Gig Review: Shakespear’s Sister at Sage Gateshead, 10th November 2019

The second gig of my weekend double-header at Sage Gateshead, following Adam Ant on the Saturday, was Shakespear’s Sister on the Sunday. Geth came with me on this occasion, as he’s probably more of a fan than I am – I like their stuff but am not hugely familiar with it. The November tour was in support of recent reunion album Ride Again, the band’s first new material since the early ’90s.

The support act was an artist called Delena, whose saccharine pop was a bit forgettable. I don’t usually have high standards for support acts, as I think it’s great that artists who are just starting out get the chance to go on big tours, but having enjoyed the Glam Skanks so much the previous evening, I was fairly disappointed this time round!

Delena

Shakespear’s Sister did a very varied set – a mixture of their new material and their old classics. The new stuff has a slight country and western tinge, which I’m not usually a fan of, but I didn’t mind on this occasion (though Geth wasn’t particularly impressed). It was the more well-known songs in the second half that really got the audience on their feet, though. Both Siobhan Fahey and Marcella Detroit were apparently struggling with colds, and so they sang exceptionally under the circumstances!

Shakespear's Sister

On the whole it was a great show with lots of good tunes, onstage banter and interesting visuals. Can’t ask for more.

Updated Band Aid baby bucket list progress: song artists 6/37 (16.2%); message artists 2/7 (28.6%); total artists 8/44 (18.2%).

Gig Review: Adam Ant at Sage Gateshead, 9th November 2019

Another November gig… but far from the last!

I was at the Sage Gateshead two nights running over the weekend of the 9th and 10th November.  The Saturday gig was Adam Ant, who is of course an absolute ‘80s pop legend and thus a must-see in my book.  The tour was celebrating the 1982 Friend Or Foe album, which was played in its entirety, followed by a set of favourites and crowd-pleasers.

The support act were the Glam Skanks, who are an all-female glam rock band: basically, everything I was looking for in a band when I was a teenager.  The image and the music is just right – being from California, their sound leans more towards the American end of glam rock (New York Dolls etc.), but they obviously know their stuff regarding the British history as well and it was a really fun, energetic set.  I loved them and will be investigating their music further!

The Glam Skanks at Sage Gateshead
New favourites!

The energy only ramped up further when Adam Ant and his band came on stage after the interval.  It was most definitely a ‘standing from the outset’ gig (if you go to a lot of older bands’ gigs, where the audience tends to skew a bit older as well, you will know that this is usually not the case!).

Adam Ant at Sage Gateshead
It was difficult to get a photo of him ’cause he wouldn’t stay still!

The Friend Or Foe section was a good romp through the album tracks (including a rousing ‘Goody Two Shoes’, probably my highlight of the gig), and then things really kicked off for the rest of the set.  I was so happy to hear ‘Xerox’, my favourite track from the Ants’ earlier and slightly gothier days, and of course the crowd went mad for the big hits.  Here’s a video I took of ‘Antmusic’:

It’s getting really hard to choose my favourite gigs from among the many I’ve been to this year, but this one is definitely up there!  I’ll do a 2019 gig roundup next month.  But I’m not quite done yet…

Gig Review: The Midnight at Manchester Albert Hall, 7th November 2019

Both Geth and I have been getting into synthwave in a big way this year. It’s the perfect modern ’80s-aping genre for me, while Geth was starting to get fed up with what was happening in industrial and needed a new type of electronic music to listen to. As such, we’ve been listening to it lots and have a few new favourite bands!

The Midnight are my favourite synthwave band, so when we heard that they were playing a few dates in the UK, it was an absolute no-brainer that we were going to go see them. A few friends from Newcastle had the same idea, so it was a good crowd in Manchester last Thursday for the gig.

The support act, Violet Days, were already playing when we arrived at the venue and found seats (a really good space on the balcony right above the stage!). I wouldn’t say their music was particularly standout to me, but it provided a nice bit of background while Geth got the drinks in and bought a couple of t-shirts at the merch stand.

Violet Days
Loved this viewpoint over the stage! Not too crowded either, so if I’m ever back at the Albert Hall I’ll know where to go.

While I love going to see classic artists who have been going for forty years or so, the sheer depth of their back catalogues means that there’s always a good few songs I don’t know (even Duran Duran, who are my favourite band and whom I listen to every day, have a few deep cuts and side projects with which I’m less familiar). For newer bands like the Midnight with only one or two albums, this is not a problem! I’ve been listening to their stuff so much this year that I knew every single song played, and was able to sing along to most of it (I don’t usually hear lyrics when I’m listening to music due to being hard of hearing, so this was a big deal). I don’t think I’ve come across one of their songs that I don’t absolutely love, so it was a brilliant, energetic show. In fact, the band have done so many great songs that there were a couple of my favourites (‘Crystalline’ and ‘Kick Drums And Red Wine’) that didn’t get played – but I didn’t mind, because everything they did play was brilliant too!

Setlist here.

The Midnight
It was nice to be close enough that even with my blurry photography, you can still tell who it is!

I just want to give a quick shout out to the Manchester Albert Hall, which is a brilliant venue. Hoping to attend a few more gigs there in the future! I will also be looking out for more synthwave gigs next year.

Gig Review: A-ha at Leeds First Direct Arena, 2nd November 2019

Geth and I had both been looking forward to A-ha for months. We’d booked the tickets back in February, just after our previous visit to Leeds First Direct Arena to see Tears For Fears, and even then it was tricky to get tickets as they were selling out so quickly! I’m so glad we got to go.

There was no support act, as A-ha were scheduled to be playing for a good two and a half hours – but this did mean that the doors opened a whole two hours before the band were due on stage, and so even though we hadn’t rushed to the venue, we were still stuck in our seats for an hour before the band came on! It would have been nice if the times had been made clearer beforehand.

When the band did come on, they were accompanied by some brilliant visuals in the style of the ‘Take On Me’ video.

The tour was aimed to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Hunting High And Low album (or the nearly-an-anniversary at any rate – the album came out a few months after I was born and I’m not quite thirty-five yet!) As such, one of the t-shirts they were selling made no reference to the band whatsoever – it was just a black and white striped t-shirt with ‘1985’ emblazoned across it in red. Did I get it? You bet I did. Birth year represent!

A-ha 1985 t-shirt
A new favourite t-shirt 🙂

The bulk of the show was constituted by the Hunting High And Low album being played in its entirety, so for the most part the audience knew what to expect next. Having seen the band perform on a BBC ’80s nostalgia show a couple of years ago, I’d assumed Morten Harket was finding it difficult to hit the high notes on ‘Take On Me’ these days, as he’d taken it down an octave for the BBC show. At the gig, however, he managed the original arrangement admirably, which was much appreciated!

After they’d done the album tracks, there was an interval, and the band then launched into a few bonus favourites. I was a little disappointed by the lack of ‘Touchy!’, as it’s a beautifully silly song and thus appeals to me hugely – but to be honest I wasn’t really expecting them to play it, nice as it would have been! They did finish with a wonderfully crowd-pleasing ‘The Living Daylights’, which I think may be the first Bond theme I’ve ever seen performed live by the original artists (note to self: must not start new bucket list).

Setlist here.

A-ha at Leeds First Direct Arena

On the whole, it was a fantastic show and well worth the wait. I expect it’ll be a few years before A-ha come back to the UK, but I’d love to see them again sometime!

Gig Review: Squeeze at Sage Gateshead, 19th October 2019

It’s been a hectic few weeks and so it’s taken me until now to review the Squeeze gig that Geth and I went to three weeks ago! Still, my motto at the moment is ‘better late than never’, so here it is…

The support band were Heaven 17. I really loved seeing them at Electric Dreams last year and they were even better this time round! One of the highlights was a cover of ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’, duetted by Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware. Martyn had the best glittery jacket on, and the two of them were on really good form. The backing singers were fab, too, especially on ‘Temptation’.

Setlist here.

Heaven 17
These are the least blurry pictures, but they’re fairly poor even by my standards.

The main event was of course Squeeze, taking us on a journey through their extensive back catalogue. Pretty much every hit single and notable song was played – my highlights were ‘Hourglass’, ‘Cool For Cats’ and ‘Up The Junction’, all of which were favourites when I was a kid, but it’s been ‘Tempted’ that’s been in my head for the last few weeks because it was such a good rendition!

Nice to see a ukulele on stage too. I’ll be looking out for them more often from now on!

Setlist here.

Squeeze
More blurry ‘photography’.

More gig reviews coming over the next few days!

Gig Review: Gary Numan at O2 Academy Newcastle, 26th September 2019

Last night, in retrospect, wasn’t the best night to have scheduled a trip out to see a gig. Well, it might have been when I booked the tickets a few months ago, but by the time it actually rolled around, Geth and I were both fairly exhausted due to the preceding fortnight being absolutely non-stop for both of us.

However, I’d been waiting to see Gary Numan for a long time (I believe I was first planning to see him play at the notoriously cancelled Alt-Fest festival in 2014) and so I was determined to go out, enjoy myself and not fall asleep! It helped that we arrived just in time for doors, as it meant we were able to get a seat close to the bar and enjoy the show from further back.

The support act was Kanga. I quite liked their industrial stylings at first, although the tracks did start to get a bit samey towards the end. Both Geth and I are in a place where we’ve reached industrial music saturation point over the last year or two – this does happen periodically – and so I will keep the artist in mind for when I’m more in the mood for listening to that kind of thing again.

Kanga, 26th September 2019
Kanga’s stage lighting was not very photography-friendly so this is as clear a picture as you’re getting, I’m afraid!

Once Gary Numan came on, though, the energy in the room was fantastic. He kicked off with ‘My Name Is Ruin’, which is very familiar to audiences now having been the lead single off last year’s hit album Savage. We then had a selection of tracks from pretty much every era of his career, with the ’70s and ’80s hits not really making an appearance until towards the end – being a fan of those early albums I would have liked to hear a few more, but I loved the variation in the set and appreciated the chance to hear some songs that I’m not so familiar with! The encore was also a nice touch, with some quieter songs in the mix, including a demo track (‘Intruder’) that hasn’t been released anywhere yet.

Setlist here.

Gary Numan, 26th September 2019
Legendary and energetic. He did stand still for ‘Absolution’, which is when I snapped this picture!

A great gig, one of my favourites so far this year (although I suspect there’s some stiff competition coming up this autumn).

Here’s a video I took of ‘Are Friends Electric?’. You have to, really, don’t you?

The next gig I’m going to is in three weeks’ time. I will try to be less busy and tired that week!

New Hits Friday…uh, Saturday: 23rd August 2019

There were five new hits in the chart yesterday.

Sam Feldt and Rani – Post Malone

It’s a nice summery tune, but it’s pretty generic. I’m sure Post Malone appreciates the namecheck though!

I quite like the video, which is all colourful backdrops and partying with drag queens. I have to dock it a couple of points for the car-standing, though.

Normani – Motivation

Good danceable pop beat. I find the tune a little forgettable though.

The video-within-a-video has some serious ’90s vibes, and not just because Normani has her birth year emblazoned across her top half the time.

Taylor Swift – Lover

A bit acoustic-y, which is kind of a throwback to her early work. It’s a little slow for me, but it’s nicely put together.

The video IS A CHRISTMAS VIDEO EEK. A little girl sits under a Christmas tree, holding a snowglobe which turns out to contain Taylor, her eponymous lover and their weird magical house, where at one point they have a New Year party. Nice video, but released at the wrong time of year!

Headie One – Both

That Ultra Nate sample OMG! Takes me right back to 1997. The generic rap over the top is not my thing though.

The video features an extravagant mansion, a dog, a bag of cash, a retro ’70s TV and the ubiquitous car-standing. It’s a bit of a surreal one, more imagery than storyline.

Jorja Smith and Burna Boy – Be Honest

I like the summery beat, and it’s an okay tune if not a standout.

The video is about people in an urban setting trying to keep cool in a heatwave. It makes me feel a bit claustrophobic and glad that it’s not been too warm here this summer!

More new hits next week.

New Hits Friday: 9th-16th August 2019

Double New Hits today as I was too busy travelling last week.

There were four new hits in the chart on the 9th of August.

Dermot Kennedy – Outnumbered

Singer-songwriter type track, a bit saccharine for me. At least it’s got a tune though!

Lots of calming wide shots and nature settings in the video, which makes me feel wintry for some reason.

Jax Jones and Bebe Rexha – Harder

Boring tune, irritating flourishes on the synth line. Pretty forgettable overall.

The video is a slightly tacky wedding story about Bebe Rexha marrying a man she probably shouldn’t, while Jax Jones is the underdressed wedding entertainment!

Aitch – Taste (Make It Shake)

More free advertising for Gucci. Nothing that stands out about this track at all.

On the second listen, Geth pointed out the unusual feature of Aitch rapping in a Northern accent, which has made the whole thing a lot better.

The video is a fairly typical slightly NSFW mashup of twerking girls, cars, and designer labels.

Ariana Grande and Social House – Boyfriend

I don’t like the weird discordant stuff going on in the intro, and the song’s pretty generic on the whole.

The video is a surreal but fun affair where Ariana is at a party in a lavish mansion, having various violent fantasies about other women. As ever, it’s the costumes that are the highlight here!

Just one new hit today.

Megan Thee Stallion, Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla Sign – Hot Girl Summer

There’s a nice synth hook in the background, but in general the track’s pretty dull. Not worth the related meme that’s been going on all summer, certainly.

There’s no video for this one, and might not be for a while, seeing as the video shoot got shut down by the police yesterday!

More new hits next Friday.

Gig Review: Midge Ure and Nick Heyward at Bents Park, 28th July 2019

It’s taken me nearly a week to get round to doing this review due to all my internet issues earlier in the week. Better late than never!

South Tyneside Council puts on a lot of free gigs in Bents Park in South Shields during the summer, but Geth and I hadn’t been to one for three years. The last one we went to was the Proclaimers and Lindisfarne in 2016, on a much more changeable day that required both suncream and a brolly!

However, it was a no-brainer when we heard about this one – Midge Ure was fantastic when we saw him in November supporting the Human League, and neither of us had seen Nick Heyward before – so I bought early-access tickets (well worth it at six quid each, as it means you’ve actually got the chance to set your deckchair up fairly close to the stage) and we headed out to South Shields for the day with my beloved vintage deckchairs in tow.

Vintage deckchairs
I love these chairs. Around since my childhood (and probably before) and still going strong!
The Breakfast Club

The support act were a local ’80s tribute band called The Breakfast Club. They played a lot of the most well-known pop hits of the decade, which went down very well with the dreaded ‘I’m wearing an ’80s costume’ crowd (those people are an absolute scourge – I see them at every gig now!). It got a good atmosphere going, and I might go see them again if they come across to Newcastle and I fancy a cheesy ’80s night out.

Their setlist included two Duran Duran tracks, and I’m still not sure whether to be pleased as a Duranie or annoyed as a setlist purist who was always taught when learning to DJ that you should never repeat artists within a set!

We hadn’t been organised enough to bring lunch, so we scraped enough change together for a couple of portions of chips from one of the food stalls. I need to remember to take some snacks with us next time we go to one of these things.

Nick Heyward

Nick Heyward was on next, performing a very well-balanced set of two big hits (‘Love Plus One’ and ‘Take That Situation’), followed by a bunch of stuff you’d have to be a fan of his to know, followed by another two big hits at the end (‘Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)’ and ‘Fantastic Day’). I really enjoyed this set, largely because the people in front of us weren’t standing up to dance during the middle bit so I could actually see! I’m not familiar with his catalogue other than the ’80s hits, but they were all very nice tunes and I’ll have to look into them some more.

Midge Ure

Midge Ure finished the day with his usual hit-laden set – highlights for me included ‘Vienna’, ‘Fade To Grey’, ‘If I Was’, and an epic crowd singalong to ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’. It was a slightly rockier performance than when he was playing with Electronica in November (Geth dubbed it ‘if Ultravox had been prog’), but I enjoyed it just as much.

Already hoping that there’ll be some exciting choices of artists for next year’s Bents Park gigs – it’s always a good day out when the weather holds!

New Hits Friday: 26th July 2019

Four new hits in the chart today.

Lil’ Tecca – Ransom

I quite like the steel drums in the background, but it’s a bit generic.

The video is a surreal, NSFW mashup of crude animation and gym-going strippers, with some bonus car-standing in front of a golf buggy. Not my thing.

Joel Corry – Sorry

It’s got a ’90s feel, which as I’ve said before is standard for dance music nowadays. As such, it doesn’t really stand out.

The video is about someone finding some old camera footage during a house move. Other than that, the context is pretty much unexplained.

Ellie Goulding and Juice Wrld – Hate Me

It’s got a good atmosphere, but the tune’s pretty boring.

The video is an unsettlingly surreal affair about voodoo dolls, punching mirrors and deleting pictures off your phone without backing them up first.

Sam Smith – How Do You Sleep?

There are some interesting tinkly sounds going on with the backing track, but on the whole it’s a bit slow for me.

The video is atmospheric and artistic, with Sam Smith trying out a lot of dance moves you wouldn’t expect.

More new hits next Friday!