Oct 212021
 

Review and photographs by Craig Chisholm.

Sunderland art-rockers, Field Music, returned to Aberdeen after a 9 year hiatus to play to a receptive crowd at The Tunnels on Carnegie Brae. Having released their 8th studio album – Flat White Moon – last April the band would have been relieved to finally get the show on the road in support of it, with this date being the opening night of a full UK tour.

First up, however, was local musician Steven Milne.

The Little Kicks frontman was drafted in early that afternoon after original support act – Galaxians – were unable to perform.

Milne is at pains to point out this is his first live appearance in 19 months. Coupled with the late call up, it could have proved to be a recipe for disaster.

However, he is nothing but naturally talented and that talent shone through in his solo performance.

Sitting behind a keyboard, he was captivating and engrossing as he ran through a set of Little Kicks tracks and a cover version of The Blue Nile’s ‘Tinseltown in the Rain’.
And it’s a credit to his song writing skills that his own material more than held its own even beside the sublime Blue Nile track.

A new Little Kicks album is due for April and should be on everyone’s shopping lists.

Brothers Peter and David Brewis have released 8 albums in the last 16 years under the moniker Field Music and tonight’s gig showcases songs across that time span.

Swapping roles between vocals / guitar and drums, there’s a real chemistry and understanding between the two siblings.

The music, the humour – it’s all interchangeable and on the same level between and during tracks. They’re the anti-Gallagher’s in that respect – brothers in music with no friction or individual ambition tearing them apart.

But that’s where the comparison begins and ends – the Brewis brother’s music isn’t steeped in conservative, classic rock, like Noel and Liam are, but in art-rock futurism and forward thinking of bands such as Talking Heads or Scritti Politti.

The set itself leans heavily on the recently released ‘Flat White Moon’ but there’s a dive into their back catalogue, with tracks such as ‘A House is not a Home’ and ‘(I Keep Thinking) About a New Thing’ given an airing.

Personal highlight for this correspondent was ‘Disappointed’, a near perfect pop tune steeped in a light funk backbeat.

The late, great musical genius Prince once tweeted their track ‘The Noisy Days Are Over’ without comment to his millions of followers – and that says a lot.

If anyone could recognise good music, you’d expect it from someone like him.

And the crowd recognise it tonight – it’s a magnificent set that has them clapping enthusiastically and begging for more.

After a good few years without a visit North to the Granite City, it was a joy to see them here again – hopefully they return sooner than later.

Oct 202021
 

Review and photographs by Craig Chisholm.

Just over three decades ago, The Quireboys released their debut album ‘A Bit of What You Fancy’.

Tonight, they revisited their commercial high point with a date at the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen.

First however, the crowd are entertained by up-and-coming slide guitarist Troy Redfern, backed with drummer Finn McAuley and bassist Keira Kenworthy.

Redfern is a virtuoso guitarist.

His guitar fireworks are astonishing to watch, his fingers running up and down the fretboard fluidly and gracefully.

But it’s not just a show in histrionics and shredding, it’s raw, gritty, heartfelt blues filled with emotion and belief.

Watching him, you know that he believes in the music he is singing, that he feels it – and that’s important.

It shows authenticity and a love for the genre.

For him to light up the guitar, he needs a strong groove and foundation to sit upon and his rhythm section are more than up to the job – they provide a solid, thunderous backbone to Redfern’s solos and slide guitar masterclass.

Closing his half hour set with a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s classic ‘Voodoo Chile’ you can see he’s made some new fans in the audience, many of whom are queued up minutes later to meet him and purchase his music.

“It’s 7 O’clock and time for a party” as their song goes – well, it’s not, it’s 9 o’clock when they hit the stage, but the party is most definitely on.

It’s been over 31 years now since their debut album ‘A Bit of What You Fancy’ was released.

It was halcyon times for the band back then – the album hit no.2 in the charts, singles went Top 40. There were support slots with the likes of Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones, on the bill of the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington, appearances on Top of The Pops and huge headline tours of the UK, Europe and beyond.

But time moves on and tastes change – at the height of grunge in the early 90s, the band parted ways and went on an extended hiatus for a few years.

But The Quireboys are nothing but tenacious and not ones to shy away from a challenge.

Certain musical styles never go away either – and in the case of their bluesy, classic rock it’s a style that will always have its fans.

And the fans are out tonight as they revisit their debut, changing the running order to bring new focus on old songs and remind everyone why they had so much success with it.

The singles are all greeted with cheers – ‘7 O’Clock’, ‘Hey You’ and ‘There She Goes Again’ working the crowd on the frenzy and getting them dancing.

And there’s moments of poignancy and reflection such as the emotional ballad ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’.

‘Whipping Boy’ is a particular highlight – low down and dirty slow blues, underpinned with some bass that reverberates through your soul.

The band seem to be enjoying it – lead singer Spike seems particularly happy to be on stage again after Covid’s shutdown of live music.

Between songs he’s humorous and friendly, speaking directly to members of the crowd, always with a twinkle in his eye.

He also seems to be slightly lubricated; shall we say – despite his quips about having not drank for 10 years.

But it’s Friday night and most of the crowd are on the same level as him and it endears him to them even more.

Once a song starts, however, he is back to being the professional showman and singer. Every song is nailed perfectly, not a note dropped or lyric forgotten. And his voice, that raspy, 20 fags a day sound is spot on.

Despite tonight being a celebration of the past, it also points that there’s a strong future for the band – their unique take on that classic Stones or Faces sound, rooted in the blues, R&B and Country will always have listeners. And with over a dozen albums behind them and the potential for a dozen more, so will The Quireboys.

Sep 282021
 

Duncan Harley reviews Slains Castle’s Secret History, a new publication by Mike Shepherd and Dacre Stoker.

Slains Castle on the very edge of the Buchan coastline is a widely misunderstood edifice and a confusion of associations with Dracula do little to explain the history of the place.
This new book by Mike Shepherd and Dacre Stoker is a gamechanger.

Readers of Mike’s previous books and followers of Dacre Stoker’s work – which includes Dracul, a Dracula prequel written in collaboration with J.D. Barker of Fourth Monkey fame – will already be aware of the Cruden Bay Dracula links.

But few however, will be aware of the true history of that Slains Castle we all love to associate with the Gothic Horror genre.

An extraordinary set of stories lie within these pages. Churchill visited as did Johnson and Boswell. The cutting off of the heads of dead Danes, an epic story of religious strife and a shambolic plan to surrender Scotland to the Spanish Crown inhabit this book. And the ‘tussle’ for the souls of the living takes centre stage.

There are tales of a French conspiracy to Anglicise Scotland and the role of the Earl of Errol in shaping Scotland’s future is explored in major detail. But no spoilers here.

This is in essence a history of Scotland as told through the lens of Slains. The castle itself dips in and out of the tale, and it’s only on page 197 that we get to the essence of the Dracula connection.

I would have preferred an earlier link if truth be told. And this perhaps suggests that the authors were conflicted in purpose. In part diary, there is however much to recommend in this book.

Spanning from 1164 to the present day, this take on the untold history of Slains is an important addition to the history, and the mythology, of North East Scotland.

With a foreword by Alan Hay – archivist of Clan Hay – Slains Castle’s Secret History, is published in paperback by Wild Wolf Publishing on 20th September and, if you’ll excuse the pun, is a book to get your teeth into.

Highly recommended. Five Stars.

Slains Castle’s Secret History by Mike Shepherd and Dacre Stoker.
ISBN: 979-8469387046

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.

Jun 242020
 

Duncan Harley reviews Mike Shepherd’s latest book, ‘The World Makers – Who Gets to the Top and Why’.

At first glance Mike Shepherd’s new book might well appear to be a detailed instruction manual on how to reach beyond the greasy pole and become a super-achiever.

And, there is certainly a glut of content here to sign-post the ambitious.

Tales of Olympians, top scientists, infamous and not so infamous politicians, ground breaking engineers and innovative business leaders – over achievers the lot of them, inhabit the pages.

But, as Mike points out early on in his introduction, the ambitious amongst us will undoubtedly gain insight here but the tales within might actually deter them from ever trying to get there in the first place.

Described as gossipy by the author, this is certainly no dry academic tome and throughout the 300 or so pages of discussion there are dozens of entertaining and often supremely bizarre tales involving the unexpected aspects of human behaviour exhibited by the gifted few.

Mathematician John von Neuman – who worked on the Manhattan Project, could memorise entire telephone directories and seemingly was able to recall any of the entries on request.

Moroccan Emperor Moulay Sharif who fathered some 1,200 children. Heiress Evalyn McLean who took the art of gloating to new levels by parading the Hope Diamond on the collar of her pet pooch.

Henry Morton Stanley who rose from penury to prominence as the man sent by the infamous New York Herald press baron Gordon Bennett Jr to find the missing David Livingstone.

Churchill, who despite episodic attacks of the Black Dog and a fairly mixed early career, rose to some prominence in the 1940’s. And many many more.

A stoic belief in one’s own destiny, an obsession with achievement, intense ambition and on occasion an intense and incorruptible – as in the case of Thomas Plimsoll of Plimsoll Line fame, desire to do good all feature within these pages alongside much discussion regarding the nature of those single-minded achievers.

Throw in a bit of hubris and a measure of narcissism and you get the drift of this book.

Many of the featured hyper-achievers deserve to be celebrated but inevitably many others do not. Florence Nightingale certainly falls into the former category – for her achievements after the Crimean Campaign.

Saparmurat Niyazov – tyrannical dictator of Turkmenistan, resides firmly in the ranks of the latter. But no spoilers here.

At the core of the discussion though is the idea that these big ideas of those few in number super-achievers shape our world and, like it or not, the rest of us have to fit as best we can into the framework they create.

On an optimistic note Mike concludes that the folk at the base of the pyramid can usually rub along just fine with those at the pinnacle but tempers this with the brutal thought that the actions of those achievers, whom he labels world makers, might just be a little extreme.

He may very well be right.

The World Makers by Mike Shepherd is published as a Kindle Book (291pp) and is available from Amazon @ £2.99

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 262020
 

Duncan Harley reviews Hamish Napier’s new album, The Woods.

In this, the third part of his Strathspey Pentalogy musical journey, composer Hamish Napier celebrates the ancient forests of the Scottish Highlands.

I’ve ranted on about the man’s music on a few occasions. Once or twice in the, now defunct Leopard Magazine, a couple of times in Aberdeen Voice and in the blogosphere.

So, here I go at it again.

The first album dwelt on vivid sonic images of the River Spey – The River, and part two of the five-part journey – The Railway, was dedicated to railwaymen all around the north-east.

In this new collection there are 21 new tracks which according to Hamish incorporate 28 new tunes and pieces in a folk-tune cycle. Legends, folklore and a heady mix of jigs, reels, marches and slow airs inhabit the album.

Themed around the medieval Ogham alphabet, there is says Hamish:

“A track for every letter of the Scottish Gaelic tree alphabet.” 

Venus of the Woods, an upbeat polka, reflects the cheerful mood of the ash while the elm, a coffin tree, is celebrated in a melancholy lament – The Tree of the Underworld. Birch, gean, holly, alder and rowan all get a mention as do willow, oak and hawthorn and more.

Hamish recalls his childhood playing in the Anagach Woods over at Granton as being the primary inspiration.

‘What I viewed as simply the woods is now a gathering of characters and personalities … my work is about celebrating my homeland, finding hidden gems and stories in the surrounding landscape.

“I have used the Scottish Gaelic alphabet, which is centred around Scotland’s native trees, to explore the folklore, natural and social heritage of Strathspey.

“I’ve composed tunes for all 18 Gaelic letters. There’s also music for the people who lived in the woods locally, and who explored, worked, foraged, mused, trained, flourished and died there.

“I explored the flora and fauna of the Caledonian forest, riparian woods, montane scrub and other woodlands, in particular the properties and uses of our twenty or so native trees.’

Hamish is joined in this new production by an array of talent including Calum MacCrimmon, Steve Byrnes, Ross Ainslie and James Lindsay.

All in all, this is a quite splendid album. Go buy/download.

The full 21 track album will be released on 20th March (the Spring Equinox) and is available now for pre-order @ http://www.hamishnapier.com/

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