Oct 302018
 

Craig Chisholm reviews True North 2018. Photographs by Craig Chisholm.

Game Of Thrones’ Aiden Gillen pays tribute to the ‘Thin White Duke’  with David Bowie tribute, ‘Lady Stardust’.

True North returned once again to the heart of Aberdeen with another exciting bill that boasted an eclectic range of artists, a variety of venues, screenings of movies, informative talks and appreciative audiences over its four days.

The best new talents and hotly tipped newcomers shared stages with old pros and veteran performers – and even a ‘Game of Thrones’ star who was there to pay tribute to the late, great David Bowie.

Kicking off on the Thursday night, the Lemon Tree hosted an opening concert that boasted some of the best up and coming Scottish talent.

Opening the night, Glaswegian Zoe Graham provided a low key, intimate performance.

Aided only be an acoustic guitar and her voice this was a display of a mature and introspective talent that’s unusual and impressive for a such a young performer.

Eclecticism was the defining theme of the night as the next two acts explored different musical paths.
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Scottish rapper Solareye – backed on-stage tonight by DJ Harvey Kartel – is the frontman of the hip hop band Stanley Odd.

His socially conscious lyrical flow gave the crowd food for thought and displayed a unique and absorbing talent that deserves to be heard by a wider audience.
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Final act Man of Moon were a tour-de-force of guitar driven rock.

Their music recalls The Jesus and Mary Chain, Spacemen 3 and a host of krautrock bands. Their droning, feedback drenched wall of noise is absorbing and overpowering, drawing you into their ocean of sound and leaving you exhausted and shell-shocked by the time it’s over.

A fitting end to a wonderful night.

The following night starts with a much more laid back and intense but no means any less absorbing acts as the Tivoli theatre hosts Tracyanne & Danny along with opening act Charles Watson.

The combination of singer songwriters Tracyanne Campbell (Camera Obscura) and Danny Couglan (Crybaby) works well and their soul-warming, indie pop sound is appreciated by a reverential crowd.

Drawing from their highly acclaimed, self-titled debut album their set was both intimate and expansive, offering heart breaking and personal lyrics that had the crowd absorbed, rapt and appreciative.
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Opening for them was Charles Watson.

The London based singer / songwriter / producer is possibly best known as the lead singer of indie band Slow Club but he came into himself onstage and gave a great performance that would have won over new fans on the night.
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The Lemon Tree hosted the second of the nights performances.

Kicking off proceedings was Manchester based singer-songwriter Ren Harvieu.

Backed by tonight’s headliners, The Magic Numbers, she runs through an engaging support slot that displays influences of soul, rock, indie and jazzy torch songs.
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Headline act The Magic Numbers have a wealth of material to draw from.

Their late-night slot keeps the crowd on their toes and out of their beds as they pull out Top 40 hits such as ‘Forever Lost’, ‘Love’s a Game’ and their biggest hit ‘Love Me Like You’.

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If there was ever a case of opposites attracts then Saturday nights pairing of the stately, grandeur of His Majesty’s Theatre hosting the feedback heavy, post rock of Mogwai and the apocalyptic electronica of Blanck Mass was it.

Blanck Mass are not an easy listen.

It’s a punishing yet rewarding set that sole member Benjamin John Power performs whilst hidden in virtual darkness with only a screen displaying fractual, confusing and trippy images behind him.

But beneath the pulverising noises are rewarding harmonies and hints of melody – they’re not easy to find at times but are rewarding to the listener that does.

Mogwai also have beautiful and harmonic melodies but unlike Blanck Mass they’re not always as hidden. Their elegant,  engaging, compositions are counteracted by ferocious, feedback driven guitars in what must have been the loudest act to tread the boards of the HMT.

Effortlessly one of the greatest and original talents to emerge from Scotland in the last two decades their revelatory live performances deserve to be seen at least any music fan at least once.

Their ear-splitting volume is balanced beautifully with moments of solace and breath-taking beauty – it’s an amazing performance by the Glaswegian band.

After those pulverising and draining performances it might have been preferable for some to have headed home for a lie down in a dark room to recover, but the Lemon Tree still had something to offer for those with still functioning ear drums.

Singer Colin McIntyre has performed as Mull Historical Society since the turn of the 21st Century and his music is still as fresh and heart-warming now as it was then.

The multi-talented McIntyre – singer, songwriter, playwriter, author – gives a wonderful show that draws heavily from his latest album ‘Wakelines’ as well as early hits such as ‘The Final Arrears’, ‘Animal Cannabus’ and ‘I Tried’.

It’s a great performance and he’ll be back at The Lemon Tree next year with a band that will feature none other than former Suede guitarist in its ranks. Don’t miss him.

Opening for Mull Historical Society is up and coming artist Emme Woods. Her mix of blues, rock, grunge and good old fashioned strong song writing displays a depth of talent that is inspiring to see in someone aged only 23 years.

She may be one of few acts – if not the only – that has a family pet on stage. Nestled on a fur coat to Woods’ left is her dog, Bubbles, who is comfortable enough with the performance to enjoy a snooze during the set.

Hopefully no one else in the crowd had a sleep as they’d have missed a strong performance by someone who is sure to go on to bigger things.

The fourth and final night of the festival still has a couple of big shows to go.

The Lemon Tree provides the late-night setting for Glaswegian indie stars Glasvegas.

The band power through a set that revisits their classic debut album from start to finish that gives the crowd a nostalgic but entertaining finale to the weekend.
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The big, star-studded show of the weekend happens earlier in the evening, however, at His Majesty’s Theatre.

‘Lady Stardust – Camille O’Sullivan and friends present the Music of David Bowie’ is a majestic and life affirming show that draws in a crowd of all ages and backgrounds, proving how timeless and all-encompassing the Thin White Duke’s music was.

Irish torch singer O’Sullivan is an inspired host for the evening.

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Her performance is chameleon-like and theatrical and she takes on the role with gusto, really getting into the spirit of the performance and taking on Bowie’s ability to get into a role and bring the audience with him.

Her choice of friends and peers to accompany her on this journey are eclectic and diverse.

From Paul Noonan, singer with Bell XI, performing ‘Ashes to Ashes’ to folk singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams performing ‘Kooks’ and with performances by ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Peaky Blinders’ star Aiden Gillen, pianist Duke Special and Cathal Coughlan from The Fatima Mansions, it’s an evening of sheer joy for Bowie fans old and young alike.

And special mention must go to comedian and writer Christopher Green.

The towering, flamboyant performer gives a show stopping performance that captures the spirit of Bowie.

His performance is revelatory – camp; serious, touching and funny in the space of a 3-minute pop song. A credit to himself and a credit to Bowie, whose spirit he truly captures.

The spirit of the evening truly reflects the nature of True North – an eclectic, interesting, diverse mix of music that crosses all boundaries and showcases a wide-ranging display of talent.

Apr 022018
 

Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

Stiff Little Fingers yearly St Patricks gigs at The Barrowlands in Glasgow are stuff of legend.

For 27 years they’ve played the iconic venue on the fabled night of Irish celebrations that has become a pilgrimage for their fans.

For fans in the North East, however, the Irish punk legends trip to the Granite City, around the same time of the year, has also become a regular pilgrimage as a sell out crowd tonight can testify.

This might have been the smallest of the three venues the band are playing in Scotland this tour but that didn’t stop them from giving a memorable show that pleased the energetic and loyal crowd.

Before the influential Irish punk legends hit the stage another bunch of influential punks step up to warm the crowd up.

Ruts DC have a long, and sometimes complicated, history that stretches back to the original punk days of 1977. But their music is more varied and eclectic than straight ahead rock with a strong reggae influence shining through in songs such as the mighty ‘Jah War’.

They run though a strong set of a dozen songs with punk classics ‘Babylon’s Burning’, ‘In a Rut’ and ‘Staring at the Rude Boys’ all going down a storm with the attentive crowd.

Headliners Stiff Little Fingers last couple of shows in Aberdeen have been at a different venue – The Garage – but they are no strangers to the Lemon Tree having played here numerous times to sell out crowds.

It’s a partisan audience that greet them as they walk out to the regular intro tape of ‘Go For It’. The crowd are a sea of SLF t-shirts and hoodies – and anyone not wearing one could have bought from the dozen or so on sale at their merchandise stall.

Singer and guitarist Jake Burns tells the crowd that this is going to be a set that explores more of the deep cuts from SLF’s ‘forgotten’ albums but that doesn’t stop them singing and pogoing along to tracks that cover all eras of the bands four decade career.

However, it’s the bands first three albums that made up the bulk of the set – ‘Tin Soldiers’, ‘Nobody’s Hero’, ‘Roots, Radicals, Rockers & Reggae’, ‘Safe as Houses’ and ‘Barbed Wire Love’ from that era are all given a blast.

As with Ruts DC, reggae is also an influence on the band and there’s a nod to that with cover versions of Bob Marley and the Wailer’s ‘Johnny Was’ and ‘Doesn’t Make it Alright’ by The Specials.

Completing the night with a finale of ‘Alternate Ulster’ the band walk off to triumphant applause from an adoring crowd that will already be planning to see them again next year, whatever the venue.

Sep 222017
 

Review and Photography by Craig Chisholm.

As the darker nights draw in at the start of September, there was still time for one more music festival in Scotland. But, unlike your TRNSMT’s, Enjoy Music’s and Electric Field’s, this was one that didn’t require waterproofs and sunscreen as it wasn’t outdoors but in the more comfortable surroundings of His Majesty’s Theatre, The Lemon Tree and The Tivoli Theatre, right here in the heart of town.

True North is now in its third year and has drawn at eclectic range of artists over the years – from Tom O’Dell to Richard Hawley, King Creosote to Laura Mvula, a Neil Young Tribute to a night of Kate Bush songs.

This year continues that eclectic mix with sets from Arab Strap, Pictish Trail, Public Service Broadcasting, Wild Beasts and 2015 Scottish Album of The Year winner Kathryn Joseph.

And this year’s tribute? A evening of Fleetwood Mac songs that included a full live performance of their classic, mega selling 1977 album ‘Rumours’.

Pictish Trail at The Lemon Tree.

As well as the main headlining sets the festival also offered a range of fringe events for all ages – acoustic performances at the Maritime Museum by Pictish Trail and Neon Waltz; gigs at local record shop & bar, Spin, by The Great Bear, Willson Gray, Katie Mackie, The Sea Atlas and Leanne Smith; talks and panel discussions at the Lemon Tree and, most impressively, a Sunday afternoon gig for children aged 9-12 at the Lemon Tree featuring Be Charlotte and Findlay Napier – one that even provided a day care crèche in the bar downstairs for adults whilst the kids rocked out upstairs.

Lunchtime sessions at The Lemon Tree also had The 101, Harmonica Movement and The Deportees play sets for those that like a bit of music whilst having a drink and bite to eat.

It’s the headline events that are the big draw though – and these kicked off on Thursday evening at the grand environs of His Majesty’s Theatre as Public Service Broadcasting and BDY_PRTS played to a large crowd of theatre goers and rock fans.

Support act BDY_PRTS, dressed in matching eye catching yellow and green outfits are a beguiling mixture of indie pop tunes mixed with Bjork style weirdness and some nifty choreography.  

The female duo, consisting of former Sparrow & The Workshop singer Jill O’Sullivan and ex-Strike the Colours musician Jenny Reeve – who has also guested on tracks by artists such as Arab Strap, The Reindeer Section, Idlewild and Snow Patrol among others.

With a new album, due later in the year, you’d be wise to check the band out as their infectious, quirky songs will see them go from strength to strength in time.

Headliners Public Service Broadcasting are no strangers to Aberdeen, this being their fourth visit to town.

However, the crowd at His Majesty’s Theatre is much larger than the previous concerts at The Lemon Tree.

Not that this daunts them – they’re a much more polished act, used to the big stage and more confident than the they were on earlier visits, three or four years ago, when promoting their debut album.

Since their last visit, they’ve released a further couple of albums – 2015’s ‘The Race for Space’ and this year’s ‘Every Valley’, which is a concept album based on the Welsh Mining Industry.

If that seems to be quite a dry and boring idea for an album then you’d be wrong, as the band mix spoken word samples from old film and radio with a light, Kraftwerk-esque, danceable pop sheen.

There’s a pathos and depth to their music that can be sometimes be lost by instrumental electronic bands. But you can dance to it as well – although in the all seated environs of HMT there’s no real rush to do this by all audience members. But, by the end, the crowd are on their feet in rapturous applause as the band power through set filled with tracks such as ‘Progress’, ‘Go!’, ‘The Other Side’ and ‘Everest’ from their three studio albums.

Special mentions must also go to the horn section and the spaceman that appear onstage with the band for their own individual brand of enthusiastic dancing.

Hopefully it won’t be another three years before we see them back in town.

The night isn’t over yet though. For the brave, foolhardy and those without work the following day, there’s still a late-night gig at The Lemon Tree to attend.

Those quick enough to hot foot in down from HMT would have hopefully been able to catch the bulk of C.Macleod’s opening set. Hailing from the Isle of Lewis, the singer songwriter is alone on stage with only his electric guitar and rootsy, raw vocals to fill the space.

And it’s the voice that grips you – a deep rasp that has hints of Springsteen, the authentic roar of heartfelt Americana and the raging howl of the seas of his native shores in there. It’s a voice that has no business coming from someone so young – it’s the sound of experience and age. Check him out now before he goes on to bigger things.

Headliners Wild Beasts are a different proposition – flanked either side of the stage by banks of keyboards, the band are an exciting mix of indie synth pop and art-rock cool.
Singer Hayden Thorpe is a confident front man, standing centre stage commanding the crowd. Unlike opener C.MacLeod, his voice is a high falsetto that fits well over the band’s music. He jokingly interacts with the crowd and engages them in a friendly, jovial manner that endears him to them.

It’s well after midnight when the band finishes but the night is not over yet as a late-night set by Hot Sauce DJs keeps the stragglers entertained well into the wee small hours.

Friday night and it’s down to The Tivoli theatre and a double bill of Geordie folk singer Richard Dawson and Falkirk’s finest miserablists, the mighty Arab Strap.

Calling him a folk singer doesn’t do Richard Dawson justice – he’s a much more bamboozling and entertaining performer than that. Singing either a cappella or accompanied by a guitar that constantly goes out of tune he is a revelation, winning over new fans in his 30-minute set.

Apparently inspired by Faith No More’s Mike Patton, his vocal range is enormous – from low depths to soaring highs, all in the space of verses and choruses of the same songs. The music is traditional but also experimental and Avant Garde – accessible but difficult, impenetrable but melodic.

Between songs, he is funny, self-depreciating and, quite truthfully, a bit mad. Random tall tales include staying at the ‘doggy hotel’ and getting showered down in the yard, about how in the future babies will be made on spaceships by computer and of confusion as to the fate of Judas Iscariot (Dawson preferred the gorier version of this particular tale).

And, to top it off, he introduces his last song by saying that after it he’s then going to “get drunk…. And have a poo”. And that sums him up really – there’s no boundaries to him or his music.

Arab Strap at The Tivoli.

Not many performers have trod the boards of the Tivoli and opened with the couplet “It was the biggest cock you’d ever seen / But you’ve no idea where that cock has been” – but, then, not many performers are Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap.

A year after the bands reformation, vocalist Moffat and guitarist Malcolm Middleton have finally made it up north, a full 11 years after their last performance here. Good things come to those who wait,
however, and Arab Strap are a good thing tonight
for sure.

Moffat, stage front and centre, is an amiable and friendly frontman and he’s in a buoyant, good humoured mood tonight with his between song tales. One highlight being a story of buying a parachute jump as present for a girlfriend who he subsequently found out was cheating on him so they finish. Next time he sees her she’s on crutches – after breaking her legs doing the parachute jump.

But it’s the songs that are Arab Strap’s greatest strength, as they should be. It’s a great feeling to hear classics such as ‘Girls of Summer’ and ‘Here We Go Again’ live once more. But it’s set closer ‘The Last Big Weekend’ that’s their stone cold classic and it’s still as thrilling and exciting nearly two decades after it was first released.

Late night at The Lemon Tree on Friday offers up another double bill of live acts as well as Radio Scotland DJ Galloway spinning tunes till late at night.

The opening act are Indigo Velvet, a young band from Edinburgh who first made a splash on the scene by playing T in The Park’s T Break Stage last year. Headlining are Manchester band Dutch Uncles.
It’s their first time in the Granite City and, according to singer Duncan Wallis, “It’s very grey”.

A lone voice pops up from the crowd to say “Aye, 50 shades of” to his bemusement.

It’s Wallis that’s the centre point of the band – his bendy legged dancing and high pitched, androgynous vocals proving to be quite a talking point.

Come Saturday and it’s time for the main event of the weekend at HMT as a stellar line up of guest vocalists perform Fleetwood Mac’s classic magnum opus in its entirety to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Previous years have seen similar tributes to Kate Bush and Neil Young and proved to be a great success and this was also to be the case tonight.

Backed by musicians Start to End, the singers include luminaries such as Eugene Kelly (The Vaselines), Be Charlotte, Duglas T Stewart (BMX Bandits), Martha Ffion and last year’s compere and band leader, Emma Pollock.

The first half of the night comprises of a Fleetwood Mac greatest hits set with cuts such as ‘Rhainnon’, ‘Seven Wonders’, ‘Big Love’, ‘Little Lies’, ‘Tusk’ and more given an airing.

After the interval, it’s straight in ‘Rumours’ from beginning to end with a different singer taking each song before everyone takes to the stage for an encore of ‘Everywhere’.

It’s a fun experience that drew a mixed crowd – older HMT regulars that you wouldn’t necessarily see at the Lemon Tree gigs; gig regulars that are there to see the singer of their favourite band and, of course, Fleetwood Mac fans that are at the venue for the first time that might not be going to any other event.

I’m generalising slightly, but it’s good to see such an eclectic mix of punters and it’ll be interesting to see which singer or band gets the tribute next year.

Once that is over, it’s time to head to the Lemon Tree for the True North After Party, with headliner Pictish Trail and newcomers Neon Waltz.

Neon Waltz are tipped for big things – and it’s easy to see why.

The band are based in Thurso and John O’Groats and were subject of an article in The Guardian just days after their appearance here.

They have the looks – and the adoring female fans – that will take them places. Their sound is reminiscent of The Verve, Stone Roses, Oasis and Britpop – a pleasant, keyboard drenched indie sound with 90s influences and the polished sheen of current pop.

Behind the dry ice and red lighting singer Jordan Shearer could pass for a young Tim Burgess of The Charlatans – hunched over the mic in a similar fashion with that distinctive bowl cut.

This will probably be their last support slot in the Lemon Tree – they’ll be headlining it soon enough.

Headliner Pictish Trail is no stranger to this venue, having played it numerous times. And if you’ve never seen or heard him before then you’ve missed out.

His music is folky, electronic and rocky – sometimes all in the same song. Between songs, he could pass as a comedian, such is his wit – droll and downright funny. He has a toy plastic horse on stage and changes into what can only be described as a psychedelic orange dress.

Oh, and he has a large beard and is wearing sparkly makeup.

All of which would mark him as a novelty act but he is anything but. Tracks from albums ‘Secret Soundz Vol 1 & 2’ and the recent ‘Future Echoes’ sound fantastic tonight – especially the wonderful and haunting ‘Far Gone (Don’t Leave)’ written about “The greatest film ever made” according to the man known to his Mum as Johnny Lynch.

The movie is question is ‘Fargo’ incidentally. There’s a good chance he’s completely correct as well.

It’s always a pleasure to see him live and tonight was no exception.

Despite this being the festival after party, there’s still one major gig to come on the Sunday night at The Tivoli theatre – and that’s a double bill of 2015 Scottish Album of the Year winner Kathryn Joseph and Frightened Rabbit front Scott Hutchison.

Hidden behind her piano with a glass of red wine and accompanied by percussionist Marcus Mackay, Joseph is first on stage.

Her songs are objects of beauty – her whispery voice plunging the depths of despair and depression whilst floating poetically over the haunting music.

She genuinely takes you places sonically and emotionally, with tracks that are, at turns, poignant and angry but somehow comforting and warm.

Soul baring lyrics are sung with a whisper, but are an inner scream to her fragility, to her openness and to her wounded soul.

It’s easy to compare her to Kate Bush or Tori Amos but such comparisons are superficial and lazy – based purely on her voice and her gender. But her music, and her words, transcend gender and classification – she may not sound like Nick Cave or Tom Waits vocally, but these are good comparisons. There’s a Gothic bleakness in there, beneath the melodies, and subjects so weighty that no 3 minute could do them justice.

The crowd are rapt – silently trapped in her songs, only taken back to reality by her whispered between song monologues.

Her next Aberdeen date is on December 28th at The Tunnels – don’t miss it.

Headliner Scott Hutchison has an equal depth to his words and emotions – something that can sometimes be hidden when backed by a loud rock band.

But tonight, accompanied only by acoustic guitar, the emotions are there to see. His music, and musings, make a perfect accompaniment to Joseph. As well as similar themes and emotions the two share a genuine friendship and camaraderie as shown by their joking conversations during the gig as he talks to her in her seat on the balcony.

His acoustic renditions of Frightened Rabbit songs are equal to, or in some cases better than, the originals.

If there’s any complaint, however, is that his band have sold out both the Music Hall and Beach Ballroom in recent years but tickets remain for tonight. Sorry, but if you’re a Frightened Rabbit fan and you weren’t there then you genuinely missed something special.

And after Hutchison leaves the stage that’s it all over – the gig, the weekend and the wonderful True North Festival. It’s been an overwhelming and impressive few days and praise must go to the attendees, the artists and especially to the unsung organisers behind the scene who have made it a fantastic weekend of music and song.

Here’s to next year and to more of the same.

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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

May 052017
 

Alabama 3 perform another sell out gig at The Lemon Tree. Craig Chisholm reviews.

Many casual music fans may not know much about Alabama 3 apart from ‘Woke Up This Morning’, their theme tune to iconic TV series The Sopranos or from seeing their name on numerous festivals bills, from Rockness to Wizard and Belladrum to T in The Park, but for their die-hard fanbase they provide a near religious fervour which was evident in their performance at The Lemon Tree.

The band provided the sell-out crowd an entertaining 17 song set in support of their latest album, the minimalistically titled ‘Blues’.

But blues doesn’t even scratch the surface of the bands musical style – gospel, country, acid house, spoken word, rock and electronica are some of the genres that they touch upon over their 21 year, 12 album career.

The 9 piece band are a joy to watch in full flow. At the back of the stage, drums are handled by LB Dope, sequencing and effects by Wizard, bass and guitar by Rock Freebase, harmonica by Harpo Strangelove, and keyboards by The Spirit. It wouldn’t be a stretch to guess these are not their real names.

Stage front, vocals are handled by Larry Love, The Reverend Be Atwell and The Very Reverand Dr D Wayne Love.

The Reverand D Wayne – know to family and friends as Glaswegian Jake Burns – is less the shamanic, messianic figure of yore but more of a dapper East End villain in his look.

The long hair has gone, as have the sunglasses – replaced by a haircut more becoming to a man of his advanced years and a pair of spectacles. But he, along with lead vocalist Larry Love, still proves to be the driving force of the band, working a crowd into a euphoric frenzy with each song whilst co-vocalist Reverend Be Atwell cuts a dapper, but imposing, presence alongside them.

The set spans the bands entire career from old favourites to new tracks.

‘Hypo Full of Love’ from 1996s ‘Exile on Coldharbour Lane’ goes down a storm as the band members engage in a bit of synchronised swaying whilst newer cuts from their latest album. 

‘(I’ll Never) Be Satisfied’, ‘Rattlesnake Woman’ and ‘Nothing to Lose But Your Chains’, prove infectious enough to have a sizeable proportion of the crowd lining up at the merchandise stall to purchase it and have it signed by the band.

Their most famous song, the aforementioned ‘Woke Up This Morning’ is played of course – but such is the bands confidence and faith in their material that it’s played mid-set rather than as an encore.

After over an hour and a half on-stage the band finish up with ‘Hello…. I’m Johnny Cash’ from 2005s ‘Outlaw’ album, leaving the crowd ecstatic and happy.

If you’ve not seen – or heard – Alabama 3 before then it’s recommend you check them out the next time they are in town.

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May 252015
 

With a career nearly as old as the standing stones he loves, writer, historian, beer lover, singer/songwriter/guitarist Julian Cope rode into town. Cope might not have had a huge audience at the Lemon Tree, but it was another one of those nights that was unmissable for Aberdonians who are interested in music. The faithful, the cognoscenti were there. Suzanne Kelly reviews; photographs by Dod Morrison.

Julian Cope at the Lemon Tree May 2015 by Dod MorrisonJulian Cope tickets didn’t come cheap; two people would have spent just under £50 to get in.

Buying a ticket was also something of a gamble; would Cope simply ‘emote’ at us all night, ramble aimlessly through decades of psychotropic anecdotes, or would this be a really interesting night. Thankfully, it proved to be the latter.

Some of us were still very dazed and confused indeed, having just made it back to Aberdeen from Spear of Destiny’s / Theatre of Hate’s WestWorld weekend event; a stamina-taxing, unrivalled extravaganza, but I digress.

Then again, Cope seemed to spend much of the night digressing. Songs are interspersed with autobiographical stories of seeking Neolithic monuments and pubs.

Speeches on spiking the authorities’ drinking water with LSD, or comedy sketches about writing songs filled with swear words are interspersed with tunes.

I’d have liked to tell him that this is Aberdeen; everyone in power seems to be tripping as well as power tripping.

We are made to feel Cope’s enthusiasm for our area’s many, unique, important standing stones. We are made to feel Cope’s enthusiasm for real ale, good pubs and craft beer – at least some of the audience is already well with him on these points.

The hair’s long, a US Air Force officer’s hat sits on it. He’s got on biker boots and shorts . With the oversized aviator shades, it could really be almost anyone under all that.  Jarvis Cocker once owned up to using a double to take his place on stage; was this Cope?

Julian Cope 2 at the Lemon Tree May 2015 by Dod MorrisonBut then he played ‘Double Vegetation’ from Peggy Suicide.

I found myself remembering every word; to the dismay I’m sure of those around me, I found myself singing. I hadn’t probably played it in a decade; but it was somehow all fresh in my mind.

What exactly it’s on about I couldn’t tell you; and possibly Cope couldn’t either.

There is the word play that he uses so well ‘We’ve discussed and discussed your disgusting routine’. There is the hint of impending environmental doom; ‘Each day we get closer to the big bad fire’.

But as to being ‘lost in the double vegetation’; well, I don’t know what he means but it somehow doesn’t’ really matter.

I’m not sure you’re supposed to take any of it literally – the lyrics or the patter. But we’re royally entertained all the same.

In another 10 years he’ll probably still be doing his thing, adding to his repertoire of tales and tunes. And if I’m around, I’ll go for another serving. It’s a lecture, a discussion, a stand up comedy show with some simple melodies with ethereal words. We’ve only got the one Julian Cope; neither accept nor expect imitations.

No one else can bike around the UK, research standing stones, explain how cultures worldwide use hallucinogens throughout history to access creativity, and talk beer while getting ready to sing about being outclassed. Cope’s not to be outclassed; he’s in a class all by himself.

Jan 092015
 

Bad Manners at the Lemon Tree?  It would be rude not to go.  By Rock Chick and photos by Dod Morrison

What better way to end the festive season and start 2015 than with a bit of Ska with Bad Manners at the sold out Lemon Tree on 2nd January.

The band was formed in 1976 and spent 111 weeks in the UK singles chart between 1980-1983. Buster Bloodvessel is the only original member left in the current line up.

max_splodge_Aberdeen_Jan_2015_by_Dod_Morrison_photographyMax Splodge came on as support and was well received by the sell out crowd. During the set he did covers of old favourites including “Nellie the Elephant”,” Swords of a thousand men”, “2 pints of lager and a packet of crisps please” and Sham 69’s “Hurry Up Harry”.

The very bouncy crowd lapped it up and were in high spirits waiting for Buster and the band to come on stage. They arrived to chants of “you fat bastard “and went right into the first song, “This is Ska”.

The set list was quite extensive with loads of songs from their back catalogue – “My girl lollipop” “Lorraine”, “Ne ne na na na na nu nu” and “Special Brew” to name a few.

 

Bad_Manners_Aberdeen_-_Jan_2015_by_Dod_Morrison_photography_122 (2)The tempo slowed down a bit with “Can’t take my eyes off you” which was a cover of an old Frankie Valli song. With over 500 people in the venue, it had turned into a sweatbox, but this didn’t stop everyone dancing away.

There was a short instrumental at the start of the encore then Buster came back on to do “Lip up Fatty” and “The Can Can”. He’s still as energetic as ever and bounced around all night and he more than deserved the few pints I’m sure were waiting for him as he left the stage!

He announced they’d be back later in the year so I’m sure we’ll see quite a few familiar faces then as well.

Definitely a “must see” gig for anyone’s to do list. See you down the front!

 

 

Nov 142014
 
hue&cry1

Hue and Cry returned to Aberdeen to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of their second album, ‘Remote’. Credit: Julie Thompson

By Julie Thompson.

On an autumnal but mild Tuesday evening, Hue and Cry – in full 9-piece band format – returned to Aberdeen to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of their second album, ‘Remote’.
Passing one of the longest queues for The Lemon Tree I’ve seen, I was pleased it looked like a good turn-out for a midweek night, especially with a gig also on at the Music Hall (the Kooks) as competition.

As Pat Kane explained, the plan for the evening was to “play the entire album from top to bottom and then let you bathe us in applause. We don’t do that encore nonsense so then we’ll play some more.”

Some of the songs seemed more melancholic than I remembered (so much so that I’m on Youtube comparing to the originals as I write), but maybe that is explained by their re-release of the album with the moniker ‘Remote: Major to Minor’.

Using an old jazz trick, changing the key from major to minor and vice versa, they managed to alter the emotional tone of a tune – changing a happy upbeat song to a sad one. This seemed especially obvious in ‘Looking for Linda’.

The jazz influence was very obvious with these re-arranged songs, with sax, trumpet, bass and keys (played by brother, Greg Kane) heading off into jamming sessions at times. Some numbers seemed more swing-based in nature – no bad thing. A guitar solo was performed with tight control by possibly the most static guitarist I’ve seen in a long time – and it lost nothing because of it. The band and production was slick and obviously well practised.

Vocally, Pat still has it – his voice as smooth and rich as it ever was – so suited for this type of music.

Inter-song banter between the brothers was amusing and I was taken back in time with his introduction to ‘Sweet Invisibility’

…dancing on the piano in the video – imagine that at the moment (points to Greg’s fragile looking keyboard). We had hair then, all stood up straight. It was the most exciting time of our lives.”

Reaching the end of the album, we were treated to five more songs, including ‘Heading for a Fall’ (about the financial crisis) and ending on a bouncy high with ‘Labour of Love’ – “they’ll not open the gates to let us leave unless we play this one…”

cara_mitchell

The audience of over 400 folk were packed in like bouncing sardines and having a great time and, despite being told they didn’t do ‘that encore nonsense’, there was obvious disappointment when it was all over.

A special mention to supporting songstress, Cara Mitchell.

She’s come a long way even in the year or so I’ve been doing this, showing much more passion in her performance, especially with the song called (if she settles on it as a name) ‘The Angry Song’.

Quite a few new songs played tonight too – including one which was maybe just a week old.

She has a new EP coming out very soon, so for Cara fans, watch out for that.

Nov 012013
 

Julie Thompson shares her experience as a fledgling music photographer, and a few of her pictures taken at The Old Granite Whistle Test at HMV between August and October 2013.

Leanne Smith at HMV - Pic by Julie Thompson

Leanne Smith performs for The Old Granite Whistle Test at HMV – Pic by Julie Thompson

Here’s a little quiz for you. What do Gerry Jablonski, Craig John Davidson, Amy Sawers, The Lorelei and Little Kicks have in common?

If you answered ‘Fat Hippy Records’, then you’d be right. But were you also aware that they, and several of their Fat Hippy siblings, have also played free gigs in HMV on Thursday nights for the last few months?

Let me present The Old Granite Whistle Test:

“The Old Granite Whistle Test is a weekly event at HMV in Aberdeen. It occurs weekly on a Thursday evening at 6:00. The band night was initially set up by HMV as a platform for new rising local acts to get some publicity, but quickly became a partnership between Captain Toms/Fat Hippy Records and HMV Aberdeen. As of the present moment, Steven Spencer and Tom Simmonds are dual organisers of the weekly event.”

The Old Granite Whistle Test sessions began on 1st August 2013 and were kicked off by Daniel Mutch, a young acoustic singer/songwriter.  The second week showcased Craig John Davidson, whom I have since had the privilege of seeing play, when he supported The Lorelei at Meldrum Town Hall.

Sadly, I was unaware of these sessions until the third one, when The Lorelei came down to entertain us.

Robbie Flanagan at HMV - Pic by Julie Thompson

Despite complaints from a neighbouring vendor that they were too loud (just how is that possible?) they did their thing with that exuberant joy for their music which they seem to have, whenever I see them play; and, as a bonus, they got complimentary juices from the Juice Bar.

First Leanne Smith, a bonny girl with a sweet smile and voice to match, and then Amy Sawers, amazing voice, entertained us on the following Thursday evenings, bringing August to a close.

September’s line-up began with Robbie Flanagan and his guitar, and the following week, the twin rappers SHY & DRS, accompanied by Dave Brown on guitar.

Shy and DRS at HMV - Pic by Julie ThompsonThey also filled Sandi Thom’s vocals on their Top 40 hit, The Love Is Gone.

The non-acoustic part of their set was sadly cut short due to technical problems.

The third session, featuring Uniform, had a delayed start as their frontman was caught in traffic.

Unfortunately, I only caught the very start of their set as I had an appointment elsewhere.

The fourth week was a blast, with Gerry Jablonski and the Electric Band bouncing around HMV, fresh from their new album launch at The Lemon Tree; which was, incidentally, my first official music shoot, providing images for the Aberdeen Voice.

The Little Kicks at HMV - Pic by Julie Thompson

What an excellent way to wind up September.

October opened with The Little Kicks, well, half of them, who are always a favourite. As they were playing later that evening at another venue, the drummer and bass player were not performing, although I did spot them lurking in the crowd.

I first encountered, and shot, this band at the Brewdog AGM in August. I was attending that event to provide images for an Aberdeen Voice article.

In fact they were, along with The Xcerts, the first live music I’d shot, apart from at the Belladrum Festival a couple of weeks earlier. Confession time: it gave me such a buzz that I wanted to do more.

Cara Mitchell at HMV - Pic by Julie ThompsonCara Mitchell played the second session of October. It was the first time I’d had the pleasure of hearing her.

The third week was supposed to be the Polish band, CETI, fresh from their Lemon Tree album launch.

However, due to illness they were replaced at short notice by Jon Davie.

I’d come across this singer/guitarist before when he played a solo acoustic set at The Lemon Tree.

He’s the frontman for GutterGodz, who I went down to Stonehaven Town Hall on Oct 25th to shoot, along with Deadfire and The Ruckus.

Colin Clyne at HMV - Pic by Julie ThompsonColin Clyne, back home from a long stint in California, played the fourth week.

He has a good voice, which he accompanies with his guitar and mouth organ.

Having built up a following in the United States, he is hoping to repeat his success back home.

Over the weeks, I’ve chatted with Captain Tom of Fat Hippy Records about these sessions.

I put a few questions to him:

Q:  Who came up with the idea of The Old Granite Whistle Test, and the name?

A:  It was Steve Spencer, who works at HMV, who came up with the name and made the effort to get everyone involved.

Q:  Has it been easy to persuade the acts to play?

A: Very. No one has needed to be persuaded, I think just about everyone we asked said yes, if they were available, and many more have asked to play.

Q:  Have the bands enjoyed the experience?

A: I believe so. Some nights have been busier than others, but I think most relished the opportunity to play HMV for the first time.

Q: So, was it a frustrating or fun experience for you?

A: A bit of both, I suppose, if I’m honest. It’s great to be involved in an exciting new outlet for Aberdeen’s burgeoning and talented live music scene, but it can be a frustrating business when bands cancel at short notice or there’s a lack of support for really talented artists. But that’s the same for all gigs everywhere.

Q:  Are there any amusing anecdotes you can relate?

A: Well, there have been a few interesting moments along the way. Without being specific I’ll confess that most of them involve the weekly running of the gauntlet with traffic wardens, to get parked anywhere near HMV to unload the PA. They’re very good at their job, so they are.

Q: Have HMV enjoyed giving up a bit of their floor space and time, do you think?

A: I think so. I get the impression they have probably wanted to do something like this with local music for some time, and it’s just taken a while for the opportunity to arise.

Q: Will you be doing more next year?

A: I hope so. This first 3 month stint from August to October was in some ways an experiment to see how it went, and what sort of response it got. So we’ll sit down with the powers that be at HMV over the next few weeks and see how we all feel it’s gone. Hopefully everyone’s happy and we can find a way to do another 3 month stint in early 2014.

Jon Davie of Guttergodz at HMV - Pic by Julie ThompsonSuburban Saints will complete the October line-up on the 31st, and, indeed, bring The Old Granite Whistle Test to a close for 2013. Whether it returns next year remains to be seen, but for me it has been a great way to see some of our local talent in action.

If The Old Granite Whistle Test returns next year, I shall certainly be there.

You’ve heard a little bit in this article about how and when I got started photographing live music.

In future weeks I plan on catching up with some of the local music photographers for a chat, to find out how they got started, their best and worst experiences, and maybe even garner some tips.

Click here to view more HMV Photos.

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Oct 232013
 

Julie Thompson shares her experience as a fledgling music photographer, and a few of her pictures from Catfish & The Bottlemen, Café Drummond, 11th October 2013, and Grzegorz Kupczyk’s CETI album launch, Lemon Tree, 12th October 2013.

bisongrass2Looking back over the last two nights of shooting, I find myself reflecting on the contrast between the venues.
I found Café Drummond, admittedly a small venue, to be frustrating in the extreme whereas The Lemon Tree was much more fun.

Why? It was all down to the lighting.

Lighting is a major factor in live music photography; dim lighting can mean you come away with nothing apart from noisy, poor resolution images. Picking through your images from the evening afterwards can be soul destroying.

If you do find any that look half ok, you zoom in to check focus and their eyes are so dilated they look like they’ve been taking something very interesting indeed. Welcome to Café Drummond – the home of ‘high ISO hell’ (as a fellow photographer put it).

catfish3The light in Drummonds was so dim that even lenses designed to work in low light were having trouble finding a focus. Orange backlights and few front spots meant that the backs of the band were brighter than their fronts; tricky to deal with because it’s the faces you’re interested in.

Café Drummond doesn’t have a photo pit or the 3 song limit. You’re in amongst the crowd, trying to keep out of the way of dancers & beer. You also have the hazard of people wanting you to take their photos as they mug for the camera.

Between sets I was approached by a girl who was interested in what camera I was using.

We chatted briefly, culminating in getting out my phone and showing her some of my more recent flickr images. She got excited over the Johnny Marr photos from last week, made a mental note of my flickr name and then went back to her friends.

redfoot2Two more frustrating sets later, I head home.

On later perusal, I have a few images that look ok, but they’re not images I will treasure and I mentally cross this venue off my list of places to shoot again.

On a plus note I seem to have acquired a new flickr follower.

How were the bands?

Well, because I was shooting the complete sets, I suffered from what I call ‘concentration deafness’. I certainly wasn’t standing there wishing my earplugs were stronger though. I do remember thinking that some of them didn’t look old enough to be in a pub, but I think that’s more an issue of my age than theirs.

velvet audio 2The support acts – Redfoot the Fence and Velvet Audio were well received and enjoyable to listen to. As for the headline act – Catfish & The Bottlemen  – they were pretty tight and well-rehearsed.

They did seem to be struggling with their sound at one point, as the lead singer kept asking for volume increase.

As it turned out, he was getting a hum through his floor monitor so he couldn’t actually hear what they were doing.

They were plenty loud enough for those of us in front of them and the crowd was rocking.

I would go to see them again and hope (on a purely selfish note) that if they return to Aberdeen, their next venue is better for shooting.

The following evening I was expecting a much better experience. I’ve shot at the Lemon Tree before and, though the lighting can be variable, it is usually an order of magnitude brighter than what I’d just experienced.

There is a good sized photo pit here, and they generally enforce the 3 song limit.

bisongrass3There were three of us in the pit for the first band – Bisongrassand we were treated to an energetic performance from their lead singer, who spent a lot of time hanging from the light fixtures at the front of the stage and clambering around in the pit.

Some bands can be fun to shoot and some can be so static that it is difficult to get an interesting shot of them. Metal bands are rarely boring to shoot, which means I’m in for a great evening.

Between sets, I discover a few acquaintances dotted around and kill some time chatting. Back at the pit, there is a small altercation going on; some more photographers have arrived unexpectedly and one of the first photographers is unhappy that the pit will contain more people for the next sets.

This issue is resolved by staggering the group into two sessions, although the pit is certainly big enough for 5 people in one go.

Thrashist RegimeNext up is Thrashist Regime.

Before we go into the pit, I chat to another photographer who has shot them before.
He warns me that the lead singer has a habit of disappearing into the crowd with his radio mic, sometimes even into the street outside.

Sure enough, he’s over the pit wall and off into the crowd. The band is a fun shoot with lots of crowd interaction.

At one point the singer jumps into the pit next to me, startling both of us as I don’t think he’d noticed me there.

I get given a microphone to yell into (I declined to comment) at which he laughed and moved on to a more willing participant.

Once more out of the pit and watching the rest of the set from behind the rail, I’m left roaring with laughter as a gentle ballad to an explosive event a few years back in Auchenblae is announced and then thrash metalled out.

CETI 1Finally the headline act arrives onstage.

Grzegorz Kupczyk’s CETI are a well-known Polish
old-school heavy rock band that have recently signed
with Fat Hippy Records and are tonight launching their
new album, ‘Ghost Of The Universe Behind The Black Curtain’.

With a fairly large Polish community in Aberdeen, they attract many tonight who are familiar with their work.

Unusually, the most flamboyant band member on stage
is the Bass guitarist. Later on he performed a fascinating solo, something not normally seen these days.

It is obvious from watching, that they are familiar with performing to a larger crowd than they had tonight; audience interaction is constantly sought.

CETI 2Indeed some of their gigs in Poland include festivals attracting 20,000 people. They are known as the ‘Polish Iron Maiden’; not a bad description.

They were a joy to shoot and fun to watch. Despite the language barrier I found them entertaining; some of the largest laughs on my part were purely from body language and one occasion where Grzegorz asked, ‘How are you doing Aberdeen?’ to which a lone Aberdonian voice replied ‘Not so bad’.

More photos:

Redfoot the Fence: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ladypakal/sets/72157636600131244/
Velvet Audio: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ladypakal/sets/72157636469947603/
Catfish & The Bottlemen: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ladypakal/sets/72157636599729676/
Bisongrass: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ladypakal/sets/72157636517473364/
Thrashist Regime: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ladypakal/sets/72157636595480775/
CETI: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ladypakal/sets/72157636481781833/