Jun 232017
 

With thanks to Craig Chisholm.

Aberdeen’s very own festival in the city returns in September in what promises to be an entertaining weekend. True North, now in its’ third year, has announced another strong line up over the weekend of 7 – 10 September. Kicking off proceedings are highly acclaimed act Public Service Broadcasting

With their new album released in July their date at His Majesty’s Theatre on Thursday 7th September is sure to be a sell-out.

The album, entitled Every Valley, depicts the history of industry in Wales, chronicling the rise and decline of the country’s coal industry.

Following previous concerts at The Lemon Tree, this is Public Service Broadcasting’s biggest date in Aberdeen and, as anyone that has seen them before will testify, they are sure to put on another memorable performance.

If one gig isn’t enough on Thursday night, then be sure to pop past the Lemon Tree afterwards for a late show by art-rockers Wild Beasts. The band are scheduled to release a new album – Boy King – in August so this will provide an early opportunity to see them perform tracks from it.

Friday night again offers two bills in two venues –  cult Scottish indie band Arab Strap at The Tivoli whilst The Lemon Tree plays host to art-pop quartet Dutch Uncles.

The recently reformed Arab Strap recently sold out two nights at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom and at forthcoming events at the Kelvingrove Bandstand. The more intimate settings of The Tivoli will provide a perfect setting for the band’s unique storytelling and singular musical vision.

Manchester band Dutch Uncles take musical inspiration from Low-era Bowie, Kate Bush’s The Red Shoes, East European Techno and, they claim, “some slightly less fashionable records belonging to their Dads”. With inspirations like that how could you afford to miss them?

Saturday night at The Lemon Tree also provides the opportunity to stay up late as Lost Map Records main-man The Pictish Trail, better known to friends and family as Johnny Lynch, brings his unique blend of folk, electro and humour to the stage there once again. Guest DJs will also be on hand to spin tunes into the wee small hours.

It’s His Majesty’s Theatre that provides the most intriguing performance of the weekend – a full band interpretation of Fleetwood Mac’s legendry album Rumours. Start to End provide the musical backing and they will be joined onstage by musicians from Pronto Mama, Fat-Suit, Admiral Fallow and a few special guests still be announced. This should again prove a big draw and will appeal to fans of all ages.

Rounding up the weekend is a double bill of two Scotland’s most talented young performers as The Tivoli plays host to Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison and Kathryn Joseph, who was the winner of 2015 Scottish Album of the Year.

On top of the main performances there’ll also be a Fringe festival over the course the weekend at venues such as The Lemon Tree and intimate sessions at the Maritime Museum.

Tickets go on sale for all concerts on Friday 23rd November – http://www.aberdeenperformingarts.com/truenorth

Jun 232017
 

Duncan Harley reviews The Wedding Singer at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen.

Once you get to grips with the schmaltzy ‘girls just wanna get married’ portrayal of the eighties which haunts this musical from the very start, The Wedding Singer is actually a whole load of fun.

Despite a story-line thin enough to gladden the heart of a coronary bypass surgeon and sufficient cheesy humour to keep McDonalds going in triple cheeseburger’s for a month, the entertainment value more than makes up for this sugar-sweet take on the Reagan decade.

Based on the hit 1998 film of the same name, the musical tells the tale of wedding singer and emcee Robbie Hart.

Robbie and his band ‘Simply Wed’ – yes you read that correctly – play the New Jersey wedding circuit making a precarious living on the back of those who have popped the question. Jilted and depressed he abandons the wedding gigs and comes of age on the bar mitzvah circuit. Predictably he gets the girl and equally predictably he gets invited to sing at his own wedding.

Starring Jon Robyns as the multi-talented Robbie Hart and X Factor/singer songwriter Cassie Compton as love interest Julia Sullivan, it would be difficult to imagine this production going far wrong really. Well known for roles including secretly-gay Rod in Avenue Q and Sir Galahad in Spamalot Jon’s performance literally shines.

Add in a mix of stars including Ray Quinn, as Glen Gulia, and Barbara Rafferty in the role of Rosie the rapping-granny and The Wedding Singer is off like the clappers.  A clutch of iconic dance-numbers including Saturday Night in the City and All About the Green plus some pretty dang impressive lighting and audio complete the line-up.

Alongside the main characters, the cast list includes a motley crew of ‘fake’ characters including Ronnie Reagan, Billy Idol, Tina Turner and Cyndi Lauper. Additionally, and I could be wrong, amongst the line-up in the bar scene I swear I spotted a suitably inebriated Charles Bukowski

As a feel-good, Aspartame sweetened heart-warming trip into the past, The Wedding Singer works really well although the story-line does pose awkward questions for those who were actually around at the time.

Will Hart get the girl? And does Julia really want to be Mrs Gulia? For a definitive answer or two you will just have to join the audience. Oh! And watch out for those brick-size cell-phones and, of course, that singing cake!

Lighting Designer Ben Cracknell/Sound Designer Ben Harrison.
The Wedding Singer plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 24 June
Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122
Words © Duncan Harley and Images © APA

Jun 162017
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

Following the soaraway success of a festival launched last year to celebrate one of Scotland’s most fruitful food and drink regions, Spirt of Speyside: Distilled is to return – with an even greater range of home-grown flavours.

World leading drinks brands will join small artisan producers for the weekend festival at Elgin Town Hall on September 1 and 2 in a showcase of Speyside’s finest whisky, gin, beer and food.

Classic drams will be served up alongside contemporary cocktails with speciality coffee to try alongside grown-up fudge.

This year’s event has been extended to cover two floors of the venue with even more opportunities to sample food and drink and meet the producers passionate about Speyside and its produce.

It’s not just about the tastes that makes the Speyside region  – home to more than half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries – renowned across the world for its food and drink. Distilled gives opportunities to experience and learn more about the flavours, through a range of tutorials or ‘masterclasses’ staged by experts.

Tickets for Distilled go on sale on at 9am on Friday, June 16 and with limited places available, food and drink lovers are urged to get in quick to ensure they don’t miss out.

Distilled is delivered by the same team behind the world-famous Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival and the inaugural mini-festival went down a treat with audiences last year.

Festival manager Pery Zakeri says,

“Distilled is a melting pot of fantastic flavours and wonderful personalities sharing their enthusiasm for fine food and drink. It offers the chance to enjoy so many different tastes, as well as broadening knowledge of food and drink through our menu of masterclasses.

“We were delighted with the feedback from our inaugural event last year, which introduced a much younger audience to Speyside’s food and drink offering, and we are building on that with this year’s offering.

“We are proud to be playing a lead role in championing the region’s booming food and drink industry by bringing producers and the public together under one roof in celebration of the Speyside larder.”

Distilled drew gastronomes from all over Scotland as well as  visitors from overseas who wanted to be part of first festival of this kind to be held in Speyside. The big global players of the drinks industry stood shoulder to shoulder with small, up-and-coming producers in a mix that went down well with audiences.

Masterclasses ranged from the chance to sample rare and cask strength drams, to cocktail making and food pairing. A range of masterclasses are being offered again this year, costing an additional £15 per person, with full details of the range and times to be announced on the event website.

This celebration of Speyside’s food and drink features four different sessions and these take place from 1-5pm and 6-10pm each day. Tickets are priced at £20 which includes entry, six vouchers for tasting samples of gin, whisky or beer, a lanyard and a Glencairn crystal nosing and tasting glass.

All whisky, gin, beer and foods on offer will have a Speyside provenance and there will be the chance to purchase products from stand holders. There will also be festival merchandise available to buy.

For more information and to book tickets  visit www.distilled.scot

Distilled is active on social media at www.facebook.com/distilledscot on Twitter and Instagram @distilledscot. Follow the festival at #distilled17

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Jun 162017
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

The Lonach Hall set for the Annual Highland Ball.

Highland ball aficionados from across Scotland are being invited to attend one of Aberdeenshire’s oldest and most popular social gatherings.

The Lonach Highland Ball has been held in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire since 1833, and provides an opportunity for guests to celebrate the achievements of competitors at the annual Lonach Highland Gathering and Games.

Tickets for the black-tie event have just gone on sale and organisers, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, are keen to encourage a whole new generation of traditional Scottish dance enthusiasts to come along and sample the unique hospitality on offer.

Around 140 people attend the formal annual event. However, a press cutting from 1927 illustrates how popular the ball was 90 years ago, when it was reported that around 500 people attended that year’s event.

Held in the magnificent barrel-vaulted Lonach Hall in Strathdon, the Lonach Highland Ball is one of the highlights of the Strathdon social calendar. Along with guests from the local area, the evening attracts people from across north-east Scotland and further afield.

Guests to this year’s ball on Friday, 01 September will enjoy a four-course meal served by Harry Fraser Catering and dancing to the Graeme Mitchell Scottish Dance Band.  Tickets are priced at £40 per person.

The black-tie event sees some of the trophies that were contested at the previous week’s Lonach Highland Gathering and Games presented to competition winners.  Featuring the impressive march of the Lonach Highlanders, Lonach Highland Gathering and Games is one of Scotland’s most iconic highland games.

Staged annually on the fourth Saturday in August in the Aberdeenshire village of Bellabeg, the gathering features over 75 competitions in highland dancing, piping, light and heavy athletics and tug o’ war. This year’s gathering takes place on Saturday, 26 August.

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said:

“The Lonach Highland Ball is a fantastic night and an important part of the fabric of the society and the local community. We are keen to ensure it continues to be for decades to come, in the same way it has since the 1830s.

“It provides an opportunity for everyone to celebrate the achievements of competitors at the previous week’s gathering and the success of the gathering itself. Guests from across the north-east attend the ball, with some travelling out from Aberdeen for the evening, which is testament to the calibre of the event.

“The Lonach Hall is a brilliant, atmospheric venue which has a sprung dancefloor, meaning there is a great bounce for Scottish dancing. For keen dancers that is part of the appeal of the Lonach Ball.”

Anyone interested in attending the Lonach Highland Ball should contact Jennifer Stewart by e-mailing secretary@lonach.org.

Established in 1823, by Sir Charles Forbes, 1st Baronet of Newe and Edinglassie, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is a charitable organisation based in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire. 

The society organises the annual Lonach Gathering at Bellabeg Park, Strathdon, which is held on the fourth Saturday of August. The main attraction at the gathering is the march of the Lonach Highlanders, a unique body of non-military men. Further information on the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, the Lonach Highlanders and the annual Lonach Highland Gathering can be found at www.lonach.org.    

Jun 082017
 

Duncan Harley reviews Mark Jackson’s Red White and Blue.

Mark Jackson’s take on the beautiful game, of rugby, is a welcome distraction from that stereotypical play on sweating giants in short shorts which generally populates the sporting-fiction bookshelf.

Set against a backdrop of rarefied privilege in the lead up to the 1924 Paris Olympiad the story follows American student Jack Morgan as, on the trail of burning ambition, he vows to secure selection for the US Olympic team. Along the way he must pick up a Rugby Blue, bag the girl of his dreams and, of course, win that Gold.

Following a meeting at Stamford University, during which he accepts the challenge “Climb that Everest and perchance other mountains may be scaled”, he secures a scholarship at Oxford and sets off on his quest.

Morgan is young, wealthy and gifted. When he arrives at Oxford in 1923, he is paired, by the sniffy College porter, with new room-mate Saul Warburg.

“What are you here for?” asked Morgan
“Isn’t it obvious? Law. It’s the Inns of Court for Saul Warburg QC. You?” replied Saul.
“Get my degree and win a Blue.”
“Ah, the odd-shaped ball.”
“It’s the Great Game,” countered Morgan.

As if the odds were not already sufficiently stacked against him, Jack soon sets sights on the beautiful Rose. She, an ‘English Rose’, is of course none other than the Varsity team captain’s ‘girl’; and his quest for that coveted Oxford Blue appears to be already in jeopardy.

The setting, in a 1920’s privileged England, echoes realism and while the Red White and Blue storyline is strong, character development is perhaps not so. Heading towards the last page there were still unanswered questions regarding the main character. Additionally, the historical-political context outwith the narrow confine of the international rugby world seemed sparse.

Staccato dialogue inhabits these chapters and a perceptible spectre of a Spillane-like Mike Hammer, minus the whisky-swilling-machismo, hummed along in the background. Indeed the upbeat and sometimes stirring rugby commentary raises suspicion that author Mark Jackson, a newspaperman, was perhaps in some previous life a sports-commentator.

Hopefully this powerful foray into the rainbow world of Varsity conflict is just the first of a long series which will see the mighty Morgan’s sporting career flourish. Perhaps in part two we might hear of his exploits in introducing both the odd-shaped-ball and Jesse Owens to the Berlin Olympiad.

Red White and Blue (163pp) is published by Matador at £8.99  
ISBN: 9781785892851

First published in the May Edition of Leopard Magazine – A magazine which celebrates the people, the culture and the places of North-east Scotland

Jun 082017
 

Aberdeen’s Very Own Music Festival Returned for its Third Year, and Aberdeen Voice’s Craig Chisholm was there to review. Photos by Craig Chisholm.

With no T in The Park planned this year what are Scottish music fans supposed to do for their Summer festival fix?

Well, for residents of the North East, the answer was right on their doorstep as Enjoy Music returned for its third and, arguably, most successful year.

Boasting headliners such and Chase & Status, John Digweed and the legendary Primal Scream the festival moved up a league and proved not only was it here to stay but that it was also ready to expand and become a fixture of the festival circuit.

Unfortunately, however, things do not always go without a hitch.

A minor issue of missing toilets caused the opening of the festival to be delayed a couple of hours.

But times of hardship can bring out the best in people and it’s to the eternal credit of the organisers and their team that they managed to not only get things back on track but also not drop any of the acts from the bill.

Credit must also go to the bands performing on the main stage in the afternoon as they truncated their sets slightly to accommodate all acts and give everyone their time in the limelight.

Kicking things off are Aberdonian rockers The Ruckus who deliver a short set of, as they describe it, “no nonsense guitar driven rock n roll” and as far as descriptions go that’s certainly one that describes things perfectly.

Afternoon slots are also performed by Montrose band Emerald Sunday with their indie and britpop influenced rock and hugely popular local cover band FUBAR who provide some technically impressive renditions of Queen and AC/DC among others.

The hard rock takes a back seat for a while after this and gives way to the more soulful and funk sounds of FaR.

Led by the striking and powerful vocalist Fifi Greasly the band prove the perfect sound to an afternoon in the sun.

The same also applies to the magnificent Ransom FA. Mixing the urban sounds of hip hop, grime and trap the Aberdeen based crew pull of a short but energetic and forward thinking set to an obviously impressed crowd.

But, unfortunately, the sun doesn’t last and, as is customary at music festivals in Scotland, the heavens open.

It rains during sets by The Complete Stone Roses and acclaimed local indie band The Little Kicks.

That doesn’t stop the crowd from enjoying them however – The Complete Stone Roses pull off a pretty good approximation of their Manchester heroes.

The Little Kicks, led by frontman Steve Milne, perform an infectious and memorable set in support of their latest album, Shake Off Your Troubles.

The rain does however provide an unexpected bonus for bands and DJs playing in the tents as a lot of the crowd take shelter.

The Retro and Alternative tent has an eclectic bill that combines acoustic (Mark Buchan, Peterhead’s Marc Culley and others), the melodic Byrds and britpop influenced rock from Keith band The Carousels and hip hop from local rap legends SHY & DRS.
The retro part of the day is provided by a quite compelling performance by Bob Wyper in his guise as Rod Stewart, which goes down a storm in the packed tent as he runs through Rod’s big hits as the actual storm rages outside.

Also performing some covers, albeit in a unique style, are young band Gleadraich.

Hailing from Carnoustie the band perform songs by Blondie and The Undertones and many more with the added attraction of a bagpipe player taking centre stage, mimicking the vocal parts of the songs in most cases. It’s an unusual and entertaining concept that wins them over new fans of all ages.

The night in the tent is rounded off by a set by Ransom FA’s official DJ, Nojan and a set by Aberdonian alternative rockers The Cappolos.

Festivals aren’t just for grown-ups though, and Enjoy has catered for the kids as well – a whole section of the field is set aside for them which has slides, football challenges, colouring in walls, Disney princesses and Marvel Superheroes casually walking past. A family tent provides such entertainment as hip hop dancing for the eager kids. 

In the middle of it all is a Wrestling ring manned by Wrestlezone Scotland. There is a constant crowd packed  around the ring (not all of them children either!) as the Wrestlezone boys and girls provide action packed entertainment throughout the day.

There must have been a few parents pestered afterwards to get tickets to Wrestlezone’s Aberdeen Anarchy event at the Beach Ballroom on the 10th June once they’d seen this performance.

Back to the music however, and for those that prefer dance beats to electric guitars, two venues are available on site.

The TLF & Rondevue wigwam is steady all day with the crowd appreciating sets by a talented DJs such as Danny Reid, Tim Haux and Flexi.

It’s the perfect place to chill out in the sun and appreciate the day.

The Digital Love & Majestic Tent is the bigger of the dance stages and it proves immensely popular throughout the day to clubbers.

By the time that dance titan John Digweed takes the stage for a two hour set the tent is rammed with the faithful who witness a peerless set from the legendary DJ.

Closing off the Main Stage are the two biggest bands of the night.

Primal Scream are, as usual, a breath-taking live act. Their 75 minute set contains a few choice cuts from their latest album – 2016’s Chaosmosis – such as 100% or Nothing, Where The Light Gets In and Golden Rope as well such classics as the southern fried boogie of Jailbird, the laid back dubby grooves of Star, and the psychedelic dance classic Slip Inside This House.

The band close off their set with four of their absolute classics – Loaded, Country Girl, Rocks and Movin’ On Up before departing the stage to appreciative and ecstatic audience. The bands next Scottish performance is as special guests to The Stone Roses at a sold out Hampden Park in a few weeks so it’s a genuine thrill and a commendable coup to the Enjoy organisers to have them perform in a much more intimate outdoor setting.

In another coup of a booking, Chase & Status take the stage for a DJ set of high energy dance and rap.

Credit to the crowd at this point too.

After over 9 hours of music they are still packed at the front and “giving it large” for their set which the faithful clearly never want to stop.

But eventually it must end, and as the crowd depart after the last acts they must already be looking forward to next year’s event – and possibly making a mental note to take a rain jacket next time, just in case.

How the promoters top this year’s event remains to be seen. But one thing for sure is Enjoy Music is only going to get bigger and better as it goes on.

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May 242017
 

Review and Photographs by Dod Morrison.

Iron Maiden were formed in 1975 by bassist and songwriter Steve Harris.

They’ve released 38 albums including 16 studio albums, 11 live albums, 4 EPs, and 7 compilations – probably making them the world’s most famous heavy metal band.

The band were returning to Aberdeen after a five year gap as part of their ‘The Book Of Souls’ tour.

Released in 2015, this was the band’s sixteenth studio album as well as their first double studio album and at 92 minutes, their longest to date. It also contained the band’s longest track, ‘Empire of the Clouds’ at a staggering 18 minutes.

The album was actually recorded in 2014 but the launch was delayed to allow Bruce to recover from the removal of a cancerous tumour on his tongue.

The album was a commercial success reaching number 1 in 24 countries. They started the tour in February 2016 and it will go through until July 2017.

When Iron Maiden come to town it’s not just to play a gig, it’s an EVENT!

They are known for  their extravagant stage shows which usually feature a huge Eddie The Head (the band mascot). Eddie is a perennial part of Maiden, appearing on all the covers of their albums, and he appears in the live shows in various guises.

Unfortunately, a pending dispute about ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ song credits means that the fan’s favourite song (and my own favourite) had been removed from the current The Book Of Souls tour set list.

The Book Of Souls tour came to Aberdeen where the faithful filled the AECC and prepared to worship. The stage was made to look like an Inca style lost city. A half rectangle shaped wall surrounded and contained the stage with several braziers along its length and moving backdrops, flanked by pyramids on either side.

After a rousing version of ‘Doctor, Doctor’ by UFO was played to get the crowd going, the set commenced with Bruce Dickinson standing on the wall above and behind the drum kit.

Bruce inhaled the vapours from a cauldron on a pedestal as the first chapter of Book of Souls plays.

He then launched into a magnificent, energetic rendition of ‘If Eternity Should Fail’.

Flames erupted from the braziers along the city walls as Bruce dashed across them from side to side. Beneath him Nicko McBrain was drumming up a storm on his impressive and very shiny drum kit.

In front of him guitarists Janick Gers, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith covered the stage, adopting the usual foot on monitor poses.

Janick used the furthest forward set of speakers as a seat, and also enjoyed giving it the odd kick just to show it who’s boss.

Of course, amid all of this, the iconic figure of Steve Harris strode across the stage brandishing his bass.

As the set progressed the huge backdrops behind the band changed to reflect each new song.

Bruce also changed costumes to suit the songs.

At one point he sported a gorilla mask and brandished bananas at the other band members! For ‘Power Slave’ he wore a leather mask, which must have been incredibly sweaty on the warm May night, but it didn’t slow him down at all.

He charged across the city walls above and behind the rest of the band.

As all of this unfolded before our eyes, our ears were treated to a very well chosen set list which covered the entire career of this magnificent band. They played oldies such as ‘Wrathchild’ and ‘Iron Maiden’.

During a magnificent version of ‘The Trooper’ Dickinson was clad in a red ‘Trooper’ jacket and he charged along the walls brandishing a huge Union flag.

At one point he amusingly draped it over Janick Gers as he played his guitar below. It was hard to discern how much ‘playing’ Janick actually did as he spent a lot of time throwing his guitar around on its strap, dancing with it.

We were treated to ‘Fear Of The Dark’ and then on to current masterpieces from the ‘Book of Souls’ album, including a blistering rendition of ‘Speed Of Light’ during which the crowd sang impressively along with the chorus.

It was a well chosen, well thought out set list.

You didn’t want to look away even for a second in case you missed something spectacular, such as the huge sporadic flames that erupted from the braziers along the city walls, or the massive inflatable Eddie figure that floated up from behind the set.

During ‘Book Of Souls’  a giant Eddie figure appeared on stage and ‘attacked’ the band.

Janick ran through its legs, then when Eddie tried to chop him with his axe he responded by hitting Eddie between the legs with his guitar.

Eddie then moved on to attack Dickinson who fought back and pulled out Eddie’s heart. Bruce squeezed the blood from it before throwing it into the crowd – most entertaining!!

At the end of the song Bruce said “this isn’t something you see every night, the stage on fire” – and it was! There was a flame about 2 feet high burning up on the top of the set! The band carried on regardless whilst the fire was put out.

The main set finished with ‘Iron Maiden’ before an encore of ‘Number Of The Beast’ (which involved the appearance of a huge inflatable Satan figure), ‘Wasted Years’ and ‘Blood Brothers’.

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May 192017
 

Duncan Harley reviews Wonderland at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen.

A hard-working cast make this Musical an entertaining and at times a truly magical experience.

When Lewis Carroll ran an early draft of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland past fellow fantasy writer George MacDonald of Huntly, neither man could have had the remotest idea that the tale would still have currency some 150 years on.
The original story-line has seemingly never been out of print and literally hundreds of adaptations have emerged from a myriad of genres over the years.

Film, stage and parody head the long list; with comic book, opera and even Xbox 360 take-ons not far behind.

Herein lies a huge problem. Inevitably, reinterpretations trading on the back of this classic tale of literary nonsense will invite comparison with Carroll’s original.

If the Cheshire Cat fails to grin cheesily enough or if there are too few tarts at the tea party then heads will invariably roll.

Happily, theatre audiences are not as fickle as literary critics and if the stand-up-ovation enjoyed by the cast of Wonderland at HMT last Tuesday is anything to go by, then this latest anthropomorphic adaptation has ticked many of the boxes.

With Britain’s Got Talent Finalist Rachael Wooding as Alice and Coronation Street’s Wendi Peters playing the Queen of Hearts this musical is off to a stomping start. Add in Dave Willetts of Phantom fame as White Rabbit and Natalie McQueen as the Mad Hatter and things can only get better.

And get better they do. From shaky beginnings, down to the script and not to the cast, Wonderland soon gets into its stride.

Alice, in this adaptation, is a divorced single mum who after five years of separation clings to the past and, despite admirable encouragement from teen-daughter Ellie, is experiencing what can only be termed an extreme bad-hair-day.

Aside from losing her beau, she has lost her job and some scumbag has pinched her car. Ellie (Naomi Morris) and love-interest Jack (Stephen Webb) are at pains to comfort the stressed-out Alice but to no avail.

Predictably, a white rabbit appears and they all head downwards in a council high-rise lift to meet with the entire Lewis Carroll cast including a talking mirror. After typical Alice type adventures, the heroine is bundled through the looking-glass and her life takes a turn.

The musical numbers here are great, the dialogue is perhaps not so. At points I almost expected a harassed Compere to rush on stage to ask the audience if there was a scriptwriter in the house.

Music and movement is where this production is at. With around twenty numbers packed into two hours there is plenty for all including pounding rock, laid back jazz and heart-warming duets.

A hard-working cast make this Musical an entertaining and at times a truly magical experience. By the final curtain one could almost imagine an appreciative Dickens clapping softly from the Gods.

Directed by Lotte Wakeham and adapted from the works of Lewis Carroll, Wonderland plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 20th May.

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122

– Words © Duncan Harley and Images © APA

May 182017
 

By Craig Chisholm.

Inverness based promoter Stephen Robertson is slowly but surely making a name for himself in the world of music promotion.

Over the past year he has put on big names such as Motown star Martha Reeves, The Bad Shepherds, who feature comedian Adrian Edmonston, dub and reggae legend Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Manchester indie stalwarts The Fall, Radio 6 DJ Craig Charles with his popular Funk and Soul Club and former PIL bassist Jah Wobble, with his band Invaders of The Heart, among others.

Though based up North he has put a formidable line up of talented acts on in Aberdeen venues such as Café Drummond, The Tunnels and The Lemon Tree.

He’s also been racking up the miles to promote gigs in Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Stephen started back in the promotion business back 2006 when he started booking acts for several venues in Inverness. In 2014 he started TwentyTen and took things a step further, booking bands in Aberdeen and not just in the Highlands.

As well as established names he has also put on shows by up and coming bands such as Teleman, Fatherson, Bloodlines and Vokovi – all of whom are destined for bigger things.

Upcoming TwentyTen gigs in Aberdeen include an appearance by critically acclaimed influential New York band Swans and a rare intimate acoustic gig by The Rifles.

Coming up in Aberdeen –

  • May 18th – The Rifles (Unplugged) – The Tunnels
  • May 19th – Swans – The Lemon Tree
  • May 21st – Matt Anderson – The Tunnels
  • May 22nd – Natives – The Tunnels
  • June 3rd – Popes of Chillitown – Café Drummond

Tickets are available to these gigs – as well as others in Inverness, Glasgow Dundee and Edinburgh from – https://www.fatsoma.com/twentyten

Facebook –  https://www.facebook.com/TwentyTenEvents/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/2010Management?lang=en

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May 182017
 

Craig Chisholm reviews Maximo Park and Pins at The Lemon Tree. Photos by Craig Chisholm.

Maximo Park’s new songs go down well with the crowd, despite only having a week or so to familiarise themselves with the material

It takes Maximo Park singer Paul Smith precisely one song before he needs to remove his jacket due to the heat inside the Lemon Tree as his band perform in front of another sold out crowd.

The amiable front man still cuts a dapper swagger even in his less formal shirt and is in talkative mood as he commands the crowd and engages them with his warm banter and boundless energy.

The Geordie band may not be at their commercial peak anymore but latest album ‘Risk to Exist’ still managed to crack the album charts at a very respectable position of 11 and it’s obvious that they still have a devoted and loyal fan base – Smith even noting that Aberdeen is “as far north as we can come before people stop coming to see us”

The set is, understandably, weighted heavily in favour of their latest opus with a good third of the set list plucked from it. The big hits are all there though – ‘Apply Some Pressure’, ‘Books Over Boxes’, ‘Going Missing’ and their biggest UK hit ‘Our Velocity’, which made the Top 10 a decade ago.

Before ‘Questing, not Coasting’ Smith self depreciatingly introduces it as coming from their “Dead and buried third album [Quicken the Heart]”.

And it’s that sort of modest humour that makes him such an engaging and likeable frontman.

Before ‘Going Missing’, he speaks about the time the band first played The Lemon Tree, supporting Bloc Party, and how they were given a pre-gig meal of chili from the venue –  before joking that they never got any this time.

He also displays a bit of affection to the city itself – asking if the locals call it “The ‘Deen”, speaking of his trip to the Belmont Cinema the previous night. He comments on the architecture and the granite structures in the city centre – “So much Granite….. you should think of a nickname to do with that” he quips.

New songs go down well with the crowd, despite only having a week or so to familiarise themselves with the material.

What Equals Love?’ is arguably the poppiest song they’ve ever done, opening number, ‘Risk to Exist’ grooves along whilst putting across a political message and ‘What Did We Do to You to Deserve This?’ has late a 70s Nile Rogers guitar funk to it.

Opening the night are Manchester five piece Pins.

It’s a lazy comparison but, being all female, it’s hard not to compare them to other all female bands such as Warpaint, Babes in Toyland and, especially, Sleater-Kinney in both sound and looks.
But once that lazy comparison is out of the way there’s a lot more to see and hear in the band.

Their look and sound is the sound of punk and post-punk Manchester – The Buzzcocks, Joy Division – before it funked up and spaced out with Baggy in the late 80s.

It’s the look and sound of shade wearing Brooklyn indie bands, influenced by CBGBs and Bowery punk of the mid-70s.

And it works – it sounds, and they look, amazing.

Frontwoman Faith Holgate is confident and driven and especially bonds on-stage with the frantic energy of guitarist Lois MacDonald whilst the rest of the band provide a solid and dependable groove for them to paint their sounds over.
From the moment that Pins hit the stage till the moment that Maximo Park depart it nearly two and a half hours later to be a good night for the paying punters and should either band return they will no doubt be received with the same aplomb as they were tonight.

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