A musical interlude

A slight bit of blog business today. Now that I’m caught up with all my pre-pandemic gig reviews, I’m planning to make Wednesday ‘music day’ on the blog. I’ve not focused on music posts for a while, as I’ve not been focusing on music so much in my everyday life, for a couple of reasons. First of all, gigs are obviously on the back burner for now. Secondly, I’ve not been listening to music in a focused way during the last year – I’ve been finding I concentrate on work better when it’s quiet, and when I’m out for a walk with headphones I prefer to listen to podcasts. When I do put music on (largely at the request of Geth when he wants some background music), it’s always an old standby like ’80s pop or synthwave or videogame soundtracks – it’s been a long time since I’ve deliberately listened to an album or sought out new music.

It’s been about eighteen months since I wrote my last New Hits Friday post, because I’ve not been keeping up with the chart for the last year (most chart music is not to my taste so I was starting to find it a bit of a chore, though I will go back and catch up because I still find the chart really interesting academically). I’m a few Now! albums behind, and other than the usual Christmas shows, I can’t remember the last time I turned on the music channels. It’s just not been a focus for the last year and a bit; there have been other things going on.

However, I would like to get back into the habit of focused music listening, which is why I’m going to be setting aside Wednesday blog posts for related content. This could take many forms – reviews, features, general ramblings – as I want to keep the scope quite broad. I expect that at first, I’ll mostly be focusing on music topics I already know about, but there’s always the potential to learn something new. Sometimes on ukulele!

Ocarina
Ocarina out of time. Mum and Dad passed this on to me a couple of Christmases ago but I haven’t had much chance to pick it up yet. One day 🙂

Gig Review: LeBrock at the Head of Steam, 6th February 2020

I find it a bit depressing that this last Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of the last time I went to a gig. I had so many booked for the rest of 2020, and now so many postponed ones booked for 2021… but as I’ve mentioned before, I expect it’ll be closer to 2022 before we can watch live music in a venue again.

As such, this very belated review marks the end of event reviewing on this blog for now. The next one – whenever it is – will be very special!

I’ve been really enjoying synthwave for a few years now, but this was only the second time I’d made it to a synthwave gig (the first being The Midnight a few months previously). Really hope we get a few more synthwave bands playing in Newcastle once the pandemic is over.

The support band were Tired of Fighting. Our friend George is in this band and is a huge synthwave fan, which is why they asked for the support slot as I understand it. Their sound isn’t very synthy but it was quite high-energy, creating a good atmosphere for what was to follow.

Tired of Fighting
Blurry photography as usual (there were a lot of dancing people in the way!) so I’ve had to cobble the band together in this image.

LeBrock, when they came on, kept up this energy throughout their set – which was surprisingly short, finishing quite some time before the venue closed, but featured all the songs they were best known for. I loved the set but I wish it had been longer – or that the venue had organised an extra band on the bill to fill the gap, as it sort of felt like the night had been cut short!

LeBrock
There was more energy onstage than it looks like in this image.

So with that early finish from LeBrock, that was the end of my pre-pandemic gig-attending. Not a bad way to end, but I’m really looking forward to the return of music events!

Increments

A short run this morning…

…before heading to Slimming World, where I lost another pound on the scales this week. I’m impatient to get back to target range, and so one pound feels a bit measly considering the effort I’m putting in at the moment, but I suppose five and a half pounds in three weigh-ins is not bad. Just have to keep plugging away.

Geth and I are heading out to a synthwave gig tonight, so I’ve made sure to get all my work done during the afternoon. It’ll be really nice to have a night out – it only happens once in a while these days!

OOTD 6th February 2020
Revenge of the OOTD: it was a bit soon to announce the death of the ‘outfit of the day’ shots! All dressed up for a synthwave night out. Necklace Claire’s Accessories (2003), jacket unknown brand (estimated vintage 1990s, bought at vintage shop 2003), t-shirt The Midnight (2019), skirt Calvin Klein Jeans (2004), tights Primark (2017), trainers Reebok (2017).

Today’s earworm playlist:

The Beatles – ‘I Am The Walrus’
Del Amitri – ‘Nothing Ever Happens’
Robert Parker and Miss K – ”85 Again’

Open day

After this morning’s run…

…I spent the afternoon at the Newcastle University Postgraduate Open Day in order to find out about doing a Masters in creative writing. It was odd sitting in lecture halls and listening to talks. Other than the odd occasion when I’ve sat in on Geth’s evening lectures, I haven’t been in lecture halls since I graduated in 2008!

It was a really interesting afternoon though. I spoke to a few students who are currently doing the course, went on a tour of the facilities, and attended a couple of general talks on studying at Newcastle and funding sources. I went away with a huge amount of bumpf to read and a lot of things to look into over the next few days!

I then headed to ukulele class, which was as fab as ever. Really enjoying the songs we’re doing this term.

It’ll be another busy day tomorrow, as I need to catch up with day job work in between going to weigh-in and the gig that Geth and I are attending in the evening.

Tote bag
I also got a free tote bag to carry all my open day bumpf in. I don’t really need any more of these, but I always appreciate a nice goodie bag!

Today’s earworm playlist:

Vangelis – ‘Chariots Of Fire’
Stinx – ‘Why Do You Keep On Running Boy’*
Del Amitri – ‘Nothing Ever Happens’

*For the uninitiated (i.e. those who weren’t living in Scotland around the turn of the millennium), this was a parody of Britney Spears’ ‘…Baby One More Time’ that featured in a legendary HEBS (Health Education Board for Scotland) advert from 2000, aimed at discouraging teenagers from smoking. The advert was renowned as being absolutely genius (I did a day of work experience at the BBC during this period and they were all raving about it), and I sang the song in the school corridors every breaktime with my pals for about three months solid.

Didn’t discourage me from smoking, though.

Worth a watch if you’ve never seen it, if only for some prime nostalgia:

Londinium

For some reason, for five years in a row now, I’ve always ended up in London at some point during November. From 2015-2017 it was because Geth and I were attending the Beat:Cancer event; last year it was a flying trip through on the tube on our way to Electric Dreams; and this year it’s the Andy Taylor gig. It’s become a bit strange now!

Anyway, here I am again, and I’m about to head out to the gig. I’ll update properly again tomorrow.

Red phone box
Nice to be greeted by one of these on my way out of the tube station! To be logged properly in a few months’ time once I get through my collection.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Duran Duran – ‘Do You Believe In Shame?’
Andy Taylor – ‘I Might Lie’

Plus a couple of videogame soundtrack pieces I can’t find the names of right now!

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 excitement!

Another full day of working on my various coding projects today, but I’ll be putting them aside until Thursday afternoon now, as I’m off to London tomorrow for a gig. I’ll be seeing Andy Taylor (formerly of Duran Duran) at the 100 Club. Very excited! I’m not dragging Geth down to this one, but it sounds like there’ll be a good crowd of Duran fans attending the gig, so I won’t be on my own.

Now that we’re into the last few days of November, life looks like it will be fairly busy until January. I’m hoping I can still get a good chunk of work done on my creative projects during December though. Fingers crossed.

World Of Final Fantasy: Maxima
Not an OOTD: Geth is still providing soothing background music by way of playing World Of Final Fantasy: Maxima.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Bittersweet Machines – ‘Break Your Love Apart’
Cast of Oliver! – ‘Consider Yourself’
Tony Deans – ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’*
Duran Duran – ‘Ball Of Confusion’
Shakespear’s Sister – ‘Stay’

*This is a cracking mellow piano version. Thoroughly recommended!

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!