ by the likes of Neil Sedaka, The Drifters and The Righteous Brothers at every turn – honest injuns. What’s not to like?

Stars: 4.5/5

Words © Duncan Harley, Images © HMT

Dec 282019
 

Craig Chisholm reviews Primal Scream at The Music Hall, Aberdeen.

The latest Primal Scream singles compilation is entitled ‘Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll’.

It’s also the words emblazoned on the backdrop behind them on stage. It’s a simple statement.

A statement of intent. A call to arms.

But it’s a reductive statement that doesn’t quite do them justice – sure, the rock n’ roll is to the max, but so is the acid house, the blues, jazz, gospel, krautrock, soul, indie and almost every music genre you can think of.

In their career, spanning over three decades, this is a band that’s not been afraid to spread their sonic wings, to push themselves musically and, famously, lead the fabled rock n’ roll lifestyle.

Being a tour in support of a compilation album means that the set list is simple, direct and has something to please all the audience. There’s no b-sides, no long-forgotten album tracks – each and every song performed was a cherished 7” single, a download or a stream – they are fan favourites that brings back sentimental memories and remind you exactly why you’re here to see them tonight.

The chirping intro to ‘Don’t Fight It, Feel It’ heralds the band on stage.

Longstanding guitarist Andrew Innes, keyboard player Martin Duff, drummer Darrin Mooney and the glamorous bassist Simone Butler are the musical backbone of the band.

But singer Bobby Gillespie is, as always, the star of the show dressed in an eye-catching pink suit as he is tonight.

The acid hazed opening track soon gives way to a eclectic mix of tracks from throughout the years – from the adrenalised industrial thrash of ‘Swastika Eyes’, to the throbbing electro of ‘Miss Lucifer’, the laconic blues of ‘(I’m Gonna) Cry Myself Blind’, the C86 defining indie shuffle of ‘Velocity Girl’, the euphoric rave of ‘Loaded’. ‘Movin’ On Up’ and ‘Jailbird’ provide rock n’ roll kicks, whilst ‘Country Girl’ takes a diversion into Americana and ‘Burning Wheel’ is a fried psychedelic trip into inner space.

The ethos of Primal Scream and their musical mission is buried away in the sample of a radio DJ in the uplifting organ intro to Loaded:

“You will hear gospel; And rhythm and blues and jazz; All those are just labels; We know that music is music”.

Primal Scream may be maximum rock ‘n’ roll but they are so much more instead.

Primal Scream Set List:

Don’t Fight It, Feel It
Swastika Eyes
Miss Lucifer
Can’t Go Back
Accelerator
Kill All Hippies
(I’m Gonna) Cry Myself Blind
I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have
Velocity Girl
Dolls (Sweet Rock and Roll)
Burning Wheel
100% or Nothing
Loaded
Movin’ On Up
Country Girl

Encore:

Come Together
Jailbird
Rocks

Dec 192019
 

Craig Chisholm reviews Adam Ant / Glam Skanks at The Music Hall, Aberdeen.

Today’s popstars are boring and dull.
Look at some of the biggest names in the biz just now – Ed Sheeran, looking like he’s just finished a shift at McDonalds before going busking; Coldplay – bed wetting stadium rock that your parents would approve of; Adele – a less dangerous version of Amy Winehouse that even your Granny likes.

Now look back to the 80s – David Bowie ushering in the decade singing ‘Ashes to Ashes’ and looking like a coke addled death-clown in the video; Boy George – almost guaranteed to give your bigoted uncle a heart attack and causing debates in the school playground as to whether they were a man or a woman.

And, top of the pile, Top of the Pops? The Dandy Highwayman himself, the preening peacock with all the number one hits – Adam Ant.

And here he is tonight, in cold, dark Aberdeen in the middle of November bringing some technicolour glam on a Friday night to the masses.

Looking fit and healthy and much too sprightly for his 65 years on Earth he never stands still on the Music Hall stage as he blasts through a near 2 hour set that boasts 29 songs. The makeup may be toned down somewhat, but the glamour hasn’t and he is still a bona fide rock star on stage – spinning, shuffling and dancing constantly.

There’s an unashamed nostalgia to the massive UK tour he’s undertaking as it celebrates his 1982 album ‘Friend or Foe’.

He starts the set by playing said album from start to finish – 12 tracks that include the hits ‘Goody Two Shoes’, ‘Desperate Not Serious’ and the title track of the album itself which opens the set.

What follows is a greatest hits set that includes some real pop classics in there – ‘Prince Charming’, ‘Dog Eat Dog’, ‘Ant Music’, ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ and ‘Stand and Deliver’.

Each song is as familiar as the last and sang word for word by the appreciative audience.

The two hours pass in the blink of an eye – Adam saying his goodbyes as the band, including twin drummers, grind out the coda of ‘Physical (You’re So)’.

As the band finish up, he is gone – a fleeting memory, a half-seen ghost, enigmatic till the end.

LA quartet Glam Skanks, that support Adam tonight, are indebted to him in their glamourous look, all teased hair and trashy glamour.
They blast through a 45 minute set that also recalls T Rex, Hanoi Rocks and glitter punk bands galore. The girls stage presence is cocky and assured, giving it their all with confidence and attitude.

But the night belongs to Adam Ant, still showing he has the charm, wit and star appeal over 3 decades later.

Adam Ant Set List:

Friend or Foe
Something Girls
Place in the Country
Desperate But Not Serious
Here Comes the Grump
Hello, I Love You (The Doors cover)
Goody Two Shoes
Crackpot History and the Right to Lie
Made of Money
Cajun Twisters
Try This for Sighs
Man Called Marco
Dog Eat Dog
Kick!
Vive le Rock
Antmusic
Zerox
Cartrouble
Ants Invasion
Prince Charming
Puss ‘n Boots
Lady
Fall-In
Kings of the Wild Frontier
Beat My Guest
Stand and Deliver

Encore:

Press Darlings
Red Scab
Physical (You’re So)

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