Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Shakin' Stevens LIVE

Well it had been far too long hadn't it?

I got out my 20 year old Shaky scarves and got in the Dean-mobile to drive myself, my mate Gee...and mother to Shaky 2005!!!!

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Nice and easy parking close to the venue and straight what looked like the Manchester Care In The Community annual outing 2006. Hell I'm used to be one of the oldest at certain concerts (as young as I am) but even though there was a smattering of under 20's in attendance, they were definately in the minority.

Shaky is far too savvy to need a support act, so come 7:45pm it was straight into the fun. Sadly, Shaky was struggling a bit. Whilst definately giving it his all, he was clearly suffering from a bad throat. Still few in the audience seemed to mind, and he thanked us all for his patience. Of course I was most made up when he unexpectedly did my favourite Shaky song ever "With My Heart" so I was happy regardless.

I don't know what he took at half time (the man is a legend. I mean come on, a pop concert with a proper interval :D) but it did the trick. He came out, walloped straight into Lipstick, Powder and Paint and from then on he was on top form until the end. The hits kept on a coming...A Letter To You, I'll Be Satisfied, It's Late etc...coupled with some old classics like "Ain't That A Shame" and this was just off the scale fun.

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He kicked started the encore with This Old House and then hit the classic single "Trouble" and then did a couple more songs before departing to a standing that was, no kidding, as loud as 10 times as many Franz Ferdinand fans had made the night before. Whatever you think of the man himself, he sure as hell can put on one hell of a show

Franz Ferdinand LIVE

Back to the MEN...but fear not as we had good seats.

The day started off well with the Mighty Spurs kicking Wigan Athletic all over the park with a well deserved victory. Jimmy who?

Anyways, the train trip to Manchester was, well, different, as we ended up on a train with a load of Spurs fans making the long trip back home. Highlight was the unrepeatable Van Persie chant. Lowlight was the chav golfers who joined the train at one point.

Anyways, a few nice pre-concert drinks warmed us up nicely and onto the MEN. A £3 slice of Pizza went down nicely, though I really shouldn't have eaten that full bag of Giant Buttons. We missed the *DELETE AS APPLICABLE* Cribs/Kooks/Rakes/ support, support act and made it just in time for the Editors. I like the Editors. Can't say I think they're the best thing since sliced bread or anything, but they have one or two killer tunes and quite a few more that are catchy. They're not breaking down any musical barriers, but not all music has to does it?

So then it was onto the Franz. I feared for them in the cavernous arena atmosphere, but I suppose when you have fans as fevoured as the Franz do, it doesn't really matter where you play. Even the lesser album tracks were met with a rousing reception, although the REALLY big ovations were reserved for Do You Want To (which sounded a bit crap live actually), Dark Of The Matinee, Michael and, of course, the mighty Take Me Out.

Steady rather than spectacular it may have been, but it was still a decent night's entertainment which had much to enjoy. Sometimes you just want to have fun. And this was a night where you could have that in spades.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Martha Wainwright LIVE

Well, having took a day off to facilitate my journey to Liverpool, it still took my over an hour to get to the city centre, but I suppose that means it's a good job that I didn't set off after work as I usually would. A couple of pints of Guinness and a look at the photo's from The Like concert later and we were on our way to a "nice little Cuban restaurant." A few minutes later we were making our way out of the said Cuban restaurant, which was ram-packed, and off to Liverpool's China town, which lets face it, is more of half a China street. But hey, any time crispy auromatic duck is on the menu you won't find me complaining.

Anyways, off to the venue it was, and my first visit to the Liverpool Academy 2 (and thus completeing the holy trinity) stopping only for a quick drink in a pub near the venue that I'd never noticed before with the hilarity of seeing a Wigan Athletic match advertised by the use of the phrase "dirty Wigan" and a picture of a turd! :D

Having to queue up for the venue was a novelty, although I did eventually resist the temptation to resort to fisticuffs when some people barged their way in front of us. It was pleasant enough, with a nice little seperate bar area, where I caught my first sight of a delightful Alison Goldfrapp look-a-like (more on her later) and ended up chatting to someone I used to work with.

Anyway, we went into the actual auditorium just in time to miss the support act and saw someone who Gee works with. We didn't actually go over to her of course, but she was eyeing him up all the same. Then my "The Like" badges created a conversation with the afformetioned Goldfrapp doppleganger, although for the most part we did seem to be at cross-purposes. Needless to say, the Dean didn't "seal the deal" but it was still more action than I would usually get on a Friday night :D.

I was a bit sceptical when Martha came on the stage, mumbled something I couldn't hear and then went straight into a song I was unfamiliar with (not having the BMFA ep). But then after that she kicked into "When The Day Is Short", one of my favourite songs off her album, and from that moment on I was putty in her hands.

She rattled through great versions of all her best tracks and treated us to cover versions of songs by the likes of Warren Zevon, The Rolling Stones and Cole Porter. She also did a haunting version of The Beatles' "Help" which stripped away the jovialty of the original and replaced it with the kind of maudlin helplessness well suited to my life. The fact that she'd only decided to do that song hours before the concert and had to have the lyrics in front of her only added to it's charm. There was also the French song she did, introduced as "a song written by Barbara" (said in a sexy French accent), "which is French for Barbara" (said in her sexy southern drawl). Well I laughed at the time anyway.

She also got a lady from the audience on stage to sing backing vocals, had half the audience squawking like Native Indians as a backing to another track and segued a request for Tequilla into a little song. It has to be said she was just ever so slightly barmy, what with forgetting lyrics and occasionally suddenly going off on a tangent mid-song. But by this time I think I was falling in love with her, so I found it all very charming ;-).

Of course all this meant that the show over-ran the curfew, but Martha played on anyway and still did the encore. Then she came out afterwards and, despite the hordes of people that waited to see her, was perfectly sweet to everyone who wanted something signing. Despite the bouncers best efforts to thwart my efforts, I queued up and got her to sign my CD booklet (although, in something which I found hilarious at the time, she took great effort to write the "To Matthew" bit and then scrawled a barely legible version of her own name).

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Of course, whilst in the queue I entered a rather bizarre conversation with the girl and lad in front of us, which took in such topics as the relative brilliance of Fern Britton and Ainsley Harriot, and led to me declaring that it would be a great idea for me and Martha to be the contestants on Ready Steady Cook :D

I also got my picture taken with her and thanks to Gee for doing the duties. Of course Gee wasn't quite sure if it'd worked, so he stood there with the camera for a while, which gave me the chance to once again try and crack a joke to a celebrity that once again fell flat. Either that, or she really did want to stand holding me for a while longer... ;-)

So all in all this was an absolutely brilliant concert, and a brilliant night in total as well. I really can't praise the woman enough.

Martha Wainwright...better than Lucie Silvas (by a COUNTRY mile as well :D)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Madonna - Confessions On A Dance Floor

Confession number 1 - I actually quite liked the American Life album. Sure it wasn't the old Madonna sound, but I thought it was very good indeed AND I maintain the opinion that if someone other than Madonna had done it, then people would have looked at it very differenly indeed. At least on that album she sounded as if she had something relevant to say, even if I personally wouldn't have agreed with her.

Confession number 2 - Despite me liking the last one, I too was all excited by the apparent news that Confessions On A Dance Floor was to herald a "return to form" for good old Madge. Even if by "return to form" most people meant "a return to what she used to sound like" that was not neccessarily a bad thing.

Confession number 3 - Whilst the lead single "Hung Up" is undoubtedly a fantastic piece of work, there is always the fear that it was going to be the main highlight of the album by a mile. And I have to say that it probably is. But that's not to say that there isn't a lot to enjoy. Future single "Jump" is more mellow than Hung Up, but its still a fantastic slice of pop music. Other tracks such as "Sorry" and "How High" comfortably sit up with her best work as well.

Confession number 4 - The fact that despite this being Madonna's "new" sound, it all sounds so damn familar should actually turn me against the album. There are certain nods to Madonna's past (at one point a strings sections apes the Papa Don't Preach opening) but the main thing that springs to mind when I listen to this is that some of it doesn't half sound like the Pet Shop Boys. The start of Jump echoes West End Girls (and deliberatly so according to producer Stuart Price) and Sorry brings It's A Sin to my mind. So really, what is in all probability a 3 1/2 star album gets knocked up half a notch to a 4 star album, purely because of the feeling I get that this is almost a PSB album in disguse.

Confession number 5 - However, the "continuous mix" of the album is a rubbish idea and really is a pretty poor gimmick which doesn't work at all. So I'm knocking that half a star off.

Icon's View - 3 1/2 out of 5.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Like LIVE

What an exciting night was in prospect. Oldham...valley of the kings. The first ever visit for a concert (and my first visit there since I was about six years old). Would we get there? Would we find the venue when we did? Would we make it out of there alive? Thankfully the answers were all yes...even if the latter two looked dicey at one point.

We got to Oldham easily enough, but couldn't find an open car park (or one that didn't look dodgy). However imagine our joy when a bit of a detour managed to find us smack opposite the venue and on-street parking was available. Not much else was available though. There was a Sainsbury's, two kebab shops, a Portugese cuisine take-a-way and one pub.

So off to the Buck and Union it was, where they were getting ready for Karaoke. We didn't sing but we were treated to some rather good renditions of "classic" songs, and some that weren't so good. We did fear for our safety at one point as two guys at the bar started arguing about prison, court cases and killing old ladies, but that soon calmed down and I proceeded towards my task of getting very drunk. There were two ladies in there who so obviously wanted my mate Gee, but as usual he was having none of it. Although in fairness, they could have been trying to set him up with some sting. You know, he goes out the back for a bit of the old slap and tickle and then BOOM, a bunch of burly blokes beat him up and take his money. Better to play it safe.

So then it was onto the venue (pausing only for Burger and chips). Small and compact...and no other bugger in there! Ok that's exaggerating slightly, but it was desperately quiet when we went in at 10. Which in some ways was good. Because it meant a good view of The Like. Which cannot be a bad thing. :D

And yes, I know it's all about the music (more on that in a short moment) but the fact that The Like are rather, a-hem, tasty does them no harm at all. And couple that with the fact that they can really kick ass live, and can write all their own stuff and all that,'s a winning combination.

I wish I could tell you all about the songs, but I haven't got the album yet (nor heard it properly - THANKS GEE) although I had heard some of their EP's and therefore did recognise a couple of the tracks they played. I was also drunk. But what I can say is that it was excellent. I really enjoyed it. And that's good enough for me.

Then afterwards, we were lucky enough to meet them all, albeit seperately. They were all very nice, and they all seemed in awe of Gee's marker pen. Perhaps they don't have marker pens in America or something. I was also thrown when we (almost) went on the tour bus and the drummer turned out to have a British accent, and said she "might know" where Wigan was. Gee tried to ruin everything by slagging off Maroon 5 (not a good idea when the lead singer dates one of them apparently) but I think we got away with it.

All in all this was a great night, and proof that The Like are more than a gimmick. They are here for the long haul. And a-men to that.

The Like...better than The Faders ;)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Lucie Silvas LIVE

Ok, prior to going to this concert I had neither heard a single Lucie Silvas song all the way through, nor had the inclination to particularly do so. To be honest I thought she was a bit crap. Not that there was anything really wrong with her (teasely young piano playing singer that she is) but there was nothing to me that stood her out from the chasing pack.

Obviously 350,000 people who bought her album disagree with me, and so if I wasn't exactly open to a Damascian-style conversion to the Silvas army, neither was I so closed minded that I wouldn't give her a chance.

And I was pleasantly surprised. Sure there were a few too many "Mariah Carey" moments of over-wrought warbling...sure some of her lyrics are treading the fine line that seperates the meaningful from the trite...but there is no denying the power of her voice nor the fact that when it matters the tunes are good enough to speak for themselves.

I certainly recognised the singles, and some of the other songs sounded familar too (although whether that is a good thing, or a signs of a somewhat limited range is a question I won't answer just yet) and it surprised me to see her belt out some rather rocky numbers as well, which certainly shook me out of any tiredness.

The cover of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" was a clever trick (yes, I know it was on the album, but still, it is a clever trick although I'm sure the fact that it is a Metallica song is lost on most of the people who would buy a Lucie Silvas record); the Coldplay cover was less so. But all in all this was a pleasent evening, with much to reccommend. Although the fact remains that there are better singer-songwriters plying their trade who have to get by without so much of the record-company hype that propelled Silvas to the big time. Still, one shouldn't begrudge anybody that little helping hand, and this show proved that Silvas is certainly talented enough to move onwards and upwards.

Lucie Silvas....Better than Natasha Bedingfield.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Subways LIVE

Now the last time I saw the Subways it was, well shall we say, an "experience". Back in Gee's home study turf of Preston, in what perhaps was the worst venue ever, but despite all that, and despite only knowing one of their songs, it was a great night and a great concert.

This time around the album is in heavy rotation on the turntable, and I have slowly grown to love it. Add in HUGE ticket sales which bumped this gig from Number 2 to the Main Hall and there is quite a bit of expectation to deal with. There was even MORE anticipation when Gee briefly thought the Kooks were supporting, but thankfully we looked at the timetable on the door before going in to see that they most definately weren't. Which gave Gee the chance to drink more Vodka (ending the night on an estimated 19 shots).

Quite simply the show itself was a rollocking good hour or so of great music. With, thankfully, only a few slower moments. Highlights are too numerous to mention, and even the couple of new tracks they did didn't dampen the crazy mood of the gig-goers. Throughout the show there was a raucous energy prevalent in everything they did and, to quote a certain someone, the young lady sure was a "firecracker."

This was everything a rock 'n' roll show should be and showed that the future is bright for the Subways. Let's hope they can keep it up.

The Subways...better than The White Stripes.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Yet Another Concert Updates List

As you might expect, this is ANOTHER updated concert list. With the first confirmed date of 2006 in the bag!!!! :D

(The ones in red are the ones that have been and gone as of date of this post)

18th February - KT Tunstall - Liverpool Academy 3

27th February - Electric Six - Carling Academy Liverpool

1st March - Natasha Bedingfield - Liverpool Royal Court

7th March - The Donnas - Manchester Academy

16th March - The THrills - Liverpool Academy

12th April - The Subways - 53 Degrees, Preston

19th April - Nerina Pallot - Barfly, Liverpool (technically this is a Paddy Casey concert, but I'm really only going for Nerina :D).

24th April - The Hives - Liverpool Academy

14th May - Casino - Coventry Collesium

19th May - Girls Aloud - Manchester Apollo

22nd May - KT Tunstall - Manchester MDH

26th May - KT Tunstall - Carling Academy 2, Liverpool

27th May - Girls Aloud - Liverpool Empire

8th June - The Subways - Night & Day Cafe, Manchester - CANCELLED

11th June - Ben Fold - The Lowry

17th June - REM (with The Zutons,Feeder & Idlewild) - Lancashire Cricket Club

22nd June - Suzanne Vega/Nerina Pallot - Warwick Arts Centre (which, you know, isn't actually in Warwick!!!!)

15th July - Aimee Mann - Manchester University

8th August - Supergrass - Royal Northern College Of Music, Manchester. (NOT ATTENDED BY ME OF COURSE)

25th August - Weezer - Manchester University

17th September - Fun Lovin' Criminals - Manchester University

23rd September - Super Furry Animals - Liverpool Academy

28th September - Editors - Manchester University

3rd October - (Joseph Arthur) Nerina Pallot - Manchester Hop & Grape

9th October - Supergrass - Manchester Ritz

11th October - Laura Veirs - Life Cafe, Manchester

15th October - Kaiser Chiefs (Plus Maximo Park) - Manchester Apollo

16th October - KT Tunstall - Manchester University

22nd October - Nine Black Alps - Carling Acadmey, Liverpool

2nd November - The Subways - Manchester Academy

6th November - Lucie Silvas - The Lowry, Salford

18th November - Martha Wainwright - Liverpool Academy 2

26th November - Franz Ferdinand - MEN Arena, Manchester

27th November - Shakin Stevens - Manchester Opera House

3rd December - Ian Brown - MEN Arena, Manchester

4th December - Jem - Manchester University

15th December - Ben Folds - Manchester Apollo


18th March - Sugababes - Liverpool Philarmonic Hall

30th March - Depeche Mode - MEN Areaa, Manchester

27th May - Girls Aloud - MEN Arena, Manchester