Sep 172021
 

Ayanna Witter-Johnson

By Craig Chisholm.

Aberdeen Performing Arts’ award-winning music festival, True North will return from 23-26 September for a weekend of live music and free events, boasting an inspirational and vibrant line up of shows and Fringe events at venues across the city.

True North will be based around the theme of Rise Up, celebrating freedom of expression, diversity and community as we prepare to re-open and welcome back audiences to the Music Hall, Lemon Tree and His Majesty’s Theatre for the first time since March 2020.

American singer songwriter and former Czars frontman John Grant will headline True North at the Music Hall on the Saturday evening.

John Grant

Described as ‘the misfit’s misfit’, Grant is too weird to be mainstream, too mainstream to be weird; too sad to be happy, too sharp not to crack a mordant joke about it.

The dolorous ace in his song-writing pack is to gauge impressionistic childhood experiences against their amplified adult consequences.

Rachel Sermanni

He will be supported by acclaimed Scottish performer Rachel Sermanni.

Grammy and MOBO award-winning star Corinne Bailey Rae will close the festival on Sunday with a specially curated concert at the Music Hall called “A Celebration of Stevie Wonder by Corinne Bailey Rae.”

The evening will see Corinne joined by special guests to perform the many legendary hits from the catalogue of Stevie Wonder songs in what promises to be an extraordinary evening of music.

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With previous True North curated concerts celebrating the music of Neil Young, David Bowie and Kate Bush among others, this concert at True North has become a highlight of the festival and a firm favourite among audiences.

Headlining on Friday night at the Lemon Tree with a Night of New Voices is the soulful, eclectic Ayanna Witter-Johnson.  A singer, songwriter, cellist, composer, producer and arranger with phenomenal musical prowess, mesmerising vocals, uncompromising lyrics and mastery of the cello. Ayanna unapologetically imprints her unique musical signature into her music.  

Heir of the Cursed, Robyn Davidson and DJ Rebecca Vasmant complete the line-up.

Ransom FA

Aberdonian grime rapper Ransom FA will head up late night at the Lemon Tree on Saturday.  The fast-rising artist, was a contestant on the UK TV show, The Rap Game, where he battled other budding rappers for a record deal.  

Prior to the Rap Game, Ransom had already shared the stage with many of the biggest UK rappers, such as Skepta, Wiley, Mist, M Huncho to name only a few. He will be joined by Chef, Sean Focus and DJ HomeAlone.

Playing on Thursday 23 September and kicking off True North 2021 will be Peaness, who will be bringing their catchy, fuzzy, harmony-driven indie-pop songs about love, friendship, frustrations, Brexit and food waste to the Lemon Tree.

Formed in 2014 in Chester university digs, the trio have secured nationwide and international shows with bands such as The Beths, Kero Kero Bonito, The Cribs, We Are Scientists, The Big Moon and Dream Wife. They will be joined at the Lemon Tree by Swim School and Lavender Lane.

A spoken word event specially commissioned by Aberdeen Performing Arts and headed up by award winning poet and three-time slam champion Jo Gilbert will focus on the festival’s theme of Rise Up.

Four local spoken word artists will produce new work based around this theme and showcase their work at the Lemon Tree on Sunday in an event which promises to challenge and inspire in equal measure.

Fringe events are planned to take place in venues across the city over True North weekend and details will be announced shortly.

Ben Torrie, Aberdeen Performing Arts’ Director of Programming and Creative Projects said:

“We are thrilled to announce the lineup for True North 2021, which feels like a huge step in the return of live performance at our venues. It feels really good to be able to bring the festival to a live audience once again.

“It means a lot to us to be able to put this on for people in Aberdeen, and to shine a spotlight on so many talented performers and musicians is a privilege that has never been so important.

“The theme of this year’s festival is Rise Up. It’s a positive message about rising up to bring people together, marking the re-opening of our venues, and celebrating the power of music to help us stand up for the things we believe in. We could not be prouder of this festival at this time.”

Tickets for all True North events are available from www.aberdeenperformingarts.com

 

Sep 072021
 

By Craig Chisholm.

After a COVID induced hiatus, live music is finally making a return to the Granite City and one of the first major events to happen will be a gig by veteran Scottish indie legends Teenage Fanclub at the city’s iconic Beach Ballroom.

Touring in support of recent acclaimed album ‘Endless Arcade’ – their 12th studio album – the iconic band will undertake an extensive UK & Irish tour that includes dates in Edinburgh, a sold-out Glasgow Barrowlands and, of course, Aberdeen.

The band are no strangers to Aberdeen having played some of the city’s most famous venues including the Lemon Tree, Moshulu, Music Hall & AECC. They actually played the Beach Ballroom in one of their earliest gigs in Aberdeen, supporting Primal Scream way back in 1989.

Teenage Fanclub play the Beach Ballroom on Wed, 15th September. Support provided by Poster Paints’.

Tickets to the Beach Ballroom are available on Ticketmaster now.

Sep 072021
 

By Craig Chisholm.

Young British guitarists Mikhail Asanovic and Jake Wright, together known as The Showhawk Duo, have dazzled audiences worldwide with their spectacular approach to playing the guitar, breaking down barriers between acoustic and electronic music.

Whether playing old-school trance classics or modern funky house, their live show knows no boundaries and will leave you amazed.

Mik is a classical guitarist at heart, having studied at Manchester’s RNCM whereas Jake is an electric junkie and grew up playing in rock and metal bands. Mik’s classical foundation shines through in the music with Jake’s raw percussive approach always keeping the crowd moving.

Together they create a truly unique and impressive sound, and have turned many “acoustic” nights into a thumping rave. 

Together, they started out as buskers and have since gone on to play all over the globe.

They have appeared on BBC Radio 1 on the Nick Grimshaw’s Breakfast Show,  did a 40 minute live broadcast for the LAD Bible, BBC Radio Bristol, and have performed at most of the UK’s large festivals including Main Stage at Bestival, Glastonbury, Isle of Wight Festival, Secret Garden Party, Wilderness, Somersault, Lost Village, Boomtown and more.

They played sell-out shows on their 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 & 2019 UK tours, headlining The O2 Forum in the most recent, and five star reviews followed an official sell out show at Edinburgh Fringe.

International performances include F1 Grand Prix in Singapore, Seychelles, club tours in Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands and a 20 – date residency at Pacha in Ibiza. 

Now, the duo will perform on stages across the nation, as they embark on their mammoth UK and Ireland tour.

Spanning 26th different dates – including a date at Unit 51 in Aberdeen on Saturday, October 9th – the duo will unleash their fiery acoustic sound to audiences far and wide, as they turn soft acoustic guitars into the ingredients for an unforgettable night of raving.

Support comes from Zen Lewis.

Ages 14+ // Under 18s must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets available now at Skiddle.

Dec 282019
 

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

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

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

A statement of intent. A call to arms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Primal Scream Set List:

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

Encore:

Come Together
Jailbird
Rocks

Dec 192019
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adam Ant Set List:

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

Encore:

Press Darlings
Red Scab
Physical (You’re So)

Dec 112019
 

Craig Chisholm reviews Airbourne plus support at The Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen, 18th Nov.

Lugs were left ringing after the historic Beach Ballroom was shook to its foundations with a night of ass kickin’, high voltage rock n’ roll.
Headliners Airbourne took their latest tour to Aberdeen with support from Tenessee rockers Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown and up-and-coming Sheffield band Cellar Door Moon Crow.

Cellar Door Moon Crow are the musical anomaly on the night.

They play a rock / rap hybrid that’s reminiscent of the Beastie Boys around the period of ‘Licensed to Ill’ where monster riffs from bands such as AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin were sampled and rapped over to create a template that has endured to this day.

Indeed, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin snippets and samples can be heard throughout Cellar Door Moon Crow’s set along with nods to Neil Young, Frank Sinatra and Steppenwolf. The duo – hirsute brothers Phil and Tom Goodwin – get the crowd going with their eclectic set and seem to win over quite a few of the uninitiated.

Their debut album ‘You Got This’ is available now if you want to check them out.

Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown are a more straight ahead proposition that look to have a few fans in the audience already, judging by the reaction they receive.

The play a boogie-infused style of rock n’ roll that is hard edged and blues based. It’s heavy on incredibly talented guitar theatrics that will appeal to musicians and anyone that appreciates good musicianship.
A couple of the tracks tone down the histrionics and are more subtle, swampy and bluesy. These are the most interesting in my opinion. But the four piece band – including Graham Whitford, son of Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford, on guitar – go down an absolute storm with the audience with whatever style they play.

By the end of the set the drummer is on the barrier, leaning into the crowd, bashing out a rhythm on a drum and the place is going wild.

If the venue is at boiling point by the end of Tyler Bryant’s set then it is overflowing when Airbourne take the stage.

The Australian band are the latest in a long line of hard rockin’, hard drinkin’ bands to emerge from the Antipodes over the years. Their lineage can be traced back through bands such as Rose Tattoo, Cold Chisel and, of course, the mighty AC/DC.

Audience interaction is key to their set – four songs in and lead singer Joel O’Keefe is already in the middle of the crowd, astride a roadies shoulder whilst playing guitar and spraying beer over the adoring throng.

They are a party band and despite it being a Monday night, despite you having work tomorrow you are expected to party with them. Beers are shared with the crowd – albeit thrown to fans on their companion’s shoulders – and the floor of the venue is reduced to a sticky mess as sweat and alcohol drip everywhere.

Airbourne are an entertaining live act – it’s not serious, there are no pretentions and the fans are treated with a friendliness that draws them into the band’s world.

Airbourne Set List: 

Raise the Flag
Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast
Burnout the Nitro
Girls in Black
Backseat Boogie
Bottom of the Well
Breakin’ Outta Hell
It’s All for Rock ‘n’ Roll
Boneshaker
Live It Up
Stand Up for Rock ‘n’ Roll

Encore:

Ready to Rock
Runnin’ Wild

Dec 052019
 

With thanks to Brookfield Knights.

Since issuing their superb Songs of The Hollow album in 2017, CUA have gone on to become a band that has gathered in more praise than most from all the best sections of the media.

Aberdeen music fans can judge for themselves as the band make an appearance at The Blue Lamp tomorrow, Friday Dec 6.

Awarding the album an 8/10 rating at AmericanaUK, top writer Jeremy Searle said:

“This Irish trio stands right at the forefront of contemporary cutting-edge folk and even that description sells it a little short.”

Issuing a similar judgement for Acoustic magazine, Julian Piper had this to say:

“At its finest, music should confound and amaze the listener, and this trio from Ireland have the luck – and the ability – to be one of those outfits who can pull this off.”

Folkwords said, rightly:

“Unlike anything else.”

As a result, there are many who cannot wait to catch the band in action and this will be their first major UK tour, although they caused a sensation when they attracted a capacity crowd to their Celtic Connections show in Glasgow, earlier this year.

Tickets here: https://www.seetickets.com/event/cua/the-blue-lamp/1464462

Nov 272019
 

Craig Chisholm reviews Liam Gallagher plus support at P&J Live, Aberdeen.

For North East Oasis fans, it was a bit of an exciting day, to say the least.
Noel Gallagher dropped a new single – ‘Wandering Star’ – with his High Flying Birds and, more importantly, brother Liam made his debut solo performance in Aberdeen.

Nearly 10,000 fans packed the new P&J Live Arena to watch their hero blast through a 90-minute set that drew tracks from his two albums ‘Why Me? Why Not’ and ‘As You Were’ but also, to the delight of many, a liberal sprinkling of classic tracks by his old band – and I don’t mean Beady Eye.

The mood was set for Liam’s triumphant performance by the two support acts that were both warmly received by the crowd.

Dylan John Thomas is the opening act. The young mop haired Glaswegian is very much following in the footsteps of friend and mentor Gerry Cinnamon who has recently supported on tour.

His acoustic guitar-based tunes are jaunty and catchy and, unusually for a new act, seems to meet the approval of a large section of the vast crowd. A cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’ especially goes down a treat.

DMA’s are a more familiar act, having sold out the Music Hall just a few months back.

The Australian act play a laid-back indie sound that’s indebted to Oasis without being a pastiche or outright copy.

Their short set draws tracks from both of their albums – ‘Hills End’ and ‘For Now’ – and all get a passionate and appreciative response from the crowd.

However, at the end of the day there’s only one man the audience are here to see – and that is Liam.

Walking on to near frenzied applause he exudes a swagger and confidence that most rock stars, let along normal people, would kill for.
He sets his stall out early with first track ‘Rock n Roll Star’ from Oasis’ 1995 debut album.

It’s less of a set opener than a statement of intent, a manifesto for all the Liam is.

The Oasis back catalogue is mined quite heavily throughout the set – ‘Wonderwall’, ‘Gas Panic’, ‘Morning Glory’, ‘Stand by Me’ and more are interspersed throughout the main set.

The encore pulls out a few of the big hits as well – ‘Acquiesce’, ‘Roll with It’, ‘Supersonic’ and a stripped down ‘Champagne Supernova’, all sang word for word by the audience; all received with near religious fervour.

As an added and unexpected bonus, he’s joined on these tracks by Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthur, original Oasis guitarist who left the band 20 years ago, in 1999.
But this isn’t an Oasis show, it’s the Liam show – and he has his own songs to sing.

Tracks such as ‘Halo’, ‘Shockwave’, ‘Paper Crown’ and ‘One of Us’ are received as warmly by the audience and get the same sing-along treatment as his old band’s classics.

Overall, it’s an assured and confident performance. You could never accuse Liam of being humble or overawed but he genuinely looks pleased with the crowd reaction and the energy and enthusiasm that they exude.

Liam Gallagher Setlist: 

Rock ‘n’ Roll Star
Halo
Shockwave
Wall of Glass
Paper Crown
Morning Glory
Columbia
Stand by Me
Once
One of Us
Gone
The River
Gas Panic!
Wonderwall

Encore:

Acquiesce
Roll With It
Supersonic
Champagne Supernova

Encore 2:

Cigarettes & Alcohol

Nov 202019
 

Craig Chisholm reviews She Drew The Gun / Peaness / Freakwave at The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen

The Lemon Tree played host to one of the best up-and-coming bands in the UK, in the shape of She Drew the Gun, along with sterling support slots from Peaness and Freakwave in an exhilarating – and refreshing – triple bill of female fronted bands.

Opening the nights proceedings are Glaswegian’s Freakwave. Their spiky, energetic punk-inspired rock is exciting to watch.

Drenched in a red-lit stage the band blast through a short, passionate set. Each band member has their own individual style – the barefoot bassist, the drummer with his “taps aff”, the guitarist with the bottle of Buckfast in his back pocket. But its guitarist / singer, the enigmatically named Summer Skye, that’s focus of attention.

Dressed in a leopard print top and trousers and Doc Marten books she’s a captivating sight with talent to back it up.

Their set includes a cover of ‘Pure Imagination’ from the 70s ‘Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory’ movie which goes down well.

Second support is Peaness. The three piece from Cheshire have a dreamlike, almost shoegaze in places, quality to their sound.
Their three-way harmonies recall the Gallic indie sound of Stereolab in places, but all recall the dreampop of early Lush.

There’s an Afrobeat influence lurking in their at times that gives them hints of Talking Heads or Vampire. Another band to watch, for sure.

She Drew the Gun deserves to be huge.

Their two albums – ‘Memories of Another Future’ from 2016 and this years ‘Revolution of Mind’ – are both well developed, confident tomes of work.

Live, they are just as confident. The Wirral band plays in front of projections of psychedelic, swirling visuals. And their music is just as kaleidoscopic and trippy.

From opening track, ‘Resistor’ the band blast through nearly an hour and a half of engaging politicised indie pop.

Highlights include their current single, ‘Trouble Every Day’ which is a zeitgeist capturing reinterpretation of the Frank Zappa song, the spoken word passages of tracks such as ‘Paradise’ and ‘Revolution of Mind’ and the final track, a poignant cover of The Beloved’s classic ‘Sweet Harmony’.

Three bands, three distinct sounds but one amazing bill.

Nov 152019
 

Catfish and the Bottlemen @ P&J Live, 7th November 2019. Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

The rise of Catfish and the Bottlemen has been nothing short of remarkable.

In about six short years they’ve graduated from small local venues, such as The Tunnels and Café Drummond’s, to the vast expanse of the new P&J Live Arena with what seems relative ease.

To their credit they look like a band that’s been headlining festivals and playing arenas for years as they gave a slick and well-honed show brimming with confidence and self-belief.

Lead singer, the poetically named Van McCann, has especially taken on the mantle of stadium rock god with consummate ease. He’s a whirlwind of movement – wielding his guitar flamboyantly whilst simultaneously waving the mic stand around the stage, never standing still, never not playing up to the crowd.

What’s noticeable about the crowd is how young they are. The majority are teenagers, hungry for excitement on a wet Thursday night in November. A vast amount of them would have been too young to have seen the bands Aberdeen debut at Café Drummond in 2014.

But Catfish and the Bottlemen is not a band about the past, they’re a band about the here and now. They’re about living for the moment, the visceral thrill of the being young, of being free and not having a care in the world.
And that feeling is what the crowd want, and what they give back.

They’re excited, they’re emotional, and they are fanatical.

This is not a jaded seen-it-all before crowd, this is a crowd seeing it for the first time and loving it. This is a crowd cheering roadies doing mic checks,.

This is not a crowd that care that there’s an outtake of ‘Helter Skelter’ by The Beatles used as the intro tape, Catfish and the Bottlemen are their Beatles.

Looking around the arena, you’re struck by the lack of t-shirts being worn displaying the logos of any other bands, the type of thing you normally see at gigs. The only t-shirts seem to be of Catfish and the Bottlemen themselves. And most seem bought from the merch stands that very night.

Catfish’s set is exclusively drawn from their three albums – ‘The Balcony’, The Ride’ and their latest effort, ‘The Balance’, which was released in April.

There are no cover versions or fillers punctuating their set, there’s no bloated solos to pad the set out. They have confidence in their own material and have an audience that knows every song they’ve recorded word by word. From opening track ‘Longshot’ to the closing ‘Cocoon’, 8000 voices sing in unison.

Where Catfish go from here will be interesting. This is not a band that will rest on their laurels, or do nostalgia tours playing anniversary shows of past albums – they are already headlining festivals such as TRNMST and they’ll be aiming for headlining stadiums.

And this crowd will be there with them and, as they did tonight, they will love it.

Catfish & The Bottlemen Set list:

Longshot
Kathleen
Soundcheck
Pacifier
Twice
Fallout
Anything
Sidetrack
Encore
Homesick
Conversation
Overlap
Rango
Basically
2all
Outside
Hourglass the (Van McCann acoustic)
Fluctuate
7
Cocoon