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What do Simon and Garfunkel have in common with En Vogue, the all female group from the early 1990’s?  Well, they were two of the artists cited as musical influences by British female duo The Sound of the Sirens when I interviewed them recently.  At first glance, it’s difficult to see the similarity between En Vogue and Exeter based Sirens, aka Abbe and Hannah, whose sound is more acoustic pop than R&B, but it’s the harmonies that inspire, along with Destiny’s Child and the aforementioned Simon and Garfunkel.

It seems that Abbe and Hannah’s musical influences are multi layered and eclectic; song writing inspirations are Oasis, Mumford and Sons, Nirvana and Coldplay amongst others. Listening to the Sirens debut album, For All Our Sins, these song writing influences are immediately apparent: the influence of Mumford and Sons is easily detected and Abbe and Hannah cite them as their major influence.  The writing process takes place both together and alone and is aided by lots of dog walking!  Abbe and Hannah each have a dog (Maggie and Taio) and like to listen to songs recorded on their phones whilst out walking – sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

For All Our Sins is an album that delivers upbeat, sweet melodies that beguile you, whilst at the same time, sharp lyrics speak to us of strong emotions, the sadness that life can bring and finding strength and positivity to get through.  Abbe and Hannah hope that by doing this, they can “help others to deal with the same issues”.   Chaos and Together Alone are my favourite tracks, along with their first single, Smokescreen:

It’s when listening to the lyrics and the overall sound that you hear the influence of all the other female singers and songwriters that have gone before.  The likes of Pink, Alanis Morrissette, Laura Marling and even Gloria Estefan further influenced the Sirens.  Going back to En Vogue and Destiny’s Child, it’s easy to see that it’s not only the harmonies that inspire, but also the women themselves – after all, there are still relatively few all female groups making music successfully.

As with all independent musicians, I was interested to find out why Abbe and Hannah chose to go the indie route and it turns out that Sirens are a perfect match with DMF Records as they are both Exeter based and both Abbe and Hannah said that working with them was “just like family.  We can pop in for a cuppa and chat, it’s great”.   As for the future, the Sirens will continue to frequently play live and hope to record another album in the next year or so – they already have some new material written.

Lastly, the title of this piece is Sins of Sound of the Sirens and you might ask what sins?  I concur, Abbe and Hannah are far too lovely to have many sins.  The title of the album comes from the lyrics of Cross Our Hearts and was chosen by the duo’s brothers – and they like it as “it can mean anything”!

For All Our Sins is available here:

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Alfie Boe and Michael Ball last night bid farewell to their very own summer of love at the first night of the 2017 Greenwich Music Festival and as with the other dates, held the audience in the palms of their hands.  The title of this piece is Summer of Love and it’s been a joy to see so much love surrounding this tour of outdoor venues; love for Alfie and Michael from fans and on social media, love from Alfie and Michael for the fans and also the almost epic scale bromance between the two. This may be the first show of this tour that I’ve seen but I’m sure that Alfie and Michael have not missed any opportunity to spread the love and gratitude to fans and each other for the absolutely fantastic year they’ve had.

Although Greenwich was my only show of this tour, I’m so glad that I was able to be there for the last one – last nights are very special and I wasn’t disappointed.  How could I be when my favourite song, Keep Me In Your Heart (come on, you know my favourite line by now!) was included, along with last year’s Best Alfie Boe Live Song, Run.  Of the rest of the changes, I was most impressed by Luck Be A Lady (from one of my favourite old style musicals) and of course the addition of One Day More to the end of the Les Mis medley – just when you think Alfie can’t get any better, he does.  At this rate, I’ll need to research lots more superlatives with which to describe Alfie’s voice – for now, I’ll just say that for me, he was perfection last night.

The song that surprised me the most was the encore of You’ll Never Walk Alone which I have never really felt an emotional connection to.  Last night though, the theme of unity and standing strong through adversity spoke to me and the tears came.  Michael had earlier spoken very movingly about the troubled times we find ourselves in and it strikes me that You’ll Never Walk Alone is the perfect song to reflect our unity and strength – none of us have perfect lives, after all, despite what we say on social media!

Earlier in the day, Alfie and Michael had presented an award at the 02 Silver Clefs in aid of Nordoff Robbins and Alfie, an ambassador for the charity, spoke a few words during his solo slot about their work – click here to find out more about music therapy from Nordoff Robbins.

Now if all this sounds somewhat sombre, the concert did contain the usual amount of humour from these two likely lads, as can be seen from the beginning of A Thousand Years – rear of the year anyone?

Alfie and Michael’s Summer of Love may be over for the time being but it won’t be long until we see them again for Together Again 2017 and before that, Alfie will of course be seen as Jimmy in Classic Quadrophenia (click here for tickets).  Until then, we’ll have to be content to send the boys all our love – we’ve loved these two weeks!

Special thanks to Linda Wellington for taking such fabulous videos for us all to share and to my two reviewers, Cecelia and Barbara.  And I must give a special mention to the Boe Buddies I had the good fortune to spend the Greenwich concert with, particularly Margie who is here from Australia via Paris.

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Tonight is the last concert of the 2017 Together Tour but before we get to that, Alfie and Michael performed at Scarborough in what a local newspaper called biblical conditions – it was very wet!  One of our previous reviewers, Barbara Wren was there:

Singing and dancing in the rain, Alfie and Michael just got on with it and wow, what a concert and evening it was. For me Alfie could sing the phone book and I would be happy, so sitting in the rain was not a problem and clearly I was far from on my own ( I do have to add that there is no one else I would do it for). Bonded together by our love of Alfie and Michael the evening was far from lost and everyone I spoke to absolutely loved the concert, though without doubt one that everyone will never forget.

From the beginning, true professionals Alfie and Michael appeared at the top of the stage at the end of Somewhere with huge smiles and made fun of the driving rain and wind coming at them as they approached the front of the stage. The concert was off to a fabulous start. As the driving rain increased many of the song lyrics took on a whole new meaning. Clearly wishing there was sunshine Over the Rainbow  and Tell Me It’s Not True to name two. Alfie certainly warmed things up with That’s Alright Mama and as the Elvis set ended I have no doubt there would be towels at the ready and warm drinks as they left the stage for the interval.

Seated back for the second half after meeting up with Annie Lloyd and Pat Watterson we chatted with water dripping everywhere. The audience were buzzing, some had left but not many, everyone in the front sections were well up for it which was testimony of their loyalty to Alfie and Michael and respect for all the artists on stage who just got on with it.  The swing set was fabulous, as the guys looked out at the rain which was getting heavier and sang (also giggling) about the Stairway to Paradise, and cuddled up to keep warm through Me and my Shadow  then letting rip with Luck be a Lady  and New York, New York  to the delight of the audience.

Alfie and Michael’s solo slots took some guts as the rain, now very much heavier was driving towards the stage.  Alfie ditched his jacket and gave all he had, working at the front of the stage in the pouring rain as he got the audience to participate in Keep Me in Your Heart which was fabulous, and then leaving us breathless with Run, a song I truly believe, Nobody Does it Better than Alfie.  As Alfie retreated to dry off, Michael took over with his always wonderful, sincere and powerful delivery of Gethsemane and Love Changes Everything, to the audience’s delight. The James Bond Set bringing the concert to an end as always was spectacular.

On behalf of all the fans and everyone who attended last nights concert I would like to thank Alfie, Michael, the orchestra, backing singers and the whole crew for pulling off a brilliant concert in such desperate conditions. It was a wonderful evening despite the monsoon engulfing Scarborough.

 

Thank you Barbara for a wonderful review – although this might be one of the rare occasions when I’m not sure I wanted to be there in the rain and wind!

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Alfie Boe and Michael Ball’s Together Again summer tour is now into it’s final few days and we haven’t had a review yet!  Thanks to Cecelia, here is her take on Hampton Court:

Having spent a glorious day at Hampton Court that culminated in an Alfie concert two years ago with my daughter Cassie, when this venue appeared on the Together Again summer schedule it was inevitable that we return. Well, whoever said you should never try to repeat a great experience was dead wrong! Of course, it wasn’t quite the same as this year Alfie was joined by the other half of his double act, Michael Ball. While I’m looking forward to these two doing some work independently, I have a feeling this act could run and run. They truly have become the musical version of Ant and Dec — and not just because of the facial similarities between Alfie and Dec. We all knew their singing was fabulous, but what about their comic timing? It just gets better and better.

Cassie and I arrived early in the day to meet up with pals and explore this beautiful palace once again. Funnily though, we ended up spending a fair bit of time in the gift shop — where a certain New Yorker had positioned herself in prime position to catch the sound check. Then later, fully sated from our picnic on the front lawn, we strolled into the courtyard (champagne glass in hand) with just enough time to greet some familiar faces before we had to take our seats.

What a magnificent setting this is for a concert. You can’t help but feel the history surrounding you and wonder what events took place in the concert courtyard over the centuries. I’ll bet it wasn’t all singing and dancing – although Henry VIII is reputed to have loved both! There were several times when the atmosphere combined with the music literally gave me chills. One such moment was during Anthem. Love it or loathe it for its nationalistic content, this is a hugely powerful number, and to listen to it in a place where kings and queens have plotted for power was extraordinary. I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if some of the palace ghosts had appeared. Surely Alfie’s voice soaring out into the night air could have reached them anywhere.

These palace concerts have no interval, so our boys just powered through the set list so as not to miss out any of the numbers. For them, I’m really glad that the temperature had dropped since the beginning of the week. I might add though that when Michael listed the reasons why he should hate his good buddy, he added the fact that Alfie doesn’t sweat. How that’s possible I don’t know! The man is a perpetual motion machine, and all that running and jumping and rocking and jiving is sure fun to watch. Michael, God love him, sweats enough for the both of them.  I’m sure you’re all aware by now that the set list pretty much follows that of the New York concert. Luck Be a Lady got everyone on their feet, and they stayed there all through New York, New York too.  As far as the boys keeping their eyes on the crowd, of course someone had to be caught out. In the middle of Keep Me in Your Heart as Alfie was dividing the “sha la la las” between the men and the women, he spotted a man walking and called him up to the stage. The guy did so very good naturedly, so Alfie didn’t torment him too much. Just a note or two, before all the men were asked to join in. Another funny moment occurred early on. Before the concert started, the wind had picked up on the front lawn. In the courtyard, we were quite sheltered and didn’t feel it as much. But, the stage, of course, was raised, and a gust of wind caught a violinist’s sheet music and sent it flying. Alfie, who was on that side of the stage, spotted it and ran and picked it up. Handing it back to the violinist, he quipped, “Is there anything else I can do for you mate? Would you like me to play for you too?” He then jokingly took the man’s violin and raised it to his shoulder for a moment before giving it back. Of course, the man laughed along with Alfie who patted him on the arm before continuing the concert. What always astounds me, is how both Alfie and Michael can go from giggling and bantering one minute to immersing themselves totally into a song. You can see the intensity on their faces and the fact that they have gone somewhere inside themselves. And then they’re back again for more banter and fun with each other and the crowd.

Now as for the singing itself, I can only say it was sublime. One of my highlights throughout this tour has been Michael’s Gethsemane, which we got to hear twice because he sang it for the sound check! The intensity of his performance is lightened by his banter and switch to Love Changes Everything. But on this night the song was particularly poignant as he made a point of commenting that he truly does believe this, and that we should remember it in light of the tragedies which have befallen our country over the last few weeks. As far as Alfie’s solos, I think we all thought we’d have no chance of hearing Run when he started singing Keep Me in Your Heart. But we were so wrong! For many of us I think it was the highlight of the evening. Powerful, raw, emotional, there aren’t enough words to express this performance. People lit up the darkness with their phones to add to the atmosphere. It was a truly magical moment, and I am so very grateful that I was there to hear it sung live.

And then, of course, there was the Les Mis Suite. The first time I heard this with One Day More added I wasn’t sure I liked it. It felt as though the latter had just been cobbled on. Not so any more. When Alfie’s voice soars into One Day More on the tail end of I Dreamed a Dream, it all works seamlessly. Listening to my favourite Marius and JVJ (albeit from different decades) together is the perfect finale for the show – especially when you know that encore is coming! Isn’t it amazing how both Alfie and Michael’s careers are so linked to Les Mis?

As a final note, I do think Together is the perfect name for this tour, and it can be again and again. These two extraordinary men have brought us all together. We sat next to a Michael Ball fan, who’d been Boed in the process. And I think that we die-hard Alfie fans have fallen under Michael’s spell too. You can’t help but smile when these two are “together”. In the process, more friendships have been made. I have a feeling Henry VIII would have loved these two at his parties. Here’s to the next one!

Thanks for a fab review Cecelia – felt as though I was there!

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Will Barratt has been performing in London’s West End (Jersey Boys, Phantom, War of the Worlds, Producers) for a while now but he became someone to look out for amongst Alfie Boe fans when he understudied Alfie’s Billy Bigelow in ENO’s Carousel; he literally took over from Alfie half way through a show after Alfie came down with an ear infection.  Two more shows the next day followed, both to rave reviews. I interviewed Will after the end of the five week run and although he was quick to point out he had no expectation of performing the role, in the event that he did, said that “it was good to get on for a couple of shows together, like a preview and opening night in two shows”.  Additionally, Will said that although Alfie was sad to have to miss the show, he was “so pleased that I got on – he was dead happy for me”.  If you want to hear Will singing the soliloquy, click here for a pre-show talk and performance at ENO (soliloquy starts at 23m).

As Will’s only role in the production was to understudy Billy, I was keen to find out about the creative process and rehearsal period; how much was he involved?  It turns out that both Will and Molly Lynch, who understudied Katherine Jenkins as Julie, were as fully involved as Alfie and Katherine from day one.  Whoever plays the part, the blocking and direction is the same, it’s the thought processes of the actor that differs.  Will says that “Alfie, Katherine, Molly and I, we all got on, we worked through stuff together…Alfie was also going through the process of figuring out the role, he didn’t know what it was on day one either.  We were all doing it together”.

Now, you might be wondering about the headline of this piece – Confessions of a Justified Sinner.  This is the title of Will’s self penned debut album, released in 2015 and showcases his seemingly effortless talent for singing, playing multiple instruments and song writing.  Of the songs themselves, Will says that “all the songs on this album contain bits of me, my life, history, wants and needs, aches and pains, ups and downs…they are my confessions”.  He leaves it up to us as to whether he is a justified sinner or not!

Being self penned, this album is not what you might expect from a musical theatre performer – there are a few songs that wouldn’t be out of place in a musical but on the whole, the songs are a mix of upbeat, rockier, pop and jazz with a hint of Americana that really get you up and out of your seat.  To me, a great song is one that you instantly sing along to or you can’t sit still to and both the opening track, Give Me Some Time and Demon, towards the end, had me up and dancing straight away.  These two songs, together with Fearless (below), a beautiful ballad and the almost Buble-esque Never Thought, are my favourite songs.  Interestingly, Give Me Some Time and Never Thought are songs originally written when Will was at school, just reworked and rearranged to give a more sophisticated sound.

Will’s fabulous voice handles all these styles with great versatility and is a joy to listen to.

Confessions of a Justified Sinner is available here:

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Recently returned from Cape Town where he created the role of John Crichton-Stuart in the new musical Tiger Bay, a role written especially for him no less, John Owen-Jones tomorrow releases a compilation album, Bring Him Home.  A mix of musical theatre songs taken from three previous albums,  John Owen-Jones (2009, Unmasked (2012) and Rise (2015), there are also three new tracks to delight fans: Maria, Why God Why and Suddenly.  In addition to this, John is soon to embark on a short solo tour of Wales – click here for dates and venues.  All in all, with Tiger Bay moving to Cardiff in November and a trip stateside in September, 2017 is shaping up to be a busy year for John.

Given his super busy schedule, it was a delight to catch up with John over coffee this week to talk about the new album although of course, you’ll forgive us if we strayed onto all things Les Mis.  Like Alfie, it was through Les Mis that I first became aware of John – the Valjean Quartet at the 25th concert to be precise.  Talking about that incredible moment where Alfie first starts singing, John says that “being in the room when we first rehearsed that and everyone’s hair was blow off when Alfie hit that top note”.  Lovely to hear that the other Valjean’s thought that as it’s the same for most of us too.  As for Alfie, Les Mis is the show in which John first rose to prominence; at 26 he was the youngest actor to play Valjean.  He says of this time on Broadway that “I was very lucky at 26 that I had the chance to play Jean Valjean and I grabbed it with both hands”.   Since then he has returned to the role several times, most recently on Broadway again and for a short run in Dubai and doesn’t rule out another stint in the future “if the opportunity is there again, why not?”

Of the three new tracks on Bring Him Home, one is related to Les Mis and that is Suddenly, the song that was added to the movie version and as yet, has not been recorded by many people.  As such, it sounds fresh and exciting which is no mean feat for a song from a thirty year old musical that everyone is familiar with.  In understated style, John calls the song ” a nice little tune” and it fits in perfectly with the theme of this album which draws heavily on John’s roles with both Les Mis and Phantom, both of which are huge in Japan.  John has played several sell out shows there and in once concert last year, John says that the audience refused to leave the auditorium until he came back for a further encore – the musical director came back on stage without shoes and socks!

As for the other new tracks, Maria was chosen as West Side Story was the first show in which John was ever on stage and is a song he’s always wanted to record as a result.  Apparently it took him this long to actually do it because his mum’s not keen on the song but “she can skip that one”.  Great choice of song – despite there being many versions of this song out there, John’s acting ability enables him to bring an emotional depth that is not always heard.  Similarly personal, Why God Why from Miss Saigon was the song John performed at his audition for drama school and is a song that he has performed live for a long time.

As mentioned earlier, next week sees John embark on a short solo tour of Wales and he says that the set list will consist of mainly musical theatre songs with one or two others in the mix as well.  A number of local choirs will be joining John, not to mention Rhys Meirion in Rhyl and other guest artists.  Sounds fantastic!

Bring Him Home is released on Sain Records on 9 June and is available here:

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Those of you who do Facebook might be aware that after the press night of Carousel, I decided to do a spontaneous Facebook live video to tell you all about it.  It went well and you all seemed to like it and so I wanted to share it with those of my readers who don’t do Facebook:

Bear in mind that this was a live video so I was able to respond to viewers as the comments were coming in – and if you like comedy cats as well as Alfie Boe, this might well be the video for you!  Click here for the written review of Carousel.

This is my first foray into the world of vlogging and I’d love your feedback – leave me a comment with your thoughts and I’d also love to know if there’s any other vloggers that you watch.

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I’ve got a confession – I have never before last night seen either the film or a production of Carousel, although I had a fair idea of the synopsis and some of the staging in the current production at ENO, not to mention most of the songs. This lack of prior knowledge meant that I came to Carousel almost entirely free of preconceptions about the show.  Having said that, prior knowledge would have prepared me for the huge amount of dialogue in the show – modern musicals tend to have very little spoken word in them and I’d forgotten that older shows don’t just rely on the music to carry the show.  Indeed, it is the dialogue that is integral to the storyline here.

The role of Billy Bigelow is Alfie Boe’s third musical theatre role in short succession (but his first in a newly opened show, albeit in a short, five week run) and his first appearance at ENO for over six years.  Alfie is on stage for most of the show and copes effortlessly with the physicality of the role, particularly in the soliloquy, which involves singing whilst using the whole of the stage, ladders included.  As you might expect, Alfie’s glorious tenor voice is a delight; soaring vocals when necessary, tender and soft when the music requires, yet blending in perfectly on the ensemble numbers.  Alfie has recorded If I Loved You and if I’m honest, I’ve never really liked his version because I felt that despite the beautiful vocals, there was no emotion behind the words.  It is a totally different experience to hear Alfie sing the song in this production – the emotion, especially in the second act reprise, bursts out.  You are left in no doubt as to how Billy feels and that is down to the acting.

As mentioned earlier, Carousel is Alfie’s third musical theatre show in a short time but since both of those were on Broadway, this was my first opportunity to see Alfie in an acting role on stage.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The vocal demands are all in the first act and I felt Alfie relaxed into the role more as the show went on.  However, the characterisation of Billy was always totally believable and although there were moments when Alfie seemed almost awkward, I felt that was part of the character; Billy, as we understand from the opening dream sequence, is an awkward character who has not had the easiest start in life and it would be wrong, in my view, to have him portrayed as someone who is happy in own skin.  Anger is an emotion that is never far from Billy, always bubbling under the surface and Alfie plays this to perfection – he’s on a knife edge the whole time which lends an air of unpredictability that is central to both the character and the storyline.

Billy’s relationship with Julie Jordan is the the plot driver in Carousel and the role of Julie carries high expectations.  Katherine Jenkins makes her stage debut here and honestly, you wouldn’t know it. At no time did I feel I was watching an actress who had never performed in a stage musical before. In Katherine’s hands you felt that there was no other way for Julie to behave – of course she would run off with an unemployed carousel barker and inexorably start down the road of unhappiness.   The difficult relationship between the two lead roles is fully explored, with Billy going from the confident barker to an angry husband who resorts to domestic violence and Julie doing her best to save and reform him.  The violence is not shown on stage but much more powerfully, it is the constant belittling of Julie by Billy that remains with the audience and you understand just what compels women in Julie’s position to stay in such relationships.  Integral to this sensitive portrayal was the cracking chemistry between Alfie and Katherine which made the relationship believable.  Both were outstanding.

In addition, the whole cast and ENO chorus were sublime, with Alex Young as Carrie and Brenda Edwards as Nettie being in especially fine form.  Nicholas Lyndhurst’s role is tiny but pivotal to the plot and he displays his mastery of comic timing (Alfie also uses his natural gift for comic timing throughout) to devastating effect.  However, the laughter that greeted Lyndhurst perched on a ladder has possibly nothing to do with Carousel and everything to do with his previous incarnation as Rodney.  Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote some wonderful tunes for this show and the ENO orchestra make the most of them, beautifully conducted by David Charles Abell (yes from the 25th Les Mis concert).

Carousel is a show that I think will stay with me for a long time and not just because Alfie Boe stars.  Both he and Katherine Jenkins were outstanding but it is the overall story of redemption that sticks with you.   Does redemption mean that our earlier deeds are forgiven?  Perhaps yes, but not forgotten.  During the finale, having achieved his aim, there is nothing left for Billy but to disappear from the scene and it is entirely fitting that we are left with the happy ensemble.

Carousel is on at the London Coliseum until May 13 – tickets are available here and I urge you to go – you won’t regret it.

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Oh yes, definitely worth waiting for!  Despite being a fan since seeing the band featured on TV on the NME Awards Tour in 2005, I had never seen Kaiser Chiefs live so when they announced a UK tour, I was determined to get a ticket.  And so it was that I found myself in Leeds this weekend for the last date of the tour – end of tour and home town shows have that extra special magic about them, so to have the two together was fabulous.

Singer Ricky Wilson, as live a wire as I’d expected, kept the near capacity crowd entranced from beginning to end.  In addition, the chemistry between the group as a whole, borne from years of making music together, was evident and meant that the set moved seamlessly from new to old; songs that must have been played hundreds of times sounded as fresh as those from the most recent album, Stay Together. The opening track was the title track from that album and proved that the band’s somewhat controversial journey into the world of synth pop easily lends itself to guitar led live shows.  Playing these songs, amongst them Press Rewind and Good Clean Fun, served to remind us that whatever else, the Kaiser Chiefs still know how to write a cracking tune with catchy lyrics that manage to be thought provoking at the same time.  The crowd seemed to agree with me, singing along full throttle to Parachute and the stand out song of the album, Hole in My Soul.

Bands with a long back catalogue of hits face the problem of what to include when touring, or probably more likely, what to leave out and the Kaiser Chiefs’ relative longevity means they are no exception.  Mega hits like Ruby, I Predict a Riot and Every Day I Love You Less and Less are a given but the rest must be more tricky.  The set list was a great mix of old and new, with Angry Mob, Everything is Average Nowadays, Oh My God, Modern Way and Never Miss A Beat mixing flawlessly with the rest of the set list.  Kaiser Chief’s previous album, Education, Education, Education and War, was represented by the epic Coming Home and Meanwhile Up In Heaven, whose lyrics I can’t listen to without tears appearing…and yes, this concert was no exception.

Although I loved every minute of this concert, the highlights for me were Hole In My Soul, a song that fills me with joy whenever I hear it and, more surprisingly, Every Day I Love You Less and Less.  I say surprisingly, as in spite of loving this song when it was first released, it came to be associated with an unhappy time in my life and I haven’t been able to listen to it since.  On Saturday though, I was up, dancing and singing along with everyone else and I absolutely loved it  – the mark of a great band / singer is when they make you love a song you previously hated.  All in all, I can’t wait to go to another Kaiser Chiefs gig!

Kaiser Chiefs are playing numerous gigs in 2017 – click here to see the dates.

Stay Together is available here:

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Cast your minds back to the summer of 2016 and thoughtsofjustafan’s summer playlist, for which I teamed up with Flo at Angry Baby.  One of the featured artists was Albert Man; fast forward to February 2017 and Man has a new EP, Nothing of Nothing Much.  Through a series of serendipitous events, I was lucky enough to attend the launch show for the new EP at a hub of London’s live independent music scenes, St. Pancras Old Church, Kings Cross.  This venue looks and sounds beautiful and is the perfect setting for an intimate gig – next time though I hope it’s summer as it was absolutely freezing!  You know it’s cold when not only most of the audience but also half the support act keep their coats on throughout.

The best thing about hearing independent musicians perform live is the wealth of live performance experience they have. Touring their music is often the best and sometimes only way to get their music heard and produces a well honed sound that usually manages to sound raw and authentic at the same time. Luckily, Albert Man was not an exception to this rule, playing a set comprised of songs from his previous album, Cheap Suit, and the new EP, with David Bowie and an as yet unreleased song thrown in.

The highlights were Diamond in the Rough, a co-write with one of the supporting acts, Joe Garvey, and You Had Me At Hello. Angry Baby Music recently reviewed Nothing of Nothing Much and says of Diamond in the Rough

What do we miss when we’re looking for perfection? Taking a philosophical turn, Diamond In The Rough questions the value of love vs money, when plenty of the former can’t seem to compensate for a lack of the latter. Showcasing the bitterly poignant side to Albert’s vocals, the track builds from the simplest scaffolding of story-telling, leaving recollection space for the listener’s own experience.

Given that this was a co-write with Joe Garvey, who also played on the EP and was a support act, I would have liked to see him join Man on stage for this song. However, it was still a stonking song. You Had Me At Hello featured Louize Carroll on vocals and she also features on the live version (recorded in Dublin last year) of the song that comes as a bonus track on the EP. Angry Baby’s review says

Opening with tinkling chords and introducing Collette Williams’s delicate vocal harmonies, You Had Me At Hello is a testimony to love at first sight. With a classical/country crossover flavour, beautifully supported by Sarah Lynch’s violin (previously heard with Mumford and Sons, Ed Sheeran and The Strokes, to name a few), this is a reflection on the million little things that make relationships last – right from the first hello. If you’re looking for a song to dance to at your golden wedding anniversary, this could well be it.

Click here to read the rest of Angry Baby’s review and to get a FREE Cheap Suit track. This is one of the songs from Nothing of Nothing Much, Riding Shotgun:

Man will be playing more live gigs in the near future, check out where here.

Man had two support acts, Craig Gallagher and the aforementioned Joe Garvey.  Gallagher’s guitar led ballads had the crowd singing along while Garvey, as the second act on stage was a joy from beginning to end; funk, jazz, pop and rock sizzled from the band and ensured that the crowd was pumping for the main event.  Garvey was nominated in the Unsigned Music Awards 2016 and is surely someone to watch for the future.

Nothing of Nothing Much is available here:

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