Aug 122018
 

Craig Chisholm reviews Iron Maiden at AECC. Photos by Craig Chisholm.

One of the biggest names in the history of heavy metal returned to Aberdeen for the second time in just 18 months to perform an exclusive Scottish date in front of a sold-out audience.
With the larger Hydro venue in Glasgow being used as part of the 2018 European Athletics Championships, the Exhibition Centre provided the bands only date north of the border in what must count as an intimate show for a band more used to headlining stadiums and festivals.

For metal fans in the North East, Glasgow’s loss was Aberdeen’s gain as the AECC hosted the most extravagant, theatrical, over-the-top, and, arguably, one of the greatest performances ever seen in the arena.

However, before they were treated to Maiden’s powerhouse set they also had one of the leading lights in modern Metal to contend with. Killswitch Engage have been around since the turn of the century and provided an energetic, pulverising set that’s rarely delivered by headliners, let alone a support band.

The Metalcore band from Massachusetts stormed through a dozen songs in their all-too-brief set. From opener ‘Strength of Mind’ to the closing cover of Dio’s ‘Holy Diver’ the band were relentless in their energy.

Pausing briefly only to praise the “beautiful city” of Aberdeen – and to speak of his hatred towards our wasps! – the bands set was a masterclass in arena heavy metal that would have blown many a headliner off their own stage.

However, Iron Maiden are not of that many. With four decades of touring and recording behind them they are consummate professionals and masters of the stage – despite all of the band now nearing what most normal people would consider retirement age.

Fortunately, Maiden are anything but normal and retirement seems a long way off as the six band members show energy and stamina on stage that would leave people half their age gasping for breath and begging for a rest.

With no new album to promote, the tour is thematically linked to their ‘Legacy of the Beast’ video game which gives them a good excuse to trawl through their back catalogue and pull out some deep cuts, old favourites and tireless classics.

Opening with ‘Aces High’ from 1984’s ‘Powerslave’ LP, the stage is, quite literally, set for a show of epic proportions as a near full size Spitfire is dangled above the band as they power tirelessly through the opener.

Singer Bruce Dickinson comes tearing onto the stage as the track opens and jumps, leg wide open, in the air for a number that’s quite epic, even by their standards.

After the song has finished, and the spitfire has retreated into the stage and out of sight, a quick one-two of old classics ‘Where Eagles Dare’ and ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’ follows before Dickinson addresses the crowd for what he says will be the only time during the bands marathon set.

Referring to the spitfire, he praises the “brave men, a third [his] age” that were fighting Nazis and fascism.

It’s a thought provoking and humbling monologue that holds resonance in the current climate of fear and uncertainty and the rise of the so-called alt-right.

He then introduces the next song and how much of an honour is to play it in Scotland before the band play their Scottish themed track ‘The Clansman’.

From then till the main set closer -the eponymously titled ‘Iron Maiden’ – the music is left to do the talking.

However, the band’s theatricality is given full reign during most of these tracks – the bands mascot, the giant zombie-like figure Eddie, comes onstage to engage in a swordfight with Dickinson during ‘The Trooper’.

Dickinson lugs a lit-up cross around the stage whilst performing ‘Sign of The Cross’.

A giant demonic head appears at the rear of the stage during erstwhile classic ‘The Number of the Beast’ and Dickinson fires flame throwers at a giant winged angelic figure during ‘The Flight of Icarus’.

At any other concert such theatrics would be in danger of falling into Pantomime.

But Maiden perform it with a knowing wink and a nod to their fans who are lapping up every move on stage by the legendary six piece.

The band wrap up the near two hour long show with a triple song encore of 1987’s ‘The Evil That Men Do’ and a couple of early 80s classics ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ and ‘Run to The Hills’.

Despite the length of the set and the energy sapping heat, there’s no doubt that the band and their fans – many of whom have travelled from all over Europe to watch them – could have happily went for another couple of hours of, what surely, must be one of the greatest stage shows in Maiden’s history.

Jul 042018
 

Craig Chisholm reviews ‘Enjoy’ music festival at Hazlehead Park. Photos by Craig Chisholm.

Enjoy Music festival returned for the fourth year on a fun packed, sun soaked weekend that drew the crowds, had some big name artists and will have left punters looking forward to next year’s event.
After three years of successful one day festivals the organisers took the brave step of making this year’s festival a two day affair.

And, after a bit of rain last year, also took the decision to make the main stage inside a giant 3000 capacity big top, rather than outdoors – but, typically, the Scottish weather conspired to make it to one of the hottest weekends of the year with not a cloud in sight.

Gates opened at 4 o’clock on the Friday afternoon, when a lot of attendees would still be at work, school or college. But those that did make it early were treated to electric sets by Fat Hippy Records signings, the Scottish indie band Miss Lucid and Manchester band Alias Kid, who are signed to Creation Record’s Svengali Alan McGhee’s management team.

After the up and coming bands had warmed the crowd up it was time for the big names to take the main stage.  Mark Morris, frontman of Britpop band The Bluetones, played an acoustic set that was well received by his fans.

With The Bluetones numbers such as ‘Slight Return’ and ‘Cut Some Rug’ he had no trouble commanding the stage and warming up the crowd for the next band on the bill – another Britpop band with a string of Top 10 hits behind them.

The tent is rammed for Cast.

They do not disappoint those in attendance.

Pulling such hits as ‘Sandstorm’, ‘Finetime’ and the ballad ‘walkaway’ out of their back catalogue has the tent buzzing.

But it’s their debut hit, ‘Alright’ that is the highlight with the crowd signing along word for word.

Completing the bill on the Friday, is a headlining set by dance legends Faithless.
The band’s keyboard player and writer, Sister Bliss, is behind the decks and delivers a high tempo, energetic set that has everyone dancing.

Filled with classic dance tracks, contemporary floor fillers and a healthy dose of Faithless’ biggest numbers she brings the crowd to a frenzy and closes off the first day of the festival in style.

Saturday brings in a bigger crowd and has more stages and family entertainment for all.

With amusements from Codona’s, bungee trampolines, Nerf Wars, craft workshops, a storytelling tent, face painting and much more there’s plenty there to keep kids entertained whilst their parents enjoy the music.

Performances in the family big top prove to be popular and with Love Rara providing walk around characters from Disney and superhero movies there’s a lot of happy youngsters on site. On the main stage, the music provides a wonderful soundtrack on a hot, sunny day.

Blues influenced rockers Full Fat play some engaging, competent blues influenced rock, whilst local band The Capollos storm through a frenetic indie rock set that has earned them a strong following locally and across Scotland.

Another Aberdeen band that are making waves are Cold Years. No less a publication than rock magazine Kerrang! described them as an ‘Aberdeen five piece [that] prove beyond doubt that rock ‘n’ roll lives’ and it’s certainly a sentiment that those who watched them that would agree with.

Glasgow band Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 are, quite possibly, the perfect festival act and will have gained a lot of new fans today.
An explosion of colour, the band engage the audience and make them part of the performance.
‘Dance Off’ is exactly what it says it is with children and adults alike strutting their stuff. The entire audience are led around the tent by a band member carrying a lollipop man’s sign to ‘Cross the Road’ and there’s a minor stage invasion by redheads to ‘Ginger Girl’.

Their eclectic mix of brass, disco, rock and humour is perfect for an event such as this, uniting old and young in one happy, joyous collective.

Dodgy singer Nigel Clark follows them with an acoustic set that includes hits such as ‘Staying Out for The Summer’ and ‘Good Enough’ to a rapt audience.

Welsh rap heroes Goldie Lookin’ Chain provide a humorous set with ‘Guns Don’t Kill People (Rapper’s Do)’ proving a popular highlight.

Over in the dance tent things are really hotting up – a day of beats and breaks is finished off with a couple of big names that have the tent rammed. The talented producer and DJ James Zabiela has the crowd dancing to a frantic and energetic set before handing over to one of the biggest names in dance music – Basement Jaxx.

The dance duo are no strangers to big stages and working large crowds as headlining performances at Glastonbury and Rockness with a full band prove.

In a smaller environment such as this they are flawless – with a back catalogue stretching back over 20 years they have no trouble at all and have the crowd eating out of their hand.

Meanwhile, the main stage is closing out to a couple of eclectic big names.

With 5 albums behind them, Starsailor have no problems working the big stage and pulling out some major hits. ‘Alcoholic’, ‘Silence is Easy’ and ‘Good Souls’ are particular highlights and has the crowd singing along in rapture.

After their set there’s a change of tempo as drum and bass act Sigma end the evening. Hidden behind a cloud of dry ice and flashing lights the duo gives a sensory overloaded set closing the festival in euphoric fashion.

With 10,000 people through the gates over the weekend, some stunning entertainment and beautiful weather Enjoy Music can only be declared a success yet again – here’s to next year and to another bill that will put Aberdeen firmly on the festival map.

Jun 062018
 

Duncan Harley reviews Flashdance The Musical @ HMT Aberdeen

Flashdance The Musical plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 09 June 2018.

It’s steel-town Pittsburgh Pennsylvania circa 1983 and, in this Billy Elliot come Rosie the Riveter aspirational tale, dance junkie Alex dreams of graduating top of the class from Shipley Dance Academy.

Played by Strictly Come Dancing Champion Joanne Clifton, our heroine is addicted to both welding-rods and rhythm, but not necessarily in that order.

Boiler-suited to the local steelworks by day, Alex twilights’ as an exotic dancer at the local night-club.

Pursued by Nick the factory boss’s son, she sticks to her career plan and eventually, following a series of set-backs, bags both the dancing career and the heir to the family fortune. It’s a familiar story-line.

This kick-ass juke box style musical has the verve to include the legendary Harry’s Bar – birthplace of the Bloody Mary – in the line-up but there is no sign of Hemmingway. And as the dedicated Alex struts her stuff a splendidly curmudgeonly club-owner in the shape of Harry, played by Rikki Chamberlain, provides a warm-hearted sanctuary to all and sundry.

Maniac, Steeltown Sky, Gloria, I Love Rock & Roll, Manhunt and of course that sensational What A Feeling title track inhabit this juke-box musical and a good few Brit-stars strut the stage.

Heart throb Ben Adams and Strictly Joanne Clifton certainly fulfill a promise or two and the band of course play on.
In the big-kickass scheme of things, despite the dazzling choreography and the explosive energy, Flashdance The Musical somehow hasn’t aged gracefully. There are occasional attempts at humour and the dialogue is well enough put together but the ‘Cinders makes good’ storyline has maybe been done to death over the decades.

It may have been Sondheim who mused on those heady production-lined musicals which, in the main, seem to follow the chemistry of old established fame:

If you emerged from the theatre humming all of the tunes, it’s probably because you entered the theatre humming all of the tunes”.

Go see this though. You won’t be disappointed; that is if you can bag a seat. It’s all in the best possible taste and it generally does pretty much what it says on the tin.

Five stars? Well maybe four. And, of course, I really enjoyed the nostalgia element of it all. But blown away? I’m not completely sure. What a Feeling.

Directed by Hannah Chissick with choreography by Matt Cole, Flashdance The Musical (A Selladoor Production) plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 09 June 2018

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122

Words © Duncan Harley and Images © APA

May 312018
 

Duncan Harley reviews Sunshine on Leith @ HMT Aberdeen

A modicum of politics, a wee measure of Leith and a whole lot of heart inhabit this latest production of Sunshine on Leith.

The musical first saw light at Dundee Rep in far off 2003 following a review of the back catalogues of several Scottish bands by playwright Stephen Greenhorn.

Awaking from the whisky-fuelled review session, Stephen found a post-it note, written in his own hand-writing from the night before, with the words “Proclaimers musical?” written on it. Sunshine on Leith was born.

Since then the musical has morphed into film then back to stage again and now features around eighteen original Proclaimers songs from the day.

Director James Brining would go on to say that:

“One of the really interesting things about the Proclaimers as musicians and songwriters is the breadth of their influences. They’re political – they’re fiercely supportive of Scottish independence and they write about relationships with brutal honesty.”

With a central theme which can only be described as a search for belonging, Sunshine on Leith paints a sometimes-difficult portrait of Scottishness. Identity, sentimentality and relationships come under the spotlight as returning heroes Davy – Steven Miller – and Ally – Paul-James Corrigan –  struggle manfully to reintegrate following a tour of the Afghan battlefields and Davy’s dad Rab – Phil McKee – wrestles with truth, love and morality as he faces consequences of a long-forgotten affair.

The script seamlessly flits from the crisis-fuelled love lives of the ex-squaddies to the crisis-ridden events which emerge to challenge the community. A vicious bar-fight in a Hibs pub, a break-up or two and the emotional rollercoaster of that long-hidden affair inhabit this tale of ordinary folk facing ordinary challenges.

Indeed, the complete ordinariness of this storyline is its true strength. There are no high-kicking brashly dressed chorus-lines here.

The folk in Leith are only slightly caricaturised and, with a fluid set flitting from the familiar High Street to the local boozer, one could almost be forgiven for walking on-stage to mingle with the performers.

As for the songs, all of the big Proclaimers numbers are there. Sky Takes the Soul, Hate My Love for You and Letter from America are just for starters.

The musical numbers sit seamlessly within the dialogue and the band, who are onstage throughout the entire performance, wander amongst the actors sometimes as buskers more often simply as cast-members. Even the title lyrics:

“My heart was broken, my heart was broken; Sorrow, Sorrow, Sorrow, Sorrow.” are used with commendable restraint.

All in all, this is a splendid revival of a commendable classic.

Directed by James Brining with choreography by Emily-Jane Boyle, Sunshine on Leith plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 02 June 2018

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122

Words © Duncan Harley and Images © APA

May 252018
 

By Charlie Abel.

Aberdeen’s own National Karate Institute had more than just the luck of the Irish behind them on their recent trip to the Emerald Isle. Dedication and perseverance paid off.

They were representing the city on the world stage during the Belfast Open World Karate Championships held in Northern Ireland, on 29th of April 2018.

While many of us folks back home were tucking into our Sunday lunches and firing up the barbecues the Aberdeen athletes were burning off the calories and fighting their way through some really tough competition to win a staggering 34 medals.

The self-funded NKI enjoyed some great results bringing home 12 gold medals against fierce competition from the Irish and other countries. There were 16 different Karate Federations taking part.

Team coach and chief NKI instructor Ronnie Watt (9th Dan) (O.B.E. & Order of The Rising Sun) said:

“Our team were outstanding. I’m absolutely delighted! It’s a fantastic result. All the team have been training really hard, some since the age of 7. To get so many medals against such fierce and overwhelming competition from around the world is remarkable.

“We were heavily outnumbered and underfunded, but these results show we were not out-classed.

“For such a small club from a small country we proved we have what it takes, against all odds, and I am so proud we can deliver for Aberdeen and Scotland.

“It goes to show that Karate training really brings the best out of people. All our students were first class in my eyes. Medals or not. ”

Invitations for the NKI squad to perform and teach Karate have been coming in from around the world.

The NKF squad are back in training now and are aiming for success at the next festival, The International Karate Festival, which they will host themselves in Aberdeen this Summer.

Anyone interested in training Karate should call Aberdeen 734607 for more information.

The club meet in Aberdeen, Cults and Inverurie.

Ronnie Watt adds:

“We are always keen to attract new members of all ages.”

RESULTS:

Gold    12           Silver   15          Bronze  7         Total  34 Medals!!
 
Individual Senior Kata, Br/Black:
3rd – Grant Conroy.
 
Team Kata U14 Male Female Mixed:
1st – Kai Dark, Sophie Johnston, Nikita Kevra. 
 
Individual Kumite, 14-U16, -57kg:
3rd – Benedict Bruce.
 
Individual Kumite Cadets, Male 16-U18, 65kg+ :
2nd – Connor Davidson.
 
Team Kumite Men Seniors:
2nd – Stuart Odell, Curtis Thornton, Ian Wallace.
 
Individual Senior Women Kata, Br/Black:
1st – Nissara Kirk.
2nd – Chloe Calder.
 
Team Kata Cadets Female:
1st – Yasmin Parsa, Leah Provan, Charlotte Walker.
 
Individual Kumite Cadets, Female 14-U16, -55kg:
1st – Yasmin Parsa.
3rd – Keira Cormack.
 
Individual Kumite Cadets, Female 16-U18, -57kg:
2nd – Leah Provan.
 
Team Kumite Female Cadets:
2nd – Yasmin Parsa, Leah Provan, Charlotte Walker:
 
Individual Kata, 5-U14, Br/Blk:
3rd – Kai Dark.
 
Team Kumite Seniors Female:
2nd – Chloe Calder, Nissara Kirk, Emma Stuart.

Senior Women Team Kata:
1st – Nissara Kirk, Chloe Calder, Emma Stewart.

Senior Female Ippon:
2nd – Chloe Calder.
3rd – Nissara Kirk.
 
Individual Cadet Kata, 14-U18, White – Orange:
2nd – Keira Cormack.
 
Individual Kata, 5-U10, Green – Purple:
1st – Cameron Smith.
3rd – Harry proud.
 
Individual Kumite Female Seniors, +63kg:
2nd – Emma Stuart.
 
Individual Kumite Female Seniors, -63Kg:
3rd – Nissara Kirk.

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May 232018
 

Duncan Harley reviews Fat Friends the Musical @ HMT Aberdeen

This slick-mix of classic sit-com slap-stick musicality descends at points into the vast realms of morality-tale-land but on the whole offers a humongous slice of sugary sweet entertainment.
As the title strongly suggests, fat is to the fore in this production and fans of the original Kay Mellor TV comedy drama will not be disappointed with this portrayal of positive body imagery.

Originally aired on prime-time TV some fifteen years ago as the sit-com Fat Friends, the musical story-line follows the fortunes of Kevin and Kelly as they approach their wedding day.

With a mere six weeks to go, the supersized Kelly sets her sights on shedding a good few pounds in a determined effort to fit into the wedding dress of her dreams.

Not for her a tale of ‘does my bum look big in this’. More like ‘can you zip me up sometime during the next few weeks please’. But, its all in the best possible taste of course.

However, shades of Shylock’s pound of flesh in the form of slimming guru Julia Fleshman – menacingly played by Atomic Kitten Brit-pop girl Natasha Hamilton – cast a dark shadow on proceedings when, in pursuit of her dream day, Kelly unwisely binges on the slimming pills.

Inuendo, some profanity and a good measure of double entendre litter this production with classic lines such as clumsy Kevin’s ‘I thought rats were going to come and eat my tadger’ and Kelly’s verbose ‘Diets are shite’.

Heroes of the piece include the formidable Elaine C. Smith who, alongside letting rip with a superbly well-timed panto-style trouser cough early on, uncharacteristically utters the immortal lines:
“I’m a bit frightened that they’ll ask me a question and I’ll get all lost for words.”

The songs in the main are quite bearable. Most memorable of the bunch are Chocolate and Beautiful. Chocolate parodies those raunchy Cadburys Flake ads from the 1980’s and pulls no punches.

Jodie Prenger’s powerfully delivered end of Act One solo Beautiful ‘For just one day I want to be beautiful’ is truly heart-warming. Ms Prenger can sing, and dance and enthral. Indeed, she punches high.

Although perhaps not in the slimmer of the year category, Fat Friends the Musical, delivers a good measure of lively and at times hilarious entertainment and, despite some flaws, the musical will no doubt delight fans of the original TV show plus a good few of the uninitiated amongst us.

Directed by Kay Mellor with music by Nick Lloyd Webber, Fat Friends the Musical plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday May 26th 2018

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122

Words © Duncan Harley and Images © APA

May 172018
 

Duncan Harley reviews The Kite Runner @ HM Theatre Aberdeen

The brutal rape of young Hassan by sociopath Assef and his cohorts sets the tone of this touring stage adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling novel.

And the child-rape is not the only gut-wrenching scene from the book to be splashed all over the stage in front of the theatre audience.

An execution by the Taliban, a bone-crunching beating or two and tales of death by landmine are intermingled with implicit references to paedophile driven child abduction and the stoning of adulterers.

Not that the above events appeared gratuitous. Indeed, they are central to the telling of the tale. It’s just that they are shocking. The rape may well bear allegorical significance in relation to the 1979 Soviet invasion and death by landmine is described as a good way for an Afghan to die.

As for the stoning of adulterers and the abductions, well, these simply add to the overwhelming uneasiness which this production induces. Indeed, at the end one audience member was heard to comment that she was going home to have a few unpleasant dreams.

Is there a point to The Kite Runner? Well, as a tale of betrayal, guilt and eventual redemption the answer is probably a resounding yes. And as a short sharp introduction to a brutally immersive style of theatre, again the answer is probably a yes.

Its not that we actually see the rape or indeed the landmine deaths. But we can almost smell and taste the drama of it all. And that is no easy thing for an audience intent on seeking out an evening of entertainment.

The story, narrated directly to the audience by Amir – an Afghan refugee living in California, concerns the period surrounding the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the plot leads us relentlessly through the harshness of the early Taliban period.

Amir’s childhood betrayal of his loyal friend Hassan is central to the plot and his quest for redemption is the final goal.

A simple set comprising bare dusty boards with a backdrop of a giant kite, split in two halves provides stark setting for the action.

Raj Ghatak’s Amir both participates in the drama and leads us through what is in essence the tale as told in the novel, filling in the gaps with lengthy monologues and generally doing a splendid job of compering the unfolding drama taking place all around him on stage.

At times though, he perhaps has far too much to say and perhaps that is the danger when scripting the play of the film of the best-selling novel. Sometimes less is better.

Hassan is played admirably by Jo Ben Ayed and also plays his own son Sorab much later in the performance. At times, and this is no criticism, resembling an organ-grinders monkey he dutifully covers for his friend Amir even unto death at the hands of the Taliban.

All is not angst and wringing of hands however.

There are lighter moments such as the scene where Amir’s dad Baba, Gary Pillai, politely informs Amir and Hashim that in point of fact John Wayne does not speak Farsi and has probably never even been to Iran. Now that is indeed a revelation.

With live music by Hanif Khan, The Kite Runner is directed by Giles Croft. Adapted from the novel by Khaled Hosseini the production plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday May 19th 2018.

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122
Words © Duncan Harley and Images © APA

May 032018
 

Duncan Harley reviews Legally Blonde – The Musical @ HM Theatre Aberdeen

There’s a little bit of line-dancing, a couple of very camp cupids and a lot of pink in this musical and I mean a hell of a lot of pink!

In fact there’s enough pink to tempt Barbara Cartland back from the grave.

Indeed honey sweet romance, or at least the very prospect of it, is at the core of this tale of girl meets boy Hairspray styled musical.

Not that Legally Blonde lead Elle Woods in any way resembles the heavy set high-schooled Tracy Turnblad.

But the plot treads that familiar path of redemption in the face of adversity. Except of course that, in lieu of Hairspray’s ‘Corny Collins Show’, Legally Blonde – The Musical relies on the medium of a trad-clad Harvard Law School to get the message over.

And not that Legally Blonde takes itself too seriously. The opening line ‘OMG you guys, enjoy the show!’ pretty much sets the tone.

This is a show to enjoy and not one for deep analyses.

The sexual politics are perhaps somewhat dated and, although the pink-laden message of emancipation is central to the story, there is really nothing new here.

Splendidly camp lines such as “Is he gay or European” and “Depending on the time of day the French go either way” kind of give the game away.

The storyline pretty much follows that of the film of the book. Based on the 2001 movie, the plot convolutes around the downs and ups of Malibu blond Elle Woods who gets dumped by would-be senator boy-friend Sheridan Smith the third.

Smith is off to explore the ivy leagued portals of Harvard Law School. Against all the odds, and in a determined effort to stalk the poor man, Elle worms her way into the hallowed institution and takes up the cudgels of the law.

Along the way we meet Bruiser the Chihuahua, a lovable hairdresser called Paulette and Elle’s various Harvard classmates.

Cute Chihuahua’s aside, Lucie Jones’s Elle pretty much steals the show although soap veteran Rita Simons’ portrayal of the romantically downtrodden Paulette runs a pretty close second.

Paulette’s ‘Bend and Snap’ slapstick comedy turn with the hunky UPS man is pretty slick although the accompanying line dancing routines seemed somehow superfluous.

Male lead-wise, it’s pretty much a no-contest.

Bill Ward’s Prof Callahan dominates and commands the stage during both the Harvard and the courtroom scenes; that is of course until the courtroom escalates into a hilariously Cabaret themed farce.

The music and the lyrics are well delivered but are maybe not particularly memorable, relying perhaps a ‘tad’ much on OTT costumes and energetic choreography to woo the audience. However there are splendidly classic musical moments to be had. Watch out for Elle’s love-sweet duet with David Barrett’s Emmett.

As an all singing and all dancing musical, Legally Blonde is a whole lot of fun and if last night’s stand-up applause is anything to go by then the show delivers exactly what it says on the tin.

Choreographed and Directed by Anthony Williams. Musical Director James McCullagh, Legally Blonde – The Musical plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday May 5th 2018.

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122

Words © Duncan Harley and Images © Robert Workman

May 032018
 

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, Arkells and The Homeless Gospel Choir @ The Garage, 20th April 2018. Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

It’s gig number 2155 for Frank Turner, as announced by the man himself from the stage.

However, for the venue, there’s only one number of gigs that matters tonight – and that’s zero. That’s how many are left at The Garage once Frank exits the stage after his encores.

It came as a shock to many of the Granite City’s gig goers and clubbers when it was announced that the venue was to close early May after 6 years of being one of the mainstays of the Aberdeen live music scene.

However, any notions of this being an evening of mourning are dispelled as soon as the first act takes to the stage in front of a healthy number of fans, despite the 6:30pm stage time.

The Homeless Gospel Choir is the nom de plume of Pittsburgh born folk-punk singer Derek Zanetti.

The punk aspect of his music is influenced by Green Day and the 90s explosion of US day-glo stadium acts rather than the original ’77 spirit of punk however.

By his own description, he’s an ‘overweight rock singer’.

With lyrics revolving around politics, mental health and angst, but delivered with a jokey aside he proves to be a popular draw, particularly to the younger members of the crowd.

Canadians Arkells are a different proposition – the lyrical themes may be similar but live they are much more polished and professional stage performers than Zanetti’s looser style.

Lead singer Max Kerman has the looks, moves and attitude that have been honed to perfection on larger venues in North America rather than the small stage he finds himself on tonight. In fact, the stage isn’t enough for him as it takes him only a few minutes to find himself on the barrier hanging over a willing audience who succumb instantly to his charms.

And the very notion of crowd and audience is blurred completely on a couple of occasions during their 40-minute set.

Only two songs in and he has pulled a young female fan out of the audience to play guitar quite competently alongside the band.

And another fan is hauled onstage for the final song where he sings with the band perfectly.
It’s possibly a bit gimmicky and cliched but it’s also quite touching and endearing and it will have won them new fans tonight and provide unforgettable memories for the young fans that performed with their idols.

Arkells play an energetic and fun set that serves to ramp the crowd up into even more frenzied anticipation for the night’s main act.

Frank Turner is another polished live act. After a couple of thousand gigs in venues of all shapes and sizes, festival stages and stadiums he’s a man with no fears treading the boards and honed the skills to the work the crowd into a frenzy.

Not that the crowd really require worked up – the sold-out venue is boiler room hot with a packed floor full of devoted Turner fans, almost wilting in the heat.

His new album – his eighth – ‘Be More Kind’ might not be released for another couple of weeks but that doesn’t stop four of its cuts getting an airing tonight, all of which go down a storm with the devoted crowd.

The rest of the set spans the full gamut of his career – reaching as far back to 2007’s ‘Sleep is for the Week’ as the track ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’ is given as a solo performance by Turner during a 3-song acoustic interlude in the middle of the set.

The crowd aren’t here out of curiosity – this is a crowd of devoted fanatics of all ages here to see their hero. They know every word and sing along to every song, fully immersed in his performance.

It’s an unusual sight and sound to see 700 people hollering ‘There is no God so clap your hands together’ – they might not engage in worshipping a holy deity but, then again, there’s maybe no need to tonight whilst they worship at the altar of Frank Turner.

So, gig number 2155 for Frank Turner, and it’s a roaring success for him with a sweaty, joyous crowd fully immersed in his 100 minutes on stage.

But, by the time the clock reaches 2155, The Garage is emptying slowly as the night concludes and live music at yet another Aberdeen venue ends for the final time.

Turner would not have reached that amount of live performances if not for venues such The Garage.

So it not only leaves a gap in the Aberdeen scene, but in the UK scene as a whole. If venues keep on closing where will the next Frank Turner learn their trade and spread their message?

Apr 192018
 

Duncan Harley reviews Fittie Fittie Bang Bang @ HM Theatre Aberdeen.

Broad Street may not quite be on a par with Broadway, but if this year’s Aberdeen Student Charities Campaign production of the brand new musical Fittie Fittie Bang Bang is anything to go by, then theatre-wise at least, the Granite City is well on the way to becoming the Manhattan of the north.

Previous productions have included titles such as ‘An American in Powis’, ‘A Midstocket Night’s Scream’ and of course last year’s musical extravaganza ‘Michty Mia!’.

However, this year’s production of ‘Fittie Fittie Bang Bang’ must surely take the biscuit.

Bond writer Ian Fleming was a keen follower of motor racing and the original Chitty tale evolved from stories involving a series of monstrous aero-engined cars funded by the richly eccentric ‘Bentley Boy’ speed-king Count Louis Zborowski in those far off roaring twenties.

In the subsequent Hollywood production, the Chitty story involved one of Zborowski’s racing cars being rescued from the scrapyard by a gang of cheerily red-faced middle-class school-children.

Fast forward to this week’s student production of Fittie Fittie Bang Bang and a dastardly plot involving the consignment of Aberdeen’s old folk to the scrapyard takes to the HMT stage.

With electoral fraud firmly to the fore, Trump look-alike Lord Provost Dean Fine plans to revive the ailing fortunes of the Granite City using a series of sinister measures intended to clear the streets of the elderly inhabitants of the city.

A suitably evil ‘Grunny Catcher’, ably played by Callum Anderson, is set loose and before long the city’s OAP’s begin to disappear. Provost Fine, played by Reece James Duncan, announces plans to build a border wall around Torry while in far off Fittie the search begins for the missing old folk of Aberdeen.

Enter Bradley Phillips as Dick Van Dyce, Becky Hossick as Provost’s daughter Effie Fine and Victoria Barvinko as the Provost’s trophy wife Nadine Fine.

Will the red-haired Lord Provost succeed in his dastardly scheme? Or can Dick and his merry gang rescue the imprisoned OAP’s from a fate worse than death in Aberdeen’s Marischal College Premier Retirement Home.

Add in a flying fish-van plus some splendid musical numbers and, judging by last nights full-house, last years total of £92k raised for local charities looks likely to be well on the way to being exceeded.

A 5 Star must see!

Musical direction is by Matthew Rose with choreography by Sophie Hamilton Pike and stage management by Graeme Shepherd.

The musical, Fittie Fittie Bang Bang plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 21 April 2018

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122
Words © Duncan Harley and Images © HMT Aberdeen