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.

.

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.

Mar 122020
 

Duncan Harley reviews On Your Feet – The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen.

Despite the expansive title, this is really a biopic of Gloria.

Thin character development leaves husband/manager Emilio, played here by George Ioannides, lagging.

Portrayed as caring, charming and occasionally comedic, that’s about all you get of the essence of the man.

Gloria, a splendid Philippa Stefani, and her mum and her gran hold the plot strings and the show is really about the Estefan brand.

Plot-wise, an attempt is made to set the bands rise against a mid-20th century geo-socio-political scene in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution. Havana born Gloria’s family flee to Miami following Castro’s takeover.

Dad Jose – Elia Lo Tauro, participates in the disastrous Bay of Pigs CIA inspired invasion of Cuba and is later exposed to a toxic chemical defoliant whilst serving in Vietnam. He gets ill and dies.

A later traffic accident leaves Gloria wheel-chair bound. She miraculously recovers. The band face determined music industry hostility. They overcome this.

In short, the link-story is all about triumph in the face of adversity. But it’s still paper-thin in places and perhaps over-reliant on tear-jerkers.

There are better musicals in the biopic juke-box pack, think Jersey Boys and Beautiful. But of course, none have a back catalogue which crosses over so many musical genres.

Ballad, disco, pop, samba all feature and in both Spanish and English.

Combined with the shows drop dead gorgeous dance numbers and, as a piece of uplifting entertainment, it works. Staging, and lighting and sound – superb. Ensemble/swing/band all good.

In all there are some twenty-one stunningly performed musical numbers. But please can I have some more plot sir?

Entertainment: 3/5
Stars: 3/5

On Your Feet is @ HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 14 March.

Words © Duncan Harley, Images © Aberdeen Performing Arts

Feb 212020
 

Duncan Harley reviews Dial M for Murder at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen.

The unfaithful Margot – a splendid Sally Bretton, kills the hitman hired by tennis-pro husband Tony and heads to death row. Enter Inspector Hubbard who, assisted by Margot’s lover Max, solves the crime and cheats the hangman.

Well, truth is Hubbard got it wrong first time around but he eventually gets his bearings.

Case solved, end of story, all live happily ever after. Well not quite.

Dial M is one of those classic thrillers where we, the audience, are in on the perfect-murder plot from the start. But, and all power to them, it takes ages for the police to catch on. If only they had asked us at the start.

But that’s not how these things work.

This is a four-hander which means you won’t ever see hitman Captain Lesgate and DCI Hubbard on stage at the same time since both are ably played by Christopher Harper. Of the two, Hubbard is the most believable and has the unenviable task of sorting out who did what to whom and how.

Lesgate just has to do and die and frankly he deserves the latter. An unlovable rogue, he joins Tom Chambers’ Tony in the over-egged dialogue stakes.

In truth though, the Inspector really is neither one thing nor another.

Although things pick up in the second act, the DCI Hubbard character bumbles early on between watered-down Taggart and smartened up Columbo.

The sharp suits certainly fit the era but a sometimes-thin script detracts and the police assault on Max – played by Michael Salami, seems without context.

The convoluted plot is eventually unravelled. But it’s still laboured at times.

Perhaps the period setting is partly to blame. Originally a 1950s piece, Dial M has been re-imagined within the 1960s for this production.

2020 might have been better. Beset by references to the likes of ‘press button A’, kerb appeal might have been enhanced by the addition of a mobile phone or two.

All in all, though, this is a decent stab at the perfect crime thriller. And there’s nothing more entertaining than a good murder.

Entertainment value: 4/5

Stars: 3/5

Dial M for Murder is showing @ His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until 22 February

Words © Duncan Harley and Images © APA

  • Aberdeen Voice does not accept payments for advertising or publishing, we rely on our volunteers and donations from the public. Donations can be made via paypal to donations@aberdeenvoice.com
Feb 122020
 

Duncan Harley reviews We Will Rock You at His Majesty’s Theatre,  Aberdeen.

Mad Max meets Star Wars in this hilariously camp re-run of the Queen back catalogue. We Will Rock You (WWRU) is of course a jukebox musical and the Ben Elton inspired story is at best weak at the knees.

But it doesn’t really matter. Few come to this show to dwell on the plot.

It’s all about the Queen numbers. And the show features a shed load of them.

Set 300 years into the future, WWRU is set in a world dominated by Globalsoft, an outrageously oppressive corporate giant run by the Killer Queen, which dominates society to the point where free thought and creativity have been all but obliterated. Enter hero Galileo Figaro – a splendidly cast Ian McIntosh.

A bohemian and a dreamer by nature, Galileo – following various adventures including an Arthurian guitar hunt ending in Wembley Stadium – re-invents rock, defeats the Killer Queen and gets the girl.

So that’s all right then. But, as I said, the plot is simply a modest vehicle for the music and the entertainment value is where it’s at.

Truth is, with a 25 strong Queen song list including the likes of Radio Ga Ga, Another One Bites The Dust, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Are The Champions and Fat Bottomed Girls it would be hard to fail.

Add in a roller-coaster of panto-inspired innuendo, lots – and I mean lots – of fast and furious choreography and of course a Bohemian Rhapsody finale and the whole thing works brilliantly.

Stars? Amy Di Bartolomeo’s Oz for one. Her solo No One But You (Only the Good Die Young) is to die for. Adam Strong’s Commander Khashoggi – delightfully camp. Michael McKell’s Buddy – suitably stoned. Swing/Ensemble – simply brilliant! Technically stunning throughout.

Go see. And don’t forget to pack your air guitar.

Entertainment value: 4/5

@ His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until 15 February
Words © Duncan Harley and Images © APA

  • Aberdeen Voice does not accept payments for advertising or publishing, we rely on our volunteers and donations from the public. Donations can be made via paypal to donations@aberdeenvoice.com
Feb 072020
 

Duncan Harley Reviews Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen.

The task of re-animating dead flesh is not for the faint hearted but, at some two hundred years distance from publication of the original novel, Mary Shelley’s tale of a latter-day Prometheus continues to fascinate.

During the summer of 1816, Mary Shelley along with Lord Byron and Mary’s future husband – the poet Percy Shelley holidayed near Geneva.

Freakish weather curtailed their plans and a ghost story competition ensued. Mary famously triumphed and in 1818 – aged twenty, she published the Gothic horror novel we now know as Frankenstein.

She was later to record:

How I, then a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea?”

Multiple takes on the story have emerged during the subsequent years and the nightmarish tale of science versus god has spawned a plethora of sensationally bonkers Hollywood films and theatre adaptations.

Thankfully, this new but ambitious theatrical take by Rona Munro steers clear of the bolt-necked cadaver approach. The familiar story is acted out by a cast of seven who perhaps struggle to inhabit some dozen roles.

Greg Powrie for example plays three distinct characters. But there is little apart from minor costume/accent changes to clearly differentiate the individual roles. He is not alone in this.

The central role is that of Mary Shelley herself – played by Eilidh Loan. As she pens her debut novel, she also directs the action on stage.

At first, and all power to Eilidh, this approach is intriguing and shows promise. She is after all the real monster albeit in creative guise.

These are her words and she gets to decide who lives and dies.

Thoughts are expressed, written down and the plot is duly acted out. Then more thoughts are expressed written down and duly acted out. Actors rush around delivering frantically shouted lines between her constant interjections and the stage takes on the chaotic energy of an inner-city road junction.

At first this appears fresh and promising. But as the performance progresses the approach takes on a slightly repetitive quality which eventually sours the narrative. Neither one thing nor another, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein cries out for urgent reappraisal.

Michael Moreland’s portrayal of the monster is more than adequate.

Lighting, sound and set do full justice to the story. But there is perhaps a need to re-think the urgency of the plot and maybe lessen Mary Shelley’s iron grip.

This really should have been a completely decent bit of theatre. Prepare to be horrified.

Stars: 3/5

Directed by Patricia Beneckie, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein plays @ HMT Aberdeen until 8 February.

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122

Words © Duncan Harley and Images © APA

  • Aberdeen Voice does not accept payments for advertising or publishing, we rely on our volunteers and donations from the public. 
    Donations can be made via paypal to donations@aberdeenvoice.com

 

Feb 022020
 

Duncan Harley Reviews ‘Beautiful – The Carol King Musical’ at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen.

As jukebox musicals go Beautiful hits the sweet spot. Familiar songs, slick choreography and simple staging litter the production.

Add Daisy Wood-Davis to the mix, sprinkle in a measure of 60’s pop culture fold-in some sugary bio and cook slowly.
Result? Mouth-watering!

OK, perhaps the bio is a little bit hazy in places. The story dwells on Carol’s first marriage and kinda glosses out the other three.

And maybe music insiders would express surprise at the portrayal of a sugar-sweet music industry bereft of draconian contracts and stingy executives.

But this is entertainment at its best, and not by any means a social history class. So, if the audience comes out smiling, all is well in nostalgia-land.

Alongside the familiar Carol King solos, and there are quite a few, the show makes great play of the fact that the early King was in essence a prolific maker of hits. But for other people.

She later found her own voice, but her early career saw her sweating as a jobbing-songwriter in Broadway’s Brill Building churning out production line hits for rising stars. Bryan Ferry, James Taylor, The Carpenters, Roberta Flack, Neil Sedaka and The Drifters all sequestrated her talent to good advantage.

Finally, she divorced from song-writing partner/would-be playwright Gerry Goffin – played here by a splendidly manic-depressive Adam Gillian.

The post-split storyline involves her own solo hits with albums such as Tapestry and Rhymes and Reasons taking the international charts by storm.

Directed by Marc Bruni and based on the book by Douglas McGrath, this musical version of the Carol King story is more than just a Jersey Boys take on the familiar hits however.

The musical reeks of empowerment through adversity and the plot moves steadily but relentlessly through the highs and lows until, at the very end – but no spoilers here, the narrative culminates in a poignant but triumphant conclusion.

Along the way the plot threads a path through sit-com and drama with some twenty-five familiar songs spread along the way.

Favourites? Daisy Wood-Davis shines as Carol with Laura Baldwin’s up-beat Cynthia a close second. Song highlights? Be-Bop-a-Lula, You’ve Got a Friend and of course Beautiful.

This musical drama is stuffed with familiar hits and features ‘guest appearances’ by the likes of Neil Sedaka, The Drifters and The Righteous Brothers at every turn – honest injuns. What’s not to like?

Stars: 4.5/5

Words © Duncan Harley, Images © HMT

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)