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

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 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.

Oct 302019
 

Craig Chisholm reviews Alice Cooper / The Stranglers / MC50 @ P&J Live, Aberdeen

It was a night of firsts in Aberdeen as the new P&J Live arena held its debut gig. and rock legend Alice Cooper visited the city for the first time in his near half century career.

Also celebrating 50 years are opening act MC50. This is the current name for original MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer’s touring act which is celebrating the seminal US proto-punk classic album ‘Kick Out the Jams’.

The band is a who’s who of underground and alternative rock legends – as well as Kramer on guitar and vocals there’s Faith No More’s Billy Gould on bass, Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil, Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty and on vocals, Marcus Durant of the band Zen Guerrilla who have released albums on feted records labels such as Alternative Tentacles and Sub Pop.

If the line-up of the band is jaw dropping then the music is even more so. Rock staples such as ‘Rambling Rose’ and the aforementioned ‘Kick Out The Jams’ are electrically charged and life affirming.

In these politically charged times it’s essential to have politically aware bands and MC5 are the originals.

It’s an honour to see them. Essential listening for anyone not familiar with these classic Detroit rock legends.

Middle of the three band bill is another legendary act. The Stranglers need no introduction; such is their legacy and body of work.

It’s a tight, 11 song set lasting 50 mins they perform, filled with classics.

Massive hits such as ‘Golden Brown’, ‘Peaches’ and ‘No More Heroes’ pepper the set, along with rockers such as ‘(Get a) Grip (On Yourself)’ and ‘Hanging Around’ and their cover of Dionne Warwick’s ‘Walk on By’.Dressed in black and minimally lit the band give a masterclass in understatement that provides a suitable juxtaposition to the headliners performance.

There’s no subtlety or understatement in Alice Cooper’s performance – its pure overblown theatre from the moment he walks on stage.

Dressed theatrically in top hat and leather he strides on stage in front of a giant castle wall backdrop.

The show is pure pantomime and schlock horror, bombastic and supersized.

Giant babies stride the stage; corpse brides interact with Alice; slasher flicks are performed; canons are fired and, in an elaborate set piece, Alice himself is beheaded on a guillotine.

It’s an elaborate stage show – pure theatre. The horror is, thankfully, tongue in cheek and is well staged without being too bloody or trying too hard to shock.

It’s a fun crowd pleasing show that would have got everyone talking.

Fortunately, however, there’s some good music behind
it.

Tracks such as the brooding ‘Poison’. the air-punching ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’ and the raw rock of ‘Under My Wheels’ are catchy and melodic.

‘I’m Eighteen’ is a singalong anthem; and the closer, ‘School’s Out’ is such a rock staple that even non-Alice Cooper fans must know it.

His band are virtuosos – expert enough in their playing to be able to ham it up and add to the theatrics whilst simultaneously providing a tight musical performance.

Guitarist Nita Strauss is particularly eye catching as she plays stunning guitar solos and flings her guitar around, looking every inch the rock god(ess) and living up to her nickname of Hurricane. It’s a fun show and it’s one that every rock music fan should catch at least once.

As for the new venue, it is also a success – it’s large enough to not feel crowded but not large to feel dwarfed; queues to get in are handled well and getting food, drink or merchandise is easy.

It’s going to be hard to top the opening night for P&J Live but with Lewis Capaldi, Liam Gallagher, Catfish & The Bottlemen and The 1975 all booked to perform in coming months, there’s certainly going to be a few trying.

Oct 292019
 

Craig Chisholm reviews Gary Numan at The Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen, 27th Sept 2019.

Pop legend Gary Numan made a long overdue visit back to the Granite City to celebrate his (R)Evolution 40th anniversary tour.

It’s been over 35 years since he last played here and his wide-ranging set made up for the missing years by covering material from a vast amount of albums released in that time.

Ranging from his imperial phase 80s synth pop chart hits to the more brutal Nine Inch Nails inspired electro-gothic nihilism; his set provided a fascinating and diverse showcase of his talents.

Where before he seemed slightly withdrawn and deliberately robotic his stage presence has in the intervening years been honed and crafted to the point where is now a full blown rock god, at ease with himself and with his adoring crowd.

On stage he was never still – contorting his body and throwing shapes with his hands, conducting and leading the maelstrom of sound around him.

The choice of songs wide ranging – from the slow burning electro of ‘Absolution’, the industrial ‘sturm und drang’ of ‘Here In the Black’ or the surprising addition of an acoustic guitar to perform ‘My Breathing’ and final track of the night, Tubeway Army’s ‘Jo the Waiter’.

But it’s the big hits that most mainstream music fans will know him for and these are performed with aplomb and to rapturous appreciation by the crowd. His chart topping no.1 hits ‘Cars’ and ‘Are “Friends” Electric’ bring the house down and rightfully so.

Later 21st century period material such as opener ‘My Name is Ruin’ and ‘A Prayer for the Unborn’ receive the same amount of reception from the crowd as classic Numan cuts such as ‘Metal’ from 1979 album ‘The Pleasure Principle’.

At 61 years of age, Numan displayed the energy and commitment of someone half that age.

Here’s hoping that he returns north sooner than another 35 years’ time whilst that energy is still there.

Set list:
My Name Is Ruin
That’s Too Bad
Desire
Films
Metal
Absolution
My Breathing
Down in the Park
The Promise
Cars
Here in the Black
We Are Glass
Call Out the Dogs
A Prayer for the Unborn
Are ‘Friends’ Electric?

Encore:
My Shadow in Vain
It Will End Here
Intruder
Jo the Waiter

Oct 212019
 

Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

Now in its 5th year Aberdeen’s True North Festival has long since proved itself to be the most entertaining, eclectic and rewarding event in the music calendar for the North East of Scotland.

Its wide range of events and artists have started to draw in the crowds from afar. 

Saturday night headliners, The Twilight Sad in particular attracted fans from across Europe and even as far afield as Australia, albeit via England.

Events kicked off with the now traditional Thursday night performance at the Lemon Tree – one which, quite literally, blew the roof off.

It’s a night of punk attitude and organised chaos as London alternative rock band Shame and hotly tipped up and coming Glaswegian band Rascalton entertained the crowds. Rascalton’s set is an engaging and entertaining blast of no-nonsense Clash inspired garage punk, soaked in Buckfast and Glaswegian street attitude.

They’ve already been hotly tipped by the NME as well as local and national press and it’s not hard to see why as they snarl, shout and pound through a adrenalin fuelled opening set. They’re back in Aberdeen on the 14th December at the Cellar – miss them at your peril.

Headliners, Shame share the same punk ethos backed up with boundless energy and enthusiasm.

The band are championed by the likes of Radio 6 Music DJ Steve Lamaq and contemporaries of bands such as Idles and Fontaines DC.

Frontman Charlie Steen is a blur of energy as he stalks the stage and dives into the crowd on numerous occasions.

And it’s on one of those occasions that he inadvertently brings the roof down by knocking tiles off the ceiling and into the crowd. The tiles are clutched like trophies by the hyperactive mosh pit as they lose themselves in a great energetic set.

Friday –thankfully – starts in a more laid back and relaxed fashion at the wonderful Tivoli Theatre with an opening set by the equally wonderful Martha Ffion.

The Irish born, Glasgow based songwriter runs through a set that’s influenced by classic songwriting, stirring dream pop and the shadow of Glaswegian indie stalwarts such as Belle and Sebastian.
Her melodic, catchy songs would have won a few new converts on the night.

Wick rock band Neon Waltz are next up. They’ve already played True North in previous years so will not be strangers to a lot of the crowd.
In that time they’ve matured in style and poise and have honed their stage craft, no longer naïve youngsters from the North of Scotland but a band capable of International appeal.

Headliner, Bill Ryder Jones is quite the veteran by now with over 20 years of experience at the still young age of 36.

He started playing with Merseyside rockers, The Coral as far back as 1996, when they formed, and was their guitarist for 5 albums, leaving in 2008.

Since then he has become an accomplished solo artist, standing on his own merits and releasing 5 solo albums and even scoring the music to a few short films.
His sound is dreamy and expansive recalling, at times, the sonic adventures of shoegaze whilst still displaying his song writing talents.

From the Tivoli, it’s a quick walk up to the Lemon Tree for the evenings other main performance.

Originally to be headlined by BC Camplight, he had to pull out the day previous due to illness.

Fortunately, local treasure Kathryn Joseph volunteered to step in and perform a short opening set which allowed original opening act The Ninth Wave to step deservedly up to headliner status.

Kathryn should be no stranger to anyone in the Aberdeen music scene, or even to those further afield.

She cut her teeth locally working in The Lemon Tree, performing in bars and venues such as the Tunnels.

Her sparse, haunting minimalist music, consisting mainly of piano and vocals, has led to critical acclaim, winning the 2015 SAY awards album of the year, and to recognition by her contemporaries and her musical influences, even appearing on the bill for The Cure’s feted 2018 Hyde Park concert at the behest of Robert Smith.

As usual she doesn’t fail to deliver with an inspiring set of melancholic songs and her now trademark swear word heavy between song banter. A joy to behold, as was expected.

Headline band, The Ninth Wave transport the crowd back in time to the early 80s New Romantic Blitz Club, whilst pushing forward with their synth heavy retro-futurism.

Their sound and style may not be for anyone old enough to remember the likes of Soft Cell or Japan but their ice cool demeanour and ability to engage the crowd provides an entertaining and enlightening set.
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The weekend brings out the bigger events with both Saturday and Sunday’s early evening performances taking place at the newly refurbished Music Hall.

Headlining on Saturday is Scottish indie rock band The Twilight Sad.
It’s a triumphant gig for them, almost a homecoming as lead singer James Graham is no stranger to the area, having members of his Mother’s family staying in the North East.

He looks and sounds genuinely thrilled to be performing at the Music Hall, telling stories of passing it as a youngster and promising to his Dad that he would play there one day.

The band have played various smaller venues in Aberdeen in previous years – working themselves up from the Tunnels and the late, lamented Moshulu through the Lemon Tree and now to here.

Powering through a set heavy on tracks from latest album ‘It Won/t Be Like This All The Time’ and featuring an touching cover of Frightened Rabbit’s ‘Keep Yourself Warm’, it’s an emotional and powerful set that steals the weekend.

Opening for The Twilight Sad are Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert.

This is the penultimate performance of their collaboration before they return to their solo careers.

To be honest, the two of them can do no wrong whether together or apart and tonight’s show is a wonderful showcase of their respective talents, their eye for a melody and the lyrical genius of their songs.

As much as it’s great they’ll be back performing solo you have to hope that there’s a reformation in a few years which produces new material of an equally high standard.

Late night at the Lemon Tree is more dance orientated the euphoric rave of Free Love and the Electro pop of Self Esteem.

Free Love are an entertaining and engaging live act, refusing to be constrained behind a bank of synths and mixers like most acts of this style.

Flanked by a pair of ladies in robes and holding flowers, lead singer Suzi Rodden throws herself completely into the performance, dancing barefoot into the crowd, writhing on the bar and spreading the gospel of Free Love’s high-NRG utopian dance music.
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No less restrained, but less likely to bump into you and spill your pint whilst you’re at the back of the venue, are Self Esteem. The new project of former Slow Club singer and multi-instrumentalist Rebecca Lucy Taylor, the band is a move from her former indie folk act and into pure pop.
Complete with choreographed dance moves, matching red outfits and loads of hooks and melody she easily wins over the Saturday night crowd and keep them dancing well past midnight.

There’s one more gig at the Lemon Tree and that’s late on Sunday night as Ibibio Sound Machine take to the stage.

Fronted by the colourful and flamboyant singer Eno Williams the band perform an impressive set of West African funk and electro. The clash of styles works well and their visual, eye catching style lends to the occasion, giving a cosmopolitan and worldly flair not usually seen in Aberdeen on a Sunday night.

Before that, at the Music Hall, the stars are out in force for a run through of Scottish rock and pop classics under the banner of Rip It Up Live!

Taking their name from the classic Orange Juice track and influenced by the 2018 National Museum of Scotland exhibition, an array of talented Scottish performers, both established and up-and-coming, run a through a 25 track set that covers everything from the Cocteau Twins to Simple Minds; Garbage to The Associates & from the Eurythmics to The Proclaimers it’s an entertaining and rewarding through Scottish pop history.

Curated by Radio DJ Vic Galloway, the all star cast includes TV presenter and frontman of The Skids, Richard Jobson, actress and legendry frontwoman of Altered Images, Claire Grogan, Del Amitri frontman Justin Currie, punk pioneers The Rezillos and many, many more.

Credit again for the festival must go to Aberdeen Performing Arts who have made it yet another weekend to remember. See you again in 2020!