Oct 042019
 

Duncan Harley reviews The Crucible @ HMT Aberdeen

The last Scottish witch met a fiery end at Dornoch in 1727 ending what some saw as the domination of the devil in local affairs.

Smeared with tar following a short trial, Janet Horne was burned alive in a barrel following an accusation of consorting with the forces of darkness.

In 1950’s America however, the devil-incarnate took the form of McCarthyism – perhaps best defined as the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence.

Many intellectuals, artistic folk and politicians fell afoul of the new inquisition. And Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible took an allegorical stab at that modern-day witch hunt against those accused of the crime ‘Un-American activities’ using the medium of the Salem Witch Trials of the 17th century.

And now, this no-holds barred portrayal of the overly-righteous paranoia that was McCarthyism is subject to fresh interpretation by Scottish Ballet.

Shocking in its intensity, this exquisite take on the witch-trial agenda dwells on the currency of falsely framed accusations, fearsome events and the power of inquisitors over life and death and morality.

Penned in the 1950’s and set in 1692, the familiar story is set among the Puritan colonists of Massachusetts. A backdrop of infidelity, a declaration that god is dead and a smidgeon of pagan ritual leads to accusations of witchcraft. And within a short timeframe events have spiralled terrifyingly out of control.

Alongside Peter Salem’s hauntingly edgy new score, American Helen Picket’s choreography shatters the myth of Puritanical purity.

Adolescents dance naked in the moonlight, farmer Proctor – Nicholas Shoesmith and servant Abigail – Constance Devernay frolic in the farmyard and voodoo makes an unwelcome appearance.

Nothing is as it seems and the fault lines of a wildly dysfunctional community are soon tested to destruction.

Simple staging accents the rawness of this tale of persecution and David Finn’s choice of gloomy lighting adds poignance throughout. This is no over-bearing stage-set.

Stark and poignant, this adaption of Miller’s play for dance sets a high bar indeed.

Choreographed by Helen Pickett and based on the play by Arthur Miller, The Crucible plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday 5 October.
Stars: 4/5

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

Jul 312019
 

Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

A bit of the Deep South came to the Far North as Kentucky rockers, Black Stone Cherry took their Family Tree tour to the Music Hall in Aberdeen.
The sold out date could almost be described as an intimate show as the band are more likely to be seen in much larger venues nowadays.

Dates last year included a headline slot at the cavernous Hydro in Glasgow and as main support to the mighty Guns n’ Roses at the 80,000 capacity Download festival.

Just days after their trip to the Granite City and they are, in fact, headlining another festival, the Ramblin’ Man Fair, in front of 15,000 adoring fans – 10 times the number that are packed liked sardines into tonight’s sold out show. But before the band take to the stage there’s the matter of a couple of up and coming support acts for the crowd to digest.

Coming on stage as the stragglers are still filtering through the main doors of the venue were another set of Kentucky rockers – the hirsute, rootsy rockers, Otis. Their short 30 minute set was a mix of blues and classic rock heavily sprinkled with lots of Southern fried boogie.

In front of a surprisingly busy Music Hall – considering the early stage time – they won over the crowd quite easily with their infectious rock n’ roll. Definitely a band to watch out for in the future.

Next up, The Kris Barras Band are a heavier proposition. The Devon born guitarist plays stripped back, no nonsense rock n’ roll. Searing bluesy guitar solos and raucous, soaring tracks showcase his talents and undeniable skills.

Judging by the amount of t-shirts bearing his name in the audience then the time to watch him is now, with no waiting around for the future. With a new album out in September expect to see more coverage of him and his band in the press and airwaves and, crucially, in the live environment where he belongs.

Black Stone Cherry come onstage to a rapturous reception by the devoted audience.

Opening with the thunderous ‘Me and Mary Jane’ the band plough through a 16 song set that lasts an hour and a half and doesn’t let up at any point.
The energetic first few songs see guitarist Ben Wells and bassist Jon Lawhon run around the stage hyperactively, swapping sides and hanging over the crowd, working them into a mad frenzy.

Lead vocalist and guitarist Chris Robinson has to raise his voice to be heard over the adoring crowd who sing the songs word for word. And, stage rear, drummer John Fred Young tosses and catches his drumsticks in the air but anchors the maelstrom with his thunderous rhythms and pin point accurate beats.

After a few songs the band have to catch a breath, lest they collapse with exhaustion. He tells the crowd that they headlined a show at a castle in Wales last night and they wondered how they could top that tonight but, as he says:

“We remembered we were coming to Scotland.”

This wins over the crowd even further – not that they needed to by this point – and sets the tone for the rest of the show.

They’re a band that care about their fans and engage with the crowd.

There’s plenty of clap-a-longs and call and response interaction. They even call out, by name, a fan in the front row that had been petitioning online for them to start playing a deep cut from an old album – and, of course, they play it live tonight for him.

Songs from all eras of the band’s history are played – from 2006’s eponymous debut right up to the latest album ‘Family Tree’.

A rollicking cover version of Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ is segued seamlessly into from their own track ‘Hollywood in Kentucky’ and massive singalongs such as ‘Blame it on the Boom Boom’ are dispatched flawlessly and confidently in front of the awe struck crowd.

It’s a triumphant performance by a band at the peak of their powers –and the there’s no doubt the adoring crowd realised this and appreciated it accordingly.

Black Stone Cherry set list: 

Me and Mary Jane
Burnin’
Blind Man
In My Blood
Bulldozer
Soulcreek
Bad Habit
Hollywood in Kentucky / Folsom Prison Blues
My Last Breath
Cheaper to Drink Alone
Ain’t Nobody
Blame It On The Boom Boom
White Trash Millionaire
Lonely Train
Family Tree

Encore:

Peace Is Free

Jul 222019
 

Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

It’s the end of an era at the AECC as tonight’s gig marks the conclusion of the venue’s live music history before attention turns to the new P&J Live as the new home of large scale arena rock in Aberdeen.
Throughout the venue’s history, it has seen some genuine rock and pop legends tread the boards in the main arena.

From its debut as a live venue in 1990 – when Scottish pop stars Wet Wet Wet provided the first live entertainment – household names, legends of rock, country stars, hip hop titans, heavy metal heroes and genuine music royalty have tread the boards.

Acts as diverse and eclectic as Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Lady Gaga, Kylie, Rhianna, Kings of Leon, Motorhead, Take That, Oasis, Foo Fighters, David Bowie, Johnny Cash, Radiohead and much, much more have had memorable nights in the Bridge of Don venue.

Were you there? You should have been!

Alas, all good things must come to an end and tonight sees the final party at the venue hosted, as it began, by another Scottish act but this time in the shape of an undoubted legend – the indefatigable and evergreen Rod Stewart.

However, for tonight only, the gig is not inside the venue itself but outdoors in the adjacent car park in order to accommodate a crowd more than twice as large as could be accommodated indoors.

The concert itself has already been postponed due to the vagrancies and unpredictability of the North East weather – Wet Wet Wet would surely have been appropriate band on the original date scheduled for last month – but tonight there are no such issues with the weather remaining relatively dry and pleasant, albeit with the odd shower.

So finally, a few weeks late, the show must go on.

At the age of 74 you’d think Rod would be happy to retire to his country pad and tinkle with his legendary train set, but it seems as those days are still a long way off as he gives a sprightly and energetic performance that would shame performers half his age, if not less.

Running through a back catalogue that stretches back over six decades the sprightly rocker pulled out all the stops as he performed crowd pleaser after crowd pleaser from his formidable and extensive back catalogue and from latest album ‘Blood Red Roses’.

Setting the tone with the opening cover of Sam Cooke’s ‘Having a Party’ and his stage entrance to spectacular pyrotechnics the stage is set for a spirited romp through Rod’s eclectic back catalogue with cover versions, re-interpretations and classics such as ‘Baby Jane’, ‘Maggie May’, ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?’, ‘Some Guys Have All the Luck’ and the Tom Waits penned ‘Downtown Train’.

The party mood is paused on occasion for poignant slow burners and ballads including the melancholic ‘Every Beat of My Heart’ whilst his feted reworking of Crazy Horse’s ‘I Don’t Want to Talk About It’, a song which he has long since made his own, is performed as part of a stripped back section of the show.

Costumes are changed; footballs are booted into the crowd and a good time is had by all before the night is ended with the poignant classic ‘Sailing’ and Rod leaves the ecstatic crowd in raptures with another sterling professional, performance lasting over 2 hours.

So, after nearly 30 years of gigs, the AECC ends it’s tenure as Aberdeen’s biggest music venue on a high – finishing with one of the biggest names in showbiz in front of one of the biggest crowds it has ever had.

Rod, however, will be back – he’s already announced a date at the P&J Live on Saturday December 7th for what is bound to be another sell out performance.

Jun 212019
 

By Craig Chisholm.

Aberdeen’s award-winning music festival True North returns this September for another star-studded bill.
The main event will surely be `Rip it Up Live – A Celebration of Scottish Pop`, which takes place on Sunday, September 22.

This unique event follows previous years tributes to Kate Bush, Neil Young, David Bowie and Fleetwood Mac and will be curated and hosted by BBC broadcaster Vic Galloway.

Guest singers will include Claire Grogan of Altered Images, King Creosote, Emma Pollock from The Delgados, Richard Jobson of The Skids, Fay Fyfe and Eugene Reynolds of The Rezillos, Aberdeen’s own Kathryn Joseph, Honeyblood’s Stina Tweeddale, C Duncan, and Ross Leighton (Fatherson) performing some of their favourite songs from seven decades of Scottish pop.

Vic Galloway commented:

“Being involved in the ‘Rip It Up – The Story of Scottish Pop’ exhibition, book, TV and Radio Series was such a pleasure and an honour for me in 2018. The reaction at home and abroad was astonishing, and just showed how many talented musicians this country has created over the years.

“Taking the concept onstage as a LIVE concert at ‘True North’ adds a whole new dimension. With names from the past, present and future of Scottish Pop; it’s going to be a unique, one-off event celebrating seven decades of homegrown music at the festival.

“I cannot wait to share it all with festival goers from both near and far!”

The remainder of the weekend will see gigs taking place at the Music Hall, Lemon Tree, and Tivoli, as well as Fringe events in various locations across the city.

Scottish indie rockers The Twilight Sad will be taking to the Music Hall stage as Saturday headliners, fresh from a summer supporting The Cure, and will be joined by special guests Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert.

True North will open on Thursday, September 19 at the Lemon Tree with critically acclaimed London punk band Shame.

The London five piece have swiftly earned a reputation as one of the most visceral and exhilarating live bands in the UK and are sure to raise the roof at the Lemon Tree, kicking off True North in style.

Support comes in the form of Glasgow 4-piece indie-rock outfit Rascalton, who will be opening the festival, and DJ Retrospectre.

The Tivoli Theatre will again host a festival gig this year. Friday night’s headline event will feature former guitarist and co-founder of The Coral, Bill Ryder-Jones.

Now a singer-songwriter, producer and composer in his own right, he has collaborated with some of the biggest names in UK music including Arctic Monkeys, The Last Shadow Puppets, Blur’s Graham Coxon and Paloma Faith.

Also on the bill at the Tivoli on Friday night are Neon Waltz, who were favourites when they performed at True North in 2017 and return off the back of a huge UK tour in 2018, and supporting Noel Gallagher at an open air gig in Inverness earlier this month.

Glasgow-based singer-songwriter Martha Ffion completes the Friday night Tivoli line-up.

Festival-goers can rock the night away with three late night gigs at the Lemon Tree featuring American singer-songwriter BC Camplight, with special guests The Ninth Wave along with a DJ set from Vic Galloway (Friday, September 20), Self Esteem and Free Love with All Night Passion DJs (Saturday, September 21) before electro afro-funk band Ibibio Sound Machine bring the perfect party atmosphere to close the festival in style on Sunday night.

In addition, there will be three special informal performances in the new Big Sky Studio at the Music Hall.

Starting on Friday with a performance by the very best of emerging local talent from Aberdeen Performing Arts’ Project Band programme,  Saturday and Sunday will feature two performances selected by that evening’s main stage artists.

On Saturday, The Twilight Sad has picked Glasgow singer-songwriter Michael Timmons and on Sunday Vic Galloway has chosen indie rock outfit Savage Mansion. The early evening performances are free with the purchase of a ticket for any other True North event.

Further details of the True North Fringe and a special programme of family and children’s events will be announced in the coming weeks, including the hugely popular ‘My First Gig’.

Tickets for all shows on sale now. 

Festival passes are also available at a cost of £30 for a day pass (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), or £95 for the whole weekend which includes tickets for all the concerts mentioned above.

For tickets or further information visit www.aberdeenperformingarts.com, phone (01224) 641122 or visit the box office at the Music Hall, His Majesty’s Theatre or the Lemon Tree.

https://shamebanduk.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Rascalton/
https://billryderjones.co.uk/
https://www.neonwaltz.com/music
https://marthaffion.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/BCCamplightMusic/
https://theninthwave.online/
http://thetwilightsad.com/
https://michaeltimmonsmusic.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/RLTSELFESTEEM/
https://freelovenrg.bandcamp.com/music
https://www.facebook.com/AllNightPassion/
https://ibibiosoundmachine.com/
https://www.facebook.com/thehothotsauce/

Jun 142019
 

Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

It’s a sad, undeniable fact that if you want to attend certain concerts then a trip to Glasgow is, more often or not, the only option.
This has been especially true the last few years with the Music Hall closed for renovation and the opening of the Hydro in Glasgow which has attracted some of the biggest names to perform there.

Hopefully this situation might be rectified in the future with the newly renovated Music Hall and the soon-to-be opened TECA complex (or is it called the AECC as per the WPR signs? Or the P&J Live as announced last week?) already attracting some big names to the North East.

There is one major glaring gap in the Aberdeen live music scene, however, and that is the staging of outdoor concerts and festivals during the summer months.

Sure, Rod Stewart will be belting his heart – and the odd football – out in the AECC car park this June but, apart from that, and the, albeit excellent, Enjoy festival, what is there in the way of major outdoor music events in Aberdeen?

Glasgow, on the other hand, seems to have an abundance of events – TRNSMT, in the city’s Glasgow Green will host headlining sets by Stormzy, Catfish & the Bottlemen and George Ezra whilst across at Bellahouston Park you can attend sets by The Cure, Foo Fighters and The 1975 as part of the Summer Sessions.

In fact, even more frustratingly, the Summer Sessions are held in two cities just an hour or so away from each other so Glasgow residents could just pop in the car or train to Edinburgh where Florence & the Machine, Primal Scream, CHVRCHES, Lewis Capaldi and James will be performing in Princes Street Gardens.
Weather permitting, which of you wouldn’t rather be lazing in the green grass in a park, on a weekend afternoon rather than a midweek gig in a windswept car park next to the North Sea?

Can you imagine a summer in Aberdeen with acts of that calibre performing in Duthie or Hazlehead Parks?

And it’s not just major festivals that are happening in Glasgow – smaller outdoor events are happening in places such as the SWG3 venue which is hosting outdoor events by bands such as Miles Kane, Foals and the subject of this review, the newly reformed Doves.

SWG3 itself is another revelation and a perfect example what can be achieved with a little creativity and foresight.

Located in the city’s West End, the main space is a repurposed warehouse that can hold up to 1250 people for concerts and will see bands such as Interpol, Ministry, Orbital and Stereolab tread the boards over the summer months. There are also artist studios for hire, design studios to utilise and a smaller warehouse that can hold 450 people for concerts.

Doves, however, are outdoors in the former Galvanizer’s Yard performing their first Scottish gig for nearly a decade as part of reunion tour that has seen them play festivals down south in England and as main support for Noel Gallagher in Heaton Park, Manchester.
Judging by lead singer / bassist Jimi Goodwin’s reaction, however, this night is proving to be the highlight of their comeback as he profusely thanks the crowd from the stage and looks genuinely emotional at the reception they receive.

Well, that’s between the occasions he’s speaking about the seagulls and the passing trains however!

Doves have a back catalogue of four strong albums to fall back on and these contain a fair amount of hits and fan’s favourites.

Top Ten singles such as the anthemic ‘There Goes The Fear’ and the melancholic ‘Black and White Town’ are sang along to word for word by the 5000 strong crowd whilst driving rockers such as ‘Words’ and ‘Pounding’ bring out extra reserves of energy from the fans.

There are also touching moments of real emotion in tracks such as ‘Caught by the River’ and the beautiful ‘The Cedar Room’ that brings a tear to the eye.

Overall, an amazing set and a welcome return to one of the best acts to come out of Manchester on the last couple of decades.

Here’s hoping their reunion is extended longer and they make it up to the North East before long.

Also on the bill are Edinburgh based two-piece Man of Moon.

They’ve been reviewed in the Voice before, when they played at True North last autumn, and the sentiments expressed then are still true – they are magnificent, one of the best young bands to have emerged from Scotland in the last few years.

Their mix of droning, psych, garage and electronica recalls bands such as Suicide, Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized and will appeal to fans of those acts. They’ve played Aberdeen a few times in the last couple of years and if you haven’t made it to any of those gigs then make sure you make it to their next.

So, overall a nice wee trip to Glasgow – the weather held out, the music was outstanding and the venue was fantastic.

But also one tinged with a sense of frustration – OK, we can’t do much about the weather but surely, with a bit of innovation and daring, venues such as SWG3 could come to happen in the Granite City? And maybe we could host summer events that aren’t just hoary old rockers playing to your Granny in a car park?

Here’s hoping….

Doves Set List.
Snowden
Rise
Black and White Town
Sea Song
Words
Last Broadcast
The Outsiders
Winter Hill
Kingdom of Rust
Pounding
10:03
Caught by the River

Encore:
The Cedar Room
There Goes the Fear

Doves – https://dovesofficial.com/
Man of Moon – http://www.manofmoon.net/
SWG3 – https://swg3.tv/
TRNSMT – https://trnsmtfest.com/
Summer Sessions – https://www.smmrsessions.com/

Jun 042019
 

Review and photographs by Craig Chisholm.

Idlewild frontman Roddy Woomble.

Scottish indie veterans Idlewild rounded off their UK tour in support of latest album ‘Interview Music’ with a heated and well received performance at the Music Hall on an already scorching May Day weekend.
This was, in fact, their fourth live appearance in town in recent weeks after they headlined two nights at the Brewdog AGM, held at the AECC, and performed a stripped down, intimate – and slightly hungover after a few Brewdog beers – acoustic set at HMV.

Those truncated performances, whilst entertaining, were merely a precursor to the main event of a full set in front of a partisan and adoring crowd.

The set list encompassed a wide range of material stretching back over two decades to their earlier, rawer work to the more refined and mature songs from their latest album.

Five songs off the new album are given an airing tonight – ‘Dream Variations’, ‘I Almost Didn’t Notice’, ‘Same Things Twice’, ‘There’s a Place for Everything’ and the title track itself.

Well known songs and singles are reeled off during the show prompting singalongs – ‘American English’, ‘Little Discourage’, ‘Roseability’ – each one a highlight from the band’s over two-decade career.

On stage, guitarist Rod Jones is the visual focal point – careering and spinning round the stage, guitar swung around with casual abandon. He’s a whirlwind of noise and skill, painting the songs with melody and bite. Singer Roddy Woomble, by contrast, is a more reserved and understated figure. His lyrics and melodies are given his full attention and during the musical interludes is more likely to wander to the side of the stage rather than engage in the drama or histrionics seen in more attention seeking frontmen.

As well as their own songs the band play a poignant and touching tribute to late Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison with a touching cover of ‘Heads Roll Off’ that the crowd appreciate and understand.

Opening the nights proceedings are local heroes The Xcerts.

Although born and bred in Aberdeen, the band have been based in Brighton for several years now.

They’ve mellowed their rock sound over the years in favour of their current, polished, arena-rock sound which is more palatable to the ears and would appeal to a wide range of listeners.

Their stage craft is confident and natural, and they look at home on the large stage.

Looking genuinely happy to be performing in front of many of their friends, family and fans – both casual and dedicated – their set is a triumph for them.

The Xcerts will only go from strength to strength and its only a matter of time before we see them headline this historic venue themselves.

Idlewild Set ist.
Dream Variations
Roseability
You Held the World in Your Arms
(I Am) What I Am Not
Interview Music
Little Discourage
There’s a Place for Everything
A Ghost in the Arcade
Live in a Hiding Place
Love Steals Us From Loneliness
Same Things Twice
I Almost Didn’t Notice
American English
Make Another World
El Capitan
When I Argue I See Shapes
Encore:
Head Rolls Off (Frightened Rabbit cover)
Everyone Says You’re So Fragile
A Film for the Future
A Modern Way of Letting Go
In Remote Part / Scottish Fiction

Apr 082019
 

Review and photographs by Craig Chisholm.

Rick Redbeard.

The multi-million-pound revamp of Aberdeen’s Music Hall, has breathed new life and opportunity into the historical and iconic city centre entertainment venue.
One of the innovative schemes was to create more usable space for concerts and events within the building and it is in one of these spaces – the Big Sky Studio – that an early evening show is taking place.

The intimate room, with seating for around 50-100 people depending on layout, provided a unique up-close-and-personal opportunity to see former Phantom Band members Rick Redbeard and Duncan Marquiss perform short sets for a bargain ticket price (only £8.00) and at a quite civilised post-work Friday time (6pm start!).

Opening proceedings is Duncan Marquiss. His set consists of effects laden, ambient guitar soundscapes and space age blues instrumentals that lift the listener to transcendent realms of bliss.

Duncan Marquiss.

Hunched over his bank of guitar pedals, Marquiss coaxes beautiful textures from his instrument looping himself, manipulating the sound to create a cascading ocean of sound textures.

Using a slide or an e-bow to great effect, he strays into the world of avant-garde minimalism and experimentation, creating new and interesting sounds, with a screwdriver under the strings on one track, or laying his instrument on the ground and using small sticks to drum on the strings.

It’s a beautiful and satisfying experimental set that has the audience listening in hushed silence before erupting in rapturous applause at the end.

Rick Redbeard, better known to his parents and friends as Rick Anthony, offers a more straightforward but, nonetheless, satisfying set that is steeped in folky acoustic heritage whilst remaining topical and forward thinking.

His acoustic guitar strapped round him like a shield, he offers a satisfying nine song set of beautiful, heartfelt campfire melodies.

His intricate finger picking style is flawless and mesmerising, creating space to allow the songs to breathe and for the listener to fully embrace his well thought out lyricism.

Songs from his two previous solo albums – ‘No Selfish Heart’ from 2013 and ‘Awake Unto’, released in 2016 – are given an airing alongside sneak previews of a track or two from his proposed third album which he hopes to release this year.

Between songs he is friendly and chatty, acknowledging his family sitting a couple of rows from the front and discussing Brexit and the irony of his track ‘The Golden Age’ given the current political situation.

There’s a moment where a new song is stopped as, he says himself, his “brain and hands stopped communicating” and there’s a moment of amusement – and bemusement – when the tannoy announces that the show in the main hall is due to start in 5 minutes.

But moments like these add to the intimacy and personal feel of the performance rather than detract.

One can only hope that the success of this show encourages the Music Hall staff to organise more events of this nature – the early start is an interesting novelty that may encourage people to seek out new and interesting music and sounds whilst enjoying a post-work pint at the end of the week.

Overall, the evening proved to be a success – enjoyable music, an appreciative audience and a wonderful atmosphere. Here’s to the next one!

Big Sky Sessions returns to the Music Hall at 6pm on Friday 19th April with Iona Fyfe, Calum Morton-Teng and Ellen Gira.

Then on Friday 31st May with The Dark Carnival : Unplugged (which also includes a free glass of whisky).

Tickets for Iona Fyfe are available here. and for The Dark Carnival : Unplugged, click here.

Apr 022019
 

Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

The Men in Black returned to the Beach Ballroom for another triumphant performance, albeit one with a few teething troubles including a couple of false starts and one song being stopped half way through.

But, as lead singer Baz says apologetically “it’s only music, only a band” before pausing and adding:

“Not just any band – it’s the fucking Stranglers.”

And he’s right, it’s not just any band. It’s a legendary, critically acclaimed, punk band that scaled commercial peaks, influenced everyone from punks to Britpoppers and still sells out venues across the world nearly 50 years into their illustrious career.

And, as it’s only the second date of their 2019 tour, then any teething troubles can be as easily forgiven as the exuberance at seeing such a seminal act in front of a sold-out crowd.

Before the self-proclaimed Men in Black take the stage, however, there’s an opportunity to see another classic rock act ply their wares as Britain’s premier Rhythm & Blues act, the mighty Dr Feelgood, open the night’s proceedings.

It’s a very different Dr Feelgood that started in Canvey Island 1971 and became mainstays of the then burgeoning pub rock scene – long gone are original members Wilko Johnson, The Big Figure, John B Sparks and late, enigmatic frontman Lee Brilleaux.

Instead, present members Kevin Morris, PH Mitchell, Steve Walwyn and Robert Kane have been keeping
the band’s name alive as a going concern for a few decades now. 

Between them, they provide a competent, nostalgic and talented run through of some of the band’s finest moments – ‘Down by The Jetty’, ‘Milk and Alcohol’ and
a cover of ‘Route 66’ being stand out songs of their all too brief set.

The Stranglers themselves have a few line up changes over the years too and the only remaining members from their early years are bassist JJ Brunell and keyboard player Dave Greenfield – although drummer Jet Black is still part of the band when recording in the studio but no longer touring due to ill health.

It’s a typically eclectic set from the band that stretches back to their 70s beginnings right up to their most recent releases.

Chart hits such as ‘Golden Brown’, ‘Peaches’, ‘Always the Sun’ and closer ‘No More Heroes’ are well received by the adoring crowd as are fan favourites such as the pile driving ‘(Get a) Grip (On Yourself)’ which, as always, gets the crowd going wild only three songs in.

Humour is never far from the band – whether it’s JJ’s huge grin throughout the set, or lead singer and guitarist Baz Warne’s between song banter.

But the comedy moment of the night surely belongs to their poor guitar roadie, tonight celebrating his 40th birthday and getting the opportunity to dance topless on stage whilst wearing a tutu. Quite a sight, to say the least.

The Stranglers return to the Granite City in October as primary support to Alice Cooper in an eclectic three band bill that includes the surviving members seminal rockers The MC5, celebrating 50 years and billed on the night as The MC50.

It’s sure to be another unmissable night of live music that, one suspects, won’t feature any false song starts, early tour teething troubles and, most importantly, dancing roadies in skirts! Miss it if you dare.

Feb 272019
 

Duncan Harley reviews ‘Calendar Girls, the Musical’ at His Majesty’s  Theatre, Aberdeen.

All they ever really wanted to do was raise some cash to buy a settee for the local cancer ward but when word got out that Rylstone & District Women’s Institute were planning a Pirelli style Christmas calendar, things soon spiralled out of control.

It’s a well-worn tale. A bevy of rural friends decide to publish a fund-raiser for cancer support following a death.

John has died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and wife Angela’s pals at the Rylstone & District Women’s Institute set about creating a calendar as something for her to focus on during this most difficult time.

However, instead of the familiar Women’s Institute images of sheep infested landscapes, ecclesiastical spires and cricketed village greens, they decide to bare all.

The 1998 launch of the raunchy publication attracted widespread press coverage and very soon the print run reached into the tens of thousands. A book and a film followed along with international fame. Described as a group of ordinary ladies who achieved something extraordinary, the originators were initially awarded the dubious accolade ‘Oldie Exposure of the Year’.

In the fullness of time however, the semi-naked ladies were appearing at media-inspired events up and down the country including an appearance London Fashion Week and on a Thames TV cookery programme where they were requested to bake a dish of invitingly innuendo laden Spotted Dick.

There are few extant nipples within this musical interpretation of the tale but there is plenty of humour embedded in this take on the Yorkshire events which launch the grieving ladies of Knapely onto the international stage.

All in all, this is a commendable comedy musical classic. England’s Green and Pleasant Land does feature here and there, but the essence of this play within a musical is a powerful exploration of the various stages of grief, from denial to acceptance and moving on.

Little specks of Alan Bennet – If Jesus had maybe had kids then maybe the bible would be quite different – shine through in this Barlow and Firth creation and even Larkin’s This Be The Verse gets a look in with a resounding:

‘They fuck you up your mum and dad, they may not mean to but they do.’

Songs, and there are some 20 of them, include Spring Fete, Mrs Conventional, What Age Expects and the quite poignant Kilimanjaro. Then there is Ruth’s splendidly revealing love song My Russian Friend And I.

Calendar Girls is no Full Monty.

For starters the brashness is largely absent and the bare-all scenes are all done in the best possible taste. Be sure to take along a man-size pack of tissues though. If only to soak up the inevitable tears of both laughter and sadness.

Cast on Press Night: Fern Britton, Anna-Jane Casey, Sarah Crowe, Karen Dunbar, Pauline Daniels, Rebecca Storm, Denise Welch, Richard Anthony-Lloyd, Isobel Caswell, Danny Howker and Phil Corbitt – all good.
Stars: 4/5

Directed by Matt Ryan with Comedy Staging by Jos Houben, Calendar Girls the Musical plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 2 March.

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

Jan 242019
 

Duncan Harley reviews Fiddler on the Roof @ His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen.

Fiddler on the Roof plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday 26 January

Anti-Jewish pogroms in the not-so-far-off days of the Russian Empire were quite common and reached new heights during the period 1903 to 1906 when a series of state-sponsored ‘demonstrations’ affected many settlements in the Ukraine and in Bessarabia. Thousands of Jews were reportedly killed and many more thousands displaced as a wave of violence backed up by harsh laws targeted Russian Jews.

Tsar Nicholas II was not known for his tolerance of either dissidents or minority groups and in the political turbulence of the times the Jews made for a convenient scapegoat.

Married to a granddaughter of Queen Victoria he was referred to by Trotsky as having been “more awful than all of the tyrants of ancient and modern history”. Aberdeen’s Bon Accord Magazine was more succinct when, during a state visit to Balmoral it reported that:

“When the Tsar is at home, we do not hesitate to call him a tyrant. Then in heaven’s name, why – when he visits his grandmother-in -law, should we play the hypocrite and fete he whom we at other times curse.”

The cruelty of the pogrom is one of the central themes of Fiddler on the Roof. Adapted from the Sholem Aleichem short stories about Tevye the Dairyman, Fiddler is set in the fictional town of Anatevka at the high-point of the early 20th century Tsarist inspired anti-Jewish demonstrations.

Alongside struggling with his shrewish wife, Tevye – played by Kevin Haggart – struggles with his deeply held belief that tradition should triumph over sentimentality. Faced with the spectre of five daughters who pretty much refuse to embrace arranged marriage and the spectre of a rising anti-Jewish normality he gradually has to adapt to the inevitable erosion of religious and cultural traditions in a changing world.

Finally, and this is no spoiler, the reality of pogrom rears its ugly head and the tight-knit villagers are forced to leave Anatevka for an uncertain future.

Alongside the piety and the angst there is some comedy

With a simple but effective set, and yes there is indeed a rooftop fiddler, some fifty or so players tread the boards as Kevin’s Tevye breaks open that fourth-wall to do battle with his principles and speak directly with both God and the theatre audience.

Essentially the mainstay of the whole show, Tevye has the unenviable task of marrying off his five daughters none of whom seems likely to listen to a blind word he says.

With iconic numbers such as Matchmaker, If I Were a Rich Man and the poignant Tevye/Golde bedroom duet Do You Love Me, Fiddler seamlessly blends sadness, joy and the sufferings of humanity into a memorable musical mix of hope and despair.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Alongside the piety and the angst there is some comedy. For starters there are immortal lines such as ‘If you want hair, you should marry a monkey’ and Ryan Bruce’s Rabbi has a humorous but irreverent take on the Tsar. For my money however the aptly-named Bottle Dancers take the high-road humour-wise.

Worthy of panto, the famous five – Tony Barron, Ian Baxter, Chris Cormack, Adam Huckle and Kaz Robertson – take bottle dancing to an entirely new and athletic level which has to be seen to believed

Cons, and there very few, include a couple of minor prop failures on first night plus maybe a need for a sterner and less apologetic policeman. Pros, and there are many, include fabulous choreography, splendid period costumes and a musical performance which might leave many professionals on the back-foot.

And of course, this Phoenix Theatre production of that ever-so-Jewish tragedy takes place during the run-up to Holocaust Memorial Day (Sunday 27 January).

Stars: 4/5

Directed by Liz Milne and Clare Haggart, Fiddler on the Roof plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday 26 January

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